Tanith returns to Daniil’s side during supper, rubbing her snout against his leg and chirping happily. When Kylii pretends to be offended, Tanith gives him the same treatment, but jumping onto his lap so she can rub her snout on his chest. Laughter fills the table.
Jaxon is still nowhere to be found, but the only ones who truly notice his absence are Bruer, Ime, and Meah. Fleance and Mava sit together during the meal, but neither speaks to the other. They steal glances at each other and Rava eventually finds herself moving away from the two to talk with Bern.
The room is filled with calm and merriment. Talks of homes and families send many into deep nostalgia. Surprising the group, Bruer talks about his children, showing a softer side to the large man most in the group didn’t think him capable of.
“I have a daughter, turning two in a few months. Already the most beautiful girl the world will ever see, next to her mother of course. My boy will be turning six this year. He has my strong jaw and my wife’s fiery will. He’s my pride and joy. Wants to be a hunter. Wants to go to the unexplored territories and see beasts no living man has ever seen,” Bruer says, light sparkling in his eyes. “I hope to see them again once this is all over. If the gods will it so.”
“The gods would never separate a good man from his family for too long,” Jaxon’s voice says from behind. Those seated at the table turn. He is standing against the wall in shadow. How long he had been there, no one can tell. “You will see them again, Bruer.”
Bruer nods at him and makes room at the table.
“And where were you all day, Jaxon?” Kylii asks, stuffing more food into his mouth.
Sitting next to Bruer, Jaxon smiles. “Talking with Lyrrel and some of the other Seers.”
“About what?” Daniil asks.
“About the best way to reach the cliff city.” Jaxon grabs a small piece of meat and pops it into his mouth.
The table grows quiet and still with a strange air. The first to move and speak is Skara, leaning forward to get a better look at Jaxon. “We’re still planning to gather an army?” Her eyes stray to Ime and Meah.
Jaxon stares at her, his expression unchanged. “That was always the plan. This was a pleasant and lucky sidetrack. Much needed, too. But we can’t forget why we came all this way. Why those who died haven’t done so in vain.”
The silence stretches from the table throughout the dining hall as those seated nearby overhear the conversation.
Slowly standing, Ime speaks loudly and clearly so that every ear hears his words. “We all knew this was only a temporary rest. Klaeon will not stop. He will continue to wreak havoc and savage our homes until someone stops him. This peace we’re feeling is deserved by all and while Klaeon lives it will never be felt beyond these walls.” His eyes search each face for understanding. “As before, in Jaxon’s village, I won’t force any of you to follow me. If any of you wish to stay, I won’t be offended. If it were possible, I would remain here myself. But I know inside I must continue moving forward.”
Those who had been considering staying avoid Ime’s eyes, but those who meet his gaze show a fire inside equal to his own. He sits, signaling the end of his speech and voices begin speaking once again.
“Very powerful words, Ime,” Lyrrel says, appearing seemingly from nowhere.
“The power comes from the truth behind them,” Ime answers.
“I understand. Wynsil has requested an audience with you and Meah tomorrow.”
“Why?” Meah asks.
Lyrrel smiles pleasantly at her. “He didn’t tell me the reason. After your morning meal, I will take you to see him.”
The merriment returns slowly, but a new heaviness hides beneath it.