Chapter Three: The Dreamweaver's Voice
"Companion Reivan, Second Voice Imenja requests your presence in the council room."
"Thank you. I will be there shortly."
Reivan nodded at the servant-boy, and then started to gather the papers strewn all over her desk. It had been months since the army had returned to Southern Ithania, tired and bewildered; and still most of the people were lingering in a state of confusion. Rumors had flown across the land like a summer fever, and wild theories had arisen, but the Voices had yet to announce anything definite to their people.
These days, Reivan would be lucky to speak with Imenja in private once a day. The Voices frequently had hushed meetings amongst themselves behind closed doors and none of them had confided in their Companions thus far. Reivan and the other Companions had been given smaller duties to complete, though similar to those she had before the war—Reivan still arranged Imenja's daily schedule - but she was now required to leave a slot empty for the Voices' private discussions; she still gave her opinion and judgment on issues Imenja highlighted to her; she still completed most of the tiring administrative work due her station, but life was much less interesting with Imenja's absence.
Reivan realized that she missed the older woman. Imenja had been her only friend in the Sanctuary. Her heels clacked loudly as she strode towards the Voices' private meeting room. Questions upon questions whirled in her mind, fueled by her Thinker's curiosity.
Reivan stepped into the council room, mouth opening to form a greeting, and then she stiffened. All four Voices were seated, and their Companions stood quietly next to them. Reivan hastened to take her place at Imenja's side.
'This feels…momentous,' Reivan thought. There was something in the way the Voices were holding themselves that seemed off. 'It is as if they are frightened—but of what?'
"My fellow Voices and Companions," Imenja spoke, her tone grave. "Thank you for your swift response to my call. There is a rather urgent matter to be dealt with."
The Second Voice leaned forward, deadly serious. "Before we begin, I must apologize on behalf of all the Voices to you all, Companions, for I know that we have been trying your patience very much of late. Still, once you hear what I have to say, I doubt you'd object."
All the Companions shook their heads, murmuring that it had been nothing and it was still an honor to serve their Voices in any way possible.
Imenja nodded, and then seemed to steel herself.
"Mirar paid me a visit last night."
"What?" Shar exclaimed, and Reivan realized that Imenja had yet to tell anyone—not even her fellow Voices—of her unexpected visitor.
"How did he bypass our security, our Servants?" Vervel snarled.
"He's a Wild," Genza retorted. She seemed to have taken this news quite calmly. "I bet he can slip through all our security without breaking a sweat."
The Companions were mostly silent, still absorbing the information. The Voices continued to argue until Imenja raised her hands and asked for silence.
"I will explain all to you," she said, "and there is no cause for worry. Mirar did not come with the intent of murder, kidnap or any kind of harm. He merely wished to explain how our current…situation came about, and to ask—no, to request—that we leave the Wilds and the Dreamweavers alone."
"He wishes us to let the murderers of our gods go free?" Vervel snarled again. "The bastard!"
"Peace, fifth Voice," Imenja said, "Let me tell you what Mirar has to say."
"How do we know that he tells the truth?" Genza asked. "How can we believe the lies of Wilds?"
Imenja's eyes hardened. "There is no way to offer you proof, for though I have retained my mind-reading Gift, Mirar's mind is shielded. We can only hope it is the truth, for I do not believe that he would risk life and limb to enter the Sanctuary merely to spin a fanciful yarn."
"He could," Takun, Shar's Companion, muttered under his breath, "He's been of two minds for the past hundred years. He could have gone mad."
"If he did, he concealed his madness very well last night," Imenja said. Her voice grew businesslike. "Now, if you all are done squabbling, I will tell you Mirar's words—"
For the next half an hour, Reivan sat in stunned disbelief as Imenja proceeded to tell Mirar's tale. She told of how she had woken to see Mirar lounging against her door, of how completely unperturbed he was by the defensive shield she drew up at the sight of him, or the pulse of energy that she gathered in the palm of her hand. He had made no threats, but very quietly asked her to remain silent. Fearing for her life, Imenja had acquiesced. And then he had found a chair, sat down and started to tell her—in a deceptively casual voice—of the gods' treachery.
"I objected," Imenja said, remembering. "But he overrode me each time, and always there was more 'proof' to be shown. I could not believe it of our gods."
Mirar had told Imenja of Emerahl's quest for the Scroll of the Gods, of the secrets Sorli's priest had engraved on the diamond, and of Auraya's terrible discovery that the gods merely played mortals as a game—though the Dreamweaver had tactfully avoided mentioning names, merely referring to Emerahl and Auraya as 'friends'. He had closed his speech with an ominous warning—if the Voices sent Servants after the Wilds, they will not be shown mercy.
"That was a direct threat, Second Voice," Reivan found herself saying. "Surely, if we catch a Wild alone, several of our strongest Servants can overpower him or her."
Imenja and the other Voices shared a glance. Genza spoke up, addressing Reivan, but her remark was directed at everyone in the council room. "I have no reason to doubt that Mirar's threat is anything but idle. We do not know the true strength of these Wilds—we do not even know all their identities! We don't have a hope of beating them. What will it do, anyway? Killing these Wilds won't bring the gods back. We only lose our best Servants trying." she concluded bitterly.
"But it will bring justice," Vervel rumbled. Shar nodded in agreement.
"At what cost?" Imenja interjected.
Genza inclined her head, in favor with Imenja. "Our people need us."
"So we allow the White to run off hunting Wilds, while we sit here watching? I will not suffer this!" Shar exclaimed.
Imenja's brows came together. "I forgot to mention—Mirar says that the White have already been contacted, and given the same information as us. What they made of it, Mirar refused to say, but I do not think that they will ignore the Wilds' warning so easily."
"Why so?" Genza asked.
Imenja's lips curled into the smallest of smiles. "Juran of the White will not so easily forget that the enemy he thought he killed came back to haunt him after a hundred years."
The other Voices echoed their assent, and after another half an hour debating the best course of action, they agreed that they should follow Mirar's orders—for now.
"If any new developments arise, we will rethink our plans. That will be all. Thank you," Imenja declared her dismissal clear. Slowly, everyone filed out of the council room, leaving Imenja and Reivan alone.
Imenja seemed content to sit back in her chair and meditate in silence, but Reivan shifted uncomfortably, and asked, "Second Voice, when will we be electing a new First Voice?"
Imenja turned to look at Reivan. Her answer came slowly, "I doubt we will find a candidate strong enough to replace Nekaun. We Voices are considering breaking with tradition and moving up the ranks—that is to say, I will take up the position of First Voice; Shar will become Second Voice, and so on. It will be easier to find a Servant that can fit the position of Fifth Voice than the first."
"When will that happen?"
"If it will ever happen, that is." Imenja chuckled, "The idea is still relatively new, and we have yet to work out the finer details. I am sorry that you have been kept away, Reivan, but some discussions are best kept quiet."
Reivan sensed that it was as close to the truth as Imenja could afford. "I understand. But what I don't get is why you are all agreeing to submit to Mirar's threat. There can't be that many Wilds and they can't all be that strong. If we catch them off-guard, we can still overwhelm them."
Imenja sighed. "I will not risk the wrath of Mirar and his Wild friends, Reivan. You cannot know—you cannot sense his power—but Mirar and Auraya's Gifts are extraordinary. I daresay that Wilds should all be powerful; they cannot be immortal otherwise. As Genza said, hunting the Wilds will not bring the gods back."
"But we must do something."
Imenja's lips curled into a smile. "We will. The Voices are intent on helping our people recover from the recent warring, and that is as good a cause as any. For now, let us leave the Wilds be."
Reivan sighed—she knew defeat when she saw it. "Very well, Second Voice."
"Good. Now tell me, what do I have on my schedule today?"
Auraya felt trepidation rise in her as she neared her destination. The greenery underneath her rushed by as she flew with tremendous speed. The mountains of Si loomed in the distance. It would be another couple of hours before she reached the Siyee's homeland, but she was close.
Auraya had parted ways with Emerahl two days ago, and now she greatly missed the older woman's presence. Emerahl was often snappy and irritable, but she was one of Auraya's only allies in the entirety of the land.
The former White thought back to Juran's reaction at the news of the betrayal of his beloved gods. 'He took it much better than I expected he would,' she mused. She had thought that Juran would question them endlessly, would attempt to fight back, or would call for his fellow White to take the pair of Wilds down. She had prepared for every eventuality save his acceptance. It threw her off balance. 'Which might have been his intention.'
Emerahl had indicated likewise, but Auraya knew Juran, had worked with him personally, and he was not that kind of man. Auraya frowned as she contemplated it further. 'It does seem odd, now that I think about it. Juran does not enjoy violence, but neither does he give so easily. Surely my memories did not affect him so much?'
Auraya saw the Open loom up in front of her, and decided to push all thoughts of Juran aside. He was no longer her worry. Now, she faced the greater challenge of convincing the Siyee of her good intentions.
She flew on.
Dyara paced the Altar as Juran watched her, his face set into what he hoped was his usual calm expression. He had not been sleeping well since Auraya and the Hag's midnight visit, and he knew that his fellow White had noticed the shadows under his eyes and the stiffness with which he addressed them.
Dyara appeared agitated. Mairae, Rian and Ellareen had not been invited to this council—it was simply a few issues Dyara wanted to highlight to him, and nothing that required the presence of the other three White. The Altar's closed walls ensured their privacy.
The woman whipped about to face him, her circ flaring. "What has happened, Juran?" she demanded.
Juran eyed Dyara, pretending to appear puzzled. "I beg your pardon?"
"You know what!" Dyara's eyes flashed; Juran fancied that he saw storms brewing in their grey depths. "You contacted me six nights ago to tell me to be on my guard, and never said anything afterwards. Do you know how long I waited and worried? And do not think that your behavior this past week has gone unnoticed! You have been forgetting small issues, avoiding the rest of the White, spending most of the day pacing in your room. What has happened?" Her voice gentled. "Are you ill, Juran? If so, you have no need to hide it. I know of priests that can examine and treat you discreetly, and you know that the rest of us can manage Northern Ithania's affairs just fine for a while. We can—"
"No, Dyara, I am not ill." Juran interrupted wearily. "I just had a lot on my mind of late, what with the uproar across all the lands and our worry about the Wilds." It was too easy to fake haggardness.
The woman peered at him. She seemed to be weighing his words for a few moments. "Are you certain? Do not overwork yourself, Juran. Ithania has need of you yet."
Juran felt his heart warm. "I thank you for your concern, Dyara. However, I assure you that I am quite well. You must look after yourself as well."
Dyara smiled slightly then, humor in her eyes. She glanced about, and then shrugged. "That was all I wanted to speak with you about," she admitted awkwardly, "I have a missive or two from Dunway as well, but they are not of great importance."
Juran returned the smile. "Then I will see you later, Dyara. Good day to you."
Dyara nodded, and the walls of the Altar folded down. The woman descended the steps and begun to make her way towards the cage. She paused halfway, and then looked back at Juran. "I'm not letting this go so easily, Juran. You better have an answer for me soon." And then she walked off, her stride confident and unfaltering.
Juran watched her go, his heart warm. Someday, he decided, I will tell her the truth.
End of Chapter Three: The Dreamweaver's Voice.
I am so very sorry for the terrible delay in updating, but real life is very stressful right now and doesn't look like letting up anytime soon, so I'm afraid updates will come only once every few months. *goes to hide in a corner*
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Until the next (hopefully soon) update,