Olvir jolted from his slumber. For a heart-stopping moment, he thought the wagon was being attacked by bandits and bolted upright, wide-eyed. When he saw no sign of attackers, his panic subsided enough for him to think clearly and take in his surroundings.
The dirt track he and his family were travelling down was bordered by ferns and other low-lying vegetation, but otherwise it was empty. He turned in his seat and realised why the cart was stationary. A brook emerged from the trees and cut across the track up ahead, flowing towards a break in the forest to the right. There it mingled with the waters of a lake. A wooden bridge had been built over the brook, but it had fallen into a state of disrepair, leaving no way to get the wagon across the steep-sided stream.
Olvir heard his mother sigh as she climbed down from the cart. "What now?" she said. "My brother is expecting us-he'll be worried if we don't arrive before nightfall!"
"Calm yourself, Melkora," Olvir's father replied. "We'll have to take a different route. I'm sure Hrein can wait another day."
Olvir scrambled from the wagon. As soon as his booted feet touched the earth, he began to shiver; the warmth of the sun had been stolen by the thin layer of vapour that carpeted the ground. He hugged his arms for warmth and approached the break in the forest, the point where the brook merged with the vast body of water that was the lake. The mist around his feet extended onto the lake's surface, thinning here and there to reveal murky waters and reed beds beneath. Further out, closer to the lake's centre, distorted shadows loomed. Just over the treetops on the far shore, the remains of a watchtower could be seen.
"Olvir? Stay close," his mother called.
Reluctantly, Olvir pulled his eyes from the lake and moved to his parents' sides. Melkora put her arm around his shoulders and turned to her husband. "Askan, you know what my brother's like," she said. "He'll send out search parties if we aren't there by dark."
Askan exhaled in exasperation and rubbed his jaw. "We'll have to go back to the fork in the track a mile back and go left instead. Maybe we'll find-"
"Are you leaving so soon?"
Melkora and Askan started at the voice and turned to the lake. It was no longer empty.
A woman stood waist deep in the waters, the material of her nacreous dress swirling about her as though there was a current pulling at it. Locks of sanguine hair cascaded down her shoulders like blood, vivid against her porcelain skin, but it was her eyes that stood out the most-they were completely white.
Askan hid his shock behind an expression of concern. "Are you all right, théra?" he called. "Who are you?"
The woman smiled. "I am one of many names." Her voice was dulcet; softer than silk, sweeter than honey. It was all too easy to become lost in her words. "I would very much like to meet your son." She extended a pallid hand. "Will you bring him to me?"
Askan nodded, unable to deny the owner of such a beautiful voice.
"You will go nowhere near him, drakys," Melkora spat. "Askan, we must go." She began to move towards the cart, steering Olvir in the right direction.
"The boy is mine." The woman's voice rang out across the lake's still surface, startling birds from their roosts. "If you attempt to take him from me, it will not go well for you."
"Come, Askan," Melkora said. "Please."
The desperation in her voice seemed to break through his daze. Askan blinked. "Yes," he said softly. "Yes, let's go."
The woman gazed at them with her blank, penetrating eyes. "You brought this upon yourselves."
Twin jets of water burst from the lake and lashed around Askan's ankles, jerking his feet from under him. Water frothed as he fought against the force dragging him, his hoarse cries echoing across the lake.
Melkora screamed and raced in after him, throwing up plumes of dirty water in her wake, but she had already lost sight of her husband.
"I did warn you," the woman's voice whispered in her ear.
Fingers twisted through Melkora's hair and her head was forced under the surface. Writhing and scratching, she tried to break free, but the woman's grip was like a vice. After a long minute, her kicks lost their vigour, and then ceased altogether.
Olvir watched from the lakeside, frozen with horror. As Melkora went limp, her blonde tresses fanning out around her pale face like a halo, the red-haired woman released her and looked up at Olvir. "Come to me, young one," she said, proffering her hand again.
Olvir shook his head and backed away. "You killed them," he said in a strangled whisper.
"They sought to take you from me, dear one. That I could not allow. You are mine." Olvir continued to retreat, but the woman's next words brought him to a standstill. "If you come with me, you will see your parents again."
Olvir wavered, barely daring to hope. "Do you… Do you promise?"
The woman smiled, revealing a row of teeth that tapered to wicked points. "I promise."
Trembling, Olvir stepped forward and grasped her hand.
Sabyne's ears rang. Her head swam. She could taste blood.
The ground was springy and uneven beneath her, a bundled cloak cushioning her head. But that wasn't right; hadn't she been riding a horse a moment before? She tried to raise herself into a sitting position but a sharp pain flared in her shoulder. She slumped backwards, nauseous and exhausted.
Colour bled into her narrow field of vision and she saw a face hovering above hers. A worried face. A boy's face. It moved in and out of focus, making her feel as if she were at the centre of a whirlpool. Her tongue was dry and heavy in her mouth, but she forced it to form his name.
A look of relief swept across the boy's face. "Mistress, you're awake. Thank Móndra." He blanched at his slip of the tongue, but Sabyne barely noticed. As Kalen helped her to sit up, a groan escaped her lips. Every muscle in her body ached like it had been trampled on by an irate ox and her head pounded thunderously.
Now that she was upright, she had a better view of their surroundings. Rolling hills covered in tussocks of coarse grasses extended as far as the eye could see, punctuated by grey-purple bruises of heather and the occasional grove of bilberry bushes. Their horses were tethered to one such bush nearby.
"How long did it last?" she rasped, her throat raw.
Kalen held up a small sandglass for her to see. "Five and a half turns of the timer, mistress." His expression of worry returned. "It was a long one."
"It certainly feels so." Sabyne pressed two fingers to her lips. When she pulled them back, she saw blood. She'd bitten her tongue.
Kalen offered her a waterskin, which she accepted gratefully, taking a long draught before passing it back. Her hand trembled. "Will you lead Drífa over?" she asked. "My legs are too weak to stand."
The boy hurried over to the horses. While his back was turned, Sabyne pressed the heels of her hands against her closed eyes, trying to think past her migraine. She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. Be here, she told herself. Be now.
She looked up and saw that Kalen waited a few feet away with Drífa. Wincing at the pain that flared in her shoulder, she staggered to her feet and mounted her horse. "There has been a change of plan," she said. "We must travel swiftly."
"But, mistress, where are we going?"
Sabyne turned her gaze northward, unease growing in the pit of her stomach. "Our destination lies in the heart of the Astar's country."
Kalen hesitated. "Mistress, what… what exactly did you See?"
As she considered his question, she found herself tracing the intricate silver tattoo that started on her palm and laced its way down her forearm. She knew what her apprentice was truly asking: what was bad enough to make her travel north?
She swallowed her fears and looked into his eyes. "I have Seen that we are needed urgently. There is no time to lose."
The warmth of the afternoon sun was slipping away by the time they reached their destination. The placid waters of the lake were abuzz with dragonflies of jade and sapphire, but their splendid dance across the surface was marred by the two pale white corpses that were caught in the reeds by the bank.
Three days of hard travelling had left Sabyne's body stiff and sore, but she didn't allow that to distract her as she scanned the lake for signs of movement. Once she was certain they were alone, she approached the corpses, feeling a sharp stab of recognition. They were the man and woman from her dream-Askan and Melkora.
Singing a quick spellsong to repel the flies and ward off the smell, Sabyne knelt and inspected them closely. "Ah," she murmured after a few moments. "Tell me, Kalen; what do you notice about these two?" The boy edged forward hesitantly, eyes wide as he examined the bodies. "It might be difficult to distinguish with this state of decomposition. Look here. What do you see?"
His face grew as pale as the deceased. "There are… There are blue spots all over them."
Sabyne nodded. They were faded now, difficult to make out, but a day or so before, the small indigo dots that covered the bodies would have stained their skin like fresh bruises.
"Wh- What does that mean?"
Sabyne ran a hand over her face, as though trying to wipe away her troubles. "It means we are dealing with a spirit of the water. These markings are left by one." She frowned as a new thought entered her mind. "In my vision, I saw a child with his parents, but I do not see his body here anywhere."
"Maybe the spirit took it for food?"
Sabyne shook her head, pensive. "No. Spirits do not need physical sustenance. The only reason they take lives is for pleasure."
"Then maybe his body's on the bottom of the lake?" Kalen glanced about nervously, starting when a bird burst from a nearby reed bed.
"Perhaps." Sabyne studied the darkening sky before straightening up. "Come. Night draws near and we do not want to be caught in the open with a water spirit on the loose. We will find somewhere to stay in a nearby village tonight and return in the morning."
They remounted their horses and headed for the thin columns of smoke in the distance that signalled the presence of houses. By the time they reached the first of the dwellings, the sky had deepened to twilight, cloaking them in the growing gloom. Sabyne asked a man they crossed on the mud track that ran through the village if he knew anyone willing to offer them a bed for the night, and was directed towards the local tavern, which had a room rented out to travellers. Fortunately for the pair, the room was unoccupied when they arrived.
After Sabyne had paid for their accommodation and sent Kalen upstairs with a hastily whispered list of instructions, she ordered a cup of hot water, seated herself at the end of one of the long tables, and placed a mint leaf in the scalding liquid. Having assured herself that there were no members of the Astar priesthood present, she relaxed and focused on the conversation several of the locals were having across the room.
"…terrible! I found Aldis this morning not far from the stream, stone dead. Drowned, she was; there's no doubt about it. Poor soul. And her bairn, little Jórunn, was nowhere to be seen!"
Anguish blossomed in Sabyne's chest as she listened to the words-another woman was dead, a child missing, and she hadn't Seen it. Perhaps if she had, she might have been able to prevent it.
Don't be foolish, she told herself. Your visions show only the present. You couldn't have stopped it even if you had Seen it.
She banished her guilt and looked towards the speaker, an elderly woman who sat at a table at the far side of the common room. Though her story was one of misfortune and death, the woman seemed to revel in its telling, her lined face alight with glee at having an audience to listen to her tale.
"And that's not the worst of it, let me tell you!" the old woman crowed, sloshing some of her drink over the side of her cup as she pointed for emphasis. "Aldis didn't drown in the stream, oh no-I found her head in the bucket she'd brought with her to collect the water!"
"Close that mouth of yours before you make an even bigger fool of yourself, Dagrun," a man shouted from further down the table. "'Course she didn't drown in the bucket. Must've happened in the stream and someone else put her like that, to give foolish old women like you a tall tale to tell at eventide."
"You'd not speak to me like that if you knew the truth!" Dagrun blustered.
"The truth? You're a crazy old hag, that's the truth! Stop your blethering and give us some peace!"
The cheer of agreement came from the rest of the men at the table. Dagrun scowled at them, then cast aside her cup and headed for the exit. Sabyne moved to intercept her.
"Excuse me," she said. "I heard what you were saying about the drowned woman and her child. Have there been any other incidents like this recently?"
Dagrun looked Sabyne over, her iron-grey eyebrows furrowing in suspicion. Then her face split into a grin, revealing several missing and blackened teeth. "Aye, there might've been, but my memory's not what it used to be. It might need… prompting, you ken?"
Sabyne sighed and reached for her purse. "Perhaps this will aid your memory?" She pressed a silver coin into the old woman's hand.
"Aye, it's all coming back to me now." Dagrun stowed the coin in her own bag and beckoned to Sabyne. "Come sit with me, théra, and I'll tell you what I know."
Half an hour later, Sabyne returned to her room, her mind buzzing. To her satisfaction, she found that Kalen had followed her instructions exactly. A bowl of water lay upon the bed and the curtains had been drawn back from the window. She knelt before the bowl and removed an ornate silver knife from the sheath on her belt.
As Kalen's eyes swept across the interlocking curves of the design on the hilt, his eyebrows rose. "You mean to scry, mistress?"
"Indeed." Sabyne placed the dagger by her side and positioned the bowl of water so that the light of the half-moon lit its surface with silvery light. "The circumstances call for it. There have been several other fatalities in addition to those at the lake and each time a child has gone missing. Something sinister is afoot."
"But it's too dangerous! A spellsong for seeking another can overwhelm you if the other is stronger, or it could alert the Astar to your presence-"
"I know, Kalen," Sabyne said softly. "But we do not have time to wait for one of my own visions. They are too unpredictable. Scrying is a great risk, yet it is the only way I can find out more in time to save lives." And it is what my master would have done, she added silently.
"You don't even have the elixir with you." She heard the desperation in Kalen's voice. "How can you scry without a proper medium?"
"I cannot," she replied, "which is why the water must be imbued with something to give it the same properties as the elixir."
"This." Sabyne took the knife at her side and pricked her finger, allowing a droplet of blood to fall into the water and spiral beneath its moonlit surface. "Kyngara thé sassinys'éo dís cothúal." She let her voice lilt, so that the incantation became more than mere words. It became a spellsong for scrying.
She stared fixatedly at the meandering path of the droplet of blood, watching as it traced a scene across the water. She briefly made out the mouth of a cave before the scene changed, outlining a group of small beings, probably children, huddled together on a partially submerged island of rock in the midst of a subterranean lake. As the scene changed again, Sabyne felt the bowl begin to tremble beneath her hands, but she refused to look away - one more vision would reveal exactly who she was dealing with and possibly how to defeat them.
Suddenly the liquid turned black and a tremendous force gripped her neck, dragging her head down into the water. Sabyne struggled, desperately trying to pull her face out of the fluid, but the force holding her there was too strong. As she opened her mouth to utter an incantation, the water thrust itself down her throat as if it were alive and intent upon silencing her forever.
Just as she felt unconsciousness rush to greet her, something scaldingly hot was forced into her hand. The pain of the object bit into her body and almost immediately the force holding her in the water disappeared. Sabyne pulled her head clear of the liquid, coughing and spluttering violently, and felt the welcome rush of air as it entered her lungs. She dimly heard Kalen shouting her name and looked up into his anxious face.
"Mistress, are you hurt?" he asked, worry straining his voice.
Sabyne tried to give him a reassuring smile. "I will live, thanks to you," she said, wincing at the rawness of her throat. "What did you give to me?"
She looked down at the object in her hand and saw that it was a smooth grey stone, engraved with two parallel vertical lines, joined by a single diagonal line - the symbol of Hagall, the Destroyer. It had now cooled to a bearable heat but it still glowed from its sudden invocation. "Ah, a runestone," she approved, grinning at the simplicity and yet absolute brilliance of the idea. "Very clever. What made you decide upon using Hagall?"
Kalen blushed at the compliment and mumbled, "I knew that nothing would be strong enough to rival the water spirit's power, but a sharp shock from the Destroyer would be enough to distract it long enough for you to get away from the water."
Sabyne smiled at the twelve-year-old boy in her charge. "Your quick thinking just saved my life, Kalen," she said gratefully, but as she looked deeper into the boy's dark gaze, her expression changed to one Kalen could not identify. "Thank you," she said eventually, trying to mask the unease in her voice. "Now get some sleep. We have much to do in the morning."
Kalen tried to protest, wanting to ask Sabyne exactly what she had Seen, but she wouldn't hear of it. As an exhausted Kalen retreated to his bed, Sabyne rose and opened the window, maintaining a firm hold on the runestone as she emptied the bowl of water out onto the street below. There was little chance of her getting any sleep that night - the memories of what she had just Seen, in both the scrying bowl and in Kalen's eyes, were still far too vivid in her mind.
The next morning dawned too soon for Kalen and he dragged himself from the bed with great reluctance. Although the mattress had been lumpy and the blanket scratchy, it was still more comfortable than sleeping on the cold, hard earth, as he had been doing for the last fortnight.
"Make haste, Kalen," Sabyne instructed, already dressed and ready to leave. "There is someone waiting for us at the lake who I wish for you to meet."
Within the hour, they stood once again upon the bank of the lake, watching as the dragonflies wound their way across its tranquil surface. They waited in silence for a few minutes before Sabyne stirred and smiled. "Here he is."
Kalen looked around but saw nothing aside from the open moors to the east and the dark forms of the trees in the west. He opened his mouth to ask Sabyne what she meant, but she held up a finger for silence. "Listen," she said. Kalen did as instructed, using magic to extend his normal range of hearing. At first he heard nothing but the buzzing of the insects on the lake; then a new sound met his ears - one of horse's hooves on a track. Within seconds, a mounted rider emerged from the distant forest and rode towards them, his dark hair catching the bright morning sun. When he reached them, he swiftly dismounted and greeted Sabyne with obvious warmth.
"It is good to see you again, Corben," she said, chuckling softly as he bowed to her.
"And you, mistress. It has been too long since we last met." He smiled and turned his gaze to Kalen. "I see you have another student."
Sabyne placed her hand fondly on Kalen's shoulder. "Indeed I do. This is Kalen of Caesaria. Kalen, this is one of my old students, Corben of Mandar. But enough introductions for the moment - there is work to be done." Sabyne quickly informed Corben of all they had learnt and their suspicions of a water spirit being the culprit.
"Then we should find its source and dry it out," he proposed.
"We may be faced with a problem there." Sabyne took a seat on a large rock nearby and, seeing Kalen's confused expression, explained, "Usually water spirits are bound to their source, perhaps a small spring or lake, and it is to this that their life force is tied. If the spring dries up, the spirit dies. However, the more powerful among the elementals can move between bodies of water at will, unimpeded by distance. Where there is water, the spirit may tread. They are notoriously difficult to track and confine for, to be powerful enough to Wander, they must be very strong indeed."
"And how do they become that powerful?" Kalen asked, his expression torn between curiosity and trepidation.
"Blood sacrifice." Sabyne noted how his features darkened at her words. "The most potent being that of a child," she finished grimly.
Kalen's eyes widened in comprehension. "And the most powerful rituals are performed during the full moon."
Sabyne nodded, her expression grave. "Tonight."
"So that's why you never found any bodies belonging to children - the water witch is saving them for later," Corben cut in, pacing back and forth in irritation. "Then how do we find them? You said yourself that water spirits are almost impossible to locate and trap-"
"Be still, Corben," Sabyne ordered. Immediately, the man stopped pacing and listened. "We have little time and so we must act quickly. We now know why the spirit is taking the children. The question that remains is where it is keeping them." Corben opened his mouth to interrupt, but stopped when he saw Sabyne's eyes flash in warning. "We cannot hope to search all of the caves and caverns in the area before nightfall so I see only one way to locate the spirit's lair."
Kalen looked up into her sombre gaze, his mouth set into a hard line. "You need it to take me, don't you?"
A mixture of emotions flickered across Sabyne's face before she gave him a look of appraisal. Sometimes she forgot that he was only twelve. "I would not ask this of you if I could do it myself but, regrettably, I am too old - the spirit would not take me alive. The only other person who can communicate mind-to-mind with me, and who is young enough to be snared, is you."
Kalen nodded and clenched his hands to stop them trembling. "What must I do?"
That night, Kalen stood alone on the lakeshore, staring out fearfully across the moonlit expanse of water. He shivered and glanced back at the far off forest, where he knew Sabyne and Corben were hiding.
"You're not leaving, are you?"
Kalen started at the sound of the voice and whipped back to the lake. A young woman with scarlet hair stood in the shallows, holding her hand out to him. "Will you join me?"
Unable to speak, Kalen took a few unsteady paces forward and grasped the woman's hand. Then everything went black.
"What happened to the boy's parents?" Corben asked, his eyes pinned to the tiny figure by the lake.
"They died in a fire many years ago," Sabyne replied sadly. "From the very first time I saw him, I knew that he possessed incredible potential, so when I found that he had lost his parents and was alone in the world, I offered to train him as a mage."
"And he accepted readily?" Corben turned his gaze to his former mentor and met her gentle brown eyes.
"Yes." Sabyne sighed and drew her knife, twirling it beneath her fingers absently. "I think he knew deep down the power he possessed. I think he always knew that one day..." She froze. "Did you sense that?" Her eyes shot back to the lake and found the shore devoid of life. She sprang to her feet, closely followed by Corben, and threw herself atop the horse she had acquired earlier that day. She felt the familiar tug of Kalen's mind and discerned the direction he was being taken.
"Follow me," she called back to Corben, who had mounted his own horse and was close behind. She wound her way between the trees, relying on her magically heightened senses to navigate the thick trunks in the darkness, moving towards the beacon that was Kalen's mind. The trees grew closer together, marking out the centre of the forest, and just as Sabyne was beginning to lose hope, she burst into a clearing. She reined the horse to a halt and jumped onto the soft forest floor, running towards the cave at the far side of the clearing.
"This is it," she said to Corben as he arrived at her side. "This is the cave I saw when I scryed the water spirit."
"Did you find out its name?" he asked urgently. "A Named thing is a Tamed thing."
"Nearly. I was so close, but it managed to stop me. I feel as if I already know it from somewhere, though; as if its name hovers on the border of my consciousness, not yet within reach."
"Maybe when you see it, its name will come to mind."
"For that I pray," Sabyne muttered, tethering the horses to a nearby tree. "Now let us go! There is very little time left." She crept cautiously into the cave, following the passageway until it branched in several directions.
"Which way?" Corben whispered.
Sabyne closed her eyes and sent her mind out, searching for Kalen. "That one." She indicated the first passage on the left and shared an uneasy glance with Corben before descending into the darkness.
Kalen shivered and looked about in the poor light. He and six other children, ranging from two to ten years, sat huddled together on an island of rock amid a subterranean lake. Several inches of water covered the island which meant the water spirit would easily be able to reach them. The only dry place in the cavern was the altar at the centre of the island, but even the youngest of the children inherently knew not to tread near it. Above the altar, a shaft extending from the roof of the cavern to the outside world allowed moonlight to beam down onto the altar's deeply stained surface.
"Don't worry," Kalen reassured the other children. "My friends are coming to help us. They'll be here soon."
"How can they help?" one girl asked, on the verge of tears. "I saw that woman kill my mama and papa. She's too strong."
"But my friends are stronger," he promised her, though in his heart he knew the truth.
They sat in silence for what seemed like hours, listening intently for any noise, but when sound did come, it was only Kalen who could hear it.
We are here, Sabyne said, speaking directly to his mind. Keep the children from the water's edge and be prepared for the water spirit's attack.
Kalen assumed command and quickly told the children about his orders, before summoning his magic, ready to fight at a moment's notice. As he did so, Sabyne and Corben stood on the narrow ledge running around the lake, watching as he rounded the six other children up and ushered them closer to the altar.
"Take the north and east walls," Sabyne murmured, keeping her voice low to avoid creating an echo. "I will take the south and west walls. Remember, symbols of confinement only."
As Corben left to complete his task, Sabyne drew her dagger and turned to regard the south wall. She ran the knife across her palm, beads of red welling up on her skin, glistening like rubies, and daubed her forefinger in the blood. She quickly drew Naudr, the Binder, the rune that would seal the spirit in the cavern, upon the rough surface before moving on to the western wall and drawing an identical symbol upon it.
Kalen, she sent out once she was done, I need you to follow my instructions exactly. Once the spirit realises what we are doing, it may try to hurt you and the children. You must protect them.
I will, mistress, he replied.
Sabyne nodded to herself, sensing the determination in his words. Corben, are you ready? she asked.
Then let us begin. She took a deep breath, recalling the words of a Summoning, then began to chant in time with Corben, who stood on the opposite side of the lake. A bitterly cold wind blew across the surface of the lake, whisking the water up into foam and creating waves of increasing amplitude as the wavering form of the spirit began to appear upon the island. Sabyne smiled in triumph as the spirit let out a feral shriek of rage, realising it was trapped within the cavern. Its crimson hair whipped about its mottled grey face and its piercing, blank eyes seemed to stare straight at Sabyne.
She caught her breath in recognition - she knew exactly who the spirit was - but as she opened her mouth to Name it, a huge wave crashed into her, dragging her off the ledge and into the fathoms deep lake. She sensed that Corben had been towed into the water too and was struggling desperately to reach the surface. But the water pulled them both mercilessly downwards towards the crushing depths.
Kalen watched in horror as Sabyne was washed into the lake, disappearing into the black waters as though she had never existed. He racked his mind for a spell that might save her but he knew that he wouldn't be strong enough to rival the water spirit's magic, even if he did know one.
"Let them go!" he yelled, recklessly diving at the spirit, but it repelled him with ease, sending him flying into the altar. The world flashed red as he crashed into the unforgiving stone and he watched as the spirit advanced on him, a jagged knife appearing in its pale hand. He had just about given up hope when Sabyne's voice screamed in his mind, giving him the one piece of information that could save them all.
A sudden burst of energy spiked through his body and he leapt to his feet, crying, "I Name thee Viviane, Lady of the Lake!"
The water spirit shuddered to a halt, furious, and regarded him with undisguised hatred, its body trembling as it fought against the ancient magic that held it in place.
"A Named thing is a Tamed thing," he recited. "Now release my friends!" Kalen felt the power in his words, compelling the spirit to do exactly as he asked. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Corben and Sabyne's heads breach the surface of the water, gasping for air, and he watched while they swam over to the island of rock.
As Sabyne climbed onto the islet, sodden and shaking from the cold, she staggered over to him and pulled him into a tight hug.
"Thank you," she whispered in his ear, before turning to regard the water spirit. "I knew I recognised you from somewhere, Viviane," she said, taking a step towards the elemental. "The very spirit who started the legend of the Lady of the Lake. The very spirit who drowned my master. Now I shall see to it that you never harm anyone again!"
Sabyne began to chant furiously, her voice joined by Corben's as they worked together to evaporate the water in the lake. Viviane screeched and lurched at Sabyne, intent upon silencing her, but the spirit stumbled as its body erupted into flames, tumbling into the diminished lake. Steam billowed throughout the cavern as more and more water turned to vapour, swirling everywhere but the protective bubble around the island. Viviane's shrieks died away as the final droplet of water vanished, and silence fell upon the cavern.
Kalen sighed with relief. "It's over."
"Indeed, it is," Sabyne agreed, releasing her pent up breath. "We had better get these children back to their relatives. I expect they will be very happy to see them alive and well."
She took one of Corben's hands and looked to Kalen. "We need your assistance here, Kalen. Translocation is a complex spell and we will need all the help we can get to transport the nine of us."
Kalen nodded and joined hands with them, the six children stood tightly packed together in the middle of the circle. He closed his eyes and, hearing Sabyne chant the incantation, allowed his magic to meld with hers and Corben's. The breath of wind that blew across his face signalled the spell had worked and he opened his eyes to find the group stood in the centre of the town they had spent the night in.
Sabyne smiled as the children cried out with relief, thankful to see their homes once again. "It looks as though our work here is done," she murmured, tracing a finger along her tattoo, which gleamed like moonbeam itself under the light of the full moon.
"Where will we go now, mistress?" Kalen asked, a smile tugging at his lips.
Sabyne laughed lightly and ruffled his hair. "We shall See."