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Chapter Sixty-Six: Intrusions

Posted in Book Three, and Of Astral and Umbral

Chapter Sixty-Six: Intrusions


I slid my fingers along Nalithor’s tail while he conversed with the two Lari’xan before us. On some level I knew it was important to discuss many things while we still had access to both of them, but I couldn’t bring myself to focus. They were so terribly boring. Playing with my nylziis’ tail was far more entertaining.

‘Hmmm…it’s smooth and soft to the touch.’ I gave it a light squeeze, sensing Nalithor tense and shiver beside me. His claws dug into my hip but he said nothing. ‘Quite firm though. Muscle, I’m assuming. I suppose he must get a lot of use out of his tail.’

Nalithor attempted to sneak his tail out of my grip but I refused to let go. He’d put it around me after covering us with a blanket so, as far as I was concerned, he could deal with me touching it. If I had to wait before finding food or taking a nap, then I planned to enjoy my time cuddled on the couch with my nylziis until then. The warm fire and the rumbling thunder threatened to lull me to sleep in his arms.

Obviously I had to entertain myself somehow.

‘Arianna, behave.’ Nalithor growled.

‘Mmm? But I am.’ I rubbed my cheek into his chest and listened to his quickened heartbeat. You decided to put it there. I’m not responsible for what happens after.’

‘Do you want me to take you without regard to privacy? Nalithor managed to twitch his tail out of my grip and coiled it around my torso tight enough to make my joints creak. ‘You should at least attempt to pay attention. You know as well as I do that we have important matters to discuss with them.

‘I’d rather pay attention to you,’ I grumbled but I didn’t reach for his tail again.

“Lucifer is plenty capable of handling the Beshulthien Empire,” Nalithor addressed the two Lari’xan. “Even if they attempt to interfere, Xander’s loyalty is with Vorpmasia and he has always felt that he owes a debt to Arianna.

“For now, we should be more concerned about the Royal Families and the Jivyador.”

“The Jivyador will be a pain no matter what you choose to do,” Sihix stated, his arms crossed. “At this point all you can do is manipulate in what way they annoy you.”

“Attempting to kill us versus attempting to make us betray each other?” Nalithor sighed.

“Basically the same thing.” I snorted, pulling the blanket higher over my shoulders.

“I don’t believe they’ve reached the point of desperation needed to attack you outright.” Yiltanys rubbed his chin in thought. “The ones that have attacked you thus far were all quite deranged. Even the ones responsible for your disappearance from Dauthrmir sought to imprison you—not kill you.

“The other deities would feel it if Balance was slain.”

“What do you think our choices are?” Nalithor questioned them, his claws digging into my hip. I glanced at him briefly, watching as he lifted his pipe to his mouth. His movements were still graceful but I could feel his growing agitation.

“They will either lure you to betray each other, or they will seek ways to prevent the two of you from working,” Yiltanys replied with a thoughtful expression. “Sihix and I have agreed that the Jivyador—at least some of them—seem to truly believe that they are the Elders.

“It would be inconvenient if they attempted to Exile you, but they do not have the power to do so.”

“And, given the depth of your role, going against the ‘Elders’ orders isn’t so unusual,” Sihix added with a fang-filled grin. “Regardless of what we say, Balance is allowed—and expected—to, you know, balance. We may interfere with how we want things done from time to time, but—

“Then we should just kill the Jivyador.” I sighed irritably and shot Sihix a look.

“You could at least try to look a little less excited. Yiltanys glanced at Sihix and then turned his attention to me. “We want to gather more information about the Jivyador before we allow the two of you to wipe them out. Nothing should have remained from the previous world. Neither the Jivyador nor the Vulin are meant to exist in Avrirsa.

“While the Vulin have proved their usefulness and earned the right to remain in Avrirsa, the Jivyador have done no such thing. They are weaker than the Middle Gods yet they have even the Upper Gods fooled. Something else is amiss.”

“We will have to determine how we wish to investigate them then,” Nalithor murmured as he stroked my hip. “Djialkan, Fraelfnir, and the Vulin are all quite suited for gathering information discretely. However, I don’t think sending the Guardians away is wise. If we will potentially find more trouble with the Jivyador, it would be best if they remain close to Arianna and myself.”

“If you happen upon some Chosen for yourselves…” Sihix coughed into his hand pointedly. “You’re stubborn—we know. However, you will need to people to serve you and help you with your role eventually.”

“What of Arianna’s brother?” Nalithor attempted to redirect the conversation. “If his light has truly been corrupted…then by what?”

Something in my peripheral vision caught my attention, making me shift slightly to see what it was. The prismatic shine on the floor danced and bobbed, drawing my gaze from place to place. After a moment, a low chuckle made me cut my eyes to the side at Yiltanys.

“Perhaps we should postpone more serious discussion until after the little one has found food? Yiltanys made a small motion with one hand, sending another spray of prismatic glints across the floor. “Can you focus enough to discuss the matter of your brother, Arianna?”

“The question isn’t whether or not I can, it’s do I want to?” I sighed, shooting the Lari’xan pair an aggravated look. “Something is wrong with his magic—and perhaps even him—right?”

“Your mother is unaware, but allowing Darius to live with her in Leryci exposed him to the troubles that plague her kingdom.” Yiltanys crossed his legs and then made a vague motion with one hand. “The political struggle and corruption of the Angels is an ongoing problem—one that began before you were born. Darius, being young and impressionable, was drawn into the conflict without his mother’s knowledge.

“Whatever they’ve done to him, it has warped his magic.”

“Wouldn’t you, of all people, know precisely what was done?” Nalithor narrowed his eyes at Yiltanys.

“Of course, but it’s against our interests to simply give you all the answers,” Yiltanys responded, shrugging. “The two of you must grow into your role for yourselves, and that includes learning to discover information for yourselves.”

“If you give yourselves to me, I might be inclined to tell you more.” Sihix grinned suggestively and pulled at the collar of his shirt to reveal more of his chest. A look of realization crossed his face and he turned to look at Yiltanys. “Of course, we can share them. We should both have the chance to enjoy—”

“If you keep making her angry, she might just find a way to kill you,” Nalithor commented dryly as he restrained me, holding me firm on his lap. “If anyone could find a loophole to kill you, it would be her.”

“She can try, but I’m certain she’ll find our brand of punishment quite enjoyable,” Yiltanys spoke a little too seriously, making Nalithor bristle. The Lari’xan gave us a devious smile. “You didn’t think I would be any better than Sihix just because I rule over light, did you?

“Humph, then you two can be bad together and leave us out of it!” I snapped at Yiltanys, my fur standing on end. Both of them grinned at me like they were considering how to make me their prey.

The sound of the door knob rustling across the room made us all fall silent, and the two Lari’xan smoothed their expressions over. Sihix’s mouth was still curved into a crooked smirk when he glanced over at me, and I stuck my tongue out at him in reply before snuggling closer to Nalithor.

‘Who would have thought being favored by the Lari’xan could be so troublesome?’ Nalithor sighed and ran his hand down my back. When the door swung open to reveal Eyrian and the others, my nylziis sighed. ‘Ah…your guards, of course. I suppose they intend to resume their duties now that we’re awake.’

“Well, I suppose we will have to wait until later to get to know each other better,” Yiltanys remarked, leaning back against the sofa with his arms stretched along the top of it. He shifted his golden gaze to my guards, his expression making several of them tense up. “We weren’t yet done speaking with Balance.”

“Whatever you have to say to them you can say to us.” Eyrian crossed his arms and gave the Lari’xan a defiant glare.

“Oh? Are you saying you would willingly become their Chosen?” Sihix smiled slyly, leaning forward to look around Yiltanys. “What truly devoted friends you are! We can certainly arrange—”

“Loyal as I am to Nalithor and Arianna,” Eyrian began tersely, “our loyalty is to the Vorpmasian Empire first. Arianna may be the First Princess but, if she is also part of Balance as you claim, then that won’t always be the case.”

“The Vorpmasian Empire won’t have to worry about making us their enemies unless they actively seek a way to bring the rest of the world to heel.” I examined Eyrian’s strained expression. “I may have been gone for a while…but I don’t get the impression that my father is the sort of idiot who would purposely go against Balance.

“I understand that Vorpmasia and Beshulthien likely won’t remain on good terms for long, but that in itself isn’t enough to skew the balance of power.”

“There’s plenty of other political powers in this world we have yet to discover,” Nalithor added as Eyrian opened his mouth to speak. “Even on the Rilzaan Continent we have undiscovered pockets such as the N’lafmarans and the Zehylor. To the south of Beshulthien, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more Elven powers my brother has yet to discover.

“Then there’s the Nrae’lmar Continent—and any other continents we have yet to discover. It would be difficult for either of the empires to turn us against them, and Lucifer isn’t foolish enough to do so.”

“That’s a shame, these two could use such loyal Chosen.” Yiltanys shot the group of men a bored look. “What are your impressions of Her Highness’ brother?”

“I’d like to wring that scrawny bastard by his—” Eyrian stopped himself and took a deep breath, crossing his arms. “What of him?”

Sihix burst out laughing and the Draekin glanced away with a flushed face.

“The brat isn’t to be trusted.” Yiltanys ignored his cackling companion. “He isn’t himself and he isn’t as he should be. It would be wise to warn both Lucifer and Gabriel to be wary of him.

“The boy’s corruption runs deep. You should all take great care around him as well, and do not leave Arianna alone with him.”

“Then there’s a reason he smells wrong.” Eyrian narrowed his eyes at the Lari’xan.

“He wouldn’t smell ‘wrong’ if there wasn’t.” Sihix snorted. “All you need to know is that neither Arianna nor Nalithor should be left alone with Darius. For their safety and for his.”

“Since you’re here now,” Yiltanys began, his gaze flicking between each of my guards. “What are your plans for protecting Her Highness when you return—and for keeping her identity a secret?”

“I don’t believe we will be able to keep her identity a secret for long.” Reulidru took a seat in a nearby chair and crossed his legs, folding his hands in his lap. “The people she rescued will be eager to tell tales of their savior. Even if we are able to cover up the suspicions at first, it won’t be long before the Royal Families work out the truth.

“Lucifer hasn’t realized it yet, but his demeanor shifted when he discovered that Arianna was still alive. His attitude has shifted again since seeing her return to her true form. He cannot hide his joy. The Families will figure him out soon.”

“And that’s assuming Ellena hasn’t gossiped to the other Goddesses already,” Eyrian added with a snort, earning a grimace from Nalithor. “Furthermore, it will take a great deal of effort for Her Highness to maintain a Human form. The Royal Families and the nobles are bound to notice.”

“Then, it would be prudent to let the Families know ourselves,” Kabos commented, his expression thoughtful. “There could be some conflict regarding Arianna’s status within the court, and her availability, but I believe we would have less trouble if we let the Families know what is going on.

“Not only would we eradicate any chance of unwanted investigation, but we could also enlist them to help protect her.”

“The Akor will side with her.” Azhar nodded sharply, earning a questioning look from me. “Our Royal Family would still be enslaved by the Vunsori if not for your efforts, and Nalithor’s, Arianna-jiss.”

“How heartwarming!” Sihix brought a hand to his chest and gave us a broad smile.

“You look like Darius when you do that.” I tilted my head, settling my gaze on Sihix.

“I should put you on a leash.” Sihix narrowed his eyes at me.

“What you should do is stop trying to get in our pants.”

“I doubt you would truly mind being sandwiched between Nalithor and I.”

“I would mind! I intend to have one man, and that man is Nalithor.”

“That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for a Lari’xan.”

“Or two.”

“Can I skin them?” I looked up at Nalithor when I felt his chest rumble with growl.

“So, if you two gave Darius your persistent behavior—who did Arianna get her loyalty from?” Nalithor questioned them in a frigid tone, making my guards tense.

“We didn’t give Darius anything,” Sihix spoke just as icily. “We may have had a hand in the twin’s creation, but we’ve both always favored Arianna. Our affection for the two of you is genuine.

“Honestly, I don’t understand you creatures. Isn’t mating how you show your—”

“Don’t call it mating.” I grimaced at the irritated Lari’xan. “And, no, that isn’t how people show affection. If it was, then everyone would be fucking everybody.”

“You object to calling it ‘mating’ yet you will call it ‘fucking?’” Yiltanys tilted his head and shot me a perplexed look. “You creatures are truly strange.”

“And we don’t like being called ‘creatures.’” I sighed, bringing my fingertips to my temples.

Nalithor shook his head and brought his pipe to his lips, soon exhaling a stream of bright blue smoke. He seemed to consider something before speaking, “Arianna, you should eat some of the snacks I brought you. Don’t trouble yourself with the Lari’xan. I know you’re exhausted.”

‘If I had my way you would be in the process of exhausting me further right now,’ I retorted, shifting to lift one of the plates off the coffee table.

‘At this rate, taking you until you pass out will be the only way to get you to settle down.’ Nalithor’s growl only succeeded in making me shoot him a smirk.

“Back to the topic at hand…” Eyrian coughed to draw everyone’s attention. “When we return I will be personally in charge of Arianna-jiss’ safety. I am to stay by her side and protect her, while also relaying any orders she has to the appropriate men under my command.

“I don’t particularly care what the Royal Families or the nobles want or think. The matter is well out of their hands and I know Nalithor won’t give Arianna over to them with or without a fight. Their only choice is to submit, therefore it is a non-issue.”

‘It pays to have friends who know me so well.’ Nalithor chuckled.

“Darius should be a non-issue…but you two appear convinced that isn’t the case,” Eyrian continued, shooting the Lari’xan both a look. “What should we be prepared for?”

“Do you really wish to know?” Sihix crossed his arms and examined the Draekin. “If we tell you too much you will have no choice but to become their Chosen. You’re walking a fine line, regardless of where your loyalties lie.”

“It’s my job to know of any potential threats to Her Highness’ safety.” Eyrian glared right back at the Lari’xan. “If she should be kept from her own flesh and blood, then I would have you tell me why.”

“Come with me.” Sihix sighed, rising to his feet. When Eyrian stayed put, the Lari’xan shot him an agitated look at motioned with one hand. “It will be simpler to show you, and I cannot do that here. Come.”

Both of them imploded into the shadows, leaving the rest of us staring at where they once were. After a moment, Yiltanys’ sigh broke the silence. The Lari’xan leaned forward to steal my cup of tea and brought it to his lips. He tilted his head in thought after taking a sip.

“How are you planning to return to Dauthrmir?” Yiltanys questioned, glancing from Nalithor to my guards and back. “From what I understand, Lucifer’s fleet returned with your refugees in tow. It is several weeks’ walk back to Dauthrmir from here, is it not?”

“Part of the fleet should have returned to wait for us by now.” Azhar shook his head.

“We’ll meet by where Arianna-jiss discovered the aetheric chambers, and the fleet will take us back to Dauthrmir together,” Reulidru spoke, pushing his glasses up his nose. “We were meant to return immediately after Nalithor took care of his business in Sihix’s domain, but clearly other matters had to be dealt with. Furthermore, there is still the matter of Lehrr for these two to take care of.

“You and Sihix have seemed quite intent on keeping Arianna and Nalithor here. Are you planning to make them your children?”

“I would argue that they already are—just not in the manner that you’re thinking,” Yiltanys replied with a self-confident smirk.

“That makes your behavior even worse.” Nalithor sighed. “I can understand your infatuation with my ayraziis, but not with me.”

“Sihix and I had some hand in the creation of every Astral, Umbral, Light, and Shadow Mage,” Yiltanys began, settling back in his seat with my tea cup. “All of the Lari’xan tend to create what they like. We know you better than you know yourselves, and we enjoy making you fight with parts of yourself you didn’t know exist.

“Furthermore, you’re beautiful creatures without a mindless reverence toward us. I believe you, of all people, Nalithor, understand the appeal that comes with that.”

“That’s true…” Nalithor glanced to the side at me briefly. “Even so, the behavior you and Sihix exhibit toward us is inappropriate as far as the God and Goddess of Love’s rules are concerned.

“Shouldn’t you be more careful?”

Yiltanys fell silent for a moment, examining Nalithor and I while he contemplated the matter.

The tanned, golden-eyed Lari’xan perplexed me. He looked more like a Devillian than an Angel—he even had slit pupils and claws like one. His hair gradated from white to gold, eventually turning into pure light aether at the ends like with Sihix’s hair. Prismatic particles of light and crystallized aether floated around Yiltanys’ wrists and ankles.

Yiltanys had a more refined air about him but he’d already proved he could be just as frustrating as Sihix. They claimed they couldn’t understand us but that seemed false to me. Their involvement with creating Avrirsa and its gods meant they had to have an intimate understanding of their creations.

“Now then, how should we pass the time?” Yiltanys smiled at Nalithor and me.

“We should be preparing to return to the empire,” Azhar spoke up.

Yiltanys’ gaze flicked over to the Akor and a small frown settled on his features. The Lari’xan said nothing but his displeasure was plain as day.

Nalithor released a small sigh before handing me his pipe and rising to his feet. I glanced up questioningly at him when he walked past me, ruffling my curls as he went.

‘I’m going to get you some more tea.’ Nalithor tugged at one of my tails before walking fully out of reach. ‘You’re right that they understand us more than they’re letting on. However, I don’t think they quite grasp the concept of personal space or property. It’s simpler to get you a new cup.

‘That said…they are wearing on my patience.’

‘Mine as well.’ I shifted to lean against the arm rest of the sofa before examining the pipe in my free hand. ‘That aside, they don’t seem to want us to leave just yet.’

‘You’re not ready to go back.’ Yiltanys intruded, his voice oddly soft. ‘Your hunger and Sihix’s suppression may keep you from sensing it, but you’re in no shape to travel yet.

‘The same goes for you as well, Nalithor. You expended far too much power when freeing me and cleansing my domain. While I am grateful, you overdid it. Purifying my children yourself was an unnecessary step and if Sihix hadn’t intervened both of you would be recovering for months instead of weeks.’

‘We can’t afford to spend too much time here,’ Nalithor murmured, soon returning with a cup of tea for me. He held one hand out expectantly and took the pipe when I handed it to him, trading me for the tea. After placing another ball of qustrr in the tiny bowl at the end, he lit the pipe and then sat beside me once more. ‘Lucifer will grow impatient, and the fleet will not want to wait in Falrrsald for long.

‘I’ve considered bringing everyone to my domain and allowing them to wait there, but the Jivyador are quite troublesome when it comes to me taking guests. Besides, if we are both weakened as you say, it wouldn’t be wise for me to use my power to transport our party there.’

‘Sihix and I would prefer that you two remain here for at least another fortnight.’ Yiltanys crossed one leg over the other and settled a firm gaze on us. ‘When you return to Dauthrmir there will be much for you to take care of—both as Balance and as royalty within the empire. You will need your strength to deal with the varying challenges to come.

‘Furthermore, Arianna has yet to learn to shift to a Human form. If you intend to keep her identity a secret for a while yet, then she must learn to maintain that form before you leave here.

‘Just as I was growing used to these forms…’ I sighed in disappointment. ‘I just want food and sleep. Training can wait until later, can’t it?’

‘You’re not one to put off training of any kind,’ Nalithor commented, shooting me a sultry smile. ‘Perhaps I should be worried after all.

‘If we are going to remain here for another fortnight then I will need to send a Vulin to both Lucifer and the fleet to explain the situation. I am already on unstable footing with him and I would prefer not to provoke him further.’

‘Lucifer will understand the situation in time,’ Yiltanys reassured my nylziis. ‘Arianna’s absence has made him overprotective, and Devillians have always been dedicated to their ways. Frustrating as it can be for us, it is one of the reasons Sihix and I both favor the Devillians.’

‘You both…?’ I trailed off, staring at Yiltanys in surprise. ‘I would have thought you would prefer the species you created to be aligned with light.’

‘I favor purity.’ Yiltanys shrugged. ‘Every element can be pure or not, and the same goes for every living being we’ve created. Many of the races associated with light, such as Angels, take too much pride in their element and allow it to twist and corrupt them.

‘Devillians, however, are far more simple and focused in their desires. There are certainly those who should be wiped off the face of the planet—every race has their trash that needs to be removed. Devillians, as a whole, are far more pure and stable than Angels.

‘Lucifer and Gabriel are both good leaders, but Gabriel does not lead well on her own. Leryci will continue to continue to crumble and fall to varying forms of corruption until she has found her lifemate.’

‘Whereas Lucifer has the Royal Families to help him should he need it.’ Nalithor glanced to the side when Kabos cleared his throat. “My apologies. Yiltanys still had matters he wished to discuss with us privately.”

“You will all remain here until Arianna and Nalithor have fully recovered.” Yiltanys motioned broadly at my guards. “I wish to make certain that they can handle their work when they return to Dauthrmir. Seeing as you are all responsible for guarding Her Highness…I take it there are no objections?

Yiltanys’ tone made both Akedos and Reulidru’s fur stand on end. Kabos and Azhar exchanged a look before nodding to the Lari’xan in silence, but both men looked vaguely shaken. Azhar’s inner fire dimmed to a barely perceptible glow.

‘They don’t quite understand who Yiltanys and Sihix are, but I think they can instinctively sense it.’ Nalithor slid an arm around my waist and pulled me to his side. ‘I am more concerned about Erist and Arom—they should be able to sense who the Lari’xan are, yet…’

‘To be fair, you didn’t know who the Lari’xan were until recently.’ I hooked a leg over Nalithor’s and then rested the bottom of my cup against the top of my thigh. ‘Hells, I still question whether or not it’s alright for you to know all of this. Ceilail had warned me to keep you in the dark.’

“Ahhh, so my little Ari-mrii is going to stay with us for a little longer?!” Sihix suddenly appeared to my left and put his arms around me, rubbing his face into my upper arm. “Let’s make sure we get to have lots of fun before you leave! You too, Nalithor. I want to get to know you both much better before—

“And what of me?” Yiltanys spoke coolly and looked down his nose at Sihix. “Do you intend to leave me out of this, Sihix?”

“Of course not! We can share.” Sihix grinned wolfishly. “I’m sure they can—”

“If you make me spill my tea I will cut off your dick and bury it somewhere you can’t retrieve it.” I slid my eyes to the side and glared at Sihix.

Oh? Does that mean you agree to getting to know me better? Sihix brought his face closer to mine, a sly smirk settling on his face.

“Honestly. What am I going to do with the three of you?” I sighed heavily.

“Three… Do not lump me in with them.” Nalithor growled.

“Can you really claim you didn’t have your moments?” I glanced at him. “At least you can say your moments worked. These two can’t say the same.”

“I will get my way, Sihix declared, drawing my attention back toward him. After a moment, he looked over at Yiltanys and grinned. “I know—we could take turns shifting to look like our two precious favorites while we have our fun.”

“It wouldn’t be the same.” Yiltanys tilted his head. “And I get the impression these two would still object.”

“What in the hells did you two do to get Lari’xan obsessed with you?!” Eyrian exclaimed in aggravation.

“Clearly we’re just that charming,” I replied with a crooked grin.

‘You’re not helping,’ Nalithor informed me dryly before shooting Sihix a murderous glare. “I won’t have anyone clinging to my ayraziis, Sihix, not even the Lari’xan.”

“But she’s so soft!” Sihix teased. “I’ll give you your attention soon enough. No need for jealousy.”

Within seconds, Nalithor disappeared from my side and gripped Sihix by the back of his head. Sihix just laughed when my nylziis smashed his head through the nearest wall. I took a sip of my tea and watched the exchange in silence. To his credit, Sihix certainly had a sturdy skull. Nalithor couldn’t seem to shatter it, and not for lack of effort either.

‘Should he really be…?’ Eyrian glanced over at me, uneasy.

‘Sihix enjoys getting a rise out of him, I think,’ I answered with a small shrug. ‘He’s been taunting us both for quite a while. Hells, I think I’m almost getting used to it at this point.’

‘That’s concerning.’ Eyrian attempted to hide his amused smile.

“We’re going for a walk.” Nalithor strode over to me and pulled me to my feet, then out of the house with him. He paused long enough to summon overrobes for the both of us and an umbrella, then pulled me along with him again through the stormy forest. ‘That bastard is infuriating.’

‘You’re kind of sexy when you’re angry,’ I informed him with a grin.

‘“Kind of?”’ Nalithor shot me a miffed look.

‘You held back.’ I smiled at him. ‘Had you not, there would be no “kind of.”’

‘And our comrades would know who the Lari’xan truly are.’ Nalithor shook his head and then sighed. ‘Let’s take a stroll around the forest and see what the state of this domain is. That way we can work and you can stay awake long enough for tonight’s feast.

‘It’s a shame your guards insist on following us.’

‘They’ll be useful though,’ I pointed out. ‘We can learn from them where those creatures lurked and how they dealt with them. They’ll also be able to tell us about Yiltanys’ children that had fully succumbed to corruption.’

‘Djialkan says he and Alala will join us soon as well.’ Nalithor frowned slightly, looking down at me. ‘They seem even more worried about us than Sihix and Yiltanys are. Perhaps we really do require time to recover.’

‘Once I’ve eaten and slept some more we can spar,’ I offered, leaning against his side. ‘That should be a good way to gauge how much we’ve weakened and how much of a problem it will be.’

‘I may have some other things in mind that come after you’ve had more rest.’ Nalithor trailed his fingers down my side and to my hip. The sound of hurried footsteps through the underbrush made Nalithor pause and shift to look over his shoulder. “Eyrian, call for the others as well. We wish to search the places where the corrupted and the unknown creatures were dealt with.”

“Oh? I thought you were going to tell me off.” Eyrian fell into step on my other side.

“You are my closest friend and ally, Eyrian.” Nalithor shot the Draekin a firm look. “I may be a little frustrated with the Lari’xan at the moment, but I don’t intend to take it out on you.

“Channeling that energy into work would be the best way to handle matters.”


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