Their echoes filled her ears, and she turned her head slowly, seeking out the lingering vibrations. The group had been here for a long time, sweating in the heat of the day. The quiet hum of the kodan, the high whirring of the golem, the deep thudding of the giant, the powerful timbre of the norn, and the quick twang of the asura mingled in amongst the locals, just hidden beneath their daily activities. She followed the scent, down to the fighting pits, keeping her cowl low and avoiding the guards.
‘You lost them...’ The voice echoed from somewhere between her ears, deep and malicious.
‘They were here Master’ Sonorous Peals replied to the voice in her head. ‘They travel west. I can find them.’
‘Return now. The Father wishes to speak to you.‘
‘As you wish.’ Sonorous Peals’ body had gone cold. Jormag wished to speak to her.
The voice withdrew, and she sat in the deserted fighting pit. The lamplight flickered around her, and she meditated on Tranquillity.
The world around her hummed into life. She sensed the multitude of vibrations around her, each overlapping the other, waves of energy pulsing and shifting constantly. Everything became connected, and the tapestry of reality flooded her consciousness. She raised her bell, holding it to her ear, tolling it gently. Her larger bell she held above her head. In a moment, she ripped the bell downwards, slicing the air in front of her. She opened her eyes, and walked towards her portal.
She turned, and peered into the darkness. The voice had not come from where she looked, and she twisted her neck trying to seek out the sound. A human male walked out into the firelight. He smiled.
“You hunt them too.” It was not a question. His voice jarred her, as if many voices spoke over each other, the same words but different languages, accents, and dialects, all mixed into one.
“I do” she replied in old kodan. He nodded.
“I thought as much. You tread a dangerous line, serving the dragon, but not as a minion. How has he allowed you to keep your self?” He replied, casually leaning against a stump. He fingered his pocket and pulled out a gold pocketwatch, flicking it open.
“To corrupt me, Jormag would lose my powers. The Father is power above all else. He leaves me my abilities to serve him.” Sonorous Peals knew her portal would not last long, and wished to hurry the conversation along. “What do you want?”
“It seems we are on the same path. Your portal won’t last long, so I’ll be brief. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. You want them dead. I want something they have. Together, maybe we could come to an arrangement. I have friends who are able to track the group. I could give you their location, when you’re ready to deal with them, and in exchange, I would have what I want.”
Sonorous Peals did not have to think long.
“You speak many tongues, bleeding the sounds together, human. I do not trust you. The Father would never accept your help. All belongs to him. Leave me.”
The human man stood and slicked back his immaculately oiled hair. “Tell you what. Ask him. If he doesn’t want our help, we will never hear from you again. If you take it, the deal is on.” He turned, and left the lamplight. He was right. Jormag could take or ignore this offer.
“How do I contact you?” Sonorous Peals called after him. He threw an object over his shoulder. She caught it, turning it over in her paw. It was a small stone cube, clicking and whirring. It emitted a faint blue glow, and there was a large indentation on the top.
“Some friends of mine made this. Place your mouth near the opening, and speak. I’ll hear.”
Sonorous Peals placed the cube in her bag and walked through portal. It cracked behind her, leaving a puff of metallic smoke. Jayden watched as the kodan suddenly traversed half the world, and smirked. With the inquest behind him, and hopefully his new alliance with the kodan, he would be ready to make his move. Everything was falling into place.
Half a day’s walk away, Koda’s Breath and Serene Wrath walked ahead. Alepe and Ulffridda followed, with Korr lumbering behind them. All except Ulfridda carried a pack, stuffed with dried meats, vegetables, pickles and waterbags. They headed west, to Nebo Terrace, where they hoped the monks would allow them to take refuge for the night.
“I feel strange.” Serene Wrath said to Koda’s Breath.
“Are you losing control?” Koda’s Breath’s eyes widened, but Serene Wrath smiled and leaned over, kissing his forehead.
“No. Not that kind of strange. Nostalgic, perhaps. And uncertain.” His golem clicked loudly. “There was a time when our fates were in our control.”
“We have a path, even though it’s not of our choosing.” Koda’s Breath reached out and grabbed Serene Wraths hand. “Once your shard is mended, we go back and reclaim our home.”
“What if it’s gone, Ko?” Serene Wrath’s voice darkened. “If all of it has been destroyed, and our people killed?”
“Sonna is proof that some survived. She was not corrupted.”
“That is true.” He nodded. “The prophecy states we fight Jormag, or Drakkar.”
“I do not put faith in any Prophecy but from Koda.” Koda’s Breath said. “He has not spoken to me of our destiny. I have not had time to meditate recently. I do not believe fighting Jormag serves any purpose. Our goal is to rescue our people.”
“When did you become so wise?” Serene Wrath asked. “You have grown so much since coming south.” Serene Wrath put his arm around Koda’s Breaths shoulders. “You would have grown into a powerful Voice.”
Koda’s Breath chuckled. “Are you saying I was not a great Voice before?”
Serene Wrath smiled. “You were unsure of yourself. It was endearing, but it hurt to see you with so little confidence. You hid it well.”
They walked silent, Serene Wrath’s arm over his shoulders, Koda’s Breath’s around Serene Wrath’s waist. Ulfridda watched them, and conversed with Alepe behind.
“These prophecies disturb me. Stars, Flames, a blizzard. In my experience, prophecies are usually nothing more than manipulation.” Ulfridda said.
“I have not studied the subject, but I would agree. However, Skode and Koda’s Breath are not aligned, but both had similar visions.” Alepe pointed out.
“Yes, I suppose that’s true. And Serene Wrath seemed to be taken over by some force. Whether that is something outside him, or his own madness, I cannot say. I feel as if he may snap at any moment.” Ulfridda spoke quietly.
“Have you told Koda’s Breath?” Alepe asked.
“I do not wish to worry him further. There will come a time when I discuss my fears, but it will be a quieter time. It may not even be necessary, if the shard is repaired.” Ulfridda walked, her cane clicking on the stones underfoot.
“Perhaps you reject being a pawn in someone else’s game, Elder” Alepe said. “Which is why you reject the concept of Prophecy.”
“I had considered that. It’s likely, but there is more to it. If I am a ‘star’ or a ‘gift’ or ‘flame’, then which one? Darkness, light, death or might?” Ulfridda shrugged. “It is deliberately trying to confuse us.”
“I think it might be a waste of time to wonder that, Ulfridda. We need to focus on what’s ahead of us.” Alepe stumbled, and Ulfridda caught him with her cane.
“Hush!” She whispered, suddenly alert. “Do you hear that?”
Koda’s Breath and Serene Wrath stopped, and walked back to where they stood. Korr moved as quietly as he could, and stayed still. There was the sound of a twig snapping, and Ulfridda reached into robe to withdraw her sceptre.
A black-and-white ball of fur hurled out of the bushes at Korr. He squealed, and the party took a sigh of relief.
“Ounce! You found me!” Korr cried, hugging her tightly. She dashed up his arm and curled around his shoulders, purring audibly.
“Fantastic!” Ulfridda smiled. “We are reunited. Well, I think this is as good a place as any to camp. Let’s rest here and begin again in the morning.” She found a boulder she liked, and attuned to Earth, moulding it into the shape of a seat. She sat, and looked at them expectantly.
“Wood is not going to come walking up to us for a fire.”