Chapter Ten: Salvation

25 years ago, Elven army camp, Late Winter
The day before the end of the War of Ascension

Lissa had no tears left to cry. As she told Sirae what she had witnessed, her voice was steady and never broke… but it was cold. Without a trace of emotion, she informed the goddess of everything that had happened in Maithum Falls, recounting the deaths of the King and Queen, of their family and most loyal guards, of their children. She never mentioned his name — she didn’t trust herself to control her voice — but instead remained detached, like a historian recounting events.

Sirae had no such issue. She handed her babe to Mikaela and wrapped her arms around the druid, her apprentice. “Oh my Lissa…” she whispered, tears in her own eyes.

To her disgust Lissa learned that she had been fooling herself, thinking that she was done crying. Like a child she wept before her goddess, her mentor, her queen, sobbing into the ancient elf’s shoulder as their red hair mingled. She broke down completely, mourning what had come before and what could no longer follow, letting out her sorrow and anguish for her loss even as she felt Sirae begin to tremble in their embrace.

Rage made the goddess’s form quake as she held the young druid tightly against her. “He has crossed every imaginable line,” Sirae hissed, her blood all but boiling in her veins. “This ends, and now.”

This time, Alassiel did not cry.

Once her body had recovered from its near brush with death Cerec had begun to show an interest in the fire maned elf once more. Her body shook under the sustained assault by the demonic avatar, his cock neglecting her savagely wounded pussy in favor of being deep in her ass. Alassiel’s fingers clenched uselessly as the hard black stone of the open cavern and she tried to struggle, thrashing her body, twisting it in a vain attempt to avoid the relentless assault, but she did not cry.

Her moves seemed to arouse the Avatar even further, and this led him to rape her even more violently, savoring the tenderness of her tight asshole and the feeling of how it hurt his victim. Beneath the shifting lights of the sky he roared, battering her with his body’s weight even as one of his hands abused Liriel. The arm had again exploded into dozens of tendrils and the pale haired druid initiate was battered between them, one in each of her holes while the rest of her body was caressed by the others. Their slimy lengths ran over her body like the writhing hands of a dozen assailants, touching all of her vulnerable flesh at once.

In a last desperate attempt, Liriel tried to crawl away from Cerec’s assault. Her efforts only managed to push herself to her hands and knees, which the avatar preferred anyway. Tentacles wrapping around her arms and legs to hold her firmly in place, he redoubled the assault upon her even while he pistoned harder into Alassiel’s tender ass, even as he raped every hole of Liriel’s.

His other hand wrapped in her scarlet hair now, he pounded into the former Archdruid savagely, each thrust ripping another tiny cry from between her trembling lips. He grunted and groaned as his pleasure mounted, using both of these elven whores at once and thrilling in the abuse, an errant tentacle sliding between Alassiel’s lips and into her mouth, pushing its length down her throat to gag her while his hips slammed into the helpless elf before him.

Each time Cerec pushed into Alassiel the elf had to grit her teeth at the pain radiating from her stretched rear, but it was only pain. The humiliation was gone, somehow… completely obliterated from her mind. It was only to her now, and she wanted her abuse to end with more impatience than desperation. If Cerec could sense this however, it seemed not to bother the avatar. With a loud, bubbling groan of carnal bliss his cock spat its load into Alassiel’s tight ass, the flood leaking out around the raping shaft and dripping to the ground. At the same time all of his tentacles seemed to erupt with the same vile slime, shooting into the red haired girl’s mouth and seeming to completely cover Liriel’s pale form, inside and out.

Cerec laughed as he released the albino from his grip, allowing the exhausted and tormented elf to fall to the hard stone sobbing and too exhausted to move, trapped in a world of blazing pain. “Good to have you back, Athuum,” his gurgling voice whispered, the sound wet and tormented. His clawed feet scraped the black stone as he walked into the pass that connected their makeshift “cell” with the rest of the cavern complex that housed Blackwand’s prisoners.

Several male prisoners waited there, watching the two fallen elves with naked desire. As soon as Cerec had vanished around the corner, they rushed in, eyes gleaming in the light from the chaotic sky.

25 years ago, Elven army camp, Late Winter
The final day of the War of Ascension

Lissa watched as Elide moved with the fluidity of a crashing wave of water, her sword dancing fast as a mongoose as she cut down soldier after soldier, demon after demon. She was a blood soaked goddess of war, a reminder of a more primal time, of a world where safety and security stopped at the reach of your sword… the kind of world Sanguinar would have the world become once again. Elide cut down opponents like a farmer scything wheat, less fighting her enemies than she was harvesting them. The raven haired elf flowed through the battle like a storm, unapproachable and deadly.

In her wake, Lissa followed, magic swirling around her. The earth near the area trembled as seeds beneath the surface instantly grew to maturity, plants erupting through the dirty earth to strike approaching soldiers from their feet. Their tiny contingent was badly outnumbered, and if the druid could not keep the soldiers of Sanguinar from approaching too closely it wouldn’t matter how deadly Elide was — they would be swarmed and obliterated.

She had to stop that from happening. They were cut off from the rest of their army, having driven far deeper into Sanguinar’s force than they could possibly defend… but that had been intended. Everyone involved knew this was likely a suicide mission.

Lissa just needed to keep them safe long enough for the goddess to kill that murderous bastard.

Sirae rotated her arms violently, with both her hands down low on Moralltach’s hilt, spinning her sword in a circular pattern meant to ward off the incoming sweep of Blackwand. The elven goddess hoped to lure Sanguinar into trying to keep up, and the gambit seemed to be working — the Lord of Suffering was attempting to lock his sword with hers and follow it though the spin, looking for an opportunity to deliver a strike.

The elven goddess, however, was the faster of the two. With a flick of her wrist, she disengaged the spin and stabbed out, the angle of the blade changed dramatically by the re-aligning of her arms. Despite Sanguinar’s size advantage and the far deadlier nature of the sword he carried, Sirae’s speed gave her a substantial advantage in how long her reach was in practical terms. She now exploited that advantage mercilessly, her deceptive move transitions smoothly to a strike at the dark god’s head. He managed to jerk back, and the reaction was just fast enough to save his life: rather than cut his head from his body, the sword instead chopped off one of the demonic horns of his helmet.

She backed up, catching her breath and trying to plan her next move. The battle could not last for long… all Sanguinar needed to do was fight defensively, and eventually his army would come to his aid. Her retainers were skilled as she could possibly ask for, but not even they could long prevail against the numbers arrayed against them. She badly needed to use all of the cunning and wisdom she possessed to have any chance at all… but such thoughts of strategy did not come easily to her right now. She was too furious, too consumed by hatred for the Lord of Suffering, the murderer, the rapist, the scourge. All she wanted to do was throw herself at him and tear him apart, with her bare hands if necessary.

She had sated some of that hunger with her tiny injury to his pride, the destruction of his prized helm an insult to the vain god, but it was not enough. For what he had done to her, for what he had done to the realm, for what he had done to Lissa he needed to die. She was still thinking of a plan when Sanguinar surprised her by charging, when she cut her sword towards his midsection he did not even try to parry it and instead came on wildly. Blackwand, that deadly sword, flashed down and around like a pendulum at her, and Sirae was forced to pull back her attack before it had done more than scrape against his armor and toss herself out of the way until she brought Moralltach back to block. Again and again he swung, every stride bringing him a bit closer to Sirae.

As the goddess retreated she understood his tactics perfectly. Armored and powerful as he was, Sanguinar could accept a hit from her sword to anything but a critical area and survive. Meanwhile, if Sirae was even scratched by Blackwand, the magic sword would certainly slay her. She might hit him ten, twenty times, she realized, and get hit in return but once… and still she would lose. Meanwhile Moralltach, powerful as it was, did not have any abilities well suited to this fight, to this battlefield.

If she were to trade hits with the dark god…

Sanguinar was almost on her now, his sword slashing across powerfully. Sirae spun back just out of reach, the muddy earth deforming beneath her feet and turning the snow brown. The elf queen darted ahead and to her left, and the Lord of Suffering whipped Blackwand back the other way with a mighty backhand, either to cut her in half or at least to drive her back yet again. But this time Sirae did not run out of reach, nor did she try to block the blow. As soon as she had passed Sanguinar’s flank, the elf planted her legs and called on the earth for all the strength she could, throwing herself into a high leap. As Sanguinar turned, his blade whipping through the air just short of her carefully considered leap, she came down from on high with a double kick.

Sirae felt her foot crunch into the dark god’s face, felt his nose crumble under the weight of that blow. She landed lightly, smiling savagely as she noted the splatter of blood on Sanguinar’s face, falling to redden the snow. Sensing opportunity and hungry for the kill she threw herself at the hulking god, Moralltach shining with her fury… but Sanguinar was at least as angry. He pressed forward himself, countering with short cuts of his own, more than willing to trade several hits of Sirae’s weapon against even a touch from his own.

And Sirae couldn’t accept that trade. Experience alone overruled her rage, and she deftly turned aside right before they came together in the middle of the open arena, in the center of his great army. She started to spring away, but feeling him preparing to chase her she daringly skidded to a fast stop, turning hard and throwing her elbow up high. If Sanguinar had been able to put his sword in line, Sirae would have been skewered by Blackwand then and there, but she had correctly thought that the Lord of Suffering would not prepared for her movement. Instead of feeling the tip of that awful black sword she instead felt Sanguinar’s broken face once more, this time with her elbow.

She advanced, expecting the monstrous god to stagger back under the weight of the blow… but Sanguinar, so powerful, had held his ground. With a snarl he swatted Sirae with a backhanded slap, his free hand catching her under the shoulder as she started her turn. His strength was beyond belief, and a clean blow from him, even unarmed, nearly killed her. She was flying then, across the the muddy expanse of earth, and collapsed to the ground.

He was too strong, too powerful. She could not triumph against such a foe.

Every swing of that black-bladed sword had Sirae moving desperately now, diving aside, ducking or leaping. The god was laughing at her… Sanguinar, her rapist, murderer, was laughing at her. She kept trying to slip strikes between blocks, during dives and leaps, trying to find a weakness in his defense, something, anything, to bring this foul monster to his knees. The sword slashed down at her left, then up and over and down past her right side, and both cuts drove her further back until her feet began to slip on the snow-slicked ground. Sirae went forward instead, even managing a slight strike on Sanguinar’s armored side by flicking her wrist between the attack. It hardly bothered him, though… his armor, like Blackwand itself, had been crafted by Zegadu himself long ago. He took advantage of her momentary lack of a guard and rushed inside her reach, his sword slashing first one way and then the next before he found an opening and his sword pinned hers slow before punching Sirae in the face. She staggered beneath the impact, and to her horror he then grabbed Moralltach in one great gauntlet… and squeezed, his unnatural strength shattering the magical blade to splinters.

She knew then that she was going to die.

The men that fell on the exhausted and weakened Liriel started immediately using her, throwing her around like a ragdoll as they decided on the most comfortable position to fuck the albino elf in. One of the abusers, a corpulent demon with two heads spread her asscheeks with his hands and drove his cock with one stroke deep into her ass. At the same time, an elf with one eye and a scar on this face that told the rest of the story walked around to the other side of Liriel and grabbed her pale hair. He took her mouth with his prick, driving it down her throat and enjoying her groans… she couldn’t stop groaning anymore. Her whole body was a single mass of agony, her abused tits pressed roughly against the stone floor.

Liriel was tossed between the two rapists, using her for their own pleasure. The men that chose to attack Alassiel, on the other hand… where not as fortunate.

“Stop struggling you bitch!” one thin man roared, grappling with the elf’s scarlet hair as she fought like a demon. “You’re only making this worse for yourself!” He abruptly shut up as Alassiel kicked him solidly in the shin and then, as he bent over in pain, drove her knee into the man’s face. While he staggered back, blood dripping from his shattered nose to the rock, the former Archdruid launched herself at Liriel’s attackers.

She never made it there. Strong as the elf was, she was only a single woman, and against the crowd surrounding her no victory was possible for the unarmed girl, no matter how furious. She fought and struggled and bit and kicked, but slowly she was pressed down to the rocky ground and pinned, forced to watch Liriel as her screams vibrated the cock in her mouth, making the one-eyed elf groan in pleasure while he fucked her throat like a lunatic, her pain driving him wild.

Her ass must have been dancing on the demon’s cock because even as Alassiel watched he began to speed up, meanwhile her face started to bruise as the man battered it with his hips, a trickle of blood flowing from her nose and down the elf’s thighs even while the men on her began to spread Alassiel’s own legs wide…

And then the man holding her legs was gone, tossed away from her. Her tensed body uncoiling like a spring, Alassiel was abruptly writhing against the men pinning her shoulders down, her slender form sliding out from beneath their grip even as she grabbed the wrist holding her own and twisted it, hearing the tendons realign painfully as she forced it out of position. The instant she was free of the grip she sprung to her feet, whirling to face the remaining members of the group who had attacked her. “What took you so long?” she hissed, blue-and-gold eyes narrowed.

Liam snorted, raising his right hand and showing the blood on his knuckles. “I had a disagreement with a dwarf outside.”

“Just like a man to get distracted when there’s work to be done…” she muttered, smiling all the while. Liriel’s rapists were finally realizing that there was a problem and dropped the albino elf on the ground and turned to meet the pair of attackers… only to realize that the druid initiate was neither as hurt nor as helpless as she appeared to be. On the ground, freed from the need to stand or manage her weight, Liriel kicked her leg out with all her strength and caught the elf in the side of his knee, and he screamed as the joint bent a direction it was never meant to.

Silent, deadly, Alassiel and Liam advanced on them.

“No!” Lissa screamed as she ran frantically for the mound of snow and earth, trying to reach the contest before it ended. Sirae, disarmed but for the broken hilt of her prized sword, stood before Sanguinar, black sword gleaming against the sourceless light of the snowfall. Dimly the druid sensed Elide right behind her, running headlong for the duel in an attempt to allow the Lady of Growth to somehow prevail.

Sanguinar saw them coming. With contempt for the defeated goddess he turned to face the approaching foes, and Sirae immediately leaped into action, surging forward with speed that put even Elide to shame…

Everything that followed seemed to Lissa to happen simultaneously too fast for her to react, but so slowly that she could see everything, slowly enough to allow her to etch every detail into her memory for all time.

The spin as Sanguinar sensed the charge and turned, his right arm pumping as he used the turn to thrust Blackwand forward at the attacking goddess.

Her own horror as Sirae continued forward, the black steel penetrating her armor like paper as she rushed right onto the blade.

Sanguinar’s expression of surprise as the goddess gripped the wrists of his sword arm and pulled with all her strength, impaling herself more fully even as the dark god was pulled towards her, off balance…

And the vicious satisfaction on Sirae’s face as she took the broken remnants of her sword and stabbed upwards, beneath the demon-horned helmet and up into his skull from the soft bottom.

“So are you served in Silas… traitor…” she choked out, spitting on the already dead god before her, blue flames starting to erupt from her back.

The goddess looked as Lissa, and met her eyes. The golden glow softened for a moment, revealing loving eyes of the same brilliant gold behind them, and she found the strength to smile at her apprentice. Then the glow was replaced by a blue one, welling up from within her.

Seconds later, the goddess was gone.

It felt good to be taking care of Liriel for a change.

Alassiel rubbed the elf clean of her grime and blood, using a tiny shred of cloth that she had torn from one of her attempted rapists. After the fight had ended, the courageous young elf had finally allowed herself to pass out into a dreamless sleep, and her mentor was only too glad to allow her the luxury. After all, she had been taking care of Alassiel for so long now, when it was supposed to be the other way around. It was time she started to make things right and put them back the way they should be.

The former druid, former revenant, former teacher knew she had a lot to make right.

Liam helped her every step of the way, caring for Liriel’s wounds even as Alassiel did the same. She was only too glad to look at the fallen prince as she worked. He was still every bit as handsome as he had been the day he died, seemingly not having aged a second despite the nearly twenty six intervening years. Still muscular, despite the new abundance of scars he carried. Dark of hair, with that same damn goatee that made his chin so rugged and handsome…

She wondered how much she had changed in comparison.

Liam looked up from cleaning Liriel’s final wound in time to catch Alassiel staring at him. He gave her a cocksure smile, but she didn’t blush, and she didn’t look away. So what if he was naked? So was she, and after everything they had been through there were far worse things that could happen than her lover, her love, knowing that she liked looking at him.

In silence the two of them curled up together, protectively holding the injured young Liriel between them

25 years ago, Elven army camp, Late Winter
The first day of peace

With Sanguinar’s death the battle had abruptly ended. With their summoner dead, the hundreds upon hundreds of demons were freed from control. Some of them fled, vanishing into mists or running into the blizzard to escape the fight. Others continued battling the elves, still fighting to defend the narrow breach into the heart of Sanguinar’s forces. Some even dropped to the ground like puppets with cut strings, apparently unable to find motivation to take any action without the dark god’s will directing them.

Most of the demons, however, began to slaughter the closest thing at hand, which almost invariably turned out to be soldiers of Sanguinar’s church. They laid into their former masters, viciously rending them limb from limb in their fury of having been captives and slaves to the army, butchering their erstwhile controllers. It wasn’t many seconds after Sanguinar’s death that the elven contingent Elide and Lissa commanded were fighting against less of an army and more of a mob intent on tearing itself apart. When eventually the church’s army broke and fled, the demons were left with a choice. Stay and fight the elves, and be ground to dust between the defenders of the goddess and the advancing mixed force of the elven and Royal army, or pursue the vulnerable, fleeing prey.

They made the easy choice.

The next day Lissa sat, crossed legged, upon the mound on which the goddess had fought and died. The druid had carefully collected her ashes and buried them beneath the earth, unwilling to let them be scattered by the wind the way Liam’s had been through her fury and carelessness. The dull grey of the blizzard surrounded the clogged battlefield, filled completely with torn bodies of men and elves and demons. Crow calls make the air churn as the carrion birds feasted on the war’s aftermath, but Lissa had no difficulty controlling her stomach. She was too numb to feel disgust, or much of anything.

A fat snowflake landed on her upturned palm as it rested on her leg, and she tried to ignore it… it was not important. What was important was the tiny little seed in her hand, waiting patiently to be given a chance to grow. Lissa couldn’t help but be impressed by the infinite potential such a tiny casing held. It could become a new eyrn eregdos, or a vast tree on the edge of the sea, or a beautiful but stunted sapling kept by one of the nobles of Maithum Falls, to fill their yards and homes. As one of the seeds of the sacred tree, it could grow into anything it wished… normally.

But Lissa had a very special destiny in mind for this seed, and she felt sure it would approve.

Moving with delicate deliberation, the druid used her other hand to scoop out a tiny section of the nearly frozen dirt, and then ceremoniously planted the seed beneath the soil before covering it, then laying both hands over the tiny pile, directly over where the goddess’s ashes now rested.

“Cuio,” she commanded in a whisper… and live the plant did.

Eyrn eregdos burned within her skin as Lissa turned herself into a pure conduit for the earth’s power, gathering strength from every corner of Silas, from every living thing within the veil, from every bird and fish, deer and bear, from every city and town, from every man woman and child. She gathered the energy until she felt the earth swelling with it, until her own form began to glow golden with the incredible power of nature gathered around her and within her.

She closed her eyes against the brilliant, warm glow, and kept her thought in absolute harmony, held there against her grief and rage by compassion. Compassion for the dead, human and elven both — the fallen of the goddess and the dark god alike. The war had taken so much from everyone, and Lissa felt sure Silas would never recover from the losses suffered in this sad conflict. As she channeled the titanic power of the earth through her burning tattoos, she felt nothing but pity for the fallen of both armies, their lives cut tragically short.

Everyone but Sanguinar anyway. She was not yet that forgiving.

When at last Lissa opened her eyes, many minutes had passed… and she was no longer outside in the storm, kneeling on the frozen ground. Instead she was inside a dome of living wood, the walls of it rising high and smooth to a curved ceiling twenty feet above. It was warm within the tree, a comfortable heat of early summer, and veins within the wood glowed with a golden light, illuminating the inside of the unbelievably vast tree. Water poured from somewhere within the walls of the tree, splashing down in strange silence to the ground and throwing up mist that bent and refracted the golden glow, splitting it into thousands of rainbows that swirled and danced with slow beauty around the room.

The ground Lissa knelt upon was no longer frozen and muddy, but lush, covered with the grass of a new spring. Around her ran streams, the pooling water from the silent waterfalls flowing serenely in the very center of the tree, forming a tiny lake of perfectly still, mirrored water. All around the pool grew rich foliage: bushes, grass, flowers, even small trees, arranged as neatly as though kept by a noble gardener from the capital.

Arrayed between the plants were carved statues of living wood, four human and four elven, four male and four female. One of the elven statues looked somewhat like Elide, but the others were indistinct, her instincts having unconsciously shaped them into elves that all looked a little like someone she knew, but exactly like no one. The humans were likewise vague, suggesting the features of men and women she had met in the war, but mirroring none of them. The eight silent figures gazed inward, staring towards the center of the still pool.

In that center rose another tree statue, shaped into a form Lissa knew well — a female form, strong but meditative, with flowing reddened leaves serving as hair. Her eyes were closed, as though sleeping, and she stood with her hands outstretched to the viewer, as though offering them something. If the statue had been made of flesh, Lissa would have expected the goddess to open her eyes and smile, making some remark about how it didn’t look like her apprentice had slept.

But Sirae was gone.

Grief stricken, Lissa turned back to the statues and realized, to her horror, that not all of the humans were indistinct. Prince Liam stared back at her, his features as perfect as the goddess’s were. The druid suddenly felt foolish for having lost her lover’s necklace, letting it slip into the river… but even as the thought occurred to the weeping elf she noticed the silver scales of Caer glinting upon Liam’s neck. This was a gift, she realized. A gift from the earth to her, a sign that the entire world shared her grief for the loss of so many, for both brave mortals like the prince and for the goddess who had so tirelessly protected nature’s interests in the world.

“Thank you…” she whispered, her voice completely broken.

Then she saw that, resting on Sirae’s outstretched hands, there was a tiny seed. Another seed of the life-giving eyrn eregdos. The earth had immediately produced another of the sacred seeds… and offered it to her. Before she could no longer see through her tears she took the seed in her hand and walked to the entrance to the cave-like tree, the mouth opening into the blizzard still gaining slowly in strength. The ground outside was empty of bodies as the crows wheeled overhead, the roots of the vast tree having heaved the dirt and buried the entire battlefield.

Both the Royal army and the elves stared at her in awe as she exited the memorial she had made, their eyes filled with wonder as they gazed upon the tree, hundreds of feet tall, that had sprung to life within a single hour. The word “Archdruid” was again muttered many times by voices of both races, their tones reverent. Lissa ignored them, striding into the elven army camp and to her bed. She wanted nothing more than to sleep now, and if possible, to remain asleep until the end of time…

Something was wrong.

Her instincts picked up on it before her conscious mind had put together the pieces. Maybe she smelled blood, or maybe it was the lack of cries she expected. Regardless, Lissa flew through the flap of the tent she had slept in the night before, sword in hand.

Mikaela lay dead in the ground, blood pooling from the young elf’s cut throat.

And Sirae’s child was gone.

“I’m surprised you haven’t called me Lissa yet.”

Alassiel sat on top of one of the tallest rocks in Blackwand’s cave, looking down at the prisoners who were permitted to wander milling through the common areas. This high up there was a surprising amount of wind running through the deep gorge in the earth, and her hair whipped back and forth in front of her eyes.

There was a pause, then Liam answered carefully. “I was under the impression,” he said, “that you didn’t wish to be called that any longer.”

“I don’t.”

The two of them stared out over the black stone of the caves for some time while Liriel slept behind them. They couldn’t avoid either of the Avatars by hiding, they all knew — if Cerec wanted to find them, the reality within this prison would change to make it so — but the other prisoners had no such advantages. The wind was cold against their bare flesh, but somehow Alassiel could feel nothing but warm.

“Then why ask?” Liam said at last.

Alassiel had no good answer. She sat there for long seconds, thinking, before she opened her blue eyes again, the tiny golden specs in them shimmering with restrained tears. “Because it was her you fell in love with. Not me.”

Liam chuckled, his arm wrapping around the elf who tried halfheartedly to struggle away from the embrace. “You still love me. That’s all the proof I need that the insufferable druid is in there somewhere.”

“You’re the insufferable one,” she snorted, a bit of a laugh appearing in her voice. It felt much better than crying — she tried to hold onto the sensation.

Liam squeezed her tighter then. “Listen, Alassiel or Lissa or whoever you are.” He rested the weight of his head against her back, pinning some of her hair and stopping it from blowing. “If you’re not who you used to be, all you can do is make the person you are someone you’re proud to be. That’s all I want.” He paused. “Does that make sense?”

She chucked again, and it felt even better than the last laugh. “Yes,” Alassiel whispered.

They sat in silence for many long minutes.

“What happens next?” Liam asked.

The elf closed her eyes, putting her thoughts in order. It had been so long since she’d be able to think about something other than immediate survival, other than what had to be done in the next seconds rather than days or even hours. “If Liriel and I are here, if you are here…” her eyes narrowed. “Then so is Sirae.”

Liam nodded. “Yes,” he said, “she is.”

Alassiel smiled. It was not a nice smile, but rather a predatory grin. “Do you know where?”

Liam nodded. “Yes,” he repeated, and she could hear the smile in his own voice. “I do.”

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