Chapter 3: The Malachi fortress

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It was not far from Damakis City to the Malachi fortress. By wagon, it was a journey that took only a few days, since Lex pushed the horses to their limit. Essie was anxious to get to the fortress as soon as possible, especially if the guardians had managed to pick up their trail. They were nearly there.

"Ahmed, I've been meaning to ask you something. Two things, actually." Oscar said.

"Always with the questions." Ahmed groaned. "Curiosity killed the cat, you know."

"Good thing I'm human, then. Did you know about the Malachi before this?"

He frowned, as if he could tell where the question was going. "Yes, I did. When I first ventured back into the world I had been shut off from, the first thing I did was seek out Madame Jade, as you know. And she pointed me in their direction. While I have never been in their direct contact, I have made use of their resources from time to time."

Essie made a 'hmph' sound. "Our 'resources' are not for you to use as you please. Those are people, soldiers. I don't care who you are, no one uses us."

Ahmed made a placating gesture. "Peace. I didn't mean it like that. I only meant that your people have helped me out of a tight spot or two." Essie looked mostly mollified, but still a little irritated.

Oscar narrowed his eyes. "So, if you knew about the Malachi, then why didn't you do anything back there in the forges? When we were being confined, questioned for information on the Malachi, those magic users were perfectly ready to kill us if we didn't give them their information. And you had that information this whole time."

Ahmed didn't deny it. He looked Oscar straight in the eye. "If I had given that information freely, they would have just killed us afterwards anyway. Not to mention I would be endangering the lives of the Malachi soldiers. You are an important part of this fight, Oscar Escalante, but you are not the only part."

Oscar felt a little guilty now that he saw the selfishness of what he had said, but he still glared at Ahmed. A tense moment followed, but the silence and stares were broken when a loud snore was heard coming from Dare, who had fallen asleep slumped on the floor of the wagon. Oscar had to chuckle.

"And what was your other question?" Ahmed asked, more curiously than demanding.

Oscar had meant to ask this question days ago, but being ambushed had put the question out of his mind. It had to do with the dream he had a few nights ago, and the dreamwalker in it. Silas.

He chose his words carefully. "You said to Silas that there was something of importance in his destiny, that he was part of something larger. What did you mean?"

Ahmed looked momentarily surprised. "Those words were spoken in confidence, Oscar. You have good senses, but I don't recall your ears being quite that sharp." He gave Oscar a knowing look. "Has Silas contacted you?"

Oscar nodded. "A few nights ago. And he said he would again, but he never did. I am worried for him."

Ahmed nodded sagely. "I worry for him too. He faces dangers, and not only from the magic users but from himself as well. I know how revenge can corrupt someone, and I could see it corrupting him. But there was nothing that we could have done to deter him," Ahmed shrugged. "In the end, everyone must have the right to choose their own path. He chose his."

Oscar thought about this for a moment, then replied. "You still haven't answered my question."

"I don't know the answer to it myself. There was a rumour...nothing but the whisper of a story, a glimpse of vision...that the child born with the gift of dreamwalking would be a part of great change in the world. That he or she would come through bloodshed and grief, and overcome it with a greater power." Ahmed shrugged again. "That is as much as I know on the subject. But I do know that the magic users have been searching for him. Perhaps they know his true purpose."

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