With a passion for storytelling spawning before he even could write, Pete Cotsalas, a Massachusetts native, does not feel accomplished unless he has written daily. Fiction is his passion. With a BA in English/Creative Writing he hopes to milk all the use possible out of this basic credential, and dreams of the world reading and enjoying his work. He is an avid reader and researcher in his spare time. To inspire himself, he often contemplates “If it exists, I can write about it.”
Buzzing echoed within Faraoise’s lair. As she and Froman arrived at the underground confluence of Fathach’s streams and roots, Chliste, Ivanna and Myria cowered on the ground, bombarded. A swarm of tiny creatures embroiled the time defectors. “Get these bugs off!” screamed Myria, shooing one away from her hair.
Brandishing her hand, Faraoise stopped the cloud of insect-like creatures. They suspended in midair, fluttering wings slowly. “These are not insects. They are Laumes, flocked through the passageways. Well-meaning fairies, in legions are overwhelming. Laumes are lured by human suffering, wishing to sooth it. It seems they have an affinity for time-travel also. Holes in the flow attract them. Your return was a divine calling for them.” Waving her hand, the Laumes dispersed, fluttering back up the innumerable root-lined corridors.
Scratching her head, Ivanna sat up, staring at the creator of nature, absorbing her glittering features. “Are you Faraoise? You are a wood nymph. I mean no offense. I just did not expect…” Dismissively, Faraoise held up a hand and nodded.
Distraught upon his return, Chliste stared blankly, mouth drooping open and closed. Ivanna and Myria were trembling and blinking. “Time-flow shock,” Faraoise explained to Froman. “Oftentimes time-travelers need time to recompose. They need not exert themselves recounting the experience. We can view their arrival to return, in the nectar.” The Dryad creator gestured to the liquid of infinite colors. It swirled, turning blue, before giving way to clear imagery. Visions, plain and vivid as they themselves, appeared in the Knothole.
Alone beside the riverbank Ivanna and Myria paced, befuddled. “Where are we, Ivanna?”
Eyeing the river, Ivanna nodded. “This is the same river-bend. Mountains on the horizon appear same.”
Myria shrugged in puzzlement. “Where are the Wandering Field, Chliste and Froman? Are you certain? I disremember this river being so torrential.”
Ivanna agreed “It should not be. Upriver is the Cattail Dam, forming Nublun Reservoir, providing drinking water for three Provinces, unless…”
“Unless what?” urged Myria.
“Unless the dam is not built, which means the Provinces do not exist.” Surveying the expanse, she saw three grotesque boars with red fur, and green tusks wading across the river. “Do you know what they are? Those are Solastial Warthogs. They were overhunted by starving troops during War of Right, been extinct for centuries.”
Impatiently, throwing up her hands Myria said “I do not understand.” She screamed “Froman!”
A boat drifted downriver. “That is a ferry,” announced Ivanna. Something was wrong. The turning wheel, excavating the water surface, propelling the ferry appeared to be timber. Under a Legion Ordinance, ferry wheels were to be made of tin. Wood was deemed unsafe three centuries before. Accompanying the obvious absence of the dam, Ivanna was drawing a conclusion, trying to recall the incantation Chliste uttered before they found themselves here.
A loud splat announced the ferry grounding itself riverside. From the helm, a half-dwarf ferryman greeted them. “Lost, are you? You two are way off the trail.” Anchoring his ferry, he opened a tobacco pouch. “Did I hear you calling someone named Froman? I know no Froman. I know Furoom, the village stonecutter. If it be him you seek, he is indisposed. Poor bloke has his hands full with the recent graves.”
Myria looked up toward the deck. “No, Froman is our companion, a Wolf.”
Narrowing his eyes in confusion, the bearded ferryman grunted in pain. He bit his finger while depositing a lump of tobacco in his jaw. Flexing his finger, he said “Afraid I misunderstand Milady. You have lost your pet wolf?”
Impatiently, Myria shook her head. “He is a member of the Wolf Clan of-.”
Clapping her hand over Myria’s mouth to silence her, Ivanna shook her head. “She is awestruck Ferryman. Wait momentarily.” She whispered into Myria’s ear. “Do not mention the Wolf Clan. We are centuries in the past. Chliste transported us through the timeline. I read of this spell. If we are in the time when I think we are, Wolves remain isolated to the West Hills. The rest of Fathach is not aware of their existence yet. In absentia from our time, we must discriminate what we reveal.” Addressing the ferrymen, she said “Um, Ferryman, I apologize. I have yet to take your name?”
“Trotter, Milady,” he said, through the brown mass in his mouth.
“Very well, Trotter, the stonecutter is busy with graves of whom, may I ask?”
Sealing his tobacco pouch, Trotter sighed. “Ah, you have not heard. Days ago a search party investigated a mass of hawks circling the mountain, yonder. They found a village of woodsmen dead. Rats were gnawing at them. Hawks were attracted to the rodent throngs. I just delivered the last of the corpses to the undertaker at the graveyard.”
Trotter referenced the discovery of the Mountain of a Thousand Hawks. They were six-hundred years in the past, during the Days to Forsake, and the reign of evil. They were at mercy of the Warlock lawmakers. Thinking quickly, Ivanna asked “Trotter, can you direct us to the Mactor Kingdom?”
“Kingdom?” he repeated. “You mean Mactor settlement?”
Ivanna shook her head “Oh yes, the settlement.” She momentarily forgot that there would be no established Kingdoms or Queendoms until after the war. “We wish to see… Squire Shrewn.” King Shrewn was not yet a King.
“Fastest way to Mactor Settlement from here is via the Opposite Strait,” Trotter explained. “Shrewn’s colony is upriver. Strait flows south to north.”
Ivanna knew the river section whereof Trotter spoke. In their time it was The Brell Strait. “That is near the Prestile Falls. She shook her head, accessing her history knowledge. She murmured “Um, Days to Forsake, Torrential Falls.”
“Yes,” Trotter said. “Beyond there the Solas feeds into the Strait, passing directly by Mactor Settlement. For a moment I thought you said Prestile Falls. Only Prestile refers to the Prestilians, nomads secluded in the valley. Very well, I can take you there. You will be the only live fares I had in days. Beware of the Grytties. Nasty little pests like to hide in shallow areas of the river that direction.”
Do not worry. Grytties will become extinct within sixty years. Ivanna almost spoke the words, but kept them in her head as she and Myria boarded. Vaguely she worried about the fare. Modern Fathach currency from her pouch might confuse Trotter. It was gold however. Aboard, Trotter manned the helm while Myria inquired of Ivanna in a hushed tone. “Why are we seeking Shrewn?”
Matching Myria’s whisper and glancing to ensure Trotter was no eavesdropping, Ivanna answered her handmaiden friend. “Shrewn was the first fairy to enter our realm, a dozen centuries ago. In this time he would be our safest ally. If anyone would know how to reverse our journey through time-flow it would be Shrewn.” Confidence that Shrewn would hear their story at least comforted Ivanna. In their time, King Shrewn remained the most levelheaded assemblyman in the Grand Legion.
Not far along the river, Trotter docked before a tiny tavern between two trees with a private dock, announcing a pit stop. “Care for some food?” he asked. “They roast excellent warthog here.” Hunger not a prominent objective they refused their chance to taste the meat of an extinct creature. Approaching the pub, Trotter brushed against a hooded figure standing on the dock and apologized. Trotter grinned, seeing the man under the hood. “Jilt, I am surprised to see you. You were in the village not an hour ago.” Calling to Ivanna and Myria, waiting on the deck, he introduced “This is Jilt, our village milkman.” Turning to face the ferry, as Trotter entered the pub the figure lowered its hood. Ivanna and Myria gasped. It was not a milkman. Hult, Ivanna’s manservant from Palace Dli was under the cloak and hood. How could he be in this time? His eyes were vacantly indifferent, very unlike Hult.
Looking at Hult, Myria said “Abode Mother, how are you here?”
Furrowing her brow, Ivanna looked at Hult. “Abode mother, what…?” Realization solidified. A sneer enveloped the replica of Hult’s face. “Myria we have to leave!” shrieked Ivanna. The hooded creature opened its jaws, screeching a bloodcurdling cry. In the distance trees ruffled. Something was coming.
Grasping the helm, Ivanna looked over her shoulder. “Warlocks detected us.” She yelled to be heard over the screeching call the camouflaged monster made. More appeared, joining it. “They sensed the magic surge from the spell, or perceived a border between realms breached. They dispatched Rakshasa to dragoon us. That was not your Abode Mother.”
“What are Rakshasa?” Myria inquired, frightful. “I have never heard of them.”
Grunting as she tried to navigate the old-fashion ferry into the current, Ivanna articulated. “Unnatural creatures manufactured by the Warlocks as foot-soldiers. Flesh-eating demonic monsters, which had unique power to assume appearance of anyone that whoever looked at them trusted. They do not exist in our time. Armies of the Legion eradicated them during The War of Right. Unfortunately, The War will not occur for two centuries!” One Rakshasa threw a spear. Ivanna felt air rift as it came close to her head. With a thud, it struck beneath the helm, as the current quickened. Returning from the pub, Trotter saw his boat leaving. Yelling as the ferry departed the pub port, Ivanna said “I apologize, Trotter.” He yelled in protest.
Following their hijacking, they stranded the pursuing Rakshasa on the muddy banks. Ivanna pulled the spear from the wood surrounding the helm area of the boat. Crucial damage was caused to the ferry’s steering mechanism. Neither were handy engineers. “This vessel is too large to be paddled,” Ivanna said. “Generally, we will have to allow current to steer us. Once we pass the Falls, we reach the Strait, carrying us to Mactor, by nightfall.” In silence, they watched the passing forest flanking the river thickening, listening to chirping in the distance. Ivanna pinpointed areas where villages and farmland existed in their time. Chirping became louder when dusk arrived, and the trees were densest. The ferry was barraged by tiny froglike creatures, with claws. Myria kicked one of the reptilians off the starboard side. Ivanna lifted an ore and swatted another clawing her robes. “Grytties the ferryman warned us of, primitive water imps, taking pleasure from mischief. In these days they were infamous for sinking boats, or throwing cargo overboard, found it amusing.” Soon the screeching and commotion stopped. The tiny heads of the Gyrtties looked to the shore, spotting another purple-tusked warthog. One licked its green lips. All at once, they fled the ferry, paddled across the water and attacked the warthog. Drifting by, Ivanna and Myria watched a dozen tiny creatures bludgeon a pig twenty-times their size to death. “Warthogs were their natural prey. That led to their extinction, the extinction of the warthog.”
Following the Gyrtties’ dispersal, they remained alert. Myria looked down at the moving water below the wooden, floating structure. Ivanna encouraged. “It will take time. Solas runs the length of the continent.” Ivanna looked around. “Something is wrong… We have been afloat for hours. We should hear the Prestile Falls now.” She walked from bow to stern on the river vessel, observing their surroundings. “I see Scholder Caverns… There is no point the Solas River passes there. It does not flow this far west… goodness, unless we encountered an unexpected turn.”
“Just before those pests attacked, we encountered a split,” said Myria. “River branched into two directions.”
“You mean a tributary?” Ivanna was very fearful now. “Did one way flow under a canopy of willow trees?”
Myria nodded. “The right did. We went left.”
Ivanna gulped. “In our time the river only transpires straightforward, under those willows, giving way to the portion of the river leading to Prestile Falls.” Overboard, she saw water below flowing gradually. It looked murky. “This must be some drainage basin going west. It must be dammed off in our time. In other words, I do not know where this stretch leads.” With the helm broken, they were at the mercy of the current.
Water conveying them turned completely brown, slowing to a walking pace. The smell of murk and animal feces magnified. Flow gave way to a swamp. This bog flowed west. “Ugh, that stench is horrific,” Myria said, covering her nose. “This makes the Lowest Dungeon seem like a florist’s!”
“There is your source,” Ivanna pointed to the bank of the river. Situated by the line of trees, on the dark riverbank, were a row of corpses. At least a dozen appeared fresh, others nearly bone. Positioned upright, facing the river, all impaled on spikes planted in the ground. Before passing the corpses, Ivanna saw one decaying man dressed in a purple cloak. This was once traditional attire for a traveling monk. There was a unicorn hide sack swinging from the decomposing shoulder of another. Before the unicorn went extinct, unicorn hide sacks were standard accessory of royal messengers. Not exclusively humans were impaled. Identifying elf bone-structure was noticeable on some skeletons. Ivanna disliked the sensation that their fate was dispensing. Apart from the intensifying odor, darkening canopy of tree limbs above them, and the displayed dead bodies something else was causing her fear. Perhaps it was a developed Enforcer instinct. Deeper they progressed into the marshy bog, the more Ivanna felt they were being watched.
Myria craned her neck, looking at the display of bodies behind them. “Some of those bodies had letters carved on them in their skulls or sternums. It looked like they spelled “Intruders”.”
For a time it was uneventful. The only place silence was absent was Ivanna’s mind. Hopefully they would drift safely through swampy terrain, arriving at a free-flowing portion of the Solas River. Other than that, apart from the occasional frog croak, or squelching from the ferry’s underside, they did not hear or see anything. Ivanna was no navigator or expert on boats, but sensed the current of the dark water carrying them in a zigzagging direction. Same trees from the shore to their portside remained on that side as they floated along. They were caught in an oxbow lake. These usually reconnected with the main channel. Ivanna hoped that was the case. Then they saw the sign. It was actually a low-hanging, thick tree limb, above their heads. It bore a message. Somebody took great care to carve it into the bark with a chisel. It was crude, written almost illiterately: “Fuil Tertery.”
“What is tertery?” Myria asked, squinting to read as they passed underneath the branch.
Ivanna shook her head. “That meant to say “Fuil Territory,” badly misspelled.”
“Fuil Territory?” read Myria the etching on the bark one more time before it vanished behind them. “Hmm, I am unfamiliar with that province.”
“It is no province,” Ivanna said. She heard the hiccup of fear in her own voice. Fuil was a familiar term from studies. It was no ideal destination. “During Days to Forsake, Fuil was the name given to the area in the middle of the continent where ogres and trolls dwelled. Apparently that is where we have drifted.” She looked around, more vigilantly now. “Myria, we are unsafe… Trolls, ogres, and goblins during The Days to Forsake were much more gruesome and hostile than in our time.” She swallowed. “I have fair certainty that if we are discovered, we will be killed without much mercy, and put on pikes. Those bodies were not executed criminals. That is what they do to those entering their domain uninvited.”
“Indeed,” a gravelly disembodied, voice came from thin air it seemed, causing Ivanna and Myria to scream. Two large, hairless heads appeared over the rail on the starboard side. Trolls were rarely so stealthy. Attempting to react, Ivanna grasped the hilt of her sword, but too late. The tall nude green-hued trolls boarded the ferry, pointing bloodstained blades at them. In defeat, Ivanna and Myria raised their hands. Their captors ordered them off the boat, sending the ferry adrift thereafter. Protesting as they stripped her of weapons and valuables, Ivanna was struck with a club. “Human heifers bring onslaught thyself, trespassing on Fuil Land,” the troll jeered. The second was cross-eyed and grunted with hebetude as he secured Myria’s shackles.
Herded like livestock, Ivanna and Myria found themselves embarking toward unknown fate in the deep, foul-smelling valleys of Fuil. Smoke billowed from a clearing. As they marched onward, the source was revealed to be a fire-pit. Arriving at a mud shack, they were forced to stop, at knifepoint. “Steady there,” one ordered.
One troll oversaw them, as the second went to speak to a hulking ogre, splitting logs with an axe by the fireside. Listening to the murmuring, Ivanna tried her best to translate their Ogle. By no means was she fluent in the dead language. She absorbed the gist. “We are being sold as commodities. Presumably, this ogre is a buyer.”
“Lops and I want their heads!” the ogre bellowed, brandishing the dull, yet menacing iron axe. Heartbeats pounded in Ivanna’s ear. Recalling coming across a name and story once, she believed this ogre was Dyblen, known by nickname Decollation Dyblen. With his massive hand, he squeezed the tops of both Ivanna and Myria’s heads. “They will do nicely. Two female human heads will compliment my décor.” Looking at the troll, he gestured to a stump. “Take them to my chopping block.” He ran a finger down the blade of his axe. “I gotta sharpen Lops.”
Jabbing the machete at their backs, the trolls herded them toward the block. Myria whimpered, seeing the blade-marks on the stump. Ivanna was less worried. She noticed a bolt on one of her hand shackles was broken. Discretely, she slipped her hand out. Waiting for the ogre to be occupied by the iron sharpening wheel, she took her chance. Whirling around, she swung the iron chain from her wrist, knocking the troll in the head. Grunting, he fell against a tree. Ivanna grabbed his key like a flash, and unlocked Myria’s shackles. “Run!” she screamed. They were into the woods, before hearing Dyblen and second troll pursuing. Fleeing, Ivanna and Myria slid into a ditch. The loud thudding footsteps of the pursuing trolls stopped directly above them. They listened to the aggressive panting, keeping hidden.
“They must have run through the swamp,” Ivanna heard Dyblen say.
His smaller crony suggested “Shouldn’t we check the hatchery?”
Dyblen scoffed. “They wouldn’t be stupid enough to go there.” The footfalls died away.
Eggs twice the size of their heads surrounded Ivanna and Myria. “This is a dragon hatchery,” Ivanna whispered, looking cautiously at the eggs. Cracking emitted as the eggs hatched. Scaly snouts snapped at their ankles. High-pitched wails of newborn dragons warranted fleeing. Evading the hatchlings, they trudged uphill through cattails. Ivanna thrust a hand out to stop Myria.
Through thorn-bushes nearby Dyblen and his crony spoke. Cheer coated their voices. They eavesdropped. “Father, you’ve been dead half a century. How’re you back?”
High croaky voice of his sidekick interjected. “Your father, that’s my father Dyblen.”
A third voice spoke. “The two human women, where are they?”
“Hereabouts,” assured Dyblen.
“Lawmakers enforce strict punishment upon harboring fugitives,” the unseen third party hissed. A slicing sound and grunt followed, then a thump. Ivanna knew the sound of a body hitting ground. The troll squealed in horror, before another slice silenced him too.
Startling Myria and Ivanna, Chliste appeared. “Rakshasa have killed your pursuers. We must move.” Grunting, he led the way up the next hill.
Accustomed to horseback, so much running was alien to Ivanna. “How many?” she asked Chliste.
“One,” he urged them to keep up. “After you escaped them they spread out to search. They scour for you as far as the outskirts of the mountains.”
Without warning, a loud growl assaulted their eardrums. A Rakshasa leapt from a mass of bushes. To Ivanna it appeared as her Enforcer partner. Chliste held the beast off. He was distracted, staring at it for a moment, giving the gofer opportunity. It swiped its sword, slicing Chliste’s leg. He bled, grunting. Waving his hand he teleported the three of them to a clearing nearby. From safety, they watched the Rakshasa look around for them, brandishing its blade. It licked the blade of its sword. From a distance, Ivanna saw its eyes widened. Staring at Chliste’s blood on the sword, it called “Male time-traveler,” smacking his lips, dispelling a disgusting flavor. “The very presence of you and your human companions is an insurrection of the Masters. I see that more clearly now. Your blood looks like blood, and feels it, but tastes like… sand.” From their concealed hiding spot, they saw the streak of blood changing form. Instead of dripping off of the blade, it crumbled. The blood was becoming sand, falling to the ground. The Rakshasa hissed. “This is golem blood, reverts to its original form when drawn. Same happens to extremities when severed. Evidently the Masters did not eliminate the Predecessors as we believed. You will be a difficult adversary.”
“Understatement,” Chliste murmured. Uttering a spell, the Rakshasa froze in its tracks. “We must act posthaste. Get to that clearing. That spell will not affect a Rakshasa long. If it were only you two, I could merely transport you back. Since I am retrieving you in person, pulling three of us back is more trying. I need something, the feather of a Phoenix. During The Days to Forsake, they are caged in the Warlocks’ palaces, to siphon their magic. There may be some free.” Cupping his hands around his mouth, Chliste emitted a high-pitched shrill screech. Covering her ears, Ivanna recognized the universal birdcall. Within seconds, tree limbs shook as the largest, diverse flock she had ever seen amassed in the clearing. Every bird within miles swooped to the clearing: swallows, ravens, hawks, even birds Ivanna did not recognize, which may have been extinct by their time. The birds cawed and flapped around the clearing. Eyes turning blue, Chliste observed the flock. “No Phoenixes,” he announced. “I shall improvise.” He plucked a squawking colorful bird from the mass. “Make haste, come.”
“That is a lovebird, not a Phoenix,” said Ivanna in bemusement.
“They are similar. Faraoise created Phoenixes by reticulating the lovebird with greater size and magic. To avoid slipup, I will need all the feathers.” He muttered an incantation. A swirling gateway opened. Holding the lovebird out, the three were admitted in. The bird’s feathers disintegrated.
As imagery faded in the nectar, Faraoise turned to address the three returned survivalists. Ivanna regained herself. With the rage in her eyes, looking at Chliste it seemed it was all she could muster not to strike him. “Why did you send up back to that era or torment?”
“To put your endeavor in perspective,” said Chliste, rubbing his head. “The Warlocks now occupy the realm of death. If you enter, you will be at their mercy as you were in the Days to Forsake. I merely meant for you to experience their power firsthand.”
“And my Enforcer badge!” screamed Ivanna. “It was stolen in that horrible past! I do not have credentials.”
“Come here.” Chliste put his hand on Ivanna’s shoulder, and closed his eyes and touched the side of his head with his free hand. Saying “One moment,” he vanished in a blink. Before Ivanna’s surprise at his departure solidified, Chliste returned holding his hand to Ivanna, palm up. In his hand was a dented, rusted, oval-shaped piece of metal, with a barely legible letter E on it. “Here is your badge, centuries older, looks a relic. I located its whereabouts. After it was stolen, it sold at the underground market to an ogress, along with a collection of precious metals. From there, it changed hands many times over centuries. It was dropped by a farm boy in a field seventy-five years ago. I dug under decades’ of sedimentary dirt and debris, but retrieved it.” He waved the palm of his hand over the badge. Shiny, silver original appearance restored.
Thanking him, Ivanna placed it on her tunic, and asked a question. “My oft-read history has not elaborated much history of Golems. Chliste, what was that Rakshasa eluding to when it said Golems were Predecessors?”
Chliste nodded. “My kind spawned from early experiments by the Warlocks. We were prototypes in their quest to engineer perfectly subservient underlings. That is why Froman detests me. Wolves hate the Warlocks. My kind served them.”
“I have no sympathy for Warlock collaborators.” Froman appeared behind her, spitting.
Narrowing his eyes at Froman, Chliste said. “When Faraoise distributed tolerance, you received the vestige. My artificiality is true.” A tear welled in his eye. “However, I cannot influence it. I only wish Froman the Extremist would allow bygones to be bygones. Leave past in history. If you respected my status as Knower of All-,”
“He is a facsimile!” Froman growled, looking at Ivanna and pointing at Chliste. “The true Knower of All died on the beaches of the Isle Quarrest.”
Without making eye contact, Chliste commentated “Killed by members of The Kinship, I point out, Froman.”
Froman whistled. “Hints of emotion were in that retort, Chliste, how uncharacteristic.” Glancing between Chliste and Faraoise, he gaped, knowingly. “You were given a heart?” Froman grunted and scoffed, staring with a triumphant sneer. “You have a heart, and materialize in Faraoise’s lair, in hominid form. Are you satisfied? What more proof do you need that emotions are natural?”
“I was correct,” proclaimed Chliste, massaging his chest. It was obvious attempt to divert. “This abomination has hindered my cerebral function. It ruins me!”
Exasperated, Froman turned to Faraoise, silent since the nectar vision. “You see?” he demanded of her, pointing to Chliste. “Unfit to bear a heart, the Golem is. Heart and emotion are birthrights. Birthright cannot be held by what was never born. Equate yourselves with this, everybody. Geologic gestation does not take place within a womb. Remove the heart. It is undeserved.”
Watching Froman and Faraoise retire to a corner of the lair to converse, Ivanna turned back to Chliste. Myria was bathing in the smooth current of one of the streams. They had privacy. His back was turned. “Final question,” she said cautiously. “I think I know what you reference when you say you have been hindered. Never having a heart, you would have seen a Rakshasa’s true physical appearance, correct?” Chliste nodded. “Now it’s different?” Ivanna recalled Chliste’s hesitance to combat the beast in the past when he saw it. “You never trusted anybody before the heart. But that Rakshasa appeared as somebody to you. Was it, Faraoise?” Groaning, Chliste turned to face her, with sheepishness unbecoming of him. Lips quivered, but he could not seem to voice the answer. Eyes drifted in Froman’s direction. That was answer enough.
As promised, Faraoise provided guidance to the death realm, as Ivanna and Froman advertently listened. “I shall point you in the direction. You will find the key to your goal with a Chimera.”
Puzzled, Ivanna shrugged. “Chimeras were exterminated after the Warlocks’ overthrow.”
“One prowls the woods near the Spiral Ravines.” Conjuring the image within the nectar, they saw the beast. “She is a Return.”
Drip-drying her hair, Myria returned from cleaning herself in the stream, and overheard this. “What is a Return?”
“One who has died, entered the death realm, and come back,” said Froman, without looking at Myria. “How did it happen, Faraoise?”
“This I cannot say,” she shook her head. “Interrogate that Chimera, find the gateway.”
Ivanna sighed. “Wolpertingers, Warthogs, Laumes, Chimera, this is like touring a menagerie.”
As they turned, Faraoise laid a hand on Ivanna’s shoulder. Touch of the naturalistic creator sparked an oddly pleasant chill through Ivanna. “I should warn you. Parting pabulum for when you access the realm of departed. Dead greatly outnumber living.”
To be continued