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~:: A Child Shall Lead Them - Part II (Chapter II) ::~

The Adept returned, knocking politely on the door before Mary bade her re-entry, bearing an ornate tray piled high with some sweet smelling scones and two steaming mugs. A rich aroma wafted to his nostrils, mingling the delicious scent of tart apple with cinnamon and other spices he could not easily identify, even with his Nictus enhanced senses. He picked up one of the proffered mugs and brought it to his lips. Mary smiled and winked. "Good for whatever ails you, this potion is."

His eyes widened a little and she laughed. "It is only warmed cider with a pinch of spices. Trust me when I say that it will in no way cause you any harm."

He nodded and took a sip of the beverage, letting it settle on his palate before he swallowed.

"Perhaps," Mary suggested gently, "we should involve the child's mother in this discussion. Perhaps it may be that she has some particular insight that will lend itself to the situation."

With a small sigh Cale nodded. He felt he was facing the equivalent of repeatedly running headlong into a brick wall as he tried to plead the cause of caution and sanity with his headstrong child and her stubborn mother, whose position now seemed to be supported by the leader of the Cabal.

Mary rose and tipped her head back, closing her eyes and going into a trancelike state. She began to hover as her arms raised into the quickening breeze that fanned the flames in the fireplace into a raging frenzy. A few unintelligible syllables muttered into the night air and a glow began to form between them. It seemed to throb briefly before intensifying as it finally coalesced into a glowing winged apparition. The huge wings beat the air as the form solidified into their plane of existence. Cale blinked hard as his former lover softly landed on the worn rug.

"Greetings, Mary," Azazela said, softly, with a polite bow of her head. Mary returned the bow as she gently sank back into her chair and motioned towards a third chair which had levitated towards them and assumed a hover right behind Az. Az turned just as the chair gently thudded to the ground, and sat down gingerly.

"Cale," Az said softly, in an almost breathless tone.

"Hi, Az," he replied as he squirmed uncomfortably in his chair. He wondered if he should begin by broaching the subject or leave that task to their gracious hostess.

Mary saved him from his anxiety by softly clearing her throat. "Azazela, as much as I would like to pretend this is a pleasant social visit," she motioned towards the tea tray, "the fact of the matter is that Cale has brought Adara here to discuss her involvement in a very dangerous situation."

Azazela nodded. "They go forth to deal with Naimah."

Mary's lips set in a grim line. "Yes. I have done all I can do within my powers to assure their success."

"I realize you have, and for that I am most grateful, but..." Cale interrupted, his voice quavering as he paused to swallow the lump in his throat, "I still don't think this is anything for three rookie heroes to tackle. Especially," he emphasized, his eyes meeting Azazela's, "when one of them is our daughter."

Azazela drew a deep breath and nodded. "I understand your apprehension, Cale, but you have to believe me when I tell you that this is what must come to pass."

He exhaled slowly, controlling his breath the way he hoped to control his rising temper. "Az, don't try to placate me with cryptic gibberish."

She closed her eyes for a moment as she carefully chose her words. She knew he was close to losing his temper and that was something she tried at all times to avoid. "Cale, I am not trying to be cryptic. I am just pointing out that some things are simply meant to be and although they seem dangerous, or tragic, the outcome of preventing their occurrence would result in far worse consequences."

Mary nodded quietly as the former Archmage ground his teeth in frustration. He knew his opinion in this matter was in the minority and being on the losing side of the argument was not something he could easily accept.

"The danger..." he growled.

"The danger is always present," the wizened sorceress interrupted. "Cale, I must ask you this. When you first arrived in this place in this dimension and you made the decision to join the ranks of those who fought for the good of all, did you consider the risk to yourself?"

"I...well...of course...I mean..." he stammered. "But this is different! I was an adult, and capable of making that choice."

"For a moment, I ask you to leave age out of the equation. Has your daughter not battled at your side for many years?"

"Of course, but that was with both myself and her mother there to protect her."

"And I am sure that her mother will continue to watch over her, more so now than ever. The time has come for you to trust in all that you have taught your child up to this point, and watch as that training comes to fruition."

The Warshade swallowed hard. Arguing his point any further was a no-win situation.

Azazela leaned towards him to put a gentle hand on his shoulder as she softly reassured him. "I will watch over her, Cale. Believe me when I say that I will do all I can to help her."

"No matter what you say, no matter how much you assure me, I cannot lend my approval to this, Az."

The beautiful angel slowly nodded her head. "I understand."

"I can't believe you are willing to let Adara run off to the Rogue Isles when you know firsthand how dangerous that can be. Even worse, she is going there to battle Naimah."

"Yes, but she is going well prepared, and will not be caught unaware, as I was," Azazela's voice dropped to a soft whisper.

The Warshade gazed up into her glittering blue eyes with a pained expression that even the glowing blue of the Nictus energy emanating from his eyes could not mask.

"There is no way I can win this argument," he muttered, as he slowly rose to his feet. "But the bottom line is this: I am not going to give this my blessing. I still feel this is a huge mistake."

The two women exchanged a look of frustration.

"This does not mean," he added in an almost defeated tone, "that I will say or do anything to try to interfere or prevent this." With a protracted sigh, he moved to the window and gazed out into the deepening shadows as night fully descended on this mystical land. The soft flicker of firelight from a tree that burned with an eerie flame cast gentle shadows on the ground. He fought the urge to morph into the massive form of the hulking Dwarf, leap out the window, rip the vile entity up by its twisted roots, and administer an extreme beating to the lurking evil in order to vent the mounting frustration that was pressing down on him like an unseen colossus.

Azazela could feel his exasperation and longed to reach out to him, but in the years that they had spent together she had learned that the best thing to do was let him confront his emotions in his own way. Interfering would only serve to bring his wrath to bear upon her.

Quietly she turned to Mary. "I will do all I can to watch over them."

Mary nodded. "As have I, from this distance."

Az gave the elder woman a respectful bow of her head as she murmured "And once again, I thank you."

Cale stood at the window, lost in his own turbulent thoughts until he was startled from his somber reverie by a sharp clap of the sorceress's hands accompanied by a flash of brilliance and deep rumble. Immediately the same Adept who'd brought them the cider and scones appeared. "Fetch Miss Adara Westmarch to me, please, Maggie?"

The Adept answered with a "Yes'm" and a quick bow, as she flitted from the room to search for the little blonde girl.

To Part II - Chapter III