Chapter 23: The Star's Shadow

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"Which journey is greater for any being of destiny?

The physical journey of obstacles and barriers

That bends the hero until they learn strength?

Or the mental journey of thought and decision

That twists the hero until they learn resolution?"

- from Jerald Ironstorm's personal journal 

Carefully Dezi scrubbed her fingers through her short shorn white hair, giving it body after drying it with a thick towel the Lusinoran embassy staff had provided her for her bath. Once she was satisfied with how it sat, she reached out and with a hand, wiped off the condensation off the small mirror she had brought with her into the semi-private baths the embassy had for special visitors

The baths themselves were a simple affair, a cluster of four stone-lined tubs set into a dark tiled floor, separated by low privacy walls and contained within a large tiled room near the rear of the embassy's main building. Slit windows for privacy, let in enough light to augment that cast by sealed lamps which stood in each corner of the chamber and two fireplaces, at the north and south ends of the room, were for when the weather was cold. Today, near the heart of summer, they were cold.

Set into the privacy walls were hand pumps; one to pull cold water from an underground cistern, and one to pull hot from a great metal boiler kept filled to the brim from the cistern and over continually burning fires near the embassy's kitchen. With these, any bath user could adjust the temperature of the water in the individual tubs to whatever they wished.

Today Dezi wanted her bath hot. Hot enough to scrub away the feeling she had done something wrong by listening to her heart and breaking into Shawn's family tomb in the Glory to retrieve his body in violation of sacred elven law. Or was it the fact she used forbidden magic, magic that still held the taint of the darkness filling the imperial breeding pits her people were born in, in creating the lithocoer? For it was a device half shadow and half light, made specifically for necromancy, a foul practice embraced by the empire at the end to extend the size of its failing armies.

Despite the fact she used it to extend the life on the man she so desperately, and secretly loved, its necromantic origins still made her feel filthy. So Dezi had filled her tub with near boiling water and the room with steam and condensation in the hopes of scrubbing it away, the steam only now beginning to dissipate.

One look at her bright, violet eyes dancing happily and the undisguised joy on her face at having Shawn back, both revealed with the condensation wiped from the mirror, was enough to make Dezi sigh even as she silently asked herself those questions.

<<I blaspheme, so I can listen to my heart,>> she husked, casting her eyes down onto her bare feet, visible from the end of the massive towel swaddling her lithe and fit body. 'I wonder what they will do to me when they catch me. Behead me? Or hang me?' She sighed again and put the mirror down to finish her morning's preparations.

In reality, it mattered little what consequences her actions would bring; she would do them all again, if it meant bringing Shawn back to the world of the living. And now that his denial of her planned course of action had thrown their machinations into chaos, she found herself already deciding to do whatever it took to help Shawn reach the destiny he claimed had found him during his long days on the other side of Death.

So she was already formulating what she would say to her trio of co-conspirators to convince them to turn away from their plan to take Shawn north to the wild elves as she strode down a corridor towards the room Feladorn had set aside for meeting some thirty turns of the glass later. Dezi turned a corner and smiled with the unexpected but welcome sight of seeing Feladorn walking towards her, a grim expression on his face.

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