Tyrin's wound looked worst than it felt. The archer was not only skilled in his art, but knew how to dress a wound with a gentle and experienced hand. Morra was silent as Minn untied her.
"Thank you, both of you," Tyrin said with a humble smile. Prril reared up and nipped at his fingers in protest until she got the reward she'd been looking for, a pet behind the ears. "And you too, Prril. Who is our savior?" he asked, addressing the archer.
"I am UrVa of the Valley of Stones," he said in deep, calm tones. Everything he did was slow, deliberate, and efficient, including the way he spoke.
"The Valley of Stones? Then you are a Mystic? I've heard so many tales of your people: that you are both wise and kind to gelfling, that you seek to destroy the Great Crystal, that any who wander into the Valley are killed. You do not seem evil to me."
UrVa smiled and gave a single nod. "Many lies have been spread. We prefer to let our actions speak for us."
"Your actions are very welcome. How did you find us?" Tyrin asked and nodded to Minn. "I thought you were dead."
Minn helped Morra get to her feet and shook his head. "Such was not in the designs of the sands of fate. Prril was an invaluable distraction," he said as his hands danced before him. Tyrin had never heard him speak so much at one time. "Our camp was not far from the Podling Village where the clans gather. The Mystics were asked by Aughra to watch over the Gathering, even though they are feared by many. Friend UrVa was quick to answer my plea."
"The three suns are aligned tomorrow just before dusk. The Gathering must happen then, yet we await the arrival of the Vapra clan," UrVa told them. Morra bit her lip and leaned against the tree.
"Kleo?" Minn asked, placing his hand over his heart. "Jag-Ben?"
Tyrin shook his head solemnly. "Jag-Ben was caught and Kleo stayed behind to save him. We need to find them before the Hunter does." He got to his feet and pulled his worn shirt on. "I can't believe that creature was a Skeksis. I've only heard good things about them. They've educated gelflings, held grand feasts in our honor, and work tirelessly to keep us safe."
Minn nodded and motioned to his mouth. "Words are words."
"Then let's stop using words and start using actions," Tyrin said. "You and I should find Kleo and Jag-Ben while UrVa takes Morra back to the Village, since she is the Vapra clan's representative."
"No! I mean, I want to help you look for the others," Morra quickly said. "You've all done so much for me already, I can't abandon you now."
"Are you sure?" Tyrin asked. She looked away and nodded. "Then let's go."
"They're gone." The three suns had risen by the time they found the empty net that Jag-Ben had been captured in. The branch of the tree had been roughly cut off and the net left loose and open on the ground.
"They escaped," Tyrin said as he examined the scene. "The cut is not clean. The Hunter's blade would not leave a mess like this. Their trail leads off this way."
UrVa pulled an arm out to stop Tyrin from following it and put a finger to his lips. "The Hunter's trail is fresh here, too," he said softly. "Be careful, gelflings."
"Then let's not waste any time," Tyrin said, then paused and looked around with a sigh. "Where's Morra?"
None of them could recall the last time they had seen her. UrVa ran a long, knobby finger against the ground and chanted an archaic verse. "Her trail and yours are joined, Tyrin," he said after a time, marking two joining lines in the dirt. "You will travel together, or you will fall separately. You are important to each other, Tyrin."
Tyrin hesitated for a moment. "You saved our lives, UrVa. I will trust your wisdom. But where will I find her? And what of Jag-Ben and Kleo?"
"Do not worry, young gelfling. We will find your friends. Take the shard; let it guide you." UrVa lay a comforting hand on Tyrin's shoulder. "Trust in yourself, Tyrin. Trust in each other. Now hurry."
Tyrin gripped the shard tightly. "Trust in myself. Right then," he said and brought the shard to his chest. He turned, eyes closed. His mind wandered, eventually settling on the silvery note she had sung when he was captured. Her voice in his thoughts, he stepped forward and opened his eyes again. Instinct guided his every step.
[ Link to Part 8 ] -- [ Link to Part 10 ]
[ Link to Part 8 ] -- [ Link to Part 10 ]