Spear Gate — Chapter Thirteen, Pt. 3

Varra threw her hood back as she reached the wall that divided Lower Terrace and the Meadows. She looked back to the raised city in the distance, and let out a sigh of untold emotion. As much as she hated it, Eathe was right. This was the only way. If their plan worked, she would become a target. Already was a target, in some ways.

As she watched, the ground beneath her began to hum. The deep, familiar rumble of the Spear Gate opening was more distant now, as the horn blaring of an incoming army, but she could still feel it in her bones. Soon a beam of blue light shot upwards out of Upper Terrace, heading straight for the sister-planet.

She remembered her mother describing how the Gate opened back when she was the Hand of Defense. She said that the light came from Eranos and landed on the obelisk as lightning drawn to a metal rod. That was when Rozire had come through, from Eranos to Asamos. The Gate opening now meant the plan worked, and Maelys would now be going from Asamos to Eranos. Which begged the question…

From which side was the Gate opened the second time, while Varra was visiting Maelys in Xan’s infirmary?

Of course, there was no point dwelling on such questions. As far as she knew, nobody went into or came out of the Spear Gate that day. It could have been as simple as being opened on Asamos with nobody passing through at all.

Varra frowned, sitting on the inner edge of the wall as she stared at the beam of light. She was a fugitive, now. The other Hands probably wouldn’t waste much time looking for her, but she would never be able to come back here. Not even to Lower Terrace, once she passed through. Beyond that, she’d have to wait here for a few hours for the Shadow to come to enter Lower Terrace. She couldn’t enter the main way, of course. She would have to slip into the city unseen. The rags Eathe had given her would help.

This begged the question: what was the next step? She still felt a duty to Terrace. The threat of what lay on the other side on Asamos was only growing more real with how often the Gate was suddenly opening after centuries of silence. Hand or no, her knowledge of the danger made her responsible for anything that could go wrong.

And then there was Maelys. If there really was a threat on Asamos, he would now be alone to face it. She hated that he had been thrown into this, but his success in opening the Gate meant that he had a competency to him.

And then there was Eathe. Brilliant as he was, he had no real allies now. He’d have to fend for himself. All the more surprising that he was the one that suggested this plan. He could be executed within a day for all of this. Maybe he was already dead.

Darkness fell upon the trees as Asamos eclipsed the sun. The Shadow had come.

New horizons awaited.

Varra stood, vaulted onto the wall between Lower Terrace and the Meadows, and faded into the city.


End of Part One

…Draft One

Spear Gate — Chapter Eleven, Pt. 2

“Alright, I’m ready.” Varra kept her eyes closed, unsure of what was supposed to come next.

“Okay. Make sure your eyes are closed and your body is relaxed.”

“I thought that’s what we spent the last ten minutes doing.” She did a poor job hiding the annoyance in her tone.

“Don’t respond,” he replied, firm but gentle. “Just follow my instructions and be patient.”

She let out a breath. “Fine. Lead the way.”

“Once you’re relaxed, take a few deep breaths. In… then out…” Maelys spoke slowly as he followed his own guidance. A deep, slow inhale, followed by a full, steady exhale. “In… then out…” he repeated.

Varra did as she was told, waiting for the next step. He sure was taking his time.

“I want you to try your best to settle into this moment,” he continued. “Relax your breath, just breathe normally, and put aside all your troubles. Don’t dwell on the past. Don’t worry about the future. These things don’t matter as much as the present. Concentrate on your breath. That’s the only thing that matters.”

He stopped talking after that, and the only thing she could hear was the sound of her own breathing. The more she thought about it, though, she picked up the hollow echo that served as white noise in the dungeons. It was quiet, barely audible in between her breaths. Where was that noise coming from? What was the source of sound in such an empty space? They were most certainly the only prisoners here. The Hand of Justice often enacted his decrees immediately, and there were no petty thieves in Upper Terrace. Anyone like that wouldn’t find themselves here in the first place. Eathe was definitely a minority. People from Lower Terrace rarely if ever found a place here.

But she was glad that he had found that place. He was a remarkable man, and an excellent officer. She wished things had been different. Maybe they both would have been happier as commoners. Perhaps then she wouldn’t have had to live with the burden of—

“If your mind has strayed away from the breath,” Maelys said, “stop thinking about whatever it is. It’s not important. Just go back to thinking about the breath.”

He couldn’t read minds, could he? Had he been lying about not knowing how to use magic all this time? Did he know how she felt? Did she know how she felt? All these stupid emotions did nothing but get in the way. She didn’t want to see Maelys die, that much she was certain of. She would only have herself to blame if he did. And for how little they knew each other, he did seem intent on trying to help her.

“I’m going to ask a question,” he said. “And I want you to answer simply with yes or no. Have you been able to remain focused on just stay on the breath?”

She exhaled, knowing full well she had done a very poor job of listening to his instructions. Maybe if he held her hand again… She shook her head at the thought. “No,” she admitted.

“That’s okay,” he said, his voice still full of levity. “I told you it’s hard the first time. Once you get comfortable letting go of your thoughts and attaching your focus to the breath, then I can try to teach you how to do mind projection.”

She heard him shuffling, and took that as a signal that the practice was over. She opened her eyes and looked up at him as she stood with him. “I’m sorry.”

He put a hand on her shoulder. “It’s okay. Really. Don’t beat yourself up. I honestly didn’t expect you to be as patient as you were.”

But she hadn’t been patient, had she?

A door swung open, and she heard the sound of footsteps walking, almost marching down the corridor. Eathe.

The current Hand of Defense walked in, armored in full plate as he often was, and without a helmet as per usual.

“Greetings, you two. Getting along well?”

Varra, already the closer of the two, stuck her hands out from the bars and grabbed him by the shoulders, pulling him in for a kiss. Eathe was clearly caught off balance, but seemed to relax into it with a few awkward steps.

After a moment, she parted, and the room was left in a stunned silence. They glanced at each other, and Maelys shrugged. She thought about kissing him again, if they were just going to stand there slack jawed, but thought better of it. One was probably enough. For now.

“Right…” Eathe said, clearing his throat. “Now that that’s out of the way, on to business. I come with bad news.”

Maelys didn’t say anything. If anything, he took a step away from the two of them. What had gotten into him? “Well,” Varra said. “Out with it.”

“We’ve got a few minutes to chat and plan,” Eathe replied. “But I’m to take Maelys to the inner courtyard to be executed now.”

Spear Gate — Chapter Eleven, Pt. 1

“You’re still too tense,” Maelys said. “I told you, you need to loosen up.”

“I am loose,” Varra replied, teeth clenched. This was getting ridiculous.

“You’re even worse than I was,” he sighed. He put his hands on her shoulders and pressed against them, gentle but firm. “Drop your shoulders. Stop carrying your arms. Let them fall.”

With a deep breath, she realized what he was talking about and let the muscles relax. Her posture eased, and she wondered how long she had held herself stiff like that, oblivious.

“Good start,” he nodded in approval. He sat across from her, legs crossed. He mimicked her actions so that she could see how his own body changed with her movements, though in the dim light it was difficult to make out subtleties and slight changes. “Now relax your hands.”

She looked down to see her fists balled up in her lap. They weren’t tight, but her muscles still kept them shut. She opened them.

“No, no, that doesn’t count,” he chided. “Just because your hands are open doesn’t mean they’re loose.” He took one of her hands in both of his, but she pulled it away.

“I’m not a child, Maelys.”

He looked up to meet her eyes. “Neither am I.” There was no malice in that response. With his eyes he gestured back down, and she followed his gaze to see that his hand was still extended. Not a command. A simple suggestion. She placed her hand in his.

He cupped her wrist in one hand, holding her palm up, and with two fingers he trailed up and down her skin. She felt a chill at the sensation and her breath caught. The two were silent as he trailed her palm, and she could feel the muscles in her hand relax. She stole a glance at him, to try to glance a little bit of what she thought she had seen before, when he was meditating. A soft serenity, his hair seemed to be lighter, as if underwater, and she thought she saw a faint… glow?

But she couldn’t be sure of that. Maelys had used magic before, that much she was certain of, but the light was dim here, and she wasn’t even positive that he had been doing anything magical at all. He certainly didn’t seem to think so. ‘Mind projection’ he had called it. No magic. You weren’t seeing anything that was there, necessarily. It was just a thought experiment, according to Maelys.

In any case, she saw none of that glow now. He looked up to see her staring, and she turned away. Was she… blushing? That was absurd. He was a child. Plus she had Eathe. And yet…

“You don’t have to think about your breathing, you know. We haven’t gotten that far yet.”

“I… what?” At that moment she realized she hadn’t exhaled for some time, and she let it out all at once. What was getting into her? “Right.”

He took her other hand, and repeated whatever he was doing before. This wasn’t magic, she decided. The magic she knew about wasn’t as subtle as this. But she did like it. She had had massages before, of course, but this felt different somehow. Maelys was personally helping her relax and forget the world around them. Or above them, as the case may be. That was his first lesson—there would be no talk about plans or worries. Meditation was all about focusing on the present self and forgetting everything else.

“How do you feel?” he asked.

“I’m fine.”

He shook his head. “No, that’s not what I meant. How do you feel? Describe it. Close your eyes, if that helps.”

She did close her eyes. “I feel… cold. And my body aches. I’m not used to sitting on cobblestone.”

“Do you feel any tenseness anywhere? Focus on every body part. Do a scan. Loosen your jaw, check to make sure your shoulders and arms are relaxed. That sort of thing. But also keep your back straight.”

She concentrated for about a minute. “Okay. Now what?”

“Now we get to the fun stuff,” Maelys said. Even with her eyes closed she could hear the smile in his voice. “Just don’t get frustrated if you can’t get it to work the first time you try it. It took me weeks to get it right.”

Spear Gate — Chapter Ten, Pt. 3

“Everything okay?” a voice said.

He looked up to see Varra leaning against the wall, staring at him. She seemed just as jaded as she had before, but the fierceness in her eyes still burned. A gentle flame at the moment, but it was there.

“Are you talking to me?” Maelys asked.

Her tone was serious. “No, I was asking the rat behind you.”

Maelys spun around in a sudden panic, backing up from the rat that… wasn’t there. He turned his attention back to Varra, who was laughing quietly. Her face lit up in a way he had never seen her. Not that he knew her that well, really.

She kept laughing, and Maelys couldn’t help but chuckle a bit, too. He was going to die tomorrow, lost in a city he was unfamiliar with, and yet…

“I didn’t realize how much I needed that,” Varra said, wiping a tear away.

“At least somebody’s enjoying their time trapped in a cell.”

Her face darkened a shade, and the mirth faded. The two sat in silence for a while, and Maelys avoided the woman’s gaze. He hadn’t meant that comment to be a jab. Had he offended her?

But then she broke the silence with a sigh. “I’m used to being locked in cells, I’m afraid.”

Maelys frowned. “I thought you were a princess or something?”

“Council member, if anything. It’s a lot less fun than the story books.”

“Being a ruler in the wealthiest city on the continent has to be worth something,” Maelys countered.

“Oh, I don’t envy commoners,” she amended. “But my life hasn’t been easy. Having your whole life laid out before you are born tends to have that effect. The story about the Spear Gate I told you and the others? Only the Hands and their seconds know it. I myself hadn’t heard that story until about a year ago. For whatever asinine reason they arrested me, it’s valid now. I committed treason by telling that story.”

“It’s not like it matters. Eathe is getting demoted soon, too, right? And I’ll be…”

“Not if I can help it.”

Maelys’ breath caught, and the two locked eyes for a moment. Maelys had thought that Varra only included him in the conversation was because he was valuable. Because he had information she needed. Well, and because of the jail cell, but still. Maelys had shown that he was useless, and then the guards told him he was about to be executed. It would be so much easier for her to let that happen… So…

“Why help me? I’ve only caused you trouble, it seems.”

Varra crossed her arms. “I brought you into this. Without me you would never have gotten into Upper Terrace.”

“I would have been killed by a constructor if you had left me in the Meadows. I almost died!”

“Somehow I doubt that,” she said.

“What are you talking about? Rozire and I had tried to sneak our way in! Even me and some magic wizard couldn’t do it without dying. You’re saying I would have been fine?”

She shook her head. “We didn’t nurse you back to health, Maelys. You got better all on your own. Incredibly fast, I might add. Xan had told me it would take at least a week for the Red Teeth to course through your system.” Her gaze was intense. “This isn’t an argument. Your life is my responsibility.”

Maelys shifted uncomfortably, looking away. “I wish I could at least be of more help.”

“Maybe you can be,” she said. Her voice was still gentile. Pacifying.

Maelys’ brow furrowed. “What do you mean?”

“What were you doing just now? Before we started talking?”

He thought about that for a moment. “Uh, meditating. Something Rozire taught me.”

“Can you show me how to do that?”

Spear Gate — Chapter Nine, Pt. 3

A minute later, and four guards stumbled into view. They were laughing at each other and themselves as they all but tripped over their own feet. Maelys had no idea how drinking was regulated in the city, but this was clearly overstepping boundaries.

“Well, well, well,” one of the guards said. The only female among them. “Honored to serve, Exalted One.” She curtsied a little, but the effort of lowering herself disrupted her balance. She fell forward, grabbing one of the iron bars for support so she didn’t collapse all the way to the floor.

“Careful, Mills,” another chuckled, the only remotely sober one of the bunch. “You’ll lose your lunch if you go around bowing to everyone you see.”

“I’ll lose my lunch whenever I damn well pl—” in that moment, she choked up. Maelys shifted backwards, afraid she really was about to throw up, but the guard managed to hold it in.

“Why are you here?” Varra said, voice flat and unamused.

“Just thought we’d come to say hello,” she replied, having recovered from her potentially foul mishap. “And pay our respects to yet another Hand gone. Maybe someday we’ll have another someone like your mom. But it sure wasn’t you.”

Maelys watched the exchange, confused. What sort of relationship had she had with her subordinates for them to treat her like this in her circumstance?

“And we thought it’d be fun to give you a little news,” the shortest of the guards said. “Your friend here’s considered a liability. The Hand of Justice is going to have him executed tomorrow.”

A chill shot through his body at that. Executed. Tomorrow?

“Been awhile since we’ve had a public execution,” the sober one commented.

“Terrace has been altogether too boring lately. I’m glad to see a change of pace,” the girl said.

“What do you mean? There’s been tons of strange stuff happening lately.”

“That’s what I’m referring to you dolt. First the weird Constructor. Then the Spear Gate. Then Varra’s arrest. It’s all pretty exciting.”

“The way you phrased that it sounded like you found all that boring, and only the execution excited you.”

“Well what does it even matter? Damn, I thought I was the drunk one.”

Varra didn’t seem the least bit phased by the conversation. “I appreciate the information.”

“I’m sure you do,” she replied, grabbing the bars with two hands to get closer. There was a moment’s pause in the conversation as the levity among the four guards died down. Maelys was unsure as to what was happening as Varra and the drunk girl stared at each other.

Then, the girl spat at the former Hand of Defense. A lob of saliva landed on her chin. Varra flinched, but said nothing.

“That’s for my pa.” She tried to do it again, but this time the spit trickled out of her mouth and dripped down her own chin. She frowned, pushing a fist into her face to wipe her jaw.

“You good, Mills?” the short one asked, walking up to her.

“Don’t even think about touchin’ me,” she sneered. He backed off.

“We should go,” the sober guard said.

“Yeah, whatever. But don’t think this is over,” she snapped at Varra, who still hadn’t moved an inch.

The guards started shuffling out the way they had come, leaving the two of them alone once more. Maelys remained petrified and confused, having only witnessed what was really only an exchange between strangers. And of course, there was the big question.

How much longer did he have to live?

Spear Gate — Chapter Nine, Pt. 2

“So that’s what you were referring to in the courtyard earlier today,” Eathe said.

“Yes,” she nodded. “I had planned on telling you because you should know. But now we’re pressed for time, and as much as I would prefer the other two not hearing this, I think it’s better this way.”

“Well, I can’t say I’m not curious. How much is there to tell?”

“I’ll give you the short version. The first part is common knowledge: the Spear Gate has been around for all of recorded history. Even the most ancient texts in Tal’Doraken note it’s existence and the Constructors that guard it. The Hands believe that Aenias created both, for they are both of the same indestructible material. Terrace was built around that obelisk, but not as a city. At least, not at first. Terrace was originally a prison.

“The Spear Gate is not just an obelisk, as you now know. It’s a portal. You see the Gate is at the spot on the planet that is closest to Eranos. The sister-planet lies directly above it, and on the opposite side is another Spear Gate, and when the Gates open, the two connect. One can simply walk right through. One foot on Asamos. The next on Eranos. And vice-versa.

“In an age far gone, long before Tebrein claimed independence from the rest of the continent, records have stated that the Gates were always open. Thousands of alien beings from the sister-planet flooded through. Your ancestors, Xan. The Athaxi.”

The masked figure stomped its feet, head cocked to one side. They made no noise of protest at this, though.

Varra continued. “The Constructors halted their advance, but the flood was constant, and what’s more, the Athaxi seemed to have powers of some kind. Then, one day, everything stopped. The Spear Gates closed and the Constructors went silent. A fractured number of Athaxi remained here, stranded. Hundreds of years passed, and slowly the Constructors began to reawaken, even if the object that they guarded never did. And so, people flocked to Terrace. It’s location and circumstances were easy to defend after we found the secret to controlling the Constructors. Which brings us to today. Knowledge of what the Gate is has been kept hidden.

She paused, and her brow furrowed under the orange torchlight. “But things have been changing. Twenty years ago, when my mother was the Hand of Defense, the Spear Gate opened. A single person stepped through from Eranos, but he was no Athaxi. He called himself Rozire.”

Maelys’ jaw dropped at this. Rozire was from another planet?

“His purposes were unknown, and he was apprehended. But we found out that he had powers of his own, and one day he vanished without a trace. He didn’t go back to Eranos. The Gate did not open again.”

“You’re saying he’s still around?” Eathe asked. Maelys perked up at that. If Rozire was here, he could get everyone out of this situation. Everything would be fine.

But Varra shook her head. “I doubt it. The boy told me that he entered the Meadows with Rozire. He hasn’t been seen since, and—”

“He must be here, then,” Eathe interrupted. “How far could he have gotten?”

“Eathe, nobody has seen him, and we don’t really know what he can do. Magic isn’t of this world.”

“Well,” the former guard captain said. “What do you know of his magic, boy?”

Maelys reddened. “I’m hardly any younger than either of you. And I don’t know. He’s never used any magic around me.”

Varra made a confused sound. “Don’t lie to me, you used magic just after I found you. Rozire’s magic, in fact.”

“What are you talking about?” Maelys and Eathe said in unison.

“Your master’s staff? It has a runestone in it. The Athaxi used runes to manipulate the world around them. You used Rozire’s staff to summon flame.”

Maelys held his hands up. “That doesn’t sound familiar. He’s used his staff as a torch sometimes, but he’s always used flint.”

Varra grunted. “Boy, you don’t have anything to gain from lying to us, we’re in the same position as you!”

“I’m not lying!” Maelys yelled. “And stop calling me ‘boy’! This all sounds insane and I have nothing to contribute.”

He took a breath and looked away from the others.

“Rozire found me and took me away from a bad place. An island off the coast of Tebrein, near the Sanguine Archipelago, but independent. We spent several months together. He told me he was a cartographer and showed me how to make maps. He never said why we were going to Upper Terrace, and when we got here, we were attacked by a Constructor, and he vanished.”

In that instant, he felt a spark in his head. He had told Maelys. They were looking for his mother, a woman whom he had never known. Why in Upper Terrace, and what did Maelys have to do with any of this?

Voices came from down the hall. Everyone glanced at each other, and a tense moment passed. Eathe shrugged at Varra in a rare request for orders.

She leaned in close to him. “We’re done for now,” she whispered. “Come back sometime tomorrow. For now, hide in one of the further cells. They won’t check for any additional prisoners. And don’t make any sound. They’ve only heard me and Maelys talk.”

Eathe nodded and tugged at Xan’s robes as they pulled away. With a silent wave of dismissal, the two of them ventured further into the dungeon to avoid the approaching patrol.

Spear Gate — Chapter Nine, Pt. 1

Maelys’ entire body ached, sore and heavy. As he woke, he found himself still wrapped with an unshakable chill, but the chill was everywhere, now. Coming to consciousness, he realized he was lying on stone. Cold, hard stone that did little to ease the discomfort of the Red Teeth that still coursed through his body. He let out a strained groan as he sat up to lean against the rock. It wasn’t any more comfortable, but at least the pained muscles could relax a bit.

The room was dark. The slow, orange glow of a torchlight twisted around the stone walls and iron bars.

“Rise and shine,” a feminine voice said nearby. Maelys glanced towards it to see a woman staring back at him from the other side of the cell. It was hard to make out details in the darkness, but she seemed young. Her voice carried an air of authority with it, but it was contrasted by her posture. Her shoulders were slumped and her head was low.

Maelys frowned. “Where are we?”

“The dungeon under the barracks. It seems we’ve both fallen victim to crimes we didn’t commit.”

Something in the way she said that sparked some recognition. “We’ve met before haven’t we?”

The woman crossed her arms and looked away. “Yes. I’m the H—” she stopped herself with a sigh. “My name is Varra.”

Varra. Rozire had mentioned that name. It had seemed so long since his teacher was at his side, though, that he couldn’t remember anything beyond simple recognition. He coughed and felt a stain of wetness on his arm. Dizziness followed, and Maelys wavered a bit. He pushed against the ground to steady himself. “Maelys,” he said after a moment, more a confirmation for himself than an introduction to her.

He anticipated a response, but there was none. Varra seemed content that the conversation had finished, which suited him just fine. He didn’t have much strength, and talking seemed like a waste. The questions of what had happened and what was to come came to mind, but they seemed trivial. Unimportant when compared to the prospect of getting some rest.

But just as that thought came to him, he heard a dull rhythm. The loud clanking of footsteps echoing down the corridor. He opened his eyes again to look at Varra, and watched as her composure completely shifted. She remained seated, but her back straightened and she pulled her hair out of her face, head lifted to address whoever approached their cell.

Maelys was surprised to see two figures walk into view. The one that carried a torch was a tall young man wearing plated armor. He wore no helmet, and his hair was much lighter in color than what few people Maelys had met in Upper Terrace. The other figure was small and hunched. Even sitting on the ground as he was, their head wasn’t much higher up than Maelys’. What little skin their simple white robes exposed had a glossy texture, as if they were covered in sweat. This figure wore an intricate mask over their face, and overall there was no indication whatsoever of the person’s gender.

“Well, Exalted One,” the armored one said, a smile on his face as he looked at Maelys. “These are somewhat different circumstances than what I thought we would be having around this hour. Unless you expect me to believe these are your chambers.”

“I’m over here, you idiot,” Varra huffed, words peeking out from gritted teeth. “And it’s just Varra now.”

He looked to the other side of the cell to where she was, then back to Maelys. “Oh, my. You’ll have to forgive me, you two look… nevermind.” He walked a few paces towards Varra. His face grew more serious then. “Xan told me what happened.”

The hunched figure nodded vigorously, smashing it’s hands together. “Yes, yes. Xan saw the lady being dragged out of the palace towards the dungeon. Some time after the light faded, yes.” The voice sounded somewhat masculine to Maelys, but jumped up and down in pitch. He vaguely recalled seeing this figure in the infirmary, but had never heard this voice before.

“Thank you for fetching Eathe for me, Xan,” Varra said.

“I suppose you’re going to tell me how to do your job?” the guard asked. “I appreciate the sentiment, but I think we both know the other Hands are going to replace me as soon as possible.”

“Well, funny enough the conversation I wanted to have with you has only been made more necessary by recent circumstances. I have a plan.”

“Are we going to bust you out?” Eathe said, skepticism and worry coloring his tone.

Varra shook her head, trailing a hand through her hair. “No. At least, not yet. That will only get us killed. No, the four of us have some work to do. We’re all outcasts in one form or another, so we have to stick together. I can get us through this, but we’ll all need to work together as one.”

She beckoned everyone to come closer. They all did so with reluctance, but when she was insistent they all did as they were told. Maelys was far too lost to agree to anything just yet, but he had little choice.

“We’ll start with introductions,” she said, voice slightly louder than that of a whisper. “You all know me, but I’ll go first anyway. I’m Varra, former Hand of Defense of the city.”

The light-haired guard started to introduce himself, but Varra cut him off as she pointed in his direction. “That’s Eathe, former Guard Captain of Upper Terrace and de facto Hand of Defense. A capable tactician and a loyal friend. You’re going to be the one pulling all the strings for now.”

She addressed the masked figure next to Eathe. “Xan, Upper Terrace’s only Athaxi resident, and our only medical expert. Xan, you’re going to have to be our eyes while everything is going down. Nobody is going to think anything of you wandering the streets since you’ve been around longer than any of us. And since Maelys is here, you coming to the dungeon frequently isn’t going to arouse any suspicion.”

Xan stomped their feet on the ground, making soft thumps. Maelys had never heard of an ‘Athaxi’ before. Everything about this creature was strange.

Soon Varra pointed towards him. “And lastly, we have Maelys. A bundle of questions himself, but undoubtedly a big piece of the puzzle. He has some connection with Rozire and the Spear Gate, though how much remains to be seen. Maelys is the key to figuring out what’s really going on. Also, it goes without saying that none of this information leaves this room. And it especially doesn’t reach the ears of the other Hands.”

Eathe nodded. “That goes without saying. So what’s our first move?”

“It starts here,” Varra replied. “The Hands have arrested me for treason against Tebrein. I think it’s only fitting that I commit the crime that put me here. I’m going to tell you three everything the Hands know about the Spear Gate and our watchful sister-planet.”