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            The village seemed empty without the menfolk. Their work was now heap upon us womenfolk. We had to tend crops, fish, and guard the village. Three things happened within quick succession, first Dynill’s child was born, healthy and a girl, into the world. Second was the sudden appearance of monsters, for there was no better word for them. Devilish looking lizards, wolves as large bears, giant mosquitos that could drain a sheep entirely of blood in only minutes. The third was the arrival of a soldier who posted a notice on our well.

WANTED:

For the attempted murder

Of

King Saerus Dragonthorn:

Hammael Nightsorrow

Raziel Nightsorrow

Ezekiel Nightsorrow

REWARD:

            I could not believe my eyes. The king’s own personal bodyguards accused of trying to assassinate the king? It did not seem right, Raziel maybe if the king pissed him off, but Hammael seemed too level headed, and Ezekiel too kind.

            Grandmother didn’t have all her arts memorized, she kept a thick leather bound book in a trunk under her cot. She rarely used it, but I had seen her reference it once or twice. I was the village soothsayer now, I had delivered my first child into the world by myself. I was not about to allow it to be harmed by the monsters outside the village. There had to be some ward or spell or something I could to do to help them. Luckily there was. I could build totems and place them around the village, it would ward off evil. I was writing down the list of ingredients, the totems needing to be carved from a special wood, feathers from certain birds, painted with a concoction of herbs and dye, a small bag of gris-gris attached to each one, when I had that feeling of being watched, just like the first night I had met Hammael and his sons.

            I slowly picked up Grandmother’s walking stick, and glanced around the hut, there was nothing. I held my breath and listened, there might be a monster outside. I waited for a growl, for a footstep. I did not want to go outside, the dark was dangerous now, but someone may be in trouble. I pulled the plank of wood away from the door that barricaded it, and slowly cracked the door. I could only see darkness beyond.

            Suddenly the door was flung open and I was knocked backwards from the force. Grandmother’s walking stick had been knocked from my hands. A massive black misshapen form filled my doorway, I realized my mouth was open and I was trying to scream, but nothing was coming out. My fear paralysis only lasted seconds and I remembered I was a soothsayer, I rolled, gripped Grandmother’s walking stick and brought it up to defend myself against the monstrosity that was surely about to attack me.

            “Put down the stick and I won’t hurt you,” came that commanding godly voice. The black misshapen form suddenly changed from solid shadows to Raziel, who was trying to hold up Ezekiel, once their hoods were removed. Ezekiel looked pale, practically ashen gray, was barely conscious, and though he had an arm around Raziel’s shoulders, Raziel was all but carrying him.

            “Get him on the bed,” I said suddenly tossing aside the walking stick, my fear forgotten, and my dislike for Raziel not even given a thought. I realized that both men looked like they had been in a serious battle. They were bruised, cut and as I looked over Ezekiel, giving a glance to Raziel who hovered nearby with his arms crossed over his chest, bloody. “What happened to him? Snake bite?” I was already moving to the cauldron that contained the letipa and was going to spoon some into a mug.

            “You tell me,” Raziel said and I looked over my shoulder, he was holding out a small feathered dart, such as one that would be fired from a blow gun. I took the dart from him, and sniffed it, before wincing at the acrid odor.

            “Poison,” I whispered putting the dart on the table. This would require a different remedy than one for snakebite. It felt weird having Raziel watch me as I added herbs, a smooth tiny pebble, some bark, said my prayers over the remedy, and went to offer it to Ezekiel to drink. Raziel did not speak, did not move, and just stared at me. I lifted Ezekiel’s head and tried to pour some of the remedy down his throat. He was unconscious, and I could do little more than pour it into his mouth and rub his throat to get him to swallow. He’d broken out in a sweat and was shivering. I brought over my blankets from their shelf and covered him.

            “Will he… Will he be alright?” Raziel’s voice was wounded, worried, and so unlike him. I looked over at him from where I sat next to Ezekiel. He didn’t look scared, he looked angrier than ever, and barely under control. That one wrong move, one wrong word and suddenly he’d tear through me and my home like the dragon had destroyed the houses.

            “I don’t know, it is up to the Earth Mother to grant her blessing,” I said quietly. Raziel quickly turned and slammed his arm into a row a clay jars that held various ingredients. They shattered and he left the hut, slamming the door like he had before.

            “It… It isn’t your… fault,” came Ezekiel’s weak voice from the cot. He had regained consciousness which was a very good sign.

            “Don’t try to talk, just sleep. You can tell me in the morning,” I took his hand and patted it. He squeezed it, tried to smile and drifted off. I pulled Grandmother’s rocking chair over and sat next to Ezekiel to watch over him. He was very handsome, and for the first time I began to wonder if I should look for a husband for myself. I should not look for one in the Nightsorrows. I despised Raziel even though… I… I glanced at the dart on the table. Did I do this? I asked myself. I had wished that Raziel meet his worst fear. Was losing his brother his worst fear? Had I harmed an innocent… I looked at Ezekiel, mostly innocent in wanting to hurt Raziel? If so I’d broken the most important of my sworn oaths as a soothsayer: Do no harm.

           

            I did not see Raziel in the morning right away. I wanted to silently hope that one of the monsters had eaten him, but I was so broken, and so low at the revelation I’d had during the night, I was afraid that just hoping would cause more damage than I’d already done. I had nearly killed one of Hammael’s sons, and where was Hammael? I began breakfast, it was mundane, I began the letipa, though I looked around for Raziel while gathering the water, I did not see him. With his hood he’d be practically invisible in the shadows of the trees. When I’d returned with the water for the cauldron Ezekiel was awake and trying to sit up in bed.

            “Easy there, not yet, you are still weak,” I said to him trying to push him back down onto the bed. It was like trying to push a giant rock back into the earth. Even weakened he was still stronger than I. He looked at me with his blue eyes that seemed too old for his young face.

            “You could be her, you know,” he said to me.

            “Be who?” I asked.

            “Our sister,” he answered easily.

            “You have a sister?” I wondered what did a Nightsorrow daughter do? Was she a bodyguard like her brothers? She had to be tough, growing up with Raziel for certain, and probably beautiful. Hammael did have handsome sons, even with the scar on Raziel’s face he was still attractive. Well until he twisted your arm behind your back.

            “We had an adopted sister, an orphan baby Roz found,” he explained. He reached into his shirt and pulled out a locket. It was simply silver, about the size of an egg. “This is Father’s.” He offered it to me and I opened it. Inside were the portraits of two people, a woman, raven haired, strong features I recognized in Raziel and Ezekiel. She looked proud and beautiful. “Our mother, Naeria. She was murdered when Gretchen was kidnapped.” He pointed to the other portrait in the locket. It was of a small toddler, no more than four, with ringlets of red hair, happy chubby cheeks, and a button nose. She was adorable. I recognized the red hair ribbon. It was older, faded, ragged, and worn around Raziel’s wrist.

            “I’m sorry for your loss,” I said to him handing him the locket back.

            “It was nearly twenty years ago, I don’t remember Gretchen well, but I remember she was the apple of Roz’s eye. She could do no wrong around him. She was his world.”

            “Is that why he’s so…” I mock growled at him. Ezekiel nodded and suddenly we were both laughing.

            “I’m glad you find this situation so funny,” spoke Raziel’s voice from the doorway. I tried not to wince. His voice was hard. “If you haven’t forgotten, Zeke, we still need to rescue Father.”

            “Sir Hammael? What happened?” I asked concerned, “Why are you accused of trying to murder the king?”

            “Because we did murder the king, soothsayer,” Raziel began, “Only it wasn’t so much as murder as he was already dead when we tried to kill him.” His voice dripped with venom.

            “You speak nonsense,” I stated and I saw Raziel tense, his hands curl into fists. In the light of day I suddenly noticed that all of Raziel’s throwing knives were gone, the belts that held them on his chest were empty. That one of his sleeves was barely held on, a large gash across one bicep.

            “We have no other way to explain it. The dragon attacked the capitol and killed the king, only he didn’t stay dead. Only it wasn’t the king, none of the dead have remained so. They got up and began to walk around, to attack the living,” Ezekiel explained.

            “It would seem that all of your problems begin with the dragon,” I said.

            “They do, and he’s asking for Entia, and we’re gonna give him her granddaughter,” Raziel stated.

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