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Chapter Four

Orus and Alys had decided to take the arrival of Hahn and the other two strangers as a cue to leave. They hadn't gotten far enough away before they heard their father lay into one of the strangers. The children didn't like to get caught up in 'adult' conversations. None of the adults would ever take the time to explain things.

"Who do you think those two with Hahn are, Alys?"

"Well, the woman I don't know for sure. The guy, I think is Rune."

"You mean the one dad calls his thorn?"

"Yeah. He had a weight over him. Almost like he carried all of Algo on his shoulders."

The children continued walking. Before too long they found themselves in Zelan's main control room. They both stared at all the screens and equipment with awe. They began to examine the controls and screens. They were careful not to touch anything, just look.

Then the children heard footsteps. They turned to where the noise was coming from. Their mother was standing in the doorway. A stunned and confused look on her face.

Alys, being the boldest and most direct of the two siblings wasted no time. "What's wrong, mom?"

"Our vacation is going to get cut a little short, kids. Chaz and I have a lot of work to do on Motavia and Dezolis. We wanted to know if you would mind staying here with Demi."

"Actually," Alys began, "We wanted to go with you and dad. Birth Valley is where Seed is buried, isn't it? And we still want to see Kyra on Dezolis. So, we are coming."

"You can't come along. We don't know how dangerous it will be."

Orus jumped in at this point. "So what you're saying is that you and pop can risk your lives for dead family members but we can't risk ours for living ones. And don't pull the 'age makes a difference' crud. Dad was only three years older than me when he faced The Profound Darkness and a year younger than Alys. We ARE going along. You didn't raise us to hide from the world, nor did you raise us to be less than we are. We're members of the House of Ashley. That means risk comes with the name."

"I hate to say it, Rika. But, he's right. We raised them to be a part of the world and share in our family's heritage."

Chaz had managed to sneak up behind Rika. His face was cold and serious.

"They can come along," Chaz said. "But, only if they want to. We leave for Aiedo in half an hour. Then we're of to Piata."

* * * * *

The dark figure had finally gathered all the information that was available on his targets. Unfortunately, he did not have all the information he desired. He still did not know all he could about Rune Walsh. His ties to the Espers were deep but, extremely secretive. He hated not having the whole story.

He made his way to his transport. It was a short distance shuttle with a stealth device. The craft could travel without being heard or seen. He had designed it himself over a thousand years ago. A time when he willingly served humans. Now that they had proven to be such a fatalistic species, he had decided they no longer deserved to be custodians of Algo. That needed to be put into more capable hands. His hands.

His personal communicator began to beep in his mechanical ear. He simply touched his ear and said, "Go ahead, Ty."

"Yes, sir. I am sending you addition information. These are the available files on Niya Stellat. I thought you may find them of use. They will be sent directly to your shuttle's computer."

"Excellent. I had neglected to request any information on her. Thank you for taking appropriate measures. Oh, and send a welcoming committee to Birth Valley. I want to gage the abilities of my targets. ProFIRE Out."

He boarded his shuttle and began his pre-flight checks. All the systems checked out perfectly. It was a miracle that the shuttle had survived. The shuttle lifted off and took a course for Dezolis. More specifically, the weapons plant.

* * * * *

Chaz, Rune, Rika, Wren, Niya, Hahn, and the children boarded the Landale. Wren and Rika took the controls. Chaz tool a seat in the back. He wanted time to think about things. The rest of the group took seats with one another. The children were busy trying to learn what they could of Niya.

"So you trained at the Fighters' Praxium," Alys asked.

"Yes, I had several instructors that were not happy to see me graduate. They wanted another chance to beat me. I told them tough luck."

"What were your chosen areas of fighting? Hand to hand, sword play, heavy weapons, or multiple opponents?"

"All."

Orus whistled at Niya's answer.

As the children continued asking Niya about her past, Rune walked over to Chaz. Chaz's face was solemn.

"Lot to think about, huh," Rune asked Chaz.

"You know, I spent the better part of two years trying to learn to live without Alys. If not for Rika and the kids, I think I would have gone nuts. Now you drop in out of the blue and say you may have found a way to bring her back. I don't know what to say."

"Really? I didn't know there was anything to think about."

"Twenty years, Rune. Even if all her memories are intact it's been twenty years. All her friends have moved on or died. She would have to rebuild her life. I can't imagine what I would do or how I would feel. Would it be right not only for her but right by her?"

"Hmm. I never thought of it like that. Would Alys approve of being brought back? Chaz, I never gave you credit for being a deep thinker. You just shot that notion dawn."

"Let's take it down to a simpler level. When Alys died, by law as her partner all her property became mine. Her house is now my house. Where would she stay? What about any laws concerning this? Would her property revert back to her? If so, where would my family stay? Would she even approve of my family?"

Rune picked up on the last question. Was that Chaz's real reason for his hesitance? Was he afraid that Alys would not approve of Chaz marrying Rika and having children?

"What do I do, Rune?"

"I can't tell you. I know if it were solely up to me I wouldn't hesitate. But, it's your decision, Chaz. You knew Alys better than I did. If anyone would know if Alys wanted to come back it would be you."

Chaz was about to respond when Wren announced, "We are about to enter the atmosphere of Motavia. I suggest you strap in."

The passengers of the Landale did as Wren had told them. The ship began to shake as it was buffeted by the atmosphere. Several of the passengers were thrown against their restraints as the ship's shaking got worse. Then, the shaking stopped.

"We will be arriving at Aiedo in just a few minutes. Please remain buckled up."

After a few minutes, the ship began to slow. Everyone felt a heavy thump as the Landale touched down. Everyone removed their restraints and headed for the door. The first thing that Chaz saw when the door opened was that Wren had set down only a few dozen yards away from the gates of the city.

The group of adventurers entered and went directly to Chaz's home. There he and his family quickly gathered their weapons, armor, and some supplies.

Niya looked around the house. She found a painting hung near the fireplace. The woman in the painting had a quiet strength. Niya looked at the picture with mild disgust. Reminders of the woman that took the heart of her fiancee.

"You know, she never meant to steal Rune from you," Rika said quietly.

"And how would you know, girl?"

Rika walked over to a cabinet and opened one of the doors. Inside the cabinet were a line of books with dates for titles. Rika pulled out one of the books. If the date on it was accurate the book was over twenty-five years old. Rika opened the book to a page roughly a third of the way through. She then handed the book to Niya.

"This is how I know. Chaz let me read these after we got married. I had always thought of Alys as a good hunter and a decent person but nothing more. I really didn't get to know Alys until I read her journals. She really is more than you think."

Niya took the book and read the page that Rika had selected. The page was hand written. Alys had a very simple and clean script hand writing.

I do not like the events of the past months here on Dezolis. My relationship with Rune has taken an odd turn. Though I do have strong feelings for him, he is engaged to another woman. Rune has admitted his feelings to me and they are more than a strong friendship. I cannot, even if I so desired, come between two people. I fear I must leave before doing and further damage to his relationship. I only hope he can reconcile his feelings and continue with Niya. Tomorrow, I will have one of the other Espers teleport me to Motavia. I will miss Rune's friendship.

"Rika. Niya," Chaz called.

At the sound of Chaz's voice Niya quickly tucked the journal under her armor.

"Niya and I are almost ready."

"Make it quick. We're leaving."

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