Leon, the Mighty Gale Chapter 10
Splitting of Ways
By Samara Secor
After the majority of the students had left, Raven, Chris, Leon, Vair, Pyra, Arek, and Ember remained behind with Lark. Lark ran a hand through his hair and sighed, “Leon, normally I’d launch into some big speech about how great and wonderful it is to have you join the guild... not that it isn’t, but, considering the circumstances, I think we can all agree that we’ve got better things to do with our time right now. Vair can get you settled in and make sure you get to classes on time. Is that all right with you?”
Lark barely waited for Leon’s nod of acknowledgment before turning to Arek. “Captain, I understand that you’ve got to get back to Riviera, so I’ll make this brief. When you’re done there, I’d really appreciate it if you could take me over to the White Dragon’s Cave so that I can check up on her. ‘Course, if you agree to that I’ll have to come with you to Riviera. I hope you don’t mind having another seasick Ausa on board your ship,” he said, laughing nervously.
“Now, wait just a minute!” Ember crossed his arms. “You can’t go skipping out on Vane! Who’s going to take care of guild business, watch over the defenses...”
Lark interrupted Ember’s tirade, “I thought that would be perfectly obvious. Raven is... with your expert help, of course. You are up to it, aren’t you?”
Ember muttered something unintelligible and stalked away angrily. “Hey, Ember! Ember, don’t do anything rash, okay?” Lark called out and winced, “I didn’t expect him to take it so hard... He must still be smarting from getting his head cracked open.”
Chris frowned, “He shouldn’t be feeling any pain. I’m positive that I got the words right.”
“Ah, it’s no flaw with yer healin’, lad. I may be wrong, but I think that he’s sufferin’ from a huge case of bruised ego. He doesn’t seem the type ta enjoy standin’ aside when there’s work ta be done,” Arek said and, after a moment, added, “He’s probably not used ta anyone gettin’ the upper hand on him, either, if the way he dispatched those monsters back in Meribia is any indication of how he normally fights.”
“It’s true that I’ve never seen Ember lose, but he isn’t unstoppable, and he knows it. He may be steaming now, but he’ll get over it when reason sets in,” Lark turned to Chris and said, “Well, that takes care of everybody except you and Pyra. Pyra’s pretty much stuck here until the shield’s found, but you, my friend, are another story all together. You can’t stay here ‘cause the little wing stealer could show up at any time. If he doesn’t find you here, the first place he’ll look is the temple, so that’s out, too. Is there any place else that you know of that you might be able to go for a while? With family, maybe?”
Chris shook his head, “The only family I ever had was my mother, and she’s dead. I don’t really have any place to go.”
“You could stay in Riviera at my house,” Leon cleared his throat and continued, “I’ve got to warn you, though. You’ll be dealing with my older and younger sisters, a diet consisting mainly of fish, and a house full of cats.”
“I can handle fish, and I like cats,” Chris looked at Leon skeptically. “Are your sisters really that bad?”
“It seems like it, but they’ll probably be nicer to you since you aren’t me. Sometimes, I get the impression that they think it’s their divine mission in life to cause me grief,” Leon grinned. “That’s one advantage of coming here to learn. I don’t have to put up with them anymore.”
“Well, how about it? Do you think we can squeeze Chris in, captain?” Lark asked.
“I think I can manage that, but we’d best leave as early as we can, preferably before dawn to avoid any watchers,” Arek cautioned.
“Which means, of course, that I’ve got to get my two picks for the Red Shield Rescue team done fast if I want to have any time for packing,” Lark grimaced and asked, “Raven, I don’t suppose that you or Vair have any idea who I should send, do you?”
“Well, I guess that I’d send Serena. She’s quite formidable when it comes to lightning and status magic. Also, since her people haven’t been involved in any direct conflict with the magic folk, there shouldn’t be any friction between her and Master Zarien’s two choices, whomever they may be,” Vair replied.
“Yes, infighting certainly won’t help our mission any,” Lark said, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. “I think I’ll take your advice, Vair. Raven, who would you recommend?”
“Actually, I think you should let Ember choose,” Raven said. “It might make him feel a little better about getting left behind if he has some input as to who goes.”
‘I’m almost afraid to ask just who he’d pick,’ Lark thought, then said aloud, “If it will make him get out of his sulking fit sooner, I’ll do that.”
Lark found Ember lying on one side in the grass mere inches from the edge of Vane that faced the Goddess Tower. “You know, there are a lot of safer places around here to get some peace and quiet,” Lark said.
“But none of them have this view,” Ember protested, then, looking up at Lark, he frowned, “What do you want? I need some time to think, so if it’s not important, just go away.”
“It is if you want the Red Dragon Shield to be in good hands,” Lark sat down in the grass beside Ember and said, “I’ve already decided to send Serena... that’s one of my students skilled in lightning/status magic. As for the other person who will go, it’s up to you.”
“Up to me? You’re letting me choose?” Ember raised an eyebrow. “This is no joke, right?”
“It’s no joke,” Lark affirmed.
“Then, I can pick anyone I want,” Ember smiled. “I’ve got just the person for the job... if I can get Althena’s permission, that is.”
“Althena’s permission?” Lark glanced nervously towards the tower and asked slowly, “Is there some, ah, dire reason why you need her to okay things? Is this person some kind of criminal?”
“Well, not exactly,” Ember said, his smile getting wider. “However, she is, as the people of the Blue Star used to say, ‘under house arrest’. In other words, she’s not allowed to leave the tower without Althena’s express permission.”
“Ember, who is she?” Lark asked.
“You said I could choose whomever I wanted to,” Ember reminded.
“Yes, I did, and you still can,” Lark growled, exasperated. “It’s just that I am entrusted with Vane’s welfare, and I’d like to be aware of any possible threats to it, okay? Just tell me already!”
“...Fine. I’ll tell you,” Ember sat up and eyed Lark warily. “But she’s not a threat to Vane, so keep what I tell you to yourself, okay?”
At Lark’s nod, Ember continued, “Her name is Marina, which, I know, means nothing to you. She came from the Blue Star with Althena and the first four dragons. The reason why I know she won’t do anything to Vane is because she helped build it and its defense system. Also, there’s one more thing to recommend her. Do you remember reading in your history books about that wave of sickness that wiped out all of the dragons except for Marius?”
“How could I forget? My family earned its prominence by defending Lunar and protecting Marius during that time.”
“Now, take a wild guess. Who do you think might have had to raise three unruly dragons from infancy to maturity all by herself, hmm?”
“So, you’re saying that she raised you?”
“Not just me. Aerie and Granite, too.”
“Man... She must be as old as the hills.”
“Older, Lark. Those hills are post Landing Day, remember?” Ember looked at Lark’s skeptical expression and said, “I know what you’re thinking. She’s way too old. Well, think again. She’s like Althena. She doesn’t age.”
“Ember, are you implying that she’s a goddess?”
“If you consider Althena one, then... yes. But don’t mention the ‘g’ word around Marina, okay? In fact, don’t give her any more respect or awe than you would any other skilled magician or swordsman with a lot of experience behind them. She’s acutely uncomfortable, some might say angry, with the pedestal treatment. There must be a reason, but she hasn’t told me what it is,” Ember smile got even wider and he asked, “So, what do you think, old buddy? Shall I go and beg an audience with Althena?”
“Sure, Ember, but wait until after dark. There’s no sense in letting everybody else in Vane know that you and the Red Dragon are one and the same.”
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