The Bravest of Souls – Chapter 47

You are reading the entire forty seventh chapter of The Bravest of Souls. Subsequent chapters will be posted once every 4-5 days, so check back soon!

Want to start at the beginning?  See the table of contents.

Niv awoke from her nap with a knock on her bedroom door.

“I’ve come to draw you a bath,” the maid said.

“Thank you.  I appreciate it very much,” Niv replied.

She felt more refreshed after her brief rest, but she didn’t want to get up from the comfortable bed.  It was the first time she had slept in a real bed since Ashmar’s inn, and that wasn’t a pleasant evening.  She enjoyed the unfamiliar comfort of having someone take care of her every need.  When her bath was ready, she got undressed and into the metal tub, savoring the feeling of warm water on her feet.  The last time she bathed in warm water was in the Jeweled Woods, and she relished every moment of it.  The cold streams offered no comparison.

She ran her fingers through her hair, feeling the tangles and dirt that had matted it down from her hard journey.  She leaned forward and dunked her head into the soapy water, scrubbing her scalp as much as she could before she had to come up again for air.  The maid was washing her traveling clothes and had laid out a beautiful green dress for her to wear.  As good as the warm water felt, she looked forward to wearing clean clothes again.

Niv put the dress on, feeling the clean, soft, high-quality fabric against her skin.  She had a formal dress that was similar to it back home, but she only wore it on special occasions.  It was a beautiful dark green with a silver band around the waist and down the sleeves.  She was impressed with how well the dress fit.

Niv felt small in the large room.  Her bedroom at home was just big enough for her bed and her dresser.  She was amazed that she could actually walk around in the room without bumping into anything.  The bed had a canopy top with large elegantly carved posts and fitted with an incredibly soft sheet and quilt.  The window to one side of the bed was adorned with long flowing red curtains.  She marveled at the beautifully decorated room and couldn’t help but wonder what the others looked like.

When she finished getting dressed, she went to the room next door to see if Frasie was ready for dinner.  She knocked once but heard nothing, so she quietly edged the door open.  As she entered, she saw Frasie in her tub, with the maid washing her hair.

“Nivvy, isn’t this amazing?  It’s been ages since we’ve been in warm water!  It feels so great!”

“And you’re not taking it a moment too soon,” the maid said as she wrestled a tangle free from Frasie’s curly hair.

“I think I’ve lost half my weight in dirt,” Frasie said.

“I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I’ve felt clean,” admitted Niv.

“Oh Nivvy, what a wonderful dress you have on.  It is so pretty!  Aiden will love it,” Frasie said excitedly.

Niv smiled as she wondered what Aiden’s reaction would be.  “I am so excited for him to see me actually clean, for once, that I didn’t even consider the dress.  I hope he likes it, I certainly do.”

“I don’t see how he couldn’t!” Frasie replied, squirming around in the tub as the maid rinsed her hair.

Niv looked over at Frasie’s bed, noticing a blue dress lying across it and smiled.  She wondered if Frasie had even noticed it.

Frasie continued to talk to Niv about how beautiful her room was, and how nice and attentive the servants were, but Niv wasn’t paying much attention.  She was thinking of Aiden, wondering how he would like her dress, and now nice it would be to eat a home cooked meal with him.

The maid handed Frasie a towel to dry off with, then held up the dress for her.

“Let me finish drying off and I’ll be glad to help you put that on,” Frasie said.

“No, this dress is for you,” the maid replied.

Niv tried hard to contain a laugh as she left the room.  She was unable to hold it any longer as she heard Frasie’s protests from outside the door.

As Niv walked down the hallway, she saw Farius walking towards the dining room.  He turned around as he heard her approach and smiled, “Niv, you look absolutely beautiful.”

“Thank you.  I hope you had time to rest.”

“I did, somewhat.  But, druids do not require as much sleep.  It is simply a matter of our physiology.”

“I heard the proctor mention that you were a druid.  What does that mean, exactly?” Niv asked.

“It is a complex subject, one that I will be delighted to explain in great detail, but not on an empty stomach,” Farius said.

“If you are a druid, does that make me a half-druid?”

Farius smiled and laughed a bit. “It does indeed, my child.”

“Does that mean I will be able to turn into an owl like you?” Niv asked, barely able to contain her enthusiasm.

Farius pointed gently to his stomach, “I will explain it all to you in time, Niv, but on the other side of this door awaits a cooked meal, and I cannot think of anything else, at the moment.”

Niv laughed.  “I understand, but I want to know everything after dinner!”

Farius nodded as he opened the door, motioning for her to enter.

Come back in 4-5 days to read the next chapter for FREE!  Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or subscribe to my newsletter to receive updates when new content is posted.

The Bravest of Souls – Chapter 46

You are reading the entire forty sixth chapter of The Bravest of Souls. Subsequent chapters will be posted once every 4-5 days, so check back soon!

Want to start at the beginning?  See the table of contents.

The large building at the north end of the city square they were entering was the most ornately designed, and meticulously maintained, that Niv had seen.  It had a large, somewhat intimidating, oak door with intricate carvings.  Farius took the large door knocker in his hand and rapped it against the oak door several times.  After a moment, an older man dressed in an elegant white shirt and dark pants greeted them.

“Farius!” the man exclaimed.

“Good afternoon, Brom,” Farius said, bowing slightly.

“I hope your travels were pleasant,” Brom asked as he motioned for them to enter.

“Any unpleasantness that I might have encountered was definitely negated by the pleasure of meeting my daughter, Niv’leana,” Farius said, gesturing to her.

“A pleasure to meet you, Niv’leana,” Brom said, taking her hand in his.

“It is a pleasure to meet you as well,” Niv replied.

“Please, come inside,” Brom said.

“Your cloak, Niv’leana?” he asked with his outstretched hand extending towards her.

Niv stood motionless, for a moment, unsure as to why he wanted her cloak.

Hand him your cloak, dear,” Farius said in her mind.

“Oh, of course,” Niv said frantically as she removed her cloak.  She was not used to such a formal protocol.

“Allow me to introduce her friend, Frasie,” Farius said.

“Hello, Brom.  Here’s my cloak,” Frasie pronounced, taking hers off with haste and piling it on top of Niv’s.

“And Aiden,” Farius said.

Aiden nodded.  “Nice to meet you.”

“You look absolutely exhausted,” Brom said.  “Won’t you come warm yourselves in the study?”

“I am very grateful,” Farius replied.

“Right this way,” he gestured.

Niv’s eyes scanned the interior intently, absorbing every detail of her wonderful surroundings.  Her gaze drifted to the ceiling of the main room, noticing the tall arched buttresses that transversed the ceiling.  Fire lit the room from lamp sconces hanging on the columns where the buttresses ended their elegant journey across the roof.  Between them were small leaded windows that let the remaining late afternoon light in the grand room.  Marble floors were covered with rugs sewn from thick fabrics of rich reds and orange hues.  When Niv’s boots walked on them, she felt the comforting give in the fabric travel upwards through her weary legs.  The building kept out the cold wind very well; if Brom had not asked for her cloak, she would have been too warm.

Your friend Brom has an astonishing home,” Niv said to Farius telepathically.

I am privileged to call him my friend, but this is not his home, nor the friend I was referring to.  Brom is his servant,” he replied in kind.

Niv thought about Farius’s reply, for a moment, as they walked into a small hallway off of the main room.  She had read about homes large enough to need servants to assist the homeowners, but she had never known, least of all met, anyone that could afford such a luxury.  As they walked down the smaller hallway, Niv looked at the portrait paintings on the wall.  Though the hallway was not as well lit, she could still make out detail in them and admired the artistry in them.

As they came to the end of the hallway, Brom opened a smaller wood door and motioned for them to enter.  The room was naturally illuminated by the remnants of the light from afternoon cloudy sky and a large candelabra resting on a beautiful cherry piece of furniture in the side of the room.  The walls were lined with built-in bookshelves, filled from floor to ceiling with books.  In the center of the room, a small fireplace was burning with two large padded chairs were facing it.

“Sir, Farius and his companions have arrived,” Brom said.

A man turned around from one of the chairs to see them and then got up and walked towards the group.

“Farius, so good to see you,” he said.

“Likewise, Cadrin,” Farius replied.

“I’ve been expecting you,” he said.   “Please, introduce me to your friends.”

“Cadrin, I am delighted to introduce you to my daughter, Niv’leana and her friends Frasie and Aiden,” Farius said, pointing to each in kind.

“I’m pleased to meet you all,” Cadrin replied, walking towards Niv.  “Niv’leana, you cannot possibly have any idea how much your father talked about you, even before he met you.”

Niv smiled, but didn’t know exactly what to say.  She eventually replied, “It’s wonderful to meet you.”

“So that is the amulet?” Cadrin asked, pointing to her necklace.

“It is indeed,” Farius replied.

“It’s astounding,” Cadrin said, his eyes wide with amazement.  “I’ve never seen it in person, myself.  I’ve only heard about it.”

Niv still hadn’t grown used to the attention the amulet brought, and didn’t quite know how to react.

“How is Narelle?” Farius asked.

“She is visiting a friend, at the moment; I expect she will return soon.  Please, have a seat and warm yourselves by the fire.”

Farius took the large chair opposite Cadrin, while Aiden fetched stools from the other side of the room and placed them near the fire.

“Brom, would you retrieve some hot Elvemon tea for our guests?” Cadrin asked.

“I will be glad to,” Brom replied as he left the room.

“I am sure you know why we are here?” Farius asked.

“I do.  To see your best friend, of course,” Cadrin replied, laughing a bit.

“I wish that were the only reason.”

Cadrin picked up his tea cup and took a sip.  “I know, but you have been away for quite some time.  I doubt you know how bad it has become.  As I’m sure you saw, Vorea has all but taken over Lahara.  She has disbanded the council and usurped our laws.”

“We couldn’t help but to notice,” Niv said.  “She isn’t much on understatement.”

“Indeed,” Cadrin replied.

“She has Maeva,” Farius said in a somber tone, staring at the fire.

Cadrin sighed, looking at his friend with a somewhat helpless look, “I’m sorry, Farius.  Maeva has a strong will.  If anyone can escape Vorea’s grasp, it will be her.”

Brom returned with a tea service set, pouring a cup for each of them.  Niv inhaled deeply the sweet aroma of the tea before taking her first sip.  It reminded her of her home in the Jeweled Woods.

“I’m going to save Maeva and put a stop to Vorea’s murderous ways,” Niv proclaimed, as she nursed the warmth of her cup.

“Niv’leana, you have the strength of both your mother and father.  Vorea would be a fool to underestimate you,” Cadrin said.

“She may have been born to us, but she was raised by Cherin and Ren, two of the most kind, intelligent people I know.  They deserve most of the credit,” Farius admitted.

Cadrin took another sip.  “I did not know them, but Farius would not entrust his daughter’s care to anyone but the best.”

Farius leaned towards Cadrin.  “I believe we have a chance at rescuing Mae and stopping Vorea, but we are in need of your assistance, Cadrin.”

“Anything I can do, I will,” he replied.

Farius said, “We need the backing of your forces, plus the help of the Den’tari.  We need every advantage we can get.”

Niv had never heard of the Den’tari before, and as much as she read and studied maps, she figured she would have.

“Our forces are few, and currently outnumbered by Vorea’s guards.  They have been reduced to a semi-organized resistance.  As for the Den’tari, I can provide you with fresh horses and supplies for the journey.  It is a two day journey, at best.  I beg of you, please stay the night, rest, recuperate, and enjoy a wonderful dinner and breakfast before you leave.”

“We cannot turn down your offer even if we wanted to,” Farius said.  “We haven’t seen a bed or a home cooked meal in weeks.”

“It is my pleasure, Farius.  I’ll have Brom show you to your rooms.  I’m sure you’re tired and would like to rest before dinner.”

“Yes, that would be wonderful,” Niv said.

Come back in 4-5 days to read the next chapter for FREE!  Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or subscribe to my newsletter to receive updates when new content is posted.

The Bravest of Souls – Chapter 45

You are reading the entire forty fifth chapter of The Bravest of Souls. Subsequent chapters will be posted once every 4-5 days, so check back soon!

Want to start at the beginning?  See the table of contents.

After nearly a full day of traveling, Aiden noticed the outline of the city of Lahara on the nearly flat horizon.

“We have arrived,” Aiden said with a note of relief.

Niv and Aiden were delighted to see the city.  Frasie haphazardly leapt forward to the front of the wagon, nearly causing Farius to lose his balance.

“I hope there’s a warm bath there,” Frasie said excitedly.

Niv raised an eyebrow and looked at Frasie.  “I certainly hope so.”

Farius laughed a bit and said, “I am certain my friends will put us up for the night.  I will have to admit the prospect of a warm meal sounds wonderful.”

“The prospect of getting off this wagon sounds wonderful,” Shareis said.

Niv said, “It will be nice to sleep in a bed again, if only for a night.”

“I look forward to meeting your friends,” Niv said to Farius.  “I will admit that they have an advantage over me.  I have known you and my mother for such a short time.”

“You will like them, and they you, I’m quite certain.  I believe they will be able to help us.”

“I can’t believe how big Lahara is,” Frasie said, marveling as they neared the entrance to the city.

“I’ve seen it in my maps and read about it, but that doesn’t compare to actually being here,” Niv admitted.

Farius remained silent, his gaze staying affixed to the road ahead as they made their way into the outskirts of the city.  Niv looked around, absorbing as many of the sights as she could possibly take in.  Several small houses and buildings surrounded the south road leading into the city.

Niv watched the people walking down the street.  As she noticed them going about their routines, she realized that she had never seen so many people in one place before.  She tried to make out their faces, but they were obscured with cloaks and scarves to keep warm.

Niv noticed an increasing number of guards, dressed in chain mail with black and purple surcoats and black cloaks, patrolling the city.

“There aren’t usually guards patrolling the streets, are there?” Aiden asked.

Farius observed them a moment and replied, “No.  Something has changed.”

Buildings neatly lined the wide road leading to the center of the city.  They were made of lightly colored stone with green ceramic tile roofs.  The stones protruded from the wall to varying degrees, giving a depth of texture to them.  The taller buildings had a second story, a detail Niv had never seen in person before, only in drawings.  The taller buildings contained shops at street level with homes above them.  The upper story had windows with green and black planter boxes hanging from their sills.

Niv saw a large black and purple banner hung from the bottom of nearly every planter she saw.  The colors and pattern looked identical to that of the guards, a black background with a rich purple border and a swirl of purple hues.  A figure in the middle of the design loosely resembled a triangle with a middle intersecting line that flared into a curved bottom.

“I’ve never seen these flags before,” Aiden said.

“They belong to Vorea,” Farius replied.

Aiden tilted his head slightly.  “Why would these flags be on display?  Doesn’t Lahara have its own colors?”

“It did,” Farius answered.  “I see that she has taken care of that.”

“How could the council here allow this?” Aiden asked.

“I sincerely doubt that they had a choice in the matter,” Farius replied.

When Farius said that the flags were Vorea’s, Niv remembered seeing them in the vision where she forced her to watch the murder of High Priestess Narra.  She noticed the symbol on the detailing of Vorea’s collar.  The thought that Vorea might be in Lahara sent a terrifying chill through her body.

“You don’t think Vorea is here?” Niv asked.

Farius replied, “I do not believe so.  I believe she is still in Selandis.”

His reply put her somewhat at ease, but she was reminded once again that she would never be able to put the horrible act she had witnessed out of her mind.  She did her best to swallow her fear and continue on.

The road eventually straightened out and intersected with a square in the center of town.  There were many people in the square walking around the various shops and vendors that were displaying their wares in makeshift displays.  Taller buildings surrounded the area were draped with even larger versions of the black and purple banners.

As they neared the square, a guard approached them.

“No wagons are allowed in the square.  You’ll have to park it at the livery,” the guard said sternly.

“Would you be so kind as to direct…” Aiden said before being interrupted.

“Turn around and take the first left that you see.”

“Thank you,” Aiden replied.  The guard seemed to ignore his gesture.

Niv started to pull back on the reigns to turn the wagon around, carefully avoiding the pedestrians.  She had never driven in such a big city before, and was a bit uncomfortable in doing so through the crowd.  They arrived at the livery where Aiden and Farius unhitched the horses to be stabled for the night.  Aiden asked how much it would cost and fretted at the answer he received, but Farius withdrew some silver from a pouch on his belt and handed it to the livery owner who accepted it with a nodding smile.

“How long will you be staying?” he asked.

“I am not certain,” Farius replied.  “I will return tomorrow to inform you.”

Before they left, they gathered whatever possessions they could carry from the wagon.  Niv remembered the small decorative wooden box that Mae had, and looked through the provisions in desperation for it, but was unable to find it.

“Frasie, where is Mae’s box?” Niv asked, with concern in her voice.

Farius turned around and pulled an object out of one of his deep pockets.

“It is safe, Niv.”

“How did you…” Niv began to ask.

“She never went anywhere without it,” Farius replied, his smile warming as he mentioned his wife.

“What is it, exactly?” Niv asked.

“I will show you this evening when we arrive at our friend’s house.  I am certain she would want you to see it.”

“Where do your friends live?” Frasie asked.

“They live near the town square.  I will show you.”

As the group started to walk with Farius, the proctor remained behind.

“Perhaps this is the best opportunity for us to part ways?” Shareis asked.

“Indeed,” Farius said.  “I trust that you are up to navigating the streets alone?”

“I will be fine, druid,” Shareis replied, nodding slightly.  “I despise long goodbyes perhaps as much as you despise me.”

“Goodbye,” Shareis said, bowing slightly before turning around and starting to walk away.

“If you need anything, we will be staying near the square,” Niv said.

The proctor stopped and looked back a moment before resuming.  Niv was somewhat surprised at herself.  She wondered how she could have been so callous with her one minute then express concern the next.

Aiden put his hand on her shoulder, giving her a reassuring look.

“It is harder to forgive then hate.  You chose the more difficult path,” Farius said.

“It’s impossible to explain how I feel about that woman,” Niv said.

“You’re not alone,” Farius replied, then resumed leading them to the square.

As they passed, Frasie attempting to greet everyone she saw, turning around and saying hello to passers-by, sometimes not even finishing her greeting before moving on to the next person.  Some reciprocated, but most ignored her or gave her a strange look.

Come back in 4-5 days to read the next chapter for FREE!  Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or subscribe to my newsletter to receive updates when new content is posted.


The Bravest of Souls – Chapter 44

You are reading the entire forty fourth chapter of The Bravest of Souls. Subsequent chapters will be posted once every 4-5 days, so check back soon!

Want to start at the beginning?  See the table of contents.

Niv awoke to Frasie standing over her, a sight she had gotten used to. Frasie’s bright green eyes were peering into hers without even a flicker of movement.

“I think she’s awake,” Frasie said.

“No. I’m not,” Niv said, then turned over away from her.

Frasie pecked at Niv’s shoulder with her finger several times. Niv decided to ignore it, trying her best to steal a few more minutes of sleep, but another peck put that idea to rest.

“She’s awake, Niv!” Frasie exclaimed.

It took a moment for Niv to realize that Frasie was talking about the proctor. She quickly wiped the sleep from her eyes and turned back over to catch a glimpse of her sitting up, drinking water on her own from a canteen. Farius, who was stirring a pot of oatmeal over the fire, realized that Niv was awake and glanced over at her. Niv wondered if the proctor had heard Frasie say her real name.

“Good morning, Niv,” the proctor said in a weak but steady voice.

A cold chill ran through Niv, one that competed easily with the bitterly cold air. Niv pulled her blanket closely around her, both to keep out the cold and instinctively for protection. She had wanted to be the one to tell the proctor who she really was, on her terms. Niv nodded her head silently and took a drink from the canteen that Farius offered her.

“I remember who you are, Niv,” she said.

Niv replied, “I haven’t yet decided if that’s a good thing or not.”

The proctor laughed a bit. “You have much to learn about my kind, Niv’leana. It’s both, depending on the way you look at it.”

Niv put the canteen down and sat up fully. She ran her fingers through her hair, pulling the strands away from her face. Aiden looked up to see the proctor awake and sat up quickly, remaining quiet. Niv opened her mouth to reply, but the proctor beat her to it.

“You and your companions have saved my life, and for that I am grateful.”

Niv wondered if the proctor remembered how she had acquired her injury.

“Actually,” Niv said, “We weren’t able to do much. My healing didn’t work as well on you.”

“I’m not surprised.”

“Proctor,” Niv said before she interrupted her.

“Please call me Shareis.”

Niv remembered her name, but addressing her by her title allowed her to distance herself more from what Shareis had done. Niv swallowed and took a deep breath, trying to remain calm.

“Proctor,” Niv resumed, “Now that your memory has returned, what do you intend to do?”

Farius handed Shareis a bowl of oatmeal. She took it cautiously and warmed her hands over it, then looked back up at Niv a moment before replying, “Nothing.”

“Nothing?” Niv asked. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Frasie give an exacerbated glance.

“Nothing,” Shareis replied succinctly.

Niv stared at Shareis a moment in shock. This woman had tortured her mother, tried to injure her and her friends, and then simply seemed content to do nothing? Niv was both relieved and disappointed, realizing that she wanted there to be more of a threat, perhaps to justify her feelings of revenge.

“Oh, you wanted me to do something different?”

“No, that’s fine. Nothing will be just fine,” Frasie said, staring at Niv with wide eyes.

“Despite the persuasion I had to use on your mother, I failed to derive the information Vorea was seeking. What’s more, Vorea has Mae. I doubt she has any further use of me.”

Niv felt a surge of rage move through her. She had managed to keep it out of reach for quite some time, but hearing the proctor mention the persuasion that she had used on Mae so casually brought it bubbling to the surface.

“So tell me, how many bones did you break to determine that? Is there a certain magic number that you believe is too much?”

She caught the surprised expressions of Frasie and Farius out of the corners of her eyes. Aiden continued his silence but shifted his position, edging slightly towards her.

The proctor stared at Niv, for a moment, and then replied, “I’m not sure what you want from me, Niv.”

Niv shook her head slightly, turning to Aiden. “I liked this woman more when she couldn’t remember anything.”

“The pain and suffering you speak so freely of, proctor, was inflicted on my wife,” Farius said. The calmness in his voice drawing a stark contrast with Niv’s increasingly angry tone.

“You know, druid, I cannot offer you any words of apology, for it is not in my nature,” Shareis said.

Niv trembled with anger, so much so that she almost ignored the reference to her father being a druid.

“And it is in my nature to forgive you, despite the difficulty I am finding in doing so,” Farius replied.

“I can’t take this anymore,” Niv said, as she got up and walked away hastily.

Aiden started to get up to follow her, but Farius said, “I’ll go.”

Aiden extended his hand towards Farius. “Please, Farius, let me.”

Farius considered his words for a moment, and then sat back down.

Niv couldn’t stand to hear the conversation any longer. She was surprised at the intensity of her anger. The veil of control she had over her emotions concerning the kidnapping was all but gone, leaving nothing but tears in its wake. She ran as hard as she could away from camp.

Running was the only option Niv allowed herself to consider. She remembered the rage she felt as she was hitting the proctor, her unconscious body laying at her mercy. Aiden had convinced her to spare Shareis’s life, but with each haphazard step through the brush she became increasingly convinced she had made a mistake. Her stomach turned as she thought of the idea of laying her hands over the proctor to heal her. She wondered what her mother would think of her showing quarter to the one who had beaten her so maliciously.

She ran until she could run no more, and collapsed onto the ground, her dress piling up around her feet. Her long hair rushed back in the cold wind across her face, sticking to it with sweat. She tilted her head back and ran her trembling fingers through it, pulling it out of her face. She put her hands on her stomach, aching from pain, exhaustion, and the sheer emotion pouring out of her.

Behind her, she heard footsteps, running at first then slowing to a brisk walk. Aiden was calling her name in a concerned tone as he approached. She didn’t want him to see her like this, losing control over herself. She tilted her head to the side to see him, but instead felt the intense urge to be sick. She leaned forward and heaved as Aiden collapsed on the ground next to her, holding her and attempting to comfort her.

She looked up to Aiden with a glassy expression. He pulled the remaining strands of hair from her face.

“Aiden,” she said, crying, as she leaned into his embrace.

Aiden didn’t say anything, at first, as he held her and gently rocked her, trying his best to soothe her.

“I don’t want to do this. I can’t let her have this control over me,” Niv said in a broken voice.

“She nearly killed your mother.   No one can blame you for how you feel,” Aiden said.

“My mother would. I spared the proctor’s life and even tried to heal her. I even sat in that wagon and talked to her. I should have left her to die.”

Aiden searched for what to say. He cared for her so much he couldn’t help but to feel caught up in the torrent of emotions Niv was releasing.

“Niv, you’re not the kind of person who seeks revenge. You are one of the most thoughtful people I’ve ever known. What you feel now is completely understandable, but you can’t let it consume you.”

Niv’s crying slowed as she looked up at him and said, “My father can forgive her. Why can’t I?”

“Forgiveness is in his nature, and it is in yours as well. What do you think your mother would want you to do?” Aiden asked.

Niv shook her head. “I don’t know. I don’t know what she would have me do. It was one thing when the proctor couldn’t remember what she had done.   I could pretend that she was just a pawn of Vorea’s whim. But now she remembers, and seems to take no remorse in it.”

“I don’t know if she is able to feel it,” Aiden admitted.

Niv took a deep breath and wiped her face. “I’m not sure what I’m going to do about her, but I’m not going to let her have this much power over me.”

Aiden watched as Niv stood up, looking up at her and nodding slightly. “I think that’s the best way to handle it.”

The two walked back to camp. Niv was surprised at how much distance she had covered in such a short burst of angst. When they arrived, Farius was waiting. His calm, stoic countenance offered her comfort the moment she saw it. Without hesitation, Niv collapsed into his arms, embracing him tightly.

“I don’t know how you manage as well as you do,” Niv said.

“You cannot imagine how much easier it has become since I met you,” Farius replied.

Aiden put his hand on Niv’s shoulder. “I’ll go ready the horses.”

“Thank you,” Farius said, smiling at Aiden.

“I’ve never been so angry and hurt in my life, or felt this out of control,” Niv admitted.

“Niv, you have gone through more, in the past few months, than most do in a lifetime. I think you are doing better than you give yourself credit for. You chose a difficult path because somewhere deep inside you knew you had the courage to face it. That is bravery.”

“I’ll try, for my mother’s sake, to forgive her. I won’t forget what she has done, but I can’t let this anger consume me.”

“A wise, yet difficult decision,” Farius said.

Niv walked over to the fire and sat down, warming her hands by it. She glanced at the proctor who was still eating, trying to avoid eye contact.

“Why do you look away from me?” Niv asked.

“I see no benefit in arguing with you,” Shareis replied, only meeting Niv’s gaze briefly.

“On some level, you must regret what you’ve done.”

The proctor stopped eating, put her spoon back in the bowl, and gently placed it beside her.

“We live by different codes, Niv. You wouldn’t understand my reasoning any more than I can give you the apology you seem to need. I sought the truth from your mother, and I obtained it. She was earnest, and I admire that more than you could possibly know.”

Niv felt rage surge within her again. The idea of explaining her reasoning to her with a clenched fist began to seem like a good option. Just then, Farius sat down next to her and put his hand on her shoulder. When he did, she felt a surge of energy, unlike anything she had experienced before, move into her, surrounding her heart, soothing her. She noticed she sharp edges of her anger dissipate.

“You are correct in your assessment of our differing value systems,” Farius said.

“Druid, your kind ways, wrapped in a cloak of sickeningly sweet goodness, can be expressed with the same fervor that someone of evil might slit an innocent’s throat. The motivation behind both matters not to me, I assure you.”

“I would not even consider attempting to change your moral code,” Farius said. “I am against the idea of revenge. I consider it a useless desire that only perpetuates the original problem. You should know, however, that while I will not act against you for your past transgressions, you will pay dearly should you decide to repeat them against anyone that I love.”

Niv said, “We’re close to Lahara. You can stay there, if you like, or find someone to take you back to Gray Oak. If they don’t want to take you, I’m sure you’ll find a way to motivate them. We will part ways there, hopefully to never meet again.”

Come back in 4-5 days to read the next chapter for FREE!  Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or subscribe to my newsletter to receive updates when new content is posted.


The Bravest of Souls – Chapter 43

You are reading the entire forty third chapter of The Bravest of Souls. Subsequent chapters will be posted once every 4-5 days, so check back soon!

Want to start at the beginning?  See the table of contents.

“Are you alright?” Farius asked, leaning over Niv.

Niv struggled to prop herself up on her elbows, “Yes, just dazed a little.”

Aiden rushed over and both he and Farius helped her up..

“Vorea was quite worried about you two,” Aiden said.

“Not worried enough,” Niv admitted.

Farius said, “That is only because she was not physically here.  Had she been, I believe we could have subdued her.”

“What do you think will become of Perkins?” Frasie asked.

Farius shook his head.  “Vorea does not tolerate disappointment.  I doubt he has much longer to live.”

A cold realization washed over Niv.  If she didn’t hold the thief with much regard, what has she done to Mae?  Niv remembered Vorea referenced her in the past tense, saying that she had helped her, somehow.  She thought about asking Farius’s opinion on the matter, but didn’t know for sure if she wanted to know.  She quickly put the idea out of her mind.

“Regardless, we don’t have to worry about him following us anymore,” Frasie said.

Farius said, “No, but we should be more vigilant.  I have slept lightly since I have been with you, watching as best I could, but now I believe it would be prudent to have someone awake at all times.  We should take turns at watch.”

“Agreed,” Aiden said.  “How about we keep a double shift?  Niv and I can watch the first half, then Farius and Frasie for the second/”

Niv was delighted to hear Aiden’s suggestion.  She realized that she might get to spend more time with him, in addition to feeling safer at night.

“That seems fair,” Farius replied, as he nodded in agreement.

“Do you think she’s improving?” Niv asked Farius, motioning with her head towards the proctor.

Farius gave the proctor a glance.  “I believe so.   Her fever seems to have come down some.  I fed her broth, a while ago, and she was somewhat more alert then.  I changed the dressing on her wound and it seems that she may be starting to fight the infection.”

Niv stared at Shareis for a moment without answering.

“Do you want her to get better?” Farius asked.

Niv tilted her head.  “Of course I do.  I don’t know why you would ask me that.”  She thought about her reply, not really sure if she meant it or not.  Eventually, she admitted, “I wanted to leave her behind.  To be honest, I wanted to kill her.  If Aiden hadn’t been there, I just might have.”

“I am grateful he was there,” Farius said, looking at Aiden.   Niv smiled as Aiden sat down beside her.

“I’m sure she was just doing what she was told by Vorea,” Niv added.

Farius said, “Proctors take orders from no one.  She was motivated by something else.”

Niv sighed.  “That makes it even more difficult to forgive her for what she has done.”

“That is a difficult thing to do.  In the end, we must, because anger serves no one, least of all ourselves,” Farius said.

Frasie asked, “Farius, have you forgiven her?”

“As much as I would like to answer in the affirmative, to be honest, I am working on it.  My wife did not deserve to be treated like that.  If anyone, I must forgive myself for not having been there to defend her.  Many times it is harder to forgive yourself rather than grant it to someone else.”

Niv hadn’t considered that Farius would be upset at himself for not having been there to help her.  She had felt a deep sense of regret in letting the townspeople kidnap her, and hearing her father’s words caused her to realize that she hadn’t yet forgave herself, let alone the proctor.

“Maybe,” Niv said, “We’ll have to forgive ourselves first.”

Farius smiled.  “That is always the first step.  Frasie and I will retire for the evening, then.  Be careful, and wake us immediately if there is trouble.”

Niv replied, “Certainly.  Sleep well, both of you.”

Frasie and Farius went to sleep.  Niv was surprised at how soon Frasie started snoring.  Aiden and Niv walked a bit from the fire to allow their eyes to see better in the dark.

“I am so glad you suggested that we keep the first watch,” Niv said quietly.  “Not only do I enjoy spending the time with you, I don’t know if I could sleep right now after what just happened.”

Aiden looked over at Farius, already sleeping soundly, and replied, “Your father seems to be able to.”

Niv shook her head.  “I know.  He is amazingly calm, no matter what happens.”

“He is a wonderful man,” Aiden said, as he put his arm around Niv.

Niv grinned as she noticed, “I didn’t know you could run so fast.”

“I didn’t walk, as a child.  My father said I had two speeds: standing still and running.  Naturally, as I got older, I slowed down a bit, but I have always been able to run faster than anyone I know.”

The two stared into each other’s eyes for a moment, and then kissed again, delighting in one another’s company.

“As much as I hate to, I should go to the other side of the camp to keep better watch,” Aiden said.

“I know,” Niv replied in a saddened tone.   As he got up, she pulled on his arm.  “I don’t want you to leave.”

Aiden leaned down and held the back of her head and pulled her close to him, kissing her again.

“I don’t have to leave immediately,” Aiden admitted.

Come back in 4-5 days to read the next chapter for FREE!  Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or subscribe to my newsletter to receive updates when new content is posted.


The Bravest of Souls – Chapter 42

You are reading the entire forty second chapter of The Bravest of Souls. Subsequent chapters will be posted once every 4-5 days, so check back soon!

Want to start at the beginning?  See the table of contents.

“You have failed me,” Vorea said.

Perkins, still disoriented from his trip through the portal, struggled to regain his balance.  He looked up at Vorea, then around at his surroundings.  He couldn’t make out exactly where he was.  It was a dark circular room with bookcases lining the shelves and a table in the middle with an oddly perfect crystal suspended in a beautifully intricate mount.  He couldn’t help but to stare at it, for a moment, before Vorea interrupted.

“And now you fail to answer for yourself?”

“I didn’t realize how powerful the amulet was.  I also didn’t anticipate how adept Niv’leana’s traveling companions would be in thwarting my efforts to steal the necklace,” Perkins said.  “I was misinformed on the risk of the job.”

Vorea slammed her fist down on the table.  “You idiot!  They are not powerful, they are not adept, they are simply foolish.  For you to have been caught by them is a disgrace to your profession.”

Perkins considered her words carefully, wondering if he was truly the failure she made him out to be.  He had not ever failed to complete a job before, even when he was just starting out in his illustrious life of crime.  He was confident in his abilities, but Vorea’s powerfully dark presence intimidated him.  He decided it was time to regain the confidence that had previously served him so well.

“If they are such lumbering idiots, then why have you failed to stop them?”

Vorea’s eyes drew a cold, angry stare.  “Because of failures like you!”

“I’ve never failed in a job in my life,” Perkins protested.  “You clearly had faulty intelligence.”

Vorea sighed and continued her stare.  “Perhaps I was misinformed as to the skill of the employees from which I procured services.  If it’s any consolation, it isn’t just you.  The proctor you saw, laying so helplessly unconscious at the feet of my mortal enemies, failed in her mission as well.  As to why they are dragging around a charity case, I have no idea, but I do know my heart is not full of the same kindness they have.  Mine is full of anger towards those who betray me.”

“I never betrayed you,” Perkins insisted.

Vorea replied, “Your failure betrays me.”

“I strive for perfection, for the utmost satisfaction of my clients.  I suppose I can’t please absolutely everyone.”

Vorea grunted slightly in disapproval, as she turned away from him.

“If that is all,” Perkins said as he began to leave.

Vorea turned back around and replied, “I am done with you.”

Perkins bowed and continued.   Before he reached the door, Vorea extended her hand abruptly towards him and turned it to the side slightly, causing the door to lock and a small red ribbon of magical energy emanate from the keyhole.  Perkins quickly reached over and tried to turn the handle, only confirming she had locked him in.

“I didn’t say you could leave.  I simply said I was done with you.”

Vorea raised her hands and prepared to cast, only to discover the room filling with a fine, chalky smoke.  She struggled to see him in the building obfuscation of the dust.  The distraction interrupted her spell, and this only intensified when she managed to catch a lungful of the dust, making her start to cough.  Before long, smoke had filled the entire room, and she was unable to see anything.  She collapsed to her knees as she coughed and tried to clear her lungs and eyes.

When she regained her composure and managed to get back on her feet, she discovered that Perkins was gone.  She looked all over the room for him, using her hands to clear away the lingering smoke, but to no avail.  She ran over to the door and turned the handle, but she was surprised to find it still locked.

Come back in 4-5 days to read the next chapter for FREE!  Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or subscribe to my newsletter to receive updates when new content is posted.

The Bravest of Souls – Chapter 41

You are reading the entire forty first chapter of The Bravest of Souls. Subsequent chapters will be posted once every 4-5 days, so check back soon!

Want to start at the beginning?  See the table of contents.

Aiden looked in the direction of the rustle.  Niv followed behind, scanning the landscape closely.  Aiden said, in a soft voice, “I think it’s coming from the other side of the road.”

Niv caught up to him, trying her best to see in the dark.  She could feel her heart beating in her chest.  She thought about fetching a torch from the campsite, but decided there wasn’t time.  She closed her eyes briefly, focusing the energy flowing through her into fine points on her fingertips.  She felt her hand surge with warmth and she opened her eyes to see a glowing ball of light emanating from her fingers.   She took her hand and opened her palm, causing the energy to move into it.  She now had the light she needed, but not where she needed it, so she took her hand and cast the light forward.  She pushed it gently as she made a sweeping motion with her hand, illuminating, for a brief time, the area in front of them with a warm, gentle light.

As it started to fade, Aiden asked, “Do you see that?

Niv indicated that she had seen it, as well.  They saw what looked like a figure moving through the brush on the other side of the road, but they couldn’t be sure.

Who is it?” Niv asked.

Aiden shook his head.  “I don’t know.  I thought I saw what looked like a man, but the shadows around those bushes could have easily played tricks on me.

“Wait,” Aiden said in a loud whisper.  He leaned down a bit to get a better view of the bushes, and then motioned for her to follow as he broke into a quick sprint.  Niv followed him until they reached the road, and saw the figure moving out of the bushes.

“Stop!” Aiden yelled, then started running as fast as he cloud.  Niv was surprised as to how fast Aiden was running, and tried her best to keep up.  She eventually fell behind again as he surged ahead.  Aiden pushed forward with an extra burst of speed and caught up with the running figure, pulling on their shoulders and causing the unknown person to stop.  Niv was tired from their intense sprint, and put her hands on her knees as she struggled to regain her breath.

“We’re not going to hurt you,” Aiden explained.  “But I need to know why you were sneaking around our campsite.”

The figure stood motionless for a moment as Aiden repeated his request.  They slowly turned around and faced them, remaining silent.

“It’s you!” Niv exclaimed.

“You know him?” Aiden asked in surprise.

Niv replied, “I do.  This man tried to steal the amulet before we got to Ashmar.”

Aiden’s tone and stance changed.  “I said I wasn’t going to hurt you, but if you have any plans to steal the amulet again, or of hurting Niv, that will change.”

The man’s eyes darted back and forth, for a moment, before Aiden added, “Don’t even think about running again.  You know I’ll catch you.”

The man sighed slightly and replied in a solemn voice, “I have failed.”

“Failed at what?” Aiden asked, in an exacerbated tone.

He took a detailed look at Niv and said, “I have failed.  That is all you need to know.”

Niv shook her head in frustration.  “I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I know someone who may.  Let’s get him back to camp, Aiden.”

“Agreed,” Aiden said, as he took a long dagger from the man’s belt.  Aiden then grabbed him by his arm and nodded towards the direction of the camp, pulling him along at first until he decided to move on his own.  Niv lead the way with Aiden following behind, holding the dagger at the ready as he watched him carefully.

As they neared camp, they saw Frasie headed their way, with her bow in her hand.

“I heard yelling. I was coming to see if you were alright,” Frasie said.  “Who is that?” she asked.

“A thief,” Aiden replied.

The three continued escorting him back to camp.  Farius, who was sitting by the fire, stood up as they approached.

“We found him in the woods.  He’s been spying on us,” Aiden said.

Farius took a few steps forward and studied the man carefully.  “He has been following you, for quite some time.”

“He tried to steal the amulet before we reached Ashmar,” Niv added.

“He won’t talk, other than to say that he has failed,” Aiden said.

Farius smiled a bit.  “He has failed.  I assume that Vorea sent you to steal the necklace?”

The thief stood motionless and stared into Farius’s eyes intently.

“What is your name?” Farius asked.


“I see, Perkins.  What will Vorea do to you when she finds out you have failed?” Farius replied.

“It will be the end of my career, I am certain.”

“Your career?” Niv asked.

Perkins turned to Niv and answered, in a matter of fact tone, “Yes, Niv’leana, it is how I make my living.”

“Some kind of living, stealing from others,” Niv remarked sarcastically.

Farius said, “Perkins, I am not interested in how you have managed to fail at your task.  What I am interested in is how you were to meet again with Vorea.  She is leagues away in Selandis.  By foot, your journey would easily take a month, maybe more.”

Perkins scoffed.  “Why should I tell you?”

“It is, of course, your choice,” Farius replied.  “But know this: we will be grateful for any information you can provide us about Vorea.  In exchange, we can extend the courtesy of protection from her wrath at your failure.”

Perkins shook his head slightly and bit his lip, as though holding back a response.

“We do not wish to harm you,” Niv added.  “In fact, since you have failed her, you could even say we’re on the same side.  There is every reason for us to help each other.”

Perkins laughed.  “You are under the impression that I need your assistance.”

“I see you do not know your client very well, “Aiden said.

Farius asked, “What is your choice?”

Perkins thought a moment, then started to reach for something in his pocket.  Aiden held the dagger up to him.

“I am not reaching for a weapon,” Perkins said, as he slowly removed a pouch from his pocket.  Once Aiden saw that it wasn’t a blade, he lowered the dagger slightly and allowed him to continue.

“What is that?” Niv asked as Perkins untied the small bag and opened it.

“My third option,” he said as he quickly reached into the pouch and pulled out some sort of dust.  He flung it into the air behind him, creating a fine mist of dust that seemed to defy gravity.  It hovered in the air, shimmering in the light from the campfire with a strange glow.

Farius yelled, “Get back!”

Niv, Frasie, and Aiden got back behind the campfire as the dust took on a dark shimmer.  It coalesced into a floating two-dimensional pool, creating a dark portal, similar to the one they saw at Grey Oak.

“Are you summoning Vorea?” Niv yelled over the growing sound coming from the dark vortex of energy.

“Yes,” Perkins said.  “Perhaps she will accept your heads instead of the amulet!”

Perkins turned around and watched as a visage of Vorea appeared from the portal, just as she had done in Grey Oak when she abducted Mae.  She appeared to hover above the ground with a dark thread of mist tying her to the center of the vortex.

“Why have you summoned me?  Is your task complete?” Vorea asked in a distorted voice.

Perkins hesitated.  “Not quite, but I have something better.  I present you the entire lot!”

Vorea’s image surveyed Niv, Aiden, and Farius, behind the campfire before replying, “You fool, I cannot take them with the power of the Amulet of Balance.  That is why I have employed your services.  You do not have the necklace, then?”

Perkins looked at Niv and then replied, “I had hoped bringing them all to you would have been better.”

Vorea hovered around for a moment, looking at the three, then noticed the proctor sleeping off to the side.  Vorea’s face remained expressionless as she resumed her gaze towards Perkins.

“You have failed to follow my instructions,” Vorea said in a stern voice.  After a moment, she added in a slightly humorous tone, “They caught you, didn’t they?”

Perkins remained silent.

“What have you done with my mother?” Niv asked in a defiant tone.

Vorea shifted her gaze to Niv and moved a bit closer to the fire to answer, “She has been an invaluable help, Niv’leana.  You should be proud.”

Farius replied.  “She would never help you.”

Vorea smiled.  “Willingly?  No.  But she has served her purpose.  I will soon be ready to use the Lens of Creation to create a more powerful amulet!”

“You cannot create the Lens of Creation, let alone another Amulet,” Farius said.  “You are insane.”

“Your wife had a similar sentiment, until she saw what I was doing with her own eyes.”

“Enough!” Niv insisted.  “Go back from the dark, evil place from which you came. Gather whatever magic you feel you need, because it won’t be long before we meet again.  The next time I see your face, I will put an end to your madness.”

Vorea laughed at Niv’s words.  Her cackle echoed strangely through the night air.

“My dear cousin, I see you have developed a sense of humor along the way.  Maybe your foolish, red-headed friend has taught you that.”

Niv felt anger surging within her, and she freely allowed it to collect, gathering with an unfettered intensity that rivaled the emotions she had felt after Vorea had taken her mother.  The anger crackled with energy as it built until a subtle glow of white with a shade of pink was emanating from her skin.  It swirled around her amulet, causing it to glow with a red hue.  She raised her hands and pointed them at Vorea, putting every ounce of effort she could assemble into a tremendous blast.

Most of the energy poured through Vorea’s visage, but some of it seemed to forcefully interact with her, causing a slightly worried expression on Vorea’s face.  As Niv continued her assault, Farius raised his hands and joined her, pulling essence from the fire and mingling it with a small vortex of dust and dried leaves, assembling it into a growing flaming tempest, and hurling it at her, pushing her back.  Vorea cried out when it hit her, and she struggled to regain her footing.

“You troublesome fools!  You’re not strong enough to stop me,” Vorea yelled as she raised her hands.  Dark energy emerged from her hands and flew over the campfire, knocking Farius and Niv to the ground.  Vorea took advantage of the situation and reached out to Perkins.

“You’re coming with me, you miserable failure!” Vorea said as she grasped Perkins by the neck with her hand.  He was lifted up by his feet and pulled into the portal with Vorea.  The portal swirled about violently until it collapsed into a single point, and some of the dust that Perkins had thrown into the air began to pour from it, glittering down to the ground as it caught light from the campfire.

Come back in 4-5 days to read the next chapter for FREE!  Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or subscribe to my newsletter to receive updates when new content is posted.

The Bravest of Souls – Chapter 40

You are reading the entire fortieth chapter of The Bravest of Souls. Subsequent chapters will be posted once every 4-5 days, so check back soon!

Want to start at the beginning?  See the table of contents.

Niv and her companions continued their journey to Lahara.  Fall was upon them, yet it already seemed like winter.   The rains that plagued them had given way to snow, which in some ways was easier to manage.  Niv would eagerly await snow when she lived back home, but she knew it would only make their travel that much more difficult.  Fortunately, the snow showers were lighter than the rains, so there wasn’t much accumulation, and it easily melted during the day.

Each time they stopped, Farius would survey the ground for herbs that would help the proctor’s infected wound.  Niv asked if she could assist him, and he welcomed the help.  He described the particular plants he was looking for in great detail, including leaf shapes and designs that the veins made in them.  He took what beneficial herbs and roots they could find and made a poultice, and placed it on her wound.

As they parted from the distant mountains that graced their eastern view, they made their way over various foothills that eventually flattened into the plains of Lahara.  As the plains encroached, the trees became less numerous.  In their place, smaller bushes and shrubs lined the road and dotted the landscape.  Some shrubs grew together to form clusters of thick overgrowth.

Niv missed the trees, having grown up in a forest.  The canopy they formed sheltered her from the elements and provided an intricate array of life on each branch.  Even before her mother had unsealed her powers, she felt the energy of the life around her in her favorite spot in the woods.  It was comfortable and familiar, offering solace when she was upset or concerned.  The lack of the forest and the trees’ energetic embrace made her feel more vulnerable.

She did enjoy the view of the open sky at night, when the weather allowed.  Aiden was quite versed in star lore, showing Niv the prominent stars and constellations and explaining the stories behind them.  Aiden and Niv became more creative in finding ways to spend time alone, but Aiden’s fear of Farius’s disapproval hung over them like a cloud.

One evening, the two went walking a ways from camp.  They had grown accustomed to doing this, talking along the way and discussing the stars and celestial objects they could see whenever the clouds cleared up enough.  The air at night had become very cold, and Niv’s traveling cloak wasn’t keeping its chill out as well as it once had.  They found an area where a slightly rocky incline cleared the dormant tall grass of the plains.  Her teeth were chattering, so Aiden took off his cloak and wrapped it around her, trying to warm her up.

Niv smiled and looked at Aiden.  “You’ll be cold now.  I want us both to be warm.”

“I’m more concerned that you are comfortable.”

Niv appreciated the gesture, but didn’t feel right having two cloaks around her.  She felt him shiver a bit through his tense muscles, but he did his best to avoid her noticing.

“Enough of this chivalry,” Niv protested as she stood up, took the cloak off, and wrapped it back around Aiden.

Aiden started to insist as he lunged forward to get up.  Niv pushed him back down, sitting on her crossed legs.

“I’m more concerned that you are comfortable,” Niv said coyly, putting her arm around his shoulder.

Aiden shook his head and smiled, realizing that any attempt to reverse the situation would be in vain.  He returned her embrace as the two resumed their gaze at the sky.

“Winter has come too early,” Aiden said.  “I’m sure you expected to be close to Selandis, by now.”

Niv took a deep breath.  “Mae said that we’d be there before the last harvest of fall.”

“I know you didn’t expect this detour, but we’ll get your mom back and stop Vorea.  You’re not alone Niv.  You have all of us,” Aiden said.

Niv turned towards Aiden.  “I need all of you.  I have never felt so alone.”

Aiden renewed his embrace of Niv, holding her as close as he could.

“My father said that our souls chose to be here before we were born into this world.  We choose our paths, and because so, already have the courage we need to live through the hardships we face to learn and grow as the spiritual beings that we are.”

Aiden thought about her words for a moment then replied, “That sounds reasonable.”

Niv was slightly surprised by his answer.  “Am I hearing that Aiden, the man of science, thinks that spirits and souls are reasonable?”

Aiden grinned.  “I can’t explain everything through science.  You can’t explain everything through spirituality.  I think we have a lot to learn from each other.”

Niv was delighted to hear his words.  She had thought that Aiden would be closed to such matters, having been so involved in his father’s mechanical and scientific work.

“I’m very pleased to hear that,” Niv said.  “Perhaps our respective areas of expertise will blend together well.”

“I miss you,” Niv whispered.

Aiden didn’t reply, but it was clear from his sigh that he knew what she was referring to.

“I miss the warmth of you next to me at night,” she added.

“I know, Niv.  I miss it as well.  I just don’t feel comfortable being that close to you, physically, with your father around.”

Niv turned her head back to the sky.  “I understand.  I don’t like it, but I do understand.”

Aiden reached out and put his hand on Niv’s chin, gently nudging her head back to meet his gaze.

“We’re alone now,” Aiden said softly.

Niv smiled and turned towards him.  “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

Niv stared into his eyes, feeling drawn to him more intensely than she had before.  He smiled at her and ran his fingers through her thick black hair, letting the strands move through his fingertips.  She tilted her head slightly to meet his touch.  His eyes softened as he leaned in to kiss her.   She enjoyed the feeling of his soft lips on hers, returning it with an intensifying passion.

After they kissed for a while, Aiden pulled his head back slightly and smiled.  It was the first time she had kissed a man before.  She had not expected the intense feelings she had and felt a bit embarrassed by them.  Niv took a deep breath and looked away for a moment to collect her thoughts.

“That was amazing,” Aiden said, staring into her eyes.

Niv smiled.  “Yes… it was.”

The two embraced each other as they returned their gaze to the beautiful starry sky.  Niv leaned her head over on his shoulder, then eventually let her head relax on his lap.  Aiden continued to run his fingers through her hair as she looked up at him.  She felt closer to him than she ever had before, relaxed in his strong yet gentle arms.  She gazed into his starlit eyes as she felt, if only for a moment, her anxiety and cares melted away.

After they spent more time stargazing, the two decided to make their way back.  As they walked, Niv reached for Aiden’s hand, taking it into hers as she grinned at him.  He returned her smile as his eyes softened in a lingering gaze.

As they neared camp, Niv started to pull her hand away from Aiden, fearing that he would not want her father seeing them together.  As she did, to her surprise, he pulled her hand back to him, renewing his grip as he told her, “It’s alright.  He will have to know, sooner or later.”

Niv was both impressed and delighted.  He gave her a small smile, confirming the sentiment.

Does that mean you will hold me as we sleep tonight?” Niv asked, wondering if the wishful tone came across with her words in his mind.  As soon as she thought it, she realized she was being impatient and putting Aiden in an awkward position.  She regretted asking almost immediately.

Aiden replied, “As much as I would love to, we’ll have to take one step at a time, with your father around.”

You’re right, of course.  Doesn’t mean I have to like it,” Niv lamented.

Aiden stopped, grasping both of Niv’s hands as he turned towards her.  He started speaking to her in a low voice not be overheard.

“You’re the first thought I have, in the morning, and the last as I fall asleep, each night.  When we can’t be together, we’re in each other’s thoughts.”

Niv smiled, slightly embarrassed.  She wasn’t used to feeling embarrassed, but she noticed that Aiden had managed to bring this about in her twice in one evening.

“I don’t know what to say, other than I feel the same way,” Niv replied, wishing the words came to her to say more.

Aiden hugged her, and the two proceeded back to the campfire.  Before they could take more than a few steps, Niv stopped in her tracks suddenly, asking in a whisper, “What was that?”

Aiden looked around and listened intensely, but didn’t notice anyting.

“I don’t,” Aiden replied before Niv interrupted, putting her finger over his mouth.  “I don’t hear anything,” she finished telepathically.

The two remained quiet, listening intently.

“There it is again.  Did you hear it?”

Aiden nodded. “I did.”

Come back in 4-5 days to read the next chapter for FREE!  Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or subscribe to my newsletter to receive updates when new content is posted.

The Bravest of Souls – Chapter 39

You are reading the entire thirty ninth chapter of The Bravest of Souls. Subsequent chapters will be posted once every 4-5 days, so check back soon!

Want to start at the beginning?  See the table of contents.

The gentle rain that had been steady, reliable company grew in intensity.  Niv and her traveling companions, with the exception of Farius, pulled their cloaks up and endured the damp weather.  Niv wondered why Farius didn’t pull his cloak over him, but then noticed that his cloak wasn’t made with a hood.  He sat in the rain and continued to look around at the scenery, gazing into the sky without an effort to keep dry.

Niv was concerned about the fever the proctor seemed to be developing.  Her healing magic wasn’t having any appreciable effect.  She remembered enough from the times that Cherin had tended to their scrapes and bruises to keep the wound clean and apply a poultice to it.  Despite her best efforts, she feared the fever would soon become a serious problem.  She slept most of the afternoon in ever-growing fits of restlessness.

Niv caught herself thinking of her mother, or more precisely, the mother she had grown up with.  The distinction was becoming blurred, and she didn’t know quite how to deal with it.  She loved her adopted mother quite dearly, but she was growing to love her birth mother just as much.  She knew both well enough to know that they would tell her that loving them both wasn’t betrayal.

As she watched Farius in the rain, she wondered if he had the ability to heal.  She sensed that he was a bit less approachable than Mae, but wasn’t sure exactly why.  She had a good relationship with Ren, but she more often than not took problems to Cherin.  She wondered if this wasn’t a continuation of that pattern, and decided to try to break it.

“Why do you not cover your head from the rain?” Niv asked.

Farius turned to Niv and replied, “It is simply water.  What is there to seek shelter from?”

“Do you not care about getting wet?”

Farius’ expression went from slight confusion to a thin smile.  “We have more water within us than is falling on both of us combined.  It seems of little benefit for me to avoid it.”

Niv tried to come up with a reasonable response to his answer, but couldn’t immediately do so.

Frasie turned towards the back of the wagon and said, in a matter of fact tone, “It will get in your ears.”

“I think my hair is long enough to prevent that,” Farius replied with a small smile.

Farius looked over at the proctor, ensuring that she was asleep.  She didn’t have a cloak, so Niv covered her with a blanket they had in the back of the wagon.

“Where are you from, Aiden?” Farius asked in a voice loud enough to project over the rain, but soft enough not to awaken the proctor.

“Ashmar,” Aiden replied.

“And what do you do in Ashmar?”

“I worked for my father.  He is a blacksmith, but if you ask him, he’s an inventor.”

“I see,” Farius replied.  His tone indicated he was going to ask another question, but he didn’t.

“We met him in Ashmar,” Niv said.  “He has become a good friend.  We would have been lost without his assistance.”

“I appreciate the assistance you have given to my daughter, so please do not infer anything that is not there in the question I will ask.  Why did you choose to come along with her on this journey?”

Aiden thought a brief moment, and then replied, “I am lucky to have a wonderful father and home life, but I wandered from job to job in Ashmar, looking for a sense of purpose, to find where I truly belonged.  I thoroughly enjoy working with metals and blacksmithing, but I longed for a sense of adventure that would be missing in a profession like that.  When your daughter came through town, I befriended her and her companions.  From there, I suppose got swept up along with it.  I’ve grown to care very deeply about them and consider them part of my family.  I simply can’t imagine being anywhere else.”

Farius nodded.  “Again, I am grateful beyond words.  I simply cannot express that enough.  I hope you did not mind me asking such a direct question.”

Aiden said, “I understand.  I would be very protective of my daughter, as well.”

Niv was touched at Aiden’s response.  She watched Farius’ face for a sign of approval.  She hadn’t known him a full day and yet cared a great deal about what he thought.  She noted the irony in how long it had taken her to warm to Mae’s company.  Perhaps, she thought, she had time to become accustomed to having a different father, unlike her experience with learning about Mae.

Along the trail, they crossed over a creek that came from the mountains.  The bridge that went over it was able to handle its swollen volume, unlike previous ones that they had encountered.  The rush of the water as it tumbled down from higher elevations reminded Niv of the flooded stream near her house, and ultimately of the terrible injury Jarris suffered.

“We should setup camp soon.  The night will soon be approaching and the proctor needs her rest,” Farius said.

“You know what she did, right?” Niv asked.

“I am aware,” Farius admitted.

“Sometimes I feel guilty for helping her, knowing what she has done,” said Niv with a hint of disgust.

“You do not have to feel guilty.  Anyone can be good; doing so when it is not convenient is what makes them extraordinary.”

“I don’t think any of us are her best friends,” Aiden said, “but we couldn’t just leave her to die.”

“I’ll try to heal her after we eat.  Perhaps I can make a bit more headway,” Niv said.

“You will not heal that wound with your magic,” Farius explained.  “She must resolve the issue herself.  We can only support her.”

Niv didn’t quite understand what Farius meant, but their conversation died down as the rain intensified.  It was so cold that she thought it had to be freezing, but none of it seemed to be accumulating.  Aiden pulled the wagon over to the side of the road after they had found a good spot, nestled in the evergreens that continued past the road up into the mountains.

The travelers set up camp, this time more quickly with an extra pair of hands to help.  They collected enough branches to form a reasonably small but suitable shelter.  Niv and Aiden moved the proctor inside and bundled her up in blankets to help keep her warm.  She didn’t stir too much while they moved her, which concerned them.

“You just have to see this, Farius,” Frasie said in her usually excited tone.  She pulled him away by the arm from sorting through the remaining provisions in the wagon.

Niv spotted this and smiled and spoke to Farius in her mind, “She loves to watch me start the fire.  I think she’d love it even more if you did it this time.”

“My powers are slightly different than yours, Niv’leana.  They are closely tied to the ground beneath our feet and the elements within it.  Fire is not amongst those, right now, but I can still be of assistance.  Create a small ember and I will do the rest.”

Niv closed her eyes and began to summon a small ember on the kindling.  As she did, Frasie tugged on Farius’ robe again and reminded him to watch closely.

Frasie saw the glowing ember in the fire and bent over slightly to inspect it.

“Come on, Niv, I know you can do better than that!” Frasie exclaimed.

Farius motioned for them to move back a bit.  As they did, Farius motioned with his hands towards the ground, and then slowly raised them up to the sky.  As he did, a few leaves that were around the campfire began to twist, as though being commanded to dance.  Dust began to spin, gently at first, and then building into a swirling tornado.  As it continued to build, sparks from the ember flew up into it, connecting with each other as they formed into a solid burst of fire.

As the flame continued to grow, its structure became more organized.  Individual sparks and embers merged into larger balls of fire.  The few leaves and dust that was caught in their wake ignited, as well.  Farius brought his arms down gently, and then the wind decreased until his hands were at his side again.  In the tornado’s wake, a steady warm fire remained.

Frasie looked at Farius in amazement, and then turned back to Niv, then back again at Farius.  She started to form words from her mouth, but seemed unable to string together anything coherent.

“You have made her speechless,” Niv said, grinning towards Frasie.  “It took me years to learn how to do that.”

Farius threw his head back and laughed.  Frasie gave a playful, scolding look to Niv and continued in helping to set up camp.  They leaned the proctor up against part of a tree stump where she could keep her arm elevated.  She woke up briefly to drink some of the soup that Niv made, but after finishing it, drifted back to sleep.  Niv felt Shareis’s forehead, fearing for the fever she had, hoping it would not get any higher.

After dinner, they closely gathered around the fire and talked with lowered voices, so as to not to disturb the proctor.  Frasie kept looking at Shareis, only tearing away her attention when her name was mentioned in conversation.

“I’m starting to feel sorry for Shareis,” Frasie said.  “Perhaps, even a bit guilty.”

“I am as well, and I don’t know what to make of that,” Niv added.

“There’s nothing different we could have done.  I think we can settle any doubts to the contrary by how well we’ve cared for her,” Aiden said.

“I didn’t plan on nearly killing her,” Frasie said, in a somewhat exacerbated tone.

“I did,” Niv added.  Farius looked at her a moment, in surprise.  He waited for her to add more, but sensed she didn’t want to.

Farius asked, “Niv, will you walk with me awhile?”

Niv nodded, and got up to go with Farius.

As they walked, he said, “The proctor’s magic is difficult to understand.  The balance they wield is delicate.  Proctors do not respond to healing like we do.”

“Why not?” Niv asked.

“It is like trying to balance something on the tip of your finger.  Each subtle correction you make sends it reeling in the other direction, and you only try that much harder to keep it steady.  Our method of healing upsets this balance, and her magic works against it.”

“I thought everything strives for balance naturally,” Niv said.

“The universe tends to balance on the whole, and it seeks that balance at every opportunity, but that does not mean that individuals naturally do.  The world would be a very dull place, indeed, if balance was the ultimate goal of everyone.  We chose to be here to grow, to experience what this life has to offer us, not to muddle in the boredom of an uneventful existence.”

“Chose to be here?” Niv asked, raising her eyebrow.

“I’m surprised your mother did not discuss this with you, though I suspect she had to focus on your abilities, first and foremost.  You see, we are simply a physical manifestation of our higher self, our soul, if you will.”

“She did explain that the soul, mind, and body were all separate,” Niv said.  “I can easily see how the soul and body are separate, but I still struggle with the distinction between the mind and the soul.”

“That’s perfectly understandable.  It is difficult, at first, to see the distinction.  Your body moves around this world and observes it, using its senses to tell your mind what it sees.  Your mind uses this information, learns from it, and makes decisions accordingly.  Your mind, however, is not your soul.  For many, direct interaction with the soul rarely happens.”

“How does one interact with their soul?”

“Your soul is the overseer of you, for lack of a better term.  Your body is controlled by your mind, and both are just a representation of you in this life.  Your spirit, or soul, guides your mind.  It lays out your path and gives you strength and inspiration, sometimes seemingly from nowhere.”

“How exactly does it lay out your path?”

Farius explained, “Before you were born, your soul chose to be here, at this time.  You have a specific purpose, even if that is not entirely clear to you right now.”

Niv thought about his words a moment.  The idea that she had chosen to be here was reasonable, but she would not have chosen some of the events in her life.  Nevertheless, she was experiencing the same feeling that she had when Mae explained things to her.  Farius’s words resonated with her easily, and she eagerly absorbed the information as though she had a thirst for it she wasn’t aware of.

“If we get to choose our own paths, then why is the world filled with such pain and loss?  Why would anyone choose that voluntarily?” Niv asked.

Farius smiled a bit and replied, “Only the bravest of souls choose to be here.  The ones who have the most courage pick the most difficult paths.  You do not learn by being comfortable.  You learn by enduring and overcoming a challenge.”

Niv tilted her head a bit, and then Farius added, “You are not the same person you were before your mother came, and you will not be the same when you have completed your task.  The destination is important, but what you learn along the way and the lives you touch are more so.   That is why it is vital, above all else, to follow your instincts and choose your own path.”

Niv smiled as Farius spoke, realizing the wisdom in his words.  She did, however, have a nagging question, “If I’m supposed to follow my own path, why did my mother come and change mine?”

“Given your amazing abilities, it is unlikely that you were meant to live out your life in the Jeweled Woods without using them to help others.”

“But there’s no way to be sure, is there?” Niv asked.

“Not entirely, no.  There are many things that come along and influence us, sometimes changing our lives dramatically.  You have to accept what feels right and resist what does not.  But I doubt you could have denied the urge to leave the woods and see the world.”

Niv replied, “I had always been drawn to leave.  I just couldn’t have how it would come to be until my mother arrived, asking me to come with her.”

“You see, sometimes our journeys involve cues from others,” Farius replied.

Farius put his arm around her shoulder.  Niv leaned against him, drawing comfort from his strength and confidence.

“If you believe in yourself and have faith in your intuition, it is difficult to fail,” Farius said.  “That is not to say you will not have challenging times ahead, but know that it is simply part of your journey.  When you are faced with a difficulty that you think is insurmountable, know that you chose it before you were born into this world, and you have the courage within you to see it through.”

Niv felt reassured and comforted by Farius’s words.  They walked a bit more and then she asked, “Why did Vorea choose the proctor to interrogate Mae?”

“I am not certain.  Perhaps Vorea promised her some reward.”

“I know I couldn’t have helped her, but I still feel guilty about it.  I would have given anything to have been able to stop the horrible pain she was enduring,” Niv said, in a somber tone.

“Place any blame you have for what happened to your mother on Vorea, not on yourself,” Farius said in a comforting tone.  “Proctors are known for their skills in sensing the truth.  For this reason they are usually considered excellent interrogators.  They can be quite ruthless.”

“Do you think she will recover?”

“Proctors are remarkably resilient.”

“Is there nothing we can do to help her?” Niv asked with a desperate expression on her face.

Farius thought a moment and said, “I might be able to help the fever somewhat with herbs, but the magical battle within must be won by her, and her alone.”

Niv stopped and looked at him.  “I’m so glad that you joined us.  I felt so alone after Mae was taken from us.”

Farius gave a reassuring smile and hugged Niv.  “I know, Niv’leana.  I understand if you resent me not being a part of your life.”

Niv shook her head, “I resented Mae for it, and it accomplished nothing, other than wasting what little time we had.  Once I understood the gravity of the sacrifice that she made, it became clear that she did what she thought was best.  Aiden also pointed out that I should be grateful to have two mothers.  He has spent the majority of his life without his mother.”

Farius replied, “I appreciate how you are handling this, though I am not completely sure I deserve it.”

“I felt a deep connection with the owl I saw in the woods, and when I look into your eyes, I see the same caring soul that risked everything to check in on me, who desperately wanted to be a part of my life.  Farius, you are the only one that can possibly help me understand who I am, what is going on inside me, and how I can control and work with this power I have.  Mae taught me so much, in the short time we had, and I had almost given up on the hope of having a guide again.  I have the advantage of having my father with me on the most frightening journey I’ve been on in my life.  Many are not so fortunate.”

Farius replied, “I cannot find the words to describe how I feel about what you have told me, other than to say what I have already said.  I am grateful, and delighted to be in the presence of my beautiful daughter, and you can count on me to help you through the trials to come.”

Niv smiled at Farius’s reply.  As they walked a bit further, she asked, “The friends of yours we are to find in Lahara, will they be able to help us?”

“I believe so, yes.  They have extensive influence in the Laharan province, and that will give us more power against Vorea.”

“It’s nice to know we aren’t alone,” Niv said.

Farius nodded.  “Let us go get some sleep.  We must make haste to Lahara.”

Farius and Niv walked back to camp, joining Aiden and Frasie who were still sitting and talking by the campfire.  As they prepared for bed, Niv noticed that Aiden’s bedroll was not as close to hers as it had been.  She suspected that the presence of Farius might affect their relationship.  While she understood Aiden’s reluctance to display affection towards her in front of her father, she didn’t like it.  She had grown to be accustomed to his arms around her, as she slept.  He told her goodnight in her mind, and she returned the same.  She turned away from him, holding her blanket close as she drifted off to sleep, comforted only by the sound of the cold rain hitting the shelter.

Come back in 4-5 days to read the next chapter for FREE!  Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or subscribe to my newsletter to receive updates when new content is posted.

The Bravest of Souls – Chapter 38

You are reading the entire thirty eighth chapter of The Bravest of Souls. Subsequent chapters will be posted once every 4-5 days, so check back soon!

Want to start at the beginning?  See the table of contents.

The owl, hovering above Niv and her companions, interrupted its graceful flight as it became filled with a terrible panic and sorrow.  His golden eyes blinked quickly, looking towards the east, beyond the mountain range.  He struggled to maintain his altitude as an abrupt sense of loss filled him, searing through his chest like an arrow.

He started his decent, barely dodging tree branches on his way.  He was too distraught to make his usual graceful, gentle glide down.  He decided that it would be best to reach the ground as quickly as possible, while remaining in one piece.  He descended just before the travelers, slowing his fall to a very brief hover in front of them.

Niv, hearing the commotion, turned towards the front of the wagon as Aiden pulled back on the reigns.   She stood up to see over the seat, barely maintaining her stature as the wagon came to an abrupt stop.  When she did, her mouth opened slightly in awe at what she saw.  She recognized the owl, the same owl she had seen so many times before.

The owl’s beautiful golden eyes started to glow even more than they usually did, intensifying with a vibrant amber hue.  A rustle of his feathers, subtle at first, seemed to be the catalyst of an all-consuming change over his entire body, starting at his feet and working upwards.  His graceful talons lunged downwards, reaching towards the ground as they expanded.  They grew larger until they reached the size of a man’s foot.  The wrinkles of the dark grey skin on his feet turned, seemingly without any considerable effort, into like that of a person.

When his feet hit the ground, a subtle explosion of energy rippled upwards through his body, shifting his form from the graceful owl he was moments ago.   As the magic worked its way through him, shadows shaped like that of feathers flew off of him, dissolving into thin air as they were projected outwards.  The sound of feathers rustling became more pronounced as the transformation moved throughout him, finishing with his head.  As he finished the change, the eyes lost their vibrant illumination, shifting in color towards a light brown.

Niv was astonished at what she had seen.  The transformation left all of the travelers speechless.  As Niv looked into the eyes of the man standing before them, she was reminded of their familiar golden glow.  She had seen these eyes many times throughout her life.  Its warm light signaled a calm yet powerful force within him.  As hard as it was for her to believe, that graceful owl was now standing in front of her as a man.

He looked at her with a warm, reassuring expression.  Even though the owl didn’t have the face of a person, Niv recognized it just the same.  It was filled with the same wisdom she observed in the owl that seemed to know no limit to its age.  He was quite tall and had a brown robe with broad shoulders and brown beads adorning the accents.   His straight brown hair came down a little past his shoulders.   As she studied his face more carefully, she noticed a tear forming in the corner of one of his eyes.  She sensed a stoic effort in him to keep her from a powerful emotion.

“Kanti,” he said in as calm a voice as he could manage.

Niv was startled at the mention of the name she was using to mislead the proctor.

“I know you,” Niv managed, not exactly sure what to say.  As she spoke, she continued to stare into his eyes.

“Indeed you do.  I am called Farius, and I have the privilege of being your father.”

Niv stood in stunned silence for a moment, and then eased back down in the wagon.  Farius walked around to the side, regaining eye contact with her.  Niv looked into his eyes again for a moment, not able to close her slightly open mouth.

“So you’re,” Niv began to ask, before Farius interrupted.

“I misspoke to a certain extent, Kanti.  I am your father by birth.  I would not presume to replace or compete with the man that raised you, with whom the respect I have knows no bounds.”

Niv was about to take in a breath to speak, but found herself not knowing what to say.  Farius continued to fill the void of conversation.

“Please do not misunderstand.  I consider you to be my daughter, in every possible sense of the word.”

Niv’s astonished look softened somewhat to a small smile.  It was a bit strange for her to hear him say that she was his daughter, but she recalled the grave mistake she had made with Mae in shunning her when the first met.  She had wasted so much of the precious time they had together before she was abducted and knew she couldn’t afford to make that mistake again.  Bolstered by the idea of family being with her again, she ran to him, hugging him with a tight and comforting embrace.  She took a moment, a bit less time than she would have preferred, to feel the gentle yet unmistakably powerful presence of the man who gave her life.

She looked up at him and said, in a voice filled with a sense of urgency, “You must know that your wife, my mother, is missing.  Vorea has abducted her.”

The forlorn look that Farius was doing his best to conceal cracked a bit more under the strain of Niv’s words.

“I know,” he said solemnly.

“We tried to prevent it, but Vorea was pulling her away from us with magic,” Niv added.

“I fear your mother is in grave danger now.  I am greatly concerned for her,” Farius said.

Aiden said, “We’re headed to Lahara on her instruction.  You’re more than welcome to come along.”

Frasie smiled and remarked, “He has already been traveling with us for quite some time.”

Farius looked up at Frasie, riding in the front of the wagon, and smiled slightly.  “Your friend has eyes that would make an eagle jealous.”

“You’re the owl that visited me, from time to time, in my favorite spot, aren’t you?” Niv asked.

“You were never out of my sight for long, my dear,” Farius replied.

Niv felt soothed by his words.  His voice was soft and warm in tone, yet firm and determined in spirit.  He walked around the back of the wagon and climbed in.  Every movement he made seemed carefully planned, as though the gracefulness of his owl form hadn’t left him.  As he climbed in, he noticed the proctor and fixated on her for a moment before sitting down next to Niv.

“I’m terribly sorry; I haven’t introduced you to everyone.  This is Aiden,” Niv said, pointing to him.

As Aiden turned around, Niv noticed he was straining hard to contain a bit of anxious energy.  Niv felt somewhat uncomfortable as she saw Farius studying him longer than usual before nodding.  “It is a pleasure to meet you.”

“Likewise,” Aiden managed.

“And this is my friend Frasie.”

“I can’t believe you can turn into an owl and fly.  Can you show me how you do that?” Frasie asked excitedly.

“You have been watching me fly, off and on, for quite some time with those wonderfully sharp eyes of yours,” Farius said with a smile.

“And then Shareis,” Niv said, motioning to the other side of her.

The proctor nodded her head in acknowledgement with a forced smile.  Farius returned the same as both remaining uncomfortably silent.  Aiden, after a brief moment of hesitation, signaled the horses to continue and the wagon started off again, headed north to Lahara.

As they left, Niv watched Farius as he looked around at the scenery.  She wondered if he shared her mother’s ability to exchange thoughts without words.  She remembered how frightened yet intrigued she was when she had discovered that Mae could project thoughts into her mind.  The cold, ringing, metallic sound that first wandered throughout the voices she heard eventually faded into the background.  She attributed the change to her growing abilities, but she couldn’t be sure.  The suspense of not knowing if he could speak to her telepathically became more than she could handle, so she decided to find out.

Can you hear me?”

Farius continued to look around at the scenery, but answered, “Indeed I can, Niv’leana.”

Niv smiled a bit at his response, delighted that she could talk to him in this manner.

How did you know the name I was using to deceive the proctor?”

As you may have surmised, by now, I have been observing and protecting you the best my abilities, since you were born.  I had urgent matters I needed to attend to that unfortunately have distracted me, in recent days, but my family’s safety is always on my mind.”

Niv was both surprised and soothed by his answer.

Have you been following us this whole time?

No, dear one, but I am aware of what has transpired recently.  I have been using my influence and diplomacy to help orchestrate the efforts of those who oppose Vorea.  Hopefully, they will com come to our aid and resist her tyranny.

Upon hearing his words, Niv realized, for the first time, that there were others on her side.  She had felt, despite the help of her friends and her mother, she was assisted by just a brave few.  Her mother had made her feel as though she had the strength and ability to complete her task.  With her gone, that support she depended on so strongly waned. The thought of an alliance forming in her favor was appealing.

To her surprise, the impression Farius had made on her in just a few moments had already left its mark.  She was comforted by his words and had a feeling that yet another major piece had fallen into place in the puzzle that was her life.

I’m delighted to hear that.  Vorea has been sending more and more people to stop us.  I don’t know how much longer our luck will prevail without Mae’s assistance.”

Niv’leana, you should know that your mother is helping us, even now, with methods that are beyond our realm of understanding.  She may not be present, but I know of no one that gracefully wields as much strength and determination.”

Farius looked at her and smiled.  Niv looked over at the proctor and noticed that the lull of the wagon had caused her to drift into a light sleep.

I misspoke, Niv’leana.  I do know of someone else with that quantity of strength, but unfortunately they do not quite see it in themselves yet.  She takes after her mother more than she knows.”

Niv smiled shyly, comforted by his faith in her, wishing she had as much faith in herself.

Come back in 4-5 days to read the next chapter for FREE!  Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or subscribe to my newsletter to receive updates when new content is posted.