The team is sent to Utah to deal with a new problem
My entire world was coming apart both figuratively, and literally, Sundew looked like she had lost her best friend. “I am sorry Warren, it is really happening. I should have told you but the queen said...”
I wanted to be mad but she was acting under orders. I was angry at the queen for trying to place a wedge between the team with such a big secret, “Why are they hiding it?”, I was curious to hear the reasoning behind it.
Sundew motioned that I follow her, I walked beside her, “Magic is not like science, it is a precise discipline. Words must be ordered correctly, every syllable pronounced with clarity. We figure the spell that reopened the gates to our world, was mispronounced so horribly it warped what the spell did”
I let that information sink in before I said anything, “Why can’t magic fix the problem?”, really why couldn’t it?
Sundew fluttered her wings nervously, “Think of magic gone wrong like an illness. You need to study it and administer the right combination of medicine to fight it, you with me so far?”, her eyes watched mine for understanding.
“Yes”, her eyes accepted my answer. I had another question, “Wouldn’t a spell of that size require a ton of energy?”, I remembered a conversation I had earlier.
Sundew nodded, “We are wondering where all the energy came from ourselves. A spell of that size would require thousands of people. Which only helped the spell spread faster” She had a stick in her hand and was drawing circles in the snow, “Now if magic went wrong is like an illness the correct combination of words acts like a medicine. The spell cast was the equivalent of spreading an infectious disease, and we do not have the original wording to provide the right kind of medicine to fix it” she said almost in tears.
It explained a lot. It also explained why our leaders kept the information to themselves, mass panic would follow, and it would only make the situation worse. “Does that make the negotiations a false front to keep the populations calm?”
Sundew nodded, “Yes, Queen Elphame balked at the idea at first. After the chaos, the pulse caused she understood why. The king dislikes the lie hence why he seems so unhappy”
Herne tapped me on the shoulder, “Hey cuimilt, an imperial raven arrived. I think we may have new orders”, He said motioning for me to follow him.
Sundew decided to talk with the children some more, “Thanks for letting me know Herne, I know you all resent me being made a leader”, I said quietly.
Herne shrugged, “Maybe I am not so resentful now. You may be a cuimilt, but at least you listen to us”, he said gently.
The raven was white, I had no idea they could be that color. I know everyone expects fairies to use some bird of prey or another animal. Ravens are just below humans in intelligence and can solve complex problems. They are also playful making them a little easier to train.
I admired the bird, as it held out its claw holding the scroll.
“To Captain Warren Vandal
First Delfina sends her love, and care with this message. Second I am pleased with how you and your team handled the Rainbow Lake affair. Third I have new orders for you. The state of Utah has seen creatures of shadow skulking around the Bryce Canyon area. The US and Canadian military are handling other problems at the moment, and cannot spare any men to investigate. I have offered the Scald Crow to do so. You are to proceed there at once. Once you arrive you are to speak with the Paiute council for further information. I have no doubt you will do brilliantly. We almost have the location of the Codex Gigas so please try and resolve this matter quickly
Her imperial majesty Queen Elphame of the Seelie court”
We said our goodbyes and proceeded to head down to Utah. The Scald Crow roared down the highway. I wanted to get more information on the Bryce Canyon area, but the internet was still down, and the team wanted to get there as soon as possible.
“You work too hard Cuimilt, take some time to process. There is no need to keep so busy is there?”, he asked.
For me, there was plenty of reasons to keep busy. One of which was the death of my mom. In the last few days, I had been too busy to think about it. I was free of seeing her face in my dreams, those dead eyes haunted me.
I stared at the floor, “My mom died when the pulse came, car accident. I had to drive her all the way home. I was so scared the whole time. I am keeping busy so I don’t have to think about it. I don’t even know if she has been buried yet”, I said feeling the pang of loss once more. I held back my tears.
Grace watched me, “It is okay to let a tear or two loose cuimilt, losing a parent is a dreadful thing. I will not think less of you, neither will the rest of the team”, she said in a somewhat comforting tone.
I shook my head, “No, I would prefer to keep busy”, I remembered my mom wallowing in her self pity and I did not want that to be me.
Jack relieved Sundew of driving duty and she sat next to me leaned on my shoulder and fell asleep. I felt my face go red as Herne and Grace stared at us.
Herne smiled, “I see you two have become good friends in such a short space of time”, he said as he looked around for some food. “We stop soon and stock up on supplies”
Grace nodded, “You two have spent and an awful lot of time together since Rainbow Lake”, she said with a sly grin on her face.
We were just friends, weren’t we? “She had reservations about going into battle. I made sure she had her head in the game”, I said as my face went redder.
Jack put his two cents in from the front, “Is that why you went out of your way to make her feel better about the people that died?”, he asked with a smile in his voice.
I pretended to fall asleep to avoid the whole conversation. I really did not want to talk about the whole thing with Sundew. As I closed my eyes I could still see her shining bright as she sang. On the plus side, my crush on Ileana was now gone.
We got to the Paiute reservation approximately twenty hours later. I was nervous our war machine was not exactly met with welcoming faces. Who could blame them, in the past anything military once meant trouble for them.
The team and I disembarked, only to be met by several elders with angry expressions, and an odd raven like creature wearing armor. I could tell by the expressions on the teams face this was not a friendly creature.
The raven like creature stepped forward its armor clinking as it walked. The familiar stench of death came from it. Its eyes shone with intelligence, and the jet black feathers shone in the sun “Perhaps a word in private? As you can see you upset the people here”, it said smiling, I could see the intelligence in its eyes. “My name is Sorger Ven”
Herne glared at the Raven creature, “I know what you are and I know you are no friend to these people vile fiend. Did Chernobog send you?” he asked angrily
Sorger Ven laughed, it sounded like it came from the void, “Hmmm, I seem to recall an offer made to me by someone with that name, but I cannot seem to remember. These poor people have suffered many losses particularly children, bled dry of their blood”, it said knowingly.
Grace drew a pistol in anger and Jack stood in front of her, “Grace take it easy acting rashly will not help our cause”, he said pushing her back into the Scald Crow.
I glared at the Valraven, “Sooner or later these people will figure out what you are, and you will meet your end”, I said clenching my fists.
The Sorger Ven licked his lips, “Your blood would taste so sweet auramancer. However, I have a job to do. Chernobog has tasked our little motley crew with making friends. There is a whole canyon of them, just waiting to be woken up”, he turned back to the Paiute people staring at us with hatred, “I would stay away from the canyon, I have a couple of friends looking around in there”
We hopped back into the Scald Crow and left, Herne swore loudly, “Damned bird, one has not been seen for a long time. Chances are it has convinced the humans it is a friend”
I was not worried about Sorger Ven, “Herne let it go for now. I am more worried about this canyon full of friends. It certainly will not be good for anyone if they get woken up”, I said seriously.
Sundew agreed, “I am with Warren, we will have to deal with the Valravn later. We need to get info on Bryce Canyon”
Grace gave her the same Sly grin she had given me, “Siding with the object of your affection eh?” she said elbowing her a little while clicking her tongue.
Sundew blushed, “N-n-o, Rainbow Lake went well because Warren got us to work together, rather impressive for someone his age..” She trailed off, “Is it my turn to drive again better get up front”, she went to the driver's area.
Herne and Grace were laughing, “Thank you Grace you have lightened my heart considerably”, he said in appreciation.
Jack sat down, “I saw a house just off the road, I have Sundew pulling in to investigate. We have to believe one or two people have escaped the influence of the Valravn. If there are creatures asleep in that canyon, they are asleep with good reason”, he said.
We pulled into the airy home and an old woman was rocking a chair outside. She was wearing a T-shirt and shorts. Her brown skin was weathered from years of being in the sun, and was missing more than a few teeth. She started to speak rapidly in Paiute.
Sundew stepped forward and spoke rapidly back in the same language. Herne crossed his arms, “Thank goodness she was born with the gift of tongues, otherwise this would have been a difficult meet” he said.
Sundew smiled, “This is Elder Redstone, We are in luck she does not like the valravn. He wants the tribes secret, but only she knows. She will not give it to the false creature”
Grace knit her brows and caressed her sword hilt, “Can you ask her why she is unaffected?”
Sundew spoke to Elder Redstone. The elder grabbed a walking stick and waved it excitedly,
“Rather expressive for an old one”, Jack said impressed. He fiddled with his dice watching her.
“She says the raven is dressed like a westerner, and her people revere the crow, not the raven. The raven speaks with such sweet words that it makes people forget”, Elder Redstone tapped her stick hard on the ground as if to emphasize this point.
While this was good news, it was not the information we needed, “Ask what is so special about the Canyon, and why Sorger Ven is so interested in it”
The elder motioned for us to sit in a circle. We all looked at one another awkwardly. “She will not tell the story unless we are all sitting”, Sundew said as we all did as we had been asked. “All questions must be saved for the end of the tale”, she added.
When Elder Redstone was satisfied we were all listening she spoke, with Sundew translating, “When the world was young and the animals still spoke to one another, there lived the legend people. The legend people were giant animal people who could look human if they desired. They were endlessly hungry eating everything in sight. Coyote saw their wickedness and asked them to stop. They laughed at him and continued to feed their greedy mouths.
Coyote worried there would be nothing left if they continued to eat this way. So he came up with a plan. He made special food and invited the legend people to the canyon. The legend people came and began the feast. Coyote was a gracious host making sure his guests ate plenty. What they did not know was Coyote had used magic to make the food. Each bite turned a small part of the legend people to stone.
By the time the legend people realized what was going on they were too late. They were too heavy to move, and the more they ate the more they wanted. Soon all were turned to stone like pillars never to feast on the fruits of the world. This is what the False creature wants the spell so the legend people will be free to walk the earth once more. I refuse to allow it”
Herne and the others looked at each other, “I have not heard such a tale since I was knee-high to a leprechaun”, he said in his rumbling voice as he took the woman in his big arms, “Thank you, grandmother, for your help and your story” he added
We all took turns giving the old woman hugs. She had a tear in her eye as she spoke next, “Thank you I have not felt like an elder in a while. Are you going to stop the False one?”, she asked.
I looked at the old woman, “Yes, we were sent here to deal with the problem”, I said before we entered the Scald Crow and drove off in the direction of Bryce Canyon.
Jack was deep in thought as his dice rolled along with the table, “Who do you think the Valravn brought with him, Sorger Ven does not seem like the sort to come unprepared” he said seriously.
Herne glowered, “If Chernobog is involved you can bet he sent a Baubus. They can manipulate shadows and can walk in them. They live to take children. It is probably how the Valravn is maintaining its form, keeping its hands clean so the people continue to trust it”, he said
Grace nodded, “I have heard of them, catching it will be difficult. We are going to do some practice with your auramancy too. The concentrated magical energy works on a variety of dark creatures and may be our only defense against it. I will teach you some swordplay as well”
Sundew looked at me and smiled, “I have confidence in you Warren”
It was great she had confidence in me, all I had to do now is find it in myself