Chapter 19

The clearing they stopped at was large enough for the three to spread out and sleep with a fire going. Martell liked that there were a few downed trees to act as short walls and block the wind from two sides. Oren was able to catch a rabbit for dinner. While they prepared it and the fire, Tabia chanted a prayer over the camp asking for her goddess’s blessing and protection.
Oren took the first watch. Uneventful, it allowed him to finish reading the Meditations on Umbra and start Penumbra of Nature. The new book theorized that out in the wild there were far more spirits to call to your assistance, despite not being able to sense their presence. Further, sometimes you could seek out a spirit that may be more inclined to assist in the task you desire to accomplish. For example, if one wanted to send a message a long distance, charging the right spirit could cut the transmission time down or could delay the message to the point it may not be delivered in the recipient’s lifetime. Finally, he stopped on an entry that theorized, if a method were deciphered on how to talk to the spirit directly then the person could get a spirit to do anything he imagined as soon as he found the one capable of doing the task. These were all great ideas to Oren, but far beyond what he felt capable of. He would for now focus on being able to see those spirits which may not be readily seen and focus on calling them close and repelling them back.
Martell was woken up to relieve Oren. “Time for you to watch over the rest of us while we sleep”
“Already?” Martell commented groggily.
“Yes, you are as bad at getting up in the middle of the night as Sonia was.” Oren sat down near Martell.
“Really? You are going to compare me to your wife?”
“You would have liked her,” Oren gave a slight smile. “She wanted me to go into my father’s business. I was set in my ways and comfort was an easier route than the adventure on the roads. I also didn’t want to be away from her.” Oren paused taking a deep breath. “Looking back I think she would have gone with me, but I never asked her.”
“You should have. The roads are not as bad when you travel in a group with others.” Martell sat up and moved a little closer. “In large caravans, and definitely with what I saw of your father’s, the two of you would have been safe.”
Oren got silent, her words pounded on the pain of regrets he still held tightly to.
“She would be proud of you now. You have done what she requested, and more. Not all men are suited to leave their home. You are no longer the humble shop keeper I met back in Aleto.”
“I suppose I am not.” Oren went over and tossed some more wood on the camp fire and then got into his bed roll. “You are not the same person I met in Aleto either.”
Martell thought for a moment and was going to add to his comment but Oren had drifted off to sleep.
While on her watch for the night, Martell saw a few different animals look curious or aggressive and approach the camp. Whenever they got within the light of the camp, they seemed to relax or mellow. It was as if whatever urged them to approach the camp had faded and they had lost interest in it and its inhabitants. She was curious if this was due to the prayers of Tabia or if she had a talisman that kept their camp safe. Martell knew the question would be just as futile to ask of Tabia as it would have been to Rowenn. The priestesses maintained a certain amount of ambiguity in where the powers of the goddess began and ended. She recalled asking Rowenn how the temple maintained the candles lit in such quantity and at a constant height. The only answer she received is it had always been that way and was just unknowledgeable as Martell to if it were an enchantment or her goddess that had an ability to do so. She spent the rest of the time listening to the creaking of the woods as the wind pushed branches slowly against one another and watching as Oren slept a peaceful rest.
Tabia took the final turn watching the camp. She woke up before Martell had gotten to her. Across the fire Martell could see she looked troubled. “Varelle is concerning me. She sends signs in my dreams that a problem will befall me in the days ahead. I do not know if it is inevitable. I do know it is where she directs me. I wonder if it is, why she let me linger for over a thousand years, was it for this.”
“How did you end up trapped in the shadows?”
“I was at the temple near Abbysta. Back at that time, there were usually three priestesses at a time. They were stationed such that the novice was at the temple in Avo, the junior in Drémore Court, and the senior at the temple near Erridda, then Abbysta. I had just finished five years of training the novice, and moved out to the temple at Abbysta. Initially, all was calm in the area, but then raiders started to assault the logging camps in the area. The soldiers requested I move into the stronghold for safety. I disregarded their request and obeyed what I thought was Varelle’s will. I stayed at the temple as many still visited seeking her blessing. One day, my visitor was one of the raiders. He wielded a maul and attacked the altar smashing a bowl that had been there. When it shattered, the place started to darken and a mist settled in. The assailant died from what looked like the vapors seared his lungs. I feared for my life then and recited my prayers to Varelle. She appeared to me and told me to not fear. She would take care of me and I would live to serve her another day. But my body faded. I was there but not there. I saw time pass and I witnessed changes always trapped in the temple. I heard the fall of the world and the tranquility of nature take over the temple. I saw as those seeking riches came and left disappointed by the empty chamber. Then earlier this year I heard from Varelle. She spoke to me and said it was time to serve again. She would send her priestess Rowenn to free me before the first winter’s snow. As it got closer I got antsy, I desired to move in the world, and I wanted to feel the cold of a snow fall for the first time in forever. I was tired of seeing shadows shorten and lengthen with the passing of days. I wanted to live.”
After a pause to take it in, Martell finally spoke “That is a long time to wait. I do not know if death would have been better after so long.”
“Now she tells me it might end soon. I had hoped to open the temple and again minister to her followers. It feels unfair, but I did reach out to her for help and she did answer.”
“Sometimes prayers are better left unanswered. She spoke to me when I wanted to leave the Tethinger Order. She showed me that this was the path to take when I asked. If she had not showed me which way to go, I would have the ease of being in the King’s court. I would be comfortable advising his knights and have a warm bed, not out in the cold…” Martell spoke calmly. She looked over at Oren and smiled to herself. “I cut many bridges when I left the order. But those I have met since have made the trials easier. I now also know I would be restless at the beck and call of the king, serving his interests only.”
“I see,” Tabia thoughtfully spoke. “In hindsight, you see the wisdom that Varelle had in sending you on this difficult path. Perhaps it is not my end she is foretelling, but preparing me for a change I would not otherwise make. Thank you Martell, I will meditate upon this while on watch tonight.”

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