Timeline: April 23, 2005
Lyla was able to find Paul rather easily, and after watching him for some time finally made her move. He was reluctant at first, and had asked her if they had met, saying she looked familiar. She responded with the usual, “I get that a lot, but no we have never met.”
It did not take Lyla long to work her charms, and though he seemed reluctant at first, she found all the right things to say and do to get him to buy her a drink.
A few drinks later they were headed to his car to go get a room. He opened the door for Lyla, being the ever curtious gentlemen. Lyla had been somewhat suspicious about everything but kept pushing forward because things where going her way. It was now that she was getting into the car that she realized why.
His hand slipped over her mouth, there was a folded cloth in it. His other arm held her tightly in place. After a minute she felt her body relax, thoug she was still consious, she no longer had control over her own body. He manuvered her into the seat, and closed the door.
The car had pulled away and headed out of town, when he looked at her and smiled. “Yes I knew who you were, and no you will not be able to move or speak for some time. Oh and in case youwanted to know, I keep the Amulet very safe.” He unbuttoned the top button of his shirt, and through her blurred vision, she could not make anything out, it looked liked a very blurry bare chest.
Lyla was overwhelmed with grogginess, her body refused to move, her vision remained blurry, and yet she was still in a state between slumber and awake. She could hear everything that was going on around her, the closer the sound the clearer it became. She had no Idea how much time had passed, all she could do was hope Ramiel and Honoré figured it out soon, or maybe Sarah would help her.
She could hear the muffled sounds of an argument, and a struggle, then it began to get clearer, and it was moving closer to her.
“How…why..?” the muffled sound of a female voice, one she recognized, it was Sarah.
“If you would just think things through you would understand. I have an affinity to all things aquatic, both physical and spiritual in nature. A lot like Aquaman, only I can actually do something.” It was Paul speaking, practically pleading in anger for her to understand. His frustration was apparent.
In moments Sarah’s bound body was slumped next Lyla.
“You see don’t you, I did not have to lift a finger to get what I wanted, I could see and hear everything through you, and all the time you had no idea.”
Sarah refused to give up the fight. “Then you know that there is nothing you can do, she did nothing, her parents did and they are dead. You can’t get what you want so let us go. Ramiel will come looking for her when she does not show up and he will kill you.”
Paul laughed, a dark and sinister laugh. “That pup has no idea what he is going up against, and besides, Lyla is with them right now. And don’t fret over anything my love, I have other plans for that.”
Lyla had a terrible feeling, he had been playing them the entire time, and he was powerful she could feel it. She had tried to skim his thoughts, and she hit a shield, a very strong shield. If he noticed he did not let her know.
Ramiel had been out at the lake for a couple hours when Honore joined him, letting him know that Lyla had taken off to meet, and hopefully seduce, Paul. Honore had not asked Ramiel if he was upset that Lyla was going off with another man, she didn’t have to, he could see it in her eyes.
“No I am not upset over that, but that she did not allow me to follow behind her, just to make sure she is ok.”
Eventually returning to the Hotel the two had settled down in front of the T.V. with some snackes when Lyla re-appeared, came into the room and plopped down on the bed.
“You okay?” Rey asked.
“Yeah,” she replied a little glumly. “It didn’t work. I guess he really is devoted to Sarah or something. I couldn’t get the amulet from him.”
“Well we can’t try that approach again. My day was a bust too, no champ.” Without shifting his focus from the T.V. he continued. “So what now Rey?”
“We wait for Sarah’s call.” She looked at Ramiel and Lyla. “How did I end up in charge?”
“This one’s your deal,” Lyla said. “We’re just trying to help you deal with something from your past.” She smiled. “Let us know what you want us to do and we’re all yours. We want to help.”
“Why are we waiting for Sarah? The plan was to go get him tonight, so I say we go get him and beat the shit out of him.” Ramiel seemed almost confused as to why there was even a debate.
Ramiel had proclaimed they just go out to the house and get Paul. “No more waiting let’s go. Rey is there anything you need to do? Because I am going out the door.” Ramiel had already put his holster on and was slipping his pitols into place, hidden safely beneath his long coat.
“I’m ready any time,” Lyla said with a little smirk.
There were a million things Rey wanted to do, but she didn’t want Ramiel and Lyla confronting Paul alone. “Let me get my bag.” She felt really uneasy about the whole situation, wondering if she and her friends were being set up. “I do need to talk to Paul, so don’t do anything that will make it impossible for me to do that.”
Lyla laughed. “You don’t have to worry about me.” But she leveled her gaze toward Ramiel and raised one eyebrow.
“Heh, no promises Rey. If things get bad I will not hold my punches. Besides what do you need to know from him?”
“I want to confirm Sarah’s story, find out if he’s got another one of those amulets, and how far his research gone in replicating what was done to Sarah and the sprite,” Rey answered. “And I need to find out what he knows about the amulet and what was done, so I can figure out if I can separate Sarah and Sylfie.”
He smiled and shrugged. “Like I said, no promises. Let’s go.” He quickly gathered his things and headed out the door. ” I called a cab a little while ago, it should be here soon.” He disappeared down the hallway.
Lyla gave Rey a smile and hurried after him.
I hope things don’t turn out really crappy, Rey said to Hamilton as she followed Ramiel and Lyla out.
The cab ride felt like an eternity, but as all things do it too came to an end. The gate was closed shut on the estate, so they had to take the hard way over the wall. Ramiel had done most of the lifting, and pushing to get the girls over.
They had made it about halfway to the house, when Ramiel commented, “This seems wrong, it’s too quiet.” He looked at Rey, they stopped to listen, but Lyla just kept going.
Ramiel called for her to stop but she didn’t. He gave Rey a frustrated look. “Figures.”
Then Lyla simply collapsed to the ground, convulsing. Ramiel ran to her and tried his best to help her. His face was panicked as Rey knelt to the other side of Lyla.
Then she stopped moving.
Rey immediately checked for Lyla’s pulse. I knew this was a bad idea. Hamilton, can you sense anything out of place? A spell, or some other magic?
She quickly discovered there was no pulse. Her wrist and neck were both already cooling.
Ramiel bent over Lyla, his mouth over hers breathing puffs of air into her chest once Rey reached thirty compressions of the chest. This went on for just a couple of minutes with no response. tears ran down Ramiel’s face as he yelled at Lyla not to leave him.
Then her body began to move, but not in the manner of breathing. Her skin seemed to boil and bubble. The two scattered away from her as the body of Lyla melted into a pile of gore. The stench of burnt and rotted flesh filled the air.
Ramiel screamed in anguish. His voice filling the night.
Hamilton, could that have been a homonculous? A magical construct, and not really Lyla?
If it is miss, then we had best hurry and find the real one. Umm, miss. What are you going to do about him?
Just about to deal with that. Rey stood and went over to Ramiel, and took his face in her hands. “Ramiel, look at me. Look at me!”
His body trembled beneath her touch, his eyes filled with tears that streamed down his face. The sudden touch of another shocked him into a quite observance. He grabbed her arms. “This isn’t happening, it isn’t I can’t lose her. Not my Lyla. Not now after all we have been through.”
It was hard to see a man who is usually very strong tremble like a child, but that is what Rey was looking at. She knew what Ramiel would do if this turned out to truly be Lyla. All she could do was hope her suspicion turned out to be correct.
“I don’t think that was her,” Rey said, drawing on everything she could remember from her grifter childhood to calm and convince him. “I think that was a homonculous, a magical clone. You need to pull yourself together and be strong, Ramiel. We’re going to get her back, and I’m going to need your help to do it.”
Moments passed as the words set in, sinking through the layers of pain and sorrow to hit their mark. His eyes snapped to focus and Rey saw death reflected in his eyes. She knew without doubt that Ramiel would kill Paul if he found him. It didn’t matter now that the melting pile on the ground was not Lyla, because that very fact meant Paul had already done something to her.
“Let’s go.” He stood and grabbed Rey by the wrist, moving at top speed he moved through the grounds, heading toward the house.
“Ramiel, slow down.” Rey tried to keep up but she stumbled and fell. Her arm got a good yank when Ramiel didn’t stop. “You’re hurting me.”
“What!” He realized then that he was pulling her arm a bit too much, and let her go. “Sorry, keep up we need to find Lyla.”
It was at the very moment that they reached the house, they heard screams come from the right, following the sound they could see a smaller building out that direction.
Ramiel looked at Rey. “Lyla!” He headed toward the smaller building.
Rey followed as quickly as she could, scooping Hamilton out of her bag and dropping him on the ground. Sorry about that, Hamilton, but I need you to get to that building before Ramiel does. Try and get to a window so you can look in. I don’t want to go rushing in there blind.
The little cat gave a quick nod and took off at full speed. He managed to gain ground on Ramiel and even pass him, making it to the window of the small out building.
Noise erupted from the woods, it sounded like something moving quickly through the trees. The sound was not growing louder, but fading, going closer to the waters edge.
Miss they are here, hurry.
Ramiel ignored the sounds in the woods, heading straight for the door. Honoré was on his heels, following him into the large room. It was filled with book shelves and books, tables and what Rey recognized as magic items. Tools and components, then she saw the summoning circle on the floor.
Ramiel found Lyla, still drugged, but recovering, tied next to Sarah. He made quick work of the bonds and held her close to him. ” Thank Heaven you are okay.”
“Where’s Paul?” Rey asked, wondering if Paul had summoned something, and the scream was him being eaten or carried off. Hamilton, see if you can follow the trail of whatever’s heading toward the lake. And be careful!
Yes miss. He faded into the growing darkness outside.
Lyla weakly tried to hold Ramiel. Her body didn’t seem to want to work quite right, but at least she could move under her own power a little.
“Drugged,” she managed with a slur as she tried to focus on Ramiel. “He knew.”
Rey repeated her question to Sarah and Lyla as she started to untie Sarah. “Where’s Paul?”
Ramiel was helping Sarah with restraints as she answered. “He ran, I don’t know why, but he ran.”
Once Ramiel had Sarah free, he picked Lyla up in his arms. “The woods.”
Honoré could at least feel some relief that as long as Ramiel had his hands full with Lyla he could not shoot Paul.
Miss! Hurry he his out by the water, there are, well, HE”S NOT ALONE!
Lyla put her arms around Ramiel. “I’m sorry. I’ve never been duped like this before.” She rested her head upon his chest. “Will you please shoot him once in the heart and the head, too? I think I hate him.”
“Ramiel, stay with Lyla and Sarah and protect them.” Rey grabbed her bag and took off as fast as she could towards the lake, not waiting for a response.
“It is okay. It is not your fault, I should not have let youtalk me out of following you. And yes, I’ll kill him for you.”
“Ramiel, if you have love for Lyla, stay with her now and protect her and Sarah until I get back. If Paul comes back and I don’t, you have my blessing to shoot him in the face.” Rey grabbed her bag and took off as fast as she could towards the lake, not waiting for a response.
How many are there, Hamilton? Tell me what’s happening!
Lot’s miss, hurry.
Honore ran for what felt like an eternity, she could hear explosions up ahead and see flashes of light flicker through the trees. When she breached the tree line she could see Paul,and several brilliant blue-green creatures.
Some had human form and stood near the waters edge observing, they were a paler color blue, and seemed to glow. The others were smaller animals, and they were flittering about, toying with Paul, who was attacking wildley.
Then she felt it, the air grew heavy and cold, shivers dances through her body. The night became darker, and all the creatures backed ever closer to the waters edge. Paul stood alone, and the figure of a human shadow shimmered into exsistence.
Her pulse raced as the form slowly solidified. Hamilton raced to her and pawed at her leg to be let back in the bag.
Rey put her bag down, opened it up and pulled out her ritual knife (which was really just a utility knife, nothing but that’s what she used) just as Hamilton leaped inside for cover. Nothing else she had with her, save for her own luck, would probably help her now.
He deserves what he gets, but gods help me, I have to at least try to save him. “Paul! Get away from the water!”
Rey saw Paul make a small motion with his hands. She could not make out his words, however the effect was obvious. Fire erupted through the air in the shape of a serpent, hurdling toward the shadow figure.
For a moment she thought she could see the shadow smile. Then the serpent of fire shattered into shards and dissipated in midair, falling short of it’s mark. The shadow took a step toward Paul.
A memory flashed through her mind, the blurred outline standing over her bed in the hospital.
At that moment Ramiel came running out of the woods carrying Lyla, Sarah close behind him.
Rey stood there, paralyzed with fear. Hamilton, it’s him. Oh god oh god oh god it’s him…
Lyla could feel him, it sent tremors through her body, the darkness, the cold, she knew it was him, the Dark man. She could see him there, standing before them.
Ramiel on the other hand had no idea what he was seeing. ” Well guess I won’t have to kill him after all.”
“R..r..ramiel, it’s him. The Dark Man.” Rey nearly lost hold of her knife, and tightened her fingers around it until her knuckles were white.
“No…” Lyla murmured. She was stared with white, terrified eyes. “Not now.” Even as Ramiel let her stand on her own feet, he felt her death-grip on his arm.
“WHAT!.” Ramiel moved with lightning speed, setting Lyla on the ground he pulled his guns as he hurled himself forward. Pulling the triggers as he did. Ramiel’s aim was true as the bullets hit their mark, and passed right through him. The shadow turned his attention to Ramiel, and the others, giving Paul a moment to act.
Paul moved while everyones attention was on the shadow, and grabbed Honoré. He wrapped his arms around her and held her tightly from behind.
There was motion in the water, though everyone was too distracted to hear it.
With a gesture of his hand, the Dark Man froze Ramiel in mid-motion. He could not move, nor could Lyla from the drugs. Sarah was too terrified to do anything.
“It is not time for you. My business is with him. ” The figure continued to move toward Paul, who was now dragging Honore intothe water.
“Spirits of the lake,” Rey said quickly, not knowing if the spirits were listening, or even cared. “Please help me so I can free Sylfie!” Hamilton, help! Her physical voice may have been relatively calm, but the thoughts she sent to her familiar carried every drop of the terror she felt.
The water spirits huddled close together, their heads barely breaking the surface of the water. They did not move, even with her plea. Hamilton was shaking in the bag, and after a brief moment she heard his reply. Forgive me miss! He leapt from the bag to scratch at Paul’s face.
He managed to get a single swip in before the Dark Man spoke. “Come to me my pet.” With that Hamilton glanced wide eyed at Honoré as his body involuntarily went to the Dark Man.
Bemused the Dark Man held the trembling kitty in his hands. “You are terrified child, I can feel it. This is yours.” He said as he stroked the cat. “He can feed me you know. I can take him from you, forever, so I suggest you answer wisely.” His voice was deep and raspy as he spoke.
“Who do you wish to help? The one who holds you? Or her?” He motioned toward Sarah.
“Her.” Rey’s voice was barely above a whisper. Her body shook and tears streamed down her face. “I want to help her.”
The drugs still in her system prevented Lyla from maintaining her balance or her strength, so she slowly slipped her knees, and then to a sitting position. The Dark Man’s presence filled her mind and she wanted nothing more than to charge at him, to strike him, to hurt him. But she couldn’t do anything physically to him at all.
It occurred to her that the only thing she could do was to steal from the Dark Man. Steal it’s knowledge and it’s thoughts. She cast her mind forth to rip answers from the Dark Man’s mind; she would not be caught weak again and next time she would be prepared, this she swore to herself!
She leveled all her will upon one question and tried to tear it from the Dark Man’s mind. Tell me your weakness!
The Dark Man paused for a moment. The only person who knew what was happening was Lyla, as her mind was flooded with thousands of images as once. Images he had chosen to show her, to flood her system. Images seen only in the worst of nightmares. She screamed as all pain of those memories wracked her body. A single thought preceeded this, “Not that easy.”
“It is a deal then.” The Dark Mane spoke to Honoré.
He then took a few more steps forward, and threw Hamilton to the ground. He motioned with his hand and Honore was freed as Paul’s arms were forced apart. He began to panic as he was lifted into the air, arms and legs outstretched as though he had been drawn and quartered. Then, his screams became those of pain as his chest burst open, blood spraying outward, and an object was expelled from it.
Before anyone could blink the waters surface erupted, as the enormous visage of Champ, swallowed the still screaming Paul.
The blood soaked amulet floated down to rest in Honore’s hands.
“That is yours then.” With that the shadow disappeared, Lyla’s mind calmed, and Ramiel was freed.
Lyla collapsed to her side, panting and holding her head. She stared blankly because every time she closed her eyes, those awful images reared up and seemed to burn her mind all over again. It was going to be a long time before she was able to sleep again.
Rey stared at the amulet in her hand for a moment. “Burn in hell, Paul.” She shoved it in her pocket and raced over to Hamilton. The hedge witch fell onto her knees and scooped him up into her arms. Now, her sobs were those of relief. Rey squeezed her familiar tight into a hug, then released him into her lap and started checking him over for any kind of injuries. Are you okay? Please tell me you’re okay.
Other than possibly soiling myself, fine miss. I had to help you miss, no matter what happened to me.
I don’t care how dirty you are. Rey kissed him on the top of his head and hugged him tight again. You were so brave. I don’t know what I would have done if I’d lost you.
“Hey Rey, you might wanna look up.” Ramiel had moved ot Lyla again, and was helping her stand. The two of them were looking wide-eyed at the numerous water spirits now gathering on the shore.
A mysterious man emerged from the crowd, and walked to Rey. He was tall and slender, with short silver hair and eyes, clearly not human. “You made a choice young one, now you must fulfill it.”
Rey looked up at him. “Of course,” she said, a bit surprised that he thought she was going to reneg on her promise. “I promised Sarah and Sylfie yesterday that I’d help them.” Rey set Hamilton down so he could start cleaning himself up.
She reached into her pocket and pulled the amulet out. Tugging at the hem of her shirt, Rey used it to clean more of the blood off it so she could get a better look at it. “It’s just… I don’t know where to even start. I remember it being given to my parents, and Sylfie said I called her, but I don’t know what was done to bind Sarah and Sylfie together. I was hoping to get Paul to tell me what happened so I could undo it.”
Rey stared at the amulet, hoping some other shred of memory might break free and help her. After a few moments, she sighed unhappily. “Sarah, the only way I can release you is to destroy the amulet.” She sniffled and retrieved her knife. “And like Paul warned you, and I’ve feared, you and Sylfie might not survive the separation. I said to you yesterday, the decision has to be yours. If you want me to destroy the amulet, I’ll do it, otherwise I’ll give it to you to do what you wish with it.”
Sarah was silent for a very long time, the shock of everything was too much for her. With tears in her eyes she said they would try it, try to be free. “Go ahead and destroy it.”
Rey nodded. “Sarah, Sylfie, if this doesn’t work out, I want you to know now I’m glad to have met you again, and to be able to help fix what happened.”
Sarah doubled over in pain, falling to her knees clutching her stomach, Her screams were once again an ehoed double voice. Then she began to glow, as Sylfie began to struggle to be free. Their bodies twisted and contorted on the ground, it resembled a calf struggling to break free of an embryonic sack.
Fifteen minutes later the two were separated, Sylfie was barley able to stand, and Sarah laid motionless on the ground.
Rey ran over and checked Sarah for a pulse, hoping the woman was just unconscious.
One of the male water spirits come forward to Sylfie, embracing her, helping her stand. The man with silver hair knelt next to Sarah, ran his hands over her body, just barely above her, not actually touching her. He closed his eyes and began speaking, low and soft, so that no one heard what he was saying.
Within moments of this her body jerked, it began to glow faintly with th same color as Sylfie, and Sarah jolted upright, gasping in air.
“Sarah!” Rey quickly put an arm around Sarah to support her if she was too weak to stay upright.
Her body was trembling and cold to the touch as Rey steadied her. ” Did ……it….work?”
“It did,” Rey said, her voice warm with relief and happiness. “Sylfie appears to be just fine. Here.” She started to slip out of her jacket. “Put my jacket on. You need to get warm.”
Sarah cuddled up in the jacket, and curled her legs in around her. The mystery man sat next to her, using his body as a shield to help her keep warm. He smiled at Rey. ” You have done well little one. Now let us go to the house and get her warm and comfortable.
The water Spirits returned to the lake, Sylfie waved, “We will see you soon.” With that they disappeared into the lake.
The house was warm and inviting, and within minutes the group had warm tea and blankets. Ramiel was quiet as he cared for Lyla. She too was quickly recovering; though still a little shaky she was able to move on her own again.
Normally, being called “little one” bugged the hell out of her, she decided it wasn’t so bad when Mystery Man called her that. The fact that he’d given her praise was still a bit of a welcome surprise. It was then that she’d remembered the promise she’d made to Ramiel.
“So, Ramiel, you got to see Champ. You happy now?” she asked with a grin.
A big childish grin spread across his face. “That was cool wasn’t it? He just burst right out of the water, and CHOMP!”
The mystery man was tending to Sarah, and could not help but laugh.
“I thought you’d like that,” Rey said, smiling. “I hope Champ doesn’t get indigestion.” She sat cross legged in her chair, Hamilton in her lap being thoroughly scritched.
Lyla smiled and shook her head with a chuckle at that. She had been watching the stranger tending to Sarah however, and finally had to ask about him. “Hey. Are you a… like a merman? What’s your name?”
“I am called many names. You may call me Adrian, if you like. No, I am not a merman.” He smiled at her, his laughter filled his eyes.
“Hi Adrian. I’m Lyla. But,” she hesitated, “I saw you come out of the water. If you aren’t a merman, then what are you? And thank you for your help, but how do you know Sarah?”
He handed some warm tea to Sarah, she accepted it smiling. “I don’t know him, and yet I feel as though I do. Like a memory that will not surface.”
Adrian moved away from her once he knew she was okay on her own. He made his way around the house as though he had been there many times.
Tea in hand he took a chair in the corner. “Not everything in the water is a mer-person,” he smiled whimsically. “Which is of more importance to you, what I am, or how I know Sarah?”
“What you are is more important,” Lyla stated. “But I’d like to hear both.”
“Very well then, since you asked so nicely. How to explain, Ah, I have many names, and nick-names. The most famouse of course being Champ.” He paused for a moment to see everyones reactions.
Lyla hesitated. “You mean you are the one behind the lake monster myth?”
“I assure you I am no myth, and monster is a vulgar term applied by those who are incappable of understanding the truth. Though I do get joy out of feeding their fancies. I have chosen to show you this side for Sarah, not many offered such things.
“Now as to how I know Sarah, she is special to me, has been for lifetimes, though she has not recalled this lifetime, due to external influences. She was on the eve of remembrance when Paul took her. You see these lands, all of this actually belong to her. Paul, through a twist of fate, managed to put himself into position to take all that was hers. These lands have been in her family for generations.”
“So now that he’s gone,” Lyla said taking the next logical step, “all this should return to her. Maybe with your help she can manage not to get duped by a magic-wielding jerk like Paul again.” Her voice was dour, but she wore a little half-smile and gave Adrian a wink.
“It has been my way to let things happen naturally, not to interfere with her awakening, but this time I think I will not leave her alone again. So long as she will let me, I will stay by her side.”
Sarah had watched his every movement since he had left her be. “I can not say why, but I would like that very much. I can feel it, what he is saying is true. I remember him, from my childhood, and farther back.”
“You’re very lucky, Sarah, to have someone who cares for you so much.” There was a touch of wistfulness in Rey’s voice. “You’re going to be just fine when we leave.”
Ramiel sat quitly, starring at Adrian/champ with wide eyes.
“Yeah, I think I will. ” Sarah smiled and sipped her tea.
Rey was quiet for another moment. When she spoke again, her voice was hesitant. “Sarah, if you’re going to be getting rid of Paul’s stuff, would… would it be okay if I took his summoning tools and stuff? When my parents died and I… left, I didn’t go back for any of it. Not having the right tools had made if difficult to help people, and I don’t have the money to buy replacements.” As willing as she was to be charitable, she hated asking for herself.
Sarah paused in her tea drinking, thougth about it for a moment, then sighed. “I will trust you Rey. Trust IN you, that you will do good things with them.”
Adrian spoke as well. “Cleanse them first. Get them empty of any energy that is in them, and then make them your own. Do not mix your energy with his. This I caution you against.”
Everyone settled in for the night, comfortably and safe. Sarah had provided rooms for everyone, including Adrian. Ramiel was able to see to Lyla’s every need, discretely and quietly.
The morning was cool and welcome, the aroma of eggs and coffee filled the kitchen, the group found that Adrian and Sarah had prepared breakfast for everyone. Sarah had called the cops and filled a report already, a missing persons report for Paul. The rest of the day passed peacefully, as they discussed the numerous things that needed to be discussed, and Sarah and Adrian packed up the tools for Rey.
Ramiel, Lyla, and Rey stay in town for a few weeks, getting to know very well Adrain and Sarah, and learning about their story, one of soul mates. Sarah as it turns out is a descendent of a creature like champ.
Paul’s body was never found in tact, but enough was discovered in the lake to determine he had fallen in the lake and drown, then most likely hit several times by boats on the lake, a tragedy.
The group was told they would always be welcome, as they set out on their next journey.