Qast awoke with a rasping breath, clawing at her hair. Her eyes narrowed and darted about the room as her hands deftly reached for two of the daggers she kept concealed about her bed. The darkness offered no sound and she could sense no presence in it except that of her sleeping sister, and yet she felt invaded. The faint whispering which had woken her came again, crawling to the fore of her mind and scratching at her defences. As her heart slowed she realised she knew this presence. She put her daggers back in their places then began the process of calming herself and opening her mind. A voice crackled into clarity.
I’m sorry I’ve woken you. Mellin said dryly. Qast rubbed her fingers against her temples and tried to concentrate. Mellin was a powerful mage and could establish and maintain these kinds of communications over long distances with ease. But Qast, like her sister, was only a minor mage and had to maintain a level of focus throughout which left her with a wicked pain drumming about her skull like the thud of rambunctious children’s games.
Is everything alright? She asked.
Mellin knew the toll these communications took on lesser magi and tried to keep things concise. So he told her about the WorldSoul and where it was quickly, omitting unnecessary details about Rilashul and the apprentice who still lay in his bed.
The entire exchange lasted about thirty seconds but that was enough. Qast cursed foully as she rose from her bed, gripping the chest of drawers to steady herself. She pulled on her padded night boots and wrapped a coat over herself before walking to the other side of the room and tapping her sister.
Sasha mumbled something which sounded vulgar and rolled over. From the crispness of her motions it was clear she’d been awake, likely since Qast had sat up in bed. She pushed the blankets away from herself, revealing that her hands still burnt from a readied flame spell. As she sat up on her bed she looked up to Qast and grimaced at the pain she saw. Sasha reached for Qast’s hands and pressed her fingers firmly into their palms, sending waves of restoration through to her sister until she felt the tension fade away.
“Thanks.” Qast offered and ran a hand through her short black hair. The two were separated by only a few years but Qast looked far older than her sister. She’d always been the more sullen and resigned of the two. Older by three years, Qast had been initiated into the Cult of Saiala when she was 15, and had quickly ascended the ranks. By the time that Sasha had joined her a few years later, Qast was a member of the Cult’s Honour Guard, and serving in the house of Hazh.
They hadn’t been the worst of masters, but they hadn’t been the best of them either and Qast had fought for her sister to be assigned something more pleasant. Sasha had chosen to practice healing and restoration magic and had become of the Cult’s nurses. She’d enjoyed her job, and even met someone. They’d been engaged to be married, and Qast was glad for her sister’s happiness.
Watching her sister struggle with the conflict between duty and desire had been hard for Qast. Unlike Sasha, she had never been someone that people enjoyed being around. She’d never enjoyed being around people. The only things which mattered to her were duty and Sasha. The decision to join the Shadow Wraith had been easy for her, but Sasha would have refused had she had a choice.
Choice is an illusion, Qast thought sourly. She had believed in choice once, and it had failed her.
“Was it Mellin?” Sasha asked in her quiet voice. She saw her sister pull her thoughts back to the present.
“We have to find the others,” she said. “Mellin’s found the WorldSoul.”