Book 4 Chapter 30

“That is very peculiar,” Kudako muttered as he strode back into the Cynosure chamber. “Another group of men arrived, claiming they were ordered to the evacuation point. Did you give this command, Lord Zemi?”

Zemi didn’t answer. He simply stood, motionless, staring into the reflecting light of the great rifting stone.

“Lord Zemi?” Aur’s quiet voice rose, hinting concern.

Zemi Dreigiau simply collapsed. Crumpling to his knees, he dropped to the floor, leaving a chorus of startled exclamations ringing through the room.

SoYa got on his feet, rushing to the Arweinydd’s side. Kudako was there. And Aur and AsaHi. Zeni chirruped in worry, fluttering overhead.

A flood of overwhelming anguish and pain nearly knocked SoYa back as his fingertips touched the hem of the Dreigaiu’s robe. It felt like something was tearing Zemi apart from inside out, the agony the Athrylith sensed was almost unbearable.

Speckled lights began to break off from Zemi’s form, particles of energy that SoYa remembered. Once when the Dreigiau was wounded and weakened at the fall of Ceiswyr.

“Zemi! What’s wrong? Talk to me!” AsaHi exclaimed, trying to make sense of the pain that she, too, could feel.

A strangled sound fought to escape Zemi’s lips. His eyes were glassy, staring up into the nothingness of the chamber above. Then, to SoYa’s astonishment, tears began to fall.

The Dreigiau was crying, tears of Earthian grief.

“Zemi!” AsaHi hugged him, both frightened and moved to pity. “Please talk to us. Tell us what’s wrong!”

The Dreigiau’s gritty voice was nothing but a whisper, “I couldn’t save him.”

“Save who?” she coaxed.

“Zen…to…” he could hardly choke the name.

A sudden sinking sensation filled the pit of SoYa’s stomach. “Father?”

“What happened?” even Kudako’s tone was urgent.

Zemi turned his head away, unable to look at them as he spoke the terrible words, “Zento is dead.”

A stunned silence filled the chamber. No one moved. No one breathed. Not even the smallest child in the group of refugees made a sound. The impossibility of it all – ZenToYa was dead.


SoYa lived through the sting of these exact words many years ago, back in Nefol, when he was much younger. The Council came to them, telling them the same thing. ZenToYa fell in battle. His body was not found, but he was proclaimed to be dead.

Aunt SaRa gathered SoYa and TsuYa in her arms and just hugged them. She hugged them for a very long time, until TsuYa finally broke away from her hold and ran to his room. That door remained shut for many days before TsuYa allowed anyone within, and the boy who emerged from that room was not the same as the one who went inside.

It was different now. The same sort of biting pain. The same sense of terrible loss. But there was no Aunt SaRa to hug him and kiss away the tears. There was no young TsuYa to try to comfort, for in comforting others, SoYa found comfort for himself.

There was nothing this time but the sense of loneliness. The striking knowledge that everyone in his family was gone, and the only one left now was SoYa. Alone.

The Athrylith stumbled away from the group that ringed around the Dreigiau. He was the first to move, but he couldn’t let them see his grief. He couldn’t let them see the flood of burning tears that he couldn’t stop. Father would have wanted him to stay strong in the face of others. Father never showed his tears to anyone… especially not in the face of the battle that was still on their doorstep.

Stop crying, SoYa!

He turned and slammed his fist into the wall, but the tears wouldn’t stop coming.

You’re a weakling! Stop crying!

He slammed his fist against the wall again. This time a strong hand caught it, slowly turning him around.

SoYa’s watery eyes turned up to see the stern-lined face of Kudako. Unmoving, like a rock, yet deep behind the golden eyes, silent wells of loss and pain stood unwept. His voice was low and quiet with the strength of the earth itself.

“ZenToYa was my friend and my student,” Kudako told him. Words that were so obvious, yet bore much more meaning behind them. “And SaRa…”

The warrior could not continue. He simply looked away.

Sudden realization came to SoYa. There was something between Kudako and Aunt SaRa that was never been spoken. Now it was too late. It never would be.

“You loved her…”

“I loved them both,” the Dragon answered.

“Kudako,” SoYa choked back the sobs. “What do I do?”

One firm hand gripped the Athrylith’s shoulder. “Gather your father’s strength, it lives within you. You must step up and do as he would do. These people now depend on you.”

SoYa turned to look back into the chamber. The people of Ceiswyr gathered around Zemi’s slumped and broken form – women, children and soldiers alike. Very faintly, he heard the sound of a soft, mournful song. The people were singing, the tribute and song of passing for their leader. A song of comfort for their now Champion-less Patron.

He knew that these people loved Father. They felt the same sorrow of loss. They understood the pain.

Maybe… I’m not alone after all…

“They are your people now,” Kudako told him.

They slowly turned to look at him, so many pale green eyes, reflecting an echo of his sadness. Their song seemed to reach out to him, include him, coax him forward. SoYa found his feet moving, approaching. One by one, the winged people bowed their heads with respect, stepping back and making room for him to walk.

“Master SoYa,” one of the men murmured as he passed.

The Athrylith almost stopped in surprise.

Until he heard another say, “Master SoYa…”

Something inside wanted to shrink from the title. To tell them that he was no Master. He was just as scared and lost as they were. But their eyes reflected his image with a sense of trust and subdued hope. They were looking to him for leadership. He couldn’t let them down.

SoYa found himself standing before the slumped form of the Dreigiau. AsaHi peered up at him, face strained and worried. With gentle hands, the Athrylith reached down, offering a comforting touch.

“Zemi,” he fought the waver in his voice.

The Arweinydd’s haggard face lifted, a distant and haunted sheen to his teal eyes.

“I know that I’m not my father,” SoYa told him quietly. “But let me help you.”

“SoYa,” Zemi managed to force the sound between his lips. “He loved you so much. He wanted you to know that.”

The Athrylith swallowed the rising lump in his throat. “I know. I know, and thank you.”

“He wanted us to evacuate to the Vision Stone,” the Arweinydd’s face grew pained. “I didn’t listen to him. If I had… he might still be…”

“Zemi,” SoYa gripped his shoulder again. “I think it’s a good idea that we evacuate now.”

The Dreigiau peered slowly up. Then gave a slow nod.

“Do you think you can activate the rift?”

“I will try. I don’t know if we have much time,” Zemi answered.

“It’s not over yet, Zemi. As long as we’re still alive, we have time,” SoYa told him.

“That’s… something that your father would have said,” the Dreigiaugave a long sniffle, then pulled himself to his feet with the help of Aur and AsaHi.

The Athrylith could only wonder for a moment before a loud, commanding bark rang from the outside hallway. He could see the shimmering white form of the giant She-Wolf galloping towards them.

-Zemi! Your Dragons are completely useless doorstops!-

“Zazo,” AsaHi winced a bit, obviously concerned for the She-Wolf’s lack of tact and sympathy.

Undaunted, Zazo shoved her nose straight into Zemi’s face.

-Your pet Sygnus has gone haywire! He’s breaking through every line of defense we have, even killing the Marked! Aren’t the Marked supposed to be on his side?-

“I… think so…” Zemi gave her the most pitiful look he could muster.

She didn’t seem to notice.

-I’ve put some shielding on the far hall, but I don’t know how long it is going to hold. If you’re planning on getting us out of here, you better get to it. And you really need to put a better leash on your pets, Zem.-

From somewhere down the passages, SoYa heard the dim sound of Marked screeches growing closer. He felt his throat tighten as a new, terrible string of thoughts began to churn through his mind.

“Did you say the Sygnus was killing the Marked, too?” SoYa asked.

-He didn’t seem to care where he was swinging that sword.-

“Then that means…” the Athrylith broke off in mid-sentence.

The She-Wolf paused, staring at him as if picking up on his thought. In a moment of unusual clarity and connection, they both uttered the same name.


Before SoYa knew what was happening, the giant wolf had slid under him, lifting him up on her back. With a scramble, he fought to balance himself and grip her shoulders – years of Rhawn riding gave him instinct, but no experience in riding a giant She-Wolf Arweinydd.

“SoYa! What are you doing?” AsaHi called after him.

“Get the people evacuated to the Vision Stone!” SoYa called back over his shoulder. “We’ve got to try and find TsuYa!”


-If that Sygnus kills him, then we’ll never have the chance to bring him back!- Zazo barked. With a wild lunge, she leapt down the twisting halls, carrying SoYa into the heart of chaos.