I rode for hours, but I saw no sign of them.
I finally made camp or the evening, and when the sun rose on the horizon, I was back at it. I knew I needed the sunlight to increase my visibility, especially if I was going to brave the marshes by myself.
Then, I had a stroke of luck.
I spotted two figures on the road ahead, and I was certain I had found them.
I raced toward them, but as I closed the final stretch, it became apparent that they knew I was coming, and they spun around with attacks at the ready.
“Whoa!” I shouted. “I’m friendly!”
One of the two was a male, a paladin easily identified by his glowing mace in hand. He looked ready to throw at my head. Next to him, I saw a female, and she looked exactly like she had all those years ago.
“I wondered where you had been all this time,” she said, finally lowering her guard. “Fynn, this is Sionis Sepher. You might remember him.”
“I had to travel through the aether, from one World Ship to another,” I grumbled. “I think that warrants a bit of time. Tell me, Kaellax. What is going on?”
She shook her head. “A Yunai has figured out the plan of Noaath. It seeks to undo his work by destroying all of the threads.”
“What does that even mean?” I asked.
“Have you not spoken to Noaath?” she pressed.
“Kaellax, I don’t even know who Noaath is!”
“Believe it or not, that’s a good thing. Come. We need to get to the marshes. Lady Evanor waits for us there, and we must be swift. The Yunai hunts us as we speak.”
“Lady Evanor?” I asked. “How in the world is she involved in all this?”
“I’ll let her explain,” Kaellax replied. “Can you get us to her?”
“No,” I replied. “The marsh is teeming with life and aether energy from the magical bomb the Zinji used to destroy Vers. I wouldn’t be able to anchor us to anything. It’s a magical dead zone.”
“That explains why Evanor has hidden there. Let’s go. Time is short.”
We rode throughout the rest of the day, as fast as we could. Surfal carried me and the paladin named Fynn on his back, while Kaellax used her own powers to whisk alongside us like some kind of dark cloud. To be frank, it was both impressive, and shocking. I realized I didn’t know much about the powers she dabbled in, but she clearly had a strong grip on it all.
When we reached the edge of the marsh, the only thing waiting for us was a burned pile of debris. There had once been a tavern here, a large tavern visited by hundreds of travelers on their way to or from Vers. It had been destroyed recently, burned to the ground like the ancient ruins. I kicked a piece of burnt wood, frustrated by the constant reminders of all the loss this area had endured, and then went to work grabbing some supplies from Surfal’s saddle.
“We camp here,” I said. “Tomorrow we can push into the marsh. I assume Evanor is staying at the swamp shack. It was an old place Appoleon and I liked to visit. A getaway from the chaos of Vers. The magic users built it near a magical lay-line, which is one reason—”
I felt Lady Evanor’s presence before she started to speak, but I spun around to see she was already within a few feet of us. She wore a cloak, but her hood was back enough that I could see her face, aging with time, and she smiled at me.
“That won’t be necessary,” she said, referring to my rant. “I assumed you would arrive here first, so I’ve had this place under surveillance for some time. I’m glad you’ve finally made it. We have a lot to discuss.”
“I agree,” I replied, stopping to face her. “It’s good to see you, Evanor.”
“He doesn’t know about the Yunai,” Kaellax said, her voice strangely excited. “That means what you suspected is true, right? It cannot travel from this World Ship?”
“None of you are making sense,” I said.
I know, and I’m sorry for that,” Evanor replied. “The truth of the matter is that you not understanding us is a sure sign that our salvation rests with you. Come. I will take you to the shack and we can explain everything.”
“You want to travel into the marsh at night?” I asked, looking shocked.
“No,” she said, laughing. “I have an anchor point, Sepher. Now, take my hand.”
I reached out, holding her hand with a firm grip. I knew how these things worked, and I wasn’t planning on getting stranded out in the twisting aether.
I needed answers.