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Apr 18, 2020


Idiots have kidnapped Liselle, Child of Flowers and are keeping her prisoner in a ship’s cabin where she’s unable to access her powers. The main concern of her captors is keeping her alive long enough to accomplish their radical goals.

Her disciples, Teluith and Reben, are on their way to rescue her, but they made the mistake of rescuing people who they now need to get to safety.

Tathan of the Shadows is also on his way to rescue Liselle, however, he needs to be rescued himself before he can do so. Felina and Steve are going to help with that if they don’t die from mortal wounds first.

Pelya Jornin isn’t even aware that Liselle needs saving, but she’ll probably get involved somehow if she can avoid mercenaries and assassins attempting to collect a bounty on her head.

Join our intrepid adventurers as auguries lead them across treacherous terrain in the hopes of finding a way to get to Liselle. Along the way, they develop unusual friendships and unhealthy relationships while searching for a ship that’s inconveniently on the wrong ocean.

The Crazed Series is the continuation of the Wyvern and Willden Trilogies. Beings of great power manipulate the world, sometimes to the benefit of mere mortals, but more often to their detriment. Join the odd and often unwilling heroes of Ryallon as they face threats to humanity.

Apr 18, 2020

About the author

John H. Carroll was the youngest of seven children and was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1970 where he was kept in a dresser drawer with the clean socks. Luckily, he wasn’t kept with the dirty socks or else he might have grown up to become slightly warped.As a child, John spent most of his time wandering through the Mojave Desert in an attempt to avoid people. He would stare at the sky, imagining what it would be like to explore different worlds. One of his favorite memories is watching his dad build the fuselage of Evel Kneivel’s skycycle in their garage. One of his least favorite moments was watching that skycycle fall into the Snake River. (Not his dad’s fault and he has documentation to prove it, so nyah)As a teenager, John spent most of his time driving wherever he could in an attempt to avoid people. He would stare at the road, imagining what it would be like to explore different worlds. He was the captain of the chess team, lettered in golf and band while in high school, and wasn’t beaten up anywhere near as much as one might imagine.As an adult, John spends most of his time staring at a computer screen in an attempt to avoid people. He stares at the monitor for hours, imagining what it would be like to explore different worlds. Occasionally, he looks around to see what’s happening on planet Earth. Quite frankly, it frightens him. He’s just going to do his best to write as many books as he can before aliens disintegrate humanity for being so irritating.Emo bunny minions surround John at most times. He is their imaginary friend and they look to him for guidance. At one point, they took over the world. No one noticed because they left everything exactly as it was. They gave the world back after a week because it was depressing.The Ryallon Series is his most popular endeavor into the field of writing. His Stories for Demented Children have lightened the hearts of many strange children and adults. He writes in the evenings and weekends whenever possible.

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Augury - John H. Carroll


Crazed Series, Book 3

Ryallon Chronicles, Book 13

John H. Carroll

Published by John H. Carroll at Smashwords

Copyright 2020 John H. Carroll

Cover Copyright 2020 John H. Carroll

This book is dedicated to my readers. Thank you for taking the time to enjoy the silly little stories I write.

The Chronicles of Ryallon

In Reading Order

Dralin Series (Set in time before the Willden trilogy)

1. Dralin

2. Ebudae

3. Pelya

The Wyvern Series (Parallel to the Willden Trilogy, set in time after the Dralin Trilogy)

4. Wyvern

5. Liquid

6. Cloudswept

7. Sidetracked

Willden Trilogy (Written first)

8. Rojuun

9. Anilyia

10. Kethril

The Crazed Series (All previous series merge here)

11. Liselle

12. Bounty

13. Augury

14. To be announced (Coming 2020)

15. To be announced (Coming 2021)

Stand-alone Ryallon Novella (Occurs before Cloudswept, book 3 of the Wyvern Series)

Rain Glade

Table of Contents

Map of Nulanea

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

About the Author

Map of Nulanea

Chapter 1

Late Autumn, Year 1393, Fifth Age

Being fifteen days after the events of Liselle

Wood creaked and sails flapped somewhere above. On occasion, the muffled shout of a sailor could be heard but it sounded as though they were in another world. A shift in the never-ending motion of the ship caused Liselle to heave though there was nothing for her stomach to release. She couldn’t remember how many times it had happened during her time lying on the worn but polished wooden floor in the damp hold. It felt like hundreds. There was food nearby, but the smell of it only increased Liselle’s nausea.

She reached out for flowers with her awareness only to hit a barrier of spiritual energy surrounding the hold. Rather than scream like she had every other time, she desperately searched for an opening. Her mind crawled along the surface of the barrier; up, down, and all around the sides.

The barrier was complete. Perhaps if all her power were available, Liselle could destroy it, but she was mentally and physically frailer than at any other point in her life. The flower intertwined in her hair was just as wilted.

She opened her eyes, crusty from disuse, and blinked them until the blurriness went away. Her unkempt hair lay around her, tangled and disgusting. The sleeve of the plain robe they had dressed her in lay limply over her gaunt arm.

The dim hold was lit by enchanted candles in wall sconces that flickered in tune with the swaying of the ship. The spiritual barrier was invisible to the physical eye, but Liselle sensed it just beyond the wooden slats of the walls and low ceiling. Nearby was a bed with clean linens, but Liselle felt the floor was more suited to her current miserable condition and she had never attempted to reach it.

A voice that gurgled as though speaking under water came from nearby. Don’t you think you’re being dramatic, Child of Flowers?

Liselle’s gaze shifted to an odd sort of woman sitting in a simple chair next a nightstand by the bed. Tiny wafts of steam rose from a plate of food on the nightstand. Next to it was a cup and pitcher.

Purplish-green strands flowed from the woman’s head like seaweed rather than hair. Dark-green pupils floated in watery eyes set above a nose of squishy tendrils. She wore multi-hued pants and an odd shirt of unknown material. Iridescent scales covered her skin while webbing spread between the fingers and toes of wide hands and bare feet. Her mouth was much like a human’s, if a bit larger.

The riot of skin color and patterns in her clothing hurt Liselle’s eyes. Liselle considered if it would be possible to overcome the creature and escape. She was too weak. Her powers were drained from the basic act of staying alive. She curled up tighter and closed her eyes again.

Frustration dominated the creature’s gurgle. You’ve been lying on the floor since you got here! She slapped the nightstand with her hand. It sounded like a wet cloth hitting wood. You’ve eaten no food even though we’ve tried nearly everything. You’re supposed to be a woman of power, strong and confident, not a dead sea slug. She gurgled in disgust. We should throw you over the railing to feed the stupid sharks. You’re worthless.

There was no way it could understand Liselle was half flower. Lacking contact with them, she was just a wasted spirit in the shell of a fragile half-human body.

The creature roared in gurgly rage and stormed out, slamming the door.

It occurred to Liselle that she might be able to slough off her mortal body and send her spirit through the aether to find the essence of her precious flowers. Reaching out, she remembered the barrier. It imprisoned her spiritual being as much as physical separation from flowers did. She wanted to cry but there were no tears left. She fell back into the floating embrace of slumber.


Puffy clouds rested atop tall trees surrounding an enchanted and holy clearing. The revitalizing scent of recent rainfall lingered in the air. Persistent breezes whistled through the branches, bringing the songs of birds and the huffing of bears to Teluith’s ears. One of those bears roamed through trees outside the clearing. A scar from a battle long ago marred the grizzled fur along its side.

There were a few flowers around the clearing who Teluith they enjoyed the sunlight and selection of birds and bees that searched for their nectar.

Arch Druid Yewlan stood on the root of an enormous ancient tree, said to be second in grandeur only to the Mother Tree of the Grenhill Forest. Thick blonde hair and beard streaked with grey along with a burly seven-foot frame made him intimidating. He gazed down upon his audience with steely contempt and above his head he raised a staff of intertwined woods covered by a hundred different leaves. Mother Tree is not to be disturbed by heathens. You have outworn your welcome in this forest and must leave.

Evien stepped forward with grace and confidence. These people should be honored guests in our forest. She gestured to Teluith and Reben. They rescued us from the depths of Habnome and all they ask is for an audience with Mother Tree and assistance in their quest. She held her arms out in a grand gesture of gratitude, revealing tattoos of clouds along her right arm. An amazingly detailed and colorful tattoo of a bird covered her left cheek.

You should not have brought these outsiders into my forest, Tree Sister Evien. The Arch Druid pointed with his staff. You were a foolish woman all those years ago when you entered that cursed citadel where you were cut off from the strength of the forest. I sense the weakness from your separation even now. Yewlan slammed the base of his staff onto a small wooden plate that protected the root underneath from damage. The retort of the impact echoed through the surrounding mountains. It is unlikely you will ever recover.

I’ll recover well enough, as will the others these good people rescued. Evien sliced the air with her arm. How can you turn your back on them? Have you told Mother Tree of their presence?

Arch Druid Yewlan spat. I won’t sully her awareness with the knowledge. It is bad enough you have subjected me to their vile human stench. He shook his staff, causing the leaves to rustle. I grant them one day in the forest for each rescue. They have used those fifteen days and must leave now! His eyes narrowed. Judging by the speed with which you arrived here, Tree Sister Evien, you used means outsiders shouldn’t know.

Ceval, a weather-beaten ranger, wore a green and brown cloak over leather jacket and pants. A fine bow and two quivers of arrows rested over his back. He spoke with a voice low and gravelly as though it had spent too much time in the sun along with the rest of him. With respect, Arch Druid, six days of that time was used recovering from our ordeal. Also, we rescued thirty one from the depths of Habnome, not fifteen.

Abominations! Draiths! Humans! Yewlan pounded the base of his staff. Only fifteen Druids were rescued. The others were human women and Draiths, powerless spawn of imprisoned Druids. He growled, "They must leave the forest as well. I command you to remove them."

Ceval snarled. They need sanctuary and rest, not more travel. It’ll take another fifteen days to get out of the forest, especially . . .

Yewlan roared, louder than any bear.

It startled Teluith who positioned herself in front of her husband Reben.

Don’t snarl at me like a wolf cub, fool Ranger! The Arch Druid took a threatening step forward. I’ll have real wolves tear you to shreds. The beasts of the forest are at my command.

A Druid standing on the other side of Ceval stepped forward. Tattoos of leaves and vines covered his face and arms, still thin from being held in a cell. He put a calming and protective hand on Ceval’s chest. Peace, Arch Druid. These are good . . .

Yewlan shook his staff. You dare to speak, Shahben, after you charged into that mountain getting yourself captured? You failed to rescue your sister and were imprisoned instead. You’re not much better than those abominations you brought out with you.

Reben shifted in front Teluith. His skin was as dark as Teluith’s and his dark blue eyes laced with green striations held deep, thoughtful intelligence. He wore an earthen-green robe that complemented his dark blonde hair and beard. In his hand was a smooth wizard’s staff with a ring on top holding crystals every color of the rainbow, expertly wrapped in golden wire. A skullcap identical to Teluith’s covered his head. His voice was soft yet strong and full. I don’t know why you’re so angry, Arch Druid, but I ask that you listen . . .

Do not speak to me tainted human! Enraged spittle flew from his mouth. The arcane filth in your blood is corrupted by an odd power. Remove it and yourself from my forest. He pointed his staff at Teluith. You have not the arcane filth, but the power is in your blood as well.

Teluith allowed the strength of flowers in the clearing to grant her serenity. She lifted her chin. We wield the power of Liselle, Goddess of Flowers. She has been captured and we must rescue her . . .

"Goddess of Flowers? That’s even more absurd than the duck god or cow god. You worship one of them? He growled and leaned forward, his cheeks ruddy with anger. I’m sick of telling you all to get out of my forest! He aimed the staff at Evien. You brought them here. Now take them away. There will be no audience with Mother Tree. There will be no solace. He pointed the staff at Shahben. You will no longer neglect your responsibilities on fool errands. Report for scout duty or be banished from all forests forever."

When Evien opened her mouth to protest, Yewlan roared louder than before. The trees shook and bears appeared around the clearing. Evien took Teluith’s arm and pulled her away.

Teluith hustled after her down the tree-lined path to the Druid city of Laoggiin. She wasn’t willing to test her new powers against the Arch Druid. Fighting him would accomplish nothing.

Evien looked over her shoulder. We’ll wait until we reach my home before speaking. The forest will hear our words until then.

The others grumbled, but nodded and followed, each dealing with their own frustration at the unproductive conversation.

Laoggiin wasn’t a city so much as endless dwellings built high in the branches of enormous trees. Druids traversed walkways connecting the dwellings or strolled along paths that wound their way around massive trunks and roots thicker than the Arch Druid’s bears.

Evien had explained on their journey that much of the city was centuries or even millennia old. The Druids let nature grow in whatever manner it wished. The effect was that it felt as though they walked in wilderness with every step.

Teluith couldn’t help but stare at Druids whenever they passed one. Tattoos and piercings covered each, but they were works of art rather than the crude designs she had seen on many humans. She might have felt bad about staring, but they stared just as much at her and Reben who held her hand while they walked.

An hour passed before they reached Evien’s home where she lived with her parents and younger sister. A series of large branches acted as steps to the multi-level abode built in harmony with the tree supporting it. Intricate designs, usually of nature or wildlife, decorated the woodwork. Evien led them through a door carved with the images of trees. Stains made from natural ingredients gave color to the scene. They entered a sitting room with cushions scattered on the floor and low serving cabinets. A shelf along one wall held books with parchment pages and wooden linings.

Shahben slammed his fist into his palm. Why won’t he let us visit Mother Tree? He’s always been abrasive but I never imagined he would treat us so rudely.

Evien flopped on a pile of cushions nestled against the trunk. Nor did I, but his hatred for humans is well known. There is no help for it. All the elders support him. She closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the trunk. He keeps the forest sacred and safe. Grenhill is stronger under his leadership. We must do as he says.

Reben adjusted his skull cap. The Arch Druid said our time in the forest was up. Shouldn’t we be leaving? And is it safe to speak now?

This tree keeps the confidences of my family. Evien reached over her head and placed a loving hand on the trunk, coupled with an adoring smile. We’ll leave in the morning. We need rest as do those we take with us. However, a destination will be needed . . . Her eyes held the question for Teluith and Reben.

Teluith groaned. "Too much time has passed. I must rescue Liselle. We went to Habnome to find treasure for Vevin and it all went wrong. Reben and I only just became their friends a few months before that. She clenched her staff in front of her. She blessed us with all this power while Vevin fought that evil black dragon. Then she was taken away by Marbu and humans we know nothing about. Reben scried that she’s on a ship, but nothing beyond that."

Ceval leaned against a wall and shook his head in disgust. That didn’t answer which way to go, Teluith.

I thought once we brought everyone here that we would be done and could pursue her. She let the staff rest against her shoulder and buried her face in her hands.

I know. Evien sat forward and hooked her arms around her knees. I had hoped Mother Tree would hear your words and give us guidance. The arch Druid complicated our task. She clucked her tongue against the roof of her mouth. I will guide you and them out of the forest and then . . .

Shahben interrupted her. I will continue with them beyond the trees, Evien. Were you to do the same, the Arch Druid would shun you. Besides, he was correct about you being away from trees for too long. To leave them again would harm your soul and weaken your body.

She waved off his concern. Not as much as you would think. There were trees underground though they were odd. The collar they kept on me prevented me from using my powers, but I could still hear them and they lent me strength. She caressed the trunk again. "It is good to be home and to hear the stories they tell me."

Teluith’s shoulders slumped. I won’t take you away, Evien. Trees are a part of you, just as flowers have become a part of me, no? This is where you belong. The dangers I face are more than I could ask of anyone. Reben and I will take the women to safety as is right before we continue our quest.

That is a selfless act and I thank you for it, friend. Evien winked. However, when I said I would help you rescue your goddess and her dragon mate, I meant it.

As did I. Shahben hung his head. I was never more than a scout anyway. The trees do not notice me, nor do the beasts.

Evien clucked her tongue again. Your self-pity does you dishonor, Shahben. Your duties as a scout keep the forests and your kin safe.

Shahben lifted his head as though stung by a slap. He shifted his jaw as though ready to argue before relaxing it and nodding. You speak truth, Tree Sister. Forgive me my indulgence.

It happens to all of us. She flipped a hand. However, you won’t be coming with us.

Shahben opened his mouth to protest.

Evien held the hand up. No. The Arch Druid was serious about banishing you from all forests. He won’t do the same to a Tree Sister no matter how much I irritate him.

Shahben clenched his fists and lifted his head to the branches that supported the ceiling.

Ceval gripped his arm. I agree that you should stay. You’re still weak from being in those prisons, both in mind and body.

Thank you for your concern, but I grow stronger by the day and will continue to do so no matter how far we travel.

Evien picked a stray twig off her pants. I will speak with the scout master tonight. She is a true friend of mine. I’ll ask her to assign you to areas surrounding Habnome and anywhere else that might aid us in rescuing Vevin and your sister from that cursed place, Shahben. She turned to Teluith. Unless you wish to return to Habnome first?

Reben put a hand on her shoulder. It is a heavy burden to place upon you, my lovely, but I feel you are most in tune with Liselle and with our powers. Have you decided? Do we rescue Vevin or Liselle first?

Teluith gulped. We lack the power to fight Tyeromaythan Devourer of Gods, no? Our power comes from Liselle. Without her, I don’t believe we’ll succeed in rescuing Vevin.

Ceval tapped his chin with a finger. I’ve been meaning to ask you about that. You’ve used your power a few times on the way here, usually to give everyone a boost of energy when Reben has used too much of his, but also to heal. If Liselle is your source of power and you can’t feel her, then how is it you’re accessing her magic?

Teluith shrugged. I’ve wondered the same thing. I’m conserving my energy, but there always seems to be more.

Reben nodded. I have felt the same. Our power comes from the flowers, though I don’t understand how. My experience is in the arcane rather than the divine. He adjusted his skullcap. Even though Liselle is the Goddess of Flowers, the flowers themselves appear to be sentient and have their own power to give, though I don’t fully understand how that works either.

Ahh. Ceval gave a low whistle. That makes sense. I’ve seen flowers looking at the two of you the way they did her. I find it unnerving. How much power do they give you?

Reben shrugged. I haven’t figured that out yet. We’ve only just acquired them.

Evien smiled. I believe the flowers adore both of you, though it could be my imagination.

Shahben sat on a pile of cushions. No, I’ve seen it too. They get excited whenever the two of you appear, especially Teluith.

Teluith blushed. Truth be told, she loved the attention. Flowers gave her a sense of purpose. They filled the emptiness that had always ached in her soul. She would do anything for them.

Perhaps Liselle is dead and they’ve chosen Teluith as her replacement, Ceval suggested.

Teluith hefted her quarterstaff and crouched to attack. Blue fire filled her vision.

No, my lovely. Reben stepped in front of her. Don’t kill the ranger.

Ceval held his hands. Control your temper, otherwise you could do something stupid with your power. For all we know you could burn down the forest.

Shahben was on his feet. I have never seen a person’s eyes on fire. He touched Ceval’s shoulder. Even a god couldn’t set the Grenhill Forest ablaze. Please don’t suggest such things.

Reben set his staff to float upright next to him while he took Teluith’s face in his hands. Peace, my lovely.

Teluith held up her hands on either side of him. Are my eyes really on fire like Liselle’s?

They were a different shade to match yours, but yes.

She’s not dead. She can’t be. Tears trickled down Teluith’s cheeks. She didn’t cry often, but the thought of losing someone who had become her dearest friend in such a short time hurt her heart more than she could handle.

He wrapped his arms around her and held her tight. She’s not.

But you scried three times on the way here and couldn’t sense her. She returned his embrace and leaned her cheek against his chest. All you discovered was that she had been taken to the ship.

But my auguries would show different symbolism if she were dead. She’s still alive. He kissed the top of her head. I’ll do an augury for the best direction to travel in to rescue her.

Auguries tire you. Teluith clasped her hands around the back of his neck and kissed his cheek.

I’ll do one tonight to find what direction we should travel in from here. He kissed her lips.

She returned the kiss with ferocity.

It looks like auguries aren’t the only thing he’ll be doing tonight, Evien said in a playful tone.

Reben and Teluith laughed into each other’s kiss before breaking it. Oh my. Teluith waved her hand to cool the heat in her face.

Reben’s embarrassment was just as deep. Umm . . . yes. I’ll get started on the augury right away.

Teluith kissed him again, shorter this time. Be safe, Husband.

I will, my lovely. He gripped his staff and took it to the middle of the room where he sat cross-legged and pulled ingredients out of pouches in his robes. His staff hovered in the air beside him.

He’s just going to do it right here in the middle of the sitting room? Evien asked. My parents and sister will be coming through here.

Ceval clucked his tongue. They have no consideration for others.

Teluith reached out to stop Reben, but he had already started his incantation. It’s too late. I’ll stay here and watch over him. She shot Ceval a glare, but had no retort.

Evien hopped up and touched Teluith’s shoulder. That’s fine. I’ll arrange for supplies for our journey.

Shahben followed her out.

Ceval rubbed his face. I’ll let the others know we have to leave in the morning. It’ll be hard on them. Marching up the mountains has taken its toll already, especially for the ones who have never seen the sky.

Teluith was left alone with Reben. If not for the augury he was performing, she would throw herself into his arms. As it was, she sat across from him and meditated. It was hard to cleanse her mind of thoughts when her quest to rescue Liselle demanded attention, but she finally succeeded.



Her eyes snapped open.

Reben looked into her eyes with a weary face. We go north. He laid his head in her lap and was instantly asleep.

She ran fingers through his hair. North. That doesn’t make sense. I wonder what’s in that direction.

Mountains and forest.

Teluith turned to see Evien’s mother with Evien’s sister curled up asleep next to her.

The woman looked like an older version of Evien with grey in her hair, but with lively eyes. You could travel north for months and still be in the mountains, though it’ll be a different range. If you travel northeast, you’ll enter Paruth, a war torn country dangerous for anyone to travel through. If you go northwest, you’ll enter the country of Tableen, a rough country with large swatches of land untouched by human or Druid. There used to be a civilization along the mountains long ago, but no one knows anything about it other than you can find ruins scattered throughout.

Teluith digested that information. Liselle was placed on a boat. Perhaps they took her north. I remember Tableen has a long coast said to be filled with pirate coves. She gripped Reben’s hair tighter than she meant to, eliciting a grumble. I’m sorry. She leaned over to kiss his cheek and resumed stroking his hair. If Liselle was taken by pirates, they could be in one of them, no? North makes sense then.

There’s a blanket and pillows next to you. Get some sleep. You won’t be disturbed.

Teluith slid behind Reben and spooned his back while covering them with the blanket. She fell asleep faster than she expected.


Morning cast dappled light through clouds and leaves to the gathering outside of Evien’s home. A squirrel chittered from the roof at the group who was in the way of his foraging.

Shahben took a deep breath of the dewy air. It is a good day to travel. As soon as you are on your way, I will leave for my mission. I am assigned to the edge of Tableen for now, but there is information there that may serve us well. He looked to Reben with a glimmer of hope. Unless your auguries suggest we begin the rescue from Habnome now?

Reben cleared his throat. I did more than one augury last night. He ignored the sharp glare Teluith gave him. The signs showed that death awaits us in Habnome if we go now. At times an augury can be vague. This was not. Blood, darkness and torture were the themes I . . . He lifted a shaking hand to his forehead.

Teluith wrapped an arm around his waist and put a cool hand against his cheek. You are a fool, Husband.

He gripped the back of her neck and stole a kiss. I know, my lovely.

Hmmm. Teluith grumbled and settled into his chest.

I thought perhaps west to the coast would be best, but the auguries showed . . . it was difficult to understand. There would be pain and loss in that direction. Bars of steel and long journeys . . .

Slavers. Ceval spat. Tableen is riddled with them. The slave pens of Hollkuste are feared throughout the Western Kingdoms even if only spoken of in whispers.

Shahben nodded. It’s true. Slavers raid the edges of the forest hunting for Druids. I’ve had to rescue more than I’d like to count. He looked away. It is the responsibility I neglected when I went to Habnome. He gestured to the sixteen tired and frightened refugee women clustered a short distance away. They either wore backpacks or had them on the ground next to their feet. They wore sturdy clothing provided by charitable Druids the night before. I have heard of people like these being taken by slavers. I believe there may be a route under the mountains in that direction.

Reben shuddered. To be freed from one slavery to another . . .

Shahben nodded gravely. I will do what I am able.

Teluith and the others had rescued the refugees from the depths under Habnome. Half were human while the other half were Druidic offspring born into captivity. Separation from the forest in their childhood stunted their abilities. Their skin was pale, their eyes weak and covered with a thin layer of gauze that allowed them to see shapes and obstacles. They were strong enough from forced labor, but the sky overwhelmed them and their minds couldn’t handle the sudden contact with the trees and beasts of the forest. Draith was a derogatory term for any Druid without power, though in this case they might be able to recover some abilities.

A pair of the Draiths stood apart from the group staring at trees and the sky with unbound eyes. They had done so since escaping.

Kaylyn, a human from Deller watched over all the refugees like a mother hen though she was younger than half of them. She made certain they ate, that their scrapes and bruises were tended, and that everyone stayed together.

Everyone except for Maybyl, another young woman from Deller. Maybyl made it clear she would do as she pleased when she pleased. The only reason she traveled with the group is because it pleased her to do so, or so she said.

Reben tilted his staff in the direction of the refugee women. I considered them when choosing the best path in the augury. If it were just us, the augury showed that east through the mountains would be the best direction.

East. Evien shook her head. That’s away from the ocean into harsh wilderness and steep mountains that will soon be impassable. Your auguries are flawed.

Teluith straightened to defend her husband against the Druid.

Reben, who was used to people disparaging his craft, shrugged. They are merely images that must be interpreted. To the east was a helpful shadow. When I included the entire group, razor sharp peaks and ice blocked the shadow, so we can’t go that direction.

A helpful shadow? Evien shook her head. That sounds . . .

Teluith gripped Evien’s hand. I trust his auguries, though the images seem odd. It is why he doesn’t speak of them often.

Evien smiled and took Teluith’s hands in both of hers. Forgive me. To Reben, she asked, What does the north show you?

A lake of peace spreading outward, pushing back the fire of war. I see the refugees bathing in the lake while the rest of us walk toward snowy fog.

Teluith frowned. Fog means the unknown, no? The snow is odd.

Yes. Reben sighed. "The only safe direction to take these people is to the north. Other hints I didn’t have time to study gave me reason to believe we must take them there. I believe the snow is only because winter comes." He shrugged.

Ceval scratched his stubbled chin. We should do what’s best for our quest. Certainly there’s a Druid or two who can escort the women?

No. Teluith hit the ground with her staff. A little power leaked through to send cracks a few feet in jagged lines. "Liselle wouldn’t hesitate to take care of those in need even if it went against her own self-preservation. We must take them to safety. After that, Reben will perform another augury to determine our next course." She tried to shove some dirt in the nearest crack with no success.

Ceval frowned at the cracks as he stepped back. You lack control of your power.

It’s a lot for her to learn. No harm was done. Evien squeezed Teluith’s hand and released it. I’ve wanted to explore the world since I was a child. It’s what got me in trouble before. I look forward to getting in trouble again. She gestured at the trees. I listen to the stories of the trees and I tend their needs, but there are trees throughout the world, many of whom haven’t had anyone to listen to them. Most Druids travel north or east, so I thought it would be a challenge to go south. She gave a wry twist of her mouth. "I didn’t realize how much of a challenge."

Kaylyn approached the group, wavy brown hair fluttering in the wind. Confidence radiated in her pink eyes as she spoke. Pardon me. We’re ready to go. Looking back at the group, she added, "The new clothes and supplies you’ve given us are nice, but we need at least a week

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