"A New Leaf"
War of the Twins, Part 4
By Lucas Hakken
Read Part 3 "And More Revelations"


Snow lazily drifted back and forth, occasionally swirling in sudden breezes as a soft white blanket covered everything within the canyon.? The chill alpine air was sharp as a vogoís beak while xamf kits played merrily across the ridge under the watchful care of their mother. Kybarís Teeth weathered Warradaís passing like as it did everything else ?with stoic serenity.
A crunching sound sent the xamf racing into hiding as the small ridge exploded into scattering snow. A meaty fist slammed to ground, steadying the brutish Magi that stumbled up the incline. Tílokís twisted form, corrupted by the Core and wracked with pain, shuddered violently.? Though his body protested every step, the blacksmith only heard the confusion in his heart as he pressed on.? Why? Why would the mistress have done this to me? Will alone carried him further, as his strength was stolen from him by his loveís monstrous construct. She must be testing my loyalty ?testing my will.? Tílok fixed his eyes on the horizon.? This is one test I will not fail.
The massive Magi began plodding weakly though the snow as he called upon a dark determination that, until recently, he did not posses.


v


Thast sniffed at the air as he crouched on the snowy rise. The weather this high in the Teeth was much closer to that of Nar, but the icy winds here were a bit warm for his taste. Regardless, he was happier here than he was in Naroom. Not only was it colder, but he was also hunting.
With a small hop, he began sliding back down into the canyon. Gracefully keeping on his feet as he raced down the slope, Thast was careful to stay within the snow already disturbed by his and anotherís passing. Reaching the bottom of the canyon, Thast dug in his heels and skidded to a stop. Bronn was instantly at his side.
"The tracks, Magi or beast?" Bronnís flowing beard and mustache danced in a now constant, snowy wind.
"It didnít smell like a dream, but it isnít quite a Magi, either." Thast scowled as he looked back up the hill.
Kozaís voice was soft with youth, "A shadow then?"? As Bronn turned to face the young Naran, Thast nodded grimly.
"The twins." Bronnís growl crawled out of his throat slow as a glacier. "Let us inform the Corestalker." Koza bit his lip and nodded in agreement. The youth had nothing but respect for the Naroomian who bore that name, but thousands of years of oral tradition taught him to fear the shadows.
As Bronn and Koza moved to rejoin the rest of their companions who were further down the canyon, Thast lingered as he recalled Orwinís briefing on the Twins and their betrayal of the forest realm.
No, that was no Naroomian. Thastís eyes narrowed as he looked up the snowy slope.? That was someone entirely different.


v


Where is she?
Hradaís mind swam in a sea of cold, cold confusion.
Where is she?
His eyes fluttered, letting in flashes of oppressive white light.
Where is Warrada?
Groaning, he tried to stand ?and then panic filled him as he realized he was not on the ground.
"WHERE IS THAT WITCH YOU CALL SISTER?" The cloaked figure held him aloft by his throat, as it demanded an answer. Hrada fought back a cough as he strained to see his attacker.
"Long gone," Hrada croaked, "and good riddance."
His assailantís companions shared confused looks while snowflakes danced in a churning wind. Though the deposed lord of Naroom could barely see, he could still determine that strange blue-skinned Magi surrounded him ?he was obviously dreaming.
"And who are you supposed to be?" Hrada looked at the bandage-wrapped hand around his throat.? "Korg?" Muttering with weak sarcasm, Hrada managed a smirk. "That would truly make this a nightmare."
The cloaked figure drew back its free hand to strike him, and Hrada closed his eyes ?this was going to hurt, even if he was dreaming.
"Yaki! Thatís enough!" A second cloaked Magi stepped foreword, a bit smaller than the first. "Maybe he doesnít know." Hrada landed on his rump in the snow as his attacker released him. Yaki? YAKI?!?? Everything was starting to make sense now, he wasnít dreaming at all; but it was definitely a nightmare.
The smaller Magi lowered her hood, revealing the face of Naroomís Ringsmith; her fading bruises accentuated by the rosy hue of her cheeks. She looked up at the still hooded Yaki. "He is obviously injured, and he canít help us find her if you beat him senseless."


v


A fire blazed happily in the center of the cave, and Hradaís bones gladly accepted the warmth. Something was happening to him, something that he did not understand.? Since his sisterís attack he has not had the energy to even sense magic, let alone use any. But even more curious was his body ?the pain that has wracked his limbs for years was gone, and he was surrounded in the rotted bark of the wood from his back. The disfigurement from the Core that had served him as armor now lay about him in a morbid display of weakness.
Outside the blue skinned Magi milled about, their voices carried away by the howl of the wind across the caveís mouth. The largest of them, shrouded in a hoary mane that reminded Hrada of Orwin, stood guard over the entrance with a strange staff that seemed to end in a curved blade. The very thought of escape froze dead in its tracks and Hrada shuddered.
Iíll kill Warrada for what she has done to me.? Hrada scooted closer to the fire, and to the food that Pruitt had brought him a few minutes before. But how, when I am prisoner to?/i> Hradaís eyes flared for a moment, while a sly grin played across his face.
Scooping up a piece of the Naroomian bread, Hrada tore free a small bite as the wheels turned within his head. It had been years since he had eaten, and he was not quite sure why he did it now, but the bread was warm and sweet. After swallowing hard with a dry throat the scheming Magi called out to his guard.
"You there! Tell the Corestalker I wish to speak to him."
Hrada chuckled to himself.
And Warrada thought she was the smart one?/i>


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