Chapter Nineteen – Dionil, the woodland sage

Cobal woke up fairly early, but after he got dressed he could already hear movement coming from the other room. There he found Mana who was just headed outside to eat breakfast there. After going to the kitchen and getting some food for himself he joined her outside the small house they were staying at.
“We’ve finally made it this far,” he said.
Mana nodded. “We’ve got a while to go, but this is a step in the right direction. Dionil is someone I have to talk to.”
“About Might?”
“About Might.”
They sat in silence for a little while, eating the rest of  their breakfast, before Cassandra and Kimi came outside as well. “The weather is still lovely,” Cassandra remarked. She’d filled up her plate with mainly cheese and a little bit of bread. Kimi had some fruits on hers.
“When is Mirgia picking us up?” Kimi asked.
“Shouldn’t be for a little while longer, he had a late shift he said.”
They sat on the edge of the walkway in front of their lodgings, looking out over the village. At least the part of it that they could see. Men, women and others were going about their business, some shooting a curious look at the strange people who were sitting there, but no one bothered them. 
“Did you know there was an entire city full of people living here like this?” Mana asked.
Cobal shook his head. “I knew elves had built a home in the Liriath forest, but I always assumed it was a small group, not an entire city like this. And to think that Karnisal hinted that this was only a small enclave makes me wonder how many elves there really are. I’d love to learn more about them to be honest.”
“I didn’t even know elves were real,” Cassandra said. “I was half expecting us to never find anything in this forest.”
“I could have told you elves were real,” Kimi said. “We have a good bond with them, most of the time. Elven and spirit history is a shared history for much of our existence.”
So they sat there in the quiet for about an hour, before Mirgia approached. “Are you all ready to go?”
“Yes, if you’d be so kind,” Cobal said. He reached out his hand to shake Mirgia’s but the latter turned around and started walking. “Follow me.”
They walked further away from the center of town until they descended a staircase that seemed to be on the edge of town. From there they went along a path carved through bushes and trees. 
The trees in this part of the Liriath forest seemed to be larger and healthier than in the rest of the forest. “Do you use magic to keep the trees growing this strong?” Cobal asked.
Mirgia shook his head. “It’s just that us elves know how to work plants and crops a lot more efficiently than humans do. It’s in our blood, so to speak.” He smiled. “I don’t mean to brag, but there are a lot of things us elves are better at than humans.”
“That’s a lie, he does mean to brag,” Cassandra said, laughing.
Mirgia chuckled as well.
The path thinned as it got closer to their destination. Although there were signs of people traveling this road, it was definitely far from often. And looking at the way Mirgia weaved through the shrubbery it was clear to see that he was very good at avoiding damage to the plantlife. Elves probably were more in tune with things, seeing as they lived for far longer times. Cobal wondered if they also had more time to appreciate the things around them. Back home everyone was always in a rush as if time was a scarce commodity that was about to run out. 

It didn’t even take them a full hour to get towards a small clearing with a wooden cabin at the center of it. Next to the cabin was a small vegetable garden and behind it was a small river.
Working the small garden was a middle aged looking elven man. He wore a simple tunic and pants of greens and browns. His blond hair was tied in a ponytail and he had the beginnings of an unkempt beard. His arms and legs looked like tree trunks. 
“I expected someone called a sage to look a lot more bookish,” Cassandra said.
“Being wise and strong are not mutually exclusive,” Mirgia said. He stepped forward.
“Dionil, you have visitors.”
The man looked up. “Mirgia, how pleasant to see you.” He got up and walked towards the group before stopping halfway, locking eyes with Mana. “You are from the same place as him.” He said. A big smile appeared on his face and in three large strides he was right in front of them, grabbing Mana into a tight hug. “It’s so good that you’ve made it here.” He put her back down and looked at the others. “Are these your companions?”
Mana introduced them. “This is Kimi’thania, a lesser spirit of music. This is Cassandra from Ravendier. And lastly, this is Cobal Blueyerd, third prince of the Blueyerd Kingdom.”
Dionil’s smile vanished and anger flashed in his eyes. “You are not welcome here. Begone.” He looked at Cobal.
Cobal looked confused. “I don’t understand?”
“I think I’m clear enough. After what you people have done I want nothing to do with you.”
“I mean no disrespect, but what have I ever done to you?” Cobal got a bit angry himself.
“Your kind is not welcome in this place, where the memory of Might rests.”
“Why not. I have done nothing to you.” The emotions that had been boiling up in Cobal for the past few days. His own traveling companions had been strangely careful around him, especially Mana. Then ever since they arrived here, no one seemed to respect him and the ones that did give him some respect treated him coldly compared to his companions. He was pretty much done with all of it.
“I am a royal prince of the kingdom you live in, you will not deny me entry to my own kingdom!”
“Please calm down, Cobal.” Mana said.
He looked at her pleading eyes and almost stepped down. But she hadn’t been able to be honest with him.
“No, I will not! You’ve been distant for a while now, and you keep telling me you’ll inform me eventually. Then you push it further and further away. And now I’m being sent away? It’s my responsibility to keep you safe, and I have come to grow fond of you all, even if we’ve only known each other for a short time. I’m proud of what I do and I will not let some hoodlum tell me where I can and cannot stand.” He drew his sword and looked at Dionil.
“Now, state your problem with me, old man.”
Dionil let out a deep sigh. “Go to sleep, child.” He waved his hands through the air until the air itself seemed to slowly sway, almost like a strange illusion. The wave of strange air then connected with Cobal, who charged forward with a yell. Before he’d taken two full steps towards Dionil, all the strength seemed to leave his body. He dropped his sword and fell to his knees, before collapsing on the ground. His vision slowly went dark as he lost consciousness.

Cobal came to in a dimly lit room inside a house somewhere. He heard talking coming from the next room over. His head was still pounding as he tried to remember what happened. Suddenly the memories came flooding back and a flush of embarrassment hit his face. After a moment of silent reconciliation with his current situation he stood up and went towards the door where the talking came from. This room seemed to be a guest room. That or the main bedroom was dustier than the cellar of an abandoned house. There were a few blankets laid out, and a small desk in the corner that looked like it hadn’t been used in decades. On the desk were a few scraps of paper and an unfinished letter. Cobal considered taking a peek at it but decided against it. He was in a bad enough mood already and didn’t want to anger the people here anymore. He assumed that this was Dionil’s house, he couldn’t imagine being out cold for long enough for his friends to drag him all the way back to Milinia. Besides, this didn’t look like the house they’d been staying in, and if they dragged him back they would probably be there. Besides hearing talking from the other room, he now also started to smell freshly brewed tea from the room on the other side of the door. He tried listening in on the conversation in the other room for a little while but the sound was too muffled and I didn’t understand most of what he heard. He did catch a few snippets.
“It’s very different from the stories.” and “You’re telling me they can fly?” 
After waiting for a few more moments Cobal carefully opened the door and entered what seemed to be the living room. The slanted roof came to a high point and this room had a very high ceiling.
Sitting around a high table were Mana, Kimi, Cassandra, Mirgia and Dionil. Mana was the first to notice him enter.
“Cobal, are you alright?” She rushed towards him.
“I’m fine.” He glared at Dionil who was sipping tea. “I thought I wasn’t welcome here.”
“Mana refused to talk to me until I promised I’d treat you better. I had no choice.” The old elf still refused to acknowledge him by making eye contact.
Cobal let out a deep sigh and sat down in one of the chairs. “So now what?”
He looked at his companions who all had a bit of a sullen look on their faces.
“Did something happen while I was unconscious?” he asked, feeling the mood had shifted.
“Cobal, how much do you know about Might and why he vanished?” Mana asked.
“Well, he worked with the Blueyerd royal family for many years until he started being less and less cooperative and working more on his own things. Then one day he vanished completely.”
Mana looked at Dionil. “See, I told you that that’s what he thinks happened?”
Cassandra added. “To be fair to Cobal, that’s what most people think happened, I was under the same impression until today.”
Cobal looked from one to the other nervously. “What’s going on here?”
“There’s still a chance he’s lying to you Mana,” Dionil said. “He’s part of their royal family, there’s a good chance he does know, and just doesn’t want to come forward with it.” He grabbed her shoulder. “Are you sure you want to tell him?”
What were they talking about? Was there something he didn’t know? He never even met the hero Might, so what could it possibly be? Did Might get into a fight with the king and leave because of that? Questions ran through his head as he looked at Mana and Dionil.
“Is there something I should know?” The feeling of worry that had been haunting him for the past few days seemed to be getting worse. He felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up as if his entire body was bracing for impact.
Mana looked at Dionil, who nodded. “It’s up to you, Lady Mana.”
“Cobal, Might didn’t disappear. Might was executed by King Tearal Blueyerd in the dungeons under the royal palace. He was murdered by your family.”

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