Here is the second chapter of The Henge Betrayed - Quests
Ash helped carry the long granite slab the three with Earth affinities had carved from the cliff behind the keep. Dragen held the door into the large kitchen open. The nine placed the slab on the square stone pillars fashioned into legs for the table. Though the original table had shattered the stone benches and chairs had remained. She stepped back and scanned the massive room.
She and Kiron had cleaned the large fireplace and used currents of air to clear the chimney. The braziers on either side had been scoured and repaired by Ky and Zand. Val and Bran had scrubbed the floors, the stone worktables along the walls and the shelves of the cupboard.
“What else is there to do?” she asked.
“Dragen is using wood from one of the wagons to make storage places in the pantry,” Jay said.
Dyna rubbed the surface of the table with a cloth. As she worked the stone began to gleam. “We can use the mounds of straw in the entry hall to stuff sleeping mats and pillows. A sevenday of sleeping on the stone floor is enough.”
Ash smiled. During the days since they’d arrived at the keep they had worked hard. She thought of the other things they needed to do. Before long, autumn would arrive. Besides having a safe place there were quests they must complete before they returned to master their affinities. Only then could they train to face Dom Senet and his cronies.
She wondered how much time remained before they could confront the evil man. What was he doing? Could she learn? Was she brave enough to search the winds for him? A chill rolled over her arms and she gasped.
Kiron turned. “What has frightened you?”
Ash drew a deep breath. “Dom Senet.” She walked to the door and stepped into the courtyard.
Kiron clasped her hand. “Though I’ve never had a meeting with him, he scares me. I wonder if he was responsible for the disappearance of my father and my uncle. When they left for the highlands they promised to return. They didn’t. Then illness struck the village and Dyna and I became orphans.”
“He or his friends could have killed them. We were sent to Cedris to meet teachers. They never arrived. Just before we left the town we learned the dom had them killed.” She sighed. “I believe we must discover where he is and what he plans before we leave on our quests.”
He nodded. “I know there are talismans we need as well as others with affinities. I think we should seek the talented first. The Rovers told me how those with talents for the elements are often feared by people and must flee the way Dyna and I did.” He stepped away. “Could we seek Dom Senet on the winds?”
“We can, but not alone.”
“Then you and I will do this. What about now?”
Though his offer pleased her now wasn’t the time. She refused to seek the dom unless her siblings were present to draw her back. “Not now. After the evening meal we can meet in the inner room. Bring Dyna. Though you are cousins and not siblings you have a bond.”
He frowned. “Why must she be there?”
“I’d like you to read the winds with me and taste Dom Senet’s thoughts but I don’t want you to be trapped.” She told him of the time the dom had sensed her and how he had tried to gain control of her mind. “My siblings broke me free but an echo remained. Doma Jandia had to teach me how to break free.”
“What do you mean by trapped?”
She shuddered. “I was sick and fevered. He was in my head laughing and making threats.”
“I don’t want that. I’ll tell Dyna.”
Ash returned to the kitchen. She put plates on the table. Kiron brought the cutting boards for bread and cheese. Jay and Geni arrived with greens and scallions. Ash wished for tomatls like they’d had in Cedris. Perhaps after repairing the growing house their larder would improve. The doma poured heated water into pots for tea and kaf. Dragen produced a smoked ham. The eleven gathered at the table and ate.
While she and her siblings cleaned the kitchen she told them of her plan. “I have to do this.”
“Why?” Jay asked.
“We need to know where he is and what he’s planning. Soon we have to leave the keep to search for others with affinities to complete the quartets.”
Ky nodded. “She’s right.”
Bran clasped Ash’s hand. “I hate to agree but we need to know if he has any idea of where we are.”
“Kiron and Dyna will join us. Kiron needs to learn how to search the winds for a specific person. Their bond can pull him back if the dom senses him.” Ash washed the last of the dishes.
Bran and Jay carried the pails of dirty water to the door and emptied them. At the pump he washed and refilled the buckets. “Can’t wait until the pipes into the house are repaired.”
Ash chuckled. “In time, the doma said.”
Ky dashed to the door into the entry hall. “I’m off for some pillows. I’ll meet you.”
Ash walked with her brothers to the inner room the doma had designated as a training place. Located behind the tower stairs there were no windows and only a single door. Ky returned with straw stuffed cushions. She lit the candles set in sconces along the walls. Kiron and Dyna arrived with more pillows.
Ash positioned one beside hers. The others formed a circle around them. Ash clasped Kiron’s hand. “Follow me.”
“How do I do that?”
She reached with her mind to touch his in the way Doma Jandia had taught her. “Come.” She felt his thoughts join hers. She searched the winds for traces of the peculiar aroma of Dom Senet’s thoughts. He wasn’t in Cedris. Nor was he in the highlands. She continued to scent the winds until she smelled his essence. Cautiously she slipped into his head.
He spoke to a pair of doms. Malera, Lodar and Mandir are in place and ready to do my bidding. They will seek the heirs of Easren, Soutren and Nortren. His laughter filled the wind. Ash felt cold.
They believe I will help them become rulers of those princedoms. They will do all I ask until the day they learn there can be but one ruler. I am that one. You will remain hidden here. Two of my faithful will be sent to each of the other princedoms. I will tell you when and how to act. Though time will pass you must remain alert.
Just as she was about to leave his thoughts she caught a tendril leading to his plan for the four young men Zand and her brothers had met. She wanted to know more about them so she delved a bit deeper. As she had suspected the four were being trained to face her siblings and her. A sliver of fear sliced through her thoughts.
Dom Senet’s voice. A surge of fear that wasn’t hers startled Ash. She broke the connection to the dom the way Doma Jandia had taught her. Come, she called to Kiron. She felt him flee on her trail. Yet someone remained.
Who? Ash asked.
Where are you?
Instead of an answer the other voice vanished. Ash heard her siblings call her name. Dyna called Kiron. Ash opened her eyes. “I’m all right. This is what I learned.” She told them of the plans the princedoms and for how he planned to replace the heirs.
Bran nodded. “We’ve already seen the start of that.”
“How so?” Dyna asked.
“Larin is the heir of Soutren and he’s with the rovers,” Ky said.
Kiron nodded. “I remember him. What about the four young men we saw in the dom’s thoughts?”
Ash drew a deep breath. “He plans to use them against us and he has no idea we have allies.”
Kiron nodded. “Who is this Sydli? Is she friend or foe?”
“I’m not sure. She does have an affinity for Air.”
Jay looked up. “I’d say friend. Dom Senet has no use for girls. At least that’s what those four said.”
“She was frightened of the dom.”
“Kiron grimaced. “I don’t blame her. One scent of his mind and I felt sick. He smelled like rotten meat.”
Ash nodded. “You are so right.” She turned to Dyna and her siblings. “Someone needs to find the doma.”
“I’ll go,” Dyna said.
“Find Zand, Val and Geni, too,” Ash said. “We’re not trained to fight the dom yet but we need to plan.”
Bran rose and followed Dyna. “I’ll make a calming tea.” Ky and Jay went with him.
Ash closed her eyes. The encounter with Dom Senet made her want to burrow into a cave. A thought arose. Had he really sensed her or had Sydli or Kiron triggered his response? There had been a question in his voice. Maybe he hadn’t been sure who had searched his thoughts.
She had to warn others like herself. She sent a call on the winds. To those with affinities for the elements, seek the Rovers. If you are in danger, they will help.
Moments later the doma and the rest of the group arrived. Ash told them what she had done and what she had learned.
Doma Jandia frowned. “I pray the message you sent reaches only those you need and not Senet and his ilk.”
Ash released a sigh. “We need them. Visiting every village and town in every princedom would take too long.”
“There is that,” the doma said. “I know you wish to start your search but the time isn’t yet.”
Ash bowed her head. While the others talked and made plans she prayed they would be granted the time they needed.