Chapter Eight: Always Keep Your Word

The return journey was much easier than the trip out. It seemed to Dhajir that that was always the case, no matter where it was he was coming from. Maybe it was the relief of having completed a job and lived to tell the tale. He could only be grateful. Chron still hadn't regained all of her strength and he had been worried the return warp would injure her further. Chron had insisted they didn't have time to waste, and had glowered at him when he tried to protest. Something about him being a hypocrite.

Saint was not in her office when they reappeared there, but they were not entirely surprised. She seemed like a busy woman. Chron sank into an armchair, sighing quietly, and Aelochi joined her after a moment's hesitation. Dhajir remained standing, more comfortable that way, but did lean against a wall out of the way of the door. He had a feeling Saint had alarmed her office in some manner, so it would only be a matter of time before she returned.

Sure enough, she materialized mere moments later with a small pop. Saint took a moment to survey her guests, expressionless, but smiled and nodded after a moment as though pleased.

"Welcome back, dears. Tea?"

"No." Dhajir was not quick to dismiss their concerns, folding his arms over his chest, "You sent us right into a trap."

Saint turned her purple eyes to him, assessing something he couldn't understand, but he refused to back down. Holding the eye contact obstinately, challenging her to disagree with his statement.

Saint frowned at him after a moment, "I would appreciate it if you wouldn't disrespect me, boy. I did no such thing."

"With all due respect, Ma'am, calling Dhajir boy is pretty disrespectful in itself." Aelochi couldn't help pointing that out, wanting to defend his friend and a little upset himself, "He has a name. And you've been calling him 'boy' since the first time we met you."

Saint paused, seemingly surprised, but then sighed and nodded, "You're right. I apologize, Dhajir."

Dhajir blinked, momentarily taken aback, but then shook his head, "No need. I am sorry if I insulted you. It's just... we were attacked the second we arrived. Put under a spell of sorts."

"I must have underestimated the range of its influence." Saint grimaced, "I thought I had sent you a safe distance out. Either it had gained more power, or it was hiding its range on purpose. I'm sorry."

"What's done is done." Chron needed no more convincing, she had a feeling that had been the case, "We returned victorious. It will not claim any more lives."

"And I am grateful for that." Saint seemed to age in an instant, energy dimming and more weariness appearing in her eyes and on her face. "I am a Ritualist, so I do not possess the power necessary to destroy them myself no matter how much I might want to."

She moved to sit at her desk, resting her elbows on the smooth surface and steepling her fingers together, "Do you know what a Ritualist does?"

"Only the very basics." Chron confessed, having the most knowledge out of the three of them, "You are able to draw upon the Ancient magics to write or rewrite certain phenomena, and then rebind them in place so it becomes the new 'real'."

"Very good." Saint seemed pleased, nodding faintly, "Very concise. I am ancient, even for someone in these Realms, but I am not all powerful and I am not omnipotent. There are certain things even I cannot do. Even I must abide by certain laws of Creation. That being said, there are Ritualists out there who do not care about that. Very few of them are old enough to know of the forbidden arts, but they do exist. I believe Abyssal Harmony possesses one such Ritualist. I cannot tell you for sure whether or not that person is acting of their own free will. We should operate under the assumption that they are."

Dhajir took a moment to observe her more carefully. Tanned skin was wrinkled and weathered, hands calloused from endless use. Her hair was done in a tight braid all the way down her back, but it seemed to darken to a dull gray rather than the shining silver he had first noticed. She did not have a hunch, and she did not come off as fragile despite her years. She carried herself with a casual sort of confidence, but now she just seemed... exhausted. Drained and on edge. It was rather disconcerting even though he did not know her well. She carried secrets and sadness like a permanent cloak, but she masked it behind a guise of mischief and nonchalance.

Now that mask was slipping, and they were seeing a side of her they doubted very many others had. It felt wrong, like a violation of some kind, but it also felt like a privilege. Saint regained her composure a moment later, rolling her shoulders as though shrugging off her thoughts.

"In any event, we must decide what to do next."

"We are still lacking any sort of ability to track the missing pieces of Aelochi's soul, and we do not have time to hunt down every Night-Terror we hear about with the hopes of finding one. That is probably our biggest obstacle." Chron crossed her arms, frowning in thought, "Dhajir and I can make do as we are, but if you are able to help us with that we could ask nothing more."

"Don't be ridiculous." Saint scoffed at her, amused by something they couldn't name, "I already said I'd give you guys a boost. That of course includes an ability to track your prey. What kind of Ritualist would I be if I couldn't even do that? Especially now that you have recovered a piece. This will be a Hell of a lot easier."

"Is that why you sent us after that Night-Terror first?" Aelochi couldn't help but ask, tilting his head at her.

"No, dear, that was to make sure you hadn't defected to Abyssal Harmony." Saint gave him an apologetic look, "They are unable to kill Night-Terrors. It goes against their teachings. If you had returned to me with the job unfinished I would have had to put you down."

Aelochi was a little offended by that. "They are Aspects of Oblivion. You knew that from the beginning. Why test them?"

"No, she's right." Dhajir scowled with the reminder, "Judgement. He defected from the Aspects an eternity ago. Saying he didn't understand why we were being punished with eternal imprisonment as well. Our entire existence is making sure those things don't escape. I guess he got tired of it. The Night-Terrors, sensing that, sought to turn him against us. They succeeded. I had to kill him myself."

"Judgement's spot has remained unfilled ever since." Chron added, saddened, "He had been a tortured soul as it was. I think he just lost himself in the madness after too many centuries of isolation."

"I won't make excuses for him, so I understand why Saint felt the need to test us." Dhajir was uncomfortable with this topic and quickly changed focus back to Saint, "What do we need to do?"

"We need to go to the Ritual Stone." Saint rolled with the topic change easily, sympathetic, "There is one not too far from here. I can teleport us if you wish."

"I would rather walk." Dhajir mused, wincing unconsciously, "I could use some fresh air."

"Of course, dear." Saint looked at his companions, "And you?"

"I will walk with Dhajir." Chron didn't want to leave him by himself, and she wanted to test the strength of her muscles to see how much had returned, "Aelochi?"

"I guess I'll teleport with Saint." He shrugged, "I would like to talk with her a little more."

"Very good, dear." Saint grinned at him, and then refocused on Dhajir, "Just follow the glowing trail to get out of here, and then the Ritual Stone is directly to your right. I already have everything all set up so we can get started."

"We'll meet you there." Chron confirmed when Dhajir simply nodded, and then Saint and Aelochi were gone with a snap of her fingers.

Chron hesitated, briefly, and then rose to her feet. Studying her quiet companion, troubled by his pain but unsure how to address it. Judgement had been his best friend. Closer to him than even Ara. Surely he hadn't forgotten all of that no matter how hard he tried.

"I almost went with him." Dhajir broke the silence, staring hard at the floor and seeming to shrink in on himself, "I almost defected as well. You remember how charismatic he was. How close we were. The things he was saying... they made sense. I thought he was right. We were both so filled with rage, and I... He gave me something to believe in. A hope for something different. But I am a coward and couldn't go through with it. I couldn't betray everything we knew."

"You are not a coward, Dhajir." Chron rested a careful hand on his shoulder, remembering how shattered he had been and how hard he had worked to pull himself out of it, "You realized he was wrong, and you knew that no good would come of freeing the Night-Terrors no matter what he told you. You placed the entirety of the Realms above your own happiness, just as you are doing now. That is not something to take lightly."

"Maybe you're right." A shrug, not quite looking her in the face, "But I miss him. And I hate him."

"I think that is alright." Chron understood, in her own way, "I would be more concerned if you were simply indifferent. Hate is proof that at some point you cared. It is also proof that you are still wounded from everything that happened."

"Wounded, huh?" A humorless chuckle in response, "Probably. In any event, Saint and Aelochi are waiting for us."

"It would be rude to leave them for long." Chron was willing to drop the subject, if only for the time being, but she gave him a serious look, "You know you can talk to me about it. All of it. I do not mind."

"I know." Dhajir pushed off the wall he was leaning against, turning to open the door and gesturing for Chron to go first, "Thank you."

He made sure the door was locked before following her into the hallway. They stood uncertainly for a moment, and then a trail of fluorescent pink light began to materialize in the air in front of them. It was wispy and ethereal, blinking in and out as they watched.

"This must be the trail Saint was talking about." Chron mused, glancing at her companion with some amusement, "Subtle."

"Probably so we know it's her trying to get our attention." Dhajir agreed, entertainment in his voice, "Let's go, then."

The trail increased in intensity the closer they got to it, fading into nothingness behind them with each step. It was maddening to watch new hallways appear out of thin air, the walls around them convulsing before suddenly elongating to accommodate even more rooms. Gaps would appear where solid walls had been, new doors materializing in varying colors that ranged across the spectrum in no apparent order. The endless motion was making them dizzy beyond words. Thankfully they made it outside just as they were beginning to think they couldn't take anymore.

The glowing trail darted right, leading them around the edge of the building and into the forest beyond. Straight into the gathering dark, becoming brighter as the light fell away. Not great for stealth, but helpful in that it allowed them to see their surroundings through the thick brush. It only faded away when Saint came into view, standing with Aelochi on what could only be the Ritual Stone.

It was larger than Dhajir had been expecting. Easily twelve feet across and incredibly jagged. Burns and divots littered the surface, rough edged from centuries of ancient magics. The places that should have been worn down over time were probably the closest thing to smooth. Runes that glowed a dull orange were carved around the edge, pulsating impatiently, with several other symbols carved at Saint's feet. Those glowed a gentle shade of purple but did not fade.

"Good of you to join us." Saint called, waving energetically, "Don't mind the stone. It's older than even me."

"It's humming." Dhajir felt the magic ratting his bones, not heard but felt and it made him feel incredibly nauseous. "Is it supposed to do that?"

"Yes." Saint did not appear to be fazed, looking him over briefly before glancing to Chron, "If you don't mind, dear, we'll start with you. Your Ritual will take the most effort."

"Of course." Chron hesitated a moment, slightly nervous, but hoisted herself up to join the Ritualist without protest. Moving gingerly across the surface as though afraid it would throw her off.

Saint gestured for Aelochi to join Dhajir, free hand moving to clap Chron on the shoulder with a reassuring air. "Don't worry. It won't take too long."

Aelochi moved to join Dhajir wordlessly, and Chron clasped her hands behind her back to keep them from shaking.

"What do you need me to do?"

"Nothing." Saint shook her head, "Just hold very still. As still as you can. I'm going to draw a little bit of blood, and I'm going to bleed more than you."

"Why?" Chron couldn't help but feel mildly horrified, concerned about Saint even knowing how powerful she was, "Is that necessary?"

"Absolutely." Saint was moving away to rifle through a bag they hadn't noticed, humming to herself, "The Ritual demands payment, you know. You cannot just reshape reality without some sacrifice. My blood is the catalyst and your blood is the payment. It shows that you are committed to the change. Unafraid if you will. However, only those descended from the Viscerain are able to cast the Ritual. We call upon the power of our ancestors and ask them for permission. That's why both of our blood is demanded."

"I will take your word for it." Chron forced herself to relax, unclenching her teeth, even as Saint made a triumphant noise.

The knife Saint pulled from her satchel was rather wicked looking, curved and serrated with an oil slick sheen. The hilt was carved from bone (though what kind of bone was anyone's guess) and wrapped in worn purple cloth. There was an aura of intelligence about the blade, bloodthirsty without being malevolent, and even Saint handled it gingerly.

"Are you ready, dear?"

"Yes."

"Then we will begin." Saint moved to be standing beside Chron again, a grimace on her lips as she dug the tip of the blade into the back of her arm. Raking it across her skin, watching dispassionately as the crimson liquid poured from the wound and splattered across the stone.

The second the blood made contact it began to smoke, hissing as a scream split the air. It seemed to come from the stone itself, growing in volume and intensity even as a barrier made entirely of orange light began to rise from the outer runes and form a dome over the stone itself. A shield, of sorts, to protect both those inside and those outside for what came next.

The screaming died away the instant the barrier was complete, replaced instead by Saint's distinct voice. Chanting in a language they had never heard, sharp words rising and falling but heavy in the air. The words were accompanied by deliberate gestures, drawing in the air with practiced hands to leave glowing pink symbols behind.

Chron had closed her eyes, and a low hiss of surprise escaped her when Saint took one of her arms in the hand not holding the blade. Saint did not give her any warning, drawing blood from Chron much the same way she had herself.

Chron, to her credit, didn't so much as flinch when the blade pierced her skin. She left her arm in the air, letting her own blood drop to join Saint's, and only opened her eyes when a loud crack echoed in the air around them. The stone beneath her feet had split open, massive chains the same purple as her gift rising from the void to latch onto her wrists and ankles. One final shackle snapped around her neck, locking in place with a soft click and jerking so suddenly she almost lost her balance.

Saint's brow furrowed in concentration, chanting starting up again as she gestured even more animatedly. Lighting flashed in the sky above them despite the lack of stormclouds, flickering and cracking as a heavy rain began to fall. It had no effect on the barrier, but Dhajir watched it with a wariness he couldn't explain. Some part of him knew this wasn't part of the Ritual. Someone or something else was trying to interfere.

Saint's gesturing caught his attention again, and he realized with mild horror that the woman was aging rapidly as he watched. Growing more feeble as time passed, blood pouring from the wound on her arm. Hair falling out in clumps to dissolve on the stone, skin wrinkling and shriveling until she was skin and bone. Chron did not seem to be affected, but Dhajir hated knowing there was nothing he could do.

Saint shouted a word of power in that ancient language, and the resulting blast sent out a shockwave powerful enough to shatter the barrier protecting them. It knocked both Aelochi and Dhajir off their feet, sending Saint flying backward several feet and smashing through a tree. Chron's shackles snapped in place, dissolving into nothingness, and then it was over.

Chron leaped off the stone automatically, rushing to Saint's side even as Dhajir and Aelochi struggled to stand. Dhajir placed a hand to his throbbing temple, vision swimming and flickering with multicolored lights, but staggered after his friend. Aelochi followed a pace behind him, keeping a watchful eye on Dhajir to make sure he didn't collapse.

Dhajir managed to shake it off by the time they reached the other two, and watched Chron help Saint to her feet with concern. Their wounds, interestingly, had healed instantly. No sign of Saint's decrepit state was apparent any longer. Dhajir was glad. That had been disturbing on more than one level.

"Are you alight?" Speaking to both women, reaching a steadying hand automatically but letting it fall away when it became apparent it was not needed.

"We're fine, dear." Saint smiled at him, waving away Chron's concern to stand on her own once more, "The binding spell put up more of a fight than I anticipated. That's all."

She turned her attention to Chron, raising an eyebrow, "Do you feel any different?"

"I do not know how to explain it." Chron confessed, shrugging helplessly, "I feel lighter and stronger. Like getting a good night of rest after being awake for too long. My exhaustion from our battle with the Night-Terror has completely disappeared."

"Excellent, that means it was successful." Saint was pleased by this, but turned serious eyes to Dhajir and Aelochi. "We better hurry. Abyssal Harmony will be here soon. Dhajir, you're next."

"How do they know about the Ritual?" Dhajir questioned, following her obediently and barely managing to keep up.

"All Ritualists can feel it when another is at work." Saint lifted herself onto the stone effortlessly and gestured at him impatiently, "We are blood-tied to the stones themselves, and the stones are the only place a Ritual can be cast. That's the same reason we immediately know which stone is in use. I had planned for that, but... They saw through my decoy faster than I gave them credit for."

"A simple knife wound should not have made you bleed that much." Dhajir couldn't help voicing that aloud even as he jumped the stone in a single bound, "Especially because there are no arteries in your arm where you cut it."

"This knife is enchanted." Saint explained, shaking her head at his questions, "There isn't time for this. We must hurry."

Dhajir bit his tongue to keep himself from asking anything else, moving over to stand beside her instead and tilting his head in question. Saint had already begun casting the second Ritual, the orange barrier rising once again to envelop them both.

There was no sound inside the barrier. Nothing but Saint's distinct voice and the crackling of magic beginning to awaken. He was disconcerted to realize he couldn't even hear his own heartbeat. It was pounding, now harder than ever, and he was almost certain it was going to beat right out of his chest.

Warm and strong fingers were gripping his wrist, tugging his arm into the appropriate position with only slight resistance. He did not feel the cut even though he watched the blade slice into him. Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion, from his blood hitting the stone to the deafening winds that roared up from within.

He slowly became aware of an ear-shattering cry echoing through the air around him, but he could say nothing because his throat was raw and his lungs were burning. The sensation moved down his throat, spreading through his chest and into his limbs until his entire body felt as though he was being ripped apart one nerve at a time.

"Breathe, Dhajir!"

Saint's barked command brought him back to reality, and he realized in the distant part of his mind that he was the one screaming. It was enough to snap him back to his senses, snapping his jaw closed so hard it almost cracked and choking back the whimper that wanted to escape. He inhaled sharply through his nose, letting his chest swell with air and forcing it back out slowly. Everything hurt but it wasn't as intense as before. He could survive this. It was nothing compared to the pain he had endured at the hands of that deranged Blood Mage.

"It's almost over." Saint soothed, drawing a complex symbol in the air before him and letting her hand fall back to her side.

The symbol hung between them for a moment, growing in intensity until it was almost blinding, before it simply disappeared in a flash of pink smoke. The barrier around them dissolved, and Dhajir fell heavily to his knees as one hand rose to clutch his chest. Closing his eyes, forcing his breathing to remain even, listening to the movements of the others nearby and the worsening rain.

"It shouldn't have affected him that badly." Saint was saying, a worry in her voice he didn't like, "He shouldn't have felt anything at all."

"Dhajir?" Chron's voice, her hand hovering in the air above his shoulder as though afraid to touch him.

"I'm fine." He reassured, voice a gnarled croak that was not convincing even to himself. "I just need a moment."

"What went wrong?" Chron was returning her attention to Saint, worried for her friend and wanting to understand.

"I'm not sure." Saint seemed frustrated by that, he could hear it in her voice, "I've done this Ritual countless times and I've never seen anybody react like that. I had to snap at him a little because he couldn't seem to hear me otherwise, and he was about to rupture several very vital organs. Maybe..."

"Maybe?" Chron latched onto any possibility for an answer, pressing the older woman when she hesitated.

"Maybe his curse isn't just so he can't use magic." Saint finally relented, splaying her hands in a gesture of helplessness, "It would make it impossible for anyone to use magic to help him, like this Ritual was intended to do."

"Tal used magic on him." Chron countered, confused, "To heal him from the toxins in the forest. And Aelochi used magic to light him on fire, so he could destroy the Night-Terror."

"Aelochi didn't use magic on him, per say." Saint shook her head, "More like, he ignited the area around him. That way the magic would latch onto whatever he targeted without actually affecting Dhajir. My only explanation for Tal being able to help him is that he is also a Blood Mage. They are exceptionally rare, so its possible the curse-caster didn't consider it a possibility. Or, and this is more likely, the caster deliberately made the curse unresponsive to a Blood Mage. If he was tortured so thoroughly by one, it seems unlikely he would go to another one for help, no?"

"You are right about that." Chron nodded agreement, "He was terrified when he found out what Tal is."

"That's not important right now." Dhajir rose slowly to his feet, tired of them talking about him like he wasn't present, "I can't say for sure whether or not it worked, but we need to get Aelochi's Ritual out of the way if you still have the strength. You said Abyssal Harmony would be here soon."

"Indeed I did." Saint clicked her tongue, irritated with herself for getting careless, but gestured for Aelochi to join them. "Hurry, please. We don't have much time."

Aelochi paled considerably, but did as he was bade and joined her on the stone. Dhajir gave him a reassuring look, sliding to the ground carefully as he still didn't feel entirely steady on his feet. Chron had barely joined him when Saint began casting Ritual number three. The barrier rose for the third time, now a darkening shade of orange that suggested she was putting more power into it, and a silvery-white knife smashed into it a second after it closed.

The knife bounced off; landing by Dhajir's feet and dissolving into ash. He glanced around, grim faced as he remembered his other dagger had been destroyed, and drew his weapon. Chron copied him, hammer at the ready, and moved to be standing back to back with him.

"Are you going to be alright, Dhajir?" Chron was more worried than she cared to admit. He still didn't look very good.

"I don't have much of a choice." Was the even response, and the matter was put to rest.

The figures that stepped out of the trees were all identical. Inhumanly thin though humanoid in shape. Dressed entirely in close-fitting rough black leather that was both easy to move in and devoid of any personality or identifying marks. Even their hands were covered, though there was some variation in the types of weapon they were holding. The blades were all made of that silvery-white material, and they all looked dangerously sharp.

They were all wearing the same type of mask that covered their entire face. A black ceramic moon with one side painted into a snow white crescent. The only spot of color was the blood red diamond in the center of the forehead, and the flash of flame eyes beneath. There was no way of telling how many there were as they all seemed to blend together especially in the shadows cast by the trees.

"Ideas?" Chron questioned, wondering what his strategy was.

"Destroy the masks." Dhajir returned, dearly wishing he hadn't sacrificed his other blade but prepared nonetheless, "If nothing else, it'll give us some insight into what we're up against."

"Understood." Chron confirmed, and then the two attacked as one.

They really did work well as a team, working in perfect synch despite their vastly different fighting styles. Chron was a strength based combatant, overwhelming her enemies with sheer force as she mercilessly rained down crushing blows that could easily shatter bone. Sending body after body flying, taking Dhajir's advice to heart and smashing them in the face. The ceramic splintered easily under the impact, and Chron couldn't shake the uneasy feeling that this was too easy.

Dhajir, behind her, had a similar feeling. He was fleeting speed and deadly precision, smashing the masks with the hilt of his blade to avoid blunting the tip and then slashing their throats. The bodies crumpled before him, dissolving into the same ash as the knife had, but they also seemed to be an endless commodity of paper-thin soldiers. They moved slowly, clumsily, and it was relatively easy to dodge their half-hearted attacks. What was going on?

He sensed rather than saw the barrier behind them fade away, and all at once the soldiers were swarming toward the stone in an endless horde. Abruptly faster and stronger, effortlessly dodging the attacks of both Aspects even as more poured from the trees to keep them busy. Dhajir cursed under his breath, understanding now, and rendered still more Cultists useless as he made a push for the stone.

Saint was fighting now, caught up in the fray with Aelochi though they were being overrun. A squirming mass of black bodies with the occasional glimpse of color was all that could be seen even as Dhajir felt a sharp blade slit across his cheek. The sting of the wound brought his focus back to the Cultist in front of him, and he retaliated with an attack that cleaved its head from its shoulders.

"Aelochi!" Worried for the other man, no longer hearing the sounds of combat from the stone and wondering what had befallen its occupants, "Answer me!"

"Aelochi!" Chron tried when Dhajir received no answer, sending four bodies flying with a single swing and powering her way through, "Where are you!"

There was a heartbeat of silence, and then an unnerving cackle that made Dhajir's hair stand on end. The Cultists stopped attacking all at once, fading back into the trees without so much as a whisper, and a new voice they did not recognize filled the air around them.

"HE IS LOST TO YOU. OUR MASTERS WILL BE MOST PLEASED. HE WILL NOT ESCAPE A SECOND TIME."

"No!" The cry wrenched itself free before Dhajir could stop it, and it was met with a howl of insane laughter that ended as unexpectedly as it began. There was only silence for a moment, and then Dhajir was moving toward the Ritual Stone in a redmisted fury. Chron grabbed his arm, giving him a warning look that still managed to be understanding, before she took his place. Hoisting herself up onto the stone, noting with concern that Saint was attempting to stem the blood pouring from her abdomen and breathing shallowly. She was attempting to sit up, laying on her back as blood dripped from her lips.

"What happened?" Saint moved to her side automatically, winding a careful arm around surprisingly thin shoulders and helping the woman to sit up.

Saint hissed in pain but didn't protest, coughing softly instead before she was able to answer. "There was a Soldier amidst the puppets... Caught us by surprise... Aelochi fought back, but... There were too many of them... Spirited away in a pool... of shadow and moonlight..."

Her vibrant purple eyes were dimming, pain in their depths that was mixing with the shame. "Failed you all... Barely managed to finish... You... need him... He is... key..."

"You can't die on us, Saint." Dhajir had joined them now, taking a deceptively delicate hand in both of his calloused ones, "You can't. Not in a place like this. You've survived too long."

"I've done... my time..." She laughed at him, weak and wheezing, "Too old... to go chasing Cultists..."

She raised a shaking hand, nearly limp with blood loss, and pressed it to his forehead. "Follow... managed to... sneak a peek..."

There was a short burst of magic, sharp and clear, and then Saint's hand fell away. She went limp in Chron's arms, eyes still open but empty now. Staring endlessly up into a sky that had no stars. Lost in eternity but maybe finally at rest in the Dead King's Court.

Dhajir bowed his head, not immediately noticing the blood streak left behind by her touch, and obstinately bit back the hot tears that wanted to escape. He had never intended for this to happen. He had never intended for her to sacrifice herself for them. They should never have gotten her involved.

"This is all our fault." Chron echoed his thoughts, weeping openly as she easily lifted the woman into her arms. "The least we can do is bury her."

They didn't really have time, but... Chron was right. It was the least they could do. She had given so much for them. Helped them immensely with no thought to the consequences. How could he even think of leaving her like this?

Dhajir hesitated as a thought crossed his mind, and turned his serious gaze back to his friend. "We should burn the body. We've seen what the Night-Terrors are capable of. I shudder to think what would happen if they managed to get ahold of her power.

Chron stared hard at him for a moment, and then relented with a sigh. As disrespectful as it was he had a point. "We'll have to build her a pyre."

"There should be plenty of wood in the forest I can use." Dhajir turned to head that way, "You stay here with her. Make sure nothing happens. I'll be right back."

Chron simply nodded, turning back to place Saint on the stone while she waited. She was lucky that the Ritual Saint had done had restored her strength and energy, but Dhajir must be exhausted. They had been fighting relentlessly since they arrived. There was a world weariness in him that she was starting to identify with. After all of this was over she would make him rest. They didn't really have time, but... If Dhajir kept going like this he would surely die. Chron wasn't sure she could handle losing anyone else.