Chapter 29

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GEDIEL HID AT THE EDGE of the garden behind the cypress trees and shrubbery of Gragrafel's villa. The garden rested in the peaceful warmth of daylight. Just ahead stood the bed laid out for their ailing daughter upon her return. Several passings of the sun and moon and she still hadn't awakened. For two days, the flesh remained thick about her, the poison of Morgentus's barbs anchoring it tight. The pale glow of her true form returned once the clerics of Otzar removed the nails and the flesh faded. Gediel stepped back behind the portico of the house. He still felt her pressed to him, the scent filling his nose, seven days since the recovery.

Sitting on the stairs, Gediel watched the younglings of her unit coming and going from the front entrance. Nearly the whole battalion sat on the other side of the hedge wall, Mikhael, Bade, and Callidora included. League's flute carried on the breeze. They wanted to know the moment she awoke. At least that would give him cover to escape back to Elysion before she saw him.

Beside his feet, Chiron lay stretched out with a small bird in his sights. The flitting wings made his ears stand on end. He sighed and then laid his head on his front paws. The alpha wolf had grown tired of their vigil, longing for home and the packs. Gediel scratched the wolf's head, reassuring the captain it would be worth the wait.

A soft sigh was carried on a delicate breeze, tickling his senses awake. He jumped up and looked between the trees. Maiel stirred beneath the light coverings. Beside her bed, Shee jumped up to her feet. Argus licked his mistress's face and pressed himself against her and fiercely wagged his tail. Gediel's eyes blurred with tears. He knew he should leave, but he just wanted to see her face.

Maiel sat up, rubbing Argus's ears back and placing a kiss on the tip of his black nose. Her eyes glowed powerfully, full of the light that fed her. A beaming grin brightened the once shaded features. Gediel blinked, seeing the image of her on top of the basilica. A laugh bubbled from her throat. He smiled, assured at last she wouldn't fade. She was home for good.

A Sun Order soldier in a gold tunic dashed into the garden. Gediel's eyes flicked in that direction. Dominic rushed to his wife, embracing her. Gediel backed away, as their lips touched. He was no longer needed.

Chiron jumped up and followed him to the front of the house. The alarm would be raised immediately—he had to leave now. Gragrafel's house would buzz with visitors and business. To linger would only make unbearable the ache in his chest. He couldn't see her again, not with what he knew.

"Ah, Gediel!" Alex called, as he turned away from the front door to make his exit.

Gediel paused and faced her with a forced smile. Her bright features were radiantly enlivened at the return of her only daughter.

"I was just looking for you," Alex said, pulling her white robes out of the way of her steps. Her white hair hung loose over her shoulders and her black eyes sparkled like jewels. "Did you need anything dear?" she asked, noticing his troubled features.

Gediel shook his head.

"I was just leaving, as you have no more need of me," Gediel said.

"Of course you—"

The alder was cut off by a youngling who raced from the house shouting that Maiel was awake. The alarm was raised and the house went into immediate turmoil. Alex eyed him. She patted his arm and nodded.

"Thank you, though that will never be enough," she said.

Gediel placed his hand on hers and nodded. Turning his back, he and Chiron moved to take a hushed leave, but he was faced with another obstacle. Mikhael and the Moon Order officios stood paces away, including the Moon Order Praefect, Hecate, and her sister Decurio Artemis. He was suddenly reminded of the trophy in his pocket. His hand jerked toward it, but he corrected the motion and greeted his friends with forced enthusiasm.

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