“Have you come to gloat at my capture?” Elthan stepped out of a shadowy corner. “If that would be my reason for coming, I would’ve come to see you as we arrived several hours ago.” Praethon hinted a bow of respect for the sage high priestess. Resignated she turned facing the waters of the sweet water sea in the boat bays. “What have you learned?” Shaking his head at her question Praethon walked on the tiny catwalk in between the bays to face Elthan. “You no longer are entitled to ask that.” he sighed. “You gave up on that right as our leader when you left us, and forced the burden of leading the expedition upon my shoulders.” in the dim light of the boathouse he could still clearly see her smirk. “Are you a good leader for them?” Praethon shrugged his shoulders, fully aware that she could clearly see him as well. Johly had underestimated the high priestess, she clearly had found a way to preserve the Jal’bothan inside herself after her capture. He himself had taken a sip before leaving the rest of it with Sashja. “They will follow your lead. I know that.” she turned to him. “Have you ever stopped to wonder? Whether we have wasted years upon years, decade after decade, buried in knowledge, hesitant to just go and live?” In Praethons stunned expression she could read that he had not even considered it, and if he had, he had not seen it as wasted time. “Well, I have. Recently at least. I didn’t want that human to slow us down. To stop me from seeing as much of the world as I can before I die!” Praethon tensened his muscles, felt the ethereal power the Jal’bothan granted him flowing through his body. “And I shall be dammned if this hut is all I see before I die!” quickly Praethon threw an ethereal shield in front of himself, in that very monent a discharge of ethereal nature hit that shield of his, another the doors at the other side of the bay, from beneath the waters a previously submerged boat shot up, Elthan jumped on it, while maintaining a stream of fire at Praethons shield.Just as she drifted out of the bay doors the door was flung open, Johly and Sashja stormed in. Quickly Praethon expanded his shield as Elthan threw fire at the two women before disappearing out of the direct line of sight.Disgruntled Praethon stormed out of the house, keeping a watchful eye on he water. But since the entire village was surrounded by reed, and that reed expanded far to both north and south of the village he was certain that he wouldn’t see her again soon. “She must be traveling south, to the north is just the way we had come from and the mountains.” Johly argued while following Praethon, Gunnar and his wife also followed them but kept quiet. “Shush!” Praethon hissed over his shoulder, suspicious that Elthan kept close to hearing range he urged his companions to be quiet. Surprised by his sudden assertion of dominant traits the two women exchanged a long look, uncertain what to make of it.

“Ready the camp to move out at sunrise!” he barked at Sashja and Johly before leaving the village, as the two left he turned to Gunnar and Anna. “Again, I must thank you for your hospitality and your generosity! If our Prisoner has caused any damage, let us know so that we can repair or repay it!” he bowed slightly before leaving the village. Only over the course of their march did the threat of the Naga in the sea return to his mind. After hearing about her violent escape, most of the men in the group did not fear following Elthan close to the shore. At their departure Johly informed him that Frank had decided to stay in Reedheim, the safest place he could imagine that close to an entire sea filled with Naga. Although that defection was worrying, Praethon felt relieved, without him the Albin would be able to move faster. “Praethon?” Sashja had returned from the bulk of their trek, her face was filled with sorrow. “Fear that the Naga might strike from the Reed?” he raised his eyebrows. “Our expedition is mainly male.” she smirked excusingly. Nodding he ordered her to send Johly scouting for an alternative route. The Naga might not attack the settlements at the sweetwater sea out of necessity, but they were not indigenous to the sea, thus vulnerable to attack by them. “If we’re still close to the sea when their season of mating is over, we can traverse the shore safely.” he sighed, aware of the fact that they would surely be there as the Phoenix path led them out into the southern part of it.The reed opened up to a shallow bay, widely open on the sea side, and softly climbing, grassy slopes on the land side. In the cover of the forest line the trek moved on to cross the clearing further away from the sea. Clouds that amassed above the waters told of an upcoming storm. Heeding Sashjas advice to make camp in the Forest with a eide open view of the bay Praethon waited for Johly to return with news for an alternative route. All the while he stared out to the seemingly endless water surface for any signs of Elthans boat. Her defection weighed him down, but also made him angry. “We can march through the woods.” Sashja sat down next to him handing him a bowl of soup. “Johly reported back.” appreciative Praethon nodded, gladly taking the bowl in his hands as the fierce winds coming from the shore were chilling to him. “Tell her that, since I’m in command, I should receive the reports.” he smelled the soup. Fascinated by the cooking skills of his fellow Albin he tasted it. “We have little to no provisions, how do they conjure up this stuff?” Sashja smiled knowingly. “We use what we find in the woods. Roots, fruit, blossoms.” she turned to him. “I had cooking duty today.” Congratulating her on the fine meal he kept eating. Suddenly he felt her hand upon his. “Don’t let the anger over Elthans defection, and the pain over Johlys rejection change you.” she whispered kissing him on the cheek. “It is not worth it.” Puzzled he gazed at her leaving for her comrades at the fire. Shaking off his confusion he looked back out at sea. “Elthan, I will see you again.” he mumbled stretching his limbs, realizing the truth in Sashjas words. Unforgiving winds drove the rain almost vertically across the lake, slowly the forests near the shore had changed. Over the course of three weeks the trek had reached golden blooming undergrowth at the edge of the woods, with a large open area between the forest and the sweetwater sea. While Johly kept scouting ahead Sashja remained close to Praethon, hoping to ward off any attack by Naga, but never had the opportunity to test herself against one of the serpentine women. Almost every other day a storm built up above the sea, sometimes it only developed into a downpour, other times a thunderstorm.

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