Camon and Achara enjoyed eating skewers of mutton and vegetables from a local street vendor after the art museum. It was just afternoon when they finished eating with the sun straight overhead. While the day was bright, it was also cool and breezy, making staying outside enjoyable for the many people eating outdoors rather than indoors. Achara was still reflecting on the spire experience with magic. She had never felt magic like that before. Feeling it for the first time working on her rather than through her left her feeling lightheaded but full of wonder about magic. After finishing the skewers, they climbed back up to the courtyard with the cathedral and the Ministry of Healers. They again passed through the Healers at the front door and back up to the room where they had brought Ratana. Camon knocked gently on the door and waited for someone to open it. A few seconds later, Lamai opened the door and welcomed Camon and Achara back in.
Ratana was sitting up in her bed, smiling and talking with Rune, who was sitting next to the bed in a chair with a smile on his face. They were carrying on and barely noticed Camon and Achara come in, but when Rune turned to see Camon, the smile from his face faded. He stood and glared at Camon with a look that could have burned a hole right through him. He gritted his teeth and clenched his fist, but then relaxed some. After a long sigh, he said, “Paladin, you have some explaining to do.”
Camon walked over towards Ratana, who looked at him and Achara. She knew exactly who they were. Camon didn’t flinch at Rune’s pent up aggression towards him, but then asked, “I’m here to answer whatever questions you might have.”
“Did you know?” Rune asked.
“Know what?” Camon asked back. “It’s hard to answer that question without some context.”
‘“Don’t play dumb, Camon,” Rune said.
“I apologize,” Camon said calmly. “I’m not playing dumb. I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Rune clinched a fist again, then glared at Camon again, “I’m not stupid,” he said.
Camon’s face was visibly confused now, “With all due respect, I have no –”
“Did you know Ratana was pregnant?” interrupted Rune.
Camon’s face went from confused back to neutral. Camon took a long look at Ratana and sighed, “Yes, I knew.”
Rune eyes burned with anger, “How long have you known?”
“I told him when we passed through Hubkeaw,” Achara answered.
Camon said nothing for a moment as Rune stewed more. Rune’s fist relaxed some as he bit his bottom lip. His look was more one of frustration now than anger. “Why didn’t you tell me?” he implored.
Camon still said nothing for several seconds before Rune shouted, “Tell me!”
Camon then spoke, “Rune, I wish I had a good answer for why I didn’t tell you, but that’s just it – I still don’t have an answer to the riddles that surround this whole thing. I didn’t know what to tell you or anyone else. When Achara came to me, she told me that Ratana was pregnant. However, it wasn’t something that I could affirm or deny, nor did I know and still don’t know if it is significant to what happened to her. I was confused by it. I didn’t understand how Achara knew. And I still don’t understand if her pregnancy had anything to do with the attack. I chose to say nothing about the subject to anyone. Achara and I have not discussed the matter since she told me.”
“Well, where the wellbeing of my wife and now my child are concerned, I have the right to know these things, even if you don’t understand them,” Rune bellowed. “Maybe it’s not for you to understand, but that doesn’t matter when it comes to the facts. Ratana told me she reached out to Achara because they are somehow connected. However, Achara never made any mention of this to Lamai or me.”
“Please try to understand,” Achara said. “I knew Ratana was speaking to me. But I feared, as Camon did, that trying to interfere with her mind would have only made things worse. But she’s back now, and you’re going to be a father, so we should be celebrating, not getting upset over the fact we didn’t tell you about what we weren’t sure about.”
“But how can I not get upset?” Rune objected. “As a father and husband, I should be privy to this kind of information, not kept in the dark as some outsider! Besides, isn’t the Paladin supposed to be helping you come to grips as a witch? Isn’t that what you two are all about?”
Camon and Achara both stood in silence while Rune fumed more, then Camon spoke, “Rune, I’m sorry. I am, but it’s not because I wanted to be covert about the whole thing. In all seriousness, we’re trying to unravel a mystery here behind what happened to Ratana.”
“You’re trying to blame her now?” Rune accused.
“No, we’re not,” Camon said. “She’s a victim, and that is clear. It’s not her fault, yours, or that of anyone in this room for that matter. But the question is, why her?”
“Well, since your little witch can see things and all sorts of hocus pocus, why doesn’t she tell us?”
Achara glared at Rune, but Camon put his hand on her shoulder then said, “First off, Achara is not a witch. She has a gift, and learning to use that gift requires knowing when and when not to use it.”
“Camon, you’re duplicity will be your undoing,” Rune said. “Her’s too. You saved Ratana, and for that I am grateful, but now how do I know you didn’t orchestrate the whole thing or have some hidden agenda?”
“Because I have the gift too,” Ratana said. Heads turned attention from Camon and Achara to Ratana with all eyes on her. “I have what she has.”
Nobody spoke for what seemed like an hour. Rune’s face went from one fraught with anger to one of shock and disbelief. Even Camon, who was usually unphased by such things, raised his eyebrows at the revelation. Achara, however, almost smiled at it.
Ratana then spoke, “Ever since I was a girl, I knew there was something inside of me that I couldn’t explain. It was a connection to things and people that seemed to transcend what I could see, touch, taste, smell, or hear. It was a connection not only with certain people but with the natural world too. I would spend hours in the woods surrounding Neuasut, exploring nooks and crannies, finding things hidden to people’s eyes. They were beautiful to me, and I could empathize with creatures in ways that I couldn’t understand, but it was just so natural to me. I’ve never told anyone because of the stigma attached to those who have magic, so I kept it to myself and lived as if I didn’t have it. I figured as long as I never told anyone about it, I could live a somewhat normal life, and nobody would ever know.
That all changed with the demon attack. When I was in the coma, I was very much alive even though I could not sense the world around me. When I found Achara though, she was the only connection to the outside world that I had even if she didn’t respond to my pleas or revelation. It was me that told her I was pregnant, and it was me that connected to her mind, not the other way around. Her gift is what made it possible for me to communicate with anyone and even from despairing because I knew she knew that she was hearing me.”
“Your father and I suspected there was something special about you,” Lamai said, “but we never would have dreamed it was that.”
“Unbelievable,” Rune said. “Simply unbelievable. So much deception, even from my own wife.”
“Rune, this is no time to be upset,” Lamai said. “We need to come together. The girl is right – we should be celebrating Ratana, your child, and her return. Please. And if what Camon is saying is true, there’s more at work here than a simple demon. We owe him our gratitude for her life and the life of your child.”
“Listen to yourself,” he said. “‘If what Camon is saying is true.’ Is it? How can I trust him? How can I trust any of you? Are you a witch too?”
“No, I am not,” Lamai said. “And please don’t insinuate that your wife is either.”
“This is too much,” he said. He then stormed off towards the door, flung it open, walked out, and then slammed it behind him.
There was yet another long moment of silence before anyone said anything, then Ratana sighed heavily, “Rune is right. This is all too much. Especially for him…”
“He just needs some time to cool off,” Lamai said. “He’s been like this before.”
“Maybe,” Ratana said.
Camon stroked his chin and looked at the women in the room, then said, “I know this is all very raw right now, but we can’t leave any detail out. Is there anything that you can think of, no matter how small you’ve experienced or seen recently, that might have anything to do with the demon attack. I don’t want you to feel guilty about what happened. You’re not. It’s just important to understanding who or what is behind all this.”’
“Other than becoming pregnant, I can’t think of anything new,” Ratana said. “Our life since we were married has been pretty routine. I haven’t spent any time in the forest or otherwise in recent years because I’ve given myself to work and family, as you know.”
Camon looked at Lamai, “The seer traits are strongest in women. It’s usually hereditary, passed down through the mother’s line. Was there ever a history of seers in your family that you know of?”
“None that I can recall,” Lamai said. “But that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t someone. As with Ratana, they could have hidden it for years and lived a perfectly normal life without anyone knowing about it.”
“Indeed,” Camon said. “I don’t believe that it’s any coincidence that you getting pregnant and having the seeing gift had something to do with the attack.”
“How is that connected?” asked Lamai.
“If Ratana is a seer, then she has an innate ability to use magic, which is precisely what a demon would hunt. Being a seer is not particularly rare. Among the Gypsies to the west, seers seem to be quite common there.”
“My maternal grandmother was born to a Gypsy family, but her parents left that life and settled down as farmers some years ago,” Lamai commented.
“That might explain where Ratana’s gift came from,” Camon said. “But even so, I suspect that it has something to do with why the demon hunted her. It also had something to do with her pregnancy.
What, I’m not sure, which is what we have to find out.”
“How?” Ratana asked. “That’s not exactly something you can walk up to someone and talk about. It would raise too many suspicions.”
“You understand then why talking about such things openly is not always a good idea,” Camon said. “I wish I could tell people things, but I can’t always do it.”
“You don’t have to explain yourself to me,” Ratana said. “Rune, on the other hand, is not accustomed to having to hide things about himself simply for self-preservation. I probably should have told him before we ever got married. However, I never imagined I’d be here, in Rahtneua lying in a bed talking to a Paladin about a demon. But regardless of what Rune may think of you otherwise, he is truly grateful for what you did for me back in Neuasut.”
“Are we safe?” Lamai asked.
“I think so,” Camon said. “But I wish I could tell you for sure. I can’t say for certain if the demon was specifically seeking you out or whether he was looking for someone like you. If it’s the former, then I fear that you may still be in danger. Whoever sent that demon on its hunt had some purpose in mind, but that is also a mystery. I think the best course of action is to stay in Rahtneua for now. This place is well warded and protected. A lone demon would have a hard time making its way into the city past all its protections. I don’t mean to be short, but I need to reflect on this revelation for a moment. Maybe our next move will reveal itself.”
“See to it then,” Lamai said.
“I will,” Camon said. At that, he turned and walked towards the door. Achara followed him out, and they left, going out of the light into the dark hallway beyond.