I had searched the entire square for Odael and only ended up helping a few of the people in my path. Not even they had known where she was. I could only hope she had somehow escaped on her own.
There was nothing else to do but find the rest of my companions. Perhaps they'd had better luck.
I drew a guilty sigh. If I hadn't left her with that duke then maybe things would be different right now. I could've ensured her safety, maybe danced with her before the place went up in flames. But, I concluded, what had happened had happened. The only thing I had control over was what I did now.
I had just caught sight of Lace helping a man limp his way out of the flames when smoke covered my view and I heard a familiar voice. One that made my blood run cold.
"If I'm not mistaken, you're out to kill me too," he sighed in his old friendly tone. My shoulders slightly hunched and I screwed my eyes shut as if he were about to knock me upside the head with a book--the same way I had always done when I felt I had failed him.
"And to think I trusted you. To think that out of all the rangers I was teaching, I chose you to become my apprentice. To think--"
"I'm not out to kill you," I interrupted, barely glancing over my shoulder at him, "Just to stop you."
"From what?" he asked innocently, almost desperatly. He reached out and gently grabbed my shoulder, turning me to face him, "What have I done that has driven my most loyal of students against me?"
"That fire for starters," I muttered, pushing his hand off my shoulder, "You're ruining people's lives. And don't pretend that you're not because I saw the moonring. It left you. You're unworthy of it."
A shadow of anger flassed across his face but he soon regained his composure, "Yes, I'm afraid I am. But times are different now Jevin. You must understand that. Power no longer lies in the good. In fact, I've discovered it never has."
"Where did you get off?" I laughed mirthlessly. But he only continued as if I hadn't spoken, "I mean look at what has happened to our seemingly good empire. Or this celebration."
I was about to point out that he was responsible for both of those when he hit home: "Odael. Sure you were the first to answer her cry for help. You saved her from that man while buying supplies and you even went as far as risking your life to keep her from drowning. And for what? She tells you off and goes off with some fancy duke who does nothing but bat an eye at her."
The facts hit too hard for me to even wonder how he knew all this.
"You see, good never lasts," he was now slowly circling me, making sure I heard the message from every direction, "So what makes you think these companions will hold up? Once they find me they'll try and destory me. It won't matter what you say or do. And after that, Jevin? Where do you go after that--back to the forests?"
"Your point?" I growled.
"I'm giving you another chance," he grinned, holding out a hand, "for your sake, to be my apprentice. You would be a left-minded fool to decline. For I can grant you all the lasting power you could ever desire! And that's a whole lot more than those fools you call friends could promise."
"No!" I spat the absurd taste of the idea out, "I do not seek power."
His eyes narrowed and he drew his hand back, "Very well. Good luck chasing your little princess then."
"Where is she?" I growled, gripping him by the robes only for my hand to slip through its smokey substance.
"Ah so you may be up for another deal?"
"I didn't say that."
"I'll only tell you her location if you promise me something."
Odael. It didn't matter what Ukaor had said earlier, he'd missed all the good things she'd done--thing's my heart ached to see again. She had to have been the only thing going through my head for me to ask the question: "What?"
"This way," I muttered to everyone once we'd finally got Lace out from underneath the logs. Nothing but Odael and the way to get to her were in my mind that night, blocking everything else out whether I agreed with it or not.
"Lace is hurt," Alexican pointed out, "Can't we stop for the night?"
"And abandon one of our members? Of course not! Now come on."
"Jevin?" Rerin asked, placing a hand on my shoulder, "Are you alright?"
"I'm fine!" I snarled, shoving him back, "It's Odael we need to worry about--"
"Odael is not the only member of the group," Arien said sternly, "We are stopping for the night."
"But nothing Jevin," Alexican joined in, "Besides, it seems you probably need the most sleep out of all of us."