Early morning dew pearled on the cold slate surfaces of the headstones. Damrin wondered who lay underneath the grassy plots. There were minor signs of evidence of a homestead once standing on the off-beaten path of the main highway.
The legendary Wielder, Barat Bladeveil, pressed his head to the middle headstone but if he prayed or said anything, it was too low for Damrin to hear. Their arrival to the odd location had been unexpected and Damrin wondered if Barat was collected in his thoughts or if his old age and long years touching his Shoal had poisoned his mind in any way.
Throughout their short time together, Damrin watched his companion for any alarming sign of Shoal stress. It never revealed itself in the same way in a Wielder but if one knew what to look for based on previous cases, it could be discerned. Damrin believed it too important to ignore.
“Are you concerned?” Barat asked suddenly.
Damrin fumbled over a response, not expecting the question but then not knowing what subject Barat alluded to. “The current state of the world demands it, I should think,” he settled upon.
Barat turned to face him; a slight rise in his upper lip gave an offsetting smile. “You tread lightly around me…as you should.”
A hard swallow delayed Damrin from responding but he found his voice past the awkward moment. “This collection of Breshtk noblemen and women traveling to convene and discuss the state of their Hold is worth my concern.”
“And the Shoal spill? Does that not demand our concern?”
“Of course, but we’ve not found any of the…aberrations despite our long days and searching.”
“What of me?” Barat stepped away from the graves, facing Damrin with searching eyes.
“Concern for you? Should there be any?” Damrin felt sweat begin to form on his face, unsure of what Barat Bladeveil could or would do if he truly was mad.
The legendary Wielder hawked and twisted around to spit onto the middle grave plot. “Time is my enemy and the Shoals have both limited and expanded my life. I’ve been praised and cursed for the same feats. Concern? The only concern you should have, Damrin Graeves, is that this world is thrown into chaos by the Shoals and there is little doubt in my mind the Hallowed plays a game with our lives.”
An argument rose up in Damrin’s mind but he kept it behind his clenched teeth. The words just spoken to him were as near blasphemous as ever there could be among Wielders. The Hallowed was divine and as such deserved their faith and submission.
Barat looked off toward the highway where the distant forms of travelers could be made out. “Such a collection of people might attract the Shoal creatures. We should be mindful of that. Concern yourself with what must be done should they be attacked. As I told you when I first collected you, the squabbles of the Holds do not matter. Fixing the damage done by an open Shoal is all that matters here and now. Prepare yourself.”
Damrin meant to do just that but he had no idea what that might entail. He watched Barat Bladeveil closely as he walked away, seeming to head towards the highway.