“Can I help with something, Morh-AsaHi?” Lucci asked hopefully.
She smiled at him as she placed the last fixings on one of the lunch plates. The fact that she was up on a step stool and she still hardly crested the height of his shoulder made him momentarily awkward. The feeling was fleeting as the kindness of her smile soaked into his spirit.
Lucci could only smile back.
“If you would take some of these plates to the table for me, I’d really appreciate it,” Morh-AsaHi nodded to where neatly folded sandwiches lay on circular plates.
“Okay,” he nodded quickly, taking a large plate between both hands.
Morh-AsaHi was one of the few women who remained behind after the Migration, and took on far more than her fair share of cooking duties. Though Lucci was often in battle training, he returned to the kitchens to visit with her and assist with the daunting task of feeding the hungry warriors. He spent a lot of time in his younger days helping Aunt Sara and Suzume with household tasks, and something about setting plates was in the midst of war.
As Lucci placed the platter down in the center of the table, a heavy door closed from somewhere down the hall. He didn’t need to hear the voices to know who was there.
“I’m sorry, Father,” Master SoYa’s voice sounded tremulous, as if finally working up the courage to say something.
“It’s not your fault, SoYa,” Master ZenToYa paused, turning to look at his son. There were tired lines under his eyes. “You couldn’t have known. I couldn’t have known.”
“Don’t be too angry with TsuYa,” the Athrylith sucked on his bottom lip. “He’s just… been getting more and more frustrated with things lately. I’ve been watching him. He spends most of his time out training, even when he’s not training with us.”
“I know,” the winged man murmured. “He pushes himself so hard. That’s why I’m worried. He’s so impatient to find his strength.”
“Tsu’s always been that way,” Master SoYa sighed.
Master ZenToYa shook his head, running his fingers through the length of his bangs, “I’ll talk to him when he’s ready to come back.”
Concern sifted through Lucci’s mind. Master TsuYa was the closest thing to a teacher, next to Lord Zemi, that he had.
“I guess I’d run off, too, if I had all these mind mages around who could–” the Athrylith paused, green eyes flicking up towards the far room, “Oh… hello, Lucci.”
“Uh?” The boy gave a soft sound in his throat, realizing at the last moment that he was inadvertently eavesdropping.
Master ZenToYa gave a disapproving frown, “LuShi, what are you doing?”
“Helping Morh-AsaHi with lunch,” the boy replied, tensing a bit. He held up a sandwich for the winged man to see as proof. Just at that particular moment, his stomach let off a particularly long and loud response to the smell of food.
Master ZenToYa arched a slow eyebrow.
Lucci winced in embarrassment. He hadn’t even realized he was hungry, but then, that was usually the case.
“Sounds like lunch came right on time,” Master SoYa gave an easy grin, walking over and snagging a sandwich for himself. He took one bite, as if to encourage the boy to join in, making a long sound of enjoyment as he did.
Unable to contain himself a moment longer, Lucci grabbed a sandwich of his own and began to follow suit. It didn’t matter what was on it. He hardly tasted the food at all at the speed he was eating.
“You should have one, Father,” Master SoYa encouraged, his way of trying to ease the winged man’s stress.
“I’m fine, SoYa. I’m going to shower,” There was a momentary pause, and then, “LuShi?”
It wasn’t until he realized that both Masters were watching him that he stopped to look. Almost half a plate was now empty.
“Are you going to leave any for the rest of us?” Master SoYa laughed gently.
“I’m sorry,” the boy gave a sheepish look.
As the Athrylith opened his mouth to reply, an eerie, high-pitched keening sound filled every inch of the Compound. Master ZenToYa’s head jerked up, eyes sharpening as if he could see even beyond the solid stone of the ceiling. Lucci didn’t doubt that he could.
“Father?” Master SoYa choked, his knuckles whitening where he gripped the back of a chair.
“We’re under attack!” the winged man stated with a grim rush to his words.
“Tsu’s still out there and without his weapon,” Master ZenToYa took a few rapid steps towards the doorway.
“Father, wait!” the Athrylith spoke urgently, “The troops need you to lead them. I’ll go find Tsu.”
Lucci’s mouth felt dry as his breath rasped between his teeth. All thought of food had vanished as he began to feel a pressing darkness drawing closer, from the sky.
Master SoYa needs to be there for the troops too! And someone has to warn the Trine!
“You can’t go back there alone, SoYa! Don’t you feel them? There are too many,” Master ZenToYa argued. His voice was a low mutter, “I can’t lose both of you boys…”
If I can help find him, then maybe Master ZenToYa will be happy with me.
Lucci suddenly piped up, rushing over, “I’ll go! Just let me grab his weapon! I’ll find Master TsuYa and bring him back!”
“LuShi, hold on!” Master ZenToYa’s voice cracked, a tinge of worry hidden behind the usual gruff tones. It was enough to almost make Lucci stop.
“I’ll be okay! Don’t worry!” the boy called back at them, taking off with a long-legged run down the hall towards the living quarters.
“Lucci!! No!” Master SoYa implored.
But the boy was already gone, rushing around the corner.
Lucci ran straight for a long ways, the flickers of light and shadows flowing over the hall from the windows. He knew where Master TsuYa’s room was, and he knew exactly where the black bladed scythe would be.
I can do this! Master TsuYa needs my help!
Crackling filled the air above the Compound as the ground suddenly shook under his feet. Lucci gave a small cry of surprise, as he rolled off balance to slam into the wall. Shaking his head out, he jerked his chin up. Then he froze.
Just outside the round window, a dark shadow swelled, blocking out all vision entirely. Lucci felt his skin crawling as his senses screamed of danger. He choked on his breath, fighting to get back on his feet as the shadows began to shift.
What is that?
A single, huge eye socket appeared on the other side of the window. Hollow and dripping grey matter, somehow it focused on him with a frightening intensity. A vision without vision.
Lucci gave a quiet whine of fear as he lurched up on the balls of his feet, running once again at full speed. The wall behind him imploded as the large, powerful head slammed through it. Great jaws of black teeth opened with a terrible rasping hiss as the slender grey neck craned around, lithe for all the spikes that adorned it.
The boy didn’t look back as his feet flew. Arms pumping at his sides, lanky body thrown in full speed, all his thoughts were moving forward. The room. The scythe. And hoping that Master TsuYa would be able to hold on for the time it would take to find him.
Again the Islands shook under his feet. Though Lucci didn’t see another Esgyll, he wondered what was happening to the rest of the Compound. Every now and again, he found halls blocked with collapsed stone and open sky where the building once stood.
I hope that his room is still there!
Lucci found upon turning the last corner that the room was intact. Swallowing, he rushed forward, pulling up short in front of Master TsuYa’s doorway. That’s when he realized the one kink in his plan.
I don’t know his lock code.
The boy glanced over at the dim plate of symbols that sat just below arm level on the wall. To open the door, you had to have the right combination of symbols, and knowing Master TsuYa, his would be very complicated.
Lucci drew in a deep breath, the echoes of battle somewhere distant on the other side of the building. His mouth pursed in a firm line as he stared grimly at the unyielding door. Then he glanced over his shoulder in both directions to see if anyone was there.
No one was.
I know he won’t like me doing this, but…
He placed both hands on the face of the door and began to concentrate. His eyes studied the essence of the stone in the door, and searched the hollow area in the room that lay on the other side.
A silent silver mist spread, draping across the floor of the hall around his feet. A mist that he didn’t completely understand… but one that he recognized. He knew that it was part of his power, for the mist always seemed to come as he called.
Let… me… through…!
The mist suddenly plumed out from his open palms, spreading in a strange twisting ripple between his hands and the stone of the door. The stone gave way to his command, parting like liquid to his touch. Lucci walked forward, pressing through the door as if it was nothing more than a curtain.
His steps were unsteady as he stumbled into Master TsuYa’s chamber. It was a room that he’d seen before, so he spent no time looking around. Instead, Lucci went straight to the corner where the scythe should be. A breath of relief passed his lips as his eyes fell on the dark, cloth-wrapped shape. It was leaning to one side, but otherwise untouched.
Lucci picked up the weapon, needing both hands to carry its weight. Then turning a keen eye, he peered around the room one more time, pausing to look at the rack of weapons on the other side of the room. A number of swords, spears, and a dagger or two were on display.
I’ll be careful with your weapon, Master TsuYa. I promise.
He carefully pulled a medium-length blade from its casings. He unraveled the sheath and strapped it at his waist, sliding the sword safely inside. If there was anything that Master TsuYa’s lessons had taught him, it was to respect the danger of any drawn weapon.
His hands hooked tightly around the wrapped scythe as he forced them to stop shaking. Then his mind reached out through the choking darkness to attempt to pin point a feeling – the location of his teacher. Without another thought, Lucci pressed back through the door, and out into the raging battle beyond.