A thin layer of dew covered the fields, in some patches it was frost, Fathala had a hood drawn into her face, watching the house with a longing heart. In one way or the other her children were supping inside the building. Like she had predicted, their landing was met with suspicion, the people of fishers bay had welcomed them, but didn’t let any of them into the underground village further uphill from the ocean, nor their huts and houses at the shore.

But they knew of Eric’s departure with Leif, and that the order also had sent two ships of their own, with two men each. After they too had left, their mission was made known. Suspicion was replaced with disappointment, after learning that the ship was indeed not carrying women for the pole. Again, just like she had predicted. Before paying a visit to the order and readying them for Leif and the bane, Fathala had decided to take a detour, she wanted to see how Eric’s family was fairing. “Who are you?” the door to his house was wide open, Thorsten stood in the warmly lit opening, blade in hand. “A friend of your fathers.” it cost her all her strength not to rush to his side, wrapping her arms around him and express her fatherly love to him, like the parts of Eric remaining inside her wanted.

“You are.one of the strangers who.came ashore two days past?” he lowered his.blade, although the sight of the Naga surely must’ve been terrifying to him. “A friend of my father is welcome here, even if you look queer.” grateful for his hospitality she slithered towards him. “I came to tell you of his passing.” she took off the hood, immediately icy winds made a mess of her hair. It was not as homely as Eric’s memories made it seem.

Thorsten was seemingly moved by the ill news, but something told Fathala that he had assumed as much when Eric had set out to sea. “How?”

“A dagger.” I can’t tell him that it was his little brother who slew me.

“Who?” tears shot to his eyes. I have to. “Leif. In his defense, he was charmed and seduced by powers out of this world.” more grief, joined by anger, displayed on his face. “All his training,” Thorsten began, “had not prepared him for what has happened to him.” Fathala finished the sentence. “A powerful entity grabbed hold on him, regrew certain parts, and seduced him to think the Dragons were bringers of life.” she placed her hand on his cheek like Eric had done whenever Thorsten was sad in his childhood.

Surprised the young man looked up. “Father?” “In a way. But not entirely, I’m sorry.” she withdrew both her hand and herself. “Erica is well I hope? And your own child?” weeping heavily he nodded, the sword had fallen to the ground. “The girls are fine.” A girl too!? Perhaps there’s hope after all. “It fills our hearts with joy to hear that.” she wanted to correct what she had said, but Thorsten seemed to understand. Tears in her eyes Fathala turned away. “I need to go to the order, your brother still poses a threat, even at great distance.” Or especially then. Thosten did make no reply, the sound of the blade scraping over the ground as he picked it up sounded as sad as she felt. Without another word she left the home that Eric had known for all his life, and the home she had thought and hoped to find with him. Fighting the frosty dew and icy patches she slithered towards the landing party that had accompanied her, they waited in the village to journey to the Orders keep.

 

The faces carved from the basalt and tuff seemed to weep with the dew and thawing frost running down them. Large and intimidating gates awaited any visitors to the keep, flanked by faces of men, women and beasts. Above them all was a slain dragon, facial features had washed away long since, but the nigh face less creature wept along with the men and women of stone below. Fathala felt unwelcome, as Eric had every time he had to go to the keep. An unwell feeling got hold of her stomach when she entered the keep with her fellowship, Danarien amongst them.

Seeing things the young Naga couldn’t Danarien gazed about. Our warning comes late. Not too late I hope.

“It gives us grwat pleasure to receive guests from beyond he seas.” Fathala quickly translated for her company, Danarien smiled peacefully, still gazing about. Shadows move beyond these walls, they prepare to tear open the gates holding them back. “I am mightily interested in your defences.” she suddenly blurted out. Seemingly irritated the knight who greeted them looked at the blind old eyes staring at him. Through him.

“Certainly. You.sound urgent, is there cause to it?”

They’re almost upon us, fool. “An old woman’s curiosity. At a certain age, with death no further than a step, you loose your patience.” nodding he led the.party to the abbot knight, an elderly man of nigh fifty years, skin like white leather, he was found in the library, immersed in plans for more ships.

Danarien repeated her desire to see the defences of the keep. “I’ll take you tgere personally, but must ask your companions to surrender their weapons to my men.” Cautious. Good.

Following steps carved from basalt the abbot led them down the great dome, Fathala remembered the stories Leif had told his father. All the abandoned quarters. The defences Danarien seeeks are weakly manned at best. All because he decline of population. Although second sons are mandatory required to go to the order, fewer girls mean fewer births, means lesser numbers for the order. Are we too late after all?

“Excuse me.” she stopped. To her right a long hallway led away from the great hole in the rock. A red glow lit the hallway that was not from the torches or lamps. Surprised as his guests the Abbot stopped, stared down the hall. “Sentries!” he yelled, to which half a dozen men came running. On Danarien’s face an expression of contempt was clearly visible. “Eric, Fathala, grab your family, run ftom this land.” the old woman let go of Fathala’s hand after taking it in a hasty fashion.

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