- Episode 24 -
The ferry made it across to the other river bank, but only just barely before it's bottom surrendered to the weight of it's passengers. Percival expressed his own displeasure at getting his hooves wet when they disembarked. The temperamental stallion shook his head briefly, his ears back and huffed at Mal.
"I know you didn't enjoy that last bit old friend but we had to get clear of those things," Mal tried to apologize to his long time four legged companion. "My apologies," he murmured with a soft pat to the horses side. "Now let's get moving, we need to cover more ground and I dare not presume that our gambit has deterred them completely. If anything we may have just purchased ourselves a brief respite before they discover another way to continue their chase."
"Perhaps it would be wise to make use of this opportunity to share with us a little more about the Vault," Trinity probed. "I think it only fair, after all we are in danger here don't you think we have earned the right?" Mal had spoken of the Vault already but while he had warned them of the danger of it he hadn't really told them everything. She still longed to understand more of the book she now carried but she also desperately needed to know more of what was going on.
"Very well," Mal agreed, his gaze cautiously scanning around them while he guided Percival away from the river. "The Vault of Echoes was discovered ages ago by accident, or so goes the lore as we know it. No one knows who found it or any of the real details but it was decided at some point that it was the perfect place to lock away dangerous magic. For as long as I have served it was a well guarded secret and even when I was young it already held a rather impressive hoard. The Vault is masked somehow from view, even magic seems unable to locate it fortunately. Perhaps that is why it was chosen, I can only guess. But I never felt comfortable trusting in it's own inherent security, it was too much to risk. So on our last visit to the Vault we brought with us a whole clutch of dragon eggs we recovered to place as guardians. It seemed a better fate then leaving them to hatch without their mother and that way if someone did breach the Vault they would face a deadly surprise."
Regret worked it's way into Mal's voice and he had to clear his throat to try and regain his composure. "The Vault had always worried me, I never questioned the wisdom of what we were doing but the fact we were putting all that power in one place never felt right. So I made sure to destroy any records of the Vault's location. I couldn't trust that after I was gone someone else might seek it out or be tempted."
A weariness now draped the warrior like a heavy cloak that Trinity and Camden both could see. "The mother dragon," Camden pointed out as he already decided the old story had been true. "You really did slay a dragon by yourself - you had killed the mother." The statement held a singular pain like a dagger thrust into his chest for Mal.
"To my shame, yes," he answered with his head bowed. "I was ordered to do so, as a threat to a nearby village. It wasn't known that she was merely safe guarding her offspring and wasn't really any danger. The only thing I could do was lock up the eggs, without the mother they would assuredly been seized by any number of ruthless or greedy people and enslaved. I was responsible, so I had to protect them and thought perhaps maybe they might be best kept safe by helping to keep the Vault safe."
It had been Mal's duty to protect the realm form dangerous threats, but it was his own guilt that even now urged him to ensure both the Vault and it's guardians were safe. He had made them orphans after all, just like these two children. Fate seemed to have a strange sense of humor he told himself. These two he would not abandon like he had before, he regretted ever having done so.