“It was very foolish of you to reveal yourself, “Vladia chastised Ali. “We do not yet know our enemies, and now they have seen you for who you are. You can no longer escape their gaze. They will be watching you always.”
Ali nodded his head silently and walked in pace with the white wizard. Ali never knew what to think of Vladia: her alabaster face and white-blond hair always hidden beneath her large hood, her clear blue eyes watching everywhere. The tattoo she possessed under her right eye was equally disconcerting as her character: strange and hypnotic, Ali would swear that it was magic; yet, his vast bardic knowledge could not place the arcane symbols. The moonlight made her appearance even more disconcerting.
“I did not wish to forfeit life or limb, m’lady. I serve the King, even in his death, as I do my priestess of the moon; but I cannot do such things being dead, yes?”
Vladia was silent on the matter. Then Ali spoke:
“How is Avatnor? The stars have told me that he had returned not long ago.”
“Returned and departed,” Vladia said heavily. “He spoke briefly with Ser Eric then left as quickly as he came. A pity, really—I have greatly desired his council as of late.”
“Indeed, milady?” Ali was thoughtful for a second.
“Things are moving which are beyond my sight. The future has always been a cloud, cloaking the shifting waters of reality. Now clouds have turned to storm, and the reality which it hides is more turbulent than ever it was. The pieces are already moving, even if the board is not yet set. I cannot see the pieces themselves, much less the outcome.”
“And what game do we play now that our King piece is dead?”
Ali and Vladia turned off the road to a small inn. Hooked onto a tree was a black horse, finee cloths adorned its back and a well oiled saddle shone brightly in the moonlight. A nervous stableboy stood quietly by the magnificent steed.
“We play a different game, my friend. And create our own rules.” Vladia thanked the stableboy and produced a silverpiece for his troubles.
“You never answered my first question, m’lady. How is Avatnor?”
Vladia’s pale face was impassive and cold.
“He is weak and afraid.” Vladia handed the reigns to Ali before she began walking down the road again. “I tell you because you are a friend, and perhaps you might still be able to help him. Do not let our enemies know, else you will have to suffer me.”
Ali was still for a moment and considered her warning before he mounted his noble Rakaan.
“May the stars guide you, Lady Vladia. We will meet again, I hope.”
Vladia did not turn to return his farewell.