Feather-borne Epistles

Feather-borne Epistles

;;-- a Collaborative Effort

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R

A small duffel bag and a carry-along knapsack were plopped at the foot of the bed. The last few hours were a blur to say the very least; the surprise visit, an atomic bit of information, and the last few hours focused on preparation.

Raiya sat on her bed with a hefty sigh, arms resting against her knees and eyes trained upon the floor boards in front of her feet. She was quiet for a few moments, making direct attempts to soothe the thoughts that jumped around her skull like a dozen wired-up rabbits in a small cage. She knew she had to wind down and rest before her morning departure, but after what she had been told...how could she?

A soft, content squeak caught her attention. Cyr rested on her perch next to the open window. One foot was tucked comfortably in her fluffed-up torso feathers, and intense dark brown eyes peered at Raiya. A wave of calm washed over the woman as she met Cyr's gaze and observed the bird for a time. A thought then crossed the elf's mind.

Cyr's stare followed Raiya as she rose from her bed and walked towards her desk. Once the lamp was illuminated, a chair brought back and settled upon, and pen and a strip of paper were obtained, she began to write:

_____

My dear Spencer,

It has been a while since we last touched base, but I have faith our birds will find one another well.

Mai Lenae of the old Warlord army found me earlier today. She made a half-hearted comment the run-in was a coincidence, but I know very well it was not. Mai is now a high-ranking official for the FBI, and she explained their next mission.

They have found who is responsible for the bombs that destroyed Nightwing and the Warlord territory. He goes by "King." He apparently is still out there running an extensive criminal ring, and Mai is on a mission to hunt him down and take him into custody. I have been asked to join her team.

I will be leaving tomorrow morning with Mai to the FBI headquarters, and then go through a briefing process with the rest of the team. I lack further detail for the time being, but I will update you as information comes.

I don't think I have fully processed this information yet. The notion that we not only have a face and a name to the culprit, but his actual location seems entirely unreal. This information has challenged all of my assumptions revolving around what had happened that fateful day. Everything seems so incredibly surreal right now....

And what of you? What adventures have you embarked upon as of late?

I hope you are well, dear friend
Raiya

_____

The paper was rolled up and placed in a very small, rectangle envelope, which was then printed with Spencer's name and gently yet securely tied to the hawk's leg. Raiya stepped back as the bird lifted herself and hopped to the windowsill. Cyr's head bobbed and triangulated, eyes scanning the night sky as if she were a radar scanning for signal. After a few seconds, powerful wingbeats carried the bird into the sky.

- - - - - - - - - -

S

Raiya,

I’ve missed you dearly old friend, it’s good to hear from you again. 

I have spent a great deal of this evening re-reading what you shared with me. From the sound of it, I am not the only old ghost you have spoken with lately. I worry about what it means that Mai came to reach out to you. In knowing you, I could also understand her decision. 

It pains me to think of what happened so many years ago. What King was capable of back then could only be amplified now. Whatever you have chosen to do, be mindful of your company. 

Please my dear friend, be careful. 

I am currently home, but set to leave soon. I am seeking out answers from an old philologist I met in Northern Europe years ago. Long ago I came into possession of a book that Skya thought might hold answers of my past life. Regrettably, I couldn’t read it anymore than I could decipher what it’s even for. It looks to be an old grimoire, the author is a mystery as well. I have held onto it for so many years I still can’t fathom how it is relevant now.

I had an intruder a few nights ago.
Whomever they were, they wreaked of black magic and disappeared when I came down the stairs. I found stains of sulfur on the spine of the book. I don’t know what it means. I only know that if it wasn’t important then, it is now. I only wish Skya was here to answer these questions.

I will be looking forward to hearing from you. I have faith that Cloudfeather will be able to navigate her way to you as she always has. Cyr will be well looked after.

It’s good to hear from you again. Be well, and be careful.

Spencer

_____

Doublechecking his bags and preparing the old house to be left alone, Spencer gave the avian some time to rest. With a whistle, the hawk dappled in white and cream made her presence upon the windowsill with a series of chirps and clicks of her beak in acknowledgement to Cyr’s presence on the back of a chair in Spencer’s kitchen. He attached the message, taking the raptor ever-so-carefully on his arm. 

“Should you lose your way, return to me, understand?”

With a gentle push off, Cloudfeather took to the air with a heavy sweep of white wings. Spencer took a seat beside Cyr’s chair afterward and picked up a cup of tea that had been in waiting, his thoughts searching back to the cataclysmic event so many years ago.

- - - - - - - - - -

R

Days came and went since the White bird left Spencer’s home. In the meanwhile, Cyr followed Spencer wherever he went. She kept a decent distance to avoid contact with any event that may occur during that time, yet she always stayed either within, or just out of his field of vision. The early dawning of the third day arose, and the sunrise was finally accompanied by the rustling of piebald feathers and an avian whistle for attention. 

Cloudfeather landed on the nearest accessible perch within Spencer’s proximity, a letter with his name bound gently to her leg. There was something off about this letter. It was left primarily blank, save for a mere few sentences written at the very top of the page.

_____

Spencer, 

Cloudfeather reached me in good health about two days ago, I have not had the opportunity to write until now. I send her back to you well-rested from her first trip.

I worry for you. Such strange events unfolding at your doorstep.... I only hope that your mind and memory hold fast on your quest to find the answers to seek, and assist you in finding that which is unseen. 

 

Best regards,

Raiya

- - - - - - - - - -

S

In the days since departing, Spencer had been on the move. He found his portal entry would open from the storage closet in his home to that of a hotel that would be home for the next few days. Once he had landed, the window was open for Cyr who was quick to disperse out the dormer windows of the top floor hostel that he had secured a single room in. A flash of white past that window came days later. With no luck finding the person he was searching for, the man perked up when he noticed the avian at the window and stood hastily to let her in.

Upon unraveling the note, his expression fell somewhat to the contents. It felt... off. Shallow even, compared to the flight the bird had taken to exchange it. Over and over her words were read like the riddles they had left in more lighthearted letters of the past. His eyes skimmed over that last sentence that was so precariously placed on the end. After another couple of minutes of searching through his spell book for something familiar, a grin spread little by little. It was worth a try. With a slow sweep of his hand across the page, he uttered a phrase or two strung together with care and waited for what might happen.

- - - - - - - - - -

R

Bingo. As if on queue, words began to appear on the blank space of the letter, beginning just below the visible cryptic message ;;

 _____

Apologies for the secrecy. It would be unwise for either of us to reveal too much out in the open, least these letters somehow wind up in the wrong hands. 

I do genuinely worry for you. Sulfur especially is a concerning hint… it makes me wonder why something of demonic essence would be interested in that book. Worry aside, I am overjoyed to know that you now have a lead on finding out who you were before! I know you are cautious by nature, but that is not going to stop me from telling you to not get caught with your guard down. Please look out for yourself, Spence. I have a feeling that is not the last time you will encounter an intruder of that essence. 


We ship out for Dubai in a few days' time. The details they give us are few and on a “need to know" basis. It is understandable from a logical standpoint, but it feels odd putting this much  trust in the plans of people whom you know nothing about. 

On the note of “old ghosts,” I am about ready to string up whatever necromancer is responsible for the recent resurrections. I have encountered not ghosts, but moreso old corpses back from the dead. The Warlords are alive. At least, a few of the older members. Wrath is here, as are Creed, Eric, Chels, and two others whom I barely recognize. 

They are not here out of their own free will, however, and Wrath especially is very vocal in his distaste of it. Mai seems to be in control over them and this situation, but there is a definite rift between her and the six. There is a lot that I do not yet understand about how they survived the exodus attacks or this new dynamic here, but I am certain I will learn in no time at all.

I can't say I enjoy the majority of my company or the atmosphere here... It's an uncomfortable, and unfamiliar feeling for sure. I’m banking on the outcome to be worth it all.

One final note; I cannot guarantee consistency in these letters, finding time to myself has been a bit of a challenge. Keep me updated on your findings as they come, my friend. Where are you now? What have you found? I have great interest in learning of your discoveries!

In your words: be well, and be careful

Raiya

- - - - - - - - - -

S

With a smile as the words appeared, Spencer began to read. The smile wouldn't last long. First pensive, then covering his mouth to Raiya's own predicament he couldn't quite put an image to. The Warlords are alive. Maybe he was glad he couldn't will an image in his mind. It gave the man an odd sense of chill.

 _____

Raiya,

A trip sounds like the perfect way to clear one's head, I hope your travel treats you well. I wish I could be in your company for it, heaven knows it has been too long. It seems that memory lane has a way of... sneaking up on a person sometimes.

I will write again soon, I look forward to hearing from you when the time suits you.

Spencer.

_____

In a similar fashion to the last, once the letter was revealed, more of his handwriting spilled onto the page.

_____

I understand, especially in your... rather frightening company.

I shouldn't find it surprising that they would dig up their own demons for the sake of finding one. Then again I have never believed in their motives or their dealings. I don't like the sound of it at all, but... I recognize I am not in your shoes. I know you to be just as cautious as I, if not more. Still. Instincts rarely tell lies to their owner, promise not to turn your back on these people, Rai.  I wouldn't know what I' d 


Whenever you are bound to receive this, I have been in Denmark for several days now. I wish my findings were far less grim than they have been in the days leading up to now. I found the man I had come to see, by the name of Byron. He seemed to take a special interest in the book at first but had his own troubles in trying to decipher it. Byron believes it to be a personal grimoire, possibly a spellbook. Whoever designed it had never meant for prying eyes to read, it might take reading the author's mind to read it at all. I once knew no one wiser on such topics, although I fear the old man has lost his touch by the way he'd demanded if I was 'playing games' in bringing it to him. He seemed quite nervous and requested I take it when I leave.

I had planned to re-visit him yesterday morning. The door was open when I arrived. There was ink splattered on his desk, chairs knocked over. I found his glasses on the floor; it's hard to say if the struggle was his own or someone else's... but it wreaked of sulfur. I have to be very careful, now. Not only for my own wellbeing but who I might contact. I don't understand what any of it means. I know not for a fact I am being followed, I will do my best to travel in daylight for now. I plan to head further South while I re-evaluate my next course of action.

I will keep your location in mind for the next letter. Just as well I will try and be patient in waiting for yours- I hope you'll pardon me if I am not.

Stay safe. May we both write again soon on happier terms.

- - - - - - - - - -

R

A smile appeared as his words appeared from the blank page, yet that smile swiftly faded and replaced by an involuntary frown as she read on. 

A cold pit sank in her stomach. The description of Byron’s place being vandalized sent chills slithering up her spine, accompanied by the heavy feeling of dread. The notion of her being powerless to help gnawed on the back of her mind, creating a feeling of restlessness in her inability to protect or help him against the unseen threat in any way. Raiya knew that he was strong enough to fend for himself, yet -- 


“Raiya.” The elven’s eyes snapped to the source of the sound, jolting out of her train of thought and discreetly hiding the letter in a reflexive motion. She relaxed as she met Mai’s gaze, then nodded, acknowledging the unsaid order. Mai left, and Raiya rose and tucked the letter securely with her other belongings before following Mai’s trail. 

The letter’s response will just have to wait...

A day or two dragged on, filled with travel and last-minute orders. Her mind was occupied by the fast-paced events unfolding in this new environment, yet her mind frequently fell back onto Spencer and his situation. The cold pit of dread returned every time she remembered those words he wrote:  “I know now for a fact that I am being followed….” 

 

Finally, a moment of quiet as nightfall came. Illumination from the light of a single flashlight in a dark bunker was all that Raiya had, yet it was all she needed. 

_____

Spencer - 

What could possibly be so important to a demon?  

The more I hear of your journey, the more I feel as though your past life was cloaked in so much more mystery - so much more danger - than previously anticipated. In a way, it is all the more reason to push on to get to the bottom of things. However I fear it also means that now you have no choice but to continue and see this through to the end. Even if you were to back out, “It” has made it clear that It knows you, and I feel it will continue to hunt you no matter where you go so long as you have that book. Do you think it is after the book, or after you?


If it puts your mind at ease at all, let me reassure you that I am not in any real danger from the Warlords. Wrath did throw a chair at me the other day, but I admit I made a scathing remark towards him and likely deserved it. But do not be mistaken; I do not regret it, nor am I sorry.

_____

Her pen paused for a moment, and Raiya fell still and quiet in thought. She was debating as to whether or not to continue sharing what was on her mind… with everything Spencer had going on, there was a brief hesitation that had paused her hand. A quiet sigh left her lips, and that hesitation was shaken. Pen once again met paper, and the elf continued the letter. 

_____

We are so close to departure to where King was last seen, and the atmosphere is quiet and intense in anticipation of the Storm to come. The silence is deafening, and in that silence, I find myself being plagued with the growing feeling of being ill-prepared. 

Sparring matches and the training we have undergone have been immense and rich in instruction. However, I have neither seriously fought nor undergone intense quests such as this in a very, very long time. I am surrounded by true warriors and some of the fiercest soldiers I have ever come across, and I feel as though my skill levels are but a mere shadow in comparison to theirs. The authorities have done their best to prepare us all, and Mai especially has helped me immensely, yet I still find myself being plagued by the “what ifs.” The nerves that have arisen make me feel as though I am preparing for my first battle all over again. Funny, isn’t it? How long ago that was.... 

I wish you were here, Spence. This quest would be much easier to take on with a familiar face. 

 

Be well, my dear confidant;

Raiya 

- - - - - - - - - -

S

The days continued on with travel for either. While Raiya spent her days with the motley crew he grimaced to the thought of, Denmark was far behind the ghost. Another incident came and went as the dark skies overhead were labeled as a warning sign from here on out. He was being followed, perpetually so. While the hive mind of the shadows tracking couldn’t always decipher, they had come regrettably close once or twice upon a time. 

From the window of a well-lit hostel lobby, the next note was pulled out after fetching it from the bird, who… he wasn’t quite on speaking terms with. Finding perpetual places to stay had dipped into the nomad’s funds and made for less-than-desirable pickings for his informant. The letter was settled in his lap under the table as he muttered the incantation to show its secrets.

_____

Raiya,

I’m sorry this is coming to you later than I would have hoped to reach you. The past weeks have left me preoccupied and without much success on the matter. I’m making less and less progress by being restricted to the daytime in order to travel, but unpredictability is a saving grace to all of this. Whatever familiars ‘It’ has sent for me, they appear to be hive-minded in nature. I have kept my travel and research to the daytime but their presence is growing more frequent, little by little. I couldn’t tell you what role I play in ‘Its’ plans, but whatever is inside this book cannot fall into their hands. Book or not, I fear I’m hunted all the same.
_____

Spencer exhaled a sigh and rubbed his face. It was light outside the windows closest to his table, but the normally self-sustaining spirit was going on far too many days awake now. His mind was not at ease. Not with his own finding, his own ventures, nor was it put to rest by whether the elf could dodge a chair thrown by an undead tyrant of the past. He didn’t like where it was going when he first read the letter, and renewed that worry when he sat down to write. He picked up the pen afterward and continued.

_____

I remember a time and place where I was lost. I couldn’t keep my feet on the ground, a sword in my hand, nor my stomach intact when I was in the air! A warrior took my hand then and made me able to stand beside her. She rode into war with beasts, she sat with the dragons and told stories among their young. She brought fear to men who well deserved it. I refuse to think for a second that she has lost who she is, even after all these years... I have just as much awe for her now as I did in those woods.

Doubt is a test of your instincts when you need them most. Perhaps it is just as well that they would be awake to protect you now.
Please stay safe, my friend. I have all the faith in the world that this message and the next will reach you well.

-Spencer

 

P.S. 

Tiredness is an awful thing... coming from an old ghost, I feel sorry for those that carry it far heavier than I do.
In a den of demons, take care of yourself, mind and body.

- - - - - - - - - -

R

"Lay low. Do not engage."
Mai's voice spoke quietly into Raiya's ear piece, and the ear pieces of half a dozen squad members spread out across the vicinity. The rocks and dry sticks were sharp, yet Raiya and the others remained flat on their stomachs amidst the shielding bramble.

The elven calmly peered at the procession through the scope of her high-powered firearm. She watched the beast-drawn carts stacked high with wooden crates of different sizes, the humans and humanoids chained up and walking behind each cart, and the cruelty of the slave drivers spitting harsh words in a language that the elven hardly recognized. She had her eye on a more decorated slave driver who seemed to be monitoring the procession. His snarling face and red eyes gave away demonic origin.

A small shadow drifted upon the ground, and Raiya lifted her eyes to see the silhouette of the hawk circling very high above them. Her heart leapt at the sight, but it swiftly sunk when she turned her attention back to the loyalists. That demon was looking up at the bird too.

Raiya's heart began to race with utmost dread as the general hoisted his firearm up towards where the bird circled. His finger was merely hovering over the trigger, yet his eye was glued to the scope.

Cloudfeather caught a thermal and dipped out of view, and the red-eyed humanoid huffed and turned back towards his company with a rough bark of commands.

"Raiya, is everything alright?" The commander's voice sounded in her ear piece. Shit, she forgot this armor picked up vitals. An inhale and a controlled exhale was given, willing herself to slow her racing heart before quietly replying. "Affirmative."

_____
It was several hours before Raiya could beckon the bird over and read the letter. The other elf's words describing his recent happenings brought on yet another sense of unease.  Spence's exhaustion also did not go undetected; She could tell by both his words and by his handwriting.

_____

Spencer-

I am relieved to hear that you are still alright. Well, as "alright" as you can manage in these dire circumstances. Do you have an inkling as to what "It" or its familiars are yet? Nothing comes without a weakness, and am confident that your intelligence will lead you to your answer soon enough.

Your kind words mean more to me than you know. Thank you, my friend. All is going as planned thus far. One thing has stuck out as odd, however; we came across a vast scorch mark across the ground that cut through one of the near towns. Locals that we work with speak of a dragon "fly-by" attack that happened roughly two weeks ago. They described the dragon as massive and black, and the fire a blinding blue.

The chances of what my gut feeling tells me to be true are extraordinarily slim, but Spencer... My mind goes to Chanook. Although, I haven't a clue how or why he would be all the way out here. I am currently unable to attempt a projected mental link in fear that it may give away our location. May the hope of Chanook's survival bring you strength.


P.S.~
Even the dead need to rest. If it is safe for you to close your eyes for a few minutes, here is a trick I learned here to rest even in enemy territory.

If you are able to lay on your back, do so. If not, sitting against a wall works just as well. Close your eyes, and begin to focus on relaxing the muscles on your face. Relax your brow, the space between your eyebrows, your temples, relax the muscles behind your ears and unclench your jaw. Let your shoulders drop, and unclench your fists. Unclench your shoulder blades, and go all the way down to your toes and unwind any tension you may be holding. Repeat the word "Don't think" over like a mantra in your head, and sleep will come to you for a few minutes at a time. Your body will be rested, yet the mantra will keep your mind alert enough to detect changes in your surroundings. It has worked for me here, and I hope you find yourself able to utilize it. Stay safe and well, my friend.

Raiya

- - - - - - - - - -

S

Something about the detail in Raiya’s letter had his stomach twisted into a knot every time he re-read it. He held the piece of paper in hand while he envisioned what they had witnessed, sourly cursing his current predicament that he couldn’t go dropping what he was after to investigate on his own behalf. No… no no-no, He reminded himself not to get his full hopes up and wiped a hand across his face. He had searched the world in the last few decades… or so he thought? The fact never left the man. At his worst, a stray storm cell could send him on maddening witch hunts and down dead-ends that should have been seen as that. 

_____

 Raiya,

 

I’ve done nothing but travel since I last wrote to you… The familiars are the work of not just a sorcerer, but a Necromancer. My circumstances haven’t changed on that front, but I am soon to be on a boat headed South-East to check in on another old friend who may be able to decipher some things.  So long as the rest of the voyage goes well, I might buy myself time to stop and think. Certainly, time to write.

There isn’t a day that I don’t think of him, where Chanook might be. I know he is out there. I haven’t felt closure in his absence even after so many years. I have chased down so many false cases and dead ends that a direct sighting sounds impossible. Two weeks ago… you said? I want to believe it, probably just as you. If I could have seen it with my own eyes maybe I would have known, but it sounds… frighteningly similar. It may be some time before I am able to think about such things again. Please keep me posted on what you find. You have my high hopes, as well as spirits.

P.S.  I will try to do so. Thank you for keeping me in your thoughts. I fear the next letter might come with delay, but I will do my best in getting it to you.

 

Your dear friend,

Spencer

_____

The boat was set to board come morning, and after some risks taken the night before, the Rider would be on it. The busiest venues were often the easiest for the ghost to slip into undetected and the pedestrian ship was a shield once it set off. Cyr took off with the message come night.

- - - - - - - - - -

R

The corresponding note arrived fairly quickly after Spencer sent his. There was not only the usual letter attached to the bird's leg, but a very small package as well. The contents were tightly wrapped in some sort of thin cloth. A thin plastic, quite similar to saran wrap, sealed the whole package from the elements.

_____

Spencer-

There is nothing of great value to report for the time being. No more reports of dragon activity, no huge raids, not even a note-worthy mention of my warlord company. We are caught in a waiting game right now. Mai and a handful of commanders will be partaking in a quick sting in the next day or so, but the rest of us have been ordered to stay put and stay quiet at our home base. We have already been "staying put" for the last two days now.

We are getting so incredibly close to finding King. I am getting restless for the end result. Excited, even. In reality, the excitement may be partially due to becoming stir-crazy. Card games are only enjoyable for so many rounds.

Have you found the friend you set out to seek? Were they any help? Have you made any new discoveries about the book? There are so many questions I have about your travels, but I know the time you have to rest is short. I have attached a small gift for you, hopefully it travelled well.

Be safe and be well, dear friend
Raiya

_____

When the small package was unravelled, it revealed six tea bags and a small rolled-up note. Each tea bag was labeled respective to its contents, which showed two of each type: Masala chai, matcha, and mint.

The accompanying note was kept short:

_____
They produce very good teas here! There's a recipe I learned for something called karak chai tea. I'll have to make a batch once our adventures come to an end. I think you'll find it quite enjoyable.

- - - - - - - - - -

S

Night came from where Spencer had been stationed for the time being. The window of a bed and breakfast had been cracked open purposefully in the new, warmer climate... Still, he was surprised to hear the familiar call of Cloudfeather overhead so soon. After a few whistles and a short wait, he managed to help the bird find where to touch down. The package held his attention as he untied it rather hastily, earning a warning sound from the disgruntled avian in the process. Flinching, Spencer looked over his shoulder to see if someone had awoken at the sound. Exhaling, he took his time and tugged it free. The letter came first. He unfolded it, tucking the small parcel aside for the moment. Once it was read, once, twice, thrice times over, he opened the small package.

_____

Raiya,

Your message reached me well, as did your gift. Pardon a delay on my part, I got off the boat some days ago and decided to keep moving until I could sit down to write.

I am sad to hear your lead of dragon activity went cold, but I shouldn’t allow myself to be too surprised. I don’t know whether to be relieved or not that you have found yourselves at a standstill… part of me is happy to find you in peace, but I know that means no progress for your mission at hand. In the least, put up a good fight in cards. How has your company been? You have made it almost easy to forget you are shoulder-to-shoulder with Warlords on this endeavor… almost.

I have been hulled up in the national library in Melbourne trying to find any hint of a reason for this book. Most collections haven’t gone far back enough to aid, or the books have been long burned for being... “unfavorable” in nature through history.

I have not found the friend in question, but I did find a curious soul. The other night the shadows caught up to me, I had no choice but to run. I ran into a mage that was passing through this city. Can you believe that? A mage of all people. She offered a hand in getting to a safe place. Through our speaking, she is a linguist. A scholar. She believes she might be of some assistance in unraveling this book. I don’t know what to make of it all yet, but I believe she will be of help. 

Lastly… She spoke briefly of history with dragons. I’m getting the feeling that this world isn’t as big as we sometimes think.

I hope to share more news soon. In the meantime, be safe my dear friend. Don’t let the stagnation become its own enemy.

Best, 

Spencer.

- - - - - - - - - -

R

The night was silent, yet the minds of everyone in the direct vicinity were anything but. There was a certain tension that loomed over the congregation, and it grew more intense with each passing hour. The soldiers waited with bated breath, like dogs awaiting the signal to strike.

Raiya’s fair vestige mirrored level detachment, married with a veneer of feigned impassivity as she watched her bird disappear into the night sky. She sat quietly with the restlessness that boiled slowly within. There was an odd feeling in her chest somewhere that Raiya knew was neither her heart nor her lungs; the feeling was somewhere more obscure, harder to reach. 

Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.

The first breath of solar ambiance would mark the end of this nocturnal chapter, and the beginning of something else entirely.

_____

The letter arrived to Spencer in the same prompt manner as her previous one. However, Raiya’s handwriting appeared rushed this time around, an odd idiosyncrasy that may have been missed to the untrained eye. There were three photos folded up in addition to the letter itself.  

_____

It relieves me greatly that you have found another to share this journey with you. I pray that her intentions are noble and she proves to be trustworthy. The Warlords are no issue. They are as determined to finish this mission as I, and if they've got one thing going for them, it’s their team-oriented mentality.

There have been so many truths unearthed in this short amount of time. There’s so much I want to tell you. 

Chanook is alive, for one. We got confirmation when Mai returned from her raid, photos attached are what were taken at the scene. According to the prisoners Mai apprehended, Chanook was held for only three days before breaking out again. They knew Chanook by name and knew exactly who he was, which is incredibly strange and unsettling to me. They confessed that they were only successful in his capture due to his poor physical condition, and they did not treat him pleasantly in the three days he was contained here. I fear for his well-being.

We have King’s location, and are leaving at first light to finish this. If we don’t succeed -- No. Raiya paused and scratched that last sentence out.  -- I will send another letter once the mission is over. Until then, stay well and stay safe. 

 

Raiya

_____

Three photos were attached. The first one was of a very large cavern with a thick chain attached on either side of the interior. Both chains were broken, and the ground was littered with large metal shards, stone and heavy debris. The mouth of the cavern itself was cracked and broken, with some portions missing in chunks.  

The second photo was of the stone walls and ground of the large establishment surrounding them. A gargantuan gash was torn from the ground and spread up and across the walls of the interior. The gash was a deep black in color, with the off-setting ashy appearance of one large scorch mark. 

The third photo depicted what appeared to be the broken remains of a metal muzzle. A soldier stood beside it for scale, yet they could easily be overlooked due to how incredibly small they were in comparison.

- - - - - - - - - - 

S

The letter came to Spencer at night as he approached the library and looked overhead to sight the hawk. Several days had been spent in the library to no avail whether he had the linguist mage assisting or not. The restlessness led him to risky late-night shifts when the building was his own and he could go searching for the section that might have the answers. Once inside, he climbed to a second level and unlocked a window, whistling to the avian above. His station was set up with chosen books dropped on the table and a light was turned on for security. The books were ignored for the hawk on the window and the message he pulled from its leg. 

Something was… different about it. The rushed scrawl hardly matched the pleasantries of the letter’s introduction. His eyes wouldn’t scroll for long before they were frozen again. The three words in unison put ice through Spencer’s veins. His expression had fallen. The mage’s head lowered and the letter was left to rest on the table alongside the photos he took a glimpse at for the first time. He could readily imagine the sight. The figures in the photographs hadn’t escaped his attention either. His head came to rest atop closed fist while he read on. 

You’re not insane.

Spencer’s head rose again and he covered his mouth with his hand. The certainty of it seemed far too hard to believe but the photos spoke otherwise. 

He’s alive… you’re not insane.

As terrifying as the sight was, it lifted the world off the old ghost’s chest. A drop of moisture interrupted the ink on the page. Then another. Spencer wouldn’t bother to wipe his eyes as he ran a shaking hand through his hair and let himself steadily start to fall apart afterward. 

_____

Not much studying was done that night. No different than the drunk man at a bar, Spencer spent the hours red-eyed, staring down at the table and its contents. A pen was picked up at some point or another. Several renditions were written and unwritten. What he had to say couldn’t be confined to a piece of paper but it was regrettably all he had to work with. The end result was a piece of paper full of small errors scratched out and scrawled through. It was a bit of a ransom note compared to the first of his letters.

_____

Raiya,

 

After all these years… 

I believed he was alive. I was afraid of what would happen if I didn’t. I have held on to that feeling from the day we were separated. I always knew the connection was still there. I knew he was alive, but it had been so long. After Skya and Lenn- ...the sentence was heavily scratched out thereafter.

I knew I hadn’t lost him.

She said they knew his name. Where would he have gone? How long has it been..?

Raiya you don’t know how I miss you.

I need to see you... we need to talk in person. 

Please, be safe. Now more than ever.

Spencer

_____

With an exhale, the bird was sent off into the night to hopefully return. You can’t think that way, Spencer scolded himself. A seat was taken at the table once more and the photos gained his attention. When it came time to leave he tucked them into the front of his journal and departed from the library space.

- - - - - - - - - -

R

Days came and went in unceremonious precession. The skies were quiet for a time, until finally, Cyr's call announced her tardy arrival.

It would be evedent that the handwriting on this letter was much more relaxed than Raiya's previous one;


_____

My dear Spencer-

Thank you. Thank you for never losing hope even as time wore on and all odds seemed against you. Thank you for not losing hope of Chanook's survival, hope in your bond,
And most importantly, the hope that all of the traveling, the sleepless nights, and chasing storms would not be in vain. Chanook is most fortunate to have you as a rider, I hope you never doubt that for a second. We will find him.

We have captured King. The drastic nature of this accomplishment has yet to truly sink in, but I think I can feel realization begin to dawn as I write this out. I so, so desperately wish that we could announce this to all of our fallen brethren. There's still so much I need to tell you. I miss you, Spence. Now more than ever.

Mai and the rest of the squadron are taking King back to North America, but I am staying behind to search for Chanook. His last sighting was roughly two weeks ago, so I hope he has not gone too far. Please inform me when you have completed your desired tasks wherever you are; I will send you my location, and eagerly await your arrival.

Ps: I speak without a mouth and hear without ears. I have no body, but come alive with the wind. What am I?

- Rai

_____

Raiya had completed the letter and took a second to read over it. Her mind was busy as she tied it to Cyr and quietly watched her hop through the window and take to the sky. Amidst the numerous thoughts and attempts to rationalize the events of the past few days, a singular written phrase kept resurfacing over and over again;

We have captured King.

There was a push and a pull in her mind as the conflicting notions swayed like a turbulent sea. She was there. Why was this concept so difficult to grasp?
Suddenly, something clicked. The click came with a jolt of realization that sent static waves straight through Raiya's core

They. Had. King.

Emotion stirred in her chest and rose to her tightening throat. Raiya's hand flew over her mouth as she stared wide-eyed out the window and to the darkening sky.
The elf's stare was still transfixed beyond the window as she began to take a few steps back. She only paused when she felt the backs of her legs brush against the mattress of her makeshift bed. The elf let herself be guided by mattress' side, and lowered herself until she was seated on the ground directly in front of it. Even though Cyr's figure was long gone, Raiya just continued to stare. Her hand finally lowered while a long, shakey inhale was drawn, held for a moment, and released. A single name was carried upon the exhale, bearing the notes of melancholic longing hardly above a whisper.

"Atheria..." Raiya let the name hover in the air for a moment. "-- We did it. I wish you were here."

- - - - - - - - - -

S

Spencer had sat for several long minutes, staring at the folded piece of paper in his hands… Cyr had delivered it soundly. The fact alone spoke volumes to the mage, but he still found himself gazing at the object in his fingertips as if it would somehow let him know what was inside. After those several minutes of tension, he made slow work of unfolding the paper. As his eyes scanned the words on the page, Spencer let a breath escape little by little and his shoulders started to slump as they lost the tension they were holding.

_____

Raiya,

I’m happy to hear that you were successful. I can’t express the weight it takes off the shoulders, and yet, those words are such a foreign thing to read after so many years… those who cannot be here to hear it would surely be smiling down on you. As am I.

Two weeks ago.

I can’t fathom it. I have been searching all these years… and now?

We ran into trouble last night, I made a foolish mistake; Marius had us cornered. Not only did we escape, I think I might have bought myself some time in the process. Admittedly… It was a setback for the library we were hulled up in. While I am no closer to knowing what that bloody sorcerer wants, I am one step closer to knowing the book’s secrets. One step closer to putting it down. 

Send me your location, I will come to you. There is no better time with my troubles on hold; If they followed it would hardly matter. I have to find him.

P.S. I can’t let a failed riddle slow down this message, but I can assure you… I’ll have an answer by the time I arrive. Here is to hoping. I hope to see you soon.

-Spencer

_____

He was captured.
He is alive.
She was safe.

The letter’s dismissal by the hawk had Spencer practically pacing behind his chair. He had made his promise, now it was time to wait. The following days would be spent impatiently at best, not that there wasn’t work to be done in the meantime.

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To be continued . . .

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