[center ***This is an original Plot, please do not steal, copy, or use anything from this rp for personal use or your own roleplay.***]
Land of Azera. Four Provinces at war fighting the Rule of one evil man...
Four wandering travelers find themselves in The Central City. It is a bustling and busy place, centered in the middle of the four provinces. It is also where The Self Proclaimed "King" Malik lives. It was once the Holy Land for the Four Provinces, where the fabled Priests and Priestesses of the Old Gods of Azeroth held sanctuary for all. That was… until King Malik. He ran the Holy Ones from their Holy Palace and took over not only the Central City, but the four provinces as well.
Legend has it that the Four Provinces once housed their own spirit guardians. These Guardians were kept in elaborate temples, with their own contingent of temple masters and maids to attend to them. During Malik’s rise to power, he attacked the temples and slaughtered the Temple Hands. It was by the brave sacrifices of Temple Masters and Maidens that they were able to send the Spirits away. For Centuries the Spirits had not claimed a host… but with the rise of Malik, the Guardians searched out their perfect Human Host, marking them and imbuing them with awesome powers to defeat evil and restore the balance.
The Province to the North was guarded by the Spirit of the Forest, and often seen in the shape of a Caribou. Filled with thick dense forests and beautiful mountain passes to the Northern most parts, and gently sloping hills further south where farming is aplenty. Winter, however, is never kind in the North. The summers are kind and fair and allow for the Northmen to travel south and barter their furs and goods for food stuffs they will need in the winter months. This is the Province known as Caledon. The people there are hearty and Strong. Known to produce fine warriors, and are often seen as warmongering, as the Caledon clans tend to fight against Malik’s border agents on a regular basis, and guard the Dark Forest’s creatures from venturing south. Caledon is considered the bread basket of Azera. It is reminiscent to what we would have considered Ancient Germania and Scandinavia.
The Province in the South is guarded by the Fire Spirit often seen as a massive snake. Mostly Desert lands with the occasional watery oasis. Farming takes great engineering feats involving sophisticated irrigation, and travel is usually done on Camel. Most people live nomadic lives, but there are cities where water can be found, usually along the River Nine, named so for the way the main river forks out at nine different locations and leads to nine large grandiose cities of terracotta. All of it built on the back of a lucrative Slave Trade. Most of the people in what is referred to as [i The Wastelands] are considered barbaric by many, with their nomadic lifestyle and their staunch traditions to the Old Gods –namely their patron deity the Fire-Breathing Serpent (Ouk'nu), and ritual sacrifice. Snakes are considered holy and sacred to the Nomadic people of Abdhu’Jai. The Southernmost part is unpassable as the desert goes on for hundreds of miles with no water in sight. It is also rumored that Sand Wyrms live there and those who have tried to trek across it in hopes of exploring have never been heard from again. The Jai's are reminiscent of The Egyptians, & The Byzantine Era.
To the East is where the Mountains climb higher than even those of Caledon. Here it is said the people of Volshiv live among the clouds and are protected by the Flying spirit of Wind often seen in the form of a Dove. On a still quiet day, if you stand on the Eastern border you can hear the whistling winds careen through the highest peaks in all of Azera. Very little is known about the Volshi. They are very reclusive and rarely travel West to the Central City. They are known to be fair of face and hair, willowy and spry and some of the last humans to retain some semblance of magical power. The Volshi were the only ones to escape the mad grip of Malik in the beginning –but it did not stop them from sending their Guardian to find a host as well.
To the West is the Province of Fenlyk. Guarded by the Water Spirit, known to take the form of a massive Koi Fish. The Region is mostly littered with waterways and wet lands, it is the fishing capital of all Azera. More fish is produced in Fenlyk than anywhere else in the Four Provinces. They trade frequently with Caledon and Abdhu’Jai. Aside from fish and watersports Fenlyk is known for its textile and fashion. It is the most modernized Province of the four, the wealthiest and one of the most influential. Their Navy is without rival, as it should be to protect the city from the Ocean's monsters that tend to capture vessels that wander too far from the mainland. They would be reminiscent of Ancient Greeks or Atlantis.
One woman is tasked to find the guardians, teach them and guide them to their glorious destiny. To find them she pulls from the ancient Prophecy, one that even involves her. Her name is Aria, a native of Volshiv who was taken from her home when she was no older than three. She doesn’t remember her home, or her birth parents. Only that she was marked by the Spirit Guardians –slated by the Gods to be their High Priestess. She was destined to be the most holy and powerful figure of her time, but Malik’s invasion from across the open sea and his march across the border lands of Abdhu’Jai and Fenlyk brought him to Central City and the beginning of his reign of terror. Of course when Malik invaded she was but a small child of six, training to be become The High Priestess. She escaped with the help of an Elder Priest who raised her in hiding, and continued her training so she could ensure the Guardians would find their way. A bounty is out for Aria’s head – though Malik has no real idea of who she is, he is aware of the markings that would and do adorn her body. She realizes he will discover her soon enough, and finding the Guardians has become imperative to free the city and provinces of the would-be Tyrant. Destroying Malik and returning peace to the four Provinces is also the only way to restore the Spirit Guardians back to their pantheons and peace to the land.
A traveler from each province finds themselves in Central City. Compelled to travel and see the world, or to simply get away from their old life. For any number of reasons, Fate brings them to the Central City. What they don’t realize is: they are chosen and marked as the host of their region’s Spirit Guardian. It lives within them and gives them power. It is a comforting, and yet frightening source for the four individuals -it just needs to be awakened in them, and that is where Aria comes in.
Aria feels it in her bones that the time has come. She’s been gifted visions of the travelers to come. She only sees them as their spirit so their faces remain shrouded in mystery. The Gods guide her to come out of hiding after hiding away for nearly twenty years. The raids took place when she was only six, and now she is twenty-seven. Time has passed and the people grow deeper into oppression. Most of the Tyranny is evident in the Central City. The outlying villages and townships of the Provinces are routinely raided, and it seems Malik is constantly fighting with the Caledons. The Fennish bow down to his reign their pacifism making them complacent and easy to dominate. The Nomads –Jais of the south are raided frequently and without mercy. The Volshi remain for the most part safe, but rumor has it they have amassed a huge army and are prepared to come down from their cities in the clouds to set Malik straight. Aria knows it will be too little too late. Malik has to be cut down at the source… from his False throne: The Holy Alter that should be hers.
Aria must find the Guardians, help them discover their own powers and talents, and if need be –sacrifice herself to help them cleanse the world and usher in a new peaceful Era. She must help the Guardians restore balance, but first… she has to find them and convince them.
Personality:guardian soft hearted, peaceful, adapts to surroundings and situations quickly, reserved
Bio & History:before being chosen, Saraya was a beautiful soul that loved children of her providence. she was married to a knight that protected the temple, and they were expecting their first born... Until the ambush. her husband was taken from her, and after that, her baby didn't surviv. With the passion she felt, she thought she would never survive... Until the spirit chose her.
Personality: quiet, shy, honest.
Bio & History: She was chosen as a guardian from birth, but neither her parents nor herself knew that at all. Her parents were simple fishers, her dad going out to sea for the daily haul and her mom selling whatever fish had been caught in the markets. Everything was pretty peaceful, until Malik took the ruling of everything under his hand. Since the region she lived bowed down peacefully, nothing really bad happened there. But something was up, which came in the form of her house being raided by Malik's forces. She managed to run off, while her parents were nailed to the door of what used to be her house. Now just walks around the provinces, hiding herself from Malik's grasp.
Weakness and limitations to your powers: Manipulating water requires some concentration. No concentration, no hydrokinesis.
Bio & History: Adimar hails from the high peaks of Volshiv. He has traveled the Sky Cities, and down in the Volishi Valleys where most Volshi tend to avoid due to the dense foliage and wild animals that haunt the forest beneath them. He is considered one of the best warriors of Volshi -bested only by the High Lord of Volshi. Having been marked a guardian since the day of his birth, at 32 Adimar is well versed in the landscape of politics and battle. He's had his skirmishes with King Malik's invading soldiers over the years. Adimar has spent his life preparing for battle against Malik -knowing his destiny from the very beginning and in order to save his people, he must go fight.
Adimar travels to the central city in hopes of finding his fellow Volshi, Aria, who was spirited away as a baby to be the next High Priestess. All in Volshiv know the name of Aria, and an army is amassed waiting to help her at the call to battle. Adimar intends to lead that army and reclaim the Holy Throne... but don't confuse his motives as one of honor -Adimar has plans of his own... to be free.
Weapon of Choice: Archer by trade, but also carries a sword of Volshi Steel passed down in his family for generations
Primary Special Power: Weather Manipulation, allows him to create any number of storms for up to eight hours. Lightning, tornado, rain etc...
1. Flight Assist: Allows him to use the wind to propel him upwards into the air for short bursts of time, or to surge him forward quickly.
2. Lashing Tailwind: The name of his attack where he kicks out a devastating blast of cold air to temporarily immobilize opponents.
3. Eagle Eye: Allows him to possess the body of any bird and see through it's eyes. He uses this skill a great deal for scouting.
Weakness and limitations to your powers: As with any magic user Adimar will eventually run out of Mana: or his magical stamina. He is very powerful, but the more power he uses, the more mana he uses. His powers are limited he can only make one storm a day, but can use his three minor attack powers intermittently as long as he has the mana to do so. Also, his other great weakness is a pretty woman. He does not hide his playboy like nature.
Bio & History: Rhuarc is an extremely large man, standing tall at 6ft 10’ and weighing around 19st 12lbs he is an imposing physical specimen. Rhuarc is a muscled figure and very much represents the typical stereotype of a wasteland barbarian. His body is adorned with various, tattoos, brands and scars.
Born into the traditional nomadic life of the Abdhu’Jai people. At ten years old Rhuarc departed on the traditional journey to the sacred temple of Ouk'nu in the deep southern deserts, as all young men do in an effort to prove himself to his tribe and the great fire deity. It wasn't long before Rhuarc and his people grew used to the merciless raids of Malik and his forces, causing a deep distrust of anyone not from within the nomadic Jai. Rhuarc's father and brother were killed in one so called raid while his sister was taken presumably as a slave.
Weapon of Choice: A large, brutal looking great sword with a wicked looking serrated edge
Guardian: Not a Guardian, but the High Priestess of the Guardians. She is their guide and mentor. She is marked with the symbols of every Guardian in a straight line down her spine -each marked in their prospective color.
Personality: Passionate devotion, motherly, calm gentle -but a tempest of fury if invoked. A Natural Born Ruler
Bio & History: Born in Volshiv, Aria was marked from the day of her Birth as the next High Priestess wielding the marks of all four Guardians. Then they were tiny dots of color, now a woman they have taken full shape down her spine weaving one another together. Her arrival was kept as secret as possible but her coming was foreseen by the Holy Ones who came and collected her. They took her still suckling at her mother's breast, taking her into Central City before she ever knew her mother's name.
When she was six the raids of Malik's wrath arrived. He had laid claim to the throne for many years, but upon word that the new High Priestess had been born he ordered the temples and monasteries burned and destroyed. He decreed that the Old Gods, or Guardians, were no more and that he was God. He lived an unnaturally long life -one none of the Holy Scholars could figure out. It was by the handiwork of Elder Rigby that Aria was smuggled out. Since then she was raised in seclusion with nothing but Elder Rigby to teach her, and her many tombs and scrolls from which she studied preparing for the day to take her birth right. The Holy Alter. It would make her more powerful than any king or Lord of the Four Provinces, but it is not for Power she wishes to take the Alter Throne back... it is for the people. She too has suffered by Malik's hand, she wishes it to end.
Weapon of Choice: She is often seen walking with a Staff, this is her bow staff, her weapon of choice. Meant to disarm and injure but not kill
Primary Special Power: Absolute Intuition -she has a knowing about her. It is unexplainable.
1. Ability to enter the spirit realm either while sleeping or through meditation
2. Can whisper thoughts into the minds of men - Persuasion
Weakness/limitations: Aria is not a fighter, that alone makes her weak physically. Mentally she is strong. Her powers of absolute intuition are more like a strong 6th sense -but not always available. When she enters the spirit realm, awake or asleep she is vulnerable to attack and needs to be guarded by someone she trusts. Her powers of persuasion can be ignored by a person with an iron will.
[center *** Side characters who travel with the Guardians are more than welcome to help make up the caravan***]
1. All Standard ES rules apply
2. Have Fun
3. No insta-romance
4. This is a literate RP. I ask for a post on average of 800 words
5. Basic Grammar and Spelling please
6. PM Me with the title of the Rp: Rise of the Guardians, and a basic Character Skeleton.
7. You have ten (10) days to post. Failure to post within ten days forfeits your turn.
Please note: You may play more than one character, but you may only play one Guardian.
Your powers should not be so much that combined you are incredibly powerful and basically unstoppable. Please have ONE main power that does only a small handful of acceptable things, and up to three minor skills. All your power and all your skill -your character is still mortal and MUST HAVE A WEAKNESS. I don't want characters with god-like powers. Our group will face tasks where they are defeated, injured, or captured. No one should be capable of having fail-safes to constantly win.
Water Manipulation: can take water from the ground, the air, or even from a direct water source and create water funnels that attack, or a massive wave, or even turn that water to ice and create a spear with which to throw at enemies.
Healing: you can heal but not raise the dead -that is necromancy and would be considered a Primary power
Air Manipulation: Would be more like controlling the weather. Or maybe you can rush the air at an opponent flinging them back, take the air from them and let them choke.
Earth Manipulation: Use of the ground, make it shake, split open into chasms to swallow whole platoons, or maybe use the plant life around you, grow your own and use it to attack.
If you still have questions regarding your powers, please don't hesitate to PM me. I want these characters to be humble -not all powerful.
You don't have permission to post in this thread.
Adimar looked across the snow laden ground to the Mage. He panted with exhaustion, but he was far from being done. They could both feel the surge of power given to them by Aria. Every time they went into battle they learned a new facet to their skills, and how they could be combined into even more powerful attacks. Having Aria’s power imbuing them, both Adimar and Saraya were powerful enough to take out the Mage once and for all.
Saraya instructed him to try and channel his energy and send it to her for a final attack against the mage. This would be it. The killing blow. She called out to Egos, riling him up with her taunt and he played into it with a sudden rush of attacks. When he made to power up for a particularly large, last effort attack, Adimar made quick work to begin his own channeling of power. He sent it hurling towards Saraya when she called for it. The blast of icy cold air hit Saraya, whipping about her and propelling her forward through the blast, supporting her and her shield.
Adimar didn’t have time to be impressed. He sent another burst of power, this one greater than the last and took Adimar of nearly all he had. Yet it allowed Saraya to cleave through the air with her conjured bow and deal a final blow to the Mage. Her arrow was wrapped in a combination of hers and Adimar’s power, strengthened by Aria, and sliced through his neck without hesitation. Adimar held his ground as Saraya planted her feet and pinned the headless body of the mage to the ground under her boot. She roared victoriously and Adimar made a quick blessing in relief of this victory. Saraya took the next moment to claim Egos’ head as a trophy.
He rushed to her side, knowing their work was not done yet. They still had a member of their party to recover. He reminded her of her son, and he agreed to follow her as backup into the forest. They hurried along the hunter’s trail, and eventually heard the wails of an infant in the distance. He could tell Saraya was eager to rush in and save her son, but he stayed her and pointed out the hidden soldier laying in wait.
They both watched the area for a moment, studying the surrounding foliage for a good attack position. Saraya must have found one, because she bade him to wait. Adimar arched a brow. If he was to wait, why was he asked to come? To be on the safe side, he readied his bow and circled around the other way to cover Saraya.
She didn’t need it. She attacked the soldier from behind, stabbing him mercilessly before rushing her son. Having him back in her arms, she cooed at him, and Adimar was able to relax a little bit, but he refused to lower his weapon entirely. The battle was still taking place, something she stated once she had calmed Aramis.
They met her wolf once they made it out of the forest, and mounted the beast to ride back into battle. At her call a stampede of animals followed from the forest, much to Adimar’s surprise. As they rode back towards the gates, the battle in view over a field of pink snow, Adimar voiced a concern.
[#20b2aa “Drop me off in the field, continue to camp with Aramis, and check on The Priestess. I’m going to join Rhuarc.”] Adimar knew there might still be fighting to do, and he knew Rhuarc was alone, as was Lara... they needed to split up to help their fellow guardians.
Shade-stealer... Malik had always liked the moniker. He grinned behind the soft cloth that covered the bottom half of his face. He enjoyed at how riled up the Jai seemed to get over Malik’s taunting. Jai were so prideful, it was terrible flaw, and so easy to exploit. Malik waited for the Jai’s attack, mirroring his footwork until the man finally gave in and rushed forward with a strike.
Malik blocked it easily enough. He was easy to read, and made obvious plants with his feet, and would drop his shoulder right before a big swing. Malik was enjoying himself, toying with the Jai, moving around their space, deflecting hit after hit with finesse and ease. It wasn’t all easy, the Jai was certainly good... he head a wealth of potential to become truly deadly. Another boon to the Jai was his raw strength. He hit harder than any other Malik had faced. This was good... Malik was looking forward to their final fight.
Finally the guardian skid back to resettle himself into a defensive posting. Good, he would need it. Malik had hoped for a just a tiny bit more from the Guardian. He supposed he should show the Guardian just what he was up against, and what sort of skill he would have to compete against today and in the future.
Malik attacked with a desire to teach Rhuarc how unworthy he was of his position. He didn’t deserve to be so close at her side. He was not skilled enough, smart enough, fast enough, or strong enough to protect her. He was a weakling, barely holding his own against Malik’s rapid and fluid movements. They were sharp, quick and graceful. His feet light on the ground, and his strikes carefully calculated to injure and yet not outright kill. Two blocks for every three strikes wasn’t bad work on the Jai’s part. Malik was impressed by how long this was taking, but even he could tell the Jai was wearing down.
Must have been the spattering of cuts and shallow stabs he had laid across the Guardian’s body. Malik decided to switch it up, and moved his feet like a practiced dancer, his katana shifting in his grip, and he feinted one direction, before pivoting back around, his sword sweeping behind him to come up and slice Rhuarc, hip to shoulder. Surprisingly the Jai blocked his attack, but with a twist. His blade illuminated in white hot fire, shocking Malik back for a split second. That second was all the Jai needed to turn on him and begin a series of attacks. He forced Malik to step back several paces in an attempt to keep him from getting even a single strike through. Malik wasn’t willing to take that sort of risk. If his theory was correct, Malik needed to avoid any potential injury.
He wasn’t that lucky, and to have the barbarian scum slice through the soft black fabric of his shirt and leave a thin red line across his chest, was enough to make Malik want to murder him that very moment. He spared only a moment to touch at the small beads of blood that welled against his skin and quickly locked his eyes with Rhuarc once again.
No more playtime, the Jai needed to learn his lesson.
Malik attacked with greater intent, slamming his sword against Rhuarc’s and using his own arcane powers to push Rhuarc back and down. Malik would punish the Jai, more so if he made [i Her] bleed. It added a great weight to Malik’s strikes, knocking the Jai back until Malik was finally able to strike away the Blade of Jai’hash and deal a clean thrust into Rhuarc’s shoulder. It stunned the Jai who dropped his sword, and Malik made a second strike with his sword. It cut across his side felling him to his knees, and the fight was over. Malik sneered behind his face mask, and kicked Rhuarc’s blade away from him.
[+purple “You’re pathetic. You never had a chance against me...”] Malik stopped his words as his eyes settled on a particular tattoo that branded the barbarian’s chest. A Sigil of the Holy Guard. Malik scoffed, but a wicked idea entered his mind. No wound would be able to do what Malik had planned for the Jai.
[+Purple “I don’t think you’ll be needing this anymore. You never should have had it in the first place.”] He planted his boot against Rhuarc’s chest and shoved him back into the snow. Rhuarc could not fight him off, as his knee came to pin him down across his jaw and throat, his other foot pinned down the elbow of the only good arm Rhuarc had left, while his body blocked the other half of the Jai’s body from being able to try and stop him. Malik withdrew his own belt knife, and without care cut into Rhuarc’s flesh around the tattoo. Four slow strokes of his blade, severed Rhuarc’s flesh outlining the space around the tattoo. This would make a fine trophy. Blood poured from all sides of his task, coating his gloves and his blade, while the Jai screamed in a glorious mixture of rage, pain, and overall desperation to be free. His body jerked helplessly under him. Slowly Malik carved away the flesh from Rhuarc’s chest. The man’s feet kicking out, heels digging into the ground, but Malik only held firm, undeterred by his present task.
The opera that was Rhuarc’s screams, and the sound of flaying flesh was delightfully cathartic for Malik. It had been a stressful year. This whole night had been very therapeutic and educational. The last edge of Rhuarc’s tattoo peeled away from his chest, and Malik help it up with a twinkle of glee in his eyes. Pleased with his new trophy, Malik sheathed his belt knife and began to roll Rhuarc’s torn flesh up carefully. He imparted a few final words to Rhuarc as he returned to his feet and collected his armor. Then made his way to leave, but stopped at the last moment and looked back.
The Jai was broken and bloodied in the snow, his body twitching from the trauma done, but the man was still conscious and still listening.
[+purple “I want a better fight next time. Fail... and I [i will] kill you.”] With those final words Malik returned to his Wraiths. They informed him of Egos death, and the death of those Wraiths attending him. As to the Wraiths with Vega? They were still alive, and seemingly had The Priestess surrounded and within reach. Perhaps this night he could have his cake and eat it too. [+purple “I am done here. Recall my army. I think they’ve learned their lesson today.”] The wraiths hissed in understanding, and as they rode away from the field of battle with their King, the army crested on the hill turned suddenly and began marching south.
Adimar jumped from the wolf right back into the fray of battle. He couldn’t see Rhuarc anywhere, and it seemed the massive army would not be engaging this fight. Adimar didn’t understand, but he had a dreadful feeling in the pit of his stomach. With the main army now marching south, those of Malik’s men still in the valley continued to fight with great vigor. Thankfully Caledon was holding strong, and the tide of battle was swinging. Gods be dammed! Where was Rhuarc? No way he was back at camp. A Group of mounted riders went charging past Adimar without so much as a second glance. Adimar noticed who it was very quickly and ran in the direction they had come. [#20b2aa “RHUARC!”] Adimar bellowed loudly, and looking around. For a brief moment, the chaos parted enough that Adimar could make out a dark figure laying in the snow.
A turbulent swell of emotions tumbled in Adimar painfully, and it was expressed in the very powerful burst of power that radiated off of him. His magic sent out an icy cold blast that staggered everyone around him, and gave the Caledon’s a chance to take the advantage. It also gave Adimar an opportunity to vault across the remaining distance to land at Rhuarc’s side. He quickly had to cover his gaping mouth. Shocked and horrified by what he saw, Rhuarc was pale, and loosing blood. Adimar patted his pockets for his healing potion, when he remembered he gave it to Aria. It might have only been a first attempt, but he would have given anything for it in that moment. Adimar knew he needed to get Rhuarc to safety, but how to move him? [#20b2aa “You can tell me what happened later. I need to get you out of here.”]
Adimar looked around him, but he was still in battle and could not focus purely on Rhuarc. An enemy came charging for Adimar, and he dodged quickly, only to roll onto Rhuarc’s blade. They would certainly be needing that, so Adimar did the only thing he could think of. He grabbed the sword, and returned to his feet. It was like holding a part of Rhuarc, it was empowering, and Adimar could really use that strength right about now to protect his friend.
He fought briefly with the soldier, quickly disposing of him with a few quick strokes of Rhuarc’s sword. The enemy’s body slumped to the ground and off of Rhuarc’s sword. Adimar heaved a breath, war was tiresome, and he did not enjoy the killing. [#20b2aa “My friend, I return your sword.”] Adimar murmured kneeling at Rhuarc’s side and sheathing his blade for him. Adimar could not leave Rhuarc here, and they could not stay idle. [#20b2aa “Can you stand? I will carry you, but you cannot stay here. You need a healer.”] Adimar advised, and moved into a position to help Rhuarc stand up. Adimar was unlikely to be able to get Rhuarc to the camp. They had so far managed to keep Malik’s armies from gaining ground past the gate, and the buildings of Eyuwen were still intact. The infirmary was closer. Adimar would take him there, and collect one of the healers who had stayed behind to heal the wounded.
Aria wasn’t sure what had caused her to almost lose her connection during her attempt to assist Saraya and Adimar, but whatever it was, it hurt. She rubbed her chest, even though in this form there was nothing to feel. It was painful, like someone had taken a razor blade quite suddenly against her chest. Was she under attack? She needed to return to her body, and do so quickly.
Back in camp, Vega waited for Lara’s answer. The young Guardian looked about her, forlorn and sad. The old woman wasn’t buying her pout. She’d lived too long to not see a farce when it played itself right before her eyes. The Guardian submitted, taking a few steps forward, and the fog curled away from her, allowing Lara to pass. Vega did not move, only her eyes moved, following Lara. She was not entirely surprised by the Guardian’s sudden attack against her. The use of the snow around her was clever, but Vega was able to deflect it with a ward. The snow pushed against the barrier while Vega took a few cautionary steps back and waited for the inevitable confrontation with the Guardian of Fenlyk. On the other side of the wall, holy Guards held their own against the wraiths that surrounded them.
Lara landed in front of Vega, and the old woman reached into her pocket for her spectacles. She used them to see Lara clearly and gave the girl a cursory look over.
[+green “You look strong. That is good, you need to be strong with what is to come.”] The guardian was no doubt confused by this admission, while on the other side of the snow the shouts and clanging of swords could be heard. [+green “You wouldn’t fight an old woman, would you?”]
It seemed she might, and so Vega frowned with disappointment. The young were always so quick to react on their emotions. Lara was correct to assume that Vega was no ordinary old woman; so she raised her own staff to defend herself agains the Guardian. She put up wards to protect herself from being damaged, and shot a few harmless attacks at Lara to throw her off balance. But not a single attack Vega threw was lethal. It was the physical attacks Vega could not protect herself from, thankfully she had enough magical energy to tie her over for far longer than this fight would deem necessary.
With the sounds of the wraiths and the guards fighting, Vega did not wish to waste any further time... and where was Luther? That idiot should have woken up by now.
[+green “I didn’t come here to fight you...”] Vega’s voice was quieter, only allowing for the two of them to hear her words. Out of view from Malik’s watchful Wraiths, Vega needed to take this opportunity to plead with Lara to do as she had hoped of, dispose the Wraiths and take Vega as a prisoner. At least being a prisoner of the High Priestess, was better than a servant of Malik.
Vega stopped, because so had the sounds of fighting, and beside them the wall of snow began to crumble. Vega looked over to see Aria standing up, the wraiths now piles of dust at her feet. Her guards stood around her, bloodied and panting from the their own exhaustion. Aria looked pale, and blood trickled from her nose, but her eyes were a vibrant glowing magenta. The guards while tired were also eying ARia cautiously. They knew what she was like in this state. They’d seen it first hand in Fenlyk. She inhaled deeply and began to blow gently in a wide arc around her. Wind moved in to dispel Vega’s fog from the forest, which would soon allow those who had fallen victim to wake back up. Proving even further that Vega had not come to kill anyone.
A rustle in the trees grew louder and louder when three figure suddenly broke through. It was Luther with Eli and Jordan, all three of them looked disgruntled at their detainment, but happy to see they returned to a camp that was still whole.
[+pink “Bring me the Seer,”] Aria said, her voice slightly distorted with power, and pointed a finger at Vega. The old woman bowed her head, and clapped her hands together in thanks, and allowed Lara to restrain her to be taken as a prisoner of war.
Aria slowly slipped out of her trance and could still feel the searing sting across her chest. She couldn’t look at it just yet, Luther approached Max who was heaving for breath and looked like he’d taken quite the blow to his head.
[b “What happened?”] Max demanded. Eli made his way over to assist Lara in detaining Vega.
[#00ffff “The witch put us to sleep with her spell. We were unable to stop them from advancing. We were caught by surprise,”] Luther admitted. Max said nothing else, just waved him off and turned towards Aria to check on her. [b “Priestess, are you alright?”] Aria was still a little woozy from diving back into her body and then using her powers in a way she hadn’t thought possible.
[+pink “I’m fine.”] She wasn’t entirely fine. This had been a lot to process. She had woken up, taken one look at the wraiths around her, and without thinking had summoned vines to shoot out of the earth and wrap themselves around the wraiths. It held them long enough for her Guards to take the heads of the Wraiths and allowed Aria to open her palms towards them and fire a powerful energy blast of her own. They were like beams of pure light, blinding and quick. The magic had been enough to vaporize the wicked creatures, but left Aria feeling very lightheaded.
She let Max lead her off to a place to sit down and allow them both to catch their bearings. When Max was certain Aria would be alright, he left her with another Guard to go check on Lara and the Witch. Aria remained where she was, and she tugged open the top of her robe to look down. Only she saw the strangest thing: a thin red line cut across her chest, and in the center where it was its deepest, dots of blood stained her skin and her clothing. When could she have been cut? There was no tear in her robes, and Aria had not engaged in combat... so how?
There wasn’t much time to think on it, and Aria quickly righted her appearance and looked out to see that some of the Villagers were making their way to the caves to inform the others, while Byron returned from his post and started helping his brothers in arms assist the villagers. Aria looked over to see The witch sitting compliantly on a stump while Lara glared on.
[+pink “I want to know all that she knows!”] Aria called over to Lara
Aria eventually made her way over to Lara and the Witch. The sounds of battle seemed to be dying down, and Aria wondered if the battle was ending. Finally Aria was face to face with the Witch. [+pink “Why were you here? Did he send you to capture me? Why would he send you?”] Aria had a list of questions, and no doubt Lara had some as well. Until the others returned, Aria and Lara would occupy time by interrogating the old witch.
Lara shook her shoulders, shivering as the temperature slowly dropped. The cold slowly crept through the skin and down to the very bones, stiffening them up slightly. But it was not this cold that gave off an unsettling atmosphere. Instead the imaginary cold masqueraded itself as the dim battle sounds. While the forest did indeed aid in muffling the various dins of a battle, the sounds themselves seemed much more muted than even the forest could mute them. It was as if existing between the real and dream worlds, slight echoes flying every which way not giving any chance of triangulating their sources.
The carol of the chimes, even though that holiday hadn’t come, made for an unwelcome distraction from the literal but not the figurative chill. Lara, Max, and the two guardsmen did not panic having battle experience, but the various aged civilians not knowing war feared for their lives.
Despite the wind knocking the chimes, muffled thumping of footsteps in the snow, and the two guardsmen’ voices directing the non-civilians to the caves, Lara shook her head upon Aria’s unmoving body. While moving the body definitely was not advisable when the metaphysical manifestation had traveled, if the situation became too dangerous Lara would choose in disregarding the advisable and have Aria’s physical body moved away.
The staff began slowly twirling in Lara’s right hand, cutting the air with a wandering, low pitched whistle. She could only stare in disbelief upon the methodical paced fog as it rolled in; those unfortunate caught by the ghostly fingers dropped soundlessly upon the snow lifeless. The two guardsmen expertly avoided the seeking apparition and aided her and Max in forming a protective circle around Aria.
[+purple [i Fenlyck, have you ever seen this before?]] [+blue [i It is magic my child, whoever is coming knows magic.]]
While the news definitely didn’t reassure Lara, she took comfort in knowing the foe they’d have to fight. Unless it was Malik himself, then everyone here would die but they’d fight long enough until someone came to salvage the deteriorating situation.
The first foes flying from the fog were those murky, wily, wicked wraiths. The fog parted around them, and kept flowing around them as the wraiths circled around, patiently awaiting a hole in the circle. The fact the fog evaded the wraiths and their change in behavior only led to one conclusion: someone out there was keeping the awake four and one asleep pinned in place with no escape.
An elderly voice soared in front of the elderly woman who shortly followed, slow and methodical steps before halting behind the protection of the wraiths. So this was the witch, of what remained still unknown, who’d been tasked with hunting them down. While youthfulness played a factor, instead of Major it downgraded to a minor; such potency with magic , along with decades of practice, meant the witch’s engagement would tax her minimally.
While staying alive sounded somewhat enticing, Lara knew how short term that would be. After surrendering Malik would kill her along with Max and the other guardsmen. On the other hand, while dying was never pleasant, she’d accustomed to constant danger; short breaks before thrusting into the dangerous unknown with one of the rewards being death. Out of the two, death by surrender or battle, dying in the midst of a chaotic fight with powerful enemies would be more preferable.
[i [+blue Little one, she is awaiting your answer.]] [i [+purple I was thinking of a battle plan.]] [i [+blue And what is it that you have thought off?]] The apprehension in Fenlyck’s voice came out lightly, but Lara knew that in the past she had made some questionable decisions. [i [+purple Someone needs to keep that witch distracting while the others fight the wraiths. Seeing as I am the only who’s wide awake with both fighting and magical abilities, that someone can only be me.]] [i [+blue Then let us fight.]]
Taking a deep breath inwards, Lara gasped quietly. While she had experienced melding with the spirit before , never had it been such as this; it was as if Fenlyck’s entire body fused into her own, two minds and bodies with the same goal. Lara even felt less chilly, the fish tattoo upon her neck warming up.
Facing Malik’s witch, [i [+purple Don’t believe what I am about to say, get ready to throw snow]], Lara gazed upon this wrinkling elderly woman. Bringing down the staff so it hung parallel with the ground, [+purple “If you say it like that....”] Lara turned her head first left and then right, allowing the sadness flow into her eyes and lips. [+purple “Then I do surrender.”] While Fenlyck became slightly concerned, the spirit understood the game being played. But the others did not understand for Lara could not telepathically communicate and warn them of her plans.
[+purple [i When I raise my arm, I want a wall of snow in front of that witch.]] [+blue [i I am ready little one.]]
[+purple [i Three, two , one, and]] [+purple “NOW!”] A quick arm jerk sent a wall of snow at the witch. [+purple “Max and you two, fight the wraiths!”] An urgent and snappish voice before running at the wall of snow and give that witch the beating she deserved.
Rhuarc could see a figure clad in black armour cutting their way through the battlefield with ease not caring whether it was one of his own men or one of the Caledonians that he was cutting down. It was done with the casual ease of someone that knew that they were better than anyone else. As Rhuarc cut one of Malik's rabble down he kept his eyes on the looming figure approaching and could immediately sense that he was in danger, very serious danger. He was holding a magnificent sword of Volshi steel, it was a fine piece but that was not the weapon that caught his eye, Rhuarc's eye was drawn to the simple looking black sword still sheathed at Malik's hip. Rhuarc could feel the power radiating from the blade as the False King stowed his Volshi blade and drew his own blade of midnight black steel, it was simple and elegant but most of all it was deadly. Rhuarc studied the man who had almost conquered the known world and he had a feeling that Malik was studying Rhuarc with just as much interest. [#ef57eb “I assume you know who I am? Good.”] Rhuarc knew exactly who this was, this was the man who was threatening to destroy his home and enslave his people, this was the man that wanted to kill his friends and steal away the woman he loved in order to do Gods only knew what.
The false king started to remove his breastplate, helmet and gorget so that he would be unencumbered by his armour, Rhuarc gave a silent curse, one of the reasons that the Jai wore no armour was so that they were not weighed down by it, it was a huge advantage to be able to move freely and Rhuarc knew that to stand a chance against Malik then he would need every advantage that he could. [#ef57eb “I came down here to fight you. I hear you’re very good.”] [b "I am."] Rhuarc couldn't help but feel pride at Malik personally hearing of his skills, no doubt the King had been keeping tabs on all of the Guardians and for him to think that Rhuarc was skilled then that had to count for something. Malik held himself like one of the dangerous animals in the Jai Wastes, he was some kind of prowling beast and by the look in his eye Rhuarc seemed to be the prey. [#ef57eb “She’s beautiful… I mean Aria, not the sword. I hear she made you her General, She must see something I don’t, so why don’t you show me how good you are."] Rhuarc clenched his jaw as he spoke, [b "Keep her name out of your mouth Shade-stealer. "] Rhuarc intended to show Malik just how good he was and exactly why Aria had appointed him as general. Perhaps if luck was on his side he could end this whole war right here and now by severing Malik's head from his shoulders.
Rhuarc took a step to the side and watched as Malik mirrored his move keeping the space between them, he watched the King before him, the light seemingly being swallowed by the blade of Malik's midnight black sword. Malik had taken up a defensive stance, he was clearly baiting Rhuarc into an attack. Rhuarc didn't want to rush into attacking recklessly but he could see that Malik would not attack first, he wanted to see what the Jai Guardian could do and Rhuarc was sure that he could not wait out Malik's patience. If offence was the only option then so be it Rhuarc would make his assault count. Rhuarc swung with his great sword flowing through sword forms seamlessly and forcing Malik to move around the battlefield, he was hoping that he could force an error of footwork and that in turn would expose a hole in Malik's guard that the Jai Guardian could exploit but it seemed that that plan was folly. Every angle of attack that Rhuarc pressed Malik was there with a block or parry, he had a counter for every attack that Rhuarc threw at him. As the Jai pivoted and whipped his blade around in a wide arc hoping to sneak through Malik's guard the False King took a half step to his right so that Rhuarc's swing passed by his face barely an inch from cutting across his face and blinding him. Rhuarc could not get close to the king and it was becoming apparent that no matter how good Rhuarc was he was hopelessly and helplessly outmatched. Malik let out a chuckle as he dodged a second attack with another sidestep before bringing up his sword to parry another attack and darting away out of Rhuarc's reach once again evading any danger. Rhuarc paused his assault, knowing that all he was doing was wasting his energy. Halting his attack it was Rhuarc's turn to take up a defensive guard, he stood in a flexible defensive stance, so that he could react in a number of ways depending on how Malik decided to attack.
[#ef57eb "I'm disappointed. I had thought you could have given me a challenge. It's time to show you what a real blade master can do."] Now that Malik had analysed Rhuarc's capabilities he knew that this brute was no match for him so Malik was going to show the bastard just how out of his depth he really was. It was time to make that barbarian scum wish he was dead and show him why it was him and him alone that was worthy of Aria.
Malik attacked with a speed and vigour that Rhuarc had never sen before, it was all he could do to stay onhis feet and hold his own. Rhuarc brought his blade up to block blow after relentless blow that Malik rained down on him. Gods Malik was fast. He had a style unlike anything Rhuarc had seen in his life and some of the sword forms that he attacked with he had never seen before, it would not surprise him if Malik had created them himself. As Rhuarc caught Malik's blade against his own the King pivoted and flicked his sword around so that the guard at the hilt hit Rhuarc in his jaw, and it hurt like hell. Rhuarc spat a mouthful of blood onto the snow covered ground as he staggered back from the strength of the blow. Rhuarc took up his stance again and braced himself for the next attack. It came as soon as he raised his blade again and with every attack that Malik launched Rhuarc could feel his strength waning, every time Malik's blade hit his own it felt as if he were being bludgeoned with a hammer. For every two strikes that he managed to block Malik managed to slip a third past Rhuarc's defences. They were not serous injuries but the cuts that Malik landed on his arms and legs were starting to take their toll on the Jai. It was only a matter of time before Rhuarc lost this fight, he needed to do something to change the nature of this battle and quickly or he would end up joining the countless numbers of dead or wounded that already littered the battlefield. The False King once again struck with a move that Rhuarc had never seen before but he managed to catch the strike on his blade and allowing the fire of Jai'hash to flow through him he ignited his sword with flame and it had exactly the effect that Rhuarc was hoping for. During their duel Rhuarc had shown no arcane abilities so this tactic caught Malik by surprise if only for a second, but that second was all that Rhuarc needed. With Malik off balance Rhuarc tried to attack once more. With Malik giving up ground trying to regain his balance Rhuarc finally managed to land his first blow against the King as Malik stepped back Rhaurc landed a glancing blow against the chest of the false king, where he had removed his breastplate a thin line of crimson remained. It was barely a scratch but the fact that Rhuarc had managed to blemish his skin at all seemed to enrage his opponent. A dark look crossed Malik's face and he had venom in his eyes. He would make the Jai pay for that.
The False King attacked with a ferocity that Rhuarc simply could not match soon enough Rhuarc felt the bite of Malik's sword on his flesh as Malik stabbed him near the joint of his shoulder causing him to pause for a moment before Malik struck once more with a deep slash across Rhuarc's side, it was a serious injury and with it the fight was over, Rhuarc could not continue with such a serious wound. Rhuarc fell to his knees before Malik, a grimace of pain crossed Rhuarc's face. [#ef57eb "Pathetic. You never had a chance against me."] Malik's eyes went to the tattoo of the holy sigil that covered Rhuarc's heart and an evil glint appeared in his eye. [#ef57eb "I don't think you'll be needing this anymore. You never should have had it in the first place."] Malik took a long bladed hunting knife from its sheath and set about flaying the piece of skin with the tattoo of the Holy sigil from Rhuarc's chest. The Jai screamed in pain, it seemed to go on forever, it was not just the horrific pain of the knife removing the skin from his body that hurt but the brutalisation that Malik was inflicting upon his pride. Malik had toyed with him and beaten him easily and now he was taking a valuable mark of his rank as General. It felt like he was cutting away part of his connection to Aria. After what seemed like an age Malik put the knife away and let Rhuarc slump onto the ground. [#ef57eb "I think I'll keep this as a trophy. In future remember your place when you meet your betters."] With that Malik retrieved his armour and helmet, replaced it on his person and walked away, leaving Rhuarc beaten, bloody and broken in the snow.
There was blow after blow, punch after punch, Sword against sword. Saraya couldn’t control herself. She was far to enraged that she hadn’t been fighting with honor. In fact, she had completely blacked out through some of the beating, and she didn’t want to stop.
But, she did stop. She had been panting, and even that was laced in the malice she felt against both of her families’ killer. She stood and staggered over to her sword, grabbing it and making it back to the beaten Egos. Egos had been scooting back now, his face beaten to a bloody pulp, and his pride clearly broken. He had one trick up his sleeve, and he was going to use it.
“Now…” She growled between pants. “… You pay the price… For killing my family!” She was raising her sword to land a killing blow, when a screech sounded from the trees. Saraya looked to the bushel before being kicked away by Egos. He stood, bloody face and all, laughing weakly, but it still made her shutter.
“You forget, Guardian… I still have your bastard child”
Saraya had growled before looking back to the trees as she heard thudding of footfalls. “Aramis” she called, before hearing an infantile scream. She reached out, screaming her child’s name before being kicked back again. “Your child will be fed amongst the slaves, and you will be in chains, as my pet. You will not disobey your master.”
“You are not my master!” she growled at him. Egos kicked her in the gut, before grabbing her mail and slinging her against a boulder, knocking the air out of her. Before she could move, Egos had his hand around her neck, trying to choke her. “You will… And you will watch as my master desecrate your beloved Caledon, dishonor the very name of the Stag country.” Saraya looked to her left, to the trees, where her son was being hidden… To the battle field where her Carrick’s body lies… To the fray that everyone had been fighting in. “… You will be my whore-“ He yanked her face to him, trying to kiss her. “… You will birth my children, however many I see fit, and you will be my bride” He began lifting the hem of her warrior dress. Saraya looked at the menace, almost thinking of submitting to defeat when she began to feel… Strange. She could feel it…
Before she could even think, she raised her right hand, and another fit of rage filled her eyes. With a battle cry, she used her shield power to shove him further away, producing a loud crack in the air, before she stepped forward a few steps away from the giant boulder. Just as she took five steps from the rock, Aria’s aura could be sensed… From behind her… She was panting, growling like the beast she rode. She turned her head slightly… “Aria?” a disembodied voice growled
“Hold strong, Saraya! Yes, it’s me!” Aria answered, giving her a smile. Saraya caught a glimpse before turning back to Egos. “How did you…”
“I’ll explain later, Adimar was detained by a Wraith, he’s on his way now” Saraya was relieved that aid was coming, despite the rage and pain in her heart burned in acknowledgment that she could end this bastard herself. “Thank you” she said quickly.
“I have to tell you this quickly, Aramis is safe!” She gasped… Aramis? He’s still… “He’s in the woods north of here, follow the hunters trail. There is a man with him, hiding. You’ll have to take him out before you can get to Aramis…”
Saraya looked over her shoulder to her aura as she felt her wobble. “Aria?”
“Something’s happening back in camp.”
“Go! We will make it to you soon” she said through the growl.
“You can do this, Saraya! FOR CALEDON! FOR AZERA!”
Before she could call for her again, she had disappeared, but Adimar, in the next moment, had emerged from the snowy fog, and had stood where Aria once did. Egos, seeing that reinforcements have come, sought to get rid of them as quickly as possible. His energy balls had turned into currents, but even Saraya could tell he was getting weaker. Apparently, Adimar did, too. “He’s fading, now’s the time to strike, what’s your plan” he asked. Saraya waited until he stopped to replenish his power to strike again. A growl escaped her as she took hold of her sword, and as she raised, she could feel a warmth fill her. For some reason, though… She sheathed her sword.
“I want you to use your chi… Hit me with your best attack. I will channel it to end him. On my signal”
There was something making her stronger. She suddenly could feel the power of Aria grab to her, and she felt so much more powerful… But, she also felt rage, to the point that she was silently crying, the flashes of past scars and pains returned… And having to relive the death of someone else she loved… It was too much to bear… To where her vengeful intentions sought the source of her turmoil… of her insatiable bloodlust… Egos. “Fight… Me…”
Egos became infuriated. Fight? She should’ve been dead! Or, at the very least, under him, writhing while he took his advantage. He began attacking her, and Saraya, feeling the boost of power taking effect, had prepared for the worst. His energy ball had beginning to form. “Adimar! Now!” she called to him. Adimar had begun using her technique, Saraya had crouched again, digging her feet into the earth, [I Father… Caledon… Keep your faith in me…]
As Egos released a beam, aimed straight towards her, Adimar’s most powerful move had been released, hitting her simultaneously. Saraya had grabbed Admiar’s power, absorbing it as she fended off the beam. With her hands, she began slicing through, forcing herself forward, until she was running. When she was close enough, she screamed “Again!” to Adimar, jumping into the air now. With his next attack, she drew out her bow and arrow, and as she aimed it, right at the neck, she watched his expression change from rage to fear. As soon as her toe touched his mail, she whispered “This is for my family…” and released, the beam of power halting abruptly. His mortified face stared at her as he began to make gurgling noises. As the rest of her body collided into his form, his head fell from his neck, and rolled a few feet away as she regained balance. She panted, before stomping onto his useless mail and let out a battle cry that could shake the land.
Adimar made quick work in going to her, and remind her that Aramis needs saving. “Aramis…” she growled, looking to the trees. “Aria said he is north, on the hunters’ trail. Will you aid me?” she asked, looking back to him. She had received a nod, before looking out to the fog, hoping to the Gods that everyone holds on tight. She had hurried to Egos’ head, and put it into a satchel before she had taken haste north, charging into the trees, ignoring that the very blood of The Mage was dripping onto her feet, her legs, and her hands were smothered in it, his black blood. The only thing she was focused on was getting to her son. His cries weren’t of agony; it was of fear. She refrained from going any further as she heard Aramis. Her heart jumped with both joy and fear. Whomever this hunter was, he had to be terrifying to Aramis for him to make such a ruckus.
Saraya had looked to Adimar. “Wait here…” she said before disappearing into the bushes closest to the little lavender orb. Aramis was bawling, hiccupping from the continuous cries he would voice. It broke her heart. She wanted to hold him, tell him it was going to be alright… That mommy will kiss him until he would feel better… He was a few feet away, and the hunter was on alert. She growled. Saraya looked to the hunter who had been walking towards where she was hiding. She prepared herself for an assault, drawing her sword. She managed to slice away at his heels, making the oaf fall on his face in a roar. Saraya had hurried onto his back and stabbed him easily, before looking back to the orb, dropping her sword.
She hurried to Aramis as he cried, and she looked him over to make sure he was unharmed. With tears in her eyes, she started talking. “Aramis… My sweet baby boy, I am here… I am here.” She started weeping, as Aramis recognized his mother’s voice. The orb slowly, but surly, depleted until she could finally touch her son, and when she did, she hugged him close, bawling herself. She looked back to Adimar, before looking out to the fog. She then ripped away her long skirt and fashioned it around her to set him inside. “Don’t worry, my son… We will help the others” She stood and turned to Adimar, before nodding. “We need to get back to battle. Malik is making his move” she said. She nodded as she snugged Aramis to her side, and Egos’ head at the other. With Adimar close, they hurried out of the woods to spot Star approaching. Saraya looked up to Caledon’s Cliffside. She could feel that there was an enemy close to where Aria was hiding… She growled. She directed her attention to Star. “Make the call… Protect the Priestess!”
As she made the order, the two climbed onto her back before she took off, howling as she ran. The howl reached Sky’s ears, and he howled. Those two were enough to catch the attention of the forest dwellers, who were nearby for such an emergency. There, hiding nearby were Stags, and with them were wolves, as tall and as proud. When the wolf responded with a howl, they made their move, creating a stampede throughout the forest.
Back on the battlefield, Star’s thudding paws clawed the earth as she advanced, and Saraya was going to make it known that she wasn’t going to let anyone else die. Tears were in her eyes, rage was in her heart, and her boiling blood would only be heightened with the thought that Carrick wasn’t coming back. Malik had an irredeemable debt to pay. She was not going to let him kill anyone else.
Tension was thick in the air. In the distance, the sound of battle filled the din with a mixture from the wildlife that buzzed or twittered in the trees. Luther was at his post. Having led Eli and Jordan to the western section of the woods, they awaited the arrival of the Wraiths. It was not a tension born from apprehension of their own inevitable fight against the wraiths, but over Luther. Luther who kept his eyes on their surroundings, and that included both Eli and Jordan.
Eli and Jordan had joined the Guard in Fenlyk. Both of them were well built, young in age, and loyal beyond contestation to their Priestess. They believed she was more than just the High Priestess, Luther wasn’t sure what it was they thought she was; a Queen to unite the provinces, a prophet as Azera’s reincarnation, or a living God. Whatever it was, it was enough for them to have left their home and follow her instead of staying behind to rebuild.
It was no surprise to Luther to find them watching [i him]. It was only a matter of time before one of them finally said something to him, but it never came. The Fog did.
[#00ffff “They’re here,”] Luther whispered to them. The two other men, turned, weapons ready and poised to strike. Where was this fog coming from? Wraiths did not have magic like that. Egos was preoccupied in the battle. Malik said he had no intentions of going to the battlefield. The Fade was a possibility, Malik had tasked the creature to capture Aria, but had lately kept the abomination close to his side. Luther felt it was a long shot…
She was the only other possible cause of this fog, and the only other person he could think of that could do such a thing. It was not her that rose from the fog, but rather two wraiths. They moved with a lethal grace forward, sweeping the area and hissing to the other. They had clearly taken his misinformation, and it was already working to renew the others trust in him. Beside him, Eli whispered that it had worked, and all they needed to do was walk into the trap. What Luther hadn’t told either of the boys, was the trap would never work.
The triggers snapped and the trap went into motion. Netting gathered under leaves, lifted the wraiths from under neath and hoisted them up into the boughs of the trees. Luther was not as quick as the other two to jump out and aim their weapons at the wraiths. Instead the creatures hissed in defiance and Luther leaned against a tree to watch. The fog was still spreading, but had so far left the wraiths alone
“We’ve got you now!” Eli jibed, grinning to Jordan who was less inclined to celebrate as his partner. They both flinched back as the wraiths turned to hiss in their screeching, grating tongues at them.
The wraiths, cloaked in astral shrouds, and being creatures not meant to be held, became like smoke and glided through the netting and landed on the ground. They towered over Eli and Jordan, each one prepared to attack. The wraiths moved quickly once they were settled on ground and drew their own jagged blades. Skeletal hands reached out with claw like nails, and held their bastardized blades while fog draped over them.
[#00ffff “Defend yourselves!”] Luther shouted as the wraiths raised their blades. The fog moved quicker, settling over Eli and Jordan. Before the Wraiths could complete their swing, both Guards suddenly dropped the to ground... dead asleep. The Wraiths hissed in irritation and turned on Luther who had yet to aim his blade at them, and advanced on him. Luther did not flinch, nor move, and the Wraiths came to a halt a breath away from his body.
[+green “You can’t kill that one... Don’t kill any of them. If this plan is shit, we cannot unmask Luther. He must remain with the group. ‘Tis our King’s desire.”] Luther looked around the Wraiths to see Vega. She was hunched over her walking stick, frail as ever. Her clothing was a collection of different styled pieces that had come from all over the provinces, and fit together in a way that only an eccentric old woman could do. She had Fenlyk robes of emerald green and yellow trim. A ceremonial Jai knife hung from a leather belt around her waist, her boots were thick and sturdy and made of comfortable worn leather. Her cloak was fur lined from the pelt of a Caledon Grey Bear, and her bone white hair was covered with a volshi shawl. Her sallow skin was mottled and wrinkled, she looked thin with sunken cheeks and prominent cheek bones. She might have been lovely, once before, but age and time had ravaged her. Still, her eyes shined on with power and a depth of knowledge few people manage to obtain in their lifetime.
She reached into the lining pocket of her robe and withdrew a set of wire framed glasses. Luther observed them curiously, and furthermore as she settled them on her nose and her eyes zeroed on him. She was finally looking at him directly, whereas she wasn’t before. She was suddenly studying him.
[+green “Where is the camp?”] She asked him pointedly after a cursory glance up and down his figure. She was clearly unimpressed, if not revolted by the sight of him.
Luther had no choice but to obey Vega, and he didn’t bother to try testing his new cuff. He told them the camp was to the North. Aria would be held there, and she would be protected by at least one Guardian. Vega didn’t seem to mind, and waved for the Wraiths to move ahead of her.
[+green “When you wake up, join me. I’ll need your assistance,”] She said cryptically. Luther didn’t have a chance to ask as the fog suddenly overtook him and he too collapsed to the ground.
[b BYRON] stood at the edge of camp, his eyes steely on the quiet forrest surrounding him. It was dark, it was cold, and snow was falling through the thin canopy above. His breath plumed in the air, and his hand gripped his spear tightly. Tentatively, he reached his hand up to pull on the perimeter alarm. The trees seemed to groan under the cold, and the snow began to fall quicker and in soft clumps. He watched a fog quietly roll in from the west and all sound seemed to evaporate from the forest. He could feel the hair on the back of his neck begin to stand up, and before he knew it, he was collapsed on the ground. The fog draped over him like a blanket, but he hadn’t failed. He was holding the length of rope for the alarm in his hand when he fell, pulling and releasing the bones from their stagnant place to chime in the trees of camp.
The perimeter alarms were going off. Max was on full alert, his axe ready for attack, and his body positioned right by Aria’s. She had yet to move or make any noise, that Max was getting worried for her. Around them, camp was in full swing towards the caves in an attempt to evade whatever had tripped the alarms. They needed to move quicker.
[b “Owen, James, go and help move the civilians into the caves where it’s safer. Lara and I will stay guard until all are out of camp and then we will move the Priestess if she has not woken by then.”] He didn’t care that she might need to not be moved at all. He couldn’t risk her being taken.
The two guards moved to do as commanded, making quick work to move those more slow to safety. Max stood side by side with Lara, Aria seated on the ground between them. Max peered over at her for a moment before it seemed everything went quiet, and the air seemed colder than before. Max flexed his fingers, gripping his axe tighter than before. Owen and James seemed to still, and looked around them with the people still shuffling towards the caves.
A heavy fog began to carpet the camp, seeming to sweep in and lay claim to the space, and as they quickly realized, the people who got caught in it. Those who had not made it into the caves dropped to the ground. At first Max wasn’t sure what was happening to them, or if they were alright. Owen and James were quick to not get caught and backed up until they had formed a tight circle around Aria.
[b “Something is coming…”] Max murmured, and sure enough, two wraiths seemed to rise from behind the shadows of the trees. Snow clung to their black robes, and where they moved, they left no footprints. Everyone was tense as the Wraiths came closer, and even more unnerving was the fog had stopped just around them, a foot out of place and they’d fall pray to the mysterious fog.
Owen and James suddenly moved forward, putting themselves between the Wraiths and Max and Lara.
“Let us, Sir.” Max wouldn’t let them, reaching out with a hand to still them. The Wraiths were upon them, but instead of lashing out they hissed to intimidate, and began to circle the group. Their target was clearly Aria, as they tried to reach past the group a few times as they circled around. One attempt was done near Lara, who made quick work to ensure the Wraith didn’t get close. Max spared a glance to see Aria was still under. Hell of a time for her to be invalid.
[+green “I clearly have you all surrounded.”] Max looked over to see an old woman walking towards them. He figured her to be exactly who she was, Malik’s witch.
[b “We will not surrend-“]
[+green “Silence,”] She zipped a hand across the air and Max’s voice went mute, all of the guards did… all except Lara’s. The old hag’s eyes settled on Lara. It was Lara she addressed and Lara was the only one she would speak with. The other guards were too low of station for Vega to spare the breath on them, and would only speak with a Guardian. [+green “You know who I am. You are the Guardian of Fenlyk. My Liege has want of your Priestess. I have been tasked to retrieve her.”] Oddly enough, the old woman sounded disinterested and bored. [+green “I give you two options. One: We do this the easy way. You come compliantly with the Priestess and keep her company and keep her sane. Two: We do this the hard way. You refuse, the wraiths kill you all, and we take the Priestess anyway. Your choice, my child.”]
Max seethed from Lara’s side, but looked to her and with a nod assured her he would cover her back, and together they would take out the wraiths and capture the witch.
Adimar did all he could to hold his sword against the wraith’s, but this was a battle he knew he could not win with brute strength alone. He would need his magic, so he dug deep and shoved the Wraith away. Everything around him was chaos, but his focus remained on the Wraith before him. Adimar knew his sword would be ineffective. Rhuarc’s was the only blade they knew of that could destroy a Wraith. That didn’t mean he wasn’t going to test his Volshi steel against it. To be safe he would also have to get creative, much like Lara had done.
Adimar decided he would try to use his sword in a similar manner to the way Rhuarc used his with his fire. The Wraith made to strike at him with its sword, thrusting towards him. Adimar rotated his sword around himself, spinning it to gather air, and countered the strike. He rotated his sword around his side, stepping and turning into a barrel roll. His sword rose up and swung down as his body rose and fell. The subsequent air that followed was powerful enough to knock the wraith’s sword away, and send the Wraith back several paces. It collapsed against a fighting batch of soldiers and hissed angrily at Adimar.
He continued his assault, taking the opening as he had it. He spun his sword and jammed it into the ground before sweeping his hands and send wind and snow against the Wraith. The snow made the blast an icy chill and it seemed to collect in icy patches all over the Wraith. It slowed, weakened. Adimar learned that cold magic worked against the Wraiths. If only Lara was here, Adimar would have used this chance to test a combination attack. Lara’s ability to use water and ice, with Adimar’s wind. They could freeze it and potentially shatter it to pieces.
Alas, he wouldn’t be able to test it today. The battle had been going for some time now, and Adimar was beginning to feel the slightest strains of fatigue. Still he pressed on, relentless in his pursuit. The Wraith was still mobile, but slowed in its advance towards Adimar. Adimar continued to moved his body into the formations that kept the wind howling ice and snow against the Wraith. With every few passes Adimar would direct some of the damage towards, and his razor wind into the masses of foe that surrounded to fighters of Caledon. At one point he managed to cover Mogar’s back before he could be cut down. He kept the bulk of his assault on the Wraith, keeping it occupied on him, but they were sorely outnumbered.
Adimar was nearly knocked out by the sudden charging assault of a Dragur. It knocked into Adimar like a charging bull, and sent him tumbling back. The Wraith was now reprieved of his assault. From somewhere he was sure he heard Thad or Rupert call out to him, but Adimar couldn’t spare a single moment. The Dragur was nothing more than bones held together with sinew and magic. Adorned it old ancient armor, his hollowed eyes gleaming purple behind the sockets. It chomped its teeth at him as it wrestled him to the ground.
Adimar had to take the Dragur out quick before the Wraith was back to its full speed and motion. Holding the Dragur at bay with an arm, the creature was light, and that made it easier for Adimar to reach behind him for an arrow and stick it right into the Dragur’s gleaming eye. The Creature collapsed into bones and armor right above him and Adimar rolled over back to his feet and saw that the Wraith had managed to move to be behind him.
Still holding the arrow in his hand, Adimar threw it merely as a distraction, but it zipped through the air with accurate precision and high speed. He had meant to use the time to actually reach for his bow, but he was distracted by the unexpected attack. So was the Wraith. It screeched at the now jutting arrow that stuck from it’s shoulder, and swung out with its sword. Adimar jumped back in an attempt to dodge, but the blade still managed to slice against his armor, sparking from the impact.
Adimar stumbled back, hoping Saraya was doing better than he was at the moment. That and Rupert were off in the thick of battle, doing all they could to cut a path to their Prince. Adimar regained his footing and worked his way over to where his sword was, but the wraith was moving quickly now. Adimar used his wind to push the Wraith back, giving him just enough time to pull his sword from the ground and go back to battling with steel instead of magic.
Egos paced the circle with Saraya, and chuckle did little to comfort him. He knew the choice she made when she crouched into position and held her sword. She demanded he fight her. His lip curled with irritation. She wanted to see blood, she wanted him to hurt. He’d give her that, probably not in the way she thought, but he planned to just kill her now. That caused him to smile with his jagged teeth. Just as she finished her monologue, he sent a ball of green energy at her, and charged with his own blade towards her.
She deflected his first attack, but not the second, and he roared with satisfaction.
[+red “You see my dear, this is how you die.”] He grinned victoriously, and went to twist the sword inside her and wrench it free, but it didn’t move. [+red “What-“] Saraya’s fist collided with Egos’ face and he fell backwards. His hands held his face, releasing his sword and he wailed in pain and with rage. [+red “You, bitch!”] He spat at her, black blood spewing from his lips as it gushed from his broken nose.
His sword fell to a clatter before him, and he looked from it to her as she demanded he fight her again. He grabbed his sword and went to stand up, but she knocked him down, yelling at him. He knew he couldn’t beat her in a hand to hand fight, he was a mage, not a warrior. Something caught her attention for a brief moment and he knew it to be that insufferable oaf she had chosen for a partner. Distractions got you killed, and Egos could only grin as he watched a group of his men come charging at them. They were surrounded quickly and Egos shouted for them to capture her and kill her.
He could only laugh as she screamed at him to come back and fight her. Egos would, once he’d put safe distance away from them and had collected the baby. He would need the collateral. With Saraya now contained, Egos whistled for a horse, and one was brought to him by a mounted Soldier. Egos took the horse and mounted it, taking off for where the baby was being kept.
He was making good headway, when he heard a scream in the distance. She must be dead. Good. Egos slowed his horse to a gentle gallop and down the road towards a hunters path where inside the forrest the baby was being kept.
He never got to the treeline. A blur of fur came charging from behind and from its back launched none other than Saraya herself. The damn bitch just wouldn’t die! Her body collided with his, knocking him clean off the horse. The Horse ran off in fear of Star, and Egos was now sore all over. His body ached from Saraya’s assault, but that didn’t stop the rage in his eyes as he looked over at her. She had made it back to her feet, sword raised, and she spared him very little time to try and defend himself.
He cast a minor ward to block Saraya’s blade, but the ward would not last long. With his other hand he shot three rapid-fire rounds of vile energy at her. They went off right beside her, and he was able to evade another hit.
Aria left Malik as soon as she could, and when she opened her own eyes again she was back on the top tower of the Temple. She could see the battle was in full swing, the wall had collapsed, and siege weapons hurled boulders across the field. She tried to survey the chaos for her friends, her heart plummeting to think they were in this mess and fighting.
She heard a booming sound and looked outside the city to see Adimar. His attacks were large and powerful, but Aria could see he was fatigued. Looking further ahead where she could see more magics being used, and she could spot Saraya’s aura. Saraya was fighting the Mage alone. Aria had to do something!
She materialized with a blink by Adimar’s side, and her appearance faltered the Wraith’s attack. It hissed angrily, but Adimar paid it no mind, he rolled over and pushed himself back up to his feet. He needed help. Aria observed his heavy breathing, the collected sweat, blood, and mud on his person. The snow of the battle field was stained pink with blood, and Adimar was wobbling on his feet in these early hours of the morning. Sunrise was still a few hours off.
The Wraith decided to ignore Aria for the moment and moved to charge Adimar again, but Aria would not be ignored. She appeared on the field blocking the Wraith and stared it down. It charged to attack her, and Adimar was stunned only for moment, shouting in horror as the blade collided with Aria… and swung right through. All it did was distort her image, and she formed back together with ease. She raised a hand, and a wall of air shot out from behind both her and Adimar throwing the Wraith back, and giving them time.
[#20b2aa “Aria, is that you?”] Aria gave a nod of her head and reached out to touch Adimar’s chest. He felt her touch as if she was truly standing before him. [#20b2aa “How?”]
[+pink “Mana is only the surface. Energy is everywhere. I’ll explain later, but Adimar, you must tap into your very spirit if you want to win this, and we have to. Saraya needs our help. She’s chasing after Egos as we speak.”] Adimar nodded his head and they both turned to see the Wraith had returned for a final time. Aria turned, chin raised defiantly at the Wraith, and it pointed his spindly finger at both of them. Adimar moved to stand strong behind Aria and sheathed his sword. Adimar instead raised his hands and overhead a funnel cloud began to form.
The cloud quickly collected ice and snow, spinning and growing heavier until it started to drop to the ground. It brought with it a strange warm wind and churned and made the funnel stronger. The winds picked up and Adimar’s eyes were cast over in their foggy white. Aria shouted at Adimar to drop the cyclone right onto of the Wraith. It landed right in front of them trapping the Wraith and sweeping it up. The cyclone violently spun the Wraith about, slicing it with icy barbs, and pulling it in every direction. Aria stood below watching with a keen eye and Adimar continued the cyclone, spinning it tighter and faster until a dark explosion happened inside the cyclone. Adimar released it and the remnants of the Wraith fell to the ground. Adimar collapsed to a knee, taking a breath. Aria was there with a hand to his shoulder. It fed him energy, and he looked at her ghostly image, feeling renewed.
[+pink “Come on, we have to get to Saraya.”] Adimar nodded his head and got to his feet. [+pink “Go, I’ll meet you there.”] Aria said with a smile. Adimar nodded and vaulted himself up and into the air. His Flight assist coming in handy to vault him long distances quickly over the battlefield.
Aria appeared near Saraya before Adimar could arrive. She remained unseen, but took the time to observe the fight. It had just begun. Saraya had knocked Egos to the ground and made to attack. He put up a ward and fired his own energy at her. Aria looked out to the fight where she could see Adimar rushing to make his way over. The Mage’s attack had stumbled Saraya back a touch, and he didn’t give her a chance to recover either. This battle had been savage right out the gate. That was how Malik worked, and for a brief moment, a shiver ran up her arm, her hand tingling where she’d [i touched] him. It felt like a vile act of sacrilege against her own self… but revolutions could not be achieved without some forms of sacrifice.
The Mage managed to put distance between himself and Saraya, getting more accustomed with closer range magic as he fought her. He hurled a steady beam of Green Energy that forced Saraya to put up her own shield. Aria used the opportunity to give Saraya a boost, and to help buy time for Adimar to come join and help. Aria materialized when her hands connected with Saraya’s shoulders, giving support to the shield that held off Egos’ magic.
[+pink “Hold strong, Saraya! Yes, it’s me,”] Aria offered a smile to Saraya, the Mage unaware of Aria’s presence as he couldn’t see her behind Saraya or his attack. [+pink “I’ll explain later, Adimar was detained by a Wraith, he’s on his way now. I have to tell you quickly, Aramis is safe! He’s in the woods north of here, follow the hunters trail. There is a man with him, hiding. You’ll have to take him out before you can get to Aramis-“] Aria suddenly wobbled where she stood, a look of concern growing on her face as her image flickered and began to fade. [+pink “Something’s happening back in camp. You can do this Saraya! FOR CALEDON! FOR AZERA!”]
Adimar landed behind Saraya just as Aria vanished, but Aria had not simply left nothing for them. Surrounding them and warming them where she had touched them both was the wealth of energy and power Aria possessed, yet never used. She had given it to them to deliver a final blow against the Mage and his forces. Adimar looked at Saraya and the Mage’s attack died off. He was running low on his own Mana. Adimar noticed it very quickly.
[#20b2aa “He’s fading, nows the time to strike, what’s your plan?”] Adimar asked drawing his holy weapon and notching an arrow. He raised it and aimed it at Egos to keep him at bay as they formed a plan. Seeing that Adimar had now joined them Egos screamed in rage and fired another beam of power at Saraya and Adimar.
This… Rhuarc, was a clever strategist. The Jai had drawn his troops in, and then pinned them up against the remaining stone barricade. They had splintered their own group into a faux retreat and came around to attack from a different side once the forces were draw in deep enough. Malik grinned from behind his mask and looked over towards one of his wraiths. Around them was the chaos of the battlefield, music to his ears. His Wraiths told him the the camp in the forrest had been located and Vega was moving in with her attempt to capture the priestess. Malik did not expect the old hag to complete it. He expected her to be killed. The Wraiths and Malik’s men kept any potential threats at bay, allowing the king to observe the battle from within it. Not that he needed the protection.
[+Purple “Guard my horse,”] He ordered dismounting and settling his hand over the hilt of one of his blades. The one he held was ornate with silver pommel and guard, the one he left alone was sheathed in a matte black case, the handle was simple, strapped in closing bands of black leather, and with a gold guard. Its shape was long and with the slightest curve. It radiated ancient power, much like Rhuarc’s did. The blades seemed to call to the other in their close proximity.
Malik did not draw that simple looking blade. Instead he drew the ornate sword, and revealed it was a sword of Volshi steel. This sword had no magic to it, only that which the one who wield it, gave it. Malik marched into the fight, dropping his cloak as he left the protective circle, and brought his blade down to sever the spine of his first unsuspecting victim.
He cut himself an easy path to Rhuarc. His eyes on the fighting Jai, and never leaving, even as he cut down those who came at him, or who tried to run from him. He even cut his own men down for getting in his way. He kicked, stabbed, maimed, and decapitated those unfortunate enough to cross him on his path to the real fight he was looking for.
Malik came to a stop several feet behind Rhuarc, and laughed in delight at how he took down his latest opponent.
[+Purple “Impressive,”] Malik complemented as Rhuarc turned to face him. The Jai was tall, with broad muscle and plenty of tattoos and scars of all sorts to decorate his body. And so like a Jai the fool didn’t wear a lick of armor. Malik could respect that. He sheathed his ornate blade and moved his hand to the other less impressive looking sword. He would let the Jai catch his breath. Afterall, Malik wanted a good fight.
[+purple “I assume you know who I am? Good.”] Malik reached over and pulled on the strap that held his armor in place and shrugged off his breast plate. He would remove the main bits of his armor to fight the Jai. The breast plate fell to the snowy, muddy, blood soaked ground. [+purple “I came down here to fight you. I hear you’re very good.”] Malik sounded excited and reached up to remove the front plate of his helmet. The raven skull, and the top bit that protected his head and neck.
Rhuarc was the first outsider to see any part of Malik’s true form. No Helmet, no glamour. His face was still hidden behind a cloth mask that covered his face from nose to chin. Only his black eyes remained. They glittered with malice and anticipation. His hair was black and plaited back tightly against his head. He was tall himself, lean, but there was no denying to power in his body, or the strength he possessed. He was well built himself, and every bit the warrior Rhuarc was.
Malik finally reached over and drew his blade, feeling Rhuarc had acclimated enough to the reality he would have to fight Malik, and feeling the Guardian had plenty of time now to catch his breath and some energy. This time Malik drew the simple blade, but it became very clear, very quick it was no simple blade. It was [i THE] blade of Azera. The black steel glittered the light around it like a midnight sky, and it was shaped very differently from Rhuarc’s. It was slender, with a razor sharp lower edge that curved up to a straighter more blunt edge. It made for an impressive blade. Malik wielded it with a smugness that denoted they all knew who that sword truly belonged to…
[+purple “She’s beautiful… I mean Aria, not the sword.”] Malik smirked behind his face covering. [+Purple “I hear she made you her General,”] Malik taunted. [+purple “She must see something I don’t,”] Malik began and the two men started to circle the other. [+purple “So why don’t you show me how good you are,”] Malik grinned from behind his face mask and waited for Rhuarc to come at him. Malik would play with him, maim, but not kill… but he certainly would instill a healthy dose of respect and fear into the Jai. He was still young, and there was still much for him to learn. Malik would happily teach him.
With the time given in setting up a perimeter, Lara shook off the tension stemming from entering this place. She has not expected a sudden mist to appear, silent trees begin moving and making haunting sounds, nor for the green vines to silently stream down the trees. The added cover was a surprise, a welcome one, but it couldn’t have come from a mortal source. All that power seemed ancient, similar yet different to the power inside the temple of Fenlyck. Could it have been the Caledonian guardian spirit defending its home? That would definitely be a question for Saraya, but first this battle needed winning or else there’s be no opportunity for such questions.
As Aria slipped from the mortal and into the astral plane, that added another question to Lara’s [i ‘list of curious questions’]: when had Aria learned self-transfer? It was quite obvious that Aria had practiced this for it to happen with the ease she was showing, but how long had it taken her to make it this easy? Lara put no effort into hiding this curiousity, which is why Max asked her about Aria’s mute and unresponsive, trans-dimensional meditation. Lara, while somewhat practiced, didn’t have a solid grasp on dimensional jumping. In a way you became a ghost yet much more invisible; one couldn’t interact with physical objects, but the mind was open. Unless the person left open their mind to such intrusions. Then a mental duel began , and it could end In several ways: a casual brushing away of the intruder, easy break-in, mental damage ranging from light to heavy derangement, trapping the intruder in the dimension, or even killing the trans-dimensional projection which could also completely kill the intruder.
When dealing with an individual such Malik, which of the endings would occur was unknown. But Lara trusted, and hoped, that Aria would return in one piece with no mental damage.
Lara paced, letting off nerves from standing still, ears and eyed scanning for any warning signs of an enemies. None appeared, yet something lingered in the air: Oddness. While not distant from the battle, the forest swallowed the dins of battle while earth rumblings were reduced to bare vibrations. Even someone needed in protecting the villagers, for Lara it still felt unfair for everyone else; staying relatively safe inside a semi-sentient forest whilst those who stayed fought and bled on and under the walls.
With the unsure quietness still lingering, two more questions popped in: the first one had been discussed recently while the other had not.
Luther, not a question mark anymore, became an enigma. He’d appeared almost out of nowhere and professed loyalty. The first cracks had been with the ring Lara found while snooping in his cabin; a mysteriously powerful ring with an unknown purpose. The effects of that crack only had burst open recently with the knowledge the ring allowed communication with Malik, and that Luther had been chatting up with Malik. Despite these revelations, along with the punishment, Aria still trusted Luther. Only that trust stopped Lara from knocking him out to not risk further spying; but even Aria’s trust would not restrain Lara from putting him down through the battle’s duration if she suspected he was up to no good. Magnitude did not matter, better safe than sorry.
This second question came with sorrow but ended hopefully. Ever since running from home, Lara lacked a family and someone to love; the former she found within this group, the latter within Baldin. Technically, familial love and love towards a friend differed from each other. In this case Lara loved Baldin both as family and as a friend, a form of sunshine in her dark journey. That wasn’t to last: Baldin, corrupted by Malik and turned against them, was killed, with Lara’s hand ending Baldin’s corruption via death. With the battle for Fenlyck not yet over, she’d discovered of Fenlyck’s and Volshi’s romantic relationship; after the battle while rebuilding Fenlyck, Lara had all the time to think about that and her own relationship with Adimar. While a doting older brother and curious young sister familial relationship begun forming, Lara had not furthered it being tied up with Baldin. Without Baldin, those [i ‘lovey-dovey feels’] rugged towards Adimar. On the one hand he was her senior by a decent number of years, but nobility didn’t mind marrying younger people; on the third hand, Lara would be considered a peasant, not being born into any form of nobility.
Further internal discussion was interrupting by the carol of the chimes. With Aria still away Max sent a guardian to be the avant-garde. Lara shivered, the temperature dropping with the addition of a snow shower. At least with the snow Lara could assure herself knowing there was something she could control as a devastating weapon. Her staff was another dangerous weapon, but the reach the water allowed her meant engaging at a safe distance.
Everyone here were capable fighters, and they would be able to halt anything that came their way.
+Sorry if it is a bit long. Let me know how the post is... I've taken too much time as it is revising it so it could make sense.+
Saraya had smelled the foul stench of the Mage. There was a considerable amount of the enemy that deterred and went after Rhuarc once the warrior landed with Caledonian forces. She could see that Egos was about to cower, and it would be all for naught if she allowed him to get away this time. She had to do something, and it had to be a direct split and it had to be straight to him. She growled away the fear that crept. She grabbed her bow and arrow and let one loose on an enemy that tried to get too close. She had to get to him… She had to end this torment. She would not be satisfied until the moment his head is in her hands.
Saraya was now face to face with now deteriorating Mage, He smiled a wooden smile, perverted and as traumatizing as it could be.
“Hello, my dear...” he said, extending his hand to her as if inviting her. “Are you ready for our dance?”
Pure disgust had filled her features as she stepped back, remembering the foul touch it had left before Aramis was born. Adimar had been on cue with stepping forward, daring him to touch her. He growled at the act before bellowing “Kill them!” as he began backing away. “Lay waste to this pathetic, despicable land! Cleanse this place! Do his bidding! Bring me the Guardian of Caledon and capture the Priestess!”
[i No!] Saraya had growled. [i He was not going to let him get away. Not now!]
“Egos! Kill The Caledonian!”
The words resounded in her head as she drew a slow breath.
“Saraya!” Carrick’s scream filled her ears next, even as she gathered her bearings to charge after him.
Just before she could even attempt to move, a surge of power coursed through her as dark clouds began to form above the fray. She could feel a shift in the earth beneath her feet. She then looked to Adimar, whose eyes were glazed over into grey, stormy orbs. She then watched as he created a powerful blizzard, and it provided her with the perfect smoke screen.
“Adimar!” Saraya called. Coincidentally, he had been going to her, and had already put his hand on her shoulder. As she glanced, she knew his plan. She nodded to him before charging ahead, Adimar not far behind. Soon enough, Saraya was lifted off the ground, and into the air. She used her chi to carry the blizzard on as she ascended, pulling up stones and boulders. She then tossed them into the air as she soared, allowing them to come crashing down onto oncoming enemies.
Egos’ face shown shock as she landed before him. A growl had escaped her as she gripped her sword, watching as they began to circle each other. “This is it, my dear. Here, you will see reason and join me, be reunited with your son… Or… Here, you will die…” Saraya stared him down, continuing the circling, slowly beginning to ignore his plea for her to reconsider. “… The choice is yours. I gift you this final chance to join us. My king could use someone of your caliber and skill. You would be greatly rewarded, and further compensated if you tell me now where we might find the Priestess.”
Saraya stopped the circling, as he did. She let out a soft chuckle as her lip curled into a half smile. Just as he thought she was going to surrender, she began to crouch, her sword in her right behind her, the left before her. Her eyes darkened, and she exhaled slowly as she took her stance. “Fight me…” Egos stepped back, growling a moment. “… I want to see blood. I want to see that smile wiped from your scaly face. I want you to hurt… To hurt like you’ve hurt me.” He grabbed onto his sword. “You took from me… For this… I will never forgive you… And I will not stop… Until your head is on my spear”
Egos had sighed dramatically, before hurling a green ball of energy towards her. Saraya raised her hand, and deflected the ball, the energy colliding into the trees nearby, destroying them. She then saw Egos charge at her. Sword raised, he attempted to stab her, and Saraya knew what to do. It had connected, and it seemed to plunge into flesh and organs. In his eyes, the sword had done its damage. He then roared in satisfaction.
The rage was palpable, as footfalls and roars sounded throughout the icy battlefield around her. She had the briefest glimpse of Rhuarc as he ran into battle, and Adimar took care of Mogar during their efforts to push the forces back. Egos tried to pull back his sword to see if he had won, but he couldn’t pull it from her. He growled in frustration, trying to tug it from her possible corpse, and turned towards her to see---
In time to see Saraya and the sword not in her gut, but wedged between her arm, and the armor on her torso.
Saraya had growled as she stared at him with deadly intent. The light reflected on her dilated pupils, as well as her aura. Egos sucked in a breath before Saraya spun into action. Her fist found his nose and face. The collision broke his already fragile nose and his ego. He staggered back in agony, releasing his own weapon, yelling as black blood spewed from the nostrils. She grabbed his sword, watching him writhe in pain before turning his anger on her. “You BITCH!” he exclaimed.
Saraya had tossed him his sword and took her stance again. “Fight me”
“Saraya!” Carrick cried, and his eyes flicked around the blizzard storm, searching for her, who was clearly out of sight. Chaos was all around them. Warrior was against darkness, and Ruscal’s magicians had kept them all at bay from invading. It was hard for Carrick make sense of it all… Not until Rhuarc made the call to take the vicious forces and hit their ever budding enemy from the right. Carrick had made haste on gathering some magicians and warriors and took off into the blizzard. The forces made the mistake in thinking that Caledon had lost an ally, for when the least expected it, Carrick and his army of talented magicians had come swinging, and crashed the right, causing confusion and panic.
Owl and Crow were suddenly surrounding him. Owl gave Crow a grim look. “We need to strike harder”
“Cut them off!” Carrick growled. “Protect our land!”
Saraya had landed an elbow to his left cheek, before yelling “Fight me” again, infuriating Egos. He tried to launch at her again, but she managed to deflect it. She punched him hard again, before hearing Carrick’s voice over the blizzard. She turned, looking for the source. She growled before turning back to Egos. “FIGHT ME!”
Battle cries came from behind her now, and she turned to see some of Egos’ forces charging towards them. The evil humans had held her arms, and stopped her from landing another blow on him. Egos smirked, wiping his bloody nose before climbing on his sickly steed and took off into the blizzard. “EGOS! YOU WON’T GET AWAY FROM ME!” she screamed.
Carrick then heard it. He heard his Saraya, and he could feel that she was in trouble. Just as he thought of going towards her, Sky had run in, and claimed him, knowing what he wanted to do. Right behind him, Star had approached, claiming Owl and Crow, taking off after Carrick. He knew that the group could survive without him a few moments, but it didn’t stop the few warriors that saw him to take haste after him and the twins, wanting to aid their king.
Saraya growled as more of his minions surrounded, trying to get her on her knees in surrender. She struggled against it, until the sound of an arrow cutting the air came to her left.
Another sound of an arrow connecting to flesh sounded on her right. She could gather some of her strength and throw the rest of them off of her. With her sword, she decapitated one, and stabbed through the second. She turned on the third and snapped his neck, and the fourth had gotten pummeled by her powerful fists.
When Carrick finally got to her, he turned to Owl and Crow, who had already jumped off Star. “More are coming!” Crow yelled, rushing Star to the two of them. Carrick looked to Saraya as she looked to the direction Egos had retreated. “He can’t get away!” she panted, growling at the same time. She then felt a pair of hands at her waist, Star quickly approaching before he had tossed her onto the she- wolf’s back. “Go” Carrick snapped, looking back towards the coming fray.
“What about Aramis?” she snapped back, anger and terror riddling in her voice. “Don’t worry! Don’t let Egos get away!” Carrick’s head whipped around, and he looked up at her and gave her a tight, wry smile. “My love… Take your revenge”
Carrick reached out and smacked Star on the rump. “GO!” Star had barked and lurched in response. Carrick had already turned, drawing his sword and running back into the fight, taking Owl, Crow, and the following warriors with him. Star leaped away, and Saraya had to use their sword, and prepared her stance while guiding Star towards the enemy.
[i Egos… You’re not getting away… You’re not getting away!]
Star had barked in rage, In Saraya’s confusion, she looked over her shoulder, hair and tears in her eyes, to see the silhouettes of warriors from within the blizzard, and Sky, riderless and rearing, pawing the air, barking his anger. Saraya blinked, tossing her head to try to clear her eyes. For one long heartbeat, she looked back.
The silhouettes of warrior were a mob now, a confusion of bodies and blades. Centered on one tall, powerful figure, the silhouette was fighting with his sword…
There… Saraya had looked just in time to see Carrick die…
A silhouette of the first blade dug into his neck.
Saraya screamed then, an echo to the whipping air.
Another silhouette of a sword plunged into his chest then, buried to the hilt. Carrick dropped, his sword falling from his hand.
Saraya screamed again, this time it was his name that carried into the thundering storm.
It had only taken a heartbeat. Star had taken no more than a stride. Star had howled as she tore the ground with her claws, plunging through small groups of enemies, obeying Carrick’s last command.
Saraya looked back ahead, tears stinging her cheeks as rage filled her chest. She wasn’t going to let Egos get away now… She will end him… The pain in her chest left her gasping for air. She wanted to stop Star from running, if just for a moment, but Star refused to slow. She could tell she could smell The Mage, and they were drawing ever closer to him.
[i Stay on… Stay on… Not much further now…]
Star’s pants were even and balanced, and it helped her balance her breathing. She could finally sense Egos was much closer than before. He was just out of range of the blizzard. Without a second thought, she placed her feet onto the spine of Star before pushing off, jumping into the air, and colliding into the enemy… Egos…
She hurried to her feet before turning to him. He had a shocked look on his face, and his bloody pulp of a face sneered in anger. She raised her sword without a word and attacked him. All the while, she let out the roar of war, that could be heard through the storm. This was going to end with her trophy for the pain Egos and his master had cause… His head would only pay a small portion of the damages. Now, she wanted them all!
+P.S. Never fear... Carrick still lives, this is what she thought happened.+
Rhuarc stood next to the Volshi mage as he used his arcane abilities to see through the eyes of his hawk, Hermes. Adimar began scouting what lay against them before he was crippled by what seemed like unimaginable pain, but worse than the pain of an arrow in the chest was the realisation that a lifelong companion had been lost. Adimar's connection with Hermes was a huge part of who mage was as a person, the pair had been through so much together and now the bird was just another casualty in the war against Malik. Pain was quickly replaced by rage and determination before reporting on what little he had seen before his gaze had been wrenched from the lifeless bird. As Adimar looked back towards Rhuarc and gave him a mana potion, which would surely come in handy during the battle, Rhuarc gave his own parting words, [b They will bleed. Bleed dearly. I’ll make certain of it."] It was his own vow to his friend.
With Adimar and Saraya leaving to undertake their own mission Rhuarc was left with Carrick, Ruscal and the assembled Caledonian forces and facing them was a horde of vicious Dragur and bloodthirsty savages that would love nothing more than to rip them limb from limb. Rhuarc drew his heavy blade of midnight black steel and touched the blade to his forehead muttering the traditional Jai blessing before battle; [b "Blade, be true this day."] The jai guardian checked the fastenings securing the Harbinger to his hip and took a deep breath readying himself for the battle. Rhaurc was not a fool, he knew that he was not the one that was going to win this day, his role was to keep the forces of the Mage engaged so Saraya and Adimar had time to destroy that abomination. With the Mage destroyed the rest of the assembled forces would dissolve into total disarray and fall apart. The only thing holding this army together was the Mage. The False King was here but this was not his army, he was here to watch, Rhuarc would be surprised if he actually ventured onto the battlefield himself although the Jai wished that he would. Malik was a truly great soldier, no one could deny that and if he was honest Rhuarc wanted to see how his own skills held up to one of the best...but his wants did not matter. He would lead these men, hold strong and give Saraya the time she needed to end the Mage once and for all.
Rhuarc charged into the tick of the monstrous Dragur and the bloodthirsty, base, mindless savages that only wanted to inflict pain on others, he saw Carrick on his left following his lead while Ruscal folled on his right with the Caledonian fighting forces only a heartbeat behind as they fought to defend their homes and families from these invaders. Rhuarc flowed flawlessly through his sword forms, his blade cutting through enemies seamlessly. Rhuarc cut down foe after foe moving fluidly through his sword forms and ending the lives of any that were foolish enough to come into range of his blade. Rhuarc swung his blade in a wide arc cutting the head off a savage that was attempting to lunge at him with a long hunting knife and took stock of the battle that was raging around him. The Caledonian forces were more than holding their own, they were better trained that the rabble that the Mage had assembled against them but they were very clearly outnumbered. If the battle dragged on then the Mage would be victorious simply because he could afford to lose more men that the forces of Caledon could. He had a huge advantage in not caring whether his army lived or died, the forces of Caledon on the other hand were not so cruel. The Mage also had no qualms at throwing elements of the destroyed rock wall and enflamed debris towards Rhuarc and his forces, ignoring the risk to his own soldiers assembled nearby. In order for the forces of Caledon to survive the overwhelming numbers set against them they would need to tactically out manoeuvre the evil against them and Rhuarc knew exactly what to do. [b "Carrick, take your forces and move around, hit them from the right. Ruscal and I shall open a target for you. Hit it hard and hit it fast!"] Carrick understood immediately and gave a nod before leading a third of their forces away leaving Rhuarc, Ruscal and what was left of the Caledonian forces facing down the vile forces of the Mage.
The Mage's mindless army grew bolder at the loss of Carrick and his forces thinking that he had deserted them and attacked with a new found purpose but Rhuarc and Ruscal were more than a match for them. With renewed vigour Rhaurc attacked anew once again flowing from stance to stance evading every attack that was thrown towards him, if the Jai was actually facing a knowledgable opponent he never would have been able to avoid all of these attacks so easily but the mindless nature of the army he was fighting allowed him to avoid their attacks without any trouble. Rhuarc thrust his blade into the stomach of a Dragur but another one was upon him before he could free his blade to take it out, knowing the predicament he was in Rhuarc let go of his midnight black blade and instead drew the Harbinger and cleft the Dragur from shoulder to hip. The Jai Guardian recovered his own blade but advanced once again with both the harbinger and his own sword cutting down any enemy that dared approach. Ruscal and the fighters of Caledon followed and together they punched a hole in the army of evil that stood before them. With their lines now splinted thanks to the focussed attack from the forces of Caledon with Ruscal and Rhuarc at the forefront Rhuarc's plan was ready all he needed to do was wait for Carrick to do his part. In the meantime Rhuarc cut, thrust and slashed any enemy that he could see, alternating seamlessly between using his own black blade of heavy steel and the Harbinger, it was an incredible feat of swordsmanship. At that moment what Carrick and the soldiers that he had taken with him slammed into the exposed flank of the Mage's forces with them having been exposed thanks to Rhuarc and Ruscal's attack splitting their lines and turning them in on themselves. Carrick was able to plow through both man and Dragur alike pushing them against Rhuarc and Ruscal's fighting force. Between them the Dragur and Men were totally shredded, it was a classic hammer and anvil manoeuvre, very fitting for Carrick, the former blacksmith to be the one swinging the hammer and crushing the army before them. This was only the first of the Mage's fighting men and there was sure to be more but for the time being they had a little room to breathe.
As Rhuarc caught his breath he heard a faint chuckle, the derision and amusement in it spoke volumes about the person who could put such mockery into a simple mask. Rhuarc looked around trying to find who was making the sound. Worst of all despite the amusement that was in abundance in the laugh there was an unmistakable air of malice about it, it was enough to send a chill up Rhuarc's spine. The normally unshakable warrior was starting to feel a hint of doubt enter his mind. The man was encased in a suit of armour and a stylised raven skull formed the helmet. The Jai tightened his grip on his heavy black blade of midnight steel, he would need the power of Jai'hash's holy relic now more than ever. He had wanted this opportunity to present itself but now that it was here Rhuarc may have made a mistake but he could not back down now. Standing across from him was the man who had caused so much pain and suffering, who was responsible for everything, Shade-Stealer himself. The False king was here and Rhuarc was about to cross blades with him.
Adimar could only grin at Rhuarc’s comment, too preoccupied to respond with Thad and Rupert’s arrival, as well as Lara and Aria’s departure. Adimar’s gaze lingered on Lara’s departing figure for a brief moment, and he sent Hermes off to scout. His eyes fogged over until completely white, and his face had a distant unfocused look. At his sides stood Thad and Rupert waited for him to complete his work.
Through Hermes, Adimar could see the ground below. The Caledon forces began to gather in block formations, siege weapons were at the ready to counter-attack the False king’s army. He saw the top of the wall Saraya had erected, and beyond that was a legion of Malik’s army. A smaller battalion, but no less daunting waited at the front by the wall. While another, much larger, army waited on the plateau rise on the next hill. On the south eastern ledge stood a small group of riders watching, but it was not the armies below they watched. Before Adimar could take Hermes out of range, it was too late.
Back in camp, Adimar collapsed suddenly as a searing pain erupted throughout his body. In pain and holding his chest, he felt the arrow and the loss of life as Hermes was struck down. His connection violently severed from the Hawk; his companion, his lifelong friend.
Both Thad and Rupert jumped, startled by Adimar’s sudden fall, and moved to aid him. Concern in their eyes, and hoping it was not something they always knew was a risk.
[+navy “Lord Adimar!”]
[+red “Adimar! What is it?”] Rupert knelt beside the shocked prince and helped to steady him.
[#20b2aa “Hermes…”] Adimar dropped his head and covered his face. Hermes had been a gift from his Uncle, and now… he was no more. Rupert and Thad shared an understanding look. Adimar had truly loved that bird, and the loss would affect him.
[#20b2aa “I’ve had that hawk from a hatchling… and he just… AGH!”] Adimar was suddenly on his feet, a vengeful and furious look in his eyes. He realized who it must have been on that ledge and who’s arrow it was that took out his hawk. He turned towards Rhuarc and Saraya, [#20b2aa “Egos is at the front with three wraiths, I’d guess roughly five hundred assorted soldiers, and Dragur. Behind him is an army of over two thousand. I saw Malik… and he… he saw Hermes…”] Adimar’s fists clenched tightly. He would turn that rage and focus it for the coming battle.
Suddenly cannon fire erupted above them, and the city shook. Rubble began to chip away from the tops of Saraya’s wall and came crumbling dangerously down the ledge. Adimar frowned and looked above at the sparks of fire from the explosions above. Saraya shouted to the people of Caledon to raise their shields, and they did in unison, blocking the debris that fell upon them. Adimar looked to Saraya. [#20b2aa “I hope that wall holds until we’re ready, but they’re lined up on the other side of it by now. Let’s go teach them lesson, and get your son back.”] Adimar glanced back at Rhuarc and tossed him a mana potion. [#20b2aa “Just in case. See you later!”]
Adimar met back up with Saraya, ready to move out for their mission and she looked to him. [i “They want war… They will not play fair… So let’s get dirty with them…”] Adimar smirked and simply nodded his head and drew his own Guardian weapon. The bow of Volshi radiated power, and he notched a preemptive arrow. Saraya raised her hands and made to shove the stone wall apart. She had raised it, so it only made sense to Adimar that she could demolish it. He figured he’d give it a little extra boost. As she tore the wall apart, Adimar released his arrow and with it a funnel of wind that violently carried debris into the air carrying it further into the waiting battalion and causing further damage.
With the wall down, the dark army charged without care of the previous attack. Enough had survived they felt confident enough to advance without mercy. Adimar braced himself, standing at the front with Saraya. His bow would do no good in close quarters. He quickly draped his bow across his chest and drew his sword of Volshi steel and readied himself at Saraya’s side.
They were accompanied by Mogar and Owl, the wolf: Star, and his own men: Thad and Rupert. They planned to charge forward and make their way directly to the Mage, who no doubt was hiding in the thick of his army. The Archers, and the few scarce mages Caledon had would remain behind the main army to pick off whatever broke through the line. Saraya sent her wolf off to assist in protecting Aria. With that, Adimar and Saraya moved forward behind her conjured shield
They broke through the opening in the wall and forced themselves into the thick of battle. While Saraya shouted out, [i “MAGE!”] She was determined to have blood. Adimar didn’t particularly blame her, her feelings on the matter. He too wanted an end to the Mage’s interference. Soon they were surrounded by the legion of barbaric men, disfigured creatures, risen corpses, and soon the Mage’s magic.
Just like outside of Kilheed, The Mage hurled flaming boulders of green fire throughout the battlefield. Rhuarc and the Caledon forces were behind them meeting the hoard of evil, and ahead of them was more to get through. Adimar did what he did best, he used his wind to push back those that got too close to Saraya, or any in their party. He used his sword with elegant precision to cut down those that attacked. Adimar was first and foremost a Mage, Archer second, swordsman third. He was no where near the proficiency in swordplay as Rhuarc, but he’d gotten better since training with the man. It showed as he wielded his blade at Saraya’s side.
ARIA and Lara left, with Max close on their heels and surrounded by the Holy Five. They hadn’t reached the tree-line when the barrage began. It was sudden and unexpected, which caused Aria to jump slightly and look back towards the rooftops of the city and over head she could see the snow laden clouds begin to glow red.
[b “Hurry now, Priestess, Lady Lara.”] Max encouraged and they moved ever swift until they reached the forrest.
There to meet them was Luther dressed in civilian’s clothes. [#00ffff “I informed my brother that the civilians would be located to the West, as you asked.”]
Aria gave a nod of her head, still unwilling to trust him completely, but allowing him a chance to redeem himself. [+pink “Good, it will buy us some time. We can make sure the villagers are safe. Eli, Jordan, go with Luther, head to the western forrest, and get eyes on them. The traps you set today will alert us that they’re here.”] Both knights saluted Aria and Lara before leaving with Luther into the forrest to do as instructed. Even with his wounds Luther clearly intended to fight, contrary to what the healer had told him to do.
Aria and Lara hurried along the forrest trail, and it wasn’t long before Aria noticed a shift in the air. Saraya had said this place would protect them. Nestled up against the northern mountain, behind the village, there were caves and gorges to hide in. The villagers had already created a hidden camp for themselves in the base of a large moss covered trench. Aria could see the glittering of paper lanterns in the boughs of the trees providing gentle light, but not so much they would be discovered.
The moment she passed the camp’s threshold, the trees began to moan and move. Vines cascaded down to create added cover, and a heavy mist seemed to roll in. Aria looked around, impressed by the enchanted abilities of the Caledon forest, but it wasn’t so much Caledon or Saraya’s power… as it was the Sanctuary tree, and Aria realized this when she felt the vines on her arm writhing. She pulled her sleeve up to see that the vine had even changed, creating a type of gauntlet. Leaves laid down like scales from her elbow to wrist and over the top of her hand. This was… interesting.
Lowering her sleeve, Aria looked over at Max and Lara, [+pink “There is something I wish to do. Would you both attend me?”] Reluctantly both Lara and Max agreed, and Aria looked relieved. She led them around the camp until she found a good space, away from the civilians and relatively quiet. Aria made her way and sat down on the floor cross legged and placed her hands on her knees. Max stood at her side, and watched curiously as Aria steadied her breathing and closed her eyes.
[b “What are you doing?”] Max dared to ask just as Aria was beginning to drown out the noises. With eyes still closed, and focusing all her attention, Aria answered distractedly, [+pink “I want to try to use my Astral skill in a new way. This time I’ll be making the calls…”] Around her the other Holy Guards and Lara stood protectively. Aria allowed herself to slip into a meditative state, relaxing herself until she would be ready to slip her consciousness into a different reality -one normally reserved for dreaming… or convening with greater powers. To those that watched she did not move, and one wondered if she was breathing. If her name was called she did not respond, and if someone tried to touch her she wouldn’t react. She was in the Astral Plane.
Aria opened her eyes on the Astral Plane and looked around. It was a strange place, but she was coming to understand. Ever since her early attempts, she had learned better to navigate it, and that the rules of physics did not apply here. This world was not entirely real, but it was also woven into the world she lived in. She looked around her to see the others watching her, their voices were discernible, but muddled as if the sounds were traveling through water. Each of them were shadowed, but outlined by the gentle glow of their auras. All except Lara, who shone brightly and fiercely in the strange darkness. Lara’s aura rippled like the top of water, wavering in blue light, and unlike the others, Lara’s center was illuminated by what Aria could only describe as a tiny star.
She could not stay, and time was of the essence.
Aria made her way above the treetops of the forrest and bounced from bough to bough until she was outside the temple, standing on the tip of the topmost spire. She could see the village outskirts and she could see a camp on the distant hill. She looked behind her to see that the village was alive with those who were prepared for battle. What struck Aria was how brightly the Guardians’ auras glowed. Adimar and Saraya were at the front lines, Rhuarc with the bulk of the army. To the east of the temple a dark aura was cast over a dark gleaming mass that could only be Malik’s army. She blinked, and when she opened her eyes she had moved to the top of Saraya’s wall. Around her flashes of cannon fire erupted, and Aria blinked again, and appeared in a new location.
She found herself on the road outside of town and in the thick of the siege. She nearly screamed as she came face to face with Egos. His face was dried and cracked, his eyes a sick yellow, and where his veins under his skin webbed, they were a violent red color. He was so corrupted by his own magic, he was no longer a mortal man. His yellowed teeth were filed sharp and he was glaring upwards at the wall, oblivious to Aria’s presence. He even walked right through her, but the Wraith off to his side screeched. She whipped her head around and spotted a glowing orb in its decrepit hands.
The Wraith had no aura, Aria saw them in a completely different way. They were disfigured men, gaunt, and decrepit, twisted and shrouded in rags. She saw them for what they really were -cursed souls. It was the gleaming orb of jade green in its hands that took her attention more than anything else.
[+pink “Aramis…”] she breathed and quickly looked around. There was no way she’d be able to take the baby and run with him, and she did not have the power to pull a living creature through the Astral Plane… she didn’t even think it was possible. All she could do was somehow get a message to Saraya.
The wraith was coming for her, hand reached out to grasp her, but it moved right through her, and screeched in frustration. The Wraith was stopped from another attempt at grabbing her when a soldier came to take the baby and hide it away. She followed quickly, leaving the Wraith to watch her in a rage at its inability to stop her. She kept a close eye on Aramis, and was shocked to see he was encased in a shield like bubble, but his little face was pinched and red as he wailed for his mother. Aria felt her heartstrings pull tightly. This was not even her child! Fortunately, Aria knew where the baby was being kept, and would simply have to get the message to Saraya or even Adimar…
The soldier had laid the baby at the base of a tree and prepared himself in hiding for a surprise attack. She’d have to warn Saraya of him as well.
Moving towards where Aramis laid, Aria reached out to touch the orb that held him, and found her hand moved through it as it moved through Aramis. She frowned, unable to do anything for him, but it seemed her action had helped to ease the baby’s wails some. [+pink “Just wait here, your mother will be here soon. Someone will come for you. I promise. Stay brave little Aramis.”] Looking over the tiny creature one last time, Aria stood up, and left to do some further exploring.
This time she appeared behind a mounted posse on a frosted hill…
The moment her incorporeal feet touched the ground, the three Wraiths who surrounded the head rider, twisted in their seats and hissed threateningly. Aria stilled, the Wraiths were clearly aware of her. They were creatures made of Astral material - nothing more than powerful spirits bound and cursed, by their own evil intention. She knew the rider was also aware of her when she heard a chuckle. It was a refined sound, but it was too malicious for Aria to be deceived by. She stood her ground, and watched cautiously as the Wraiths moved to block her in.
[+purple “I knew you couldn’t hide forever.”] Aria felt her mouth go dry, his voice pulled at some long distant memory, and watched as he dismounted his horse.
She still couldn’t see his face. The helmet he wore looked to be an oversized raven skull. He dressed himself as a Harbinger of Death, and Aria wondered why he always hid his face from her.
[+pink “I’m not hiding. I’m fulfilling Azera’s destiny, and you can’t stop it.”] She watched with bated breath as he walked towards where the Wraiths had moved to surround her.
[+purple “I know you’re here… you can show yourself. I won’t hurt you.”] Aria blinked. He couldn’t hear or see her, but his face seemed to settle on her. To her surprise he raised his hand and held it open towards her. It must have been his connection to his wraiths that allowed him to know she was here.
He remained still, hand held up and fingers spread. She eyed the black gloved hand nervously. [+purple “I’ve been wondering when you would come to me… if you wish to be seen, then you will have to put your intention behind it. Allow yourself to be seen.”]
Aria hesitated and stared at his hand. Frozen in terror. She had come here in hopes to gain information, in hopes to find Aramis. She should not have been seen… but Malik was different, his wraiths were different, and while they could not harm her or touch her… they could clearly [i see] her. On some level Malik was aware of her presence, and against her better judgement she found herself raising her hand and slowly placing it against Malik’s. She knew this might very well be a moment she’d regret.
Testing Malik’s teaching, she put her will and intention into her belief that when she pressed forward she would feel his hand and that connection would be enough to hold her long enough to tell him: his days were numbered. She pressed forward, and the moment their hands connected, Aria felt herself shift. Her hand looked nearly solid against Malik’s gloved hand, and the more she remained still the more her image remained whole.
Malik looked at her, suspended in the air like a ghostly apparition of herself that curled and shifted away as smoke. Aria watched even Malik’s shoulders tense. For a moment they simply stared at the other intensely. Cannon fire and catapults continued to sound off in the distance, and something very loud and big suddenly exploded, but Malik paid it no mind. He was too focused on Aria.
[+purple “I knew you were here…”] he whispered. Aria was a flux of emotions and uncertainties. He sounded elated to see her, excited, and perhaps even proud that she had managed to appear before him. [+purple “Did you get my message?”] he suddenly asked his tone switching to that dark and devilishly smooth tone. Her glare was answer enough for him and his beak bobbed as if to give her a nod of approval. [+purple “You’re delusional as you are beautiful if you believe that your pathetic Guardians actually stand a chance in defeating me. One by one they will fail you. Was that boy not proof enough for you?”]
Aria knew he meant Balden, and as much as she wanted to yell at him, to tell him off she remained quiet. [+purple “Tsk, I see you can’t be provoked. Perhaps you can be be reasoned with. I would suggest that you come with me, let me show you your potential. Come to me, and truly take my hand. There be no more bloodshed this day.“] Aria looked him over, unable to gauge his honesty.
[+pink “If I come to you, you would withdraw your troops and spare these people? Spare the guardians?”] Aria questioned. The sound of her voice seemed to make him tense, but it was short lived and he gave a single nod of his head.
[+purple “I can be quite reasonable, contrary to popular belief,”] Malik informed her, his voice was oddly calm, gentle, and refined. [+purple “All I ask is obedience. Is that so bad?”]
Aria was seething with absolute rage, but she contained it, pushed it down and saved it for fuel later. Her eyes settled on Malik’s dark holes in his helmet where his eyes hid and wished she could see his true face.
[+pink “Unfortunately for you, I did not come here to negotiate a surrender. I came to tell you that you will fail. That I am coming for you.”] She knew he was mocking her from behind his helmet. Smirking smug at her without a care.
[+purple “You practiced that didn’t you?”] he teased in a voice that Aria was rendered shocked. She could [i hear] the smile and amusement in his voice. Suddenly he took in a deep breath and sighed out as if content… as if he could [i smell] her. [+purple “I know you didn’t come here for me. You came looking for the child my Mage took. You’re so predictable, my dear. If you’re accommodating, I can tell you were he is…”]
[+pink “Why help me? Why offer me a deal?”]
[+purple “A part of me wants to endear you to me, it still hopes you’ll be smart and simply take your place at my side.”]
Aria was too terrified to move, Malik looming over her, and the beak of his visor was like a dagger over her head. [+purple “The other part of me, knows you’d kill me with every breath in your body if you could… that part wants to rip your fucking throat out, and officially snuff out all hope and light in this godforsaken world that you may produce. It’s also the very thing about you that I desire above all other things… However, I can not allow you to continue to move freely. You are mine, or nothing at all.”]
Back in the camp her body tensed, a small gasp of fear escaping her, and her hands curled into tight fists over her knees.
He reached his other hand out as if to touch her face, maybe reach for her throat? Aria pulled her face away from him, and even her hand from his. For a moment she flickered and faded, their connection lost, but finally she managed to hold herself in form without Malik’s help.
[+pink “Bold words for a man who hides behind a mask. I will find a way to end you…”] Malik tilted his head curiously and reached up as if to remove his visor, but she vanished without another word and the Wraiths screeched as they watched her leave entirely. Malik dropped his hands to his side, staring at the empty space where she once materialized, smiling behind his helmet, and inhaling deeply.
[+purple “She smells like sunshine…mhmm, of course she does…”] Malik moved to the edge of the hill and looked down where the siege had begun. This was Egos’ battle… Malik was just here to observe. He mounted his horse and raised his telescope once again to peer over the now shattered and destroyed wall to observe the Guardians in action.
His view settled on the Caledon and Volshi Guardian’s first. They were at the pit of it all, and were impressively holding their own against the Mage. They had an affinity for the Arcane, and seemed to work together flawlessly. Those two together were a clear threat. His Mage would need to find a way to separate them if he hoped to beat them.
While the valley and pass into the city was pure chaos, the two thousand strong army on the rise remained in place and did not advance. With the exception of a small splinter group of 100 that charged down to attack the Guardians facing Egos; the rest watched on in eerie silence. Yet the roar of the battlefield below was a symphony to Malik’s ears.
He moved his telescope further back into the city and scanned the field before he finally found what he’d been looking forward to. Malik felt himself get excited, and he sat a bit taller in his saddle. If the Caledon and Volshi guardians were intimidating as a pair, but Jai Guardian was certainly enough on his own, and he’d yet to show even an ounce of arcane prowess. He’d heard of the magma flow against his Wraiths though, so Malik knew the man had it in him. Fire was a volatile element, hard to harness and control, no doubt this Jai had his struggles as well.
As Malik watched, he studied to find a weakness in Rhuarc’s form, but from this distance it was hard to gauge. One thing Malik could see clearly, was the scores of dead bloodied bodies that the Jai Guardian left in his wake, and he showed no signs of slowing down. Malik lowered his telescope and collapsed it, handing it off to one of his wraiths.
[+purple “I think it’s been a while since I’ve had a little fun… and it’s about time I introduced myself…”] Malik chuckled darkly and turned his horse, the wraiths following suit, and they tore off down the mountainside… towards the battle… and ultimately towards Rhuarc.
Back in the camp, Aria remained seated and unmoving, protected by those who surrounded her. Max was able to learn from Lara that Aria had the ability to send her consciousness into the equivalent of the spirit world. However, Lara had not known Aria to willing go under before. Usually she was receiving. Malik was known to contact her through such methods, a skill they shared. The Mage had even once knocked Aria unwillingly under and had fought with her in the Astral Plane during their early travels to Tanaka. The Mage subsequently lost against her, and Aria had risen victorious from her first skirmish.
She still had yet to move, or make a sound beyond the single gasp from earlier, and Max was forced to watch and wait. It was the waiting that bothered him. The inability to follow Aria into this “Spirit” world and protect her. Still, Lara assured him that he was protecting her. Aria’s body was locked in a trance of sorts. If she was moved she would have trouble finding her way back to her body, and while disconnected, she could easily fall prey to an attack. That was what bothered Max the most. If they were attacked, Aria wouldn’t be able to even get up and run away for her own safety, let alone try to protect herself.
Camp was quiet, aside from the gentle din of the civilians in the alcove of trees, or the wildlife that lived in the surrounding bushes. Max surveyed the surroundings cautiously, as did the other guards and Lara. That quiet was disturbed when the bone chimes that hung up in the tree centered in camp, went off. They were the alarm system that Malik’s men had entered the Western forrest. The traps had been triggered. The civilians quickly gathered, their voices rising with concern. Max cursed under his breath and moved closer towards Aria. He knelt beside her and shook her shoulder.
[b “Aria, you need to come back. The alarms are ringing,”] Max attempted, but he received nothing from Aria. She remained unmoving, and unresponsive. Max knew she wasn’t going to be waking up, and he couldn’t move her.
[b “Byron, go west of camp, and ready the perimeter. If there’s trouble ring the next alarm so we can start to evacuate the civilians into the caves.”] The Holy Guard nodded his head and left the circle, and Max put his attention on Lara. [b “Let’s prepare incase we are attacked as well. It’s just us, so let’s hope Luther, Eli and Jordan are able to handle what’s in the Western Forrest…”] Max wasn’t taking any chances and went ahead to withdraw his heavy axe. The anticipation was heavy and suffocating… not knowing what was beyond the camp was even worse, and it had begun to snow heavily, the trees providing little cover against the rapidly dropping temperatures, but the good thing about the snow meant Lara had plenty of water around her to manipulate.
When the wall exploded, Egos was woefully underprepared. He had not anticipated that the very wall Saraya had raised to protect her people would be used to attack a large section of his army. Coupled with the Volshi guardian’s tiny but powerful funnel of wind the damage had been substantial, but not so much he lost any chance to fight back.
It was last second, but he managed to conjure his own ward to protect himself, one of his two wraiths was not so lucky, and was crushed by a large boulder that came hurling down towards them. Egos only had one Wraith to get him through this battle, and the wench had killed the other in a single stroke. He hid himself further inside his army, which rushed forward undeterred into Caledon, and awaited Saraya’s inevitable arrival.
In the meantime he raised his discolored hands and took the very boulders around him and set them ablaze with enchanted green fire. Wherever his fireballs landed, they exploded out in a dangerous radius, leaving people dead or burned. Unlike Rhuarc’s fire, the Mage’s couldn’t get as hot or last as long. His fire wasn’t even technically real, but a pale imitation, but could still deliver a great deal of damage.
His fiery reign did not last long, as Saraya and Adimar eventually broke through the armies to make their stand. It was Adimar’s arrow that alerted him to their arrival. The arrow zipped by dangerously close to his face, and he managed just enough to cast a ward and fling it away from him.
[b [i “EGOS!”]] Saraya’s voice cut through the roar of battle and he smiled maliciously at her. While the Volshi guardian drew another arrow to strike him down. Egos looked behind him to see a section of 100 soldiers were moving down from the plateau rise to join him. They would be upon them shortly.
[+red “Hello my dear. Are you ready for our dance?”] He asked with a sick grin, and extended his hand towards her. The Volshi guardian moved a step forward with a threatening promise to strike him down. How impudent of the man to step between him and his goal. Egos could only sneer at Adimar, and pointed a finger directly to him. [+ red “KILL THE GUARDIAN!”] The surplus warriors were upon them and they roared rushing past Egos and towards them. [+red “Kill them! Lay waste to this pathetic, despicable land! In the name of your King, cleanse this place, do his bidding! Bring me the Guardian of Caledon and capture the Priestess!”]
Adimar spared a glance to Saraya and while he could see there was fear in her eyes he knew it was also going to motivate her. He released one of his arrows, sending another funnel of wind and power that circled it and ripped through the hoard of soldiers charging at them. It threw several up into the air, and the arrow struck through three men, cleanly ripping through them. Adimar was impressed by the power of the bow, but as they rushed closer the bow was less effective and he switched once again back to his sword.
[#20b2aa “Saraya! The Mage! Mogar! Thad! Rupert! On me!”] Egos was making a run for it, hiding behind the soldiers, but Adimar had other plans… he was going to make a clear path for Saraya and send her right to Egos. Enough with this bullshit. The Mage wasn’t going to chicken out at the last minute again.
Egos grinned widely as he watched the soldiers draw closer. Their weapons raised to attack, but he felt electricity in the air. The pressure was shifting, and the clouds that had been collecting and gathering above, now bent to the Volshi Guardian’s whim. His eyes began to glow a stormy grey and the Mage tensed. The air temperature began to drop rapidly, and while it had been cold and frosty, it was now freezing. Adimar had released the blizzard hiding in the clouds above Caledon. The Mage cursed. This would make it icy and impossible for the hoards to continue to try and climb up the sides of the wall to get into the city and past the fighting blockade. It would reduce visibility, but it would not deter the Caledons who were accustomed to snow and cold weather.
Adimar was putting his focus on the attacking soldiers, and between his wind gusts, and other attacks, he was beginning to feel the strains of depleted mana. He knew he had plenty more to give, but the current blizzard and wind had taken quite a bit out of him. Still he was fighting capable, and they weren’t entirely alone. Some of the Caledon forces had advanced through Egos’ army and were now at their backs, helping to stem off attacks from all sides. If it wasn’t for Mogar, Thad, and Rupert, Adimar wouldn’t be about to do what he was about to do next. He would need them to cover their backs for a moment.
That moment was now.
Adimar saw an opening. Without thinking, he reached forward and grabbed Saraya’s shoulder, calling her name. He didn’t need to explain, with a look he knew he had her trust. He turned her and with a gentle push moved her and together they ran forward. It only took a few steps to allow Adimar to go through the movements of sweeping his hands up and down, until he was able to sweep a firm gust of wind up from underneath Saraya.
Much like how he’d done with Rhuarc in the labyrinth of Kil’heed, Adimar vaulted Saraya up and over the fighting soldiers, allowing her to land in front of Egos.
It was just her and Egos now. Adimar couldn’t reach her, and he was surrounded on all sides by the enemy. They were both on their own for now. It wasn’t just the rabble he had to face, but as he turned with his sword he came face to face with one of Malik’s wraiths and had just enough time to block an attack. He certainly wouldn’t be joining to aid Saraya anytime soon.
Egos would be remiss to admit that he was shocked when he watched Saraya land before him. He drew his own sword, and raised a hand glowing with a sickly shade of green magic. His yellowed smile was enough to make anyone wretch at the sight, his cracked lips, sickly skin and otherwise malformed figure wasn’t helping either. His robes and armor were elegant, but he was a horrifying specimen of man. His sickly discolored skin, and gleaming yellow eyes made him look inhuman. Still, he took a ready stance and began circling with Saraya.
[+red “This is it my dear. Here you will either see reason and join me, be reunited with your son… or here you will die. The choice is yours. I gift you this final chance to join us. My king could use someone of your caliber and skill. You would be greatly rewarded, and further compensated if you tell me now where we might find the Priestess.”] Saraya of course refused, and Egos could only make a dramatic sigh, still smiling wickedly and without warning threw out his fist and hurled a ball of destructive magic at Saraya, and then moved his own body to attack her with sword raised.
As it stands:
Saraya is finally able to confront the Mage...
Adimar is locked in battle with a Wraith...
Lara is preparing with Max for what lays unknown outside of camp...
Rhuarc is in the thick of battle with Ruscal and Carrick, holding the blockade, and in for a big surprise...
Aria is still under.... and what has Luther encountered in the western woods?
Owl had finally made it to the army that had been waiting on the signal. Owl had panted as she looked around for the big Warrior, the one they called Rhuarc. She bowed to the giant and inhaled. “Saraya gives the call. She had already made way for war.” She said. She watched as Rhuarc had taken control and led his army forward. It was then that Star had approached her. Star huffed to her, becoming more and more agitated. She knew that the giant wolf was in need of getting back to her master. Owl had nodded before climbing onto her. Before Star had turned to run, she noticed a stag. She furrowed her brows. She hadn’t seen even a faun since the attack. She was thrilled to see such a majestic beast, before seeing more pile within the trees. She then looked to Star. “Did you do this?”
Star huffed in approval before Owl looked back to the trees. This time, she saw wolves, not as big as star and Sky, but were big enough nevertheless to match the Stag beside them. She then looked ahead. Were they summoned to protect the villagers and Aria? It would seem like the kind of plan Saraya would concoct. Owl had noticed that Saraya, Mogar, and Adimar jump down the cliff. She growled in disapproval. Not without her. She wasn’t going to be left behind again!
She jumped off Star, and made haste towards her brother, who had been keeping his weapon at the ready, and who seemed as shaken up about the sudden escalation that was occurring. “Brother, can you see them coming?” she asked as she watched Rhuarc and her people depart to war, and felt the force of Saraya’s power from far above her. She growled as she looked to the gap, and enemies by the hundreds began ascending the side of the cliff. They would have to be dealt with first.
Carrick had growled in disapproval. He knew that fighting was eminent. But, Saraya was being a little brash and hasty. The moment she had jumped down to the enemy, he had to act fast to make sure that everything was accounted for.
He had realized that both Sky and Star had been howling, but for what reason, he didn’t ask. It was probably one of Saraya’s ideas. Then, Owl caught his attention. She was supposed to be with Saraya. Before he could even think to investigate, Ruscal had approached, more determined than ever. “We are to stay up here. We prevent them from passing through…” she said, before looking out to the Cliffside, where a scream of powerful intent sounded. The ground shook and Carrick had growled as he looked back to Ruscal. “Alright. We spread the archers and magicians out amongst the Cliffside.” He said.
He then saw Rhuarc and the army of Caledonians pass by before looking back to the opening. He could only leave the task up to them. They will make sure the people were safe.
Just as he spoke of this, he saw that the army was coming towards them. Ruscal had looked to Carrick, who had already drawn his sword. “Harbinger or not… We keep Caledon and The Priestess safe” Carrick declared.
Saraya’s voice cut through the air, but all could feel the wrath and merciless rage pouring from her and drowning them. She the saw the armies coming towards her.
“KILL THE GUARDIAN!” boomed a familiar voice as Saraya, Adimar, and Mogar were being surrounded. Usually, this would raise panic, the feeling of doom would follow, and would creep into one’s spine, paralyzing them. But, this was not such an occasion. Saraya had gripped her sword, eyeing Adimar before looking forward.
As the enemy’s army closed in, the voice of Egos sounded again. “Kill them! Lay waste to this pathetic, despicable land!”
Saraya growled as she saw the approach. She made quick work in forming a shield, forcing them back just enough to give the three wiggle room. “Scon-ga!” she cursed, catching Mogar’s attention a moment before getting back to the matter at hand as they watched each of these humans approach the shield and began beating on it, hoping to find a hole in it. Mogar released a growl of anticipation. “My Lady, they scale the Cliffside” he reported, looking at the fray as Saraya turned her form to the sight. She watched as a few hundred abandoned the temptation to sedate their most lustful needs. “Ruscal and Carrick can handle them. They won’t let them do what they’re thinking…”
She looked up towards the cliff, still worried. She hoped that things would go the way she had thought it… That she would kill this tyrant, that everyone would make it out alive… That her son would be in her arms again… She just had to make sure that they were safe… But there were a few thousand at his beck and call. She turned back towards where Egos’ voice came from. She was going to end him… And when he’s dead… She was going to make a point to Malik that None of them… Fenlyk, Caledon, Volshi… Jai’hash, were silver platters waiting to be served. This was not the land he would take… This land was their land…
There were three things going inside of Carrick's mind... First, considering the Holy Guard, and the number of worthy survivors who happen to be warriors, they had at least four thousand that are in the ranks... Second, everyone has peaked in the development of their power... He was especially proud of Lara. She had come a long way, and no doubt has grown throughout the voyage. He wanted to apologize for their absence, but now wasn't the time... Three... What has Egos done to his Saraya?
He had been careful not to tip the balance she had now. With the training with Adimar, it seemed to take her mind off of things, but there was a piece of her that was missing... And, it was all because of the damned Mage.
He then thought of the encounters... She had been targeted, sought after time and time again by this tyrant... Tanaka... Volshi... Now, here?! Saraya had been stabbed, beaten down, cornered, brushed death more times than anyone on this voyage. As she was, she is a threat that couldn't be tolerated... Now, she was his obsession. It didn't matter that she didn't love him... It mattered that she'd tip the scale, and do all the work for him, choose him because he seemed powerful enough for a lackey. It didn't occur to Egos that she had all aces in her sleeves. If she wanted to, she'd wipe his entire army with a snap of her fingers, but that wouldn't be honorable to her.
She wanted him to suffer… She wanted him to die by her hand. She wanted revenge.
He caught a glimpse of her as she strolled into the trees. Saraya had been holding to her own the best she could, but he could feel that she's falling apart at the seams. He took the chance to follow her, into the trees, into the isolation of the bamboo, the waterhole she had found. He spotted her sitting with her feet in the water, just racking her mind about the battle. Carrick couldn't think of anything to say... Anything that he could do...
Saraya would've been startled were it not for his apex. He made safe work in climbing behind her allowing his embrace to fully take form as his feet met the healing waters. His chin, it rested behind her, as he kissed her tresses before resting it on her right shoulder. It was a moment before he felt her hand over his, and took hold. He sighed as he closed his eyes, the sound of running water gave a sense of awareness, and he incidentally peered into her thoughts.
"You shouldn't feel this way, Saraya..." She remained still, her only reaction was that she gripped tighter. "You were not at fault for what has happened... Not for any of it" he looked to the crystal blue waters. "You took this, all on your own, and i had been standing beside you watching them happen. I was powerless then, not fully understanding the power i was given. I've made stupid decisions in a desperate need for atonement, when my repentance was done the moment Aria stepped into my forge... I was given redemption the day you had walked into my life..." His grip tightened around her, but it relaxed a moment after. "That is why i..." He paused a moment before raising his arms up and cup her cheek... "... We will get our son back. The Guardians... Our people... Our family... We will stop Malik... I'm sure of it"
Saraya could almost weep. She could feel his heartbeat thump loudly against her, giving the sign of life a signature lullaby. She smiled softly before saying. "I don't doubt that we will win..." She looked to the bamboo. "... A smaller number, with the right tools and strategy can still survive against a greater one..." She looked back to the waters. "What i doubt... Is the moment i lay eyes on Egos... That i will show him mercy..." Carrick could feel the fire fuming from her. He had been feeling the same.
"In fact... I will not show him mercy... And i will not allow his cowardice to evade me... After all he had done... The pain he inflicted... The scars i must wear... The deaths i must bear... From poor Balden, to Corbin... Ayab... They took from us, Carrick... They took from all of us. If they hurt our son..." She hesitated a moment. "... I don't know what I’ll do..."
Carrick hugged her tighter, now swaying to calm her. "He will be alive... We all will be okay... And Egos will be dead. I swear this as your sword and shield."
A passionate kiss followed, and Carrick gave one last embrace before standing up. "Now, Saraya... We have a Kingdom, bestowed unto you by Caledon, that needs their Guardians. As Luther says, My love, Malik is here, and he will find that we are not so airheaded as he thinks" he smirked, helping her up.
Owl had been helping Star and Sky prepare barricades. Ruscal had already huddled her followers and prepared their Stags. Saraya had chosen Ruscal to be her general, as it was natural to place someone she trusts by her side. She had then spotted Saraya and Carrick emerge from the trees. She could usually put faith in her abilities... But, it’s been hard to see herself fighting alongside Saraya, the Caledonian Guardian of Azeroth.
Saraya had been looking for Ruscal to discuss the numbers when Owl had caught her eye. Much like poor Lara, she hadn't been speaking to them... She wondered why it was. She, perhaps, thought to not drag her into her problems, despite some outcomes. She was young, but she still managed to save her life in Tanaka. Perhaps, Lara wouldn't mind if she asked to speak with her, would she?
First, she needed to settle and prepare her people. Owl had bowed to her, but Saraya grabbed her hand. "Walk with me"
Owl was surprised, but accepted the invitation. They seemed to walk for hours, but Saraya eventually stopped at the peak of a hill, watching below the armies forming. "Owl, your brother and you have always been my family, so i have given you two positions." Owl had gasped. "W-we have titles? Saraya, i.. We..."
"Now, you two are still in training, so you two will be training with the Guardians. Keep in mind, they will not be easy on you two. What we are facing is a threat that could traumatize the faintest of hearts. We are going against the Shade- Stealer. He will stop at nothing to kill and claim Aria, and we need to be strong enough to stop him before he destroys Azeroth." Owl had looked to her. "Saraya, we know the threat that comes..." She said, sighing. "... We're not leaving your side again. We will help protect Azeroth, and lay down our lives in the name of The Gods and The Guardians who have given us hope"
Saraya looked back to the armies, and spotted Rhuarc approaching them. As they began descending the hill, Saraya looked to her. "Ruscal had told me what had happened... Why you two are so determined as you are... Owl, im so sorry i wasn't there..." Owl sighed a bit. "Ruscal told me why you're out for The Mage's blood... He made you barren, too... But, you were carrying when you came her... She hadn't told me all details, but she was saying to keep hope alive and strong. So, i do" Saraya smirked and nodded, walking on with Owl at her heels. Eventually, she had found herself about to meet Rhuarc while he gave his endearing and powerful speech. She stood patiently along the side, happy to know that hope was stirring.
Just as he finished his speech, everyone, Carrick, Crow, Mogar, everyone joined in the roar that could shake the earth beneath them. Then, as she turned to the wall, she realized what the harsh shake in the earth came from. She saw a coming cannon soaring into the sky. She turned to Rhuarc and then to Ruscal, who immediately picked up on the feeling. Carrick was next. Ruscal, upon seeing this, bellowed "CANNON!!"
Upon the call, the cannon became shrapnel, and Saraya's bellow cut through the air. "Shields up!"
As if on cue, they all had shielded themselves, and Saraya pulled Owl behind her before stomping into the earth. She used her chi to form her bow and arrow, pulled back and released. Owl, without thinking, had drew her daggers, awaiting orders. "Saraya, we need to go!"
She watched as the shrapnel collided with the earth. Some nearby were hit, but not seriously. Saraya saw them gradually stand and start running towards the Guardians, drawing weapons and shields. She looked to the wall before grabbing her sword. "IN POSITION. AT THE READY!"
Carrick took over, and called the archers first. They lined up along the center of Eyuwen, aimed above the wall. "FIRE!" He exclaimed, and arrows went flying. While this was happening, Ruscal had called her army to attention, and stood behind the archers, and collectively, manifested catapults, and started loading in boulders. Crow had made his way to Carrick, with his bow and arrow at the ready. "Steady, boy..." Carrick said. Sky and Star barked loudly at the wall, before they ran back to their masters.
“Where is Saraya?” Ruscal had called to Carrick. Carrick hadn’t answered. He looked out towards the wall, and then to the opening. “We can’t worry about it now! She has her plan! Have faith!” he yelled back.
She could see they weren’t going to play fair. She was sure of it. So, why not play at his game. She looked to Owl as she kept her guard up, then saw Mogar coming towards her. Once he approached, axe in hand and his battle armor at the ready, he bowed to her. “My Lady, what is your command?”
Saraya had to think. If the wall won’t stand, why let it? It was an unnecessary precaution, and knowing that everyone was now in position, she had to make sure that they were ready. Adimar had come a moment later, as well as Star, who stopped just before the small group. Saraya looked to Adimar. “They want war… They will not play fair… So let’s get dirty with them…”
Just as she said it, she made the ground shake, and it cracked apart the earthly wall before them. She raised her hands, and stomped forward, using her arms as if a force and shoving the wall apart. As she did, she let out a battle cry, using her hands to hurl the giant boulders and pieces of earth towards the army that awaited. It cleared a path, trees and all, and Carrick finally saw it… The army of thousands marching forward while the giant boulder had crushed some and damaged many. Oh, Gods… This war wasn’t going to end nicely. Saraya was right… There wasn’t any doubt that the war would be won… But after seeing what she had saw, he knew that there would be enough casualties if the plan wouldn’t work. Ruscal had ran forward, to stand beside Carrick before calling to her Warriors. “Shields!” she bellowed, the group with the catepults stayed as the rest ran forward, and altogether created a shield at the opening. Just in time, too. The enemy was coming up hill, and they were screeching, looked maniacal and menacing, like they were itching for blood.
Saraya looked to Adimar and Mogar, then Owl. “Will you ride out with me” was all that she spoke, looking at every single person. Owl gripped her daggers, nodding. Mogar had nodded, lifting his axe. Adimar had nodded in unison before Saraya looked to Star. “We’re going to have to push back. We will ride out and meet them. They will not suspect a straight forward brawl, and it gives us the advantage.”
“What about Aria?” Adimar asked. Saraya nodded to him before responding. “The Archers and Magicians will stay behind to keep them from pouring in. You must tell Rhuarc to Advance, Owl. Once that order has been given, prepare to fight.” She turned to Owl. “All the strength we have will be enough to stop this advance.” She said. Owl nodded, and ran off towards Rhuarc.
With that, she turned to Star. “Make sure Aria has aid. Once it is done, come find me. We will protect our land” she told her. Star huffed and bowed her head, before running off behind Owl. After giving out orders, she turned to Mogar and Adimar. Without saying a word, she turned and advanced towards the opening she created, rallying behind the sorcerers that had created the barrier. She then put her hands up, like placing hands on a wall, and with one good shove, the force field propelled outward, shoving the enemies before them away and crumbling down the Cliffside. She then walked through them. “Defend the Priestess and Caledon…” she turned to them. “… By any means necessary”
Carrick had saw her come forward, but hadn’t anticipate walking out to the battle. He was about to stop her, but Ruscal stopped him. “Let her do it. Let her meet them…” Carrick watched her as she walked through the crowd and turn to them, before turning back and jumping off, followed with Mogar and Adimar.
Once she landed, a plethora of enemies had felt the earth quake and backed away from the powerful smoke that followed. After a moment, Saraya had appeared from the smoke, and looked upon her enemies before bellowing out one simple word… “MAGE!”
With that, the enemies sough to attack them, but Saraya was quicker. She used her abilities to shove them back, and it was at a greater capacity, for many of the enemies before her were flying, and colliding to their demise as she advanced. By then, she had drawn her sword, and began fighting… War had begun.
[To Be Continued...]
Rhuarc watched Luther like a hawk, looking for anything that might betray a falsehood, a slight hesitation, a darting glance, a twitch in the brow. If the Watcher tried to deceive the Jai then Rhuarc would watch for any hint of proof that the Watcher was hiding something. Luther answered Rhuarc's questions simply enough, this was the first time they had met and that Malik knew nothing of their defences. The Jai's next question was meant to be a barb that niggled at the Watcher and by his venomous retort it had the desired effect. The comment had bruised his ego, but in his next questions there was no hint of anything other than utmost seriousness. This was the most important question that Luther would ever answer in his life and if he gave Rhuarc the wrong answer then the Jai Guardian would have no hesitation is slitting the Watcher's throat right now. No one endangered Aria on Rhuarc's watch. [i “If you’re smart, you’ll put her in hiding as soon as you leave this place and not leave her side. Let’s not be foolish. No one here knows Malik the way I do. This isn’t about Egos finally destroying the line of Caledon. That’s only a distraction. He wants your attention on Egos, and the battle.”] That was not new information, any fool could see that Malik's ultimate goal was to have Aria for himself. The man was obsessive in his desire for the High priestess. To say that the battle was merely a distraction was stating the obvious. It was at that moment when the Priestess herself interjected herself into the conversation, not letting him evade the question that Rhuarc had put to him. Luther admitted that he had not betrayed Aria and after a brief moment proclaimed that she believed his tale. Luther exhaled in relief but the Priestess gave him not time to relax as she asked her own question about his missing ring. It was a bold strategy and it had clearly surprised Luther as he seemed to pause, unsure how to proceed. Rhuarc watched him shift in demeanour, while he had been antagonistic if not outright hostile at the Jai's questions under Aria's gaze he practically withered, and seemed dejected and broken. It was as if he could not bare to disappoint her and as Aria chastised him for knowingly carrying an artifact of the False King. [i "You must think I’m rather stupid... I know the things I see, Luther. If Malik left you alive... it’s because you serve a purpose for him. If he truly wished to deliver a message to me, he would have delivered it directly.”] As Aria finished speaking Luther was practically sweating! This small meek looking girl inspired more dread than Rhuarc with his threats of violence ever could. All eyes in the room were on the Watcher to see how he would reply to this new charge levied against him.
Luther responded by explaining how the city was protected while Aria walked the ground, much like in Volshi, Rhuarc considered the information, it certainly made sense as to why Malik had no simply stormed into the city and taken Aria for himself. The Mage had already proved in Kil'heed that his particular influence was able to penetrate these Holy barriers, that was none reason that he was such a dangerous foe. He had access to dark knowledge that allowed him to influence things that even the False King could not. The next piece of intelligence that the Watcher offered up was the one that Rhuarc was most interested in; Malik's position. It was unsurprising to learn that Malik had a vantage point where he could survey the battle, knowing that it was East was useful as he could watch that direction during the battle for any influence from the False King. While Rhuarc was pondering what permutations the positioning of Malik on the coming battle would have Aria did the inevitable and stripped Luther of his rank as a Holy Guard. It was the only option available to her, she could not trust Luther to guard her back and Rhuarc certainly could not either. He had never liked the Watcher and to see him fallen so low made him feel as though he had been right in his disdain. If it was up to Rhuarc to decide Luther's fate he would have put him in the front lines of the battle and made him fight the enemy until death, he was a quality swordsman and they could not afford to be wasting resources in a time like this. This was the difference between the Priestess and her General, Rhuarc thought as a warrior while Aria thought like a politician. She turned Malik's weapon against him and put Luther to work as a spy against his brother. Luther accepted this new role, desperate for any way he could continue to serve Aria and left with the guards leaving Rhuarc alone with Aria once more.
The two of them seemed to relish the easy silence that came with them being alone, no one felt the need to say anything in the moment until Aria took his hand in hers. [i “We are hours away from battle, but... I hate to admit, I’m not as confident this time as I was in Fenlyk. He’s never been this close before, we've never been this outnumbered before. I don't know what the outcome will be... what the cost will be to move to Abdhu’jai. How many people will be lost tomorrow?”] She was right to feel nervous, victory was by no means assured, in fact they were very much at a disadvantage. With Malik near there was another matter that Rhuarc needed to broach [b "You must remember, we are not fighting the False King, we are fighting the Mage. He knows that as well. I am certain that once the Mage falls he will call off his forces. I believe that this is a game to him. He cares not for the Mage, he wants to learn and only once he is certain of Victory will he move against us in earnest."] Rhuarc had given Malik's presence here much thought, if their positions were reversed then Rhuarc would not make this battle a fight to the death. He would watch his opponents, learn their strengths and their weaknesses. The Guardians would need to come to Central City eventually so why force an encounter when he could prepare and choose the terrain that the more important battles would occur on. Even so Rhuarc knew that if Malik appeared on the battlefield himself then things would change quickly and he would need to be there for it. [b "I am going to say something that you will not like and I would normally ask your permission as Priestess but in this I must follow my own instincts. I will not be reckless during the battle and I will not seek him out, keeping the forces of Caledon alive will be my priority but...if I see Shade-Stealer in the battle I can not ignore him. This is something I have to do, I can feel it deep in my bones. I am destined to cross blades with him. Please do not stop me from doing this, I won't go looking for a fight but I can not back down if I find one."]
Rhuarc could not stay alone with Aria any longer, he had duties to attend to with the battle rapidly approaching. Rhuarc knew what part he was to play in this fight as his own magical skills were nowhere near as advanced as Adimar's or Saraya's he would trust in what he knew best; steel. While Saraya sought out the Mage and did battle with Malik's arcane threats Rhuarc would lead the warriors of Caledon against the army that had amassed before them. Soon the quiet of the day was broken by the horrific squall of a wraith it became apparent that the time for preparations had passed and the hour of battle was now upon them. [i “I demand victory from my General, but I want you to simply return unharmed.” ] That was all the motivation that Rhuarc needed to hear, if Aria believed in him then how could they fail, she had a force of personality that the Jai could not help but be swept up in. It was a power that even she did not truly understand, but if it was her will that they should all make it through unharmed then Rhuarc would do everything in his power to make her will a reality. [b "As you command my Priestess."] The words that Rhuarc did not voice said far more than his simply reply but the look in his eyes told Aria the he echoed her sentiments and that all he needed to make it through the coming battle was knowing that she would be safe. Her touch on his chest where he had marked the Holy Sigil onto his chest seemed to emanate warmth before a cough from Adimar snapped them both back into reality. Adiamr was watching with a childlike grin at what he was seeing before Aria quickly departed to her position away from the battlefield. Rhuarc could not help but crack at Adimar's jibe, no doubt the jokester would be making many more jokes at the Jai's expense but Rhuarc had his own retort planned. [b "There will come a time when you will act the fool over a woman and when you do I will be here to return your little comments."] As Thad and Rupert joined them on the front lines with the fighting forces of Caledon assembled behind them. Adimar began his scouting mission and while he was looking through Hermes's eyes Rhuarc took it upon himself to address the warriors that were about to fight and die fighting against Malik. They were not fighting for Rhuarc, they were fighting for Saraya, for their families, for their land, for the Priestess and th ehope of a better life but they needed to trust and believe in him. he would be leading then on the battlefield while Saraya focussed on the Mage, in order for her to focus entirely on that task Rhaurc would take the responsibility of leading the armies from her. She had more important things to worry about. Rhuarc turned to face the assembled army of Caledon and gave his rallying cry:
[b "I am supposed to reassure you". "But I cannot! I will not tell you that the land will survive, that the Light will prevail. Doing so would remove responsibility.
This is our duty! Our blood that will be spilled this day. We have come here to fight. If we do not, then the land will die! The Light will fall to the Shadow. This is not a day for empty promises. Our blood! Our blood is the fire within us. Today, our blood must drive us to defeat the False King.
Our blood is our passion. Too much of what I hear from our armies is about resistance. We cannot merely resist! We must show them our anger, our fury, at what they have done. We must not resist. Today, we must destroy.
Our blood is our land. This place is ours, and we claim it! For our fathers and mothers, for our children.
Our blood is our life. We have come to give it. Across the world, other armies are pushed back. In Adbhu’Jai they fight! In Fenlyk they fight. In Volshi they fight! We will not retreat. Our task is to spend our blood, to die advancing. We will not remain still, no!
If we are to have the Light again, we must make it ours! We must reclaim it and cast out the Shadow! He seeks to make you despair, to win this battle before it begins. We will not give him that satisfaction! We will destroy this army before us. And from there, we bring our blood—our life, our fire, our passion—to the others who fight. From there it spreads to victory and the Light!"]
Walking with purpose, Lara sought water while transiting towards the gate. Every few seconds a short shake occurred; the presence of water, like a buzzing fly, kept evading her sense. Maybe this place’s water was hidden deeply and she’d need full concentration to locate it.
The entire city slowly arose into a buzz of activity, various people running either one way or the other. The people clad in armor and carrying weapons no doubt the local Caledonian military, manning the walls while others patrolled, , brought up ammunition, screeching indicated weapon sharpening, fletchers fletching arrows; a humongous beast with a singular goal: To fight, die, and win against Malik’s army of chilling darkness.
Upon arriving Lara scurried off from the main paths as not to be a nuisance. Kneeling on her right knee, Lara contacted the ground with her forehead. Her calls returned empty; no matter which direction or how powerful, the tool she required appeared nowhere. Lack of water did not bode anything but unluckiness. In all the previous fights access to large bodies of water came with utmost ease, and Lara used that opportunity in fighting off whatever creature appeared; this time she could only rely on fighting.
Concluding this failed endeavor Lara, at a jog, rejoined the Holy Guardsmen. The time she’d wasted the two Guardsmen used efficiently. By the the time Lara jogged up to one of them, almost all the civilians had been gathered. A motley crew by appearance but a reason for that couldn’t get any better; leaving their homes and people behind for a change to live while others fought and died for their freedom. But they needed this survival if everyone fighting died, some group who could rebuild and proposer after the devastation swept through them.
Seeing some of the fear and confusion abated amongst the civilians, Lara smiled unhooded; this bright and pristine smile further drove away fear and confusion amongst the group. Knowing that both a Spirit Guardian and two Holy Guardsmen would escort them brought hope and a sense that all was not as bad as it seemed.
As they walked Lara notified both Guardsmen on no water cover. They merely nodded their heads before walking back, taking their positions at the rear of the column.
The procession of this column attracted no attention, exactly what Lara wanted. Even though Malik, most likely, would somehow know, no need to attract more attention than was necessary. Aside from people moving aside and goodbyes every now and then, their group silently trundled closer and closer to the gate.
After exiting the gates Lara took the straightest path into the thick forest. The less time spent moving from place to place would lessen both the chances of nerve-sparking amongst the civilian group and probability of being spotted. Since these Caledonians practically lived in a forest they had to know their way around; moving, hunting, hiding, maybe even living in it. At least one out of every five or six civilians had brought some form of supplies with them, whether it be food, some material, and tools for hunting/defending or for utility purposes.
Upon entering the forest, the group spread out but not too much. Lara made sure in keeping within eyesight of the two Holy Guardsmen while the civilians stayed in the center of the triangle. Even though they did come across a dense portion of the floor, most of the tackiness grew above in the branches of the tall trees; except for a few stumbling the walk through the forest sprung no surprises.
After aiding in some part of setting up something that could be named a camp deep within the forest, Lara left with plenty of goodbyes, well wishes, and a deep feeling of sorrow. Their survival depended on Malik’s ignorance of this maneuver since they’d be left defenseless; Mallk didn’t show himself as an ignorant creature, for he’d remained by power through knowledge of all movements. Although, ever since they found each other and left the city Malik began lapsing in his all-knowing. Lara prayed this would be another such lapse.
No rest for either the wicked, holy, and everything in between, for once back inside the walls the preparations continued. The Holy Five, together once more, didn’t stop aiding the Caledonians; Lara joined in as well either running ammunition to the walls, giving hints and tricks for fighting, along with a multitude of small motivational speeches to various groups of Caledonian soldiers.
With an ever closer battle, Lara went for a light meal. With the preparations beginning their end, she saw no further use for herself there; a light however would aid in keeping energy and stamina throughout the battle. Too heavy a meal would weigh down and risk nausea or even vomiting in the midst of battle.
With night slowly settling over, Lara felt more nervous and confident simultaneously; the former because of all the nightly creatures at Malik’s disposal, the latter due to all the water either grounded frozen or hanging as a mist. Shame this water only appeared now, but at least it appeared.
Walking in a direction to join the others, Lara’s eyes widened with sentient dirt creating an actual wall. She would’ve remained like this for longer had it not been for Saraya’s voice jolting Lara into action; the frozen water became liquid once more while the droplets joined the ever growing ring of water, the ring burying itself in the ground around the walls.
The time had come, the silence before the storm had ended. Soldiers filled the streets as they ran in groups to their positions; Lara ran weaving through the crowd sure-footedly, quickly rejoining her party.
Here would be the final council for this battle, the last time they’d see each other before diving into the bloodbath that would inevitably come. Perhaps they would be separated yet again and forced to wander fragmented once more. Anything could and would happen; that made this final council much more intimate.
She found herself standing closer to Adimar than to anyone else as everyone settled in their standing positions, the jarring and back-raising wraith screech only serving as a reminder to what would come. Inside Lara could feel two halves tugging at each other; stay and fight or protect the civilians. On the one hand the urge to fight and destroy the forces of evil mustered against them was strong, she wanted to display her power and abilities in a [i ‘who’s the boss’] type of show off. But on the other hand, having three guardians along with an army with walls for a defense was more than enough; a camp in the backwoods with no walls and able fighters invited a massacre.
When the time came to decide, embraced with Aria and gazing into each other’s eyes, Lara chose to leave the glory behind and go beyond the walls.
Two of the Holy Guardsmen, the same two who’d accompanied her earlier, went their own way into the forest, calming down some of Lara’s fears knowing the civilians would have two good defenders. The remaining three joined with her, Max, and Aria as they ran in a different direction into the forest; barely had they began to until a noise belched out from some far place. It only gave they further reason in moving faster.
Entering the forest Lara could not believe Luther awaited them. Even more he openly revealed about his most recent treachery. She cursed him foully manner without speaking; if not for him then Malik would not have known about the civilians until much later, giving some breathing time to react.
As it was, Lara stood down after Aria calmly responded. If Aria still trusted Luther after these showcases of treachery, than she’d also begrudgingly trust Luther. But if he put even one breath out of line, Lara was not afraid in smacking Luther hard and fast with her staff.
With Luther’s disappearance to reinforce the two Holy Guardsmen, their group continued. Upon entering a small and rare break of clearing in the forest, Aria requested a stop. With Lara, Max, and the three Holy Guardsmen setting up a pentagon perimeter, Aria sat down.
Upon a frosted hill gathered a mounted posse. They were draped in dark shrouds, and their rotted beasts hoofed impatiently against the ground. The steam of their huffs billowed in the air as visible smoke. The rides were unbothered by the cold night air, or the rumbling of earth as they watched the wall erect itself around the city and come to a grinding halt.
[+purple “They’re getting stronger…”] Malik mused from behind his helmet, and eyed the nearly five hundred soldiers that belonged to Egos. Behind them on the next ridge, but hidden by the way the land laid was Malik’s personal army. He crossed his wrists over the pommel of his saddle and tilted his head in thought at he looked down on the city. Suddenly his hand extended and a wraith placed a sleek golden telescope in his palm. Malik stood up in his stirrups and extended the golden piece and placed it to his eye.
The glass swept across the city that he could see past the wall, and finally his piece settled on a head of silver hair. It was dark, but he was certain it was her. He’d never been so close to see her. She stood alone with others. That had to be them. This was his first time seeing the guardians with his own eyes. She was hugging another fair haired person, and speaking with her people. He watched closely to the actions she did.
They couldn’t possibly intend to put her on the battlefield… If they did intend to put her on the field, that changed his plans. He would be willing to move in himself and capture her if they were that foolish. As it stood Egos led the first battalion with a compliment of five wraiths at his disposal, the remainder of his five hundred strong army was a mix of Dragur, other wicked creatures, and meaner men who simply loved to incite carnage and chaos. Behind Egos was the true terror… Malik’s personal army was two thousand strong, and made Egos’ army look pitiful in comparison, but the backdrop would have the effect Malik wanted.
His attention was suddenly captured by a gentle vibration in his cloak pocket. Setting down his telescope, he removed a stone from his pocket and thumbed the rune marked on top.. It began to glow and above it an illuminated face appeared.
[#00ffff “I’ve been stripped of my rank, so I cannot stay at her side, and I do not know where she is being kept.”]
Just as Malik predicted, he was honestly impressed that The Priestess had taken that course. He believed her to be a gullible, bleeding heart.
[#00ffff “But I do know where they are keeping the civilians who can’t fight. If you want to draw her out… attack the civilians. They will be hiding in the Western forrest.”] As far away from Malik’s army as they could get. He looked over the ridge and the earthen wall that separated them from his armies.
Slowly he turned his gaze towards one of his Wraiths and in reply it screeched loudly. Below from Egos’ lineup, two of his Wraiths splintered off. One took to the south of the city’s barricade to find an opening into the Western forrest, and the other took North. Two more of Malik’s own wraiths left as well to go in pursuit of the civilians. Four Wraiths were more than enough to deal with unarmed people. Egos would have to make due with the remaining three he had. For there were only ten Wraiths in all. Malik had created them himself, but it took a great deal of magic to create them, and so he only ever had ten at any time.
He looked again to see the group of Guardians, and watched The Priestess move to leave with the Fenlyk Guardian, and six guards. They were heading north, not West. However, this was his first time seeing the Guardians up close, and he intended to study them as best he could.
What he saw was the young prince of Volshi. Nephew of the ‘King’, and heir apparent to the throne. The Volshi had been a great thorn in his side for many a year. Malik had not realized the playboy prince of Volshi was the Guardian of Volshi as well. He was well armored in black leather, and carried a sword at his side, but also seemed to sport a quiver with arrows and a bow.
The Caldonian Guardian was giving orders to her subordinates, but he didn’t see a family resemblance. Caledon had been a large blundering oaf, this woman was lithe and graceful. Not at all like her ancestor, but it was the Jai that Malik really wanted to get a good look at. Gods, he was huge -an Ugly Bastard, as Malik would have described him. Bronzed dark skin covered in tattoos, his flesh further disfigured by scars. He looked out of place among the others, but there was no denying he was of Abdhu’Jai.
[#00ffff “ I was also going to tell you, I know what happened to my ring. She has it.”] Luther’s words caught Malik’s attention and he finally lowered the telescope.
Malik was tense with apprehension. She had the ring, and if she didn’t one of them did. He turned his attention to a soldier who was fit, rugged and dirty, and he was looking to participate in evil deeds. [+purple “Tell Egos to aim a bargemen of cannon fire towards the top of the wall, let the shrapnel fall on them.”] It wouldn’t cause serious damage and was unlikely to breakthrough the wall, but it would be enough to begin the psychological part of warfare. The soldier rushed off to give his orders and take part of the battle. Malik raised the stone and the image of Luther to reply. [+purple “I certainly hope you are not lying to me, Luther.”]
[#00ffff “I wouldn’t lie to you. I… I want to keep her safe, and if the Guardians cannot see that… then, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I will help you.”]
[+purple “You were never one of them anyway, brother… atone for our past… and together we can ensure The Priestess is forever preserved.”] Luther gave a final nod of his head and the rune went dark.
While pocketing the stone, he heard a hawk caw. He frowned, such creatures should be asleep during night. Hawks were not nocturnal, and this one moved with far too much purpose. He recognized what type of hawk it was, the more he watched it. A Volshi Hawk. He smirked behind his helmet. He’d seen this bird before, he’d thought about dealing with it earlier, but now was as good a time as any. He reached for a bow from a nearby soldier and notched one arrow. With his eye on the hawk he pulled back his arrow, and released.
The arrow zipped through the sky and struck the hawk down. The creature cried in pain before plummeting down. [+purple “Someone should tell that Volshi bastard, that curiosity can get you killed…”] Malik warned, handing the bow off to another. He turned his horse and looked at the shadows.
They writhed and climbed across the mountain floor, like dark tendrils. The shadows were alive, and from the darkest parts formed the Fade. [+purple “The Shield protecting the city is down. You should be able to enter freely now. Send in a wave of my new Shadow Creatures. You know what to do if you find her. Oh, but leave the Jai…”] Malik raised his telescope once more and eyed the man through the lens. [+purple “I want to be the one that cuts him down, and if I have her… he’ll eventually come to me.”] Yes, Malik felt a rush of excitement run through him. He’d heard the rumors from the soldiers who managed to get out of Astoria, about the Jai Guardian. Malik couldn’t wait to see him in action. Had a worthy opponent finally arrived? Did he really posses the black sword of Jai’hash?
[b EGOS] stood at the base of the earthen wall, hovering aloft over one of his hands was the wretched babe. For the meantime is was trapped in its own protective bubble. Since he had been unable to touch the little welp, he ensured the babe could not leave the bubble either.
[b “Your mother is to blame for this. If she had just been compliant, come willingly… you might have been mine…”] Egos sighed heavily, and wrinkled his nose at the tiny creature.
“My liege! His Highness says to begin a cannon barrage.”
[b “So we begin the Siege of Eyuwen…”] Egos grit his teeth and glared. He suddenly tossed the baby towards a Wraith who caught it. [b “You hold onto this wretched little creature. His mother will come no doubt for him… and I’ll either finally have her… or I’ll destroy her.”] Egos looked above as the barrage began and with it the battle at Eyuwen, Caledon’s most holy city. With a shout Egos turned on his army and riled up them
[+b “Tonight we paint mountains with their blood! Break down this wall and you can have your fill of bloodlust, rape, and destruction! Now bring the ladders and begin to climb!”]
A deafening roar could be heard echoing off the mountains, and soon the heavy beat of war drums which boomed in conjunction with the cannon fire. The moment Saraya had raised the wall, Malik and Egos were ready to start the attack. They moved with the anticipation that all of Caledon was already in place for attack, and Malik would not give them a moment reprieve.
Adimar was exhausted from his day of training, not that he felt he had accomplished anything besides wearing himself out. Everyone was busy preparing for the upcoming battle, and Adimar felt he had wasted an afternoon. Lara was busy with Aria’s guards shoring up defenses, gathering the civilians, and seeing to it that the City was prepared. Rhuarc and Aria dealt with Luther, and Saraya was busy trying not to implode on the entire city in order to find her son. Meanwhile, Adimar tried to train his mind and his body to reach past the surface of energy in him , and find his Chi.
It had been an intensive workout for him, and the first he had done by himself in a long time. He certainly hoped he could find this Chi ability soon… because if he didn’t, he wasn’t sure how helpful he would be in the battle. Lara had been very active in getting the city in motion -ready to go at a moment’s notice. Adimar knew this, because he’d noticed villagers making their way to the western forest, shield maidens of Caledon moving into their positions. Weapons were transported, goods and people evacuated, barriers erected, and fire pyres ready to be lit aflame. She had changed since her stay in Fenlyk.
He wasn't ready to let himself ponder Lara, and focused instead on what happened with Saraya. He’d nearly struck her full on the first time he attempted to tap into his chi. Why hadn’t she put up a shield? He attacked as instructed, twice more, cutting her both times with his wind attack. He tried to apologize, but she only laughed. Was she crazy? She could have died! Adimar was only further shocked to see the dark essence of her powers melt away any evidence of a wound. It seemed she now had regeneration powers. Saraya’s wealth of powers seemed endless these days.
It was nearing the late hours of night. The sun had long set, but not even the moon was out. Clouds thick and heavy with snow hung overhead blocking out the night sky; and those that had managed to find a few precious hours of sleep, were rocked awake as the earth shook violently and suddenly. Adimar had just finished cleaning up and dressing for battle, so he’d be ready when it finally arrived. There was no guarantee they would make it to morning before Malik struck, and he liked to work best in the dark. Adimar was anticipating a nighttime attack. Was this that very thing?
It wasn’t, Adimar came to learn. Saraya had dropped the shield around Caledon and in its place moved the frozen earth to rise up. She had created a wall in place of the shield. This must have been Caledon’s power. He wondered when they might see her move her element. He ran out towards where Saraya stood, as did the other. The rumble of the ground below them made it hard to stay steady, let alone hear over the roar of shifting earth. He spotted Lara instantly, along with Aria and Rhuarc. Adimar watched Saraya call on Lara to use her water to reinforce the wall with a moat of her own making. With the frozen water in the ground and the moisture in the air, Lara had an endless supply of water at her disposal.
Adimar could feel the air shift, they all could… the battle was here.
[i “They are below the cliff… By dawn, they will be scaling to approach. It is time to get the people safe!”] Saraya shouted her orders and the call was made by one of her soldiers. The remaining civilians hurried to gather their belongings and seek refuge in the forrest. In a mad rush, soldiers began to take up their formations, and everyone was moving into position.
[b ARIA] had remained close to Rhaurc the remainder of the day, helping the village prepare for battle, and overseeing the final details. It was only an added benefit that Aria was able to accomplish her tasks as well without straying far from Rhuarc’s line of site. Now that the battle was knocking on the front door, Aria was forced to face Rhuarc a final time. This battle had arrived quicker than anticipated, and Aria didn’t have the time she had in Fenlyk to wish Rhuarc well. She looked frantically about the Guardians, nervous to part from them all, and before she could speak there came a distant cry, it was the grating screech of a wraith. It echoed with the sheer volume of their numbers and Aria felt a shiver run down her spine. She also felt the vine wrapped around her arm tighten in anticipation. She looked at the wall, illuminated by the fires, and then to the skies which still threatened snow, as the ground was already iced over.
Her eyes finally settled on Saraya first, and she said what needed to be said before she left them to battle. [+pink “I will do my best to protect your people. Get your son back.”] Aria looked over at Adimar and Lara who stood together and she could only smile, sensing that Lara probably wanted to fight with the others. Her attention on all of them, she felt a bit of confidence to know that they were the finest warriors of all Azeroth, and if anyone would win this battle it would be them. [+pink “Egos is who we are after, and he comes with an army of Dragur and Wraiths… We’ve already destroyed Malik’s Necromancer and his army of undead. We can do it again. Here, tonight, against his Mage. Let the dawn be ours. I put all my faith in you four.”]
[#20b2aa “Stay safe, Priestess, and take this…”] Adimar said, reaching into the pouch at his side and removed a vial. [#20b2aa “It is my first attempt at a healing potion.”]
Aria took it and smiled but looked over at Lara.[+pink “Water has healing properties, I’ll take this potion, but I don’t think we’ll need it so long as Lara is around.”]
Adimar nodded in agreement, but shrugged with precaution. [#20b2aa “Never hurts to be prepared… I’ve also made mana potions for everyone, since we haven’t learned to tap into Chi the way Saraya has.”]
[+pink “Everyone has their limits… do not be reckless, and I will endeavor to sit quietly and patiently for you all to return.”]
Aria suddenly felt a hand on her shoulder and she looked back to see Max and her guards waiting for her to go with them to the forrest. Aria looked back at the guardians nervously. Adimar was closest so she hugged him first, then she grabbed Saraya and held her tightly. [+pink “Keep a level head. Don’t make any rash decisions, focus on destroying Egos… I know you’ll return with Aramis and the others, just be safe.”] Aria pulled away to cup Saraya's face and gave her a sad smile.
Aria turned then to Lara and held her closely and tightly as well. [+pink “Are you coming with me? Because I sense you wish to stay and fight.”] When Lara gave her answer Aria nodded her head and turned finally towards Rhuarc. She smiled at him fondly and reached out to place a hand over his chest where the Holy Sigil was tattooed against his flesh. Even in the freezing outside air, his body was warm and untouched by the cold. [+pink “I demand victory from my General, but I want you to simply return unharmed,”] She told him softly. Behind her came a cough from Adimar. She glanced back to the others who were now watching them expectantly, and Aria couldn’t hide the sudden embarrassed blush that crossed her face. Her hand came away from Rhuarc, and she backed away with the help of Max who began to lead her away from the others and towards the forrest. With Aria out of earshot, Adimar leaned towards Rhuarc with a wicked teasing grin.
[#20b2aa "Awww, she's shy... how cute."]
[+Navy "Lord Rhuarc doesn't strike me as someone you should poke fun at, my Lord..."] Thad's voice came from behind. Thad and Rupert approached them with the departure of Aria and the Holy Guard and took their places at Adimar’s sides. Rupert carried Hermes on his arm and handed the creature over to Adimar for taking. [+red “Lady Saraya, your squadrons are in place and in formation. Lord Adimar, I brought Hermes so you can begin a scouting mission.”] Adimar was pleased and quickly took the hawk to release him into the skies and began to survey the outskirts of the village and what they were up against…
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