34. Unfortunate souls

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Mark began recounting the events of that day before the fire began, as the little girl had told him. "It was a normal day in the village, traders and merchants coming in to sell their goods to the people, the famers selling their produce, the girls huddled together gossiping and kids playing around. Everything was fine until a whole bunch of wolves came out of the surrounding woods, she said. She also mentioned that while it wasn't unheard of, wolf raids were highly unusual especially in their village. The people all ran to the nearest entrance to the underground shelter they had. But she and a few others ran into the woods and climbed up trees to hide from them. She claims that she saw, among the wolves, a girl whom she had seen before in the village with a huge black wolf near her."

"Well that's wrong because Athena was here and my pelt is a yellowish gold." Ryder interrupted. Athena nodded agreeing with him but hushed him to let Mark continue.

"She said that the wolves stopped what they were doing as soon as she came and that she was the one that set fire to the entire village. Not with sticks or with rocks, but with words."

"Magic." Athena whispered as she sucked in a deep breath, to which Nebulas nodded.

"That is all she knows. She and the others with her tried to find the entrances to the underground tunnels but couldn't."

"So where are the other villagers who were with her?" Matthew questioned.

"Moved to the next village. They tried to take her with them but she refused." Dreynor replied.

"Which brings us to our next problem." Interjected Matthew. "The villagers had found a very old tunnel used by fairies long ago. It was designed to be used in times of trouble, the mouth of tunnels collapsing and melding into the earth to keep us safe. We thought we had closed all of them, but we were wrong."

Athena sighed and rubbed her temples as Nebulas continued. "The people have been brought into our kingdom, but they cannot remain there for long, which is why I came to you. We will deliver them to you and even help you erase their memories before we let them leave."

Mark locked eyes with Athena, hope swirling in his eyes, begging her to agree. "Fine, Bring them here. I will see what we can do." Nebulas nodded and both he and Matthew disappeared into the shadows again, but not before Matthew gave Athena a long, hard look.

I need to settle things with him soon. She turned to look at Mark and Nebulas. "Hope prevails. They should be here in two nights time. For now, let us go rest." she told both of them, motioning them to follow her and Ryder as they took them to the Great Hall.

'We can't house many people here Athena. Most of our rooms are still taken by those who came to see your coronation.' Ryder said impatiently through their link.

'It isn't for long, Ryder. Please, this is for Mark. He has been through a lot."

'We are not an Inn taking in weary travelers!'

'But this is for family!' she exclaimed as they neared the Great Hall.

"We will find our way around, Athena. It seems that you and Ryder have something urgent you need to resolve." Dreynor's voice cut through their argument and both Ryder and Athena looked at him, a little embarrassed. "It is alright, little ones, it happens." He laughed as he walked into the Hall, Mark behind him, looking at Athena with worry filled eyes but not saying anything.

"So you want this?" Ryder continued after they had moved out of ear shot.

"You know I will do anything for my family."

Ryder sighed. "Fine. I will go ahead and try to make space. You finish whatever work you have to finish over here. We are leaving for the elven kingdom in a week. We have to get rid of your curse and then begin your training."

Athena nodded as Ryder left her and walked in the direction of the guest rooms to take into account the place left and place needed.

She made a mental note to find Adam and see how he's coping but that was to be taken care of only after she met with her father. She decided it was time for the thirteen to finally meet her father.

***

She knocked the door and stepped in when she heard her mother shout from inside.

"Hello mum." she said, jogging up to her and quickly engulfing her in a big hug.

"Athena love, be careful, the baby." She chided as she laughed and looked down at the little girl rolled in blankets.

"How is she doing?" she asked as she bent down and slowly poked the baby in her tummy.

"As well as a babe of a few days would do." Miriam replied, teasing Athena.

Rolling her eyes, she looked around the room. "Where is father?"

"In the bath. He should be out any moment now."

Nodding, Athena waited as she stood there and spoke to her mother about all the wonders she had seen here.

"Athena." Lazarus' voice boomed from behind her and she immediately froze in spot. "Will you relax? You are Queen now, and yet you act like a ten-summers-old child."

"Old habits die hard, Papa." She replied, relaxing and giving a playful look to Lazarus.

Frowning, he asked, "Why have you come down to ruin my peace today?"

"I wanted your answer to my offer to stay."

He sighed and looked at Miriam, who just looked at him approvingly. "I accept. As much as I don't want to stay here, this is the safest place for the babe."

Athena grinned, happy that her parents had decided to stay. "Would you like to meet those whom you are going to train?"

"I would like to meet the unfortunate souls that I will be training, yes." He replied, giving her a feral smile.

'Like father, like daughter.' Athena thought as she bid farewell to her mother and turned around to lead her father to the Ring.

***

Upon entering the Ring, most of the wolves stopped to look at her and her father, murmuring disapprovingly amongst themselves. Whipping around, Athena gave them a hard stare and they all hurried to get back to their training. Sighing, she shook her head and led her father to the Thirteen that were training with Lyle.

"Those are the ones." She said, pointing at the huddle in front of them that stopped their training as they saw Athena approaching them.

"Greetings, Lyle. This is Lazarus, my father. He will be training them soon."

Addressing the thirteen, she began. "Lazarus will see to your training for you to become what I want you to become. It will be hard, but I have confidence that all of you are worthy. Do not let me down."

All of them gave her a sharp nod as she turned to Lazarus. "If you need me, just send someone, I will be here as soon as I can. I am leaving now as I need to get some work done. You can observe them for today so you will know where to start with them."

"Don't tell me how to do my job, Athena." He growled.

"Of course not, Papa." She said quickly and ran towards the entrance laughing, hearing her fathers' growls fill the whole ground.

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