Elliera was in the middle of her story, relating to the council her discovery of the pale man. It was an apprehensive experience she found she could not control, her inability to do so reflected in the slight shiver of her hands. She kept part of her sight focused on the man who seemed to pay no mind to the proceedings. Perhaps he did not understand the ramifications that awaited him. No matter, she thought breathlessly, she was nervous for the both of them.
What made it worse was that she had never heard of the Council of Nights. There was only the Days and it intimidated her that there were secrets in the community. If there was such a presence of which was never spoken, what did that mean in terms of the council’s intentions? Even Senior Tevkin had shifted uncomfortably in his seat at the mention of the council’s name, Elliera being able to catch a blurred image of his form to her right. His calming expression was subtly disrupted.
The next second, an ear-splitting scream that made it feel like needles were piercing her inner ear, broke the council’s calm. As she covered her ears, Elliera looked to where the man was seated. Or where he had been sitting, she corrected. The olive chair was empty and in its place rested a crisp, white feather. Guards were attempting to rush out of the antechamber but the lucien barred their path, its jaws snapping and its fur sparking. The council was in an uproar as members shouted and screeched frantically at the guards. People ran in all directions and Elliera was at a loss. Then a firm hand gripped her shoulder and pulled her away from the chaos. She kept looking back at the commotion and the simple feather resting on the chair. What did it mean? She wondered.
It was a long time before she noticed that it was Senior Tevkin leading her away, his lanky form hurrying through a slim side passage out of the church. She was too puzzled to ask any questions, so she remained silent, her tongue numbed from anxiety.
At a closed-door, Tevkin paused suspiciously as if he did not want to be discovered. He waited several minutes, listening. Once satisfied, he cracked the door open, peered through and hurried out of the building to the woods.
“Ah, Senior Tevkin? Um, where are we going?” She fumbled the question as she readjusted to the darkness of the forest and the rising shouts of alarm behind her.
“Hm?” he was looking around for any pursuers, though the day-dream smile remained on his face, “Oh, we must leave here, Elliera. It is no longer safe. The Council of Nights…” he shook his head and whispered, “That is not a good sign.”
Elliera frowned in concern. If Tevkin was worried about the Council of Nights, did that mean he knew their purpose and who they were? And if he did, why did he know and had not told her?
“But where will we go?” She pressed him.
“To the capital, Daverne. We can disappear there. When we arrive, we can decide what actions to take then. First, we must find safe passage down the Ostam River.”
A flash of sparking black made Elliera jump. It came bounding out of the tree trunks, a huge mass of fur with saucer eyes. Elliera threw her arms up protectively but the crushing force never came. Instead, a head nuzzled her leg. She looked down.
The lucien had followed them from the church. Senior Tevkin continued for some paces ahead before he realized she was not following and turned back. He chuckled, “It would seem you have made a new friend.” He nodded towards the creature and his voice became more solemn, “Indeed, it might prove a safer journey if he is of our company.”
Elliera stared at the lucien, startled by its companionship. It was strange that it had refused to enter further into the antechamber and stranger still that it held the other Gardeins at bay. She wondered at the bizarre twist of events that had changed her future in just a matter of days. The foundation of her knowledge in how the world worked was quickly becoming rubble. And what had become of the pale man?