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The Wishing Map
Chapter Twenty-Four: The Long Night
Previously: Gina learned of B’frona’s fate since she’d left Rennou. What fate awaited her, she wondered.
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It was presumed that Zack and Gina would stay for the night, and B’frona, despite his previous bitter words, made no protest. He silently cleared the wooden plates and copper goblets while Sh’renn led Zack and Gina up to the third floor. The common room was even more full of books than Gina had remembered.
“He never stops reading,” Sh’renn said with a smile. “He knows things no one knows. He is destined for much more than grinding grain.” She made up two rag-filled pallets and started a fire in the small central hearth, then suddenly turned and asked, “You are the Two Strangers, yes?”
“Yes…maybe,” replied Gina.
“We don’t know,” Zack clarified.
Sh’renn pierced them with a look of which neither would have thought those mild eyes capable. “It is because you do not know yourselves. B’frona also does not, and this is why he wrestles so. The Anaruols say, ‘You must defeat the enemy within before you can see the truth without.’ I will not cease to struggle for you before Uol.” Without another word she turned and headed up to the fourth floor, leaving the stunned Dores in her wake. This was no bland promise to “say a little prayer,” it was a to-the-death pact.
“Woah. Intense,” said Zack.
They thumbed through B’frona’s books, unwilling to talk and afraid to sleep. Gina found the millboy’s childhood legacy, Of Knights and Dragons. She admired the engraving of an adult Frengan Dragon, and wondered if she would ever see Puff full-grown. Then her eyes wandered to the image of a thousand-toothed Hadessian Dragon on the opposite page, and her flesh began to crawl. She slammed the book shut. Are we the Two Strangers? We have the Objects. (This much they knew.) And we returned them. (Though not exactly as prophesied.) But it seems like we’ve done more harm than good from the moment we arrived. How could we possibly save this world? Let alone two worlds?
Utterly spent and no longer able to keep her eyelids up, she looked over at Zack. He’d fallen asleep with his face in a book about cloud shepherds. She rolled over onto her side, her most comfortable position given the ever-present broadsword. Strangely, mercifully, the nightmare images did not immediately attack. Are Sh’renn’s prayers protecting me? she wondered as her consciousness faded.
Sleep had almost taken her, when she felt a sudden, sharp tug at her back. She sat up in the darkness. The sword was jerking harder than it ever had before; it wasn’t just urging her to move, it wanted out of its sheath! The realization exhilarated and terrified her.
Oh, God, finally?
Thoughts: “You must defeat the enemy within before you can see the truth without.” ~The Anaruols
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