Friday, May 31, 2024

Dark Armor: An Unexpected Reunion

"A moment before you go," the Grandmother said easily. She was looking around, eyes slightly narrowed. "There is something here that should not be. An intruder." Her voice firmed. "Come out."

Ember slid out of Ashmiren's shadow and stood, cowed and hesitant. 

"I know you," the Grandmother said. Her gaze shifted to Pallian. "You didn't destroy it?"

"I didn't see the need," Pallian admitted. "I didn't expect it to stay around after I broke the binding."

"Ah," she said. "You aren't much experienced with the Nightmare Realms, then." 

Pallian swallowed. "I confess total ignorance," he said, forcing his voice to stay casual. Just two people talking here; idle chit-chat, with nothing important at stake. "What I do know is that it's currently calling itself Ember, and it saved both myself and the third-princess from the Second's power."

"Did it?" asked the Grandmother. "How very interesting. I could bind it for you, if you like...?"

Pallian shook his head even as Ember shrank in on itself. "No," he said firmly. "Ember helped us because it wanted to. We owe it a debt, and that would be poor repayment indeed."

"Now that is interesting, coming from a prince of the realm and a son of your father. You trust it?" 

"It's shown itself worthy so far. Leave it be."

"As you wish," said the Grandmother. "Then it's the three of you bound for the Temple of the First?"

"Ashmiren?" asked Pallian. "Ember?"

Ember nodded immediately. "I will help as I said I would, and you will show me how to live here as one of you -- as you said you would."

Ashmiren seemed to hesitate, then nodded. "As much as I want to find my mother and sister, this is... I cannot turn aside from this. Yes, I'll go with you."

"Hrrm," said the Grandmother. "Excellent." She fixed her dead eyes on Pallian. "Leave the armor; the bats won't be able to carry it. Take the Spear; without the armor, you'll need it."

"If I take the Spear," Pallian said slowly, "the Second will know it."

"Not until you enter battle," the Grandmother answered. "If the First favors you, by then it will be too late."

Pallian nodded, acceding. He knew himself ignorant on most of these matters, and had no reason not to trust the Grandmother, whose survival evidently hinged on his success. 

"So we're taking the riding bats?" asked Ashmiren. The Shadow of Edrias was a mysterious, dangerous, terrifying figure, but right now she just sounded like an unreasonably excited little girl...

...And Pallian loved it.

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