The master was irritated.
Assan'diri could feel the rising ire of his master through the bond. Like a Blackened Death Asp monster, it hissed, sibilant, at a constant measure that put all of the Setsulah on edge.
"Diri!" muttered a nearby voice.
He turned to see Chen'thra, his wife, approach from his left.
"Master is losing his patience," she hissed, "his black mood hangs over us like a storm."
"I feel it, my heart, of course I feel it. Ever since the loss of our kin, the master has been losing faith in this mission."
They shared a moment of quiet sorrow. They had not had the time to perform the proper rituals to commemorate their lost Bond Kin, something that doubled their grief. Killed by the devilish monster that had plagued and taunted them for so long, their kin would not rest properly until the rites had been observed.
The rage of the master had been as hot as the desert sands when they had fallen. The Setsulah had shared in the blazing intensity of it. That one of their sacred number would be lost to such a monster had rankled. The creature had toyed with them. Dancing on the edge of their range, unleashing spells that they had never seen before, vanishing like mist.
They had consoled themselves that the final reckoning would be theirs. Garralosh was determined to exterminate all the humans from the pathetic frontier kingdoms and she would destroy these pesky monsters whilst she was at it.
At first they had worried that the humans and monsters would flee, but rejoiced when repeated scrying showed that no such movements were taking place. The Setsulah had not wished for their master to spend years chasing rabble and refuse through the wilds, and thankfully he hadn't needed to. They had expected the humans and monsters would crumble the moment they arrived, crushed under the weight of the thousands of monsters that rushed at them.
They could not have been more wrong!
"Have you ever seen a collection of monsters like this?" Chen'thra asked, bewildered.
"I have not, my heart," Assan'diri confirmed, just as confused.
The walls, the traps, the ambushes, the stratagems. One after the other, after the other.
"Did you hear what happened in the last hour?"
"The third wall was taken, was it not?"
"It was, and when the chatka charged toward the fourth, the ants flooded them!"
"They flooded them! The sand blasted creatures built a covered reservoir and they knocked out the walls. The chatka were washed into holes and taken beneath the ground! I've never heard of such a thing!"
The two shuddered and Assan'diri reached out, his hand unconsciously seeking that of his wife. To those who had lived their entire lives in the deserts and mountains of the true kingdom, death by water sent shivers down their spines.
The two stood deep in the belly of the horde, surrounded by chatka, slave monsters, on all sides. More worrying than those, were the hundreds of gigantic crocodile like monsters that shared this space in the centre. The master had committed to this sacred purpose and the Bond Kin would serve as dutifully as ever, but he wished he had been able to leave his wife at home.
"Come, my heart, let us return to the compound."
To his relief, his wife nodded her assent and the two turned their back on the battle and strode toward the source of the simmering anger that thrummed across the Bond.
Assan'diri tried to ignore the Garralosh spawn as they passed. The monsters stared at the two robed figures with scarcely concealed hunger. Only the iron will of their parent was able to keep the primitive brutes in line. Even the knowledge that the master would scour their flesh from their bones should they lay one scaled claw on the Setsulah wasn't enough to sink into their simple minds.
He tried not to be too disrespectful of the creatures in his thoughts. His master had dedicated a great deal of time to this project and it wouldn't do if the Kin were to harbor ill thoughts towards something the master had devoted such attention to.
[Do not mind it Assan'diri. I have no great opinion of these creatures myself.]
Assan'diri and his wife both stumbled at the sudden touch of the great mind of their master through the bond.
[Master. I prostrate myself. I did not mean any offence.]
He made good on his words by immediately dropping to his knees and bowing low in the dirt. Chen'thra joined him without hesitation.
[Peace,] the master sighed, [I have intruded on your thoughts without announcing myself, you need not apologise. There is no disloyalty in your thoughts.]
The two Setsulah straightened themselves, their thoughts seized by the weariness they sensed in their master.
[I sense our task may be coming to an end. The skein shifts rapidly here. This ebb and flow of possibility are shifting beneath our feet, yet I sense a conclusion will come. Success or failure will be decided soon.]
The two servants shared a significant glance.
[Do you anticipate the Setsulah will be deployed? We are willing to serve.]
There was finality in that response.
[I will not tolerate further loss of the Bond Kin. Our charge has made this her mission and it will be on her to see it through. I alone will be enough to satisfy the demands of the order that Garralosh be supported.]
Assan'diri clamped his fangs shut and grimaced within his hood. If it weren't for that cursed monster hunting them, the master would not need to tax themselves in this way.
[Have I fallen so low that my own Bond Kin will fuss over me in this way, Assan'diri?]
The servant hissed in agitation and once more threw himself on the dirt to bow low in the direction of his master. Even without being able to see the blessed form of his Bond holder, he was able to bow directly toward him.
[I mean no offense, Master! Please discipline me as you see fit.]
[Enough. If not for the Bond Kin fussing over us, we, Kaarmodo, would do naught but debate and hibernate until our species faced extinction. Gather the Kin. We must channel the ambient mana once more into our charge. If Garralosh is to have the best chance of success, then we must ensure her core isn't depleted.]
[As you wish, master.]
The touch of the master over the Bond faded and the two servants rushed to fulfil their master's instructions. It seemed as if their long quest would finally reach a conclusion. The Setsulah longed for the hot winds and sheer peaks of their mountain home. Whether Garralosh were successful and broke through or failed and languished in this cage of her own making, Assan'diri no longer cared. So long as the master was able to discharge his duty, they could return home with pride.