30: Elossai's Insight

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7/14/3028

I entered the room and saw Elossai resting on a bed of leaves. The whole room was inundated by a minty and herbal aroma, just like Martin's room when I first came to the mansion. I made sure to shut the door behind me, so no one would overhear us. At the click of the door closing, Elossai sat up.

"Ellis Ann," she said, cheerfully.

"How are you feeling now?" I sat next to her on the bed of leaves.

Elossai's complexion had improved significantly. She wasn't gray anymore, and the bruises on her face had mostly faded with only a scab left on her cheek.

"I am much better now. I still have to wait another week before I'm allowed to leave my nest. How is Martin's health?"

"He's back to normal and it's all thanks to you, Elossai."

"That's wonderful! I am most pleased to hear such news," she beamed.

"You know, he feels really guilty about what happened."

"He should not—please tell him that I place no blame on him."

"He doesn't understand why you took on his injuries, and to be honest, I don't actually understand either."

"Because he is your friend," she said with a smile. It was that simple to her. Just because he was my friend, she would risk her own life to save him. I bit my lower lip and tried to fight the tears forming.

"Ellis Ann, are you alright?"

"I'm fine. I'm glad to see you're doing a lot better." I sniffled. "I hope it's not too much to ask right now, but..."

"Yes?"

"Can you read Sye?"

"Yes, of course. What is it you wish for me to read?" She straightened her back attentively.

"I actually wanted you to read something carved into this chest that I have, but since I can't go back to get it, can you read the writings on my neck and back instead?"

Elossai touched her mouth with a confused expression, but agreed, nonetheless. I unzipped my dress and held my hair up, revealing my back to her.

"All paths lead you to our destiny," said Elossai.

"Our destiny? Are you sure there isn't a misprint or something?" I asked.

"Sye is my mother tongue," she said. "All paths lead you to our destiny, is exactly what is written."

"What about the one on my back?"

Elossai shook her head. "It is not written in Sye," she said. I tried hopelessly to look over my shoulder to see it. "It is written in one of the Ankin languages; most likely from western Ankinia."

"Can you read it?"

"I cannot. I don't recall you having these marks on you before..." Elossai continued to examine my back.

"If it's a western Ankin language, could it possibly be from Mór? Mór was the last place Sye-Liene was seen."

"You are right." Elossai's eyes sparkled. "There must be some connection there."

"Were you in Mór with Sye-Liene?"

"No, she specifically asked me to remain in Incus. She said it was a routine trip and that she would return in thirteen days from the tour."

I nodded, twisting my lips to one side. "Someone must have helped carve the writing there. It's impossible to do it on your own—I can't even see it." I demonstrated by turning to look over my back.

"We shall get it translated when we get the chance."

"If it's alright, I'd like to keep this just between us and Martin."

"Of course," Elossai said with a bow. She then shifted, leaning in attentively. "What about this chest you speak of? Would you like me to go to your room to see it?"

"No, you need to rest, Elossai. I'll come back another day."

"Is it possible for you to return tomorrow?" Elossai's eyes flashed with eagerness for a second before she suddenly clasped her hands together. "Of course, if it isn't too much trouble for you?"

We hadn't seen each other in nine days, but it felt like it had been much longer. Perhaps no one else except the nurse was allowed in to see her and she had no one to keep her company.

"I'll do my best," I answered, standing up.

"Could you bring Martin along?" She looked down and stroked the ends of her long braid. "What I mean is... I haven't seen him in such a long time, and it would be nice to see him also."

I smiled. "I'll see what I can do."

***

Everyone else was completely occupied with entertaining the leaders, so I ate dinner alone. After dinner, I was instructed by Drea to change into another outfit for the meeting. I didn't have a choice of dress this time. Everything that wasn't covered by the dress was covered by either my gloves or my veil. It was probably a wise precaution against the leaders spotting the physical differences between me and Sye-Liene.

The dress I wore earlier that day was in a mound on the floor where I'd left it. The bouquet the elderly woman gave me was on the desk. I thought about the packet and though I was curious, I left it where it was.

Look at it later, Ellis. You need to be focused on tonight.

I skimmed through Elorian Geography for the last time, but it was extremely difficult for me to concentrate. I didn't like the idea that I was covered head to toe to hide my appearance; nevertheless, I knew it had to be done. The Ankins needed this. Martin needed this. Keiran needed this.

When I heard the knock on my door, I knew it was time. It was probably Stanjah, ready to quiz me the whole way to the meeting room—the last thing I needed. With dread, I opened the door.

"Liene, are you ready?" It was Keiran who stood at my door.

Seeing Keiran instead of Stanjah made me feel better, but I couldn't shake my qualms about misleading the kings by concealing my appearance. I wished that we could tell them about the changes and everyone would still be on the same page. Deep down I knew it'd never work—they would find my odd eyes offensive. Dunek Anmus and his counsel must have thought this through and came to the same conclusion.

I have to be ready.

I straightened my back. "Let's go."

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