Keepers’ Garden – In Hyval’s Wake24
Ruthiel turned on his companion. “You say the same words each day, and eachday I tell you that we cannot leave without a newcomer!”Silence took hold. Ruthiel returned his attention to the gate, his companionresuming work on his claws. “You cannot replace Ghriza,” Ironhand muttered. “Or theyoung one.”“I can try,” Ruthiel drummed.“It is folly.”As Ruthiel turned, his wings cut the air with such speed that they whistled.“Ghriza is imprudent to think he will reach the Jungtiel, or be accepted once he arrives.The young one will be returned, but the traitor is ruined and will be dealt with in kind.Do not mistake my intentions here. I do not wish to restore Ghriza, only to restock hisplace.” Ruthiel’s voice shook the small pebbles at the foot of the Third Great Gate.“I expected as much,” Ironhand muttered, curling his spiked tail around the baseof his ashstone seat.Ruthiel sighed again and looked past the gate, towards the Infinite Fissure. Theswirling gray-blue clouds marked the end of the air, and below their luminescence was astretch of blackness marking the end of the land.
The end of the world,
Ruthiel thought.His eyes traced inland, towards the expanse known as the Edge – shiny black ashstonesand loose sediment splattered with blood-red streams of lava and shimmering graylimestone pools. S
tark, yet that is its beauty. To the Mauruten, the Infinite Fissure is theend of the world, but to the rest of the Foundation…their end is Maurutar.
Ruthiel chuckled, but his moment of humor was shattered as Ironhand beganclanking and scraping his metal-infused hand against his ashstone seat. It was only a fewseconds until Ruthiel found the noise unbearable. “If the metal bothers you so much,then have someone remove it,” he snapped. “The Jungtiel will be more than happy to doso, for a price.”“But it itches,” Ironhand whined, scratching a few flaky scales away from hisshiny metal wrist with a fingernail.“Then stop picking at it.”“But it flaming itches like the bad pox!”“You have not had the pox since becoming Mauruten,” Ruthiel replied, shakinghis head. “The pox is a human disease.”“Aye, but I remember the sickness just the same. Three hundred years may wipeaway many things, but not that. That bloody disease has killed me once already.”Ironhand dragged his forearm against one of the stone’s sharp black edges, sloughing off scales with each pass.Ruthiel took two long steps and caught Ironhand by the wrist, pinning it againstthe stone, and then backhanded him across the face. Ironhand rocked with the blow, butdid not anger, nor did he attempt retaliation. He simply listened intently as Ruthielyelled, “I refuse to continue in circles! If the ingrowth has become a nuisance, then haveit removed. I warned you about the process from the start, but you chose to ignore me.Now you pay the price.”“Aye, you did warn me. But if everyone listened to your advice we’d all be onthe sharp end of a pike,” Ironhand jabbed. “Besides, I do not want to become one of those wanderers with a missing hand or a hole in my chest, biding the time ‘till I canregrow. I’d rather live with my folly than spend four years as a cripple.”