(This takes place in the world of Airtha-Eyrassa)

Ruenna gathered her skirts and stepped up onto the bridge that connected the mainland to the island in the inland Ahfara sea. Ash fell from the fabric where the embroidered charms’ power had already been used and the charms had lost their integrity.

“Even if you tell me no I must still follow,” she told her

sister. “I cannot leave them to fight alone.”

“But you will leave me?” Ruaha asked. “The pillars around the

island will close and you will be trapped.” She wiped at her eyes with fingers

stained with ash.

“I shall be back before you know it. We will slay Elame and this wretched war will be over forever. And the Airus will open the pillars once more.” She touched her hand to her heart. “You wove these charms for me and they will keep me safe,” she smiled.

“Promise me we will see each other again,” Ruaha said, her voice caught in her throat.

“Before the week is out. We will celebrate peace together in the halls of the Ruon.” She leaned down and kissed her sister on the top of her head. “We will live to see peace and so will our children,” she whispered.

“Go with the blessings of Agrai,” Ruaha said softly and watched her sister run along the bridge, following some of the other Ruon who had already made it to the island. Her red dress, stained grey with ash here and there, stood in stark contrast against the blue of the water. Ruenna looked back as she reached the island and then disappeared from sight. One by one the runes on the crystal pillars around the island lit up with an indigo light and locked those who were on the island inside.

“Agrai protect you, Ruenna” Ruaha said and the blessing was taken up by the other Ruon who stood by her – all except one. Instead, he lunged forward with his knife, stabbing her in the chest and shouting the war cry of the Vidolf. Yet when he withdrew the knife he only lived long enough to see that it was not stained with blood before Ruaha’s husband bore him to the ground and ended his life by sending the power of the charms he wore on his clothes into him.

Ruaha felt the pain from the knife, but the strong charms she wore was keeping her alive. She sent the power from the charms embroidered at the hem of her dress to the spot where she had been stabbed and the charms slowly lost integrity and turned to ash.

“Ruaha?” Her husband said, staring wide-eyed at her.

“I need to get to Holt Haliern,” she said. “The book must be kept safe.”

“But that will take a week at least!”

“Then these charms must last a week!” she sobbed and looked back at the island. “Agrai keep her safe,” she prayed and tears of fear fell from her eyes.

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