Natasi smiled as she walked back to her tent. The captain of the guards was finally hers, as was everyone else in the group. Nothing would now stand in the way of her finding Robert.
And once she had the Prince in hand she would be able to tell Hiros to start the wars.
Soon, soon everything would come to fruition.
Her smile faded when she walked into her tent to see the quill Linked to Hiros’ scribing a message across the page that was always kept in place for such an event.
Running to the desk, she read the message, then read it again, before letting out a scream of frustration. Despite being riddled with spelling errors and crossed out words, the message was clear enough.
The Prince is on Faron Rek. I think he was hurt, because now he is a Beshadowed. The man who brought him says that they did that to save him. I think they did that because they were the idiots who almost killed him in the first place.
He can’t remember anything, and is happy to be my bodyguard and assassin. What do you want me to do?
After taking a moment to calm down, Natasi switched out the paper, and began to compose her reply.
Find the Stormcallers. They’re a group who spends most of their time in the lower catacombs of the island. They use older powers than Sigils, the only true type of magic this world knows. Don’t let their singing rats scare you.
Ask them, kindly, to call up a storm around the island.
I’ll send you more messages every day at dusk, and tell you when to drop the storm. I’ll be arriving on the island as soon as I can to take charge of the Prince.
In the meantime, keep the Prince safe, and nearby.
One last thing; ask the brothers about starting the war. Tell them that I said it was time, or show them this letter. Then follow their instructions. Start this before asking the Stormcallers.
As frustrating as the turn of events was, it at least meant that they had located Robert.
But a Beshadowed…that was bad news. Notoriously hard to affect with unwelcome Sigils, extremely difficult to kill, heightened perceptions, so hard to lie to, and terribly strong, probably good enough at fighting through brute strength and speed to kill the brothers.
But, at the same time…that made the Prince a prize far more worth capturing. It almost made him as interesting as ruling Destria. Almost, but not quite.
Anger warred with a budding sense of excitement for control of Natasi’s face as she lay down to sleep.
Hiros was tired, and sore, and annoyed.
He’d spent the last two days mustering pirate crews, getting bands together, sending them to their ships. He’d drafted letter after letter using Linked quills, which was tiring, and gave him headaches from staying in the State for so long.
But, it was finally all done. He had sent the messages, mustered and dispatched the crews, let everyone know that there would be no leaving the island for the next few days if they didn’t leave now…
It was a long list of stupid jobs that the brothers had given him. But, he was finally done it. Thankfully.
Or, maybe not. The last item on the list had been the one Natasi had given him.
That long walk, down, down, into the catacombs beneath the island.
The eerie dripping of water, false light of the dancing will-o’-the-wisps reflecting off the chips of shiny rock in the walls, the calling of the supposed “singing rats” (Hiros had not seen any, so he refused to believe that the wailing song suffusing the area had come from anything less than human) and the hooded guide that smelled of sea brine and was dripping water had all added up to something that Hiros never wanted to repeat.
He shuddered at the thought that he would need to go down there and talk to that…council again someday.
But for now things were relatively safer and less eerie. Unfortunately, only relative to that trip into the catacombs.
The winds tore at Hiros’ cloak as he huddled at the entrance to the tunnel leading here.
Here was a platform jutting out from the edge of the mountain, more than three quarters of the way to the top. The jagged rock was slick from the rain coming down in sheets, and there were no handrails.
Which, in Hiros’ eyes, made the feat performed by the five Stormcallers all the more insane.
They had walked out onto narrow spires extending even further from the cliff than the platform did. The spires were spaced roughly equidistant from each other, and pointed in five different directions, all out to sea, but some more or less elevated than others. They got narrower and less stable the further out they went, until at the end, where the Stormcallers were balanced (one on each spire), they were about an inch or two wide, and little pieces kept flaking off as the rain poured down.
The Stormcallers apparently needed to balance out there and chant for what felt like hours, in order to call up a storm.
Although apparently it only took five bloody minutes to call up a rain heavy enough to soak Hiros to the bone, and winds cold and strong enough to set his teeth chattering in an instant, to try and pull his cloak from him every other moment, and succeed in tearing away his hat.
And their chanting set his teeth on edge. Part wail, part moan, part guttural yet sibilant language that lingered at the edges of his hearing, it was making a bad experience worse.
The Blood Red King was not at all happy.
But the Stormcallers had insisted that he either come with them, or stay in the catacombs until they finished, that they might make sure that the storm was satisfactory.
Throwing his mind what the catacombs had been like, Hiros re-evaluated (for the third time in as many minutes) his opinion of how bad the storm was.
Above the mountain’s peak thunderheads and clouds still heavy with rain began to thicken and swirl, slowly, with the island at their center.