37: Reconnaissance

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The glow grew brighter and the sheer power made Blayre's eyes water as she crept through the smooth tunnel, knees drawn up to her chest. If only you could see me now, father. She thought wryly. This is taking the whole "You are a wolf" thing way too seriously.

There had been a time when she and Seaver had pretended they were wolves, crawling around on all fours and howling at each other as they "fought" over a large pile of dirt and stone not far from Blumore Castle. The rules had been that you couldn't talk other than snarls, barks and howls. And you certainly could not walk on two legs.

She was amused, despite the situation at hand, to find that she could still creep around like this with ease. And even more amused to think about how it had come in handy. She could move softly and quietly like this, and if she was unlucky enough for the mages to spot her before she was ready, they would hopefully think her an animal crouched in the shadows.

She wasn't an animal. But she was a predator hunting them.

Murmured voices could be heard as she moved closer and closer to the source of the light. As she rounded one more corner, she flattened herself completely to the ground, inching forward on her belly. She found herself worrying over the streaks of dirt and dust that would surely mark her tunic and pants from dragging them along the floor, and then had to suppress a giggle as she remembered that her clothing was already covered with layers of dirt. Clearly I need sleep.

Blayre couldn't see past a stone outcropping. Silhouetted against the blue glow, she could make out something that looked both serpentine and bat-like in nature. A dragon statue, she presumed. She pulled herself up to a crouch, gripping the statue for support, and felt the same smooth stone beneath her fingers. It was likely chiseled right into the stone, the delicately carved lines of its bat-like wings felt almost alive and writhing beneath her fingers.

"I think you said the spell wrong. It's supposed to jus' be released from the ward 'round it." Murmured a low gravelly male voice, reminding Blayre that she should be focusing on the task at hand. She stilled, listening more closely to the two male voices up ahead.

"I did it exactly as it said to." Said the other male voice - a whiny nasally sound that she immediately disliked.

"Let me try," Said Gravelly Voice, frustration saturating his tone.

"No, you're too drained and I'm already doing it exactly the way the instructions say." Snapped Nasally Voice.

"Well perhaps the instructions are outdated." Said Gravelly voice. "Just let me try."

There was some fumbling, and Blayre dared a look between the arch of the dragon statue's neck and the peak of its wings. The two mages were just about playing tug of war with the fragile looking tome they had in their possession.

"Stop it!" Nasally voice said - he was tall and blond-haired with a long straight nose. Far more attractive than his voice made him seem. He smacked at the other man's larger hands, and Gravelly Voice glared at him from below bushy brown brows, his rosy mouth forming a firm line within the rough curls of a beard.

"Ugh," Said Nasally Voice, plopping into a sitting position that made him look like a dejected scarecrow, with the book on his lap. "If Caval hadn't taken that other book...." He wrung his hands in his shirt. "I know he was doing research, behind our backs. I bribed his servant and the man said Caval was charming stuff - 'very suspicious-like', he said." He rubbed one long-fingered hand down his grimy face. "There must be something he knows that we don't."

"Or maybe you're just doin' it wrong." repeated Gravelly Voice. The blond mage shot him a dark look that could melt glass. Gravelly voice cleared his throat, and amended, "Well, doesn't help now. Obviously hasn't come lookn' yet." He sat down beside the blond one.

With both of them out of the way she had a clear view of what they had been trying to work magic on.

It had been placed in a glowing nest of blue gemstones. Those stones - crystals - Blayre amended, were the source of the blue light. The crystals looked much like the ones that she had seen numerous times. The object was large and egg shaped, multidimensional in rainbow color, appearing to have iridescent scales.

It had to be a dragon egg, she realized. If only she could reach out and touch it - she strongly suspected it was the source of the magic she was feeling. But could all that ancient and powerful magic be coming from one egg? Perhaps it was the crystals... she couldn't tell what purpose they served, surrounding the egg like that. Magically incubating it? Preserving it more likely.

She should go back to Caval so they could formulate a plan. And these mages - she hadn't been mistaken back in the forest when she had noted that look of recognition on her friend's face. They knew him just as well as he likely knew them. Perhaps they had been apprentice sorcerers together.

She was slowly turning herself to crawl back through the tunnel when they started speaking again. "Twelve hells with Caval. Going behind Conal's back all the time. I should be next in line to be Crown Sorcerer. Not that foreigner." He spat. Ah, Blayre realized. They were fellow competitors to be next in line - though it seemed Caval had become an early favorite to Conal, which was resulting in a bit of a power struggle.

Blayre pressed her back up against the base of the dragon statue so she could continue to listen.

Gravelly voice - it sounded like him - let out a snort, as if to say he didn't quite believe that Conal would ever select Nasally Voice to be his next-in-line. Some pair they made.

"I heard them talking about marrying him to that Seeker bitch. The one tha's always hangin' around Duke Rorrick."

Blayre's eyes narrowed at this and she stilled, a coldness sweeping through her flesh.

"How do you know that?" Nasally voice demanded. So glad you asked, Blayre thought, I'd like to know the same thing. Who else would it be but her? She twisted so she was peering over the statue again.

"I uh, overheard Conal in his suites. Before he called me in. He was talking with that Lonan fellow. They said," And here his voice dipped low as though he was making sure the ancient cave walls and dragon egg couldn't overhear such top secret information. Little did he know, the woman he was talking about was on the other side of an outcropping.

"They said she's got Tribal blood - and a strange ability that only comes once in a while in the tribes. And if he could get Caval to breed with 'er..." He made an obscene gesture, and a disgusting, hungry grin broke out on his bearded face. "They'd produce an offspring that could help take over all the Continent."

Blayre felt severe anger and betrayal all at once. And more so when Nasally Voice spoke.

"They don't need Caval for that." He scoffed, "I'd produce a child just as powerful if I got my hands on her."

She felt completely ill at that. Speaking of her as though she were no more than a prize mare for breeding. She held back a gag. Had Caval known this? The Caval she knew was calm and compassionate. He was clever to a fault, and he had been a good friend.

But that cleverness - was he using it to get to her while she was unsuspecting? Was he going along willingly with some plan crafted by Conal? But no... he was involved in the rebellion. Unless he was doing reconnaissance work... Drats, Blumore, stop overthinking.

But she remembered Lonan's words, saying that she'd be better suited to the sorcerer than to Rory, and an uneasy feeling settled over her stomach.

And then, lost as she was in red rage and disgust, she sneezed.


A/N: 

A few things: 

Dedicating this chapter to 

because sneezes XD

I have another chapter that is almost complete that I will be posting toward the end of the week (I could have had more written, but confess that I got super distracted because I wrote a random scene that likely won't show up until pretty far into book 2... oy 

I'm entering UNMARKED into the 2017 Watty's!

Wish me luck!

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