After defeating the smugglers along the border between Cosette and Cendrillion, the three journeyed back to Beaufort. Along the way, Val thought that the connection to Iezecele and Lucinde through his diamond ring strengthen. There were times around the campfire that he believed he heard what one of them was about to say just before they said it.. Drinking at The Little Duchess Inn, he decided to test the depths of the ring’s power.
“I know we’ve been on the road for some time, Val, but I’m not comfortable with you looking at me like that.” The rogue had been staring at Iezecele for some time, trying to pick up on the Willworker’s thoughts. It wasn’t working.
“Oh, it’s not that,” Val leaned back in his seat and drank his wine. His mind tracked down the moments he had felt his companion’s thoughts reach him. They weren’t random thoughts. Everything he had felt had been directed to him. Val thought that maybe the ring wasn’t receiving anything, instead, maybe it was projecting them. He looked again at Iezecele, who was doing his best to ignore Val’s gaze. Can you hear me? Val directed the thought to the Willworker.
“Of course I can hear you!” Iezecele put down his stein a little too forcefully. “This place isn’t too loud and we’re at the same table!”
Val threw up his arms in victory, “Woohoo!”
Lucinde and Iezecele looked at each other. It was usually much later when the wine addled the rouge’s brain. “What is your deal?” Iezecele questioned.
Val pointed at his pursed lips. Because you can hear me.
Realization hit Iezecele. While it sounded like Val had spoken to him aloud, the rogue had sent him the thought. The Willworker knew that Val had no access to his Will. How was Val doing it? The answer came quickly to him, the ring. The rings had connected them, perhaps the amount of time they wore the ring deepened that connection. It’s the rings, correct? Val responded to Iezecele’s sending with a wide grin and a thumbs up.
Lucinde was confused by her companions. First, Val was acting like an idiot. While that wasn’t entirely out of the ordinary, it was odd for Iezecele sharing a stupid grin with the rogue. “What’s going on?” She looked at her stein. “Were your drinks spiked?”
Val looked over to the warrior. Why don’t you buy us another round?
Lucinde sat straight in her chair, “If you keep making eyes at me, I’ll have you make out with my flail.”
Val wondered why his companion hadn’t heard the thought he had sent her. It had worked when he thought to Iezecele, and when Iezecele thought to him. Something must be different. The rings had connected them before. An idea occurred to him. Lucinde was the only one of the three wearing a helm. Maybe the metal was blocking his thought.
“Just go with it.” Iezecele held up a cautioning hand to Lucinde when the rogue lifted off her helm. He saw where Val was going. The Willworker didn’t think that the helm was the reason. After all, the rings had allowed them to sense each other over miles. Surely there had been metal interposing them along those distances. Still, it was best to test the rogue’s theory.
Now, can you hear me? Val thought to Lucinde, but sensed no recognition in the warrior’s eyes.
“Seriously, what is up with you two tonight?” Lucinde pushed her drink away, maybe they were spiked. “You know that we’re heading for the Basilica tomorrow. I don’t want to be embarrassed.”
Val wasn’t entirely sure, but he felt that Lucinde was directing that statement more in his direction than in Iezecele’s. Lucinde was always so stiff. Sure, he could see how it could seem a little odd, but she could learn to loosen up a bit. Loosen up. Val ordered another round for the table, requesting a liter stein for Lucinde. He let the matter rest, engaging his companions in idle conversation. He waited until she had drained the last drop from the large stein. Now, hear me! He stared directly at the warrior and focused as forcefully as he could.
Lucinde covered her ears, the rogue had yelled so loud. But, he hadn’t spoken at all. His mouth was unusually closed when she heard him. “How did you?”
Val raised his hands in victory, he had gotten through to Lucinde. She had just needed to relax a bit. The ring allows us to send each other thoughts. He shared with Lucinde, pointing at his closed mouth for emphasis.
Resting her head in her hand, I’m not sure if this is a good thing. There are some thoughts that I’d rather not hear.
Iezecele let out a short laugh. Lucinde wasn’t wrong. The last thing that he needed was Val’s thoughts badgering him when he was shaping his Will. Iezecele made a note to see if he could choose to block out thoughts.
The following day, the trio went to the Basilica inside the First Ring of Beaufort. After revealing their letter of introduction, they were taken deep beneath the main structure. There, in a small meeting room, they met the highest chappin on the Isle, Channing Kearnan. The man was older and lacking in height, but still exuding a sense of calm strength. He warmly greeted them, each in turn.
As Kearnan overlooked the shield and plate the three had found in the forts, Val was surprised at the Channing’s mien. While the Church had no military or fiscal strength, it still held sway over people in its own way. Val expected the man in the highest office of the Church to be more domineering and less…grandfatherly. The man even apologized for putting them in danger when Lucinde related of the giant scorpion’s attack.
“And what do you think of these monsters?” Channing Kearnan asked when he heard about the calcifying bite of the chicken-bat.
" Maybe they come from Marmo? " Her family had traveled from one end of the Isle to the other for generations. They had no stories of the twisted creature they faced in Bergamoth , nor of any stories of dire creatures dripping with black ooze. “And speaking of Marmo, what exactly does it mean when this prophecy says Marmo will return?”
“We believe that Verite’ is telling us that the part of the Isle that Arnaud and his allies sheared off will return.” He could see the disbelief in the three’s eyes. He was once like them. Not for the first time, Channing Kearnan wished he could share his vision and the conviction it brought.
Lucinde shook her head, “It sank.” She couldn’t believe she had to tell the Channing of the entire Church. Every child of Cosette grew up on the story of Arnaud.
“It crumbled when the Willworkers melded the highest Will shaping of all four elements. Earth tumbled their castles and Water eroded their land. A storm of Air and Fire swept away everything else.” To think that one could push a land mass like pushing a toy boat in a bathtub was beyond ludicrous.
The Channing had heard this and more, from both heads of state and leaders of the arcane. He more than believed, he knew that Marmo was returning. “With deepest respect, Master Willworker, the cursed land of Marmo is returning.”
Lucinde could barely comprehend how the Isle was broken in the first place, let alone how it could be glued back together. “Have you checked for this Marmo? I mean, something that big, you should be able to see it a ways off. Or, send maybe you should send ships? It would be nice if we knew what was coming.”
Kearnan smiled patiently, “We have sent some ships, as yet to no avail. And, my dear, I couldn’t agree with you more about wanting to know about the Enemy.”
Iezecele shook his head. They believe in prophecy. They believe in impossibilities. They send ships to look for non-existent lands. He needed to get away from this madness. “Is that all?”
It wasn’t the first time he had dealt with a Willworker’s frustration at his ideas. “I did have one remaining item. Thank you for bringing it up, Master Willworker.” Channing Kearnan explained that he had sent a number of chappins to the remote city of Karg in the Devonan land of Harthelen, but had not heard from them in some time.
“Devonan chappins?” Val questioned. He had always thought that the Devonans followed their own religion. Kantora had long relations with Harthelen. He knew from his schooling that Karg was unfriendly to all the non-Devonan races.
“Human.” Kearnan replied, “though I did secure for them a rite of passage from La Roche.”
“So you need us to find these chappins and bring them back?” Iezecele was becoming impatient.
“They were on a mission similar to yours. I would ask that you find them and provide aid, if they should need it. And speaking of aid, I worry about you three. The reports I read of your exploits are chilling. I was wondering if you would like some help of your own?”
Val rubbed his side where the scorpion had nearly crushed him to death. “The more the merrier.” It would be nice to meet someone new and have them take some blows instead of him.
Iezecle’s first thought was of Bob’s head being sliced off by the undead skeleton. “No need for help, we’ve done well by ourselves.”
Lucinde’s father had offered her something similar when she was going off to explore the forts along the border. She didn’t want to bring in any of her family, let alone some random stranger who had no stake in this fight, “No, no help, unless they’re Chosen like us?”
Channing Kearnan smiled, the reports said that the warrior from Cosette might be the first to truly believe. “Like you?” He arched his eyebrow, “Perhaps.”