“Are you certain it was a creature of the suns?” I asked her. “There are several varieties of phantoms and specters of our own world that can appear to be Celestial.”
The look she gave me, I would prefer not to describe it, it is best left to my untrustworthy memory to recall. I suppose my query could have borne an element of condescension.
“Once we were locked in a duel, it revealed its true appearance,” she told me. “Stripped of the flesh and shadows it used to conceal itself, its essence was without doubt a demon’s.”
“It certainly misjudged you,” I told her. “Those things were always a match, even for our greatest. Even without connection to their world I would not want to face one again.”
She glanced away for a moment, smiled at the compliment.
“And the people of the river towns should be grateful I stopped it when I did,” she frowned at that admission. “For it had gathered not only an army of goblins but also a host of mountain men as its vassals.”
“Goblins allying with mountain men and a bright demon is most unusual,” I mused. “It takes special talent work an alliance like that. It must have offered much. Goblin’s typically abhor the light. Not to mention that blood enmity they hold with the mountain lords.”
“It is said you once brokered such strange alliances before,” she returned to a semblance of a grin. Oh, the stories the younger generations tell of us and the war. Some of them are even told without exaggeration.
“Only when they faced annihilation by a dragon of great earth,” I told her. “And even then, I was forced to enter into marriage with both king’s daughters. Without each other’s knowledge of course. That would have invalidated the treaty.”
“That was not mentioned in your chronicles.” A brightness filled her face.
“That was for good reason,” I told her. “Chronicles intended for the general fellowship and the greater protection of our lands, they need not detail the personal affairs of a wizard.”
Which required diplomacy on my part to work free of. Much diplomacy.
“I see,” she replied, the curious grin still on her face.
“Now more about this demon,” I asked her. “Would you say it was of Cold Sun or Hot?”
“I believe only a demon of the Hot Sun can do this,” she told me, and pulled back the sleeve of her shimmering robe to reveal a forearm wrapped in healers skein. She slowly unwrapped the cloth to reveal a wound of a type I hadn’t seen in an age.
The scar of fire on her lower arm of a like’s only a Celestial could have inflicted its terrible power was long and deep. Strips of skin along the outside of her forearm were melted to near transparency, and were cracked, and still fiery gold, glowing slightly in the candle light, filling the wound like it was hot liquid metal. When I passed my hand over the wound, I could feel its otherworldly heat. Only a demon of the Hot Sun could cause wounds such as that. When I looked back up at her face was an image of restrained agony, I quickly helped her rewrap the soothing cloth.
“Collegiate healers have not been able to drain and seal the wound?” I wondered. “What of woundcasting?”
“Thrice our Arbiter has sent a healer,” she told me. “And he sent word he will be sending a pair from Alaster next season. What you saw is not nearly as terrible as it was; the first healers warned me I would likely loose my arm. Thankfully, it would seem I have suffered the worse.”
For now, I thought. But if demons were ally themselves with those on the borders of our carefully balanced alliances of Kings and the like so long before the next conjunction, even more terrible forces could also awaken early. Perhaps even the dragons.
I nodded, finished my tea, and ordered another, hoping the sweet liquid would be fortifying, energizing. It would need to be. Once the storm ended, I would have many leagues to travel before I reached my next destination. But I was not going to waste the time I had at Three Rivers Keep. It would be well spent pouring over the chronicles I had already collected. I had read them, of course, but between Omar’s warnings and Ethely’s experiences, I would need to read them all the deeper.