Leon, the Mighty Gale Chapter 4
By Samara Secor
“What is he doing up there?” Raven asked.
Leon looked towards the staircase of the building they were in and said, “I think Ember said that he was going to come up with something that would prove whether Lady Filina was a liar or not. I can’t imagine what he’s got in mind.”
Arek came in the door and said, “Well, I’ve finally loaded the wee rascals onta me ship. As soon as I get back ta Riviera, I’ll tear a piece out o’ their father’s hide. Teaching his kids ta steal. They may do those things in Reza, but they sure aren’t goin’ ta happen in Riviera as long as I’m around. Has carrot-top come down yet?”
“Nope. We’re still waiting,” Leon replied.
Half an hour later, Ember came down the steps holding his hands behind his back. “Well, it was tough, but I finally came up with something that will do the trick. So what do you think of this?” he asked, dangling the newly repaired necklace from his fingertips.
“Wow, Ember, this looks fantastic!” Raven exclaimed as she saw the way the light danced off the stones. “They almost look like real diamonds.”
Ember’s face turned red and he said softly, “Uh... well.... They are real.”
Arek raised an eyebrow and asked, “Are they, now? Then, I’ll have ta revise my opinion of ya. There’s more ta ya than meets the eye.”
“Everyone has their own secrets,” Ember said. “However, I will say that diamond dealing is kind of a family tradition. Enough of this.... Let’s go pay our respects to Lady Filina now, shall we?”
Just before they entered Lady Filina’s audience chamber, Ember whispered, “Let me do the talking, alright?”
“Sure,” Leon agreed. “It’s your plan, after all.”
The woman on the chair before them was the classic blond-haired, blue eyed beauty and looked to be the kindest creature in the world. Despite all that, Leon felt distinctly uneasy. He tried to shake the feeling, but it just wouldn’t go away. He forced himself to concentrate on what Ember was saying, but he was having a hard time.
After bowing, Ember said, “My lady, we were unable to catch the thieves, but we did find this in the sewers. Is this what you were looking for?”
Ember held up the diamond necklace and Lady Filina gasped, “Oh! It looks as if you did find my necklace. Good gracious me..... Do you mind if I take a closer look at it to make sure it’s the right one?”
“Not at all. Feel free to check it,” Ember said as he handed it to her.
Lady Filina studied it for a moment and said, “No, I don’t believe this is my necklace at all, but I think I’ll keep it all the same.”
“What? Now, wait just a minute....” Ember started to say and then grunted as Leon pushed him aside.
The dagger that Lady Filina had intended for Ember struck Leon and opened a deep gash in his side. Instantly, Ember, Raven, and Arek reached for their weapons, but Lady Filina only laughed and said, “My, my. I guess it’s time for this little charade to end, isn’t it? A pity. I enjoyed masquerading as a nobleman among these stupid humans, but all good things must come to end. Especially when Althena has anything to do with it.”
The form of Lady Filina blurred and her features changed. Her hair darkened to a deep purple and her eyes turned a cat-like yellow. A pair of bat-wings sprouted out of her back, and a skin-tight garment the color of night took the place of the frilly dress. Ember hissed in recognition and moved in between the wounded Leon and her. “So, now you move to protect him after he’s already wounded, Emberallien Dallime’yre. How typical that the protectors of Althena are always too slow to do anything about a situation until it’s too late. Just like it was long ago with me,” the woman said bitterly.
“Ione....” Ember said.
“Don’t you dare ever call me by name again! You don’t deserve to,” Ione turned her back to them and said, “If you don’t want to be too late to prevent another tragedy, you’d better get this boy to a healer. He shouldn’t have to die because of your incompetence.”
Even as Ione said the last word, she vanished from sight. “What exactly is going on here?” Arek asked.
“There’s no time to explain. We’ve got to get Leon to a healer. If the wound is what I suspect, no ordinary herbalist will be able to do a thing. We’ve got to get to Althena’s Temple, fast!” Ember exclaimed.
“What about the guards on the gate?” Raven asked.
“If they refuse to open them, then I’ll rip them off their hinges,” Ember said, a wild gleam in his eyes. “No more questions. I’m taking Leon, now. With or without you.”
Luckily for the city’s defenses, Ember did not have to act on his threat. Word had already spread that Lady Filina’s necklace had been found. Ember wasn’t about to correct them.
As soon as Ember exited the city gates, he took off at run. Raven and Arek were hard pressed to keep up, even though Ember was burdened down by the weight of an extra person. Ione’s words weren’t completely without truth, and the knowledge burned at his soul. He ran faster, as if speed could put distance between him and the echoes of his past.
When they finally made it to the temple, Raven and Arek were about ready to drop from exhaustion. The priestess at the gate took in the situation with a glance and waved them through. Ember laid Leon down on the ground in front of Althena’s statue and turned to the head priestess and said, “We need all the healing power you can gather in one room, right now! His life depends on it!”
“I see,” the head priestess turned to her assistant and told him to gather all the priests and priestess together.
As each one came in, they added their voice to the growing chant. Eventually, the rush of priests and priestesses slowed down to a trickle and finally stopped altogether. Even with all of them, Leon’s condition did not seem to be improving and he let out a cry of pain.
The echo of Leon’s scream had not yet died when another person came in the door. He was dressed in an apprentice’s robe, and there was dirt on his fingers from where he’d been working in the temple’s garden. Without a word, he made his way up to the front and laid his hands on Leon’s forehead, dirt and all. “Oh, Althena, you who bring light to Lunar, grant us your power that we might purge the poison from this boy’s body and restore him to life!” the apprentice’s voice seemed to carry above the others even though he was barely speaking above a whisper.
As the apprentice finished his prayer a dazzling light filled the room, temporarily blinding everyone before dying down once more. When it faded, the wound had closed up and Leon was breathing easily. He opened his eyes to see the ring of concerned faces about him and said, “I just had the strangest dream... The last thing that I can remember was seeing that lady draw a dagger on you, Ember. What happened?”
“You took the dagger’s blow for me, and the blade was poisoned. You saved my life, Leon. I promise that one day, I’ll return the favor,” Ember said, taking one of Leon’s hands in his.
“Favor? You don’t owe me any favors. Anyone would have done the same,” Leon said, groaning as he struggled to his feet. “Now, I’d better be continuing on to Vane. The sooner I pass the trial, the sooner Uncle Arek can get back to his ship.”
“Oh, no you don’t, lad,” Arek said. “No one’s going anywhere today. Yer too weak ta handle that without a bit o’ rest, first. We’ll leave in the morning. That is, if it’s okay with the clergy, here.”
“Althena’s doors are always open to travelers,” the head priestess replied. “We’d be happy to have you here. Chris, why don’t you show them to the guest rooms?”
“Yes, ma’am,” the apprentice said. “If you would please come this way.”
“Oh, and Chris, one more thing. Wash your hands. They’re filthy,” the head priestess reprimanded.
Chris’ face flushed and he mumbled another, ‘Yes, ma’am.’ before retreating out of the main sanctuary.
To Chapter 5