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Chapter 21 - Hunting Begins

 

The woman's voice seemed to linger in the great room far longer than should have been natural as Kanth and Cydric entered hearing only the final reverberations.

Kanth stood staring, awestruck and mute, at the interior of this area within Tithion's proud Keep. She had never imagined such a place should exist within the dank confines of a cellar or basement. She made no sound, but nudged Shadow and Vorn softly with the intent of letting them know she and Cydric had arrived. And so the old priest began his sermon once more.

Upon entering the room, Cydric leaned against a wall and looked around noticing what creatures lurked down here to pay their respects to the dead. It was sure a fashionable event, each noble trying to out dress the other. Cydric sneered at the thought of the pettiness of these people. With real problems like hunger and disease in their own city, these people only cared for what material items they had or what fashionable gala was up coming.

Thanks to growing up in the monastery, Cydric caught a few words the priest was saying, unfortunately though, he never paid enough attention to the monks to be able to fully understand the strange language, he could only make out a few words here and there. The only thing he did actually learn from the monks with great enthusiasm was how to read and write the Endraki language.

Vorn was growing increasingly impatient and began wondering what gibberish the priest was speaking. This time, instead of sending chills down his spine, it just.... bored him. In his mind, the dead should be buried in solemnity, with close family commemorating him onwards to his ancestors. Having a strange priest speak nonsense while a lot of lazy nobles looked on was simply disgraceful. He stared about the room in disgust. His spiteful gaze lingered on the older woman who sat on a kneeling servant's back. People like that were absolutely pointless. It reminded him of a past that he did not want to remember, of undeniably evil lords who used men as if they were tools. Vorn looked around the room, more sickened by the moment. Turning to greet his fellows with a whisper he asked, "did you find out anything good enough to interrupt this ceremony?"
 

"The bar-r-r," Kanth said nodding. "A pointless waste of time, if you'rre asking my opinion. We did find out how much the common folk trruly do hate we inspector-r-rs. We should surrely NOT interrrupt this gatherring lest we intend to face the wrrath of the nobles prresent. But, you do as you feel you must, just warrn me so I can hide," she said giving Vorn a playful jab in his ribs.

Shadow nodded, agreeing with Kanth. “I’m up for-r-r waiting until the end of the cerremony. Myrranda’s status is not going to change while we wait. Besides, I don’t think the answerrs lie with the body anymor-r-re. We’ve crrossed that brridge." Shadow thought about the earlier encounter when they first saw Sloran's body. "It seemed that Tithion was attempting to communicate with his favorred serrvant. If he has such abilities, pur-r-rhaps we can talk him into doing the same with Myrranda. We do, after-r-r all, have the same agenda. We need to find the perrson r-responsible. The one who killed Slorran r-ran off with Tithion’s prrized arrtifact… whatever-r-r that was.”

As the old priest's voice faded into memory, the mass of elders at the foot of the chamber shuffled and parted. Though the troop of inspectors could not see who spoke, they instantly recognized his voice. Tithion led the crowd in a farewell song.

From darkness we came, rising from the ashes
Into your embrace, we rode upon the sky
We are your children, you our fathers, our mothers, our love
And we lift up our bodies, so the sprit might abide

Don we now the rose of life, its thorns a bitter sting
We bring ourselves humbly, and to our Father and Mother we sing
Lay us down in peaceful glades; wash us in your stream
And take us now to your home, a wondrous land of dreams

As the somber voices continued the verse, a torch bearer crossed from the left end and handed the torch to the sorrowful noble. Even through the drone of the hundred voices, it was obvious when Tithion's voice left him and he was brought to tears and sobbing. The
young man who had issued the silver scepter supported the elderly noble as they lowered the torch to the altar.

The flame leapt quickly from the lamp's wick to the altar's edge and soon spread about the body. Ushers and servants cleared the path behind the flaming dais and the large slab began moving towards an open doorway.

The singers continued:

As Torn was purified, so too should we be
Into the night, we await the morning
Bright one star, K'ayia doth mend
All hallow, all sovereign

Caustic and harsh, the smell of burning flesh seared the inspector's senses. But those at the forefront of the flame seemed to not notice.

Don now the rose of life, its thorns a bitter sting
We bring ourselves humbly, and to our Father and Mother we sing
Lay us down in peaceful glades; wash us in your stream
And take us now to your home, a wondrous land of dreams

Farewell to the traveler, farewell my friends
I long for when we greet each other again
Mother, I am home. Father, I am home.
A far better place, tis here, I know

Don we now the rose of life, its thorns a bitter sting
We bring ourselves humbly, and to our Father and Mother we sing
Lay us down in peaceful glades; wash us in your stream
And take us now to your home, a wondrous land of dreams

With a solidly final clamor, the door to the room was closed and
latched into place.

The elderly priest finished with a traditional blessing and sprinkled the front row with blessed water. Tithion greeted his fellow noblemen and dabbed his eyes from time to time. It seemed everyone in the room wished to bring their condolences.

Those that mingled spoke of the tragedy. "So young," said one. "A true shame" said another. A particularly posh lady seemed to scoff, "at least he wasn't buried in the ground!" It seemed that most were not so sorry for Sloran as they were for Tithion.

As the crowd thinned, some choking at the smell of burning flesh that lingered, Cydric noticed that Traa'llor was not present. He had noticed that the mixed-blood was not there almost immediately when they first entered the room, but it struck him as odd that he had not been present at all.

Kanth inched close to Vorn and Shadow, as she had noticed Cydric deep in thought while perusing the emptying subchamber. "Strrange cerremonies these people have. Burrning bodies seems quite distasteful and an insult to the dead."

She perused the crowd for another minute, trying to discern the source of Cydric's attention. Again, she turned to the other two inspectors, "I hope I'm not sent to meet Siverrandorra in a plume of smoke and pile of ash."

Shadow nodded silently, seeming somewhat distracted at something
other that drifted within his mind.

Cydric looked around the room, even standing on tip toes trying to see if he could catch a glimpse of Trall'or. 'Maybe the man was seated the whole time he thought?' Finally he looked at his fellow inspectors, "Do you see Trall'or here at all? I couldn't find him and I think that's a little odd, seeing how Sloran was his 'brother' and all."

Shadow looked around at this time. "Keen obserrvation, Cydrric," he mentioned confirming the fact after not finding the half-breed either. He then looked about. Every one present was human. "Pur-r-rhaps the lack of purrity in Trrall'or's makeup was distrracting to the r-ritual itself?" The Phylinx didn't necessarily agree, but understood how some religions were quite particular about certain rituals.

Shadow mused, "you know what I find strrange is how there are so many people ... so many imporrtant people for someone who was little mor-r-re than a glorrified serrvant."

"True, Shadow, now why would so many nobles go to a funeral of what was essentially a servant?" Vorn scoffed. "We should find Tithion."

Kanth cast a glance over to Vorn at his words. "You arre rright," she replied. "We need to be about our-r-r duty herre. We'rre not herre to speculate the strrange rreligions of those arround us."

She glanced around to the members of the group in turn, a look of something possibly resembling embarassment across her countenance. "Theology is not our-r-r specialty. I apologize for-r-r the comments concerrning the burrning of the dead that have seemed
to trail our thoughts away from our purrpose." She glanced out towards the huge hall, her eyes pressed in detection of something unseen. "Trraa'llor-r-r's prresence, or lack of, is strrange, but I intend on deliverring the message we came with and finding out if Tithion can assist us with his spirrit-speakerrs."

Shadow stood next to Kanth, crossing his arms in silent observation of everything going on. He was growing impatient. There were murderers on the loose and they were stuck listening to religious blather. He couldn't wait for this endless ceremony. Tithion needed to know about Sloran's love, and his assistance needed to be recruited. For the time being, their own unique goals meshed perfectly... if only the noble would see things the same way.

And just as Shadow feared, the ceremony continued. Another somber song, a short speech from yet another guest, and finally, the prayer that ushered the end of the observance.

Looks of relief were evident on many faces as some of the nobles had been present far longer than the inspectors. The crowd quickly spread out with clusters of well dressed courtiers mingled to discuss the latest rumors and conspiracies.

One gaggle spoke of the market and how well their trades were doing. Another cluster just within earshot was whispering about a certain aristocrat and his illustrious affairs with several common women. Though they never spoke his name, the gathered folk seemed to know of whom they all spoke.

Then there was the line of well-wishers. Those who sought to offer their condolences to the family. By its length, the inspectors would have quite a while to wait to speak with the lord Tithion.

A low growl in the back of the Phylinx' throat, Kanth pushed her way towards the crowd with the intention of skirting most of them and weaving her way to Tithion. "I'm not waiting any longer-r-r," she growled to her companions.

The lithe inspector weaved in and out of the crowd, barely brushing any of them, but startling most of those she passed. She did have one mishap though, one with a grossly large woman that shifted her weight just as Kanth was trying to pass. The two collided and Kanth almost fell to the ground as she bounced off the massive wall of cellulite and
corpulence.

Disgusted, Kanth turned her nose up and flattened her ears at the smell carried by the woman. It was a combination of heavy perfume oils, pungent sweat, and the inability to wash one's backside due to being sickeningly obese. 'By-the-gods, this one is probably washed by several servants with elephant, no better, whale-brushes,' Kanth thought as the massive figure began to turn.

"Excuse you," the pompous high-pitched voice drifted down from the beast's mouth. Kanth was instantly reminded of a fat squealing pig, about to be slaughtered.

"Indeed," Kanth replied. "If I had known I was going to rrun into a soft and horrridly malodorrous wall of flesh, I would have gone another-r-r dirrection." Kanth gathered herself and proceeded to pass the woman, who in turn, stuck out her arm to stop her
procession.

"Why I never-" she started.

"And you prrobably never-r-r will again if you don't rremove that 80-pound fleshy appendage frrom in frront of my face," Kanth stated clearly aggitated. She flung the fat woman's arm aside with an elbow and stormed away, no longer trying to be sly, but now forcefully shoving her shoulder between people and pressing onward. The beastly woman behind her stood awestricken and in a huff.

Shadow followed Kanth’s lead, and cringed when she forced her way past the fat noble. “Excuse me,” Shadow said to the onlookers who began to send some dirty glances Kanth’s way. “The INSPECTOR and I have important, official business.” He grasped on to Kanth’s elbow and gently followed her away from the scene towards where Tithion stood meeting each within the line that neither Phylinx had patience to wait within. Hopefully, the mere statement would be enough to diffuse any conflict that might be growing.

Cydric turned to Vorn and said, "Well I can't think of a better way to get through that crowd. Following behind two Phylinx is as good as it'll get." At that Cydric practically burst into a full run to quickly close the distance between him and Shadow.

The hiss of pompous nobility grew to a loud clamor in the echoing chamber. The inspectors had obviously not followed protocol as expected of the common caste. Many a stern face greeted Kanth and Shadow as they pushed through the line. Finally a group of servants blocked the path, their arms resting on their hips with closed fists and their chests puffed out. A circle grew around the inspectors as the line of mourners separated.

"Where do you think you are goin?" Asked the middle of the black and white clad men. "I do believe you have stepped beyond your place."

The five men-at-arms looked nearly identical with similar builds and puffy shirt sleeves with the alternating black and white pattern. Their complexion, hair color, and even their mustaches were waxed and curled in the same fashion. And particularly their cocky smirks seemed practiced. Even without the eye of a war veteran, Kanth could see that these men had worked together for quite some time and given their confidence, had probably fought together also. Their empty scabbards also alluded to that thought.

Cydric and Vorn made their way to the edge of the circle, but had to push between gawkers to close the remaining distance to their allies.

Having already pondered a lie, Kanth stole a few words before any violence or other harm could come before them. She quickly developed a huge scheme where the murderers of Tithion's servant and the wench he was with that evening were within this group intent on assassination of Tithion.

"Please, you must let us thrrough to Lorrd Tithion. We believe him to be in grrave danger-r-r and even speaking with you is brreaking a loyalty oath. We arre Inspectorrs," she stated slowly withdrawing her badge so as to keep the arrangement peaceful and not startle anyone with the sudden gesture. "Ask Tithion yourrself if you do not believe us. We arre on a mission frrom Tithion to deterrmine the cause of Slorran's fatality, and we arre herre to prrevent anymorre frrom occurring."

Not being able to hear quite what was being said by Kanth due to the murmuring of the crowd, Cydric thought for a second then realized they needed a distraction, a good old fashion brawl. "Quit pushing me!" Cydric yelled. Then he drew his fist back and instead of punching the man directly behind him, he punched the man standing directly beside him, knocking him back into the crowd. As the crowd slowly erupted into a brawl, Cydric smirked to himself just before a blow landed on his ribs.

Shadow had no idea what was going on behind him, only that things were getting restless. He listened to Kanth’s explanation and then added “We have waited for your ceremony to conclude. This…” he holds his hands about and indicates the room’s goings on, “is no longer ceremony. We have need of seeing Tithion. You will either remove yourself from barring our way, or be charged with obstruction of justice. Your choice,” Shadow snarls showing his sharp canines.

'Great, a fight. Just what I was trying to avoid,' Kanth sighed. She glanced over at Shadow and noticed his fur on end, baring teeth. 'No Shadow, not you too,' thoughts rushed over her and threatened to pull her under and into confusion as the currents in the sea yank at the legs of a struggling swimmer.

Vorn and Cydric were suddenly swarmed by wild blows, though not of anger or skill, but of fleeing subjects who's panic drove them to the open areas of the room.

"Silence!" roared a powerful and commanding voice above the brawl. Ladies and non-combatants alike scampered away from the center of the ruckus as the elderly priest hobbled up the sloped marble floor. Not far behind him stood the red-eyed Tithion.

A plump, well dressed man nursed a bleeding lip and another held his slowly swelling cheek.

"Wha-, what is the meaning of this disruption? Have you no shame? No remorse or respect for this holy place?" The venerable leader trembled, but whether it was from age or rage was uncertain. His expression, however was and unmistakable scowl of anger.

Stepping in front of the priest, Tithion too seemed angered. Another distraction, another disruption, and all made by the same inspectors that seemed to be interfering. And for what?

Tithion sighed, "what is your purpose here inspectors? I assume you have news of the gravest sort?" His tone was flat and unreadable though he looked exhausted.

Kanth turned to her fellow inspectors and gave them each in turn a grave look that spoke a million words, but the forefront thought in her mind for the stare screamed, 'Follow my lead, nod and agree, or we've gotten ourselves into deep shite!'

She determined to stick with her original lie, even to the point of forcing herself to believe it. 'Wait a minute,' the thought rushed over her with clarity. 'Tithion could very well be in danger. This assassin could be after him, and present right this instant.' With that thought in mind, she perused the crowd, making her intentions obvious, searching in her mind's eye for someone with a particularly shady appearance about them; someone besides Cydric.

The sly feline turned slowly back to Tithion and spoke loudly and clearly enough for all of her companions to hear, "My Lorrd, herre may not be the safest place to discuss matterrs. Another-r-r has fallen victim to this assassin who has slain your-r-r dear-r-r serrvant Slorran. We," she said stressing the word for clarification, "feel as though you may be in danger-r-r yourrself. We rrushed over-r-r and rremained thrrough the courrse of the cerremony so as not to be a disturrbance. Now that the cerremony is over-r-r and everryone has a chance to place themselves verry close to you, we figurred it a good time to leap into the action of prrotecting you."

Guards from the hallway behind ushered in the oval room. "Is everything fair, sir?" the commander asked as all eyes turned their way.

Tithion waved his and as if to dismiss them then paused, "I will let you know in a moment." Turning then to the two Phylinx that stood before him, "Then you DO have news? Who is this other victim?"
 

Kanth glanced at the guards, a wave of paranoia washed over her as she spoke, "Sir-r-r, is it wise to discuss these things in this setting?" Having fully convinced herself that Tithion may be in danger, and subconsciously surprised and proud of her ability to do so, she wanted to get far enough away from the upset crowd as possible. She glanced over her shoulder, noting the eagerness of her companions, and saw that fat woman glaring at her. 'Heifer,' she thought. She turned back to Tithion, "Someone who was close to Slorran that grrave eve perrished as well, and we believe it frrom the same sourrce."

Cydric felt a little proud of himself. After all it was his idea that had got Tithion to come to the group, even though he was pretty irked. And really, who cared what a priest thought? After living with monks most his life, Cydric had no love of the clergy, no matter what title they went by.

Shadow felt increasingly uncomfortable at the center of the entire audience's glares. He felt sized up, judged, and on the spot and wasn't really sure what to say. Luckily, Kanth was at no lack of verbal powers - sometimes it seemed impossible to shut her up.

Finally, he urged himself out of his stage fright and nodded in agreement. "Trruly, it would not be wise to be so forrwarrd with our discoverry - and our-r-r prroposition," the male phylinx said glancing through the corner of his eyes (without turning his head) at everyone still staring towards them.

"Then come this way. Tiffton, stand guard of the door please." Tithion ushered them to the front of the chamber to the first of three doorways. The floor had iron tracks in the floor and behind the door was a tight room with a charred marble altar. Tithion took a
candle and set it on the dais.

Though spotlessly clean, the room held a smoky musk with a hint of the potent smell of burnt hair. This was another room where the bodies were burned and there was barely enough room for the group with the altar in place. As the door was closed the room of nobles erupted with their gossip-making.

"Now then, tell me what you have come here for."

"Well my Lord, we found Sloran's friend, Myranda dead this afternoon. She appears to have been poisoned in the same manner."

At that Cydric withdrew the poisoned delicacies. "These we believe are what killed each of them. Do you have any clue as to where he might have bought these from?" Cydric asked as he handed the cakes to Tithion.

Kanth added a bit to Cydric's explanation, "We werre also wonderring if it would be possible for your-r-r spirrit-speakerrs to question her-r-r rregarrding these pastrries and their-r-r origin and such. We arre having her-r-r body carred for-r-r as we speak."

At hearing the news Tithion's face paled. "They were to be married," he whispered. "He, wanted it..."

The noble's eyes grew wide as a child that had been caught in the act of deception. He sighed and hung his head. "No, we cannot. My own son's soul might be lost and I will not risk another. I cannot explain in detail, but Sloran's spirit did not know his killer and Myranda too would be ignorant of those facts. If this cake is what carried the poison, then I fear the trail has been lost. Sloran did not mention such things during our communion." Tithion wiped at his eyes. "I'm sorry, I did not approve. It is my fault that Sloran is dead. Had I not sent him away on that trip, he might still be alive. Both of them would be." He pressed at his eyes as if the pressure might stem the flow of tears. "I don't know why I'm bothering to tell you these things. But you must know already. I suspected she wanted my son for the money; the status. Sloran and I... We argued many
times. That is why I sent him away. I thought the time and distance would bring him to his senses. But I was wrong."

"I suppose I am ready then. That is why you put this before me?" He motioned to the powdered cake. "I wondered who might have been my enemy's agents so now I have it." He looked up at Cydric with a determination in his eyes. "So what was the price young assassin? How much did Phineous pay you?"

Shocked, Kanth glared at Cydric, then back to Tithion, and back again to Cydric. "What is the meaning of this? What arre you trrying to imply Tithion? If you and Phineous arre indeed enemies, why werre we summoned to solve this mysterry?"
 

Tithion cursed, "Phineous is every honest man's enemy, child."

Confused and startled, Kanth glanced to each of her companions in turn, keeping a close eye on Cydric's hands. "What makes you think Cydrric has anything to do with these murrderrs? Would a trrue assassin risk having to split his bounty with thrree otherrs in orrder-r-r to accomplish a task as simple as slaying one man?"

Cydric, wasn't at all surprised by the allegation, the fact that he was an assassin was no secret, especially now. A broad smile appeared on Cydric's face, and a faint chuckle escaped him. In a broad theatrical style move he began explaining a lunatics' delusion.

"That's right see, I killed them all! Hahahahaha! Phineous didn't have to pay me anything, I did it for the sheer joy of it! I love to kill and nothing is more enjoyable than slaying some fat oaf and his barwench! Oh the challenge, it nearly took my breath away! Then to actually revisit the murder scenes as an inspector! OH THE MADNESS! But you Tith, you out foxed me see, and now, well now I'll just have to Hahahahaha..."

Cydric's tone ended in deadly seriousness. "Call you an idiot... My Lord. I hate the rat bastard Phineous more than any one here, there's nothing like being blackmailed into being an inspector. Trust me, I wouldn't have had anything to do with this if that rat hadn't set me up. I can only say that before this morning I had never met any of your family before." At that Cydric pulled out his pipe and after a few seconds was calmly puffing away, thanks to that interesting herb Kanth had given him earlier that morning.
 

"Do not mock me, sir!" Tithion glowered. His blood boiled under his skin and he could feel the urge to lay a devouring curse on the young man. He would have done so, at least in his earlier years. Back when he and Eric were friends; commrads.

"Oh and Tith, eat the cake it's delicious. I gave it to you so you could inspect it and pass it on for your people to test. Once we find out what the poison is, if there's any, we might
have a better clue as to who the killer might be. I know poisons, but this one just doesn't fit. But by all means, munch on the cake." Cydric said, feeling a bit mellow.

Vorn shook his head sadly, "We're truly sorry for what happened to your son, Tithion, but it's quite obvious that Cydric didn't do it. Now that we've given you all the information, is there any way you can help us help you find the true killer?"

Shadow was disturbed at the lack of serious dedication towards their mission and
sighed. "Despite my companions' ill-timed and bizar-r-re sense of humor, I assurrre you that we ar-re whole-heartedly inter-rested in finding whoever is r-responsible for Slorran's death and br-ring him to justice." He frowned and added, "It is unfor-rtunate that you cannot dar-re use such power-rful necr-romancy to aid our-r investigation, but it is not wor-rth the cost of one's spirit... that I will agree."

"Lor-rd Tithion, if I may beg of your-r insight," Shadow asked politely. "If the gir-rl knew her-r fiance was poisoned, why would she in tur-rn fall subject to the ver-ry same poisoned fate? If she wanted to kill her-rself, why wouldn't she have left a letter? Ther-re is something mor-re, something str-range and unanswer-red about her-r death." He retrieved the cloth that Sloran had used to wrap the food and showed Tithion, "Does this seem at all familiar-r to you? It may be the only solid clue we have in this case."

The rage and adrenelin washing through the old nobleman and the sudden calmness presented by the black Phylinx suddenly broke Tithion's composure. He felt weak and helpless. And worse, embarassed. Having sensed Cydric's tainted spirit when they shook hands earlier that day began his mind wandering. He thought he could control his emotions, but when the image of Cydric mixed with the sight of Sloran's still form... It was all too much.
 

Staring through tear clouded eyes, he looked back at Shadow. "I..." his voice cracked. Tithion knew that Shadow's motives were pure, the same way he knew of Cydric's blackness. With his voice calm and low with shame Tithion replied, "those pastries are all too common. Go to the baker's market and see for yourself."
 

Cydric shook his head, puffed on his pipe slowly, and decided that it was time to leave. He straightened himself up and nodded to Lord Tithion and walked out into the main room. He had every intension of leaving the house when he realized that he had no clue how to navigate himself through the tunnels under the house. Seeing a vacant seat, he sat down and propped his feet up, waiting for his fellow inspectors to do the same.
 

There were no more answers to be learned from the noble Tithion. "So be it. I apologize for-r-r interrrrupting your-r-r cerremony." Shadow turned about and followed Cydric out. It was disappointing that they got no further and one so powerful as Tithion refused to help them further. "Too many damnable secrrets," the Phylinx was heard to mutter as he stepped out the door.
 

 

 

The ceremony for Sloran was about to begin. All of the guests had arrived and Traa'llor was almost prepared for his mission. Being of mixed bloodlines, Traa'llor was not welcome among the purebred nobles and his father had excused him from attending. Tithion knew that Traa'llor would mourn his brother in his own time and fashion. But now was not the time for mourning. Now was the time for action.

His men were already moving to their targets. With most of the nobility here, security at their homes would be lax to nonexistent at best. Traa'llor had made sure to invite all of the nobles and priests that might have had a reason to take the artifacts that Sloran carried. He did not know what news his men might have when and if they returned, but any proof of guilt was enough.

"I'm sorry I was not with you brother." Traa'llor whispered as he navigated the near perfect darkness of the catacombs beneath Tithion's manor. The old stone had been carved centuries ago by slave hands. Tithion's family had taken ownership of these lands shortly after the Great Revolt that drove the Endraki armies from the Freedlends. At the time, these pits were used to house the prisoners of war. Much torture and suffering still lingered in the quiet. Several of the guards and servants had reported hearing strange sounds or torturous screams. One such woman was found huddled a
corner praying to Mourtarious to save her. Had it not been for the scratches on her back and burned hand print on her calf, no one would have believed her story.

Traa'llor shuddered. He did not like the idea of souls wandering the darkness. And it suited him even less having heard what the priestesses had said. After the inspectors left, the priestesses resumed the ritual and even made contact with Sloran's spirit. They
said he was confused; lost. Even worse, he did not know who had poisoned him. They spoke of the interruption, those inspectors, and how it had broken the bond of his spirit to the material body. Even after the rites were complete Tithion was not sure that Sloran's soul could ascend. But that was the price. To wander endlessly, searching
for what was lost...

Traa'llor frowned. It was almost too much for him to take. He leaned on the cold stone and allowed himself a moment to weep. But not long enough to lose his steel; his purpose.

He pressed on through the darkness, one hand on the right wall that would guide him to the exit. Finally he felt the ground rise, sloping slightly, then a light at the end of the tunnel. It was overgrown with bushes and weeds, but with his goblin-blooded eyes, he was able to maneuver through it with ease in spite of the pouring rain.
 

Chapter 22

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