The Festival of Peace was winding down. Many faeries were making their way to their sleeping quarters. We, however, were still in deep discussion about our assignments.
“Lexa, what sort of greater protection do you suggest I take along with me into the Assiral Plains?” questioned an uneasy Fiera. She had already made her decision. Why did everyone think she needed more help? She was Gelsey—a Protector—trained in illusion and weaponry. She was fit and was frightened of nothing. She did not need assistance.
The image of Lexa flickered as the light of the moons began to descend from their apex in the night sky. None of us were comfortable with this version of Lexa, though we were all quite fascinated with her new-found ability.
“First of all, Siden’s vision of who was to go where is different from what you just told me,” said the Whisperer with a look of bewilderment aimed at our Protector. “Why have you deviated from that?”
Fiera’s response was immediate. “Arial was badly injured and we all agreed that she would be the one to gather forces in Zaria. Since she and Jada were the ones to find a way to remove the ghouls from this land of winds, I would imagine everyone here will be more than willing to help. This will give her plenty of time to recuperate and meet us at the appointed time and place.”
Lexa was very attentive to Fiera’s words. Within a few moments, the Celie slowly nodded her head in agreement.
“We have an appointed time and place to meet?” I asked, thinking I had not paid attention to some important discussion.
“Not yet, but before the night is through, we will,” Fiera stated with utter certainty.
That meant we would shortly be parting ways. I grew more anxious with every passing moment. Getting the good people of Meena to join me was going to be easy compared to finding a way to get there from Zaria without crossing the Assiral Plains. Hopelessness began to creep into my being. It took all my concentration to force it away from me. I had to remain positive—our lives depended on all of us succeeding.
The moons were nearing the horizon by the time all discussions were done, suggestions were made, and the appointed time and meeting place had been decided.
“Now that we have worked everything out, let us review our plan one more time. If no one has any questions, we will part ways immediately.” Fiera looked anxious to leave us. Why would she be anxious to go to the Assiral Plains? I surmised there were two possibilities. The first was to finish this quest and the second was to prove that she could indeed make it through the Assiral Plains by herself and emerge unscathed. She would be the first. I decided that both possibilities were her impetus. If anyone could do it, I believed she could.
“Jada, get over here,” called Fiera. “I need to go over a few things with you regarding Rayn.”
There was no answer and no Jada.
I could see the frustration building in Fiera so I interjected immediately. “Jada, please hurry. We must all leave soon and we want to be sure that your journey with Rayn goes smoothly. Please come closer,” I asked gently.
Again, no response.
“Did you not say she went for supplies?” questioned Lexa, her image appearing more transparent as the darkness faded.
“That was hours ago according to the moons,” chimed Arial as she desperately looked around for the Echo.
Garam spoke and Arial nodded to him. He left the group and headed for the lean-to. Perhaps Jada had decided to sleep for a while. They were all exhausted, having stayed up the entire night devising their plans. No one could recall whether Jada had participated in any of the discussions that had taken place throughout the night.
Moments later the galuu returned. He was speaking to Arial as he made his way back to the troupe, running as quickly as his little legs would take him.
Arial, although still weak, managed to rise on her own. She heard the concern in Garam’s voice and headed in his direction.
The rest of us were attending to details when Arial interrupted. “We have a grave problem.”