Tothelea: Chapter 12

Garron and Trevor returned to the temple to fetch Harmony.  Garron took the
key for their room at the inn and gave it to Hinton, instructing him to fetch
their things immediately.  And not to make too much fuss about it.  When
Hinton had gone, he led Trevor and Harmony back to the private rooms behind
the temple.

Garron said to Trevor, "We need to tell her.  She has a right to know."

He was right, of course.  Trevor thought back to the day before, and Harmony's
terrified hours alone in their room.  How much worse had that been for her, he
wondered, because I haven't been telling her everything I know?  Everything I
suspect?  Guilt washed over him, but Garron was right.  It would be hard to
explain, but they had to make sure she understood.  It might mean the
difference between life and death for them, if Harmony were every called on to
make an important decision, quickly.  But Trevor knew this would frighten her,
and he almost couldn't bear to bring her more suffering.  They reached the
study, with all the books, and Garron motioned for them to enter again.

Garron sensed Trevor's hesitancy, saying in his calmest voice, "Please sit
down, Harmony.  We need to tell you some things."

Garron explained about the old Tithoran myth, and what it said, and that he
thought it was a true story.  Harmony nodded as Garron talked.  She continued
to nod as Garron explained his theory that Weilin was Aramathokoa.  But she
didn't cry out at the death god's name as she had before.  Trevor didn't quite
know how to interpret her reaction.  Either she was understanding the whole of
it, and taking it in stride, or perhaps she wasn't getting any of it.  It was
impossible to tell.

"Now then," Garron said, finishing his explanation, "Trevor has asked me what
you should do next.  I will confess to you that I do not know.  But I will
pray on it, and I will consult some of these many volumes you see here, and we
will come up with a plan."

Garron's confidence and optimism did much to ease Trevor's mind as well.  Once
again, someone else was in charge.  At this person, so obviously wise and
learned, seemed to believe they would get through it.  Garron will come up
with a plan, he thought to himself, we'll follow the plan, and this will all
be over.

Some noises filtered in to them, from the direction of the temple.  Agitated
voices.  Garron turned his head, a quizzical look on his face, and listened.
The voices grew louder, and then there was the sound of someone running,
getting closer.

"Wait here," Garron said.  He stepped quickly out of the room and closed the
door.  The footsteps grew near, and then slapped to a stop on the stone
floors.  An unfamiliar voice, frantic, spoke next.

"Pious!  Pious!  By Arsirea!"

"Calm yourself, Hilaly," Garron ordered.

The other voice--a young woman, by the sound of her--paused for a gasp of
breath, and continued.  "It's Hinton.  He, he's been killed."


"A man just arrived.  An innkeeper.  He says one of our acolytes came into his
inn, and was killed!"

"Are you sure?"

"Yes!  He brought this back.  It is Hinton's, isn't it?"

Garron was slient for a moment, then said "Yes.  See to the man.  Make sure he
stays.  I will be there momentarily.  Go!"

Garron opened the door, and went directly to one of the bookshelves.  "I
assume you heard that,"

Trevor nodded, at a complete loss for what to say.  Garron picked through some
rolls of parchment on the shelf, looking for something.  "Stay here.  I must
see what has happened, and offer what aid I may."  He found the object of his
search, and dashed back towards the door.  He paused, briefly, to add "No
matter what, stay here.  You will be safe here," and then he was gone.

There was nothing to do but wait.  A knot grew in Trevor's stomach.  Were they
responsible for someone's death?  His mind whirled with possibilities.  Had
Weilin gone to the inn?  Had the hooded man somehow followed them, and
reported back?  What if Garron encountered Weilin?  If Weilin was
Aramathokoa--or even if he was just a magician--could Garron defend himself?

If Weilin had come upon Hinton, gathering their things, had he found out where
they were?  Did anyone else know they were here?  They hadn't seen anyone
besides Hinton and Garron.  No, unless Harmony saw some other people while she
was in the temple by herself, nobody here knew they were here.  Unless Hinton
had told someone...

Again, too many questions, and no answers.

Trevor paced in the small room, picking nervously at the platter of cheese and
fruit still upon the table.  Harmony watched him, seeming much less nervious
than Trevor.  Maybe she hadn't understood.

"Trev, sit," She said, quite unexpectedly.  Trevor stopped in his tracks and
looked at her.  She waved her hand at the chair he had sat in earlier.
"Pious, he is a good man," she said, slowly.  Trevor did as he was told.  "He
will help us," she asserted.  "I, I forget things.  He knows.  He will help."

Trevor was stunned.  Have I ever heard her utter so many words in a row?  No,
not that I can remember.  He looked at her carefully.  The effort seemed to
have drained her somehow.  But through that, beyond that, she seemed to share
Garron's optimism.  "Are you sure?" he asked, finally.

She nodded yes.  Well, he said to himself, sometimes she just knows things.
And besides, if Weilin or the hooded man were out there, they couldn't risk
leaving.  Not now.  Nothing to do but wait.

So they waited.  And waited.  Harmony pleated and unpleated strands of her
hair, humming to herself.  Trevor sat for a while, astonished over what
Harmony had said, and somewhat reassured by it as well, before worry took him
again.  He paced some more.

At last, they heard more voices outside the room.  Garron's was among them.
He heard Garron giving orders for someone to collect everyone and assemble
them in the temple so that he could address them.  Then it was quiet for a few
moments, before Garron again opened the door to the study and slipped inside.

"Good, you're still here," he said.  "After the story you told me earlier, I
half expected you to bolt again."

"I did think about it," Trevor admitted.  "Too risky."

"Smart lad.  Now listen: I don't have time to answer all of your questions
right now.  Follow me."  They rose, and followed Garron as he led them out of
the room and down unfamilar halls.  He continued, "Yes, Hinton was murdered.
I'm sorry to tell you that, but he was.  He was past saving when I got there.
Not dead, quite, but beyond my powers to aid.  We'll talk more about it later,
but for now suffice it to say that I believe your presence here is now known
to only the three of us.  I aim to keep it that way, if possible.  I am going
to put you in my quarters.  No one here will be looking for you, and no one
will suspect anything if I come and go from there frequently."

They stopped at a door that looked exactly like several others in that same
hallway.  Garron opened the door and waved them in.  "I will return with food
later.  Until then, make yourselves at ease, and stay quiet!"  He closed the
door and left them alone again.  The room was simply furnished.  A low bed, a
trunk at the foot of it.  A small desk, with a wooden chair.  A wardrobe, and
a small shelf with writing materials on it.  A narrow window set high in the
stone wall, so they had to look up to see out, and could see only sky.
And--Trevor was glad to see--a small alcove with facilities where they could
relieve themselves.

Poor Hinton.  The knot in Trevor's stomach tightened.  Will Garron blame us
for Hinton's death?  What had really happened?  Then--he felt ashamed for
thinking it, but couldn't help himself--what about our things?  It was low and
he hated himself for worrying about their stupid packs and blankets when
someone had just died, but after everything, Trevor almost couldn't bear the
thought of, again, having nothing to call his own.

Except Harmony.  He still had Harmony.  Let Weilin have the rest.  Let Weilin
have everything else there is, he thought, I still have Harmony.  And damn me
if I don't do everything that can be done to keep it that way.  Slowly, his
resolve came back to him.  Hinton's death wasn't their fault.  It was Weilin's
fault.  Another crime--another un-fated death--to lay at Weilin's feet.

They waited in silence.  Harmony sat on the low bed, Trevor in the chair.  He
watched the shadows from the window move slowly across the wall.  An hour
passed, give or take.  Garron returned.  In his hand was Trevor's iron staff.
But nothing else.  Trevor almost cried when Garron handed it to him.  "Thank
you," he said.  "Thank you."

"The rest, I'm afraid, wasn't fit to return.  It had been," he paused for the
right explanation, "made foul.  Iron, though, resists best of all.  It this is
yours, then, I take it?"

Trevor nodded.  "The blacksmith in White Sands, Yun, my master, gave it to me.
For protection.  I'm grateful to have it back."

"You must remember to thank your master, if ever you see him again.  I believe
Hinton took it up to protect himself, although he clearly hadn't the strength
to wield it.  Still, I believe it was enough that Hinton was able to resist
giving up the knowledge of your--her--whereabouts."

"I'm so sorry!" Trevor blurted out.  "About Hinton!  I had no idea--"

"Thank you," Garron said, "Hinton was a good man.  We are all much grieved.  I
was able to revive him slightly, before he died.  Enough that he could tell me
some things.  First, was 'I didn't tell him.'  As I've said, my belief is that
he was referring to your whereabouts.  Second, was to describe his assailant.
He described a thin man, of elder years and foreign dress, much wrinkled, but
with strength surpassing his appearance."

A shadow passed over Trevor's heart, and it showed on his face.  "I take it
then," Garron asked, "this description matches your memory of Weilin?"  Trevor
nodded.  Garron sighed.  "I suspected as much, but still I am sorry to hear
you confirm it.  Within these walls, this temple, we are all protected.  There
are wards and seals that evil will not pass.  Aramathokoa--though not evil
before his fall--has certainly become evil now.  Yes," he added, as Trevor
stiffened at the name, "let us call him by the name that is truly his.  I will
not describe to you the exact manner of Hinton's death.  But the manner of it
convinces me, along with your confirmation, of his true identity.

"Even so, you may rest easy for now.  You are safe here.  But, you cannot stay
here forever.  You cannot be made captive here till the end of your days.
This evening, I will consult with Pious Nera.  She has gifts I do not.
Together, I believe, we will discover a way out.  Now," he concluded, "I am
afraid I must leave you once again, and most cruelly, too, I'm afraid.  Supper
hour is nearly upon us, and if I am to preserve the secret of your presence, I
must be seen in the dining hall.  Today, of all days, my presence is needed.
I will return as soon as I may, and will bring you food."

Harmony smiled at him, as he left.  Trevor breathed deeply, paused, and
sighed.  It was good to be safe, for however long they could stay here.  But
all this waiting was hard.  No, he reflected after a moment's thought.  The
waiting isn't that hard.  Dull, but not hard.  Being unable to do anything
about it.  That's the hard part.  He was eager to learn what Garron and Nera
would discover, but after that, a certain part of him was equally eager to
take matters into his own hands again.

Trevor pulled the wooden chair underneath the window, and stood on it to peer
out.  But the window only looked down into the temple's inner courtyard, and
there was no activity there during the evening meal.  He sat, trying to relax.
At length, a yawn passed over him, his fatigue from missing a whole night's
sleep not entirely erased by the previous night's rest.

Harmony saw the yawn, and said "Lie down, Trev.  Sleep."  She pulled him out
of the chair, and he allowed himself to be led to the bed.  It was a
comfortable bed.  He wondered briefly how long it had been since he had slept
in a real bed.  Not since the night before the house burned, he thought.
Another lifetime ago, it seemed.  But here, now, how nice.  A bed.  He gave in
to his body and dozed off.

When he awoke, it was dim in the room.  The door was opening, and Garron was
entering, carrying a lit candle in a small metal holder.  Harmony was sitting
in the chair, her head down on Garron's small desk.  Trevor shook his head
clear, and got up as Harmony did the same.  Garron's other hand held a sack.
He handed it to Harmony, saying "Careful, it's hot."  Harmony carried it to
the desk, and unpacked two bowls, each with flat lids, stacked one on top of
the other.  She fished silverware out of the bag, and handed one of the bowls
to Trevor.  He opened it.  He wasn't sure what it was, but it smelled good,
and he was happy to have it.

"Please, eat," Garron said, lighting several more candles around the room..
"Pious Nera will join us soon."

She did.  She was a trim woman, dressed in robes similar to Garron's, and also
carrying a candle..  She looked younger than he.  Or at least, her hair had
not gone gray yet.  She examined Trevor and Harmony closely, in turn, bringing
her candle and her face close to theirs.  Perhaps she had bad eyesight, Trevor
thought, although he could not help think that there was something
very... distant about the look in her eyes.  A very far-away look.

"Well then," Garron said, after Nera had satisfied herself.  "I have told
Pious Nera what we have already figured out, and I believe we have a notion of
what must be done next."

Trevor looked up, expectantly, from his bowl.  Garron continued, "There is a
holy man.  A monk, who long ago resided here in this temple.  His name was
Brother Belden.  I was an acolyte then, and Nera had not yet joined our order.
He was the most learned teacher I have ever known, and I believe he can help
you now.  Assuming, that is, that he still lives."

"He does, he does," Nera reassured.

"I do pray that you are right," Garron replied.  "And usually, she is", he
added for Trevor's benefit.  "Still, he left us many years ago, called to a
life of solitude and study."

"How can he help?" Trevor asked, impatient to know more.

"Belden knew more lore about the Aran than anyone.  It was his passion.  I
believe that the key to Aramathokoa's ill will, the key to Harmony's peril,
lies in that old Tithoran story.  If anyone knows, or has discovered, the
whole of it, it will be Belden.

"Thus, you must go to him.  You must find him.  When you know why Aramathokoa
seeks her demise, perhaps you will learn what can be done about it."

"Where is he?"

"That, I am afraid, we do not know.  Not exactly, anyway.  That is why I have
asked Nera here this evening.  She has a gift of sight that I do not.  The
special favor of Arsirea is hers.  I have in my possession," Garron stood, and
opened his wardrobe, withdrawing a small beaded prayer necklace, "this."  He
held it up for them to see.  Its beads were dark, but polished.  Trevor could
see that they were not smooth, however.  They looked carved, although into
what shapes or for what purpose, Trevor couldn't tell.  He handed it to Nera,
and continued.

"It was given to me by Belden, before he left.  He gave many gifts, small
things like this, to those of us who were here at the time.  He said that he
had no more need of them.  I have kept it out of sentiment, but now, I hope it
proves to be of great use."

Trevor turned to watch nera, who had clasped the necklace in her hands, which
she held pressed palm-to-palm in front of her, her fingers up.  She closed her
eyes, and began to pray.  The prayer was in holy speech, which was as opaque
to him as was Garron's earlier recitation of the inscription on Old King
Hardal's tomb.  Still, he did catch the names "Belden" and "Arsirea" several
times as she worked.

Her hands dropped to her sides when she finished.  The necklace was clutched
between the thumb and forefinger of her left hand, and swung back and forth
from the motion.  She breathed deeply, and her whole body seemed to slump a
bit.  She moved towards Garron's one chair, which Harmony stepped quickly away
from so she could sit.  She handed the necklace to Trevor, who took it

She collected herself for a moment, and said, "He lives.  Belden still lives.
He is north, far from here.  Deep in the Spine Mountains.  Look at the beads.
Do you see one that is different?"

Trevor looked.  It was difficult to tell in the candle light.  Harmony handed
him the candle from Garron's desk, and he went over it, bead by bead.  Yes,
there.  Up close, the beads were round, but with curving, swirling patterns
carved into them.  Except one, which was the same size, and close to round,
but which amid the carved patterns Trevor could see was composed of many
small, flat sides.  "Yes," he said.  "This one."

"Good," she said.  "When you reach the mountains, it will guide you.  Toss the
necklace into the air, and when it falls, go in the direction of that bead.
The closer you get, the more true it will guide."

"Thank you," he said.  "Then," he asked, with no small trepidation, "You
aren't coming with us?"

"No," Garron replied.  "I'm afraid not.  

Nera added, "I have seen that this is your journey, you and your sister."

Garron continued, "We will provide you what help we can--packs and the like, to
replace what you have lost--and safe passage out of Merlon, but beyond that you
must make your own way.  Now, finish eating, and sleep.  You must leave as
soon as you can.  I must make preparations for your safe departure."

Garron and Nera left them then, returning only briefly a few moments later
with another mattress and blankets.  Trevor and Harmony laid them out on the
floor, and they went to bed.  Trevor wondered if they would ever get to stop
moving.  Still, he thought, we have a plan.  That's something.  It's good at
least to know where we're going, and that there will be some help when we get