Axra was feeling restless. She’d just finished recovering and now she had to wait. It wasn’t so bad, though. It gave Bonnie, Lilly and the others a chance to rest.
She moved outside to the spot where she’d sparred with Lulu. It all seemed so long ago…
“Excuse me, but I would speak with you.”
“Reginald?” Axra asked. “I didn’t hear you. What’s up?”
“The attack on the temple,” Reginald said. “This group, the Hestial league was it? I’d like to talk about them.”
“You know something?” Axra asked. “If so, out with it.”
“Only that they’re dangerous,” Reginald said. “And that they’re after you specifically.”
“So, you know about all I do,” Axra said.
“I also know that you love Miss Magia,” Reginald said. “Princess… if I may….”
“Just spit it out,” Axra said. “Don’t dance around what you want to say.”
“Then I’ll just say it,” Reginald said. “We know where the staff is. Should we really involve Miss Magia in the quest to retrieve it?”
“She wants to come,” Axra said.
“That isn’t what I asked,” Reginald said. “Miss Valvye needs to go since she’s the one directly affected by the Eritos threat. You have chosen to go out of your friendship with her. Miss Calendula and Mister Parse have chosen to go out of loyalty for you. I choose to go because you’ve given me a purpose.”
“And Twila’s coming because she feels responsible for Eritos’ freedom,” Axra added.
“Perhaps,” Reginald said. “But you were the one who had her open that door, correct? If so, should we not take responsibility.”
“You’re saying that I should leave her behind,” Axra said. “Aren’t you?”
Reginald nodded. “Her and Miss Hart have little connection to this journey. Furthermore, they are not warriors like us. They’re a scholar and a bard. Can you really claim to love her while putting her in danger?”
“That’s…” Axra began, but she couldn’t come up with anything further to say.
“She’ll be safe here,” Reginald said. “With family and friends. Think about it while she’s asleep and leaving her behind is still possible.” He started walking away. “You can always return to see her when the journey’s over.”
He made sense. She hated to admit it, but he made sense.
You’re too weak to protect Twila.
Those words haunted her, giving her further pause. Eritos was dangerous, the Hestial League was dangerous. If Twila stayed with her… at least now, she’d be sharing that danger. If she were hurt… if that happened then Axra couldn’t live with herself.
Making up her mind, she wrote a note explaining everything and hurried to wake everyone else.
Leaving Lysara behind proved impossible. She had fallen asleep cuddled up to Bonnie and woke up when Bonnie moved.
“Twila awake already?” Lysara asked, rubbing her eyes.
“No,” Axra said. “We’ll leave her here with her family. Where she’ll be safe.”
“Oh, is that right?” Lysara asked. “Is she okay with that?”
“The Princess hasn’t told her,” Bonnie answered. “We’ll have to leave quietly.”
“But won’t it hurt her feelings?” Lysara asked.
“If it saves her life then it’s worth it,” Axra whispered. “Let’s just go.”
Lilly had a similar protest, but quieted fairly quickly. They hurried out of the city and up to the surface. The moon was still out. Axra stared back for a moment. “Let’s grab the dogs and get going.”
“Agreed,” Reginald said. “We really should go quickly before our beauteous mage awakens.”
The dogs were excited to see them, jumping all over Lilly and Velvet before allowing themselves to be harnessed to the wagon. Then they retrieved their horses, save for Twila’s, and hurried onward in silence. It was noon before they stopped.
“I… I hope she isn’t too upset,” Lilly said.
“I’m surprised that the Princess decided on it too,” Bonnie said, glancing at Axra. “It doesn’t seem like you.”
“It was Reginald’s idea,” Axra said. “Leave her with family and friends while we take on the dangerous stuff.”
“Reginald,” Bonnie muttered. She looked around. “Where is he?”
“You don’t think…” Lysara began.
“We have to go back!” Bonnie cried. “Now!”
Twila hurried up the path, clutching Axra’s note with annoyance. She went to the stables to retrieve her horse, a quick speed spell would get her caught up to them in no time and when it did she and Axra could talk this over.
She was saddling her horse when she heard a familiar voice. “Miss Magia, are you in a hurry?”
“Reginald?” Twila asked. She looked around. “Where are the others?”
“Ahead,” Reginald said. “Several hours away, I believe.”
“Did they leave you behind as well?” Twila asked.
“No, I just had to take a detour to collect something,” Reginald said. He whipped a crossbow from his cloak and fired. It went into Twila’s leg and she instantly fell over. She tried to get up, but her vision was blurring.
“Don’t worry,” Reginald said. “It’ll just put you to sleep for a while. We need you alive.”
“Wh… why?” Twila asked.
“The Underground opposes us staunchly,” Reginald answered. “But with you in our custody that will all change.” He shrugged. “Or we can use you for the sacrificial flames. Either way works for me.”
He dodged as Fang hurled a ball of fire at him. “Damn lizard!” he drew his blade and swung at the tiny dragon. Fang managed to dive under it and belch fire at Reginald’s chest, but the elf acrobatically flipped away from the blow.
“Fang go…” Twila muttered some instructions before losing consciousness. The tiny dragon dodged another slash and flew away, disappearing into the horizon.