97. On Till’s Trail

Stellia wakes up to the sound of a lost soul moaning in grief.

She sits up with a start. To her surprise, she finds herself in a comfortable bed underneath a tall window, in a chamber with a high vaulted ceiling. Nevynne is asleep in a second bed, nearer the door. The light in the room is gray. Is it early morning? Noon? Or another approaching dusk? There is no telling how long she has slept.

The ghostly moan that woke her is the wind, rushing fiercely past the window and rattling its diamond-shaped panes with each onslaught. It is cold in the room, and though there is a fireplace, it contains nothing but ashes. Bit by bit, Stellia remembers the previous night: their wild flight to the Sundrance, the blur that was supper, and then, the welcome oblivion of exhausted sleep.

And she thinks of Till. Till, who must only recently have stayed somewhere within these same walls.

Someone knocks. The sound comes from a second, narrower door to the right of her bed. “Come in!”

Garroth steps into the room, a bundle of firewood in his arms. “Good morning.”
Even after the night’s rest, he still looks weary. Garroth did not go to sleep when they did, nor even have dinner, until he made sure that one of the Sundrance’s physicians tended to Sedwin’s wounds. After that, he no doubt kept a vigil over his friend until at last he, too, had the chance to rest.

“Good morning,” Stellia replies. “How is Sedwin?”

“Asleep, next door.” Garroth stacks the fresh wood in the fireplace. “The friars removed the crossbow quarrel from his thigh. The wound has been cleaned and bandaged, and will heal. Nor, I am relieved to say, has his heart exploded as a consequence of the herbs I gave him. But the physician says he will not wake for some time. They gave him a tincture to let him sleep, and heal more swiftly.”

Nevynne yawns loudly and sits up, rubbing her eyes. A clean white bandage has been laid around her injured arm. No more blood has seeped through during the night. But when she stretches, she winces with pain.

“And you, My Lady,” Garroth says. “How did you sleep?”

“I dreamed of hordes of angry spirits chasing me through a forest,” Nevynne says. “Gnawing on my arm all the while. What is this wind?”

“We’re in the mountains again. But much farther north than Talvain. It’s always windy here.”

Another sound mingles with the wind’s mournful song. Heavy raindrops tap against the windowpanes.

“So cheerful,” Stellia sighs.

“Welcome to Hestia.” Garroth takes a tinderbox from the mantle and goes about lighting the fire. “Are you ready for a hearty breakfast? These friars tend to eat well.”

“Now that you mention it, I am famished,” Nevynne says.

Soon, the first hungry flames lick over the wood. Garroth stands up, brushing his hands. “Get dressed, then. We’ll take breakfast with Brother Frithil.”

“That’s the name of the friar you asked about last night,” Stellia says. “He is still here, then?”

“He is.”

“Can he tell us of my brother?”

Garroth takes a deep breath. “Frithil did see your brother, and spoke to him, in fact. But Till is no longer here.”

“I feared it might be so,” Stellia says. “Does your friend know where he was taken?”

“It seems the Guardian came personally for Till,” Garroth says, “and decided to take him with her to the Forbidden Isle.”

“The Forbidden Isle? I’ve never heard that name.”

“It is an island in the middle of Lake Amm Borod, by Fora Tanni. The Guardian’s stronghold is there. Frithil will tell you everything, Stellia. Do not lose heart. We will find your brother. We’ll just have to travel a bit farther still, that’s all.” He tries a reassuring smile, and leaves the chamber.

The door has barely fallen shut behind him when Stellia jumps to her feet and starts changing her clothes.

NEXT: Breakfast with Brother Frithil


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