After Tolbaic

Aetas Ipsum, 64ae43or  (c.497), Midian

“What happened to Fargoth?” asked a smooth voice from beneath a black hood.

Hyoi turned to face Azo and paused before answering. He tilted his head sideways and studied the way Azo’s black robe hung loosely from his body.  How can he be so strong, with such a thin frame?

Hyoi had only interacted with Azo a few times in the past. Each one had led to conversations that neither of them felt comfortable with. They contained questions and conversations about battles, both past and ongoing, that could lead to the exchange of information deemed inappropriate.  Hyoi turned to scan the deserted village and the hillsides for other Malacovi.

The village was at one time a fairly populated area, with a central cross roads, church, houses and stables, and a large graveyard.  With the exception of the monuments and the abbey, the buildings were merely a fata morgana, a shadow or mirage.

The town was suffering from neglect. Roof tops were collapsing. Doorways leaned heavily to one side. Hyoi could see clearly through all of the buildings except for the sanctuary, the monastery and a large sepulcher standing in the center of the tombstones. This place would make a perfect location for an ambush.

Hyoi gave a deliberate sigh and replied, “Fargoth took the battle to Reality. He left Midian and was influencing the outcome by eliminating Franks as they battled the Alemanni.”

“It happens. He was willing to take the risk, and I am sure it was, filling, for him. More importantly why would you be concerned?  You have never before cared about Tolbaic, the Gaul tribes, or the Franks for that matter. Why are you involved now?”

“In the end we were merely observers, although we were ready to interfere if Fargoth’s intentions to manipulate the pointless events in Reality were to have a detrimental effect on us in Midan.

“I am wondering, though, why does Tolbaic hold such value to the Malacovi that a Shade would be sent to guarantee the outcome?”

Azo avoided the question. “To your point about observation,” the smooth voice paused, considered for a moment how to proceed, “you are the only ‘observers’ that seem to have survived Tolbaic. Fargoth had at least a coven with him, and none are accounted for. I will assume that I would have to return to Pandæmonium to find them starting over again.”

“That would probably be a correct assumption, although we had nothing to do with their disappearance, not directly anyway.” Hyoi’s voice was calm and a little playful.

Azo pulled back his hood and scanned the sky, moving his hypnotic eyes to pan from the fading sun in the west to the deep blue dusk growing to the east. The air was clear, the cloudless sky seemed vast, and in the distance on the west edge of the horizon a fine mist rain could be seen against the disappearing orange glow. “I find it serein, knowing that rain is falling on the flip side of the veil, but we stay dry. You know that we are in a peaceful place. We can speak freely. The lack of clouds bear witness of our safety.”

“Yes. It is not my concern of retaliation or attack that prevents me from speaking. It is my need to protect everyone involved.”

“‘Involved’, interesting choice of words.

“So, let me ask you then. Fargoth was in possession of a Lamina. I am sure you know of this, since you know of his influence over Tolbaic.”

“Of course I am aware.  It is why we were there. It is improbable that he could pass so freely across The Veil without the added assistance of a portal. Fargoth was not that strong.”

Azo hesitated to continue. He knew that speaking more would betray information that none of the Elysion like Hyoi had knowledge of.

Azo looked around, making a joke of looking directly behind where Hyoi was standing, exaggerating his movements, “And where is the beloved Bashi? Not in his usual place behind you?” The smile that crossed his lips revealed sharp teeth clenched together.

“Bashi is busy.”

“Busy with?”

“Finding someone.”

“Ahhh. There are only a few ‘someones’ that you would need to search for. When was Longinus last seen?  Must be several hundred years now?”

“It isn’t Longinus that he is looking for.”

A serious frown crossed Azo’s face and his eye lids narrowed over his swirling pupils. “There is no need for Hrodman. We have not committed an offence that justifies his involvement.”

“I did not say his name, and certainly not regarding anything involving you.”

“He is a most unpleasant individual, indeed.  Should I warn anyone of his participation?”

“No, I don’t believe that he will interact with any, of you.” Hyoi paused. “At least not unless you involved yourself where you have no business. What is it that you are looking for, Azo?  Surely not Bashi.  What information will you pry from me that I wish I had not shared?”

“Fargoth, was in possession of something, um, unapproved.”

“Unapproved?  And who are you to determine if something is unapproved.  Were you and Fargoth not equal Malacova?”

“Unapproved by Mander.  He was not aware that Fargoth was going to use the,”

“Yes?”

Azo paused to collect his thoughts.  “There is an object of great value. One of a kind. Fargoth was in possession of it. Are you aware of anything unusual that Fargoth might have been carrying?”

“Other than my knowledge that he was using a Lamina to interfere with Reality, I am not familiar with any other objects. Even more specifically, I never beheld the Lamina.”

“Hyoi, I will inquire of you one more time. It is imperative that we find Fargoth, or at least the object he was in possession of. If we do not, you realize that we will become active in our search, both in Midian and Reality.

“So I will ask you several questions in a different way, hoping to reveal some truth while maintaining your integrity. Did you encounter Fargoth?”

“Yes.  Yes I did.  Actually, he contended with me.”

Azo paused, his eyes searching for some sign of insincerity.  Hyoi was not known for dishonesty, but more for merely hiding information that could be considered “sensitive”. “You said earlier that you had nothing to do with Fargoth’s disappearance.”

“That is correct.”

“Hyoi, do you know what happened to Fargoth and his twelve warriors?”

“Ahhh. Now we are covering some ground. Yes, I watched as Fargoth was, removed.”

“And his coven?”

“Yes.”

“Surely not Bashi.” Followed by a throaty chuckle.

“Ha, no, not Bashi, although you underestimate him.”

“Then who or what was it.”

“I only speak of this, because I hope to avoid further conflict; having you and your cohort rooting around for an object we are not in possession of can only result in terrible outcomes.  Surely you do not want to involve Michael, and I have no desire to meet Mander face to face. A man crossed the Veil.  He eliminated all thirteen of them, without my interference.  The last to perish was Fargoth.”

“Again I will tell you, Hyoi, if you are involving Hrodman without provocation, this will end poorly.”

“I assure you that it was not Hrodman. Hrodman acts on his own, and it has been quite some time since he has crossed into Midian. I don’t think he likes it here.”

“When the battle occurred, did a wooden box present itself at any point?”

“Ah, yes. Now we have it. I was waiting for you to confirm what you wanted me to admit.”

Azo clenched his teeth again and shook his right hand down and away. Long talons extended from the nails on his fingers and hung below the sleeve of his robe.

Hyoi smiled confidently, gently resting his hands on the two blades that hung from his waist.  “Easy, Azo.  If you attack me, you will start an irreversible course of action. And you know that you are at a disadvantage.”

With a growl, “Tell me then. Did you see the Box?”

“Yes, briefly, I saw a box clutched in the hand of the human as he fell backward through the veil.”

“Will you tell me anymore?”

“No, I don’t believe that there is any more that I could share, that would leave us both on neutral ground.

”If it matters any, Fargoth was up to no good, and the outcome would have ended the same, whether by my hand or another’s.”

“Hyoi, one day, your sincerity will be the undoing of you.  Until then, I must respect your candor.

“You know that it is only a matter of time before we find the man.” Without another word, Azo spun and walked away toward the town, leaving Hyoi alone on the hill top. I am sure, and I am also sure that you will regret the day you involve him in the drama of Midian.

Hyoi walked down toward the town, and entered the broken chapel. “How long have you been hiding there?”

Bashi crept around the corner and emerged from the nave.  “I have been following Azo since he crossed the Rhine. By the way, the water is extremely high for this time of year.”

“Did you find him?”

“Yes, I found all three.”

“Three? You mean you found Clovis as well?”

“Of course.  Why have Longinus and Hrodman spend time searching, when I can tell them where to look?”

“You engaged Longinus first?”

Bashi shrugged.  “Yes, it is hard to get Hrodman to do anything, but he is much more amiable when Longinus is willing.”

“And how was Hrodman?”

“Grumpy as usual.  He complained that we wanted him to interact with a decedent of Merovech, and then went on a rant about how Merovech was useless in the fight against Atilla, and that any son of his was likely to be just as much of a waste of his time. He kept griping to Longinus after I left.” Bashi walked out into the open air and stretched.  “I really like it here.”

“Did you contact Clovis?”

“Now,” Bashi turned to look back at Hyoi, still standing in the doorway, and a sly grin crossed his face, “would I do something like that?”

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