Before notes:

1. I had to do this chapter without a Beta Reader… so reviews are VEEEEERY helpful.

2. There is DawnShipping. If you for some reason greatly dislike that, skip the "Belinsk Inn, evening" part.

3. Like others, this chapter starts off slow, but builds up (the next chapter will start off "fast" though :) ).

CHAPTER 6: OATHS AND WILLS

~+.:.|:|:~~~~:|:|.:.+~

Tuaparang Airship

Myalkni watched as Arcanus closed the door and it latched shut.

Suddenly, what had just almost happened dawned upon him. The spirits, the candles… it was exactly how the stories described it… He had almost locked himself into an oath of the soul. He would have been bound for life. How had he missed it?

Myalkni was furious with himself. He had let Arcanus' silver tongue fool him; he had let down his guard. He had let Arcanus slowly wrap him with the soft silk of deceit, and before long he would have been trapped in a cocoon forever. He would have been Arcanus' slave for eternity.

The more he pondered it, the more questionable Arcanus' ideas seemed. Myalkni remembered how Ayuthay had fought for its freedom against Sana and Kaocho. The notion of giving up Ayuthay's sovereignty to some massive empire sickened him. And the notion that this empire would bring peace was also absurd to Myalkni- how many lives would be taken conquering the various nations? How many to keep them under control?

The logic was also self-defeating, Myalkni thought. If kings could be just as rotten as nobles, surely, emperors could be horrible too. Then, the whole realm would suffer, rather than just a couple lands.

Considering that this is the Tuaparang's plot, Myalkni thought, that mysterious High Empyror is probably supposed to rule it all. That's ridiculous. How can he claim to be the bringer of peace when he masterminded the Grave Eclipse?

Arcanus certainly seemed to buy into the idea. Myalkni wondered if perhaps Arcanus was planning to seize the imperial throne for himself. After all, Arcanus certainly did have a habit of double-crossing allies.

I don't know what role I'm supposed to play in this plot, but I want absolutely no part in it, resolved Myalkni, as he headed for the door.

Myalkni steeled himself. He needed to be sure to resist whatever trap Arcanus would pull this time...

-~:|~~|:-:|~~|:~-

Belinsk Castle

As per Sveta's decree, Tyrell left without resistance, despite the advisers' warnings.

For awhile, everyone in Sveta's chamber stared, shocked at how quickly the situation had changed. Sveta looked completely miserable, and Karis herself was horrified at how quickly a simple visit to Sveta had turned into a confrontation where Tyrell could easily have landed himself in Belinsk's jail. It was as if she had been walking on a pleasant familiar road and suddenly fell into a ditch that hadn't been there before.

"Is your brutish companion always so… hazardous?" one of the advisers asked Karis and Matthew.

Karis was stunned. True, she had always viewed Tyrell as a sort of loose cannon, but hearing him called "hazardous" made her feel almost defensive for him. He's a human being, not some toxic waste or rabid animal, she wanted to say. But she didn't, of course.

"Sure, he can be a bit brash," Matthew replied, "but he's not brutish. He has a good heart. We've all been through difficult times, and this is a tough situation. Please forgive him."

"Whether we forgive him is beside the point," spat an adviser darkly. "He has become a hazard, and we must pursue damage control… whatever that entails."

"Because of his brash and selfish actions… he is no longer our guest and we're not responsible for whatever happens to him," added another. And then, one by one, the advisors each made statements expressing in ever greater terms their frustration with Tyrell, and what a liability he had become.

"Everyone, please," cried Sveta. "Morgal owes Tyrell greatly, because he helped end the eclipse."

The advisors hung their heads apologetically, but Karis noted that some looked rather insincere in the act.

"And please, don't disparage him so. We all worked together as a group to end the eclipse, and Amiti was one of us too. I believe he is only trying to save a close friend, rather than just acting selfishly."

Karis silently thanked Sveta.

"Um… I'll go… try to talk some sense into him," Matthew said, managing a hopeful smile. "I'm sure I can get him to come around."

"Good luck," Karis called. This is why I like him, she thought. Matthew's sunny smile always brought light to any situation. It reminded her that it wasn't so bad, that any situation could improve.

Once Matthew was gone, though, that light left with him. In no time, Sveta's advisers were anxiously speculating the various ways Tyrell could exacerbate the situation further.

What if Alex captured him and made him another hostage- or an unknowing servant? What if the rebels captured him? Could he become involved in the fighting in the region?

Karis had a bold idea, but at first she was unsure. Well, she told herself, if I wait too long, I may lose my chance.

"Queen Sveta," called Karis, "may I have a private audience with you?"

Sveta quickly concurred, and dismissed all of her advisers.

-~:|~~|:-:|~~|:~-

Belinsk Inn, late afternoon

Tyrell had almost finished packing when he heard knocking on the door.

"Hello, Tyrell," Matthew said cheerfully.

"Hullo, Matthew…"

"Listen… I'm really sorry that-"

Tyrell cut him off. "No, no, Matthew. I'm really sorry, man. You don't have to be. I made a major disruption in the court because I lost my head. You don't have to tell me what I did wrong; I already know it. M'sorry for everything."

"So what are you going to do now?" Matthew asked.

"I'm going to rescue Amiti, of course."

Matthew sighed. "Aren't at least a little worried that you're walking into a trap?"

"'Doesn't bother me."

"Well, I always did admire your bravery," Matthew commented with a smile.

Tyrell smirked guiltily. "It always ends well, though."

"But I won't be accompanying you, if that's what you think," Matthew said.

"I never assumed you would," Tyrell replied. "I'd never make you. Why not, though?"

"I don't want more problems with the court and I don't want to make it worse for Sveta," Matthew explained.

And you don't want to anger Karis, thought Tyrell.

"Besides, it doesn't hurt to have us back here as backup, in case you need rescuing." Matthew added.

"Sure," Tyrell said, resuming packing.

"We kinda forgot about the whole Psynergy Vortexes issue, didn't we?" Tyrell mused, after a while.

"Yeah we did. We should bring that up next time we see Sveta."

"You will," Tyrell corrected. "I'll be gone. In fact, I'm about ready to go now."

"Tyrell… is there nothing I can say to make you at least wait a little?"

"Nothing. I'm not going to wait around while Amiti's imprisoned." Tyrell involuntarily rubbed the ring again.

"Well, good luck then… Is there anything at all I can do for you?"

"Whack up all those stuffy old farts Sveta spends her time with," Tyrell said flatly.

Both of them laughed.

-~:|~~|:-:|~~|:~-

Belinsk Castle

"Sveta, I am so sorry about all this trouble. You know how Tyrell can be sometimes. He always has to prove himself. Did I ever tell you about the Soarwing?"

"Yes, you have… I think its different, though. To me, he seemed somehow dominated by purpose, determined to rescue Amiti. He was afraid that if he cooperated, he would be hindered too much."

Karis opened her mouth to say that she knew Tyrell well enough, but stopped herself, suspecting that Sveta had read Tyrell's mind. "Well, whatever it is, I'm greatly sorry for the trouble it causes for you."

"Don't worry … I never liked politics. Morgal is already so tormented with crises left and right, it doesn't seem to make a difference any more," confided Sveta.

Somehow, that didn't make Karis feel better.

"I don't think Matthew will be able to persuade him… seeing how unwavering he was," Sveta worried.

"No, I don't think so either. That's why I need to talk to you..." Karis agreed, her voice trailing off at the end.

Sveta gazed patiently. Karis was going to give a leadup, but she figured Sveta was reading her mind anyways.

"I will go too," she stated.

Sveta didn't look the least surprised. I knew it, Karis thought. Sveta could have a bit more respect for privacy, but Karis supposed she'd never know the stress Sveta was under. Being able to read minds was probably immensely useful for a ruler.

"I know it increases the risk," Karis conceded, "but it will also tip the odds more in our favor. I'll do my best to keep Tyrell out of trouble."

"Well, I won't try to stop you. But I have four requests of you," Sveta said. "First, avoid getting involved with the separatists at all costs. Second, don't leave Morgal's borders in pursuit of Alex. Third, please don't let anyone know about this."

"Thank you. I won't, I promise," vowed Karis.

"And lastly," concluded Sveta with a slight smile, "don't forget to bid farewell to

Matthew."

-~:|~~|:-:|~~|:~-

Tuaparang Airship

Latakia leaned forward in a chair, with one leg folded over the other. She watched with interest as the door opened and Myalkni emerged.

What would he choose? Arcanus had predicted that his son would agree to the oath, but Latakia wasn't so sure. Arcanus was a master at words, but Myalkni seemed to be a very cynical person. She had seen how stubborn he was, how he insisted on questioning everything. Myalkni was one of those foolish people who held on to principles. He doesn't know how the world really is, not like I do. As soon as Arcanus' silver tongue stopped, he'd question everything Arcanus had said. He'd refuse. Latakia wasn't deceived either, of course, but that wouldn't make her refuse.

Latakia knew very well that Arcanus was an expert at manipulating others, but this time his plan seemed pretty faulty. She was sure it'd fail- and it was better for her that way. She grinned sheepishly.

She saw Myalkni gaze her way. Is he unable to bear looking at his father, she wondered, or are his eyes drawn to me? She smiled sweetly and cracked her knuckles loudly.

He quickly looked away. His right hand fell across his chest to twist the ends of his hairs on the left side. Yes, tug on that scalp. Look nervous; you should be.

Myalkni's eyes wandered back over to her. She cracked another knuckle, and his eyes darted back to Arcanus, before slowly returning to her. You're telling yourself you're only looking at the window next to me, aren't you?

"Hullo, Myalkni," she called.

"Hullo, Latak-ya…" he mumbled. His head turned to her, but now his eyes avoided her.

"Well," Arcanus said eagerly,"I will soon tell you how we will together go about salvaging this land… but first, you must swear your eternal fidelity to my objective. What is your decision? "

Latakia saw Arcanus silently clasp his hands behind his back. The room darkened. Ghost-borne candles materialized.

Myalkni turned abruptly back to Arcanus, still pulling at his hair. "I have thought about it…"

Latakia held her breath, worrying that her prediction was only wishful thinking.

"…and my answer is no."

I knew it, Latakia thought triumphantly.

"Then… Latakia, he is all yours," Arcanus said, somewhat dejectedly.

Myalkni twitched, alarmed.

"Don't worry, you won't be cooped up in your cell. You're going on a… trip, with your friend."

"Oh, I can't wait," Myalkni grumbled.

"What was that?" Arcanus demanded, seizing Myalkni's arm.

Latakia decided to rescue him. "Milord Arcanus, we are running a little late of schedule. I humbly request that we two prepare to depart now."

"Permission granted," said Arcanus, releasing Myalkni.

"Wait… where are we going," Myalkni asked.

"You'll see," Latakia replied, giving her knuckles another crack.

-~:|~~|:-:|~~|:~-

Belinsk Inn, evening

Karis burst through the door, panting.

"Hey Karis," Matthew called. "What did I miss in the palace?"

"It doesn't matter."

Matthew looked up, alarmed. "What's up?"

"Tyrell left already, didn't he?"

"Yeah, he did. I couldn't get him to stay," said Matthew.

"Then I'm going with him," declared Karis.

"What? Why?!" Matthew demanded.

"I need to keep him out of trouble. There're so many ways it can go wrong. With me there, he'll at least hear the voice of reason."

Matthew stared disbelievingly at her. "Wasn't this just what you feared though, getting sucked into a trap?"

Karis ignored him. "I've already got Sveta's permission."

"I'll go too, then," said Matthew, standing up.

"No, please, don't," Karis said, gesturing with her hands as if to push him back.

"Why not?" asked Matthew. He looked vaguely like an abandoned puppy. She'd been dreading this. If it weren't for Sveta, she might not have gotten herself to tell him, because she feared this exact situation. Please let this be over soon, she begged silently.

"Please, I don't want to have this discussion, Matthew. I need to go."

"Why won't you at least say why I can't go?" demanded Matthew.

"I didn't want it to be this way… I'm not pushing you away, I swear. I don't want to leave you. Please understand," pleaded Karis.

"We've gone through so much, together!" exclaimed Matthew, talking over her. "Why not now?!"

"Matthew, we can't all go!" Karis shouted. "If we all go, then there'll be an adept of each type within Alex's reach. It'll be just like before!"

"No it won't!" yelled Matthew. "We were stupid back then! But now, together, we can foil him, I'm sure!"

"Matthew, I love your optimism, but right now you're just being conceited!" shouted Karis. "I'm going, and you're not chasing me!"

Matthew recoiled, looking stung and hurt.

"Oh Matthew, please don't be like that!" she pleaded.

Before she knew it she had fallen into his arms. "It's really hard for me, too, you know. Everything's been so sudden…" she confided.

"I'm sorry…" she mumbled, realizing she was tearing up.

"It's okay…"

In spite of herself, she put her lips to his. For a while, she forgot her purpose, and lost herself in his embrace. It wasn't until she felt Matthew's hand sliding down her back that she released her hold.

"I… don't have enough time. Have I already lost the chance to catch Tyrell?"

Matthew sighed. "Don't worry. I know where he probably is. I know him well," he said, as he released her. "But before you go, I have something for you."

Matthew quickly returned, bearing the Echo Gem.

"Wh-where'd you get that," Karis asked, shocked.

"Hou Ju me gave the pair," Matthew replied. "This one is for you. I'll at least know where you are."

"I'll be back as soon as I can," swore Karis.

"We'll say… I'll come looking after a month or so?"

"That sounds good," agreed Karis. "Now, where can I find Tyrell?"

-~:|~~|:-:|~~|:~-

East Morgal countryside, evening

"So, Myalkni, what would you rather happen?" Latakia asked, after informing him of the conflict in eastern Morgal.

Myalkni had no idea why he was being asked this, but he knew better than trying lying. "Sveta'd better let the rebels have their own country."

"But I thought she was your friend."

"She is, but it doesn't change my viewpoint," asserted Myalkni. "She isn't responsible for this mess, her conceited brother was."

"But why do you think are the rebels justified?" Latakia inquired.

"Morgal's position is hypocritical. It wasn't long ago that they fought for their own independence from Sana, which was abusing them. Morgal itself abused its humans, and thus lost the right to rule their lands."

"So Morgal's reasons for its own secession from Sana were hypocritical and flawed?"

"No. Morgal wanted independence, and Sana was oppressing them… Since Morgallians didn't want to be ruled by Sana, it had no right to," Myalkni countered.

"So the violence against the Sanans living in Morgal doesn't bother you?" Latakia asked. "I'm just playing devil's advocate."

Yes, you certainly are a devil's advocate, Myalkni thought. "They shouldn't have done that, but the Sanans shouldn't have been colonizing them in the first place. You can't just invade foreign lands and then claim eternal ownership like Sana does."

"Interesting," Latakia said, clearly amused. She was looking at him like he was some adorably naïve child.

"It's completely logical," Myalkni argued defensively. "After all, when two children are fighting, the solution is always to separate them from each other… I hope that Sveta realizes Morgal would be better off letting the humans go."

Latakia looked even more amused. "None of this matters, it's all irrelevant to me. But I find it… quaint... that you are so passionate about this."

I wouldn't make you listen to this if I didn't think you'd whip me for lying, Myalkni protested silently. "If it doesn't matter, why ask?"

"Because, today, you will play a role in this story," answered Latakia, smirking.

"Soon," Latakia continued, "Queen Sveta will be informed of how murderous human rebels attacked a whole caravan of Morgal nomads to the ground. Yurts burnt to ashes, horses burnt to ashes, and Morgal citizens all burnt to ashes."

Myalkni was disturbed by how she seemed to relish this. "Why would the rebels do that? It'll destroy their image and the possibility of Sveta negotiating with them."

"You're a smart one," Latakia cooed. "Yes, it will. That's why it'll happen."

"But why would they do it?" Myalkni demanded.

"They won't be the ones who do it," Latakia replied.

Myalkni had a horrible suspicion. "Who'll do it, then?"

"Us."

-~:|~~|:-:|~~|:~-

Steakhouse restaurant on the edge of Belinsk, dusk

Karis looked in the window of the steakhouse, and sure enough, there was Tyrell. Surely, he was enjoying his fourth-or-so serving. Matthew sure does know Tyrell well, Karis thought.

She saw Tyrell look up from his steak and see her, suddenly looking dismayed. So you thought I'd let you escape, huh?

She gave the door a gentle knock and told the waiter that she was with another patron. She then promptly sat down across from Tyrell.

The waiter turned to Tyrell. "Perhaps you would like to order a serving for your sweetheart, young man?" he asked. Tyrell almost choked on his food.

Well, I guess I did make it look like that, Karis figured. "I'd like two ribs, please," she requested.

"Coming right up," said the waiter, who left immediately, without even looking at Tyrell, who was glaring at her.

"What the heck are y-"

She put her hand over his mouth. "Quiet, honey, or the Morgal army will chase us," she whispered.

That shut him up for a couple seconds.

"What are you doing here?" he whispered furiously.

"What do you think? I'm coming with you."

"Since when have we been married, and do you think I'll pay for this?" he hissed.

"I have money too," she said.

Tyrell sighed exasperatedly. "How did you know I was here?"

"You're very predictable. And that's why you need me to help you."

"…Fine. You can come, whatever," agreed Tyrell grudgingly. He knew he'd already lost the argument. "But you can't be a control freak. I don't have to do everything you say, got it?"

The waiter arrived with Karis' steak. "We're closing soon, so you'll need to pay right now," he told Tyrell.

Tyrell gave him a handful of coins and the waiter counted them.

"What about your wife's order? Geez, what kinda man are you?"

"Oh, sorry, I, uh… miscounted, I think," Tyrell apologized, shooting Karis a furious look.

"Well, pay up," the waiter commanded.

Tyrell gave him the coins, still glowering.

-~:|~~|:-:|~~|:~-

Valley side overlooking caravan resting site; west of Port Rago, dusk

Myalkni stood beside Latakia, on the side of a valley. It was fairly shallow valley, and he could hear the voices of people in the city. He was close enough to see the figures of people moving about as well.

He heard a mother calling for her children to stop running around outside; that they needed to come inside and get to bed. And like typical children, they weren't thrilled about bedtime and refused to come in. The mother had to chase them down.

Myalkni's stomach felt so empty he thought he'd deflate or something. How am I ever going to live with myself after I do this? He reminded himself that he had no choice.

Wait a minute… do I?

Myalkni looked around. There was a thick forest in which he could dispose of Latakia. Once he had finished her off, he could go back to the caravan and request their hospitality. Sometimes it could be quite convenient to be a prince.

After a while, Myalkni had his plan all thought out. He wouldn't repeat his mistake of hesitating again.

"Latakia," he whispered. "Look at that over there!"

No response.

"Latakia!" he hissed again.

Silence. She was staring into the empty sky above the town. She seemed to be either asleep or in a trance. Whatever it was, Myalkni wasn't going to lose his chance.

Gathering all the strength into the palm of his hand, he blasted Latakia with a jet of water. It twisted like a serpent as it rushed about her legs, shattering her balance. She cried out in shock and struggled, but Myalkni made sure the torrent continued to encircle her to prevent her escape.

He then froze the torrent into an array of sharp ice crystals. They all pointed in the circular direction of the current. Myalkni rotated their tips slightly inward.

If Latakia tried to escape, she would be stabbed. There wasn't enough ice for her to freeze to death, especially since the upper half of her body was above it. It was just enough to trap her for a time, until it melted. He'd have a good head start because she couldn't pursue him until then.

He knew Latakia couldn't call for help, because that would alert the Morgallians of her presence. Her whole plan to burn them all "to ashes" and have it blamed on the rebels would be over. But Myalkni also couldn't risk getting caught red-handed by felling her near the caravan.

"Latakia, remember the lake we passed on the way here?"

She nodded, clearly shaken.

"You can find me there," instructed Myalkni. Thankfully, they had followed a pretty clear path.

And with that, he ran into the forest as fast as he could, in the direction of the lake.

-~:|~~|:-:|~~|:~-

Next Chapter: Living Death

AUTHOR'S NOTES:

1. Nobody has looked at this yet but myself. So I'd really, really appreciate if you let me know how it was. Criticism is more than welcome, if it's constructive.

2. A yurt is a tent-like temporary shelter traditionally used by Central Asians. Since I interpret Morgal to have both Russian and Mongol aspects, a number of Morgal beastmen are traditionally nomadic, and use yurts, like Mongols.

3. There is a poll posted on the top of my profile: What type of adept do you think Latakia is/should be? If you're lazy, here's the url: /u/1681403/Yalens# (attach that to the fanfiction-dot-net url that I can't post). Please answer, it's easy.