CHAPTER NINE

part V

Have you dreamt of death? What--does that even...”

“Yeah. That’s what I said.”

Roe shook her head and looked up into the cloudless night sky, as she and Ari sat on the bench in the back yard of Ari’s family home.

“But--then what?” Ari stared at her, open-mouthed in surprise, “I mean--if you can even tell me.”

Roe let out a small scoff then sighed, staring out at the inky black between the twinkling points of light.

It had been a weird night.

She didn’t know whether it had been the long ride on the back of the hauler or the sorcerers’ meddling in her mind that had sent her reeling, but, as the Council continued their tellings before her, she felt detached. Distant. Outside of herself.

But she had heard their words quite clearly. The things they described. Past and present and future events. And Roe would respond in kind. Sometimes verbally. But often just a nod. It was all so... unreal. Almost like a dream passing through her, nearly forgotten upon waking.

And then it was over.

And she was being escorted out of the chamber, watching her grandfather’s unreadable stare disappear behind the stone doors, a shiver running down her spine as they closed.

When Ari had arrived at her side, she did not exactly know, but, by the time Roe started to feel like anything resembling herself again, they were already outside in the fresh air, away from the moist, earthen must of the Temple’s lower levels.

Ari had looked at her with concern but didn’t immediately ask her what the Council had said. She only guided Roe down a few of Coelum’s empty streets and alleyways, past storefronts and stone buildings to a small block of homes.

“Where are we going?” Roe had asked.

“Home.”

And a home it was. Unsurprisingly, Roe was greeted with warm smiles from Ari’s parents, Lino and Kina, and a kind handshake from her older brother, Val. And, before she knew it, W0RM was back in her arms, squawking and lovingly nuzzling his metal beak against her neck.

Roe didn't realize just how hungry she was until she was sat down in front of the mounds of food piled high upon the family's dining table. She realized she hadn't eaten since morning, as she looked wide-eyed to Ari.

"Tertia Tertium. The Haematian holiday," Ari grinned, handing Roe a plate.

Only after they had eaten themselves into stuffed serenity did Ari politely excuse Roe and herself to the backyard to discuss what Roe had heard.

"I mean, don't tell me if it's anything classified or something," Ari continued, looking to Roe's skyward wandering eyes.

After a long moment, Roe took a sharp breath and turn to Ari, trying to mask the emptiness she felt at the pit of her overstuffed stomach.

"They don't know what's coming, Ari. They said it's up to me."


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