The slight knock at the doorway was enough to rouse Beddigan from the light and fitful sleep that had taken hold of him. The three companions had learned so much in their meeting in the library with Karrinah. These lands were vast and the peoples varied, with all but two countries held under the umbrella of the Empire. The land was at peace, with the Lord Regent of the Empire governing most of the lands and peoples. Aside from the Deer, the only other species to remain sovereign in this piece of the world were the Rams of Ehl-Indrah, on the western shores of the Bintack Oceania. It boggled Beddigan’s mind that from the looks of the map, it looked as though one could go to the north and west from Illensdar and reach this land of the Rams.
He had caught himself wondering more than once, if those Mice that had disappeared over the turnings hadn’t all ended up in the Wolves prison camps, as was popular belief. But perhaps some had made it through those woods and lived among the Rams. Perhaps there were already allegiances in the making. Though that wouldn’t explain why none had ever returned, unless those that had escaped their war-torn country were cowards with no intention of returning. Or if the Rams would not permit them to leave.
And then there were the mountains to the northwest, where the Dragons had once made their home quite publicly. They had ruled the lands according to a combination of history and legend with a surprising benevolence. Then came the time when they started to fade away until they all but disappeared from the lands. Some still believed they roosted in those peaks, though no dragons had been seen by anyone in quite some time.
Karrinah had been vague about the species whose countries had been absorbed by the Empire of the Lions, but he was sure that he would find many strange and wondrous creatures in the days to come.
Sitting up in bed, Beddigan recognized Ragnon’s shape through the drapery that hung in way of a door over the doorway.
“Come in, Ragnon.” He said, rummaging through his bag by the side of the bed for a light crystal. He set it to a low glow as the Wolf entered.
“Did I wake you? I can’t sleep a wink in this place.” Ragnon said, taking a seat on the edge of the bed near Beddigan. “Too quiet.” He added softly. Beddigan chuckled softly,
“I was just barely asleep, friend. My mind is too full with everything we have learned this day to get any real rest.” Ragnon gave him a wolfish grin,
“Not to mention that pretty leader of the Deer that’s no doubt running through your mind.” He said, elbowing Beddigan playfully in the side. Beddigan flushed and shoved Ragnon back.
“You don’t know what you’re talking about.” He said stiffly. Ragnon made a face but let it drop.
“So what do you make of all this then? Did Lady Lisanne send us here to get help from the Lions?” Beddigan groaned and stood to pace the length of the room.
“Who’s to know what she meant. From the sounds of it, they certainly seem like the best option. A bit of me worries that they may seek to expand their own Empire south though, and then we will have done exactly as William fears and will have replaced one monstrous species with another.” Ragnon’s eyes followed him as he paced.
“In defense of these Lions, they have managed a peaceful relationship with at least two species and have held that peace for quite some time. Can you imagine the Wolves ever doing such a thing? We may be dealing with a very different type of ruler here.” Beddigan nodded, continuing to pace.
“You’re right, of course. We don’t know enough about them to do anything but speculate about their motives. And we don’t know much about those species whose territories are ruled by the Empire, or even how that works.” Sitting down on the bed with a frustrated sigh, Beddigan scrubbed his paws over his face. “As much as we’ve learned today, we have so much more to discover.” Ragnon nodded and stood.
“I best be trying to get some rest then.” The Wolf said, looking more fatigued than Beddigan could remember him ever looking. He nodded his goodnight to the Wolf and laid back down in bed, turning his light crystal off. He felt it too, the deep-in-the-bone exhaustion that Ragnon was experiencing, and it wasn’t just from their harrowing trip through the Snowcap Mountians. It was from fear, more than anything else. Fear for their lands back home. Fear for friends and family. Fear of losing everything to the tyrannical, rule of the Wolves.
Beddigan stretched as he waited in the corridor for William and Ragnon the following morning. Their clothes had been cleaned and returned and it was no small pleasure to slip his feet into his newly shined mahogany boots. Today they would leave the City of Light, and Haven all together, in search of what they had come to this land for: an army.
William appeared first from a room a short way down the corridor. Bedigan greeted him with a smile,
“Nice to be back in our own clothing, eh old friend?” William nodded gruffly, but said nothing. It concerned Beddigan a bit that the Bear had been so quiet throughout this all. He hoped that once they were on their way, away from the City of Light, that he could get his friends opinions and impressions. William was not a Bear to ignore, and his quiet spoke volumes.
Ragnon slipped out into the corridor and stretched, with a loud yawn, greeting them both with a wolfish grin.
“Top of the morning to you mates! Who’s ready for an adventure?” Beddigan chuckled and followed the Wolf down the corridor.
“I take it you slept alright then after our little chat?” he asked. Ragnon grinned again,
“Indeed. Nothing like your boring voice to put a Wolf to sleep.” The Wolf teased and he chuckled again. Beddigan glanced at William to see only his regular sullen expression.
“Well, come then. We are to meet Karrinah for breakfast and then Torin and his brothers will escort us north of the City of Light so we may be off.”
“What of supplies?” William said, voice roughened by lack of use. Beddigan turned back to his friend with a gentle smile.
“Karrinah has arranged for that so that we needn’t stop along the way to the Empire.” The Bear nodded as they reached the dining room. Beddigan’s eyes were drawn immediately to Karrinah, draped in a silvery fabric that shone so bright it almost burned the eyes, her antlers wrapped in matching fabric. She stood and bowed gracefully to them.
“Good morning, my fine new friends. Please, sit; break your fast and rest a little more before you continue your journey.” The trio of companions sat at the table which held plates and bowls of cold and hot dishes, fragrant with the spices and herbs of the night before. Beddigan smiled at their host as he began to fill a plate.
“We are grateful of your kindness, my lady. This respite has been exactly what we needed, and the knowledge you have given us of this land is irreplaceable.” Karrinah inclined her head in acknowledgment.
“Along with the supplies that I have had Torin collect for your journey, I have included a couple of books that you may continue to educate yourself of this land and its peoples.” Beddigan nodded his thanks and began to eat.
After a bit of time had passed Karrinah spoke again.
“Dear Beddigan, I would ask a favor of you…” she said hesitantly, meeting his eyes as he had a spoon full of savory vegetables aimed at his mouth. He carefully set the spoon down to give her his full attention.
“Anything, my lady. We owe you greatly for all you have given us.” He noticed the sharp look that William gave him but ignored it. Karrinah rose from her seat and began to pace slowly.
“I am sure you have noticed that we Deer do not possess the magic arts.” She began. Beddigan waited for her to continue but when she didn’t he moved to acknowledge her.
“I had noticed a lack of evident magics, but did not know if that was only because the magics are being worked in private.” Karrinah nodded.
“We have no skill of it. It has never come to our people, as it has the rest of those in our lands.” Beddigan filed that note away to think about later, and how that may affect the encounters they were to have with the Lion and the Rams.
“Us three do not possess the potential for magic either, my lady, though my sister is training with a powerful sorceress back home. The potential varies by the people in our land, and was gifted to us by the dragons long ago.” Karrinah froze for a step before continuing to pace.
“We have no such stories about the root of the magics in the peoples here, but it is very, very rare among us all.” Beddigan also filed that note away in his mind to consider for later. Karrinah continued, “You say that you do not have magic, but one of my aids witnessed something miraculous; an artificial light coming from your chamber after nightfall.” Before Beddigan could answer William growled low in his throat,
“You had spies upon us as we slept?” Karrinah turned her attention fully to the Bear.
“Of course not, though the running of the palace does not end at nightfall, dear Bear. You have nothing to fear of us.” William growled again.
“So you have said.” Beddigan winced and hurried to interject in to the conversation before things got out of hand. Swiftly rising from of his seat, he moved around the table, unhooking his light crystal from where it hung at his side. Karrinah stopped and turned gracefully to meet him.
“I speak the truth, my lady. None of us possess magical skill, but we do have a magical item that is very common in the lands south of here. They grow and are mined throughout the lands, though we think they originate from a mysterious shrouded grouping of Islands that until recently have been impenetrably covered in mist. These Islands, the Ranier Islands, are home to a highly magical species called the Lynx. And the item we use for magical feats, which can be used by all peoples, are crystals such as these.” He finished, holding out his paw with the light crystal in it. Karrinah bowed down to look at the shining green crystal curiously. She reached for it but stopped, her slender hoof just shy of touching the crystal.
“May I?” she breathed, her lilting voice alight with wonder. Beddigan nodded and felt a shiver run through him as she gingerly lifted the crystal from his paw, connecting just barely with his fur. She marvelled at it for several minutes before she asked, “How does it work?” Beddigan couldn’t help but take the opportunity to touch her again. He gently took her hoof in one paw, while he guided her other hoof with his other paw.
“Stroke the crystal upwards like this to adjust its brightness.” Karrinah gasped at the crystal began to shine and emit cool light. Beddigan released her hooves so that she could continue playing with the crystal for a moment before she met his eyes again.
“Such wonders…” she murmured handing it back to him. They stood close, eyes locked a moment until William stood, his chair scraping over the stone floors breaking the silence.
“We must be on our way.” The Bear said gruffly. Karrinah took a step back, away from Beddigan and cleared her throat.
“Ah, yes, of course. I should love to hear more of these crystals and their powers someday.” Beddigan nodded to her, bowing deeply.
“It would be my utmost pleasure, my lady.” With a graceful nod of her head, Karrinah gestured for them to follow her, and they wound their way through the palace and back through the courtyards that they had come through the day before. Has it really only been a day? Beddigan thought, as they passed the fountains and flowering shrubs, still wet with morning dew. It felt as though a lifetime had passed.
They reached the outskirts of the palace and found Torin and his brothers waiting, each with a small bag for them to add to their own bags in way of supplies. After they had loaded up and thanked the brothers, Beddigan turned to Karrinah. Taking her hoof into his paw he leaned down and kissed its silky soft white fur.
“I cannot thank you enough, my lady.” He murmured. Karrinah inclined her head.
“It has been my pleasure to have you here, Beddigan. I do hope we meet again.” Beddigan stood, grinning at her,
“Nothing could keep me from coming back to see you, precious Karrinah.” She inclined her head again.
“Best of luck with your journey, new friends. May you find all that you seek.” And with that they were off, being lead up and out of the basin the palace was sunk into, and through the dusty streets.
Before long they reached an open-air gate much like that of the one they had entered through, carved into the enormous city wall. Beddigan extended his paw in thanks to Torin for the escort, and after a brief hesitation the Deer offered his hoof.
“Safe travels.” Torin said to them, before turning away, his brothers following him back into the city. Beddigan peered through the gate at what looked like quite a stretch of barren, desert land.
“Well then, shall we go see about finding these Lions?” he said jauntily. Ragnon nodded his head as William lead them outside of the city and into the desert. As they made their way into the wilds, Beddigan couldn’t help but leave a bit of his mind and a lot of his heart in the City of Light with its lovely leader.
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