Return to the Mist - Chapter 5 - The Perfect Opportunity

First Chapter: http://www.hackedonline.com/docs/16536.html
Previous Chapter: http://www.theonering.com/docs/16997.html

Chapter 5

"One, two, three, four... good. Again. One, two, three, four.... You're doing better, Larenteth. You practiced. Why the sudden urge to become so fit?"

Jack had taken on training Larenteth, mostly because Larenteth was such a good friend to him. After a few weeks of general muscle training, Jack had moved him to working with sticks in the place of swords. Since there was virtually no true wood in Seerganash halls or on the mountains surrounding, the leathery sticks were from the forest of ash, blanketed by the Mist. Larenteth had always had a general feeling of how to handle a sword, but he had never been very good. At first Jack thought that Larenteth would have already been trained extensively in self-defense, being the sole keeper of the Master Key, but apparently something in Seerganash blood smothered any incentive to steal the key. Jack had also heard stories that the key itself was enchanted and would always find its way back to its master. Veracity of such tales was often hard to tell, but after everything Jack had seen in these halls from living stone to the great Vantranack tree, and especially Jack's father surfacing from that stone... strange things were bound to happen with a history inundated with dragons.

"Well... you see, Lily and me kind of made a bet... woah!" Larenteth had to duck fast to avoid an abrupt jab on Jack's part, as the two were still going through motions. "I figured it would be good for both of us physically, and good for her mentally... so I said if Lily started training so would I."

Jack halted movements. "Lily's started training? With whom?"

"She told me it was with Captain Morgan. She's warden now, right?" Larenteth answered, lowering his petrified stick.

"Yes she is. Well, good for her, and good for you." Jack jabbed Larenteth in the side, knocking him off guard and off balance. "I wouldn't lower that stick if I were you," he said with a grin, and Larenteth resumed position and the two continued fighting. Jack fought with his right hand.


*

A lone rider cantered through a field towards what looked like a solid wall of black fog. The field around him was dead and covered with ash as if that mist had once stretched farther but had now receded. He doubted his errand, wondering how it would be at all possible to go into the seemingly impenetrable wall. Now at the mist's edge, he breathed in the smell of sulfur and coughed. Suit tingled in his throat. The horse snorted and backed away, but the rider pushed him into the mist. For a moment, all was black and the man's eyes stung something fierce. Then it was more like a thick fog, with visibility of about five feet. The man barely had time to regain his composure when fifteen hands were placed on his horse. Out of the fog, chalky black faces appeared, all with eerie green eyes. They were well armed and strong and not bothered by the mist. Border guards thought the rider.

One particularly meaty fellow stepped forward. He was almost as tall as the rider, even though the rider was on top of his horse. "What business have you in our Mist?" He said in a gruff voice. The rider noticed that this man and the rest of the guards had dragon-wing shaped tattoos on their wrists.

"You have no business to halt me here. Who are you anyhow? I was told those that wander in the Mist are never bothered but wander around lost."

"Would you rather be lost? We can accommodate that," the man answered. "As for stopping you, way have ways of knowing who has actual purpose and who does not. Now, what is your purpose? Speak!"

" I have been sent to seek audience with the Dragon Master Under the Iron Hills," the rider answered, a bit more strongly as if his job was important. But the border guards laughed.

"'Dragon Master Under the Iron Hills'?" What are you reading from a script? Turn around and go away. `Dragon Master.' Don't even know who you are talking about," answered the guard.

"But this is urgent! You must let me in!"

"I really don't think so."

"But -"

"Nope."

"Fine," the rider huffed, frustrated and still somewhat scared. "At least give this to its proper addressee. Be sure that it is delivered. If you don't want to deal with it, those it concerns might! Please deliver it promptly, as it is timely material. Good day, sir!" The rider made sure to do a complete turn and galloped out the way he had come, coughing. The border guard looked at the message. Sure enough, it was addressed to "The Dragon Master Under the Iron Hills." The guard shook his head.

"It's an invitation to something. Hey, Sar, any idea where to send this?"

"They probably mean Rowen or Jack. Idiot boy. Just have a runner get it to them; they will deal with it."

So a runner was sent with the invitation and the guards resumed their ever-watchful places.

*

When Rowen received the cordial-looking message entitled "The Dragon Master Under the Iron Hills," she opened it with a twitch of disdain and abruptly tossed it to the floor of her room. Jack had already seen it and had passed it onto her. It was their formal invitation to some conference or other. Rowen scarcely thought any importance of it, but Jack thought it something they should attend. There was, however, no time in which to attend it, and no one Jack was ready to trust to represent them. It was a predicament to be in, but Jack had decided it was best to decline invitation.

Meanwhile, there was something more important Rowen had to do. Something she had been waiting to do for a long time, but never had had the willpower to do it. When Jack had discovered the creaking of the Vantranack tree, he had correctly concluded that the dragons were mustering again. With so much dragon magic in the air, Rowen's gold bands worked with such ease that she had to be careful. Her wrists ached under the constant strain of the bands, at times they were hot to the touch.

For one day each moon, the forges closed down completely. It was a day of rest to cool the fires and the men and women that worked them. The forges were run off dragon fire that was ever lit - the reason why so many Seerganash, who spent their lives underground, were still tanned. Dragon fire worked like sunlight. The fire was precious, but in the current time it was abundant. Rowen had, on occasion, lit the forges that went out when fire was scarce.

Today she would make the forges heave with it.

Rowen walked down every back tunnel she knew, avoiding all of the frequently-traveled ones. On her back she carried a thick, heavy bag that jingled with metal when she turned. In her other hand was a torch that flickered brave light on the dark tunnel walls, unlit because they were so little used. As Rowen got closer and closer to the forges, that same little torch blazed higher and higher. Finally Rowen reached two large heavy doors - the entrance to the forges. These were often open, or at least one of them, but today they remained shut and locked to deter any person from meddling with the large forges by his- or herself. Rowen placed her blazing torch in a holder on the wall. It calmed down some when her hand no longer touched it. Rowen herself wore the heavy black Seerganash cloak that resisted fire. Her boots matched it. She was quite a site, standing by the two menacing doors in a hooded black cape. Her glowing golden fire eyes blazed beneath the hood and the pack on her back creaked with weight.

Finally a long lanky figure rounded the corner, out of breath. Larenteth's long hair was tied back, but the two pieces in front stuck to his face and he panted heavily.

"I'm sorry for keeping you waiting, Rowen. I ran as fast as I could." He took out the large Master Key from his shirt and, without removing it from the cord around his neck, unlocked the doors to the forge. He looked up at the waiting Rowen and motioned that she could go in. "Please be careful Rowen," he said, biting his lip.

She smiled. "Thanks, Larenteth. Don't worry, I'll be careful. When I go in, lock both doors behind me and open them for no reason whatsoever unless it's me banging on them. I'll see you later.'

Larenteth gave a small worried smiled and watched her go in, waiting to lock the doors. Rowen took a deep breath and walked into the forges, which, even when unmanned, were alive with their dragon fire. At Rowen's presence, the fires leaped up, curling with molten grace twenty feet up the stone walls. The flames almost seemed to come to life, as if they were greeting the lone Raugrím that walked in their midst. As the flames started to crawl hungrily along the floor, Rowen set down her pack and turned around to look at Larenteth. She smiled and nodded to him to close the doors. He gave her another worried smile and slowly closed both heavy doors, inserting the key and locking them. He turned to walk away when the hallway around him was lit brightly from light pushing through the seams of the doors, as if something had just exploded. The doors creaked heavily on their hinges but remained closed. Larenteth was almost about to unlock them and see what was going on when he remembered Rowen's warning. Worried still, Larenteth wandered off.

Inside, blooms of dragon fire exploded and wreathed the stone. Troughs of it filled up, swirling around Rowen. She sat in the middle, surrounded by the contents of her sack. Prized Seerganash sword metal, dragon gold, and gems she had discovered herself in dragon caves. Rowen waited for her hands to cool somewhat before taking out the last item: a lock of Lily's hair. Rowen wrapped it in a shred of Seerganash cloak material and laid that on the ground in front of her. Already she could feel the fire itching in her palms. This hall was rank with dragon fire by now, building off the supply that had already been there. Then, Rowen began her work.

The sword metal heated in her palms, the only thing keeping it from burning her was a pad of heat. The forges' fire licked up around her, melting and twisting and contorting all the metal. Rowen picked up the fabric containing Lily's hair and set it in a ball of fire that kept it in midair above her hand. The fire did not penetrate the strange black material. Rowen placed this hand on the ground and with her other hand scooped up half-melted metal. The metal fused into the ball of heat, wrapping around the fabric and hair. Rowen elongated it, smoothed it, then held one hand up so that her palm faced the wall. The long thing piece of metal was held horizontally in the dragon fire. Then with her right hand, Rowen began to shape, to create, to bend and add metal to. Gold swirled into the metal, strengthened by the fire. Each spark was reflected in Rowen's glowing yellow eyes.

Outside, Larenteth had returned to listen. The doors to the forges were hot to the touch and the sound of clanking, twisting metal echoed through their thick stone. For hours now Rowen had been in there and no one knew what she was doing. In fact, only Larenteth knew she was in there at all, and that burden made him sick with worry. He didn't know if she was alright. He guessed she was; she was Rowen. But then some metal and crank loudly and the fire inside would flare up and Larenteth would be right sick with worry again.

Rowen's work was almost done. The blade was sharper than any blade ever made, thinned to extreme sharpness and skillfully smoothed. The long sword bore a crescent moon where the hilt met the sword, its edges extending down over the blade, and a star was engraved on the blade itself just inside the moon. It was gorgeous, intricate but simple, with the utmost care given to every detail. It was smooth and flowing with vines of metal twisting around the upper hilt. Lastly, Rowen put her finger to the hilt and spelt out across it the name that should have always been there.

Aurora.

This is what Réllika's name should have been. This is what name her sword should have born. Back in her room, Rowen had the sword that did bear the name Réllika, the sword that had killed its owner.

This new sword was for Réllika, for what she should have been. Réllika was a woman like no other Rowen had met and Rowen had great respect for her. The letters on the sword blazed with red heat. Rowen began to calm the fires as best she could and walked over to the stream of water the poured out of the far end wall. In a fury of hissing steam, the sword cooled under the water.

With a black smeared face, burnt hands and arms, and a sword that was worth it all, Rowen walked out of the two stone doors leaving the fiery forges behind.


Larenteth greeted her instantly, afraid she had been hurt. Rowen thanked him and told him she needed to be alone for a bit. He nodded and left, wondering what Rowen was hiding under her cloak and what she had been doing in there but too afraid to ask.

Rowen journeyed back, trying to remember the way that she had gone three years ago. At last she found it: one deserted, upwards slanting, curving hall that was partially caved in. It had been set aside - no on was allowed to go in it and no one was allowed to fix it.

Rowen, still tingling with high burst of dragon energy, made her way upwards with plenty of her own light. Once in the room, she set fire to old, old torches that would not have lit with regular fire. The other side of the room was crushed under a fallen ceiling and the room still stank of death. From underneath the pile of rubble, one large red stain still defiled the rock with the death that lay hidden. Stains of red splattered the walls, years old, as a reminder of what had happened here. Under that pile of rubble lay the mangled body of Réllika where, only three years ago, Rowen had pulled the woman's own sword from Réllika's stomach. Flashes of the memory and the site of so much blood nauseated Rowen, so much so that she had to squat down with dizziness. Sweat dripped down her face. Trembling, Rowen slowly took out the sword she had made. It was still quite warm. With the last of her energy, Rowen used dragon fire to melt much of the rock rubble that had crashed down on Réllika's body. She shaped it until she saw fit and then stuck the sword into the rock, point down.

"May you never see battle nor blood," Rowen muttered, bowing her head the memorial sword. "I shall never make another sword like you because no creature deserves to be killed like that. Aurora, on your soul may nothing but your blood touch this sword." And Rowen placed two fingers on the tip of the hilt, concentrating. The letters Aurora let with fire and the blade began to glow. Then, all of her energy far beyond spent, Rowen collapsed to the ground.

As she lay uncounscious, the sparks that hit the dried blood on the ground danced with purple light, grazing back up the sides of the sword with elven-like magic, binding to it. Réllika had been an elf, as were all the Seerganash, but they often forgot it and none were fair like the elven kind who had remained in Lorien. How far the immortal had come from elven grace.

*

Larenteth, on his way to train with Jack, ran into the very man in the middle of the halls. "Ran" into is quite the word, for Jack nearly plowed the young elf down. Jack's face was distraught and his green eyes flickered with worry. Larenteth frowned at the man.

"Jack, what's wrong?" he asked, almost running to keep up with him.

"I don't know where Rowen is," he answered, glancing around as if trying to remember directions of some sort, or trying to figure them out for that matter.

"Don't know where she is? Do you ever?" Larenteth answered, confused. Rowen's disappearances had been far longer than this. "Look, I saw her earlier and -"

"Where did you see her? What was she doing?" Jack interrupted, turning his eerie green eyes to Larenteth.

"That's just the thing... she wouldn't tell me."

"You let her into the forges," Jack said, his eyes reverting back to his trail and his feet quickening. Larenteth winced.

"Bad... bad idea?" Larenteth asked meekly. Jack didn't answer.

"There is only one place where I know she could be," he said suddenly, jerking down a tunnel to their left. Larenteth skidded as he tried to keep up. He wondered vaguely how Jack could know his way through so many shortcut tunnels when his was still learning the main routes.

"The Vantranack?" Larenteth guessed, figuring their general direction.

"No, but someplace nearby."

Jack began to pick up speed, Larenteth trotting behind. When they took a sharp turn onto a curving incline tunnel, Larenteth realized where they were headed. Sure enough, torchlight gleamed up ahead.
When they reached the landing, Larenteth went to go into the room first. Jack barely had time to pull him back before fire shot up across the doorway.
"Fire line. Roe put it there shortly after Réllika died, but today it's even stronger," Jack said, glancing to the innocently flickering torch on the wall. He flashed his hand between it and the doorway and the fire leapt out at once, just missing his hand.

"But Seerganash cloaks resist fire," Larenteth said, confused.

"Ah, yes, but it serves more as a warning. Plus, this fire could catch your unprotected feet, could it not? You stay here, I think I can get across." Jack looked at the fire lining bottom of the doorway and at the now innocently crackling torch on the wall. He judged it and jumped, rolling as he went over the fire. The black Seerganash cape easily covered his body, but the flames did not jump much. Jack landed on his feet (how, Larenteth could only imagine and admire, for Jack had been sideways at one point in the air) and found exactly what he was looking for right near the middle of the room. One shadowy lump that was the exhausted form of Rowen lay there. Jack went to get her when something caught his eye. He lifted a nearby torch (a tame one) and held it up - but he did not have to hold it up far before an incredible gleam blinded him. There in the midst of swirled, half melted rock, lay imprisoned the most incredible sword Jack had ever seen, and he had seen many a sword from all over Middle Earth. He dared not touch it. The crystalline letters, clear-cut and radiant, gleamed from the hilt. Aurora.
So it was true. Rowen really did have more respect for that woman than anyone else did. Somehow, Jack found himself gladdened that Réllika could be remembered like this... for more than a cold-hearted killer. A sudden thought occurred to him: Lily. How would she receive this? Should they show her? Would see be better off seeing this beautiful memorial to what should have been her beautiful mother? Or would she be better off not being reminded of it all?

And if she was brought back to the subject of her parents... would she ask who was her father?

So far Jack had been lucky. Lily had inquired nothing about her past, much less her parentage. Learning of her mother had been enough of a shock - what would happen if she knew about... if she learned... if she found out that Jack was her uncle? If she found out that Castamir, of all people, was her father?

There was no time to think about such things now. At Jack's feet lay Rowen, half dead with exhaustion.
"Oh, Roe, what have you gotten yourself into this time?" he muttered, picking her up. At her site, the fires across the doorway dimmed and the silhouette of Larenteth appeared.

"No, Castamir, what have you done? Castamir..." Rowen muttered restlessly in her exhaustion, plagued by dreams of the past. She pushed against Jack's arms slightly in her sleep, her brow furrowed. Jack's face saddened, his eyebrows turning upwards. He held her tighter and walked towards the door. Every waking minute she knew he was Jack and made him smile. Every sleeping trance she thought him to be Castamir, and he dreaded every action, every word that she uttered because she talked to someone she had hated. She seemed to be the only one now who did not hold a grudge against Castamir, but still Jack could not find it in his heart to forgive his brother. To be mistaken for he caused Jack great pain and he cursed the green eyes that Castamir had cursed him with.

"Why the long face, Jack? Is she alright?" came the voice of Larenteth into Jack's thoughts.

"She'll be fine - she over exhausted herself more than usual this time."

"Oh. Should I get someone to take care of her?" Larenteth asked, about to take it back as soon as he had said it.

Jack laughed. "Take care of her? You know well that the minute Roe wakes up there will be a fit about being taken care of.

"Then why are you so sad?" Larenteth said abruptly. Jack looked at him, then began walking back down the tunnel.

"I'm not." Was all he said.

"Jack, you are one of the saddest people I know, at heart," Larenteth said quietly to himself, with only the walls to catch the whisper.

*
The next day, Larenteth was awoken as Lily jumped on him, her wavy hair bouncing.

"Wake up! Come on sleepy, WAKE UP!" she giggled, pulling the covers off of him. Larenteth had been late getting to sleep last night and was not in the mood to get up so early.

"What's this, you awake at this hour and me dead asleep?" Larenteth groaned, turning onto his stomach. Lily sat on his back, pushing the wind out of him. She began to brush his hair.

"I've been getting a good night's sleep, but that's more than I can say for you! I have the day off from training, and you are coming with me today!" Lily proclaimed, delighted.

"Sure, okay, just five more minutes..." Larenteth moaned into his pillow, trying to get back to sleep. Lily, however, was not going to let him. She bent down and kissed his cheek until he yelled at her. "Ewww gross, go slobber on someone else, let me sleep!" Larenteth yelled, shoving his face into the pillow. Lily laughed. She hadn't yet lost the battle.

"TOM!" she called, and the tunnel horse came running. Soon Larenteth was licked and nipped and snorted out of bed. "Get dressed, get dressed come on!" Lily chanted.

"Why are you so hyper?" Larenteth asked, putting on his boots.

"Because you said today you would show me the lilies, and I want to see them bloom in the sunrise," she said, smiling dreamily. The simplest things were of great wonder to Lily.

"The thing is, Lily... I've never been up there. Jac's been getting them for me. And it's dangerous - very dangerous," Larenteth said.

"Oh please oh please oh please!" Lily begged, her green eyes shining with childlike eagerness.

Larenteth considered for a moment, then had an idea. "Alright, but we have to wait a little bit. We have to wait until it's sunrise for us," he said mysteriously, then refused to say anymore. "Come on, let's go to the Vantranack and whittle away some time. You get on Tom, I'll meet you outside." As soon as Lily had left, Larenteth put his face to the wall and whispered something to the stone. A few moments later, a single scratching sound was heard. Larenteth smiled and left.


As Larenteth and Lily approached the Vantranack, they heard people speaking already there. They looked around the corner and saw Rowen and Jack wrestling with each other.

"Why do they always fight?" Lily asked. Larenteth laughed.

"No, they aren't really fighting. Neither will admit to it, but fighting and wrestling are their ways of showing affection for each other. Not many would be able to guess it, including them, but there is a very strong love between those two," Larenteth said, watching them with a smile.

"Wow, really?" Lily said, patting Tom.

"I think so. Rowen must be better today..." he trailed off, shutting his mouth.

"Why? What was the matter with her yesterday?" Lily asked.

"Nothing," Larenteth answered hurriedly. Jack had warned him not to say anything to Lily about what happened yesterday. "So, why don't you have a strong love? Lily, I think you need a boy."

She made a face. "Oh, but Larenteth, why, I thought you were my knight in shining armor!" They both laughed. Just then Kaytar and Dragon breezed by, trotting towards Rowen and Jack. Both mounted and disappeared through another Vantranack entrance. Now it was just Larenteth, Lily, and the enormous tree, which creaked in the high wind.

"I heard news that there will be one break in the clouds today; rumor is the dragons are beginning to feud. But one break is coming, and it should be hear exactly when the sun rises for us... that is, clears the top of his great cavern and shines through the topmost branches of the trees," Larenteth said, squinting up at the far away hole of light, hundreds of feet above them, where the tree had broken through the mountain top.

"Where do you hear these little news reports?" Lily asked, shaking her head. Larenteth only smiled.

"Come on," he said, grabbing her hand and running under the great twisted roots of the tree to the hollow beneath. The lighting instantly chanced to the dim phosphorescent lighting that crept in spirals up the inner tree bark. Larenteth turned to Lily. "You must tell no one of this," he said sternly. She nodded. Larenteth began feeling along the inner walls of the tree, constantly gazing at the swirls of phosphorescence around him. He abruptly stopped and pulled out the Master Key. "Lily!" he whispered, motioning for her to stand next to him. She nearly tripped for in the dim light she did not realize that Larenteth was standing on one of the roots that protruded from the Vantranack. When Lily was safely on, Larenteth whispered, "hold on." He inserted the Master Key into a particular streak of glowing bark, then pulled it out. "Here we go...." The root under their feet creaked and began to slide out from the Vantranack. It lifted them about twenty feet from the Vantranack surface before stopping. "Hurry, Lily! Before it retracts!" came Larenteth's voice. He pulled her hand, jumping off the root. Lily was amazed to discover that they were standing on a ledge, wide enough to walk comfortably on, that ringed round and round up the inside of the tree. In the dim light it was not visible from below; indeed, even if the Vantranack was brightly lit it would be well camouflaged. Behind them the root retracted, sinking back into its original position. "Come on Lily!" said Larenteth, climbing the wide spiraling ledge at good speed. Lily followed right behind him.

The two climbed higher and higher until they reached an opening. It opened out onto a hollow where a large limb sprung from the tree truck, creating a comfortable nook. Here Larenteth sat down and began to watch the opening in the rock still a good ways above them. He saw the break in the clouds, and then....

Sunlight poured into the Vantranack cavern, streaking through the ever-shifting willow leaves, melting down every groove in the twisted trunk, spilling in waves over every plane of stone until the world was alive with contrast and light and shadow. The sun hit the nook the two elves sat on, quenching the thirst of every green around them. As the surrounding plants drank in the golden nectar of sunlight, hundreds and hundreds of lilies burst into bloom around Larenteth and Lily. Every color, every shape and size. Each petal was an arm reaching for the rare light, bathing in its life-giving qualities.

Lily sat in awe, astounded by light and color and a heavenly perfume that soaked the air as much as the sunshine. Vines of lilies crawled further up the tree, past where they could reach.

"I've heard there are even more beautiful ones at the very top, but only Little Jac's been there. I normally don't come up her either; Jac usually gets the lilies for your hair. But I thought you needed to see this," Larenteth said. Lily had no words. She just looked around and around with an open mouth, entranced by the spash of beautiful life from which came her name. She finally swallowed and got out a few breathless words.

"Larenteth... it's beautiful...."

"I know."

*

When both had reached the Vantranack floor later, Lily turned to Larenteth. "When you gave me my name, how did you know what a lily was?"

"I... well... Austel used to talk about how beautiful the lilies were. She brought one in her hair one day. It is the only flower I have ever seen, and it is the most beautiful flower I will ever see, no matter how far I travel."

Lily bit her lip, smiling. "You gave me a name that meant that much to you? That held that much beauty?" She hugged him, a few tears leaking down her face. "Thank you, brother," she whispered. "This has been the best day."

"I'm glad you like it," he said in return, a single tear showing on his face too. Whether it was a tear of happiness or a tear of other memories it was hard to tell.

Just then, Jaclyn appeared on Larenteth's back. The little green sphinx was holding a piece of paper in her mouth.

"What have you got there, Little Jac?" asked Lily, taking the paper from the sphinx. Larenteth looked over her shoulder as she read it - it was the invitation that Rowen and Jack had recieved.

"Oh, that. I heard Jack talking about that. They can't go and there's no one else to send," Larenteth said nonchalantly, but a smile began to spread across Lily's face.

"A ball?" She said, reading on.

"Well, that is part of it."

"Why don't they send us?"

"They don't want to. Plus we don't know enough about politics."

"We don't. You do. Why don't we do them a favor and go ourselves?"

"Lily! We can't do that. Who knows what we'd mess up. Besides, everyone there would probably attack us or something. These things can be dangerous. Who knows what they'll say when we're not in the room."

"... What if they don't know we're Seerganash?" Lily said, her green eyes gleaming.

"Lily, I don't like when you get that look. Lily..." Larenteth said in a warning tone.

"We could spy on the convention! We could attend and find out what they are planning!" Lily said excitedly.

"Rowen and Jack will never let us go."

"Rowen and Jack never have to know."

"This is insane."

"This is genus."

"Lily...."

"Lead me to the wardrobe closet, Larenteth, because we need a few nicer clothes. Keep that invitation."

"What about your training?" Larenteth said suddenly.

"What of it? I've gotten a lot, you've gotten a lot - you have muscle, I have skill, no one will notice our absence! Well, after a bit they might, but we can say we've been exploring a newfound wing in the halls. No one will doubt that. And we have plenty of time to prepare... this thing is still a ways off."

"This is insane, Lily."

"No. This, my friend, is what we like to call the perfect opportunity."


*

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