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There wasn't much time for stories after that. Around noon the ceiling of dark clouds opened with a crack of lightning and poured rain on the six companions. Nisvārtha hadn't flown in rain for many years and knew that the water mixed with the chill of the high altitude would not bode well for the unshifted riders.

Nisvārtha looked ahead to the peak of the Spine. It was close, but not close enough. They still had a few hours before they reached the gates of the Temple.

Suruli, Nisvārtha called. Can you shield us from this storm?

I am afraid not, she replied. This storm is readying the land for winter, I do not have the strength to both fly and hold it at bay, it would take a whole flock of phoenixes to try such a thing.

They rain poured down mercilessly, Nisvārtha could feel the shivers coming from Kendra and looked ahead to see the others were not much better off.

The winds were strong, making their flight stretch even longer than he had hoped. Thunder and lightning struck randomly about, splitting the air with flashes and leaving the scent of ozone strong in Nisvārtha's nose.

It was early evening when the gates of the Temple were spotted, only Suruli could see them through the rain so she led the way.

Kendra, are you alright? Nisvārtha asked, worried that the freezing rain and air might make her ill.

I'm fine, she said. Nothing dry clothes and a cup of tea won't cure.

They landed and Suruli let out a shrill cry that had several men and women come to the gates and open them. Everyone was led along a path to the main church and ushered inside out of the rain.

A few scurried off to grab extra clothes and one tall young man looked at them all. "Who is in charge?"

I am, Nisvārtha said wearily, the warmth of the indoors making him feel his exhaustion. Please take care of my friends and I would appreciate it if someone could take me to the Temple Master.

The young phoenix nodded, "Of course, sir. Let us get you some clothes first and your friends will be shown to some rooms."

Nisvārtha thanked him as the others returned with dry clothes for the unshifted. He shifted and pulled on the drawstring pants and loose shirt before moving to follow the young man who would lead him to the Temple Master.

"Wait," Nisvārtha turned to see Havala approaching, she had shed Śarat's clothes and remained in her usual leggings and robe. "You are not going alone."

Nisvārtha sighed, "I will be fine, you should go with the others and get some rest."

"Nisvārtha, if anyone needs rest around here it is you," she snapped. "But I understand you have responsibilities as clan leader, so like it or not I am coming with you. Even if only to be sure you do not collapse from exhaustion."

Nisvārtha sighed again, "Fine." And motioned for their guide to continue.

"Master Garuda is in the library," the young phoenix said as he led them through the church and to the right.

"I appreciate your help," Nisvārtha said. "What is your name?"

"Gari, sir. Gari Robins."

Nisvārtha frowned, he knew that name. Looking again at the brown skinned, brown haired boy, he realized where he had seen his face before. He shook his head, that information could be dealt with at another time, now he had to prepare for Master Garuda.

They entered the doors to the library, a magnificent collection of every book, scroll, and letter that had been saved from the destruction of the war. There were many levels and each was decorated with beautiful carpets, elegant furniture, and lit by the fires of many candles, lanterns and hearths.

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