Chapter Twenty Four

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Rays of morning light sliced through shadows cast by the large ash trees that surrounded the small village. Hopeless cries emanated from the various buildings, at least the ones not still smoldering in the morning breeze. The man’s dark boots crunched over the loose ground, stamping prints in the ash mixed dirt. He was slightly taller than average, with black hair that hung close to his shoulders when it was not pulled up. It was important to keep up appearances, he thought. Lord Idris left his plate armor at the keep, along with his broad sword. The curved sabres on his back were awkward and he had not used them in some time, but he was familiar enough with the blades to get by. Besides, weapons were not his forte, which left them to little more than decorations strewn across his back.

A man approached him from one of the larger buildings, probably the town hall. “my lord, we have survivors in those two buildings,” he said pointing across the road. “We let ten or so get away, just like you said. The rest are dead.”

“Did they realize you were letting them leave?” Lord Idris' voice resembled the coldest shards of ice.

The question caught the man off guard. “No, no, absolutely not. They fled in the confusion. My man followed them as far as the Oak Forest. They are a few days walk from Garr then, and soon the word will spread like fire on oil.”

Lord Idris nodded his head. “Where is the woman?”

“Last building on the left. I have three men in the room with her. She is chained and gagged.” The man looked around quickly making sure no one was listening. “I do not like the prospect of capturing a Sage, my lord. They are cunning and ruthless, and can easily toy with a man’s mind.”

A wry smile flashed on the lord’s face. “I am counting on it.” He paused and glanced at the picture of destruction around him. Most of the buildings were reduced to ash and crumbled brick, still trickling smoke from the ruins. “Get rid of the rest of them, I only need to speak with her.”

With a compliant nod the man ran off into one of the buildings. Lord Idris moved quickly to the building at the far end of the street. He did not enjoy the feel of the leather jerkin upon his chest, but he had to admit that it was much lighter than its mail or plate counterparts. He ducked into the building and then into a small room with three guards and the Sage woman lashed to a chair.

The men stood against the walls like statues, their eyes looking anywhere but the woman. Lord Idris knew the men feared her, and they were right to do so.

“All of your weapons need to be outside,” Lord Idris said to the men. They shot each other confused looks, but complied quickly.

Lord Idris nodded to the guard closest to her once they were unarmed, and the man removed her gag. She looked Lord Idris over for a long moment, her eyes sharp and focused, her lips a thin line of judgment.

“You are not him,” she said through pursed lips.

Lord Idris bowed his head slightly. “Is it that obvious?”

She diagnosed the question for a long moment, her eyes never leaving the lord's. “To the townsfolk, no. They see what they wish to see and nothing more. They know little about the truth of things. Though, if they would only look, then they would surely see.” Her voice was rasp and crackled, and she let out a terrible cough when she was done speaking.

“Then you know why I am here, Imra, Daughter of the Fae.”

Imra looked away at the mention of the name. “You think you know much, Lord Idris Etal, but I am sure that you do not know what you have done. Your people have always been reckless, full of vengeance. It rules you, enslaves you.” A string of coughs cut her off. “Your magik has no power here, dun’vai, none but the true son can wield it—and even he will never overcome the curse. The Vorai are doomed.”

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