And finally we begin to get past that cliffhanger and solve things.
At this point the timeline also start to jump around. This first segment comes after the last chapter, while Tomas' bit comes before Robert jumps.
From here on out things will tend to be a bit confusing time-line wise. I'm going to move things around eventually, but this is how I wrote it, so this is how you get it (for now).
A good general thought is that Tomas is behind Robert, and both are behind Natasi, his parents, and Rens. Hiros is in the same time as Tomas, and Branwen is in the same time as Robert.
Anyways, hopes that clears up any questions! Enjoy!
Natasi frowned as she looked back at the Castle.
She had delayed a full week after killing Juniper, but it had been no use. Tomas had not arrived.
The fool. How and where was he delayed? She needed the war to start, and soon, or else it would be all for naught. The longer the war took to start the longer she would need to take to find Robert.
And the more likely it would be that someone else found him first.
At least she had the Queen and King on her side now. The Queen was evidently very strong willed; she had almost needed to Finish to convince that woman to trust her.
But she had accomplished it. That was all that mattered.
Now she just had to deal with this guard. He was being troublesome, never staying in one place long enough for her to Sketch the needed Sigils. Perhaps at night he would stay still, but she was sure that instead he would be just as unpredictable, moving around in his tent, tossing and turning in his sleep, often getting up to pace.
So until she could get him still for long enough she would have to manipulate him the normal way; through her words and perhaps with her body if he was particularly intractable. Although that last may backfire if he was extremely loyal.
Damn these islands anyways! Why was everyone here so embarrassed about everything, so stuck up and regimented.
Then again, most of the world was. As far as she knew it was only Lothyr that was not, and that was because of her family's influence.
Well, her family would soon hold influence over these islands.
And then things would change to how they should be.
But, it still annoyed her about Tomas’ absence.
He should have arrived at the castle by now. She would just have to hope that it others realized the truth she wanted them to without her there to prod them. She had dropped enough hints after all, about Juniper fleeing a bad marriage, that somebody had better pick up on it.
But where was he? What was keeping that fool man?
Tomas struggled in his bonds as the man in the red scarf held him up.
“You’re Tomas, yes? From Rin?”
After a moment he realized that he was still cutting off his air.
“Ah, yes. Whoops. Here, I’ll take out the gag, but you’ve gotta promise me you won’t scream; if the bandits hear us I don’t think we’ll be able to take them all out before they kill us”
The silk writhed and slithered out of his mouth to instead add its support to his body. With that impediment removed Tomas could finally move his head.
Taking a good look he realized that he was some ways back in the forest, closer to where he had felled the last sentry. He had been dragged so far, so fast. It was unnerving.
The silk that bound his body turned out to be scarves. Immobilizing his arms and legs, and binding his fingers too tight for them to Sketch they then trailed off, hanging over tree branches in a kind of pulley system.
And from there they ran into the mysterious man’s sleeves.
The man himself was handsome, with a fine boned and almost pretty face. He had sparkling blue eyes and immaculate black hair. If his features had not been so fine he would have looked like Tomas, just without the scars.
Behind the man a Sigil glowed in the air.
“You…you’re the one that the merchant spoke of. The man who can make cloth move”
“That is correct”
“Why are you here?”
“You never answered my question. Are you Tomas Bern, a Lord of Rin?”
“Not a Lord, but from the family of one, yes. And I am Tomas Bern”
“Ah. Good. Listen then, you’ve gotta trust me on this. I’m here to help you. I’ve been trying to find you for a while now. Anyways, I heard about this plot, and you’re the key to it”
“I’m the key to it?”
“You’re supposed to be blamed for driving some lady to murder the Prince. Apparently she doesn’t love you enough or something? And so goes crazy because you’re chasing her and kills the Prince”
“Thats the plot? Someone doesn’t love me enough and because I’m chasing her…
Tomas went limp, his cautious struggle to escape ended.
“Is the woman Juniper?”
“I don’t know. I just know that she kills the Prince, you get blamed, and then Destria goes to war with Rin. That was all I heard”
Tomas began struggling again, pulling at the unyielding fabric with a strength he didn’t know he had.
“Tell me! Tell me now man tell me or I’ll kill you when I get free, let me out and tell me I’ve gotta go, stop Juniper before its too late, I’ve gotta stop her from killing the Prince, gotta stop her from starting a war!”
“Whoa, whoa, calm down, shh, shh!”
The man began to loosen the bonds.
“I’m letting you down, but you gotta promise to listen! If you don’t shut up now, I’ll gag you too! Stop being so god damned noisy!”
“Fine. But you better tell me, now”
As the cloth unraveled and began to flow back and into his sleeves, seeming to shrink as it did the man began to talk.
“So, first off, my name is Laerian Hander. I’m the heir of a minor house from Belnar. But, my parents died when I was young, and we were never very wealthy. I took what I could, some clothes, a bit of coin, and a copy of our Sigilian, and took to working the streets as a thief. What else would I be?
“Anyways, because of how I grew up I guess I-”
“The plot. Now. While we walk to get Juniper”
The sword suddenly at his throat convinced Laerian to speak.
“Ah, yes. I was getting to that. Also, you know where she is?”
“Ahead of us”
“Not with the bandits?”
Tomas paused, and sighed.
“She might be. I suppose I need to check, don’t I?”
“Yah, I guess we do”
“Yah. I’m in this with you. Like I was saying, I heard the plot, I don’t want Destria to go to war, to burn. Not many opportunities in a country thats at war”
“That is not what most con-men would say”
“Con-men? My friend, you have mistaken me, and done me injury. I’m a stage magician. I perform parlour tricks for the rich”
“I don’t care. Stop delaying. Tell me about the plot”
“But you were the one who asked!”
“Right. I overheard a man, think he was a bandit, talking about how they needed to let this woman’s caravan pass by unharmed because they needed her to kill the Prince. Then, once she’d killed the Prince you would also need to be allowed to go by unharmed so that you could arrive, they could realize who you were and why she was running from you, and that they should start a war with you”
“So then she is captured by the bandits”
“Ah. No. I guess she wouldn’t be”
“And why were they telling this?”
“So that the other bandits would know not to attack the two of you, not just his group”
Laerian began to jog after him
“Hey, hey, where are you going? We should stay here, try and figure out a plan to take out these bandits before they miss the sentries!”
“We’re not taking out the bandits. We are not doing anything. I am going after Juniper, since I now know she’s been given a free pass. You can follow me, or you can return to whatever you were doing before now”
“Or we could save whoever the bandits captured?”
“Or you could try and do that”
“No, no, we. We could save them, because there will likely be beautiful damsels in distress who will be grateful and who will swoon over our dashing good looks, and-”
“You have seen my face. They will more likely be terrified that I am one of the bandits, or something worse”
“Fine. Then they’ll swoon over my dashing good looks, and they’ll reward us with gold and their favours, and then they’ll invite me to visit them and I can get another gig and- You’re not buying this are you?”
“I don’t have a stage magician’s worries. I don’t need anyone damsels to swoon over me, or you. I don’t care what happens to you beyond you giving me your horse so that I can chase down Juniper.
“And you will give me your horse so that the Torin Islands don’t descend into war”
“No! I’m not giving you my horse! Look, how about this. We can work together, take out as many bandits as we can, and take their horses. And then you have your pick of a lot of good horses, noble’s or merchants horses rather than the old horse of a travelling magician and then while you’re picking out your horse I can rescue the captives, and then you can even take extra horses and switch them out so that you only need to ride each half as often, or a third or a quarter as often and you can go much faster for much longer and you won’t wear them out! It’s a much better idea than-”
“Do you ever shut up?”
“Not really, no, its not a trait that is a good trait in a magician. We call it our ‘magician’s patter’ or ‘talk of the trade’ and it serves to distract the audience while we pull our next trick.
“Like Sketching again while you were walking away from me”
Tomas felt the scarves tighten around his shoulders again and spin him around.
“Look. I’ve been following you for a while and this is the first time I could approach you. Remember when you got off the boat? And you picked a fight with those dockworkers?
“And then you ran away and they started screaming. That was me. I Sketched, used my scarves to choke them into unconsciousness. I almost got caught by the constables that day. In order to save you.
“But by the time I got to you you were busy and taking on work as a caravan guard so I thought that maybe it wasn’t you after all. And then you ended up in that castle and so I figured you were good.
“It wasn’t until a day you left that I realized you were gone. I had to scramble to catch up. You must have been going pretty slowly if I could catch up to you”
“Wait. Wait. I’ve only been out of the castle for a day, and I rode the horse harder than anyone could have. How did you catch me?”
“Tomas. You left the castle three days ago. It took me two days to catch up”
“No! No, I was only riding for one day, maybe a day and a half and then I hit the snare, and then when I woke up-”
“When you woke up it was probably a day later. That would account for the missing day. You look like a pretty frail guy, no offense intended. Being flung from the saddle into the undergrowth would probably put anyone down for a while, and for someone like you, a good long while, especially if you were riding the entire night before”
“No. You’ve got to be lying. I’m not that far behind Juniper, I can still catch her, and-”
“Tomas. Where is Castle Destria setting down?”
“It was supposed to be by…I can point to it on a map”
Crouching down Tomas flipped open his satchel, and opened his sister’s book across his knees.
“Drinz? Thats about a five day ride from Hamelford, so about a four day ride from the castle. Maybe a bit less if they left in the morning and arrived at night.
“Right now it’d take us two days to reach Drinz. And then after that we’d have to locate the Castle, if it was even still there and hadn’t taken off into the air”
“Then we’ll leave now. We need to get there before Juniper kills the Prince”
“Tomas. Listen. It might already be too late. Even if we get there in a day her best chance to kill him will be tonight. She’ll probably take it then”
“No. We’ll stop her. She’s not going to kill the Prince, she wants to marry him! She’ll try and marry him first, won’t she?”
“And if he says no? Is she crazy enough to kill him then?”
“No, no she’s not.She won’t kill him”
“So then the plot revolves around framing her for killing him, and we’re definitely too late. There is no way we can get there in time to stop it”
“I can. I can if I run”
“And what if you’re too late? Then you’ll arrive in time to be captured and fulfill your role in the plot. And the Islands will go to war”
Tomas stopped. He didn’t, he couldn’t, believe that there were no options. He would not believe that there was no way out. There had to be a way to stop it, to save things, to do something, to-
“Tomas. I think that you need to stop and think about this. Even if you don’t show up they’ll still eventually find out who you are. And then there will be big problems”
The scarves fell slack as Laerian put a hand on Tomas’ shoulder.
“There will be a war. The islands will still go to war, and things will still burn. You either need to go home and convince everyone to get ready, or we need to find out who is behind this. If we can find out the plot, find evidence, and prove it, then we’ll be good. The islands will be safe”
Tomas stared past Laerian, not really seeing the forest, not really feeling Laerian’s hand on his shoulder or hearing the breeze in the trees.
“You’re right. We need to stop it don’t we?”
“Yes. And I think we might be the only ones that can”
“Do you have a plan?”
“Yes. The bandits know something, right? At the very least they will know who it was who told them. Then we can find him. We’ll follow the chain up until we find someone who can provide evidence”
“Its a better plan than nothing”
“And its doing something. Its not sitting by and either feeling sorry for yourself or moping. And it is not playing into their trap. We’re going to make a difference”
Laerian looked, if not happy, happier. While still grim he had a smile on his face, if not confident of their success, ready to die trying.
Tomas’s face was a blank slate. With the scars and eyepatch the lack of emotion made him look more terrifying than a frown would have.
“Laerian. You will hear this now. I swear that whoever has engineered this plot, whoever has used my betrothed as a tool, whoever has framed her for this heinous crime, whoever has tried to use me, and my family, insulted our honour by thinking to use us in their plots, whoever threatens the safety of those I love, and everyone in these islands…they will die. They will suffer, and then they will die a painful death. This I swear, on my honour as a Sketcher, on my honour as a Bern. I swear that I shall not rest until they lie dead”
Laerian took a deep breath, and then let it out slowly.
“Tomas. That is a strong vow. I’ll do my best to hold you to it. Now. How’re we going to kill those bandits?”