It was early evening by the time Damien made it to Calda's house. Before he could even knock, Calda was there answering the door.
"Damien," she kissed his forehead in greeting. "You are right on time."
Damien greeted her warmly in return, kissing her cheek as elves often did. Letting himself inside, he took off his shoes and went straight for the table. "So, what's for supper? It smells good."
As he sat down, Ashlyn made herself visible. She had changed clothes since their chance meeting at the market. Her rosy dress exposed the tips of her shoulders and her hair was pinned up with pearls.
Damien found his throat going dry as she sat down across from him. "Hey, Ash."
"Hello, Damien," she smiled, picking up her fork. "I'm glad you could make it."
"Anything to get out of reading about the sunken wars," he said. Once Calda had the first bite, Damien dug into his meal.
"You wanted to talk to me about something?" Ashlyn asked while chewing.
"Uh, right." Damien cleared his throat, leaning forward in his chair. "I was wondering if you could read me? I still have questions about-- you know. I figured you could help." He watched as her face fell into gloom.
"What about Lothira? She is perfectly capable of helping you."
"Lothira has done all she can," he said. "It has to be you, Ash. So, what do you say?"
Ashlyn considered for a long while, slowing to eat. "I want to help you, Damien, but Kallus has asked me to stay away from it."
"What?" This was news to Damien. "And why would he do that?"
"To protect you, no doubt. If I read you, it would defy his wishes."
"What about my wishes? Do they mean nothing?"
"Damien," Calda said from the side, "I'm sure Kallus has good reason. He is wiser than most of us."
"So?" Damien scoffed, turning back to Ashlyn. "Lothira told me that you would help if I asked for it. And I'm asking you. Please, help me understand why I'm--I'm different."
Ashlyn swallowed and placed her fork down. Both Damien and Calda watched her intently, waiting for her response. "If I do this, we will both have to answer to Kallus. Are you prepared for that?"
"I'm not scared of Kallus." Damien leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms. "What's the worst he could do?"
"For one, he could make us face a Tribunal."
"On what grounds?" Damien argued. The way he said it caused Ashlyn to laugh.
"It's obvious you don't take Kallus' job very seriously, but defying one of our lords is punishable."
"I doubt it would come to that."
"Very well," Ashlyn said before returning to her meal. "I am prepared to face the consequences with you."
"You're sure about this, Ashlyn?" Calda questioned. "Kallus aside, using your Sight on Damien could very well have its own consequences."
"I have been getting better," Ashlyn said, then it was followed by a sigh. "I was rather hoping that Lothira would do this task for me, but I can see now it was futile."
"What?" Damien smirked. "You can see it now because you're all-seeing?"
"Who told you I was all-seeing?"
"Hm. I suppose I'm all-seeing when I choose to be."
Damien leaned in, his eyebrows skewing. "So, how does it work exactly?"
"If you want me to read you, you'll find out soon enough."
After supper, Ashlyn brought Damien to her room and closed the door. For ambiance, she lit the candles on her nightstand and closed the drapes over her window.
"You should make yourself comfortable," she said as Damien sat down on her bed.
"How comfortable, exactly?"
Ashlyn gestured for him to lay down, so he obliged. With his head resting on a pillow, he folded his hands across his chest and waited as Ashlyn placed her fingers along his temples. He listened to her steady breathing, noticing the glow in her eyes as an aura shimmered around her figure. The aura turned into hot energy, causing her arms and the tips of her fingers to light up as well. Heat trailed along Damien's forehead, making him wince at the sting.
"Sorry," Ashlyn said. "I've never done this on a human before."
"Oh gosh, I'd hate to know what you do practice on. Pigs, perhaps?"
"No," she laughed. "I mean that it's different because you're not a mage."
"Ah." His chin pointed toward her nose. "Do you see anything yet?"
Ashlyn was quiet for a moment. "I see...clouds."
"Murky clouds," she frowned. "That isn't a good sign."
"What else do you see?"
"Give me time to look," she said, falling quiet. Her eyes had become a radiant white, spreading from her face down to the palms of her hands. She sensed power building in and around her, drawing her mind into a void. The void clashed with reality, spinning in circles and making her dizzy.
After gathering her bearings, she found herself in the all-seeing field. It was a barren field, a shadow land drifting with relentless fog. Ashlyn wandered through wilderness, listening to the cries of children as she passed.
She stepped for what seemed like an hour in the mindscape until at last she found a clearing in the fog.
She saw Damien laying on a stone floor, enclosed by a ring of yellow lamps and dark dungeon walls. He was clamped in iron chains, bleeding from the forearms and wrists. His mouth was fastened with leather to bite down on so he would not scream through the suffering.
Standing over him was a beastly dark elf with obsidian eyes covered in rings of shadow. He kept close watch over the boy as he bled, observing the veins under his skin as they ran black.
Ashlyn grew horrified at the sight. Her throat gave its own whimper as she released herself from the spell.
"What is it?" Damien asked, sitting up from the bed. "What did you see?"
Ashlyn took in a breath to temper herself. "I--I don't have the answers you seek."
"Did you even look?"
"Of course I looked, but it's all covered by-- clouds."
"I don't understand," he frowned. "You're supposed to be all-seeing."
Ashlyn groaned while sitting down next to him. "It isn't common, but sometimes another mage will put up barriers in front of my Sight."
"Then break through it," he said. "I don't care what you have to do, just remove the barriers."
"I can try," she said. "In order to do that, I must know who put up the barriers to begin with."
Damien rolled his eyes. "The first person who comes to mind is Baldemar."
"Is he a mage?"
"Well, no," he said, rubbing his chin. "In fact, I've never seen Baldemar perform his own magic. He...usually has his own mages do it for him."
"Mages?" Ashlyn lifted her brows. "Baldemar has more than one?"
"Baldemar has many," Damien confirmed. "They were always coming and going out of my cell."
"Hmmm," Ashlyn pondered. "Perhaps one of these mages placed the barriers. Do you have any idea which one?"
"Oh, that's just my luck." Damien stared at the ceiling. "I don't know any of their names, Ash, I'm sorry."
"Well, then." Ashlyn sighed, folding her hands. "It seems I have my work cut-out for me. I will do some research on these mages and see what I can do."
Damien leaned back, propping himself up with his arms. "And what do you expect me to do while you're figuring all this out?"
"If you want answers, Damien, you better do some research on your own."
"And where am I supposed to start?"
"I believe it's called a library? If I'm not mistaken, Kallus and Lanara have quite a collection."
"You want me to read more of their books?" he moaned. "I doubt they have anything on Baldemar and his mages."
Ashlyn raised a brow. "Until we can rule it out, I'd say you better try."
"Oh, fine," he sighed, ruffling his dark hair. After a long moment he asked, "Was there anything that wasn't blocked off?"
"Well, I did see something in your past. A few years ago, you told me that the dark elves desire your blood."
"Will you be honest with me? Does your blood conjure a weapon of some kind?"
Damien dipped his head. "You saw all that, did you?"
"If what I think is true, I know what it is you were doing in Githal."