Jotto had been leaning forward, paws on the table as he looked across at Dru. Now he stood, drew himself up to his full height, his ears almost touching the sloping reed roof, and said: “It’s been, what, four or five moons since Zarda first suggested a return to the Expanse. Why have you not Seen this before?”
Before either Dru or I could reply, Elver cut in. “Dru is only included in these meetings as a courtesy to Zarda. The understanding was that he would listen and say nothing. Yet here we are, taking his babbling seriously.”
“It isn’t—” Dru began.
Kalon silenced him with a wave of his paw. “Zarda, have you Seen this too?”
I shook my head. “No, Lord. But if Dru—”
“Dru is an untrained youngling,” said Kalon, flicking a dismissive ear. “If you, a Fate-seer, have not Seen this, then why should we believe it?” He stepped away from his throne-stool and paced from one straight-sided wall to its opposite, ears twitching with thought, while everyone else fell silent, waiting. “I see no reason to change our plan,” he declared at last, strutting to the end of the table where Dru’s overturned stool lay. He ran a paw through his grey mane, extended his one remaining wing, and went on: “As agreed before we were interrupted…” A fierce glance at Dru dissuaded any further dissent. “Zarda, Jotto, Shaya, and Urxov will form the scouting party. They will be accompanied along Death River by nine other flyers—”
“May I request, Lord, that the other two half-growns who are nearing maturity be allowed to fly with the escort?” Jotto lowered his head and set his ears to full apology as he dared a further interruption. Before Kalon could object, he plunged on: “My own pup, Tonil, and Myxot’s Yaver would consider it an honour to accompany Urxov on his Proving Flight.”
The rumble in Kalon’s throat might have been a growl, but Jotto’s clever reminder that this would be Urxov’s Proving Flight at least prevented him from biting anyone. “Yes,” he said, tugging on his beard, his voice gruff, “yes, that is an excellent idea, Jotto. Though Urxov, of course, will have the more dangerous flight, as part of the main scouting party. They will have to live on the Expanse for a whole moon, discover what they can of conditions there, and fly back here as quickly as possible with their report. The other flyers will stage along the route in threes till they reach Falls Camp, so that messages can be relayed if needed. They will all leave at dawn tomorrow, while the Spiral still shines overhead. May its sacred lights watch over them and return them safely to us. So it has always been.”