:: Solday Evening, the 97th of Jhyel's Slumber ::
The cold demons and wind fairies which tried to seduce Theo sang their alluring song, telling him to forget his worries. Theo, cold and tired, with every part of his body humming and throbbing with pain, found the enchanting aria almost impossible to resist. The cold snow would cover him in it's deceptive warmth and Majashara would come and put his weary soul to rest.
"No,” said Theo quietly through gritted teeth.
Rolling up onto one arm, Theo could feel that his limbs were stiff with cold and ache. Slowly, he began to crawl to the dead, hollowed out tree, where he hoped safety and companionship would save him. As he moved, feeling began coming back to his limbs. First only pins and needles, but then actual heat. With a colossal strength of will, Theo stood. He staggered towards his haven, tail dragging limply behind him.
"Wine. Lizbeth. King,” he repeated over and over to himself, the mantra that he knew would save him from a frosty tomb.
"I wouldn't mind a bit of help out here,” spoke Theo to the enormous hollowed out tree, finally reaching his goal after what seemed an eternity.
"Friend Theo, you have returned,” came the welcoming, steel voice of Tinker Moab.
"Yes Tinker. Though I wouldn't mind having a hand inside. I'm a bit chilly,” said Theo.
Tinker, now noticing Theo's bedraggled form, was almost a silver blur, as he rushed to the scurry's side.
"I never thought I'd look with this much gratitude at a bed of leaves,” continued Theo, leaning heavily on Tinker's silvery arm, and then finally succumbing to exhaustion.
* * *
Passage through the deep snows was impossible, and therefore travel to Argonhurst was postponed until the fury of the storm abated.
"Saker Cosantine!” screamed Tinker in a voice of distilled hate and rage. "I've heard that name echoed a thousand times in the pit of my soul. Why you may have asked why did I spend so much time in that hole? Why did I waste that time? But I speak of the present before I speak of the past,” as Tinker ranted.
"Saker Constantine was an Imperial Mongrel. When the Adjani were a simple people, still luminescent and beautiful, the Mongrels were their close personal advisors, their servants and sometimes their friends. As the Adjani grew twisted and dark in their ways, the Mongrel followed their masters down that warped path. The Mongrels became the stories that scared children at bedtime, the exception being that these stories were real. The Mongrels developed into the assassins and corrupt attendants of the Adjani empire,” as Tinker continued, even the feeble light inside the hollow oak began to dim and falter.
Theo looked around nervously as nearby shadows seem to swell and grow.
"The Adjani would reward the Mongrel for their depraved acts with such things as longevity or resilience to harm."
"Your not suggesting that this Saker is the same Saker that Theo overheard them talking about?” said Cory in disbelief, now awake and recovering, albeit slowly ("thank you very much")
"The powers that the Adjani wielded are beyond comprehension by the standards of the present. Saker could have easily been awarded a life-span measured in epochs,” explained Tinker. "For the present, it is enough that you know that I hate him with a passion deep and true, for he deprived me of the one thing that had given existence meaning to me."
With that, Tinker seemed to sink into a coma of thought which none of the scurries could coax him out of.
* * *
The morning of Solday lived up to it's namesake, being bright and sunny, with a few tenacious clouds galloping across the blue fields of the sky. Fortunately, Tinker's morose, thoughtful mood had also diminished considerably. All three of the scurries had benefited heartily from the three nights and two days of rest.
Though his mind still weighed heavy with the assassination plot, Theo could almost forget these matters, being close again to his friends and finally, after what seemed an eternity, to be heading for home, Lizbeth and a plenitude of Cory purchased red wine. The snow was deep and the going hard, but even with these things, the four found the passage enjoyable, considering the last few days of weather-enforced imprisonment.
"I can taste the red wine now!” said Theo, spirits high.
"Duyna has been driven from my mind by these hardships. I'll never even *consider* another of these foolish quests” said Cory, with a determined voice and set face.
Theo and Saw rolled their eyes, knowing full well that that was what Cory said after *all* of his quests.
"Certainly, certainly,” said Theo in a humoring tone, vigorously nodding and trying not to laugh while doing so. "It's amazing how well we've come through all of this, though,” Theo thought to himself, as he looked over his jovial friends. Saw especially caught Theo's attention as being made of sterner stuff than Theo could have guessed.
Though Tinker did not participate in the good natured banter, an occasional chuckle could be heard from his direction as he picked up on some joke or bit of conversation.
"This deep snow looks like it's starting to wear Theo down! Why don't we find a place to rest for the evening,” said Saw, throwing Theo a cheerful smile.
* * *
After camp was set up, it was apparent that a day spent with vivacious scurries had completely pulled Tinker from his quiet and thoughtful mood. As the four sat in the makeshift camp, Tinker began to speak.
"Centuries of pondering my past was truly enough. But still my thoughts linger there, so I shall tell you a story of the gods, a story which shall hopefully guide you into Casastan's peaceful realms,” said Tinker.
"As you know, Solenari and Udiah, the goddess and god of the sun and moon, were lovers from the very beginnings of Zéaon . Solenari and Udiah were always together and there was no distinguishing between day and night, for day and night were blurred into one. So always were the heavens illuminated by there celestial brilliance."
"But after a time Zéaon suffered from the abundance of light, for to appreciate the light, one must also taste the darkness. The oceans, seas and lakes began to warm and all of Zéaon's life began to wither and die. So it was with heavy heart that Zophian told the two they must part, that there might be times when darkness would reign upon Zéaon."
"Solenari was greatly saddened, but understood the necessity that they should part. She only asked that they might, at times throughout the ages, still come together in the heavens. This Zophian could grant, and so whenever an eclipse occurs, it the two making love in the heavens."
"Udiah however was embittered by being forced from his love and his light, and as a result, grew dim, and dwindled in his brightness. Thus was he the one who would stand watch over night. Yet still is he kissed every night by the gentle rays of Solenari, to remind him of the times that they would be together and so not forever turn his back to the light."
Theo, as well as Cory and Saw, had of course heard the popular myth before, but never told with such passion or skill. The three, cramped into Theo's small tent, drifted off to pleasant dreams and thoughts of home.
* * *
Theo almost wept with joy when the stone and mortared Northgate came into view. Though the least used of the three gates that surrounded Argonhurst, it was still as heavily guarded. As the four unlikely companions walked towards the gate, an armed detachment of guards, larger than normal, began to approach Theo, who was in the lead.
"Theodore Bramblerun?” spoke a guard of average build and dark red hair. He seemed to be in charge, judging from the confidence in his voice and the loose and easy way that he held his spear. He was also brave, considering the minimal hesitation he had upon seeing Tinker.
"A welcoming party, apparently you've already heard of my exploits in Tisden Weald and my heroic reputation precedes me!” spoke Theo splendidly.
"You are under arrest for the crime of high treason,” said the commanding guard, producing iron shackles as he approached Theo.