Chapter 12

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As Uriel approached Khyrhyelle's room he saw three Guardians barring the entrance. He immediately knew the middle one to be Ghemella. He recognized one of the others as the white robe who was usually with Ghemella. The other was a white robe as well, but someone Uriel did not know. He stopped a foot in front of Ghemella, saw the tears in her eyes. The panic and fear which had pursued him throughout the night caught up and washed over him. He was too afraid to speak. The Guardian looked him up and down and he realized how bad he must look.

"They have been searching for you," Ghemella managed, voice cracking. Uriel saw her lip quiver and the throat constrict. She tried to speak again, faltered. Then Ghemella stepped aside and solemnly opened the door. Uriel just stood there, moments passing as he tried to build up enough courage to walk in. He closed his eyes, let out a deep breath and finally entered the quarters of the High Witch.

They were all there, all seven of the Council. Qelharre was beside herself in Dhynelle's arms. Wyxotte was seated in a chair, her complexion the color of paste. Lhynette stood behind Wyxotte with her hand on the old woman's shoulder. Eyrmysse stared out the window oblivious to everything. Arhyvhynne was on her knees beside Khyrhyelle's bed, holding her mother's hand to her breast and rocking gently back and forth. Only the daughters did not turn when Uriel entered the room.

Dhynelle was the first to speak. "Where have you been?" The words came slowly, the tone accusatory.

Uriel disregarded her as his eyes found Khyrhyelle. He did not have to ask. He knew. The immeasurable pain of loss struck a blow so hard that Uriel fell to his knees. He crawled to her side and met Arhyvhynne's gaze. Eyes red from tears looked into his for comfort, understanding. He had none to offer.

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