Great section, nothing to comment on specifically other than the line I added. It's very very well written. Congrats! My concern is with the scene's mood. Much like I mentioned in the previous one, I'm expecting things to be more tense between both parties. Dragana was flaring moments ago and she's now happily eating, almost tame. I don't feel any mistrust, anger, or tension flowing from them. Everything comes from the plot itself, which while great, makes things sound too easy. Bring Dragana's emotions back to life; her intense ire and even Raeb's own heistation regarding the Bok'Tarong. I think this scene should capture all those feelings we've been experiencing along the way. Other than that, the plot is excellent and I can't wait to see what these four will do.
They went back to the abandoned campsite, which Raeb and the girl had little trouble getting back into shape. Soon the three humans were sitting around a fire with a pot of stew over the flames. Dragana accepted a bowl, keeping Aeo in her lap so he could still see.
At first Dragana picked suspiciously at the food, but soon she was eating and clearly enjoying it. (I’d suggest either showing her a bit more hesitant about eating or saying something like how famished and tired she is to reject food)
Raeb finished his meal first, and he began explaining his situation. He glossed over the details of his past and how he got involved with the Hntaña, which left Aeo with more questions than answers, but as soon as Raeb began telling them of a journey to the spirit world, Aeo was fascinated.
“How did you get to this Hntaña hive?” Dragana asked.
“I was taken there by the Keeper of Secrets. He’s a sort of ambassador between the Hntaña and the humans,” he added before Dragana had to ask.
“Why did he do that?”
Raeb shifted slightly, betraying his discomfort with the subject. “He sensed that I was trying to get to the Hntaña. He wanted to humiliate me, I guess, for my useless attempt.”
How was he trying to get to the Hntaña? Aeo asked. Dragana voiced his question.
The girl – Saydee – responded. “He was using me.”
Dragana looked at her. “What?”
Saydee glanced nervously at Raeb, who gave a tiny nod. She took a deep breath, and a glamour fell from her. Dragana gasped as she recognized the Hntaña eyes.
“Because of my magical powers, little though they are, I have a two-way connection to the Hntaña. I can see and hear them. Raeb was trying to use that connection to send his spirit to the Hntaña and find a way to destroy them.”
Aeo could barely follow Dragana’s thoughts. She was so overwhelmed by this information that it took her several seconds to decide which of her many questions to ask first. “How did you become -taken, if you’re mage?”
“I’m not powerful enough to be a mage,” she said. There was a distinct sense of regret and anger in her tone.
“Even so, you should have been immune from the Hntaña. How did this happen?”
Saydee’s voice turned cold. “I’d rather not say.”
Dragana’s hold on Aeo’s hilt tightened as she struggled not to lose her temper. “If the Hntaña are learning how to take mages, then I need to know.”
“Our agreement was for a truce and a proposition to work together,” Raeb interrupted. “Our personal pasts, for good or ill, weren’t included in that deal.”
“This could have huge repercussions,” Dragana replied. “The Hntaña are already changing their tactics and waging a war of their own. Knowing how they came to possess a mage could be a key to helping us figure out what they’re up to and how to stop them.”
Raeb held up a hand to pause Dragana’s justifications. “The Hntaña are waging a war?”
They told us part of their story, Aeo said. We should return the favor and tell them what we’ve learned.
Dragana nodded and told them about the Mage General and the-taken berserkers. “Not only is the King breeding -taken for his war, but these people are accepting the possession of their own free will. We were told by one of them that the Hntaña were planning to spread to the entire world, and their willing servants were growing in strength and numbers. We think that this might not be the King’s war after all, but some machination of the Hntaña.”
Raeb shuddered. “Why would anyone accept the Hntaña?”
“Many are on the brink of death when the offer is made. The Hntaña save their lives.”
“At the cost of their souls,” he spit back.
“I wasn’t condoning it,” Dragana said, a hint of ice in her tone.
“Of course not. I’m sorry.” He took a deep breath, and Aeo could practically see his thoughts whirl in his mind. “If the Hntaña are working through a human army, the Keeper of Secrets must be behind it.”
“Which means that the Hntaña are working with the king,” Dragana said.
With the Mage General, more likely, Aeo corrected. From what you said about him, it seems like he’s really running the -taken soldiers. He just got the king to agree somehow.
Dragana told the others Aeo’s comment, and Raeb nodded. “That sounds about right.”
“So if the Hntaña are using the human armies to conquer more people, that means that in no time the entire population will become -taken,” Saydee said. “There won’t be anyone to stop them.”
“Yes there will,” Dragana said, hefting Aeo so his blades reflected the firelight. “The Bok’Tarong and I will stop them.”
“Not alone,” Raeb said. “You need our help to do it. Which is exactly what Saydee and I wished to propose to you.”
Dragana eyed the two -taken, but Aeo felt her curiosity pique enough that it momentarily overrode her suspicion. “What were you planning, that you needed us for?”
“We want to try to get back to the hive, with the Bok’Tarong. If we take the weapon to the source, we should be able to destroy the hive and the Hntaña completely.”
“Why can’t we do that by ourselves?”
“You’ll need Saydee’s connection to the Hntaña to get you there, and you’ll need my help to get into the hive. The Keeper of Secrets and I have…a history. I can get us past whatever defenses the Hntaña might have and into the heart, where it’ll be vulnerable. Besides, one warrior and a sacred blade won’t be enough. You’ll need another blade at your side.”
Raeb drew out a blade unlike any Aeo had ever seen – a horizontal hilt was surrounded by five blades in a semicircle. They radiated out from his fist like a deadly sunburst. Aeo sensed a great deal of magic coming from those blades, magic that was almost as dark and oily as the Hntaña. His spirit shivered in their presence.