Chapter Two

Chapter Two

The forest surrounding the Realm held its secrets within the branches of the tall trees and green leaves, holding onto what had come before. It served as a natural barrier to the outside world that surrounded the think brush of trees and bushes, offering a protection that not even a hundred soldiers could offer. The trees acted like a maze of patterns that could not be duplicated in any natural or being-created maze, warding off most would-be attacks in the large woods. Between each wall to the temple grounds and the outskirts of the forest, three miles exactly from all directions held the first barrier to the Sage. Many would get lost between these threes if they did not know their way or were without a decent compass with them; even that small device sometimes did not work properly in the wood.

Those that knew their way around kept the secrets to the Realm and guarded the edges of the forest carefully with their lives. Even in weather such as this, rain coming down from the heavens and the rolling thunder answering the call of lightning, there were pairs of eyes that watches. They remained quiet for the time being, holding still in the trees and letting the wind take their information all over the forest and perhaps even beyond the barrier of bark and branch. They trust the wind to hold tight to what the forest knew, a trust that would not be easily broken even with the darkest taint at the doorstep of the temple.

The creatures of the forest were in their homes or had found little notches of dry patches, coming out of the rain but still maintaining an eye out in the open. Rabbits poked their noses and ears out of their holes every five rolls of thunder, sniffing the air and listening to the wind as it howled past before they darted back into their burrow to tell of what was to come; if they understood the charge of wind. Deer kept quiet underneath bushes and deer-created tents made out of fallen timber and branches, keen on letting the storms pass without bothering to watch the forest for one night. Snakes slithered underneath the leaves as they moved along the forest floor, a forked tongue twitching out of their hiding spots long enough to get several drops of water before moving on. While they did not understand the silence of the rain, they knew something was going on and it was worth the storm's brewing. They would allow those that understood the weather to let them do their duties while they did theirs.

The ears of the wind listened to what entered and exited the forest through the Realm, a soft smile coming upon her lips. She sat upon a branch of a large tree, back firmly pressed against the trunk and legs dangling on either side of the branch in which she sat upon. She was in plain view of any wildlife creature that bothered to come out in such rain or outside being, in a position to hear to the wind properly. The rain she ignored, the water soaking her already baggy clothing and her short, white hair; she had no use in what the water told her. The storm did not seem to bother her to any certain extent but she wished it would pass soon. The splashing of water made it harder for her to listen to the sounds of the wind.

She hadn't been sitting there long, two hours at the most and had spent an hour before that looking for the right tree to climb up. There had been a brief period where there had been no rain to bother her and the wind had been almost too quiet for her to listen to, something that did not bother her so much at this stage. It gave her a chance to play with a pile of leaves below the tree with the weaving of air and wind, laughter echoing across the tree trunks. It was boredom that made her laugh and play with the leaves; until she got bored of what she doing then she would leave the branch and go to her duties.

"Well, Calso? What's going on?" A cold voice asked from the ground below. She shook her head at nothing, tilting her head downward to see another woman standing there and watching her like a hawk watching a mouse. The woman below hand her hands on her hips and deep blue eyes glaring up, a frown creasing her lips; if she wasn't careful, wrinkles would appear on her face from frowning so much at such a young age.

"The usual things that go on in a forest," Calso said, leaning her head against the tree trunk. She had a distant look on her face, like she was in a trance of some sort. For what it was worth the wind did not say much, not even the things that needed to be said. "Birds looking for food, snakes eating forest mice, deer..."

"That's not what I mean!" The other woman's tone held an aggression in that warranted a chuckle from Calso. "Is it over or has the Order even started?"

"Started what?" Calso had to taunt her so even for a moment, just for a smile and a small laugh. In response to the question, the rain started to come down a bit harder then it was already and soaked the area where she sat on the branch. There was a bitter laugh from down below, as Calso growled something to herself and her expression changed from distant to a slightly narrowed eyed, pouting expression. "Alright, Aleema - enough. I get it now. The ceremony is over with and she has become the Sage in the Order's eyes. Happy?"

Calso fought back the urge to roll her eyes, swinging her legs over the right side of the branch to start her descent from the tree. Aleema watched her as she placed her hands carefully upon the branch and swung her body onto the trunk, careful not to slip on the wet bark and the pouring rain. The rain that fell upon her shoulders lifted to what had been before, to the point where she didn't feel like it was being thrown upon her by the barrel-full. Using the tips of her fingers and her boots, she carefully made her way down onto the ground where she was greeted by a still frowning Aleema when she turned away from the tree trunk with a half smile. The two woman faced each other, one with a stone cold expression of dark blue eyes and the other with an amused smile and twinkling eyes of white.

The two women were different in many ways then the expression upon their faces; while Calso was nearly carefree and smiles, Aleema frowned often and turned away from the softness of things. They were opposites, like water and wind were in the passing storms above. The two had never met until they were chosen to ascend to the Elemental protector roles of Keepers and their first two years together was spent nearly at each other's throats. With someone as jittery and full of energy as Calso, it was hard to understand how someone had so much life; or so Aleema had told herself. After years of being under the constant criticism of her past, Aleema had become cold and found that things always had a worst fate then what even the prophet himself could tell.

When the other two Keeper hopefuls - even Trent himself, who seemed, at that time, to have more patience then the previous Sage and Keepers combined - had given up on the two trying to be civil, their bickering and constant quarreling only got worse. Aleema couldn't remember exactly how or why the two stopped their constant arguing, except that it involved tears, rain, and a walk around the crystal-like lake of the Realm. She had to suppress the smile that was threatening to take away her frown in memory of the first time she had seen the current Wind Keeper become serious. Shaking her head she brought herself back to the present and reminded herself that returning to the past would be for another time entirely.

"What else is going on around the temple? What does the wind say?" Aleema asked as Calso turned her back upon her and started to walk towards the southern border of the forest. "Calso, don't walk away from me like that."

"Hmmm?" Calso turned around as she started to walk backwards, Aleema sighing as she followed after her, half expecting her to fall over something and onto her backside. Instead she collided with another tree, wincing when the back of her head hit the trunk rather hard.

"That's what you get for not watching where you're going. I still wonder how you became Keeper." Aleema walked up to her and stopped, leaning forwards enough so that her face was only inches away from Calso's. One would assume that this was meant to bully someone into telling her what she wanted but the Water Keeper only did this to keep Calso from dodging any questions. "Now, what else is going on by the temple?"

"Nothing, damn it. Ouch," Calso moaned, putting a hand over the spot where she had hit her head. She glanced at Aleema before pushing her away and walking around the tree and starting for the edge of the forest. "If you are so interested in what is going on around the Realm, why don't you go to the gate? Linx and Maylessa are already there to see if there were any stray monks about."

"Wait, whyarethey there? Not because there could be stray monks about the forest, that's the Sage's job to make them leave at the end." Aleema lowered her hands to her hands to her side and walked quickly to catch up to her companion, who had put her own arm to the side. "If there were any monks wandering the forest, wouldn't Linx put them in the right direction even if it wasn't? After all, sheisthe Earth Keeper."

"She doesn't like most of the Holy Order for some odd reason, that Linx. Especially the leader...what's his name?" Calso looked towards her for the answer and expected an immediate response. Instead Aleema continued forward in silence for a moment, her eyes darting each way like she was trying to come up with an answer.

"Lucien," came the answer and a sigh followed it. "He's been at the head of the Order for about twenty years, more then we've been alive."

Her words held a sourness to them that Calso barely heard over top the pattering rain, her head turning to look at Aleema more closely. During their training to take their places as Keepers of the Elements, she wouldn't have been surprised if the previous Sage had kicked her out from the temple grounds. Compassion was one of the traits of a Keeper and Aleema, no matter how much she could look into the deeper meaning of things, had very little of that.

Aleema held her head up high, her deep blue eyes staring forward and focused on a distant object in the forest. Calso could see something on her face through the flashes of lightning that illuminated her features and that worried her.

There was little that could worry a person like the Wind Keeper and when it did, it meant that she would go silent for a while, her mind deep in thought. Getting her to be quiet was like telling the wind to stop blowing, a feat not easily done and very often difficult to do.

"Aleema, what's wrong?" She asked softly, her eyes still set firm on the woman next to her. Her jaw was set firmly together, her eyes darting back and forth just as they had done only a few moments ago, as though she wasn't going to respond.

"I'm fine, nothings wrong," She said through gritted teeth after a few minutes of silent walking. "What makes you think something's wrong?"

"As soon as you said Lucien's name you looked like you ingested poison." Calso's eyes turned forwards as she stepped over a large tree root. The two Keepers were briefly separated as they walked around a giant tree, both meeting side by side once again when they cleared the rather large tree. "Did anything happen...?"

"I just don't like him," Aleema said shortly, quickening her pace. Calso stopped where she was, watching as the other kept on the same track without so much as a look behind her to see if the other Keeper was still following her.

"Why?" She asked, blinking her eyes randomly and tilted her head to the side. "Why don't you like him?"

When she failed to answer the question and didn't seem to take notice that she was walking alone, a gust of wind pushed the Water Keeper and made her stumble several steps forwards. Calso stared as Aleema regained her balance without falling, suppressing the urge to send another gust towards her. The mention of Lucien's name had struck a nerve with Aleema and Calso could tell just by the way she was acting; there was no tilting of the head upwards to the rain to see if there was anything new from the water, no moving of the head back and forth to make sure that she was going in the right place, not even when she turned slightly to move in another direction.

Aleema eventually stopped when she realized that there was no other being around her, turning her body ever so slightly to the left to see if Calso would catch up with her. The Wind Keeper had moved close enough so that they both were still within visual distance but Aleema's face was still well hidden underneath the dark cloud that the forest still seem to put down despite the weather. Her keeping her face hidden wasn't so much so that her current expression couldn't be seen but rather a way for her to listen to the rain splash onto the ground behind her. Her body didn't tense like it would if there was anything coming up around her from behind, the rain storm allowing her to have this one advantage.

"He reminds me of my father," she answered sourly, her head turning forwards. "I assume you're leaving the forest for Konirta. I'll see you to the forest edge."

Aleema started walking once again, lengthening the distance between the two with some haste to her steps. Calso turned halfway around, her head turning towards the path in which they had walked and frowned at it. The forest held a darkness to it that made her shudder, the storm passing above them was not helping much to dampen the feeling that there was a pair of eyes watching them leave the forest. The meadows would have a bit more light to it even through the rain and thunder, enough so she wouldn't feel like she would stumble over anything while she walked but it would be much more then that.

The meadow surrounding the forest, stretching far west, east, and south, held little to no protection to rest or find shade. To the north the meadow gave way to the Si'lara desert not far from where the forest lay - a place where even aKeeperdidn't travel alone by themselves. Konirta, the closest township to the Realm, lied to the south-east and was easily a full day and a half away by foot with Keeper powers, a half of a day longer if by other means. And, yet, the meadow was still one of the safest routes to go through.

"Are you coming or not?" Aleema called back through the thickness of the woods. Calso shook her head out of her thoughts, turning around fully and ran to catch up with her traveling companion so that they would be free of the forest and be well on their way to the township before any of the monks were. They would soon find the southern edge of the forest and the wide open plains of the meadows that waited for them amidst the storm. Even there the darkness of the storm did let the plains escape.


The beauty of the silence - wondrous when the mind wished to hear it's own thoughts but dangerous in the hours of dawn and twilight when there should be dreams. The danger of silence was always present, always sneaking among the roots of trees before an ambush was sprung, always there lurking. It held deep secrets and nightmares of old, swirling in the fine mists of storms that would eventually pass with the winds blowing from the edges of reality. However, in this silence there was more to be heard other then the rumblings of the storm overhead and the squeaks of animals that wished the phantom shadows would leave them be.

A light mist had formed around the walls that protected the temple within, the falling rain only helping to fuel it's thickness so that the bodies inside would move out of the forest undetected for a short while. It slowly rose from the leaf-filled ground, swirling in fine tune with the silence and the rain that fell from the heavens and would remain hours afterward in case any prying eyes would dare to look inside. It was as though someone was putting up a barrier around the temple in hopes that any watchful eye upon the entrance to the grounds could not see who would enter and who would leave. It also served as a signal that told others the rituals that had taken place were over and those inside were about to leave.

There were two sets of eyes that watched the entrance like hawks, able to see through most of the mist like it wasn't even there. The storm above them was largely ignored and would be until they left the forest grounds themselves. One sat on a branch of one of the trees closest to the entrance of the temple and the other leaned against the tree trunk, watching and waiting. They were in plain view of anyone that came or went into the temple grounds as well as those that did the coming and going. This was what they wanted, to see and to be seen so that the Order and Keepers could know who was who by sight rather then by word of mouth that would be distorted over words.

The one on the branch sat facing the entrance, both legs swinging on one side and hands holding on the branch itself. Her brown eyes often flickered away for a moment , watching something move into the forest or away from it, before retuning her gaze to the entrance. Running a hand along her black pants to smooth several wrinkles out, she stared intently at the mist and frowned slightly at it every ten seconds. There was nothing wrong with it yet she had expected whoever had called the fog to have appeared already.

The one that leaned against the tree was bored of watching the entrance as though it would jump up and walk away if they left it long enough. The passing storm above was making her edgy and the rain coming down wouldn't help her even if she wanted it to; fire and water did not mix together well. She had crossed, uncrossed, and crossed her arms so many times in the past twenty minutes alone that she couldn't remember how many times she had done it. The light misty fog didn't help the jittery feeling that was starting to form at the pit of her stomach nor did it do anything for her nerves. They both knew that at least one person inside the temple grounds knew that they were there and they weren't even sure that he had seen them.

"They will be out shortly, I think," she said out loud. The one standing at the trunk of the tree looked up, her own frown creasing her lips and her shoulders slumped. Pushing a strand of red hair out of her face, she looked back to the entrance of the temple grounds and raised an eyebrow at it.

"If they were finished they would have been out of there already, Linx." Shifting her weight from foot to foot, she nervously shifted her eyes around them and took in a deep sigh. "Think anything happened in there? I mean, nearlyallof the Order is in there and..."

"Don't worry about her!" Linx laughed but held a slight reservations as well, keepingthoseto herself instead of voicing them. The Order had been inside the temple walls for many a day already and that was a rarity for them, even for a new Sage's ceremony. "They'll be out shortly, Maylessa. They shouldn't be much longer anyways."

"What makes you think so?" Maylessa asked, a tone of concern still on her voice. Linx sighed inwardly, rubbing her forehead to steam any headaches that would form in the next several seconds. If she hadn't known the woman down below before hand, the concern in her voice would have annoyed her to no great end and would have been laughable had it been seven years earlier. Even though she was just as compassionate and caring as the other, she did have her limits and it was rare to have someone push her to those same limits.

"Trent went inside the temple grounds." She shrugged at those words as though they were of great importance but she had seen too much of the prophet in the last several years to really care much about him. "Usually when he goes into a place, things tend to finish shortly afterwards. Besides the Order has been in there too long and who knows what would happen if all of them were gone for much longer still."

It was true that she didn't have much of a care about the prophet and had been at the receiving end of many lectures regarding what she should and shouldn't do yet she still had a respect for him and the darkness he must face because of what he could see. The Order was the same way but it was more of aforcedrespect then an actual honesty; she could care less what happened tothemthen anything else that went on in the Realm and beyond. To her, the Order was just a group of people that was putting on a show for the rest of the world to see and did little on the Sage's behalf to warrant any rightful doing.

"Shouldn't they be in there for a long period of time?" Maylessa asked, glancing up at her for a brief moment before looking down at the ground. "The Sage's ceremony should last longer than ours."

Linx jumped down from her perch on the branch, careful to angle her body so she wouldn't land upon a overgrown root or hit the trunk. Landing with a thud on the wet ground below with a slight slip on the wet leaves, she straightened her back and tunic, offering her a quick smile when Maylessa turned around to face her. Both Keepers faced each other for a minute, Maylessa turning her head sharply to the right as though she had heard something, her ears twitching slightly. There was nothing in the woods that was close by enough for her to worry much about and the rumbling of the storm above clouded her hearing in the forest to be of much use.

"Buthersis just for show. It's not meant to last for hours or even days." Linx's eyes moved in the direction Maylessa was staring at, the sound of a owl hooting ringing from somewhere inside the mist. "Ours is to actuallygiveour powers to us, not a fancy ceremony like this one is. It's to give the Order something to do with each new Sage."

"How doyouknow that?" She asked wearily. "We were not allowed inside and we didn't get any information from the last Keepers about this sort of thing."

"Because some people actuallylistento what I say," a tired voice said from inside the mist. Maylessa turned around sharply just as Trent appeared from within the fog, leaning on his staff and staring rather coldly towards the two.

"Trent!" She breathed like she had never seen him before. Neither Keeper had expected him to suddenly appear from the temple ground while they were still there and he would have not spoken to them if they had been, unless there was a sharp word he had for them. With his appearance the Order would surely follow close behind.

"Why are the two of you still here?" Trent demanded, walking towards them without hesitation. There was irritation on his voice masked only by the sounds of the rain and rolling thunder; his face remained blank but his eyes bore into them like fire to a piece of paper. "Are there not other things Keepers should do?"

Both Keepers stared at him, Linx frowning deeply at the prophet as though he had said something rude. He hardly looked like he had a pleasant time inside the temple and she didn't blame him if he felt worse then he actually looked. There had been Sages he had seen come and go in his lifetime, far more then the Order had and would see plenty more if the fates of the Realm allowed it to be so. To him this had been just a hindrance in what was a rather mundane and prolonged existence, one that he didn't need and would rather have spent the day elsewhere doing something different. Seeing another Sage come into power was nothing new to him and he only had been there to make sure that the chosen Sage had survive the transfer of power.

"The Order?" Linx asked questionably when Trent stopped in front of them. He didn't answer right away, instead remained silent so that he could get a decent look at the two standing in front of him. They reminded him of wet swamp rats that had been in the muck too long and had been waiting for the right time to pounce on their dinner. Inwardly he smiled at them and thanked the Sage rather quietly that they were here to give him an excuse to remain behind instead of walking through the forest with the Order; outwardly he kept his neutral expression and authoritative voice.

"They're coming." Looking between them, he shifted his staff from one hand to the other. "I'll ask again..."

"Leave them be, Trent," Lucien's voice muttered through the mist. Trent took in a sigh, turning halfway around to see Lucien breaking through the fog with Leiko close by on his right. "Keepers have a funny way of responsibility and of showing it."

Before Linx or Maylessa could respond, Trent held up a hand to stop them and spoke instead. "Their responsibilities are not your concern nor can they wait. The Elementsmustbe tended to."

The Leader of the Order did not respond right away, as Order monks started to appear from the temple grounds and they ignored the fog as best as they could. The mist had started to rise when they had begun their journey outside into the forest and the rain had begun to slightly taper off for the time being. It was as though the weather knew that the Order was leaving and had dropped the shield of security to the temple for the moment. Trent felt a tingling sensation on his left hand, a half smile coming upon his lips; that gave him the indication that somewhere at the outer edges of the Realm, someone else was keeping an eye on the Order as well.

"So does the Sage," Lucien said absently, his eyes flickering from Trent to the two Keepers. There was something that he wanted to say but because there were still several monks coming from the temple or because there was two others present, he refrained from saying what he wanted to say. "They know what they need to do, they don't need a prophet to tell them."

As the last of the monks exited the temple grounds, Leiko turned and followed them closely without hesitation or a look behind her. Lucien stood where he was for a moment in case there were any other words spoken to him before turning and following behind Leiko. The monks were moving swiftly through the forest and to the south, their heads turning every so often to see if there were any creatures that would attack them as a late meal or for an early breakfast the next day. They were scared of the forest, more so that it was darker and the storm was still rumbling overhead; the faster they got into the meadow, the faster they could get to dry homes.

If Linx had been alone and she knew how to harness her powers at a more stable level, she would have given the Order more of a reason to leave the forest quicker. With Trent keeping an eye on the retreating backs of the monks and the other on the two Keepers, it was still hard to contain the urge to hold back on the ground beneath the monks. While Linx's hands were rubbing together to keep herself busy, Maylessa had a passive look towards the retreating Order despite the twitching on the left side of her lips. Keeping control of a power far greater then any other being in the world was difficult to do when one could use that power in many different ways.

"Why didn't you let me say anything? He would have deserved it!" Linx demanded as Trent turned around to face them once they felt the Order was far enough away for them not to overhear anything. He frowned at the women, taking note that they both looked unhappy about losing the chance to say something.

"Be as that may, he is still the head of the Order and the four of you are still fledgling Keepers. You'll come to find that the Order changes with each generation and that not every Order is the same." Taking an extra note of Linx's deepening scowl, he sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Lucien feels like he had no say in the new Keepers choosing and has voiced his concern several times to the previous Sage. The Order may be able to give advice and put names in for future Keepers and Sages, but that's where the majority of their influence stops."

Trent took in another sigh, leaning onto his staff once again and closed his eyes tightly. The Keepers took notice that he looked paler than he did when he had entered the Realm earlier; it wasn't a deathly pale but rather a shallow look as though he had not slept in a week and they wouldn't be surprised if he hadn't. His normally bright eyes had dulled and his face worn and old, the years of living not kind to a person that had seen countless generations come and go. Sleep to those with visions often did not come very easy even when the visions had not been seen in months. However something about him did not indicate that he suffered from a lack of sleep but rather a lack of something else that the two could not place.

"I'm fine," Trent told them, opening his eyes and giving them a light smile to ease the concerned looks on their faces. "You know the best that the last several weeks have been straining."

"They have," Maylessa agreed through she did not seem to be content with his answer. "Trent, has any recent visions been bothering you?"

Trent's eyes diverted away from them, his face turning into a cold expression and his body tensed rather quickly. Both saw him shudder and wince at the question, his silence telling them something was amiss more then a few comforting words could ever say. The visions of a prophet did not settle well with those that figured out his riddles and even less with the one that made them. It always had been unsettling to know what he knew and so much more then that. If only they could understand the sleepless nights and tiresome days that came with the visions then maybe he would share more secrets with them.

Maylessa reached out to touch Trent's arm but he withdrew from her touch and shook his head at her. The creases around his lips grew even deeper, his eyes staring blankly at her and his nose twitching at nothing. One would say that this was a sign that a vision was about to occur and would happen regardless if he wanted one or not. When he startled to withdraw from this state of consciousness and the Keepers go ready in case he was about to see something that would eventually happen. Linx had been present at only one of his visions, Maylessa having seen her fair share of them; neither had found the knowledge of those visions to be pleasant to say the least.

"I'm fine. There's no visions," Trent said, waving a hand to signal he was alright for the time being. Maylessa frowned at him, scrunching up her own nose. It took Trent less then two seconds to scowl, making his face hard as stone, and lean on his staff further. "Don't you two haveotherthings to do then to worry about me?"

Linx opened her mouth to speak before she closed her lips, casting a sideways look to Maylessa. Trent raised an eyebrow while attempting to force down a smile when he saw the confused looks on their faces; despite having little grip on their powers at the moment, he had few to no reservations about what they could do. In the years to come they would harness more and more of their elemental powers but, for now, they were helpless pups. Helpless to an extent perhaps and still as troublesome as the Keepers before them.

"The Homesteadshaverequested a Keeper presence," Maylessa muttered softly. "But Aleema is going through the Badlands to Ta'ne then to the coast, or so Calso says."

"And you assume she'll do the job?" Trent asked in a low tone. Maylessa didn't look at him, lowering her gaze and taking a large step back away from him even though she was still several feet away from him. Despite having the power of fire, she was still afraid of what he could do regardless if she was a Keeper or not. "And you, Linx. Is there..."

"Leave the poor things alone, Trent," a quiet voice said from the entrance of the temple. Linx and Maylessa bowed their heads ever so slightly, their bodies stiffening as a young woman came several steps from the grounds itself, her eyes moving between the three standing in front of her. There were two bandages wrapped around each of her hands and a frown on hers lips while her face remained blank as a rock. The bun that had once held her red hair up had long since been taken down and now her hair flowed freely onto her shoulders where it hadn't before. While she still wore her robe from the ceremony, it was not as neat as it had been and there were several stains of blood upon the hem.

Trent sighed, turning around to face the newly appointed Sage with a grim expression on his face. He had seen Sages come and go with the years, Keepers dancing along the streams of time, and new ages approaching the darkness of the night. He had been certain about those in the past that held the titles of Sage and Keepers but he was not so sure about the present holders of the Realm. Had they more of a drive like the last two bunches of Sages and Keepers, they would have not questioned him so. And he would voice his concern to her over the coming years, regardless if she was the Sage or not.

"If you don't mind, I'll have Linx and Maylessa clean the temple grounds. I rather not have the reminders of the ceremony there." The Sage seemed to stare off into space even when she turned around to walk back into the grounds where she had just come from. Trent reached forwards when he walked towards her, grabbing her arm and pulling her back to him. Her head snapped around to face his, their eyes meeting for a moment before Trent looked away. "I won't have my blood lay there in that bowl like some trophy that was won, prophet. It's disgusting."

"Even so, it needs to remain there until Lucien says it's alright. It's for appearances, you three know that. Do not move the bowl unless told to." Trent turned his head around to the Keepers. "Is that clear?"

When he had turned his head, he had expected to see Maylessa and Linx standing and nodding in agreement with him. Instead there was no one there but the emptiness of the forest and the silence of nothing. Letting go of the Sage, he faced the area where the two had been only a moment before but not were gone off somewhere instead. Even the Sage did not seem to know where they had gone, turning around several times in a vain attempt to located the Keepers with her own eyes. She had to smile inwardly at how Keeper powers kept them from doing basic chores around the temple even if it had been ordered by the Sage.

"Damn where did they go?" Trent muttered under his breath, more for the amusement of the Keepers then his own. The Sage didn't answer, rubbing her right bandaged wrist as she started for the temple grounds once again. She left Trent to stand where he was and pretend to be angry that the two Keepers had run off without saying much of anything to him. Appearances or not, she would take the bowl off it's pedestal and throw it's contents into the grass to soak into the already wet ground. She had no ties to the Order and she would maintain that until the very end of her reign.

Neither one of them heard the laughter over the fierce wind, one that did not come from a Keeper.

The End

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