Chapter 40: A New Light

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Eric Bryce woke to the familiar sounds and sights of his family's home at the al-Jahi Plantation on a small cot in his old room. They kept it for him just as he left it, but that was hardly surprising. What did surprise him were the sights he saw when he focused his mana and heightened his seeker sight. The bronze archon was nearby, and her aura shone brighter, infused with a touch of pure white mana from an archon of life.

How is that possible? he wondered.

He spotted Liam's mana – the familiar blue light glimmered not too far away – and the brilliant light of Teijurzi, though Amber's personal aura was surprisingly absent.

With a groan, Bryce pulled himself to his feet and almost swayed from dizziness. He took a moment to refresh himself before stepping from his hut and into the waning daylight, shielding his eyes from the western sun. A young boy sitting by his hut gasped as he saw the large man and raced off into the distance.

"He's awake! Ekhur is awake!" he shouted.

Within moments, Liam appeared in the doorway of a large hut his family often reserved for respected guests. Bryce strode the distance to him with long, quick steps. He wanted answers, for beyond a shadow of a doubt, he shouldn't even be alive. The last he remembered, his very soul was blown apart by Danna's eruption, and it was all he could do to hold himself together.

Liam smiled when Bryce approached, and the two men shared a brief hug. Bryce wasted no time, ushering Liam back into the hut so they could talk in private. Of all the people he knew, both of his family and his friends, Bryce trusted Liam the most to offer candid detail.

"So glad you're okay, bud. You had us worried for a while when you didn't call. We had to track you all the way to that tomb!" Liam said.

"Tomb? What tomb?" Bryce was rather curious to know how they restored him from the edge of death, and the mention of a grave grabbed his interest.

"The Tomb of Isis. The monks took you there to heal you."

"Allah!" Bryce exclaimed. To be admitted to the tomb of the goddess was honor enough. To be touched by her mana was nothing short of divine. "Tell me!"

Liam recounted the events, updating his friend on their journey through the desert to find him, and the fateful encounter inside. He finished in tears, with eyes downcast, describing the loss of his sister. Bryce put his hand on the younger man's shoulder.

"I am sorry, my brother. She was always the best of us, and we all loved her deeply," he said. "You still have me, if you need an ear to listen – or a shoulder to lean upon."

Liam nodded his thanks. "Yeah, I know." He wiped away his tears, and Bryce considered the man spent some time grieving already. "What will we do now?"

"Danna." Bryce said. "We will stand by her and guide her as she comes to understand her true nature." When Liam offered him a puzzled expression, Bryce continued, "I have seen into her heart. She will shed a new light onto the world."

"Do you really think she's Amber's daughter, and not just some archon possessing her body?"

Bryce nodded never taking his stare from Liam. "I cannot explain how it is even possible, but somehow, I believe she is both, Uncle Liam."

*****

As he walked into the hut that held the prisoner, a lump formed in his throat. He practiced what he would say a dozen times, but seeing her there, shackled to the bed, all his preparations flew from his mind. With difficulty, he restrained himself from killing her outright.

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