August 10, 2015
The team of eight warriors was assembled. Jack would have liked to have called it a team of eight Stalwarts, but since two of their members were Splinter Darcarre, that title didn’t fit. He just hoped that they all shared a common goal.
Great, he thought to himself. Two Xemmoni and two Tezcatlipoca worshippers, not sure which of those two I trust less, but then he made a pinched face. One of the latter two, he was dating, so perhaps he should try to be more open minded. Although with the glares Stalker gave him, it was hard to be sure.
Drawing a deep breath, Jack poked at the embers of his fire while taking in the rich scents of the damp forest. Green vines weaved themselves through the old trees and around weathered stone. Small animals moved through the fallen leaves while birds sang a thousand tunes as they darted through the canopy. So much life flowed around him if proved hard to believe they remained caught within an epic struggle, which if they lost, could mean the end to all he beheld.
Again, he regretted that the old shaman Mythcul wouldn’t be accompanying them and Jack had walked out of his lean-to into the early morning to find him. Instead he found himself being approached by his lover, Tynilia, who had apparently stayed up all night, for she had never joined him, and the Splinter Darcarre Shadowknife. Each figure clung to the checkered shadows created by the emerald leaves that whispered overhead.
“We’ve come up with a plan,” She said, without as much as a hug or hello.
He attempted to contain his frustration that she felt the need to make decisions without him, but yet it was their world not his. He was only a hitchhiker here. A hitchhiker drawn into a war they couldn’t hope to win, unless this insane idea of enlisting the aid of the distant Lava Dragons could somehow work.
Like usual, Shadowknife didn’t feel the need to add any words, so Jack asked, “Well, what is it?”
“I have been far north of this place, in the direction we need to head. The plan is, I teleport Shadowknife to an old set of ruins. Once his familiarizes himself to the area, he will be able to return. We will do that now and then rest. Then at sunset, we will have just enough energy to transport our new group there.”
Showing some affection, she moved forward and ran her hand over his arm. “But once we are done, we’ll be exhausted again. Both he and I will need to sleep before we are ready for travel.”
Jack found her hand and gave it a comforting squeeze, then tried to smile. “Sounds like a good start, but I was secretly hoping we might gain more of those Wyrens we flew before.”
She looked sorrowful and gazed at the grass beneath her sandals. “Their use is rare and I’m afraid most have already been lost in the war against The Darken.”
Jack nodded. “Then at least your plan will give us a head start. But with us traveling on foot that gives the small forces of Yig and your tribe little time before they could be overwhelmed.”
The ebony figure of Shadowknife spoke. “Your words stay true, but if we are somehow not devoured by the Lava Dragons and if they do in fact still exist, then our journey back would be brief.”
Jack looked puzzled, so Tynilia added, “What he is trying to say is if we can somehow succeed in our mad quest, we’ll be returning on their backs.”
Jack did manage an honest smile this time. “So no matter how the cards fall, I only have to worry about walking one way.”
She nodded, but he could tell she looked tired. Acting on impulse he took her nibble form into his arms.
“Jack, Jack, what are you doing?”
“You look beyond exhausted and we might not have a lot of privacy soon, so I think I’m going to tuck you into bed. I haven’t been up long and my final day of tasks can wait a while longer.”
“But I still need to show Shadowknife the place to the north.”
“It can wait a few hours. I don’t want you in the wilds while you can barely keep your eyes open.”
She smiled up at him before giving him a kiss. “Can I share a secret with you?’
“I think I’m starting to like you more than your incarnation.”
“It might be the strangest complement I’ve ever received, but I’ll take it.” He laid her onto the comfortable mat of moss he had collected. Her body felt so warm and soft as he moved over her and for a long while their problems were forgotten.
To be continued next Monday