Robert is about to use his last resort to escape when suddenly a man goes down right in front of him, clinging on a chain and a hook. He delivers a single thrust with a rapier sword on his hand, and it pierces through the harpy clinging on Robert’s shoulder like a shish-kebab, pushes it off and away from Robert and retracts his rapier. The thick chain almost knocks Robert over, but before it does, in split seconds the man hooks the chain on Paeldagrin’s saddle, takes out a flare tube from the pocket in his shirt and shoots the flare up into the air.
Robert recognizes the man almost immediately. He is Don Hernan y Parvaez, the adventuring fencer from Escudia. He still has his handsome, charismatic looks, no different than he was in Enia’s Sanctum two years ago. He smiles at Robert, a typical smile from his handsome face with beautifully trimmed moustache and beard – not the kind of smile he always uses to woo ladies, though.
Before Robert can thank him or ask him about his timely rescue, both of them and Paeldagrin are tugged up in the air. An ent closest to them swings its branch and misses Robert and Hernan thoroughly, while the others are still persistent on attacking them. But it’s too late. They are already hanging up high in the air, pulled and tugged by the vessel right above them. It’s the large airship invented by Eidos Crydias of Parthenia that looks like Algaban on its bow.
‘Aurora,’ says Robert in awe. ‘It’s such a wonder of it being here now.’
Hernan replies, ‘Aye, Robert. It’s a wonder all right. Let’s just say... Vadis sent us here to save you. He is to blame of all these pretty coincidences.’
‘Praise Vadis. Paeldagrin, be calm, we’re out of danger now. Look, you’re a pegasus now. You’re flying!’
The rumbling, angry voices below them are still echoing, swearing revenge to the ones already flying away, seeing the beautiful scenery of the vast Black Forest of Natahir and the sunset that perfects the scene.
Robert, Hernan and Paeldagrin are just aboard the Aurora when Eidos Crydias the old chronomage and the captain of Aurora Airship, the centaur Quazar greet them.
‘Welcome aboard, Robert. By Vadis’ grace, we meet again,’ says Eidos.
‘Well, certainly Vadis has lots to do with our encounter, Sir Eidos,’ says Robert in a curious tone. ‘But how did you find us? And you searched for us on purpose, didn’t you?’
Captain Quazar replies calmly, ‘We’ll explain it all to you, you can be sure of that. For now, Hernan will show you your quarters and you and your horse need to be healed first.’
Twenty minutes later, Robert and Hernan are sitting together in Robert’s room on the deck. Robert is sitting on his bed, resting. The wounds on his shoulders, arms and leg are almost fully healed now, thanks to Eidos’ healer on the ship. Then there’s a knock on the door. Hernan opens it, and Eidos comes in with a ship crew carrying a tray of bread, fruits and a goblet of water. Robert is about to get up as Eidos says,
‘Please, just stay where you are. Just eat your fill while we fill you with all the things you need to know.’
It’s rude to decline this, Robert thinks. He just sits on the bed, picks a slice of bread from the tray on the small table on the bedside, and eats while listening to Eidos’ explanations carefully.
‘You see, Robert, actually we were called by the Pope to gather in Valanis. There were some things developed in Aurelia recently that moved the Pope to gather us all again, this time for a meeting in the Basilica Vadisium in Ascension. She needs to disclose something and enlighten us about the current proceedings, and confer with us to establish proper actions to handle this situation.
I and my friends arrived in Ascension quickly by the Aurora. Your friends were already there, but you were not with them. We asked Andreas and he told us the entire story. As Alexis, Kyflynn and his party have not arrived yet, we volunteered to search and pick you up en route. Of course, as usual, Lord Adler didn’t come with us. The Pope’s spies informed us that you were on the way to Valanis, so we traced the path you might take to get here.
When we went past Natahir Forest, we saw some harpies there, flying up and down, attacking something. As we felt odd things about their foul presence in that forest, far from their natural habitat, we inspected closer. And there you were, wounded, weakened and deep in trouble. We came for rescue, and you know the rest.’
‘Well, thank you, my friend. You saved my life out there,’ says Robert earnestly but still coolly.
‘Oh, that’s okay. The most important thing is whatever action we’ll going to take next, we are stronger now that you’re here. And we better set aside whatever rivalries we have in the past and work together again, right, Hernan?’
‘You got it, Eidos. The Enia Sanctum Squad reunites.’
‘Yeah,’ says Robert. ‘Something big is going to be disclosed, and now we have one more thing to add to that.’
SNEAK PEEK: Excerpt of Chapter 2 (Merit) from Soleri by Michael Johnston (Excerpt Intro by Michael Johnston) - Fantasy Book Critic is excited to welcome Michael Johnston to our blog. Michael Johnston is the author of *Soleri*, which will be published June 13, 20...
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