Chapter Seven

The cataclysmic crash in the early morning hours could be heard even all the way from Willowbrook. Sleepy-eyed residents began opening their doors and gathering in the street to find out what was happening. It didn't take long at all for people to realize what happened. Paranoid whispers of dire omens about the end of the world began to circulate.

"Stop this!" Amelia jumped up on a wagon. She was still dressed in her small clothes but she didn't care. The oppressive heat had made it difficult to sleep. She needed to be noticed and to be heard. Her fiery red hair was still disheveled from trying to sleep and it made her out to be a raving mad-woman. "This is exactly what happened when my mother returned from those ruins." She pointed to the mountain dust cloud to emphasize her point. "Those I have begun to consider friends are out there. They have risked their lives to rescue others in need. Falling into mass hysteria is not going to accomplish anything useful."

"Quite right," A strange woman spoke from behind her. The woman was a middle-aged human and dressed in a light green medium-length sundress. She had just above shoulder-length blonde hair and blue eyes. Judging from the direction the woman came from she had just entered the town. It didn't take a leap in logic to figure that out since she was leading an old draft horse that was pulling a wagon by the reigns. "Helpful insight only comes from thinking clearly. Hello everyone, we came here with a man named Bryle who said that people have gone missing. We've come to lend what aid we can. My name is Jordyn Amaron and this is my husband Greil." The woman gestured to a man that appeared from behind the wagon carrying a create.

"Sorry we took so long getting here, but we had to pack everything we could. Come. We have honey and beeswax candles that we want to hand out to everyone." Greil set down the crate and opened it to reveal jars of golden honey packed neatly with straw.

Several people came forward and Greil urged them to form a neat line while he handed the jars and candles out.

Amelia jumped down from the wagon and walked over to speak with Jordyn. "So, you're Caelan's parents then."

"Yes, are you a friend of his?" Jordyn asked. Amelia felt if there was one word that had to be used to describe this woman it would be 'motherly'.

"I've met him. I think you would be proud. He helped heal many of the people in the village from poison," Amelia replied. Then looked to Greil handing out honey and candles. "Do you think this is something that really needs to be done right now?"

"Why not? Everyone has already gathered, and it's a perfect way to get their minds off what happened up on the mountain." Jordyn said. "It is something that needs to be dealt with and not ignored, however, neither is this situation something we can afford to approach from a place of fear and anxiety."

"Really? I think you'll have to tell me all about it during tea later. Perhaps you could invite that boy over there too," Jordyn nodded towards Dryst who had been waiting patiently nearby. "Come back in fifteen minutes and we should be done handing out supplies."

"I will, thank you," Amelia took her leave and walked over to greet Dryst. "I am sorry we haven't gotten to talk much since we returned. I have been occupied with dealing with the consequences of running off. Old mother Dani was not happy at all and I have been confined to the house ever since."

"Hm, I see some new bruises as well," Dryst sighed softly and frowned a bit as he noted the marks on her arms. "I think it's time you leave."

"Thank you for your concern but where would I go?" Amelia responded simply. "Besides, I would consider that a defeat, and I won't let that woman beat me."

"You say that but you do let her beat you," Dryst pleaded with her to look after herself. How could he convince her to take that leap and strike out on her own? "Look, I just want you to be safe and happy. I know there isn't a place for you to go, but perhaps we can start looking for a solution together. What we need is someone that you can trust and who can help you. Please, do this for your own sake."

Amelia stared at Dryst for a long moment in silence. "You are really serious about this, aren't you? Hm, alright. I just hate to feel like I am intruding when this problem should be no one's but my own, but I'll keep an eye out for people who I consider trustworthy. Come on, I have to get dressed. I don't think I'll get much more sleep anyways. Then I can introduce you to Caelan's parents."

"Alright, sounds good to me." Dryst was happy that Amelia was going to take control, she just needed to surround herself with the right people who could support her.

Dryst had decided to walk Amelia to her home that had never really felt like a home at all. At least old mother Dani was still asleep, which allowed Amelia to avoid her altogether. It appeared the woman could sleep through a catastrophe. She was certainly going to be angry because Amelia hadn't woken her up.

Amelia dressed quickly and returned to Jordyn and Greil who had finished giving out their supplies.

"Ah, good timing. The mayor came by and said we can pitch a tent. Would you like to help us find a good place?"

"Sure, we can help with that," Amelia said. Pleasantries were exchanged and Amelia introduced Dryst. The two decided to take Jordyn and Greil to their favorite spot by the birch tree on the outskirt of town.

"This is a beautiful place. It's perfect. Thank you." Jordyn smiled happily. Dryst and Amelia helped set up the campsite. Soon they had a fire going and began heating water in a pot for tea.

"So now that we have some downtime why don't you tell us what's been going on around here?" Greil said as he leaned back and began sharpening a hunting knife. "Bryle told us that our son called for us to come. Said everyone was worried about people going missing."

"Yes, that's true. It's a long story, but we'll go into as much detail as we know." Amelia did just that with Dryst's help. Jordyn was able to get some cups with hot water and began to steep some mint leaves in them. Amelia had to admire that since it was such a notoriously difficult plant to tend with and wanted to comment on it but given the weight of the conversation, she felt it was off-topic.

"I see. That is unsettling," Jordyn handed out the cups to everyone. "Please use some of the leftover honey. Also given the events this morning, I have to agree that something bad has happened and my son was up there when it happened. We will have to get a rescue mission underway, I will not sit by."

"I agree, we will set out in a few hours." Greil approved of his wife's commitment.

"Are you sure? So soon? Something like this... Well, I fear it's something that will require a massive organized effort to confront. Shouldn't you wait and combine your efforts with everyone from the village? I am sure they are having a meeting right now discussing what to do." Dryst offered his take on the situation while he waited for the water to take on the mint flavor from the leaves.

"Perhaps you'll understand when you're older and have children of your own," Jordyn said with no hint of criticism in her voice. She didn't blame Dryst for being young or not understanding her position.

"If you are going can you take me with you? I would like to help as well." Amelia offered her services.

"Thank you for the offer my dear, but we just don't know what we will be facing. It would be terrible if something happened to you. It's much safer to stay here. At least wait for a plan and travel with a rescue party if you want to help."

"But wouldn't it be easier to search for your son if you had more help? It's a large area you'll need to cover. Besides, you don't know Amelia as well as I do. She's stubborn when her mind is made up. She'll wait for you to leave and then run away only to show up later when you won't be able to say no."

"Really now? To be honest you've made a decent argument. What do you think, love?" Jordyn asked her husband.

"Sure, I think she's earned that much." He gave his consent and nodded a small nod of his head.

Amelia clapped her hands together with enthusiasm. "Oh, this is great! Thank you. Dryst, are you going to come with us as well?"

"I'll have to ask my father. It's even possible that he'll come too." Dryst replied.

"That would be very helpful. Bryle is very competent and knows what he's doing." Amelia thought that it was a great idea.

"Ah, so you're Bryle's son then. Yes, we got the same impression from him as we traveled here together." Greil sipped his mint tea cautiously to keep it from burning his mouth. "You better hurry and finish your tea so you can go let him know. We're going to be leaving as soon as possible since we already have all the supplies we need to continue on."

"Alright, we'll hurry back as soon as possible," Amelia said then finished her tea by gulping it down. "Ahh! H-hot!"

"Be careful my dear. I'm sorry... If I was still an Aune I would be able to heal you." Jordyn said and gave her a sad smile.

"Don't worry," Amelia tried to speak while sticking out her tongue at the same time. It suddenly hit Amelia just what it was that this woman gave up just to be with Greil. Even after the years she still missed who she had been and probably always will. She wondered how it affected Jordyn and Greil's relationship. She grabbed Dryst's hand and began dragging him off. "Come on, we got to go."

Caught by surprise Dryst tried to place his still half-full cup down but ended up spilling it instead. "Sorry about that!" He called out as Amelia dragged him away.

Throughout the course of the day, the air began to clear as the dust cloud settled. Caelan and Santrista had brought the captives back to the ruins. Caelan was relieved that everyone was in good health so everyone helped to finish the search for any more survivors. The mass grave the golem had dug began to fill up. The extra waterskins had been handed out and Santrista had been able to hunt down a few wild goats for food and foraged for some edible berries and roots. After checking the stable Santrista realized that the horses were missing, so she tracked them down easily enough. The druidess was just as adept at tracking as Cithanthalas was, maybe more so.

A make-shift campsite had come up from the rubble using what supplies everyone had been able to gather that hadn't been buried under the rocks.

Searin regained consciousness and Sedira gave him some of the bark from the Willow tree that she made into tea. It seemed that none of the prisoners knew who he or Sedira was, so that made the situation easier to control. Caelan and Santrista had the opportunity to speak with Searin at length about what they were going to do next. The group had gathered inside one of the storage buildings that had survived the avalanche of rocks so they could talk in peace.

"We need to talk about what's going to happen," Santrista spoke up. "I feel like we should wait until the rest of our party arrives. To be honest they should be arriving in a couple of hours. Until then we'll keep your secret from everyone else. The last thing we need right now is a blood-thirsty crowd calling for both of your heads."

"I assume they are Riven and the girl you brought to see me yesterday," Searin commented. "Fine, we'll wait. Maybe something of value can still be salvaged from all this if we cooperate together."

Riven, Beebee, Cithanthalas, and even the wolf arrived exhausted from the brutal trek in the evening hours only to be scared half to death by the silent stone sentinel that they hadn't even noticed at first. They mistook it for a pile of rocks until it had started to move when they approached. At least Santrista had been able to let the captives know about the creature before they encountered it.

"Where's my sister?" Was the first thing Cithanthalas asked Santrista when he noticed the other captives had been freed. Since the druidess had been the first one to go greet them it was she that answered.

"She wasn't with the others. I'm afraid she's still missing." Santrista answered. She should have seen this coming. Cithanthalas knew who Searin was even if he had never seen him in person. She decided to diffuse the problem before it created a volatile situation. "Searin is still alive, we're trying to keep things low-key so please don't become a problem. I'll ask him if he knows anything, you can even come too if you promise to keep control of yourself."

"I can't promise that, so I will stay behind." His voice was strung and taught with restraint. The wolf nudged his hand gently in a sympathetic gesture. "Just let me know if he has any answers. I'm going to search for my sister. All the leads I have pointed to this place. I mean that's why we came here in the first place, to search and rescue, right?"

"You're right. We've been looking all day and found some survivors that Caelan is tending to. We're working in shifts and my golem does not tire. If Beebee and Riven want to come we're going to discuss the extent of what happened with Searin. There's a lot that you need to know. I'm sure you'll want to bathe soon but you can rest and have something to eat while we fill you in. We have some leftover roasted goat meat still."

"Goat meat? We've been hustling all day. I think I'm going to be sick." Beebee hurried over to a nearby bush and vomited. "Ugh."

"I suggest you cool down a bit," Riven stated. "I'll help massage your muscles and find some cold water to help ease the soreness. You need to keep hydrated and once you settle down I'm sure your appetite will return. I'm glad we decided to warm up a bit before we truly started a swift jog. I'm sure we avoided injury doing that. I'm just surprised you managed to keep up."

"Thanks, but I think I'm going to be paying for it." Even Beebee's face was pale as she responded. "I can't believe how well conditioned you are. You're barely even winded. I'm impressed."

Santrista gave them the time they needed to recover then showed them where Searin was staying. The druidess has also fetched Caelan who had been tending to the injured survivors.

True to Riven's word once Beebee's body had cooled down her appetite returned, she was glad to rest and take in some calories from the goat meat as they listened to what Searin had to say. It also helped that Riven was doing a wonderful job of massaging her sore calf muscles.

"Alright, we're all here now. So, let's hear everything from the beginning so we're all on the same page." Santrista said.

"Fine, it will take some time and I will only say it once, so hold any questions until I'm finished. Also, it's not just my story, but our story so Sedira will help me tell it." Searin replied. "Hopefully It will help you come around to our way of thinking on certain issues."

Searin Melchior had been born a nobleman and from the day of that birth, he had been groomed to take the place as head of the family by his father as his father had done before him. Part of that meant he had been sequestered away within the family estate in Great Haven's noble district and only knew a life of extravagance. Sycophants doted on his every whim servants and peers alike. He had everything he ever wanted until he didn't.

It was during one of the rare outings he had while he was around seventeen years old. He was taken from the gated noble district of Great Haven to the city wharf where his father, named Delamere, spoke with some of his business associates about some cargo he signed for. Searin noted a girl a year or two younger than he was begging. The girl was dirty with smelly clothes she had worn far too long. A street urchin abandoned by everyone. Despite all that he saw something within her, something that he desired more than anything he ever had before. It wasn't something he could put his finger on, but he knew that it was something special. Searin decided that he wanted to learn what it was and in order to do that he had to get to know her first.

"Father, do you think we could invite that girl over there for a meal at our manor?" Searin asked. He spoke with an accent that most true-born nobles of Great Haven did. They believed it was a sign of proper education.

His father was still business conducting business so he shooed the young man off. "Sure, you can go ask her. I'll just be a minute more."

Searin took his father's words at face value and walked over to meet the girl. She was sitting by the side of a warehouse. One of his father's actually. "Hello there. My name's Searin. What's yours?"

"I'm Sedira." The girl answered. In truth, she didn't know what she was but it was what she called herself. She eyed him with an all-too-knowing look. "You want something from me. What is it?"

"Why would you think that?"

"Why else would you speak to me?"

"Fair enough, I concede. I want you to come for dinner at my family's manor."

"I will go but under one condition. You will need to treat me as an equal and not lesser." Sedira seemed unwilling to compromise this position and Searin saw no reason to bargain with her over it.

"Very well. I just want to get to know you. Hopefully, I'll give you a reason to do the same for me."

So it happened. Over two years Sedira and Searin became close friends. He had even managed to convince his father to take her in as part of the family so they even started to see each other as closer than siblings. She was ever grateful that he had pulled her from a life of poverty in the slums of Great Haven and he was grateful to her for giving him that chance to make a real and lasting connection. That wasn't where it ended, however. As they grew older they spoke about the directions their lives were taking and how they wanted to change the world for the better.

It had been on a rainy spring day just a couple of years later. They were near the cliffs on the edge of the estate grounds that overlooked the ocean. It was a light rain shower but they still took shelter in a gazebo to wait it out.

"Where do you see yourself ten years from now?" Sedira asked him. It had been a question she had been meaning to ask him for a long time now. Part of her had been frightened that the novelty of their relationship would wear off and she'd be left behind, forgotten once more in the gutter.

"Hm, I always thought I would take over the family business and continue on with the tradition." Searin stared out at the ocean. Far on the horizon, a lightning bolt flashed as it struck the water. "More and more I'm finding that's not what I want to do with my life. I want to study and find a way to make true and lasting change in the world. Make the world a better place than what it is now."

"That's wonderful, how do you plan on doing that," Sedira asked him.

"Well, the first thing is I would need the means and power to do such a thing." Searin tried to brainstorm how this could all play out. "What I would need for that is information. Gather as much of it as I can about people, the world. Everything that I can. I will need to study as well. Knowledge is just another form of information. I will approach my father with the idea. I just hope that he will approve."

"I'm sure he will. You've helped me, and I want to help you now. I'm unsure how to make that happen. I'm no one." Sedira toyed with one of her long black curls of hair.

"Everyone is someone," Searin stated and he had noticed how well she had cleaned up. She had taken to life in the estate like a duck to water. "You just have to find out who that someone is. The first time we met I had a feeling there was something about you that was special."

She gave him a startled look as if he had somehow found out something that she didn't want him to know. "Really? I.. Well, it never occurred to me that was the reason we first met." Sedira paused for a while and Serin got the feeling that she had something important that she wanted to tell him and he decided to let her tell him in her own time. "Searin, I'm grateful for everything. I know you think that I've given you a companionship that you had never had before, but I just want you to know that you have done the same for me. I'm going to show you something, it's something I have never shown anyone before, and to be honest it's the reason I became an orphan in the first place so that's why I didn't want you to know about it. I feared that I might be used for it."

"I would think the reason you are telling me this is because you trust me enough to know that I wouldn't do that to you," Searin answered. "You don't owe me anything. If you are ready you can tell me, otherwise don't feel like you are obligated."

"Alright, well here it goes." Sedira closed her eyes and took a breath. "Tears are my memories, from my memories I can create images. Images that are not just from my memories but anything I want someone to see." Words of magic were meant to be something that was different for everyone. It was a personal connection that few had the ability to tap. Some believed that only those who underwent a great emotional transformation during their lifetime could use it, but it was that could also be taught and harnessed given enough dedication and talent. "I used this power to do a terrible thing, so I hid and ended up on the street."

Reliving the past was an emotional experience. Sedira didn't have to fake tears, they were real and landed in a pool of rainwater at her feet. Images began to form on the surface. The images showed Searin what he thought was Sedira's past. She showed him that it had been her fault that her mother had learned of her father's unfaithfulness. Sedira had caught her father with another woman in their home when her mother had been out at the market. The woman left but the damage had been done and her father threatened her to never reveal it. She didn't, but when she slept it was not something she was able to control. It had been the first time that her illusion had manifested and her mother saw the images when she checked on her daughter before going to bed. She had already been a little suspicious and it didn't help that she knew who the other woman was. It was then the image faded.

"You want to know what happened next? Rather than face the truth, she decided to believe that what I unintentionally showed her was a lie. She sided with my father and cast me out of the home. I can't say that I blame her. If I had seen the same thing I wouldn't know what was true or real either. That's when I learned that our perception of what is real affects what reality truly is, for better or worse."

"I can't believe that." Searin frowned faintly. "I can see so much potential in this ability you have. My advice is to harness and learn it. Who knows how far it could go. I can imagine that you'll be able to manifest illusions that can even talk and act like real people."

"That is putting a lot of faith in me," Sedira commented. She was unsure of herself and for good reason. She didn't want to have to live up to Searin's unhealthy expectation of her. "All I can promise is to develop my ability as best I can."

"Fair enough. I'll not ask any more from you." Searin seemed to understand that it was unfair of him to have such high expectations. His dark eyes glanced out to the storm raging around them. "I think it's time we head back indoors. I won't tell anyone about this, but I need to speak with father about what we can do to help advance society. I have to convince him that if others are lifted from poverty then we all gain from it."

"I just hope you won't be disappointed by the answer. You seem like a much better person than your father is." Sedira said with brutal honesty that Searin appreciated.

"I am glad that you tell me exactly how you feel but I have faith that he'll do the right thing when it comes down to it," Searin answered back before the two of them headed back inside before the storm got too bad.

Unfortunately, Searin and Delamere never saw eye to eye on how to exactly change the world. Delamere didn't want to be responsible for the burden of others. It grew to be a point of contention between father and son. Still, Searin did not give up and started to pursue other avenues to make his goals a reality. He started to form connections of his own and reached out to the wealthy and influential nobles of Great Haven. He was able to garner the assistance of a few notable houses and several humanitarian programs were put into place by the city council which consisted of mostly nobles and wealthy merchants.

It took time but Sedira helped and encouraged Searin when she could. She continued to learn about her own power and how best to use it. It was difficult trying to find someone knowledgeable who could help guide her but Searin helped as best he could. He didn't want her to feel alone while she was stumbling in the dark. Sedira appreciated his help but for the most part, handled her own problems however difficult they were. For the most part, she was on her own learning about her powers but she didn't give up and tried many different methods to try and control and grow her ability.

Years passed and Searin and Sedira only grew closer. Searin had made great progress within the city, but just as many steps back. Those he thought were his allies started to use his good intentions for their own gain. The charity programs he helped set up were starting to be used as a tax haven and to move illicit goods and currency. Of course, he shouldn't say that it was illicit, because it wasn't. There was nothing illegal about it that infuriated him even more and was enough to bring him to the edge of breaking. It all came to a head when he uncovered from an informant that his own father was suspected of doing this. The confrontation between father and son did not end well.

"Father!" Searin stormed into his father's private studies and threw pieces of parchments on his desk. "Tell me what the meaning of this is!"

The parchment contained a pain-staking amount of research which included carefully documented ledgers. His father carefully began to look them over and slowly the realization dawned on him.

"If you don't want to answer, that's fine. All the answers are in those papers and I will make the truth come out. You are embezzling money from other trade partners and using my charity to move it around! I knew others were taking advantage of this, so I started gathering information, and I found out that you were involved as well."

"Son, I understand you are angry, but someday you'll see I do this for the benefit of us," Delamere answered. "You don't want to destroy everything that our family has built for generations. I won't let your selfishness ruin our family's legacy. Think about what this will do to our reputation."

"You honestly think I care about what other people think? What matters here is the truth!" Searin argued.

"Hmph, and just what is the truth? The truth changes on a whim with societal and political paradigm shifts. The truth is what the collective believes it to be, and what they believe can be influenced. You see son, people believe what those who they believe in tell them and I believe you'll be hard-pressed to find any oversight committee that falls in line with what you believe."

"It will still shake everyone's confidence in you! It will make even your partners look bad. Belief in you will start to waver. I promise you will be held accountable for what you've done and I'm not going to back down."

"I will not let you destroy this family," Delamere said with a threatening tone to his voice in answer to Searin's. Delamere stood slowly and moved out from behind the desk where he had been sitting.

"You have already destroyed it with your immorality." Searin tried to reach for the documents that would secure his father's end. His father tried to grab for his arm and brandished a hidden blade in an effort to stab his only son to ensure his silence. To his shock, his blade found nothing but air.

"What?" Was the only word Delamere managed to utter.

"I am just burning it down so that something better can be built in its place." The illusion of Searin shimmered and faded away.

The orange flames cast eerie incandescence on the low-hanging clouds in the overcast darkened sky. Searin stood on the outskirts of the Melchior property as the manor burned in the darkness. With him stood Sedira dressed in traveling attire along with servants he had already evacuated. Searin had used part of his share of his family's wealth to ensure their livelihood at least for a while. He had been planning this move for a long time now.

Sedira reached out to touch his shoulder. "Are you sure about this? He could be trapped in there."

"I'm sure," Searin answered with an even and measured tone in his voice. "This is something that had to be done. If he doesn't make it out it's his own fault. I still have all the proof I need to ruin him if he ever shows his face again. We, however, have a world to change. I have gathered all the resources we'll need to act. Let me tell you how we will accomplish our task because we're not done yet. There are others that must be forced for the good of mankind."

"I kept my promise that night. I tried to force change by assassinating those who were corrupt and without good morals. I soon found out that trying to make change happen wouldn't work so simply. There was something else that had to change on a fundamental level. I had to change the way humanity viewed not only themselves but the world around them. That's how this all came about." Searin said as he ended the tale.

Caelan felt nothing but sadness for the man, yet he still couldn't understand how someone could be pushed to take such violent action. That was the disconnect he had on a fundamental level. Without even realizing it Caelan had taken the toy cube from his pocket and was clicking the spring set tiles.

"I can't believe you don't see that you're still repeating the same mistake your father made. Except you're not just trying to control people's perception, you're trying to force it to change. Change is something that happens naturally in all organisms over time. It can't be rushed against the laws of nature. I still can't condone kidnapping and killing innocent people to get to those ends either." Santrista stood with her hands on her hips. "Those people out there are dead because of you. The captives are helping to tend their captors that we have pulled from the hands of death itself. The precocious few my golem found alive are only alive because of myself and Caelan's ability to heal. Unfortunately, I could only treat minor injuries and had to rely on Caelan to treat those like yourself who had more life-threatening injuries."

"You can label me a murderer if you want, I won't deny that but I prefer to look at myself as an equalizer. You should respect the need for nature to burn down a forest so that new life can thrive in its place, but perhaps you are right." Searin stared intently at a nearby window. Santrista noticed he never acknowledged her point about change happening slowly. It's true forest fires happened, but only in localized areas and very infrequently. Searin's view was like the decision to use a sledgehammer rather than a precision tool made for the job it was intended. "Maybe the reason why someone like me can never reach out and touch the hearts of others to truly change them for the better is that I can never have that deep emotional connection that's needed to sympathize with people. No matter how hard I try that's just not who I am."

"Don't forget it, and learn from your failures. If you do that then you will grow into the person that you want to be." Santrista answered. "So what should we do next? As I see it we have two objectives. Continue the search for survivors. Not everyone has been accounted for yet. We'll need to take shifts so there is always someone searching. The supplies we've gathered aren't going to hold out for long. Most everything was buried. We can't count on help from Willowbrook for at least three weeks. I wish I could be in two places at once otherwise I could reach the village quickly but I feel that I am needed here more besides we have men already on the way there."

"I'm more worried about what was released," Caelan spoke up with a quiet but equally intense tone in his voice. "Don't get me wrong. Our focus should be tending the injured and rescuing everyone we can, but there was something about it that froze me with terror. I'll explain for those of you that have just arrived. When Santrista and I arrived we found Searin barely alive. I used my healing ability and went too far in an effort not to lose him. For a moment it got out of my control and allowed our consciousness to merge for lack of a better word. It was there that I saw what happened when the mountain fell. Something was released, a malevolent force that is so intense it feels like rays of sunshine that burn my flesh. If it isn't stopped there will only be more destruction. We'll have to prepare for the worst."

"Yes, we'll also have to reunite the families. Someone will have to tell everyone what's going on. We can't keep this to ourselves." Riven pointed out.

"Will they even believe us even if we do that?" Sedira answered back.

"Perhaps, perhaps not. It should be up to them to decide." Riven wasn't about to give up on the argument easily.

"I agree with Riven. We have to give everyone a choice." Santrista said. "We'll continue with what we can and focus on what's in front of us. We can't be worrying about some creature that we can do nothing about. Like it or not we have no leads on where it is so we'll have to wait for it to show itself again."

"By then it could be too late! I don't think you appreciate the danger that this thing represents. Others could succumb to it. I'll go out searching by myself if I have to!" Caelan stood up which caused the toy cube to fall from his lap to the ground.

"You're needed here in case we find anyone else that is hurt. I won't have you chasing ghosts, besides wasn't it you that said our focus should be to help those we have recovered?" Santrista gave him a stern look that brooked no argument. "I hear what you have to say, and we won't sit idly by. We can send out a search party to try and locate it. Does anyone want to go?"

"I will go." Everyone was rather surprised to hear Searin's voice. "What? I feel responsible for what happened. I want to do what I can to fix it. I am of no use here."

"Fine, I can accept that." Santrista nodded. "So who else then?"

In the end Riven, Sedira and Beebee had also volunteered and would set out the next day while Santrista and Caelan began to spread the word about what had happened to the best of their knowledge.

Riven asked Cithanthalas to come along as well once he was found searching the ruins for his sister. He declined to say that he had to continue the search here since this was the last place he had seen his sister.

The group understood and left him to it, but none could see how he was suffering. The ranger broke down, sunk to the ground, and began to cry privately. He was so close to giving up finding her the only hope that he held onto was they had still yet to find her body. The only creature to see this was his wolf who nudged his hand.

The night was starting to settle in on the mountain and Beebee wanted nothing more than to climb into her bedroll and sleep. The day had been exhausting. Between the rescue effort that was still ongoing, and the long hike she was completely worn out. Everyone claimed a place to settle down that offered relative privacy until something more permanent could be built. They were going to be here for a while. She had taken a spot near Caelan for a specific reason, and that being she had wanted to spend more time with him. A small handful of people had already left looking to be reunited with loved ones or back to the homes that they had been taken from. Beebee could understand the need for them to leave but also felt that they should have stayed to help rescue anyone else and help care for the injured.

Caelan was getting settled for the evening too and spoke up. "I have to ask why you volunteered to go out searching for that beast. It could be dangerous."

"I.. Well.." Beebee blushed faintly with downcast eyes. "You're going to think it's stupid, but I did it because of your words. I believe you when you said there's something dangerous out there. Since you have to stay here I figured that I will go for you in your place. See... I told you it was stupid."

"You don't have to do this for my sake, but thank you. It does mean a lot to me that you would do it for me." Caelan frowned faintly and wrapped a blanket around his shoulders. His eyes were getting heavy and his voice started to drift off. "Just promise me that you'll be careful."

"Don't worry I won't be alone. I have Riven going with me." Beebee said.

"I'll try not to. You two have gotten very close." Caelan yawned and stretched out on his bedroll. "I'm more worried about Sedira and Searin. I want to say that I trust them now, but I would still keep an eye on them."

"She looks out for me and I am learning a lot from her. I'll be sure to keep an eye on them." Beebee stared up at the overcast sky and sighed. "Looks like rain. Just great, I thought the cold temperature was bad enough."

"Yes, are you sure you'll be okay with your outfit?" Caelan was concerned for her well-being in a number of ways. "Risking exposure to the elements is just as dangerous as any wild animal encounter."

"I'll be sure to hunt a wolf for its coat. I know how to cure and skin one." Beebee said to put his fears to rest. "Hey, I wanted to talk to you about something. Ever since we first met I've been having the time of my life. I've made some wonderful new friends along the way and while I would never trade any of that for the world I do miss the time back when we first met when it was just the two of us."

I guess what I am trying to say is that for the first time in a long time I feel like there's meaning in my life. I was so used to having nothing, that I had nothing to fear about losing anything. Now I have so much that I desperately want to hold on to and protect. How do you deal with something like that?"

When Caelan didn't answer Beebee leaned up to look over at his bedroll to find that he was fast asleep. She smiled softly.

Sleep well. You deserve it. Beebee thought to herself before falling asleep herself.