XLII - A Discourse Between the Faithful

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I'm surprised when I land smack in the middle of Hagne's tent. On the whole, she handles my sudden arrival well, but she does upend the small bottle of ink she is refilling.

"I'm sorry!" I cry, picking myself up from the floor, upon which I had tumbled during my arrival. "I told Eris I needed to speak with you and I wrongly assumed she would just send me to the outskirts of the camp."

Hagne glares at me from under her crooked, dark brows. "You should have known she would have found this...this intrusion more 'fun'." She wipes her ink-stained hands onto a rag and sighs in frustration when it only does a partial job of cleaning up.

I laugh, nodding at the peculiarity of this moment and Hagne's unhumorous read of Eris' whims. "Perhaps."

An awkward silence fills the tent. I've never hand a private, one-on-one audience with Hagne — her moods and disposition edge on being temperamental and jealous. She worships Eris resentfully, watching her every move with a hawkish eye and a sour frown. Still, there is no denying her loyalty and devotion to the cult of the goddess or her position as the de facto leader of the caravan. I will have to find a way to play nice.

Thankfully, Hagne takes control, "Where are Eris and Xanthos?"

"Back at the palace. Where I should be, really. Eris and I are under arrest for posing a threat to the safety and stability of Yehparnath. Xanthos is undercover in the court, trying to get information."

"So everything is going well?" She drawls. The slightest blush of clandestine amusement trips through her words, brightening their darkness with unexpected lilac luster.

I snort, "Not at the moment, no. But we are hoping you can help."

"How?" Hagne crosses her arms, rolling her eyes. She realizes too late that she's left black handprints on her white robe.

"There is going to be a trial, for Eris and me. Xanthos too, if they can ever uncover him. We need the testimony of you and the others in the camp to prove that there has been no coercion, no bad faith in recruiting followers."

"I thought we couldn't pass through the borders of Yehparnath without being considered enemies of the state? What about the armies? Aren't they still a threat?" Hange asks, her voice more animated and words strung together quicker than I've ever heard.

"Eris is working on that," I reply grimly.

"Are you two actually prisoners? Or is this some kind of vanity exercise?"

I bark out a dry laugh, "The odds are in our favor. Eris and I both have powers and no one else does. So...yes, it's probably just a practice of formality that we are 'prisoners'."

Hagne squints, reducing me to a pile of insecurity and sheepishness with such a simple tightening of her eyes. "You both have powers, and yet you submitted to arrest anyway?"

"What can I say. The woman is mad." A tremor in my throat forces me to stop talking. I remember her rejection, the cold refusal in her eyes. I breathe normally yet feel as if I am suffocating on the arid, desert air. A few, pinpricking tears spring up in my eyes. I clear my throat and force the emotion down — commanding myself to regain control.

When Hagne speaks next she is quieter, gentler, "Thankfully what you're asking for is something that can be provided. There are thousands of people here who will testify on both of your behalfs."

"Do you—" I clear my throat again, ensuring my feelings are in check. "That is...I know our followers will stand up for Eris. She healed them and gave them blessings. But...do you think they will testify for me as well?"

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