In the end, it was the Chief who came looking for them.
Wenyanga pushed aside a bowl of braised goat meat and looked up at the door two heartbeats before it blew off the frame. The door had been made of heavy wood and secured with three thick brass hinges, not to mention lightly reinforced with muffling scripts. Didn't stop it from sliding halfway across the room, dim runes dying out inside the cracked wood. Wenyanga trapped a twisted hinge under their foot as it slid under their chair.
The man who marched through the creaking doorframe was furious. "I called for you ten minutes ago," said Chief Sanele.
Though he was dressed in a thick hide skirt and a deerskin shawl layered with bronze scales, he wasn't armed, so Wenyanga pulled their food back in front of them with a spoon and scooped up a buttery carrot.
"Chief Sanele," Thula said, gripping the edge of the table. "Please, be welcome."
"Pick the door up on your way out," Wenyanga said.
They felt the heat against their cheek as Sanele flexed his soul. It was a rash display, born out of an anger that made his spirit flare. Even with their stoneiris closed, Wenyanga saw the three rings of fire that spun around the Chief's body, and whe they met his eyes, his gaze seared the lid of their stoneiris like a candle held too close to their nose.
The anger on Sanele's face was impressive too, but it paled in comparison to the unfiltered rage he manifested spiritually. Wenyanga stared until the Chief's fire ebbed. His point made, his shoulders relaxed.
Wenyanga put down their spoon. "Congratulations, you're frightening. What do you want?"
Sanele's features shifted. The crackling heat didn't quite leave his eyes, but he seemed to look through it with a measure of the collected leader he tried to be. Calm and measured. It was an awkward mask around his burning eyes.
He lay a meaty hand on the doorframe. "I call for you on royal business; it's something I can't discuss where ears might be listening."
You shouldn't have kicked my door in, then. "You have a coterie of three Seers. Someone's always listening to something, albeit on your behalf."
His large face slackened. The chief's spies were a secret known to only three people. Well, four now. Wenyanga had sensed his Seers from two hundred paces outside of the town the first time they had visited Tello here. Their spiritual masks were good -- well, good enough for a desert town like this -- but in the scope of the grander world, they left a lot to be desired. Still, Sanele kept them well hidden in his house, although Thula reckoned that if their souls had been refined with Flame or Light aura, insulation was part of what weakened their gifts.
Something in Sanele shifted again. Some fear crept into him; Wenyanga watched how the three firey rings of his soul dimmed. "I should not have disrespected your home as I did. I apologise."
He shouldn't have. Outside of the desert outskirts, there was a world where a Perfect mage like Sanele would crush Wenyanga before apologising, a world that maintained that order even to its own destruction at times. Power was law, and laws were enforced by the strong.
Wenyanga shrugged. "You're Chief of this town and its surrounding villages. If you marched in here and put a spear through our hearts, no one'll reprimand you. Well, the Paramount would, but what does she care of a soul surgeon and a secular doctor?"
Sanele and Thula both flinched at the mention of the Paramount. The chief looked to the ceiling as if he expected a bolt of lighting to strike them all down. A bolt of lightning, in the middle of a desert... It wouldn't have been impossible, but the power required would have been a waste of a Paramount's considerable orgone.
When the ceiling didn't burst into flame, Sanele focused on Wenyanga again.
"You are angry about Tello," he said. "I too feel a--"
Wenyanga smiled an old, sad smile. "I don't care what you feel, Chief."
Sanele's eyes flared red, but he swallowed whatever made his chest swell. "We can discuss him later."
Wenyanga curled a fist, the runes in their rings burning bright enough to cast half their robe in golden light. Thula's hand settled on their knuckle, and the light cooled. Gods of the void, when had their temper stumbled out of their control?
A week ago, when you put your dagger through Tello's liver.
If Sanele noted the disrespectful flare of their rings, he didn't say so. He could throw his power around, he was a Perfect-level warmage. Wenyanga wasn't. A fight between them would have been... complicated.
Sanele right hand was resting on the leather band of his skirts, but he lifted his heart hand and touched a finger to his stoneiris. That was as close to begging as a Perfect could get. "I do this only to emphasise the gravity of the situation. I need your help--"
Wenyanga heard his next words before they even left his mouth. They resisted the urge to jump to their feet and tell Thula to grab her wayhealer kit. The ability to see a few heartbeats into the future was not an entirely convenient gift, so Wenyanga had to force themselves to sit still until Sanele finished speaking.
"--there's a Judge in my manse. He is mortally wounded."
Thula put a hand over her mouth, swallowed, then stood gravely. "I'll get my kit."
Wenyanga was slower to their feet, but once they were up, they stood half a head taller than the Chief. Tucking their hands into the pockets of their divine robe, Wenyanga smiled and prepared for the worst.
"What happened?" they asked, then winced as the answer hit them immediately.
"He was attacked by a Pettygod this morning."
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