“This one thinks, perhaps, it would be best to follow the Bhuradhest. Torenwyr this far from the mine… Pyrklist finds this distressing.” He wrung his hands, squinting as he looked fretfully from one outcropping of rock to another.
Gilliam waved Ana away as he stomped his boot back into place, sucking in sharp breaths each time his heel struck the ground. “No,” he said to the cleric. “Save your magic in case we have another run-in with more of these… things.”
A small hand slipped into mine as we got back underway, then the cool metal of the bracelet worked its way over my hand to settle on my wrist. Almost immediately, the dim, distant feeling of Sera that huddled in the back of my mind leapt into sharp focus. The warmth of her Power surged through my muscles, causing my fingertips to tingle and burn, and my heartbeat sped up to match hers.
I looked down at her, and she answered my question before I even asked: “You have a better grasp of earth magics. I can use that to probe further ahead and give us time to prepare when next we meet any of those creatures.”
We walked a few more steps, and her hand tightened in mine. “Also, I have missed you,” she murmured, softly enough that had I not been privy to her Power-heightened senses, I would not have heard it.
From time to time, Silva would stop, and glance up into the sky. The hawk from earlier trailed us, I noticed, and at times it would break away from its high, lazy spirals to drift over the mountains ahead of us, always returning to station more or less above our position.
“That’s quite the trick,” Varis said to the girl, when he finally noticed the behavior.
Silva’s smile was brief. “Flight always is first in my heart.” She sighed. “The great hawks of Booh are all gone. They are of a size for Men to ride. I could bring my own eyes to the sky, but now I must use those of the hawk. And they cannot see beneath a Veiling.” Her second sigh held an edge of frustration. “Lea’s likeness is more of stubborn than she was. Her head, it is like the mountain, no? She will sulk. But there are much dangers here.”
“She is some distance ahead of us,” Demarra said. I saw the reddish-blue gleam of her gift, shining between the golden bands adorning her wrist.
“I know you mean to help,” Silva said, “but that is a knowing that I already have.”
“Mistress,” Pyrklist said, plucking at Silva’s sleeve. She stopped, and the halfling bobbed his head.
“Your pardon, Mistress, but… when Pyrklist did not know which way to go, he asked of the Oracle stone. The Voice has never been wrong. Perhaps…. It knows where the Bhuradest is?”
Silva cocked her head.
“The stahlklist, that was among the tarlklints. In the Mistress’ pouch.”
The siren opened her belt pouch, picking about in it until she drew out the sapphire. It was quite large, irregularly cut, nearly the size of the stones adorning her bracers.
“Yes, that is the one,” Pyrklist nodded. “This one would hold it in his hands, as such.” He cupped his hands, as if to take a drink from a stream. “A gentle breath is all it takes, and then one asks of the stone what one will, and its Voice answers with the truth.” His brow wrinkled, slightly. “A strange thing, Mistress…. This one just now realized, the Voice in the stone, and that of the Mistress… they are—“
His words were lost as the air began to thrum, pressing against me like the waves of sound from a great silver bell.
Sliva had done as the halfling bid, and held the stone in her cupped hands, and breathed upon it. The gem flared to life in her hands, shining through her fingers, and bathing her pale face in a silvery-blue light, most of it seeming to gather in her eyes, turning them a bright and vibrant blue.
Wide as her eyes were, Silva’s expression was one of agony, not wonderment. She fell to her knees, and she voiced a scream that shook the mountains around us. The stone’s light flared with the sound, the thrumming rings’s pitch a perfect fifth chord with the girl’s cry. The light grew, expanding from the stone to surround the siren, and it was as if a whirlwind was contained within the column of light— her hair and cloak and down whipped and tossed as if under a great wind, though we felt nothing beyond the cold breeze of the mountains.
Pinpoints of silvery light spun and twisted around Silva, and as her cry went on, the lights brightened, churning and gathering before her, forming a hazy outline: Streamers of silvery light representing a flow of hair, a complex spin and twisting of motes outlining a familiar pattern of the silvery bracers, another tangle of sparkles appearing to be a gown’s hem, rippling as if caught in a breeze.
The concentration of lights and flashes traced a ghostly image of Silva’s own features, staring back at her over the intense blue-white light of the stone. A wispy hand reached forth, caressed Silva’s cheek, and the girl’s scream finally abated. The chaos of wind within the light began to subside. The sparkling image gave a wistful smile, then broke up. Silva drew in a deep breath, taking most of the dancing silvery, glittering motes with it.
The gem’s light winked out, and SIlva fell forward, on elbows and knees, her forehead nearly on the stony trail as she coughed and wheezed.