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Friday, September 1, 2017

Destiny Awaits

Nilla had just taken the last bite of her sandwich when Amerak startled her by coming up behind her chair and grabbing her shoulders. She hadn’t thought he could move that fast. He had just risen and began to pace around while he waited for her to slack her hunger. The last bite lodged in her throat and she began to choke. “The time for stalling is over little thief”, was growled into her ear as the wizard loomed over her.

“I think you have played on my patience long enough. Tell me what you have found in your search, or that meal will be your last.” To emphasize his point, Amerak squeezed her shoulders painfully. Nilla couldn’t stop the whimper of pain as his claws extended, digging deeper into her flesh. “Now tell me, have you found the Guardians? Or did you and your inept band fail me once more?”

Swallowing the tasteless sandwich, Nilla longed to take a sip of water to help it go down but feared in his present mood that Amerak would take offense of it. “When you summoned me, my band and I were closing in on the whereabouts of the Guardians. We had intel tell us they were traveling with a guide towards Coracre, we immediately set off in pursuit. As we speak my band should be encountering them. If we are finished I would like to join in the battle.”

Nilla tried to remain nonchalant as the lie left her lips. She worried that Amerak would see through it and all would be lost. She didn’t have long to wait to find out if he believed her or not. He quickly released her and moved to stand in front of her. Her heart felt like it dropped to her feet when she saw him signal his guards. The look on his face spoke volumes of his displeasure at catching her in a lie.

“Amazing, I almost believed you. How easy you lie to your lord and master. Now tell me again where they are located? Was it Coracre? Hmm… now according to my spies, it seems the Guardians may have gone a bit out of their way to get there. They say they were heading in the totally opposite direction.” Amerak motioned towards a small figure that until now Nilla hadn’t noticed. “Where was it that your friend Max said he was heading again? I am fairly certain you said somewhere other than Coracre.”

The small wiry fella looked more rodent than Felis, his sharply pointed ears, and whip thin tail just a few of his attributes. His tiny black eyes never seemed to stop in their perusal of all around. You could feel his nervous energy from across the room. Even his voice was squeaky as he spoke. “It weren’t no Coracre that’s fer sure, my liege. It was that old haunted place, you be knowing the one. Black Barrow be its name.” His little nose twitched a bit as he continued.

“Old Max, he was all in a hurry to be gone. Said the ones who hired him were looking for something. Last, I knew there weren’t nothing up that way ‘ceptin’ ghosts. I warns him of it but he still took them up there.” Amerak held out his hand and in it was a pouch of what Nilla could only surmise to be the fool’s payment. She had a feeling he wouldn’t get far with it though. Amerak didn’t like to pay for anything. “Thank ya much, my liege, I can go, right?” He reached out and quickly snatched the pouch from Amerak’s hand.

Amerak waved him off and returned his eyes to where Nilla sat now perched on the edge of her seat. “So, do you have anything new to add? Like the true whereabouts of your crew and the Guardians.”

Nilla tried to think of a way out of her predicament but for once her brain refused to come up with anything. She refused to say anything of Black Barrow. “I have no idea what he is talking about. When we found a trace of them it was up in the mountains, a severe storm was raging and we had taken refuge in a cave. I have never heard of this place he speaks of. When you summoned me, we were just packing up to try and regain their trail. From what Zi said it looked like they were headed in the direction of Coracre.”

Nilla watched Amerak’s hands and flinched when he gave a signal. The guard grabbed her and forced her to stand. His buddy came to stand beside her and took hold of her arm. “What? I told you all I know.” She pleaded but Amerak just walked toward the door, signaling the guards to bring her along. “Where are you taking me?” she cried. She tried to fight from the hold but the guards were too strong.

As Bumbles portal opened the sound of bird song filtered into the cave. As did a flurry of snow, “hurry now. I can only hold this open for so long and we have a large group to pass through.” He was already beginning to feel the strain of holding the portal and he knew that Bo would only be able to concentrate so long on the location. “Time is of the essence, go now!”

Bo fought his repugnance at remembering the hated place. He had never realized how hard it was to stay concentrated on one thing as he did now. Little thoughts kept trying to creep in and he pushed them away as he fought to hold the picture in his mind. Perspiration began beading on his brow and he fought the urge to wipe it away.

At last, he heard the magician tell him to hold on and felt his arm taken hold of. “Keep holding the scene and I will guide you through the portal with me.” He heard Bumbles say as he was urged to walk. “when we are through the portal, I will squeeze your arm. At that moment, it will be safe to let the scene go.” Bo shook his head to indicate he understood and then began to walk.

Neko stumbled from the portal and quickly shielded his eyes from the blazing sun. He had not been expecting to go from the dimly lit cave into a world bathed in light reflected off the ice crusted snow. He felt someone bump into him from behind and turned to find the twins arm in arm as they stumbled out into the clearing next.

“Watch your step, the light is blinding.” He warned just as he watched Dominic grimace from the glare. “You would think Bo would think of a shady spot, but no. Let’s send us smack dab into an open field.” He remarked sarcastically. Next through the portal was CeCe. She had thought ahead obviously because she had her hood pulled forward to shield her face.

“Stop your growling and move out of people’s way” she groused from beneath her hood. She moved to the side of the portal to allow the rest of the group to exit. “Hurry the portal is weakening.”

One by one the others came through the portal, the last being Bumbles as he pushed Bo ahead of himself. The moment Bumble’s tail cleared the portal it collapsed on itself and winked out of existence. Bo stopped short causing the Bumbles to run into him. He stopped and looked up towards the austere fortress looming ahead of them. In his mind, it had always been this huge eerie place. Now it still held the gloomy aspect but didn’t seem quite as huge. Funny how the mind of a kit worked, but then again, he was no longer a kit but a full-grown warrior.

Black Barrow sat on the edge of a cliff. It’s weathered gray walls stood stark against the blue of the sky. Clouds of the same gray drifted among the parapets. He had always thought it had a sad look to it. As if it stood alone in the world. What a fitting place for something as deadly as the Triad to dwell. “Well, we are within reach of our goal. Shall we proceed?” He asked the silent group.

With the silent sentinel of Black Barrow looming over them, the group headed towards it. “You weren’t kidding when you said this place was haunted, I mean does anyone else feel like we are being watched? I am feeling this weird energy. Oh! I can’t explain exactly what I’m feeling but you guys feel it too, right?” Neko rambled on as his sense of unease increased.

“Yeah, we get you, dude. This is not a good place for sure.” Dominic said as he moved closer to his brother. “It’s weird. I feel like running away from it but at the same time I feel drawn to it.” He looked at Donny, “what do you think, twin?”

Donny took a moment to consider the fortress. “There are secrets here begging to be discovered. I hear this strange whispering through my connection to the staff. It feels like it is being pulled toward something. I think we have really found the Triad, it is the only explanation I can come up with.” He picked up his step, “the sooner we get there the sooner we will know. Come on, let’s hurry up.”

Diewen had joined Dominic and Neko and he as he watched Donny picked up his pace. “What did he mean connection to the staff? What is up with that?” He noticed Dom and Neko exchanging a glance and stopped. “What is up with you guys? What aren’t you saying? Is there something my friends and I need to know about you guys?” He narrowed his eyes and blocked them from moving forward. “I want some answers.”

Neko studied the small Felis and considered what he should say. He wished he could consult with Bo and the others before telling this stranger anything about them. He felt they needed to know more, just to prepare them but he didn’t feel he should say anything. He got lucky as Bo’s voice sounded behind him making him jump. “You could say as Guardians we have some unusual tricks up our sleeves. It seems we were chosen to find the Triad and to protect it and the Goddess gave us some unique abilities to do our job.”

Diewen considered what he had witnessed so far in the encounters they had previously with the gang and now it all began to make sense. “You mean like the princess’ healing power and what you did in the clearing the last time we battled? Those are your gifts?” He raised his fingers to make quotes when he said gifts. “What other gifts do you possess?”

Bo raised an eyebrow at the little guy. “We can tell you more once we make camp. For now, let’s get walking. I want to be set up before nightfall. If you think this place is scary now, wait until the sun goes down. Then it becomes terrifying.” With those cryptic words, he went to rejoin CeCe and Azereus.

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