Chapter Three: Shadows
Lief sat at the great table in the palace kitchens fighting down rage as he listened to Barda's story. Doom sat opposite him, his face as usual showing no emotion. Beside Doom was Jasmine, her head bowed.
Barda had learned of the Noradz people's fate from Tom, the strange shopkeeper he, Lief and Jasmine had met on their journey through the north.
"When I found the city deserted I went to Tom," he said. "I knew he could tell us what had happened, if anyone could. He says the Ra-Kacharz were seen marching the people towards the border. It was only days before the Shadow Lord's defeat."
Jasmine lifted her head. "Those people were helpless," she said bitterly. "Among them was the girl Tira, who saved our lives. And still we do nothing! We sit here and talk! While thousands of souls all over Deltora are willing and able to "
"Jasmine!" Lief's stomach was churning. "We cannot march on the Shadowlands. The Shadow Lord's sorcery is too mighty to be defeated on his own ground."
"But the Belt " Jasmine began.
"The Belt was made for defense, not attack," Doom broke in. "The gems cannot be taken beyond Deltora's borders. Have you forgotten that, Jasmine?"
Jasmine had forgotten it, but she paused for only a moment. "Then we must invade the Shadowlands without the Belt," she said stubbornly. "Deltorans are suffering there in slavery, perhaps in torment "
"I know this, Jasmine! Not an hour passes that I do not think of it!" cried Lief, jumping to his feet. "But I cannot send thousands of other Deltorans to their deaths in a hopeless quest to save them. I can do nothing until I find a weapon we can use against the Shadow Loard. I cannot and I will not! Do you understand?"
Jasmine's mouth was a thin, hard line. "I understand only too well, Lief," she said coldly. "We are to give the prisoners up for lost, while you go into hiding in Tora. Well, I will have no part of it!"
She turned and almost ran from the room. With a muttered curse, Barda went after her.
Lief slumped back into his chair again. "She does not understand. Doom, I must tell her "
"You must not!" Doom leaned forward urgently, gripping Lief's arm. "You must follow the plan in absolute secrecy. It is so important, Lief. It is the most important thing. You know it."
Lief gritted his teeth, then slowly nodded his head.