Kridelus waited, agitated, in his office on the outskirts of Duringard. A plume of smoke issued from the city. By its placement, it seemed to come from the harbour.
Benera knocked, and he called for her to enter before she was finished.
‘News?’ he asked, turning to her.
‘He’s gone, my lord,’ Benera grimaced, her eyes hard. ‘Taken ship as of last night.’
‘Which ship?’ Kridelus demanded.
‘The Dancing Dream,‘ Benera replied. ‘A Sunaran ship. By all accounts, it is one of the remnants of the old Jing Dynasty.’
Kridelus took this information in with a scowl. His frustration was reaching a boiling point now, with this Landred Vhael always seeming one step ahead.
‘He has no record of any correspondence with any Sunaran, let alone someone with connections to the House of Jing! Just who is this man?’
‘What of Forneus? What does the Archon say of his wayward havarr?’
‘He says that Landred Vhael is utterly average in every way,’ Kridelus replied, waving his hand in disgust at the assessment. ‘Which means one of three things. Either Forneus is not as wise as the world says he is, or Landred is far more cunning than anyone gave him credit for.’ His scowl deepened, a furrow materializing on his brow. ‘Or he meant it as an insult to our organization, that such an average member of his order might so completely elude us.’
‘What clues do you have?’
‘Yet another letter, Lord Commander,’ Benera said. ‘He left the inn he was staying in in ashes – that’d be the plume of smoke you see on the horizon. But he left a letter for the local officials, who readily turned it over to us.’
Kridelus took the note, read it, then shook his head.
‘I think you’re right, Lord Commander. It does feel like he’s baiting us.’
‘And yet we cannot just leave him,’ said Kridelus. ‘Which operatives do we have across the Shining Sea?’
‘Sylen Grin,’ said Benera. ‘It seems that the Order of Saint Audren have settled into a state of reclusivity.’
‘Somehow I don’t think that’ll last long. Who else?’
‘Alice,’ Benera stated. ‘It seems she’s assembled a small team, complete with a preposterous little name.’
‘I never understood that girl, but she gets results. Inform her of her new target. And tell her to be mindful of whomever this note is referring to as well. You should read it, if you haven’t already.’
Kridelus looked out at the plume of smoke. ‘Let’s try to clean up this mess.’
I saw a man with your face walking across the abyss of dreams.
For now we return to the endless summers,
to the flittering moths, caught on the web of moments,
to the dancing fireflies, masquerading as stars,
inebriated on the soft and silent winds.
Hear the call of what this life has been, heeding the days
that refused to close, wriggling between our corrosive teeth,
biting into the spines of the moments we couldn’t keep.
Now the silver weight of our thoughts
settles again on the sighing season of spring,
where the gods of peace lay slumbering
in their temple-crypts, awakened now
by the one who walks the abyss of
A promise kept,
a promise broken.
Blood for blood.
Blood of your blood.
He wears your face.