Sron Smaltbringer felt the power of the stone seep into his body. He opened his eyes and looked at the map on the wall. He knew the map well having looked upon it thousands of times in his longer-than-normal life. Through the magic of the stone, everything appeared with a distinct blue hue.
An orange spark flickered near the southwest corner, where swamps dominated the land. Flickering meant that someone was trying unsuccessfully to manipulate the blue stone without training. It happened in the waters of the swamp more often than any other area of the land. Why do these people, he thought with contempt rising in his heart, continually disobey the laws and tempt fate?
“We have new activity in the swamps, section thirteen or fourteen,” he said. He noted the scratching of the scribe behind him with satisfaction.
In the watershed portion of the Granite Spires, where he had not seen Kyan-thrusting in a very, very long time, a smaller, but steadier yellow light pulsed. No! It can’t be! The Pathfinder? Has he returned after all this time?
Instantly, his concentration wavered as he thought of Vonq Heartlasher. Lonesome forlornness filled his heart as his eyes drifted downward, away from the map. Beautiful maiden, why didn’t you take my hand? Absentmindedly his hand reached for the amulet dangling on a leather thong just below his neck.
“Master?” the scribe behind him said.
Swallowing hard, Smaltbringer looked up and spotted several more flickers of orange light.
“Sections twenty-seven, thirty-three, and forty-eight. That’s all,” he said with a growl and instantly regretted it. “There’s an anomaly in the watershed that I will look into,” he said with more calm than was probably necessary.
“I’ll alert the Scryers,” the scribe said and hurried out of the chamber.
He closed his eyes, murmured a word, and felt power leave his body. He knew when he opened his eyes, he’d see the map as everyone else saw it, the kingdom with its seven weather systems and varied landscape. In three dimensional relief, the Granite Spires towered over the plains, swamps, deserts, and coastal regions.
He slumped into his chair and wiped sweat away from his forehead with one bony hand.
It was not magic that brought wetness to his brow, he knew. It was dread. The Pathfinder was back; he who tore his love, his life from his chest after so many years that he’d nearly forgotten about him.
Nearly. Except for the realization every morning over the last fifty-three years that the only woman Smaltbringer had ever, could ever love, no longer slept by his side. Instead, she slept in the mausoleum just outside the window to his left.
Smaltbringer sat up straighter in his chair with a single thought. Maybe, just maybe. The Pathfinders’ return meant also the Kyan-thrusting that no one else in all the intervening years had been able to duplicate. Smaltbringer had been close a few times, though it had cost him, nearly ending his life on one occasion.
Opening his eyes and looking at the map once more, he focused on the spot where the pulsing yellow light had been.
“Hakutcho!” Smaltbringer bellowed. A Pestifuro entered the room and bowed slightly at the waist. He was smaller than Smaltbringer, both in height and weight, but Smaltbringer had no doubt about the man’s ability to protect. He had proved it many times over the last decade.
“Sire?” the Pestifuro asked as he raised himself.
“Ready the contingent, we’re heading to the Watershed. It is time to make our weapons.”
“Right away, sire.”