Chapter 99Twilight Comes

The forest felt empty when we walked to the city walls. Maybe Maeve had asked everyone to stay away. The boy walked silently with us, he didn't need any prompting or pushing, but he didn't say or ask anything either. He looked at ease with his situation though it only made me feel more sorry for his fractured mind. But, it made me wonder, did he feel that way himself? Was his mind screaming to him from the inside, unable to get out? Or was it just an empty void?

Also, though my body felt great, my clothes were ruined by the large cut across my chest, the hole in the side and dried blood everywhere. It wouldn't be easy to fix. Yes, I know it was stupid to think about my clothing now, but my mind had some catching up to do after the battle. I wasn't quite sure of everything that had happened.

The council members had been... dissolved. There had been nothing left but their clothes. It had felt weird to even look at them, vestiges of past horror. We had watched silently while critters dragged them off until one of them screamed in pain. A ring with a Dark Crystal had hurt one of them. It looked like Valerius had worn it on his left hand, perhaps as defense. Even though it had been little use, at least it cleared up the little mystery of last night.

The guards, Derrek's helpers and he himself had been removed by the numerous forest creatures. I was happy for that, as it meant a lot less burden on my shoulders. The dagger with the gems had been retrieved from Derrek's hands by Deirdre, but the crystals themselves had all but shattered. The metal of the knife was surprisingly strong though. You could see exactly where the crystals had been set, even the shape of them and there was hardly a notch on it from the fighting, despite the intensity of the strikes before.

All that remained was a sharp knife with holes in it.

A little like how I felt.

Even though my holes had been mended. I squeezed Deirdre's hand slightly and got her attention.

"What should we say to the council."

"The truth?"

"Would the council believe us?"

A moment of silence. "If they don't, they'll arrest us, won't they?"

I nodded. "Very likely."

"We shouldn't go in there then, as it is already impossible to prove what happened or what we've done."

We exited the forest not long after and headed for the gates. Strangely enough, there seemed to be rather a lot of people at the gates, waiting to head outside. A large crowd that didn't look like travellers or such. They weren't packed either, some were carrying pitchforks but nothing else.

This wasn't a crowd, this was an angry mob.

Before we got closer, Maeve hesitated and asked us to stop. "I don't think it's a good idea if I meet them."

I let go of Deirdre's hand and turned to her and nodded. "I understand. We'll see you shortly."

"Maeve be safe." Deirdre smiled at her.

We headed for the crowd carefully after Maeve vanished back into the woods. Some of the crowd appeared to have seen us and were telling others. It looked very tense and not at all open to talks. Of course I had one advantage, they didn't know I was an abomination. They knew (and probably already despised) the Twilight and might allow them to become the guilty.

We closed in with open hands, showing we weren't carrying weapons. I was scared. I knew Deirdre could heal me, but that would only work if there was enough to heal and if she wasn't too hurt herself. Being torn apart by a hundred or so angry people didn't sound at all attractive to me.

I spoke as I neared. "We have news!"

One of them responded, he looked like a market trader. "Weren't you just with a Forest Spirit?"

Truth would probably be better here. "Yes, I was at the meeting with the council members."

A little deeper in the crowd I heard some commotion. "Let me through, step aside! Come on, don't push!"

Three men worked their way towards us, Council Members but dressed as we saw them the day before. They looked at me and Deirdre and then each other. They spoke in hushed tones before they addressed us.

"Where are Valerius and Francisco?"

"They are dead. Murdered."

The man stepped forwards. "Did you have a hand in their killing?"

I shook my head. "No, it was the Twilight cult. The two guards were also killed. And I must apologise, but their method made it impossible to bury the bodies."

There were whispers among the crowd. 'Twilight cult?' 'The abominations.' 'I knew they were up to no good, didn't I tell you Simon?' 'At least we won't see his fat arse again.' 'It's not like they ever did anything for us.'

"Silence" The man turned back to us. "Is this true?"

Deirdre nodded. "Yes, sir."

I added. "Yes. The forest spirits helped in my defense against them, else I would have been killed as well." I pointed out the cuts in my leather clothing that were still quite bloody.

The man looked at me and, for the first time, gave me the feeling he was thinking about what I'd said. "This all sounds unlikely, and you appear to have little proof but your stories and blood on your clothing." He looked around. "But this is not a good place to end this."

He raised his voice. "You three are no longer welcome in this city until we have found the truth. Set no more steps between these walls or face death."

There was some approving murmuring from the crowd behind him. The crowd agreed. There was nothing I could do about it. They already had their opinions set. The truth of my story no longer mattered to them. All I could do was anger them more. It was hard to face the truth of what had just happened. The strange sensation of what they had done.

Banished...