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11.3 Chrysanthemum

# 2117 11 - 14 mins. 8

It must have been an hour before we saw the fog grow in the valley once again. We didn't see the Elves leave, but we assumed that it was them. Lolan and I waited in the tree, not daring to follow them and risk being seen without knowing where they were.

Instead we watched the fog, and waited for it to dissipate. It was probably another hour before we finally spoke.

"That was close," I said.

Lolan let out a sigh of relief. "You're telling me. I could barely even contribute."

"Hey, you helped with that stray arrow. I might still be back there if you hadn't kept a level head."

"Yeah," he said. He unwrapped his arm from the vine swing to rub the back of his neck. "Well, either way. I'm glad we got out of that." He looked over at me with a smirk. "Weren't we just telling you that you need to stop jumping headfirst into dangerous situations?"

I winced. "Yeah. I didn't know what to do though. That could have been nothing. And when we found out for sure we—"

"I'm just kidding. It made sense. Tigala and Zef might not understand though."

Ugh, I hadn't thought about explaining this to them.

The sun still hadn't risen and the land was dark. "So, I guess we have to wait out here until the sun comes up so we don't look suspicious, huh?" I said.

"Yeah, I guess so." He looked down at the vine swing. "These things are cool."

"Thanks. It's my first time making them."

"We should get some at our tree in the colony. I wouldn't mind just hanging out in them. Relaxing," he said.

"Hah, yeah. Not sure how much relaxing you're going to get now that the Arcus know that we spied on them."

"You think they know?" he asked.

"Yeah, they know. I smacked one with a tree branch. There was green glowing energy any time I used my magic."

"Oh, right. I hadn't thought about how obvious your magic is in a situation like that." He thought for a moment, looking at the forest floor, far beneath our feet. "That's terrifying. I never wanted them to know I was here."

"Well, they don't know for sure that you're only half Elf, but they do know you're with me... the Treek."

"Yeah, I guess they do," he said. We let the conversation hang there. He, I'm sure, was soaking in the gravity of the situation, while I was sulking—hating that everything had to be tied back to my race.

We sat there for maybe another hour while the sun rose and finally made our way down from the treetop perch. We rounded the forest so that we could enter through the back gate and told the guards that we left through the farm gate earlier to go hunting. Sure, we had no meat, but maybe we were bad at it...or something.

When we got inside, we found our campsite deserted. Zef and Tigala were both missing and their sleeping arrangments were all packed up. Well, Zef's were at least. Tigala usually slept on the grass.

"Where do you think they went?" I asked.

"I don't know," said Lolan. "Maybe looking for you. I'm sure waking up to find us missing couldn't have been a good feeling."

"Yeah, I guess not," I said. "How about the well. That's always a good place to check."

"We walked around the building by the tree that marked our camp and headed into the town square. There was a group of Saurians getting water from the well, but no Tigala and Zef.

"Come on," said Lolan. He headed in the direction of the tavern.

"Are you sure we want to go in there right now?" I asked.

"The Arcus aren't going to attack us in front of everyone. They don't want to break the truce either," he said. It was a good point, but still, I had bad memories in that tavern. Every time we went in there we had some sort of hostile interaction.

We walked through the door and found it still fairly empty as the morning was only beginning. But after a moment, I spotted Tigala at the far end, and she was angry.

She breathed heavily and was charging toward a tall blonde Elf at the far corner of the bar. Tigala raised a finger as she stomped hard enough to make plates clatter against silverware. Zef hung from her back.

"Stop," said Zef. "We don't know—"

"What did you do with her?" shouted Tigala.

Tallesia stood from her stool but she didn't back up. I saw Galia stand up from a nearby table, ready for a fight.

"I have no idea what you're talking about," said Tallesia, as calm as ever.

"Tiga—" I tried to yell to her but there was enough commotion in the tavern now that she didn't even notice, cutting me off.

"Don't give me that," said Tigala. "If you hurt her, I swear—"

"Hurt who?" asked Tallesia.

"You know who. Kaia. The Treek," said Tigala. There it was again. My race.

"You mean her," said Tallesia, pointing in my direction.

Tigala looked at me and then back at Tallesia, confused. Then she stormed toward me with the same level of anger. Zef dropped off of her back and followed behind.

Tigala stomped past me and right out the door. Zef walked by with his hands raised and palms up and followed after her. Before I turned to join them, I glanced at Tallesia. She smiled back at me with all of the smugness she could muster.

When I met Tigala by our tree with Zef and Lolan, she yelled. "What was that? We were supposed to be looking into things together, and then you disappear without a word?"

"Yeah, I'm—" I started.

"And don't say that you didn't want to put us in danger. We all agreed. We're in this no matter what. Do you know what we thought happened when we woke up?"

"I'm sorry," I said.

"You better be. We've been looking all over for you two," said Tigala. "And how did you let her do this again. I thought you agreed on this too. We need to move slowly, we need to work together."

"You're right," said Lolan. "We were over there checking in on her because of a fog that rolled in. She snuck out of the colony and we had a very small window to follow. We couldn't risk waking you without getting caught or losing her."

Tigala huffed. "Is that true?" she asked me.

I nodded. "And I don't think they do this every night either. They were planning something for tonight."

Tigala folded her arms. "I still don't like it. You should have waited and then told us. If we miss her, then we try again another night."

"But if we waited for another night, more people could die," I said. "We need to act. We need to stop this before it gets beyond our control. They're dangerous, and they're only going to hurt more people."

Tigala didn't care. She was too upset. She had almost just attacked Tallesia in the middle of the tavern. Something Lolan had just said the Arcus wouldn't even do. But that's probably because they're more calculated, slower to act on emotion alone.

"So, what did you hear?" asked Zef.

"You're not going to scold us too?" I asked.

"Heh, no. I think she's done enough for the both of us," he said.

"They're planning something during the Dwarven funeral tonight," said Lolan. "We're not sure what though. They found us out before that."

"They caught you?" said Tigala.

"They heard us," I said. "They came after us and we got away. But yeah."

Tigala rolled her eyes and shook her head.

"So they know you were listening in then?" said Zef.

"Yeah," I said. "And if they weren't sure it was me before, they are now." I glanced at Tigala but looked away before she made eye contact. The last thing I wanted to do now was provoke her further.

"Well, they might have changed their plans then, knowing there were people listening in. But what did they say they were planning?" said Zef.

"We don't know exactly," said Lolan. "They said where each person would be, and how they'd be pairing up, but they didn't get to what."

"Whatever it is, it can't be good. They're doing it during a funeral, how much more evil can you get?" I said.

"Well, we can keep an eye on things then. We can each take an end of the crowd and make sure nothing fishy is going on," said Zef. "Maybe we should talk to Rodrigo about this too. Maybe he knows more about Tallesia's tendencies."

"Yeah, that sounds like a good plan," said Lolan.

It did sound like a good idea. He might be able to help us figure out what she might be doing or if she would still try it after knowing we heard about it. I also still had the lingering thought of Abigail in the back of my mind. Marv had told me to wait till today or tomorrow, but she might need someone. She might need to talk about it. And I didn't get the sense that Marv was particularly good at comforting people in times of trouble. I thought about sitting out on the talk with Rodrigo, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. Not yet.

"Yeah," I said. "Let's go,"

"No, she wouldn't do it," said Rodrigo. We had met him in his tent again despite him not liking it. We did it during peak searching hours, so the camp was left fairly empty. I was pretty sure no one had seen us go in. "She's too calculated. If you're sure she knows that you heard her, she wouldn't go forward with the plan tonight."

"Unless it's time-specific," I said. "Maybe she needs to strike when the Dwarves are distracted."

"That could be," said Rodrigo. "But even still, if she is part of the Arcus, and can tame dragons and fly with her magic alone, don't you think she would just wait for another day and mind-control a mountain lurker to run in here and wreak havoc again? If she's that powerful, she won't need a funeral as a distraction. She can make her own.

"I think you should wait. Unless she is outright attacking people, we can wait to see what damage was done another day." Rodrigo finished.

"I don't like waiting," I said.

"Yeah, we know," said Tigala. That one hurt, a little.

"All I'm saying is that waiting could be putting more lives in danger," I said. "It could force the Dwarves back into their brain-washed state. It could cause an uprising of enemies that are actually our allies. This is bad stuff that we're dealing with."

"But there is a reason they're working in secret," said Rodrigo. "They need to work in secret. They don't want to be discovered. So if you know what they're about to do, you can tie it to them. They won't act with an audience."

"At least not until their strong enough to act without the secrecy. It's only a matter of time and we don't know when that time will come," I said.

"We don't even know for sure that they're part of the Arcus. You just overheard them talking about something. What if they were planning on hunting, or something else during the funeral." said Rodrigo. "Wait. Don't do anything stupid unless you know for sure that they are attacking people."

I couldn't really argue with that. All I heard was that they had a plan and when it was. I didn't hear what the plan was for—what the goal of it was. Still it was frustrating. They were up to something. Tallesia was at a place that required illusion and earth magic to use. I couldn't just sit by and let her do whatever it was she was about to do.

"Fine," I said. "But I'm keeping an eye out. I don't want to let another disaster slip by me."

"That's fine, but don't act unless you know what you are acting against. That is the kind of thing that will get you removed from this colony." said Rodrigo. He looked frustrated. I probably did too. No matter what, the two of us always seemed to be at odds.

Just then we heard the sound of a horn. I looked at the others.

"That must be the start of the ceremony," said Zef.

"Let's go," I said.

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