[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 remained quiet and contemplative during their hike into the mountains and when they made camp. Sure he spoke with those who spoke with him. The bulk of his conversation shared with Max. Max and Adimar went way back, Max had once been a member of the Royal Guard until disorderly conduct got him thrown out, but Adimar had admired his skill and enjoyed his humor, and so had hired him to serve under him. Max agreed and brought along Rupert, and the two joined Adimar and Thad. Adimar was still a bit saddened to have lost Max, but they had both agreed that serving Aria as a member of the Holy Guard was the highest honor. To see him as Captain, made Adimar very proud of his friend. He spoke little with Rhuarc, but that was the way of him and Adimar would not begrudge the man his silence. With Ayab’s loss still fresh, and leaving Aria with Saraya and Aramis behind, he imagined the man had quite a bit going on in his mind. He looked to Luther and studied the man as they hiked the mountain. Silent, always present, mysterious, with an icy demeanor, and secrets. He was an enigma. Adimar could not get a read on him, which left a distasteful flavor on his tongue. He could not trust him, and yet had thus far given no reason to be mistrusted. Adimar let is slide as he had also thus far served his purpose in protecting the Priestess, but should that begin to waver Adimar would make his move.
Camp was easily prepared by their group, and the fired was a welcome reprieve from the cold winds. A snow storm was coming. and as the group made themselves comfortable, Adimar couldn’t help but over hear Rhuarc and Carrick’s conversation. To be fair Adimar had worried the same thing. War was no place for any child, let alone an infant. He was glad to hear it was something that had already been given much needed thought. For the remainder of the night Adimar sat in a corner with Max and Luther, the group growing restless and eager to finish this task and move the next piece on the board.
Carrick had gone outside, and the snow was an all out blizzard. He carried with him a scrap of paper and all eyes went to the man and the wolf. At the bark, they all knew it was the mage. Adimar tensed and reached for his bow. Since acquiring the Volshi weapon, Adimar had taken to using the bow more often. He was proficient enough, and while he favored his sword, they were also now down an Archer. Rhuarc was a point, he would take the lead. Adimar would be behind with his arcane powers... a bow was the most logical choice.
They would attack at sunrise, and the moment the torrent of snow let up they marched towards their target and took their positions. What they came up to was an old fortress. It looked abandoned and Adimar blanched at it. Luther’s gaze narrowed.
[#00ffff “That is a Watcher tower...”] Adimar looked to Luther. He had to agree, it was a replica of the one back in Kil’heed. There were no grand gates, but rather an overgrown courtyard, and a compound built around it. It too looked like it had been forgotten, but there were signs of life. Horses, the smell of smoke, the faint clink of armor as a patrol walked the perimeter. Whoever they were, they were not Watchers. Adimar rather wished he had Hermès with him. He could have scryed the area with his hawk. He looked above him to Luther, who scanned the ramparts with a steely gaze from the top boughs of a tree. Suddenly the man tensed, obviously seeing something they could not, and quickly jumped down to hide further.
[#20b2aa “What did you see, Luther?”] Adimar demanded in a hushed whisper.
[#00ffff “The Mage is here, but... he’s not alone...”]
Suddenly an inhuman shriek rent the air, and it was followed by more. The haunting cries of Wraiths. At least 10 of them, and as they stormed out from the courtyard and through the crumbling walls, they surrounded an eleventh rider. His cowl drawn up, and face hidden, but his robes rich in rich blacks and burgundy velvet, his mount was a massive beast with fearsome green eyes that glowed, and on the dressings of the beast was the Royal Crest. Adimar’s mouth went dry and they all stayed still... was it possible... had that been, Malik? Whoever it was, they were leaving in a hurry, heading south, and leaving the old fortress behind. Adimar steadied himself and looked to Carrick. They were ready to move when he was.
Aria in no way thought she would be successful in protecting them if they were attacked. Still she held the dagger with a determined hand, eyes filled with reluctant resolve to see this entire thing to the end. The fear she felt wavered the moment Saraya placed her hand over her own on the dagger. Aria looked over towards the raven haired beauty beside her, and her brow furrowed. How was it this woman, could be younger than Aria, and yet be far more worldly and wise?
Saraya was right, of course, if the Mage hadn’t been blinded by his own greed and wants, Aria would have been lost long ago. The thought made her grip the dagger tighter. She hated being so weak, and hated further that she was seen that way by the others. She only managed to flinch and flush with embarrassment when Saraya cautioned her on such a foolish endeavor. Her own hold on the dagger not lessening until Aramis was traded into Owl’s arms and Saraya promised Malik’s defeat - together.
Aria was forced to nod her head and relinquish the dagger to Saraya’s more experienced hands, and stared hard at the wooden floor beneath her feet. Why couldn’t she be more like Azera had been? Azera was a warrior, she could fight alongside her companions... not hide and wait in the background like a helpless whelp. Azera could protect her companions... Aria couldn’t even protect herself. As if to remind herself she reached to her bandaged side, and gently probed the knife wound she’d endured just that morning. There was something she could do... but she’d begun to loose her faith in such things working... prayer was for the helpless, and accomplished nothing. Otherwise Malik would have gone away a long time ago, they would be closer to their goal, and The Mage would have left Saraya well enough alone.
Time moved too slowly for Aria, and she was eager for everyone’s return, so to pass the time, Aria sat with Saraya into the late hours of night. They plotted and discussed Saraya’s move to power as Blood Leader, and what Aria hoped for in the future with such a development. Truth be told, she didn’t even feel up to par to discuss such things as she was now warm with a slight fever, and feeling a touch dizzy, due to not resting properly after her attack. Saraya seeing this showed the sort of mother she would be and forced Aria to lay down on a couch with a blanket. A mother scold on her features, and Aria could only smile back with flushed cheeks.
She fell asleep and Aria was uncertain just how long she had been asleep. Her bandages had been changed, and one of her guards must have moved her to a bed, because the ceiling was unfamiliar, but the scent of the house was. She was still at Saraya’s cottage, and there was light outside... She looked out at the landscape and tried to guess the time of day by the way the shadows marked the ground.
[+pink “It must be mid day...”] she murmured to herself and finally feeling the dull ache in her side. The wound was still raw and would be for a while, but Aria had faith in Caledon’s healers, and she would endure this pain. It would be her third scar. Thinking back to her first, she lifted her arm and looked to the red lines above her wrist. The Talons of the hawk from her Volshi trials. She remembered, and it felt like a lifetime ago, but then she touched her cheek. The arrow in Fenlyk that nearly got her. And finally, her hand moved to her aching side... the knife -Caledon’s corrupted and misguided spirit. She would wear them all with pride! It was then a fleeting thought brought a sudden flush to her cheeks. Would Rhuarc like her scars? Would he see them as more than her being weak? The last thing she wanted from the moment she had met him was to be seen as weak in his eyes.
She managed to reach for the glass at her bedside and after struggling for a bit, sat up and took a much needed sip of water. There nothing for her to do but wait for the others to return, so she figured she might as well take this time to rest and heal, much as she assumed Saraya was with Aramis. Leaning back she tried not to let her thoughts wander too far. It was quiet, save for the sounds of outside filtering through the window, the pacing of boots in the halls letting them know they were still under guard, and the cooing of a baby from another room. Aramis, the thought of him brought a smile to her face a sense of joy for Saraya and Carrick. She stood firm in her belief she had done the right thing in relieving Carrick of his vows. He would make a fine father and lifelong companion to Saraya.
Her thoughts were cut short when she felt a cold chill run down her spine. She felt eyes on her and she tensed, afraid to open her own eyes. Afraid of what she might find. Aria was vaguely aware there were wards set on the cottage to keep such apparitions at bay, and this close to the temple shouldn’t have allowed it anyway. She tensed further, feeling that icy presence come closer, and she knew... He was close by. Her heart plummeted, was Malik with The Mage? Was Adimar, Rhuarc and Carrick walking into a trap? She hoped it was paranoia. She hadn’t been left alone for so long, and now...
She gasped and her eyes shot open at the feeling of a spark on her cheek, and a shadowy image faded away like the lingering tendrils of smoke on a tobacco pipe. No proof, could have been her fever, her brow was layered in a sheen of sweat and her pale cheeks flushed. Frustrated and lavender eyes glimmering like lightning storms, her fisted the bedsheets angrily and grit her teeth. She had no means of warning the others... Malik was close, but was he close enough they risked engagement with an enemy they were not ready for? The prays to ease her fears were suddenly met when she heard the familiar screech of a hawk. Hermès was back!
Aria forced herself from the bed and made her way to the door and down the stairs where she was greeted by a member of her guard, James and the sound of his sword against whetstone. He stammered her title at her appearance, and grimaced at how tired she looked.
[+pink “Hermès, Adimar’s Hawk... outside, quickly.”] He jumped at her command and quickly returned, Hermès on his arm, and handing her a roll of parchment. As she read over the contents, James fed the bird of prey a bit of meat. [+pink “Adimar’s men have found Lara, they encountered wraiths, Lara overused her powers and they’re returning with her. I need parchment, we must send word to Adimar and the others. I... sensed Malik is near. I do not want them to risk engaging him just yet. I will not let them risk a suicide mission.”] James nodded his head and quickly helped Aria to a set where he set her down and placed HErmes on the back of her chair. The hawk looked over her shoulder and clicked his beak at her hair, as James set before her paper and pen.
[i - I sensed Malik, he is close. Complete your mission if you can, but do not engage if his retaliation is immediate.
She sent Hermès away with her note, and could only hope it reached them in time.
After moments of comforting Sky, he took it upon himself to comfort himself. He stepped out of the cave a moment, watching the other gather more wood and made quick work to shut in the warmth of the fire. Rhuarc was approaching him. He knew it was him, for he yelled [i [#914c12 "Carrick, friend..."]] as his heavy footfalls became more and more noticeable. [i [#9bacf8 “Rhuarc…”]] he greeted simply as he approached. Rhuarc had stood a moment before turning towards the cave. [i [#914c12 "...You know I am happy for you, Saraya and the child but I did have a query for you.”]]
Carrick raised an eyebrow to this. [i [#9bacf8 “Query?”]] Rhuarc nodded simply. Carrick let cold air into his lungs and then sighed a bit. [i [#9bacf8 “Speak plainly”]]
[i [#914c12 “I was wondering what you planned to do with young Aramis? I do not wish to break apart your family but what we are doing, where we are going is no place for a child. The False King's soldiers will think nothing of killing a helpless babe if they think it will help their master.”]]
Carrick had furrowed his brow with a smile before chuckling quietly [i [#9bacf8 “Rhuarc, I-“]]
[i [#914c12 “-I do not mean to be cruel but I do not believe taking your child on our quest is a good idea, there is every chance that either you, Saraya or the child may perish, maybe all of you will."]]
Taking him on the voyage? Ooooh! Carrick, after realizing the issue was had quieted down and allowed Rhuarc the floor. [i [#914c12 "Perhaps you could leave Aramis here in Caledon with Ruscal? Or anyone else Saraya trusts. Or there are people in the deepest parts of Adbhu'Jai that I would trust to care for the boy if it were my child but even then...it would be a perilous journey with no guarantee that he would make it to the deserts alive and while the babe may be safe from Shade-Stealer's men the deserts of Adbhu'Jai hold many other dangers, some almost as bad as the False King. I do not say these things to be cruel, I care for the boy as well and I say these things to give you time to think and come to a decision. Friend I urge you to think long and hard on this issue."]]
Carrick stared at Rhuarc a moment before nodding.[i [#9bacf8 “Rhuarc, I am many things… But, an imbecile I have never been.”]] He said plainly. [i [#9bacf8 “This war is no place for an infant, and i would be a fool to let my son be in harm's way and he is incapable of defending himself. Saraya knows this. She has already decided to allow Teypion to care for Aramis.”]]
He sighed silently before looking to him again. [i [#9bacf8 “My bigger concern is that Saraya is named Blood Leader of this clan. It would mean steeper number against Malik. But…”]] he looked back to the group roasting game over the roaring fire. [i [#9bacf8 “No doubt I must be at her side. She will mount me her king. But, I cannot accept such a gift…”]] he looked up the mountainside to the foggy mist that reached beyond the horizon. [i [#9bacf8 “… Not until I restore her honor. Only then shall I be worthy of being her king”]] he looked to Rhuarc. [i [#9bacf8 “You have been a true friend, Rhuarc. And thank you for your concerns.”]] He punched him in the chest before giving him a smirk. [i [#9bacf8 “Family”]]
The camp became restless through the night. Mogar had sat upon the boulder that perched itself at the mouth of the cave. Teypion was alongside him, sharpening his sword. Hanti was catching his breath. Teypion chuckled to himself. [i [#b506c6 “You sound as though you were the one giving birth back there, Hanti. Are you fatigued already?”]]
Hanti eyed him. [i [#228b8c “No, it has been awhile, that is all. I haven’t scaled this mountain since my priesthood.”]] Mogar smirked. [i [#c6062f “Perhaps that it’s a disadvantage of being locked away in your cottage, Hanti. You will have enough time to catch your breath, this blizzard is showing no signs of silencing. Hopefully this isn’t the work of our enemy.”]]
Carrick had a silent though in his head. He was thinking of Saraya again. Of Aramis. What will all of this mean? What will it mean once she is christened Blood Leader, and he is given title as her king? He had no idea what it would be for Aramis, but what Saraya had told him made him feel as though it was a future of peace and unity. He could only hope claiming those titles would be a part of bringing Astoria peace.
Then… As he was traipsing his way back to the warmth of the fire, he noticed something he hadn’t before… A ripped cloth. It was hanging onto a branch of the sleeping plant in the piling snow. Carrick grabbed onto the cloth before finding sanctuary. Sky had huffed as everyone acknowledged him. He took a seat next to the massive wolf, and shown him the cloth. [i [#9bacf8 “Can you sniff this, Sky?”]] he asked lightly to him. Everyone’s gaze was on him, on his hand. [i [#9bacf8 “Can you tell me who it belongs to?”]]
Sky gave a soft bark before sniffing it. After a few pulls, he growled. After a few more, he growled even louder. Just as he suspected. This belonged to the enemy, and that meant only one thing… He wasn’t far.
He looked to the company that were already grabbing their weapons. [i [#9bacf8 “No… Not yet… By the looks of this cloth, he is still injured, and he is still weak. The blizzard has given us an advantage. We will strike at sunrise”]] he said before setting the ripped cloth into the fire, letting it catch fire and burn. He was so close. He will end this for sure
[b [size20 (end)]]
[I [#f684da “They told me about Corbin,”]]
The ear splitting silence had been broken by Aria.
[i [#f684da “I’m sorry. No parent should have to lose their child.”]]
Saraya looked ahead a moment, shedding a tear. [i [#da3c18 “But I did… And so many others have experienced the same fate”]] A shuddered breath escaped her. Yes… So much has changed.
As Aramis was sleeping, Saraya paid close attention to the surroundings that closed in on them. Owl and Crow stayed an ear away, and Aria’s guards that stayed behind guarded the surroundings. Just as suddenly as she could pinpoint the guards’ positions did she feel someone grab her hand. Saraya turned quickly to see Aria, close to the bed, quite flustered and concerned.
[i [#f684da “I will do everything in my power to see to it that Aramis grows up in a better world, and you will be there to see it as well. I don’t promise this as your priestess. I promise this as your friend.”]]
She spoke passionately of protecting Aramis, ensuring that Saraya would see him grow. She then pulled out a slightly used dagger. It was a simple dagger, but from what she could piece together… It looked like her intention of “protecting them” was now without boundary.
Saraya’s eyebrows furrowed to realizing the message. She allowed her face to show it. She grabbed the dagger, wanting to toss it away from her. She didn’t have to resort to this. Why did she sacrifice herself, then? She squeezed her hand on the blade, staring at her with hurt and distaste for the resolve.
[i [#da3c18 “Aria, you won’t say those things to me.”]] Her voice quaked. Her voice was failing again. [i [#da3c18 “If you are making such resorts an option, then I have already failed”]] She looked to Aria hard. [i [#da3c18 “I had rather The Mage fix his eye on me. Otherwise, The Mage would’ve had your soul. I thank the Gods that he was “]]
She looked down to Aramis, before a tear fell. She hadn’t felt such a terrible feeling, but it was there.
She sighed as her already failing voice quieted down. [i [#da3c18 “Just… Know I’ve been trying to keep you safe. Don’t set a foolish last resort. Don’t give Malik what he wants”]] she smiled lightly and allowed Owl to take Aramis and place him in a little cot. [i [#da3c18 “We will defeat him… Together”]]
Carrick was stone faced as he began scaling the mountain. It wasn’t long before the small breeze carried a chill, and plant life began to go scarce. Ruscal had offered to stay behind. With Adimar taking on the voyage, it seemed like a smarter idea to have a mage around the Blood Leader and The Priestess.
Carrick hadn’t slowed down. Not even flurries and patched of snow had slowed him. He was taking each step, thinking of Saraya…. Thinking of Aria, thinking of the trouble that came forth. It wasn’t a thing he wouldn’t do to keep them safe. Saraya was now his entire world. After all the abuse she took, after all the struggling… She made it this far, and bore him a son in the process… He was so grateful, so overjoyed… So scared. Aramis had to have a life. He would do what Felliope was unable to reach… He would love their child and protect his woman at any cost. They walked from dusk to dusk, their mission was acknowledged. But, the snow would get the better of them if they didn’t stop now and warm their bones… We shouldn’t be too far from that cave, thought Carrick.
They found a small cave to use to help against the small blizzard coming their way that night. Carrick made quick work in gathering wood. The fire was made and it was big enough to warm the small army surrounding it.
Carrick looked to Rhuarc and Adimar, who were talking amongst themselves a moment before looking around to the rest of the troupe. It was clear they were just as determined as he was, but they were still fatigued. He was glad he stopped. At least everyone could recover their limbs and gather their strength by dawn.
Still, he still thought of Saraya, Aramis… Aria. They were still sitting in the cottage, and he could tell that even Sky was concerned about his mate. Star had decided to stay back, to protect them, and Carrick could see in his eyes he was worried sick, too. Carrick watched as Sky trailed behind him, to lay down behind him. Carrick took it upon himself to pet his tuff, trying to calm his friend. [i [#9bacf8 “Never you fear, Sky… We will be alright. We will see them again.”]] He said, leaning against him.
Sky let his voice rumble with worry. It wasn’t bad to be with Sky, but being that he felt the same about being away from Star made it comforting in the least.
The melee between Carrick, Corbin and the reanimated Felliope raged on, Rhuarc thought about intervening and he had drawn his sword from its sheath and held it at the ready before halting. This was not his fight, it would not be proper to intervene unless absolutely necessary. Rhuarc considered the horrific possibility of putting himself in Carrick and Corbin's position, if it was Ayab that had been repurposed by the Mage and he was foced to fight his friend...he knew that he would want to finish this personally. So Rhuarc stayed off to one side, watching, tensed and ready to act but forcing himself not to. The battle was fierce with both sides giving it everything they had until Corbin threw himself in front of Felliope's blade, saving Carrick's life but taking a mortal blow in the process. In that moment Rhuarc doubted himself for just a second, should he have stepped in and fought beside his allies, could he have saved Corbin? Despite that doubt, that small kernel of guilt at not doing anything when he knew that he could have made a difference in the battle, Rhuarc felt overwhelming relief at Corbin's death. This was the end of the abomination, regardless of his recent actions Corbin never should have existed in the first place and with him no longer in the world it somehow felt just a little bit more right. Even so Corbin acted with great honour sacrificing himself for Corbin and Rhuarc would remember him for it. Rhuarc stepped aside and gave Saraya some time to mourn Corbin's loss but also to bond with her new son, Aramis. The Jai waited for the inevitable call to arms from Carrick, if the former blacksmith had been determined before it was nothing compared to the fire that would be burning inside him now, fuelling his lust for revenge.
[i “Has everyone armed themselves? Then, let us go.]” The words rang out in the relative quiet in the room despite them not being spoken particularly loudly but to Rhuarc's ear they might as well have been a warhorn. It was an unmistakable call to battle, to blood, death, glory and victory if all went well. Rhuarc saw those that were coming gather their weapons quickly, and within the hour they were ready to move, with Adimar, Luther and Max also bolstering their numbers. Rhuarc was glad for their company, especially Adimar's. The Volshi mage had become a steadfast friend to the Jai as Carrick had been at the beginning of their journey but Rhuarc was not oblivious to the fact that there had been a growing tension between the two men and Rhuarc had a feeling that it was going to get worse once he said what he needed to the new father. The Priestess gave her command before letting the group depart and those two simple words set Rhuarc's mind at ease. He was following a command from his Priestess and as such Rhuarc would do everything in his power to follow it, he vowed that their excursion would be successful, that they would be victorious. No matter the cost.
The group was now on the road, heading into the mountains, Rhuarc wasn't sure exactly how long the trek into the mountains would take but he guessed it would be maybe a few days. As they walked, Rhuarc exchanged a few words with Ruscal and Mogar, he wanted to get a measure of them, as not knowing who you were going into battle beside was a very easy way to get yourself killed. From his brief time with them they seemed reliable enough, Mogar had seen the errors of his previous actions and that of his father and was willing to make amends, it showed wisdom and honour. He was repaying his [i Toh]. Ruscal on the other hand had always been devoted to Saraya, clearly they had a great friendship and her willingness to put herself in danger for her friend spoke volumes about her character. Of his other companions, Adimar, Carrick and Max he trusted implicitly, Luther still gave him a sense of uneasy and he couldn't quite shake the feeling despite the watcher only ever acting as he should have. Underneath that flawless facade the watcher was hiding something, Rhuarc was sure of it, he just could't figure out exactly what it was. When the group stopped to make camp for the night everyone set about their tasks, Ruscal and Mogar set up the tents, Max and Luther were scouting a perimeter and were hunting for food while Rhuarc and Adimar started building a good sized campfire, Carrick was busy overseeing the entire operation, this was his battle after all.
With the rest of the group busy with their tasks Rhuarc took the opportunity to speak with Carrick, with only Adimar within earshot. This was going to be a delicate conversation and that was something Rhuarc had never been good at. He hoped Carrick was able to understand what Rhuarc was about to say and on the off chance that Rhuarc couldn't articulate his point then perhaps Adimar and his silver tongue could step in. That was if Adimar agreed with the Jai but there was everyu chance that he would not... [b "Carrick, friend..."] Rhuarc started as gently as possible, trying to keep his normal gruff, brutal honesty out of his voice, [b "...You know I am happy for you, Saraya and the child but I did have a query for you. I was wondering what you planned to do with young Aramis? I do not wish to break apart your family but what we are doing, where we are going is no place for a child. The False King's soldiers will think nothing of killing a helpless babe if they think it will help their master. I do not mean to be cruel but I do not believe taking your child on our quest is a good idea, there is every chance that either you, Saraya or the child may perish, maybe all of you will."] Rhuarc paused letting his words sink in, if Aramis joined the group then he would be put in danger and it was different for the rest of them. Rhuarc, Adimar, Lara, and all of the members of the Holy Guard had chosen to follow Aria. Aramis could not make that choice, it would be wrong to put his life in danger, the unspoken implication was that if Aramis joined them on their journey and perished his blood would be on his parents' hands. Rhuarc took no pleasure in saying such things but to him they needed to be said and the sooner it was then the more time that Carrick and Saraya could decide on what to do. [b "Perhaps you could leave Aramis here in Caledon with Ruscal? Or anyone else Saraya trusts. Or there are people in the deepest parts of Adbhu'Jai that I would trust to care for the boy if it were my child but even then...it would be a perilous journey with no guarantee that he would make it to the deserts alive and while the babe may be safe from Shade-Stealer's men the deserts of Adbhu'Jai hold many other dangers, some almost as bad as the False King. I do not say these things to be cruel, I care for the boy as well and I say these things to give you tim to think and come to a decision. Friend I urge you to think long and hard on this issue."]
[+navy “I wish Adimar were here...”] The statement was solemn, but filled with dread, and cut through the crackling of the campfire and the sounds of nightlife in the woods. Rupert looked up from where he cooked their meal over a fire to Thad. Thad was hunched over his saddlebags, setting up his knapsack, but his gaze distracted. He followed his partner’s gaze towards the limp body of Lara. She was far too pale for his liking, her eyes marred by dark circles and an unsettling aura hung over her. Adimar kept potions to help him, but without them now, they did Lara little good, and Adimar’s supply was limited until the airship returned with fresh supplies for him to craft more.
[+red “Yes, at least Adimar would be able to give her one of his potions. For now all we can do is try and get some water into her.”]
[+navy “She can barely open her eyes, you expect her to eat and drink?”]
[+red “No,”] Rupert said flatly, but his gaze darkened over at Lara. [+red “There are other ways to get her to drink.”] Thad was suddenly red faced and glaring at him, which caused Rupert to smirk. [+red “Don’t worry... we’ll get her back soon enough. First we need to let her just simply rest... otherwise I don’t know if she’ll make it back to the village.”]
Thad frowned. He knew Rupert was right, Lara just needed sleep at this point. The Wraiths were taken care of, there were no immediate threats, and they’d already sent Hermès away with a message of their own. With any luck Adimar would meet them on the road with potion in hand to help Lara. With the tenderness of a brother, Thad laid a heavy saddle blanket over Lara to keep her warm through the night, and did his best to make sure she was comfortable. Thad and Rupert remains vigilant through the night, and during the remainder of their trek back towards the old village.
When news reached Max and Luther about the attack on Saraya. They’d hurried back towards the main house that held the priestess. They found her unscathed, asleep, and still in the staunch protection of the Holy Five. Adimar had left long ago to continue his studies back in his room, but when news came again to inform them that Saraya had also given birth, Adimar jumped from his studies, and Aria was roused from sleep. They also needed to move her. Plans had been made to go into the mountains and finish the job of defeating The Mage.
[+pink “Is there a plan?”] Aria had asked during their trek towards Saraya’s homestead. No one was sure, but rumor was that Rhuarc was informed enough he’d been in talks with Carrick. That had made Aria smirk, noting her General hard at work to defeat the enemies that barred her path to victory. The Mage might not have been after Aria directly, but he was an obstacle, and he was her enemy. That alone put a target on him. Max felt no differently and with a single look to Luther he knew they would both be following Carrick and Rhuarc into battle that night. Even Adimar proclaimed he would go. Which was good, they would need his magic.
They also had to inform Aria of Corbin’s passing, and the events of the attack by Felliope. Aria was not surprised the attack finally happened. She cited the Mage being desperate to obtain his desires, and his need to do so before Saraya visited with Caledon in his temple. She fully anticipated another battle before they reached Abdhu’jai as well. Those with her agreed in solemn silence. Things were certainly more dangerous now than they were in the beginning. Aria leaned against Max the entire way to Saraya’s, too stubborn to allow him to carry her. So long as she went slow, and didn’t strain her stitches, he would allow it.
They arrived to Saraya’s just as everyone was preparing to head out. Adimar hurried across the way to see Saraya and give his congratulations. He was happy to hear that Saraya had finally given birth, and eager to ensure she suffered no harm from the attack. Aria was just as eager and left Max’s side for Adimar’s. Saraya was seated in a comfortable chair holding a tiny bundle in her arms. Aria leaned over to look at the baby, start struck, her hands clasped under her chin as she suddenly gushed with adoration, her cheeks flushing prettily.
[+pink “He’s beautiful!”] She wanted to reach out and hold him. She’d never held a baby before, and the last babe she’d seen was held in its own mother’s arm back in Volshi. It might not be the best idea either, as Aria’s side was still incredibly sore. She eventually sighed and took up a seat beside Saraya and her expression turned serious as she studied her friend. Adimar took his turn then to congratulate and offer his own sympathies.
[#20b2aa “We heard what happened. You have my condolences for your loss, but not all is lost.”] he told her looking at baby Aramis.
[i “Has everyone armed themselves? Then, let us go”] Carrick suddenly asked, and Adimar looked back to the group and his hand instinctively grabbed the sword at his side, as well as reaching for the quiver of arrows strapped across him.
[#20b2aa “Stay here, stay safe,”] Adimar told them both, and reached out placing his hand on Aria’s shoulder, and then Saraya’s before he turned to follow out the house with the others.
Aria looked over at them, and saw that even Max and Luther were prepared to go. Perhaps in hopes to make up for Lara and Saraya’s missing presence from this fight. Owl and Crow would be staying behind, as was the Holy Five. She called out to them, her expression hard and fierce.
[+pink “Return victorious.”] Two words, and yet the carried the words of a full command. Do what must be done, and return. She watched them leave, the door closing ominously behind them and suddenly the full cozy home, felt empty and cold. Dread and fear hung in the air between the two women, and alone with Saraya, Aria reached over and took her free hand and held it tightly.
For a long while Aria said nothing, just held Saraya’s hand as they both looked down at baby Aramis. He was the sweetest thing Aria had ever beheld, snuggled and sleeping against Saraya’s breast. The Holy five were not in the room, they were situated around the homestead. One stood guard at the door, another on the roof with his bow, and the remaining three had hidden themselves in the trees to thwart any ambush on the home. Meanwhile Crow and Owl remained inside with Aria and Saraya.
Aria was uncertain what to say to Saraya. So much had happened in the year they had met and traveled together. The obvious was Aramis, but both women had changed. Time would tell if it was for the better.
[+pink “They told me about Corbin,”] she finally said, breaking the silence between them. [+pink “I’m sorry. No parent should have to lose their child.”] Aria gave Saraya a pointed look, full of sorrow and sympathy. [+pink “ I will do everything in my power to see to it that Aramis grows up in a better world, and you will be there to see it as well. I don’t promise this as your priestess. I promise this as your friend.”] Aria reached into the pocket of her robe and revealed a simple steel dagger. Nothing impressive, but the glint from the metal matched the glint in Aria’s eyes. She would do what she had to, should things turn south for them.
Only a chilling numbness could be felt. As her skin paled an even lighter shade of white, her lips losing their rich red color, and with harder shivering, Lara could not even roll onto any side to ease the difficulty in breathing.
The ground did not feel soft nor earthy, instead it felt more as the surface of a frozen lake. The darkness in the vision that had begun at the eyes' corners slowly drove away the light, the visible world slowly swallowed by the darkness. Lara could only hear now, even though it was fuzzy at best, and the last sounds she heard were those of Thad and Rupert discussing something about a bird before losing consciousness.
The smell of burning wood and food mysteriously appeared, with each breath this smell grew stronger along with a warming presence which seemed to crackle. Something dug into the back, but not the stiff and unyielding stony surface of something rock-like, a soft and comforting material. As to the eyes, upon the first opening they saw a yellow-orange wall which seemed to move in all directions. After a few openings and closings the yellow-orange moving wall became a crackling and blazing fire.
It took awhile for Lara to comprehend where she was. There still hung the fog inside her head and the numbing feeling still clutched at her insides. The fire had enough warmth for the surface to feel warmth, but the numbing cold held its clutches deep within the bones.
Suddenly two shadows fell over her. Not being able to move her head Lara could only look up with her eyes. A weak, discolored red smile upon that pale white face appeared as Lara recognized Thad and Rupert, both with concerned looks on their faces. She so badly wanted to touch them both but the arms, only now realizing that a blanket covered most of her body, were like anchors.
The smile quickly drooped along with her head rotating downwards. Not a moment later heat as hot as a furnace in the shape of a hand pressed against her forehead before quickly being removed and some comment about [i 'icy coldness'] followed shortly afterwards. Thad and Rupert continued to have a whispered debate, something about either moving or staying.
Lara could only act as a ragdoll, at the mercy of everything while feeling and experiencing every little thing happening around her.
Because of the craziness that spontaneously interrupted the little peace Caledon had, Crow’s orphan mind was confused. He knew he was heeding orders to call upon the Guardians to aid and assist, but his mind somehow stayed on the subject of the ambush. For some unknown reason, he knew that they would be able to take down Felliope, so he thought of only summoning those who agreed to scale the mountain. The only problem was Saraya. She’s going to need hands on her, so perhaps Saraya’s Priestess would aid in such a quest. He only hoped he would make them proud.
Unlike Owl, who felt more indebted to Saraya, Crow felt a motherly bond to her. She kept him safe as a youth, always protecting him and training him. To see Saraya in such a state now makes him want to kill anything ahead of him… But, Saraya taught him not to be too hasty. With Corbin here, a newborn on the way, he felt that there was no space for him anywhere in the family. If that was the case… Then, at least he would still be there for her, at her side as a guard to the Blood Leader.
Ruscal, on the other hand, always reminded him that she always cared… The situation involved them, and that was why it is important. So, he ran on, and he hoped that he would get back in time to help.
[center [pic https://i.pinimg.com/originals/56/30/0a/56300ac50df8d34c57c72290af56392f.jpg]]
The first thought was to go to Mogar. Mogar was sitting outside of his cottage, smoking on a tobacco pipe as he sharpened his arrows. When he spotted Crow running towards him, he immediately thought of the worst. [i [#c6062f “Is Lady Saraya…?”]]
[i [#2e8c22 “Yes, but she is in trouble. She is ready to birth, and The Mage’s minion has attacked!”]] he said, panting. Mogar looked to him before grabbing his satchel of arrows and grabbed his bow. [i [#c6062f “Is Ruscal there? Teypion?”]]
[i [#2e8c22 “Ruscal, Owl, Carrick, Corbin, and I were standing Guard. Carrick was preparing for the raid”]]
[i [#c6062f “Alright. Let us grab Saraya’s Guardians. Surely, they should all meet together so to have everything settled.”]]
Crow nodded as they took off together, grabbing onto a horse and went into the direction the Guardians were.
Crow sighed in relief when he saw the fireplace was still lit. He quickly dismounted the horse and hurried to the first face he saw… Rhuarc. He was outside, looking into a mirror of sorts, but it did not concern him. He managed a bow before clearing his throat. [i [#2e8c22 “Sir Jai, we must make haste. Saraya’s cottage has been attacked. Carrick and Corbin are holding him off”]]
When asked who, Crow spoke [i [#2e8c22 “Felliope”]] quickly before looking over to where a large puff of smoke took the air. He gasped as he could hear Saraya’s screaming. No… He looked back to Rhuarc. [i [#2e8c22 “We must make haste! She needs The Priestess!”]] he yelled. Mogar was already downhill as Crow ran to his horse. After jumping on, he [i [#2e8c22 “Hyahh”]] his horse to advance into running that direction.
By the time he and the group had gotten there, Crow had saw Corbin go down, and Carrick plunge a dagger into Felliope’s heart, ending him. After a moment over Corbin, Carrick had done a full- out run into the house, and Crow had ran ahead, up the hill towards the still intact cottage.
Crow had dismounted his horse before trotting inside. He heard frantic breathing and talking from Saraya’s room. It was rushed, and panicked. He saw Carrick’s blurred form hurry into the wash room, before seeing Ruscal’s worried expression. Owl looked just as worried. Crow fumbled in, looking to the girls. [i [#2e8c22 “What has happened?”]]
[center [pic https://i.pinimg.com/736x/0a/88/fb/0a88fb3b930d94e2b114e620665e4877.jpg]]
[i [#8c3022 “She has birthed… Her injuries are now in question. She didn’t respond to anyone after… Carrick is trying to save her”]] Owl said, looking to her brother with utter worry. It took a while, but after a few moments of pain staking silence, they could hear coughing, and a frail voice was fighting to breathe. Ruscal sighed in relief, and the weight of the room calmed. [i [#411256 “She made it”]] she sighed as Owl placed a hand on her face in relief. Crow could feel relief from the news also. He turned to Mogar and nodded to him. Carrick had then come out of the washroom, making sure she was set into the bed gently.
It was a sight. Saraya, though fatigued, silently hugged Carrick, who was sniffling. He could see the joy in his eyes. And when they brought the newborn around, the room fell silent. Carrick stood slowly, and seeing Ruscal handing over the infant to him made him feel a sort of joy of his own. This one will know the love she shared with him and his sister. He would have the purest love he could ever feel.
He watched Carrick fighting a losing battle against his tears seeing his son. His son wasn’t crying… He wasn’t fussing. Saraya was watching patiently, happy… Relieved. She noticed Crow staring at her and smiled a weak smile. Owl and Ruscal had made their way to her bedside, and Crow had taken his position inside, nearest to Carrick.
Outside, Mogar had already heard the news. Saraya birthed a son. He was happy for her. She made it through all the turmoil… But, looking at Corbin’s corpse… He shook his head. Corbin… After all the effort in saving you…
[i [#9bacf8 “He did it to save me…”]] Carrick’s voice called from behind, Mogar looking to see him approaching him, clutching a bundle in his arms. [i [#9bacf8 “… He took a dagger in his lower back, just to get us to kill him. I will be forever grateful to him for saving my life… Now… Saraya is resting after all of this. She deserves this”]]
[i [#c6062f “Well… I am glad that she can rest easy now. The major question I have is, are we still going into the mountain tonight?”]] Mogar asked. Carrick looked to him and nodded. [i [#9bacf8 “I have more reason to go find that bastard. He attempted to kill Saraya thrice, and I will not allow him to survive to terrorize her anymore.”]] His voice growled. He looked down to his son as Aramis had grabbed onto his finger as he watched the sun rise. [i [#9bacf8 “Tonight, we leave”]]
Sky huffed next to Carrick, getting his attention. He smiled, looking at Sky before showing him the bundle. [i [#9bacf8 “She gave birth, Sky… He is my son”]] Sky gently sniffed the bundle before licking his forehead. Carrick smiled and patted Sky on his tuff. [i [#9bacf8 “I will need you to come with me into the mountain. We need to get The Mage before he harms either one of our wives. I ask you as a friend, Sky…”]]
Sky huffed and sat, straightening his posture and bowed his head to him, a sign that meant he was Carrick’s to command. Carrick nodded to him.
Saraya needed to rest, Carrick thought. He was sitting inside the house, holding his son, lost in thought about what he wanted to do with Egos. Tonight was the night. There was nothing else he needed… Tonight was the night.
He was lacing up his tunic before sliding on his attire by the time Saraya opened her eyes, wanting to sit up as she watched him walking feverishly back and forth in the room, and half- stumble after him when he passed through the threshold to protest when he hurried through it. But, there was nothing she could do or say. Whatever he had decided on his own was not up for discussion. It was a knowing that slammed his core, sat him straight up in bed, and sent him over the edge of the cot, ready for war. Never in his life had he been so sure about what he had to do. What hit him felt like a white lightning charge throughout his body.
Carrick gasped, spotting Saraya on her feet. She lifted her chin and leaned against the threshold. As beautiful and strong she was, standing there, weak and near passed out from giving life to Aramis and the turmoil she endured up until then, with fear for him in her eyes, that was the primary reason he was going to do what he had to do. Unlike all the times in the past where the troupe stayed back, hid, waited for trouble to come to them, this time… He would start some hell- first.
[i [#da3c18 “Is there anything I can say to you?”]] Her voice was weak, and barely audible.
[i [#9bacf8 “No”]] Carrick muttered, harnessing his swords and knives. Saraya stared at the man on a mission before sighing hard.
[i [#da3c18 “Shouldn’t we talk to the others first?”]] she slowly began to move against her better judgement, then slowly made her way to Carrick, worry blotting out the fury in her eyes.
[i [#9bacf8 “No”]]
[i [#da3c18 “Please, Carrick, at least tell me what you are about to do-“]]
As she reached out to take his hand, a heavy twinge had doubled her over. She tried to ignore it when it came forth, but it didn’t. Carrick made quick work in sweeping her off her feet and gently set her down onto a chair before he grabbed onto a pelt and made sure she was warm and comfy. Before feeling full satisfaction that she was alright, he quickly started a fire in the fireplace. [i [#9bacf8 “You should stay off your feet, my love. You have just birthed Aramis… Relax and stay near this fire to stay warm”]]
[i [#da3c18 “Carrick…”]] She placed a hand on his.
He closed her eyes before standing and making his way to the door. His response after that was a silent plea, yet so simplistic and to the point that Saraya shivered to the impact it had on her. [i [#9bacf8 “No”]]
[center [pic https://i.pinimg.com/736x/34/f9/9f/34f99f98cab1b930321bf95479fa12d6.jpg]]
Ruscal had come first. Ruscal strolled in, wearing her battle armor alongside her war attire, covered in a cloak that swept the ground while she clutched her sword. What Saraya caught and Carrick barely noticed was a mask that she she had hoisted on her forehead. She looked to Carrick, nodding to him before going over to Saraya. [I [#411256 How do you fare, Saraya?"]] she asked. Saraya nodded a bit. [i [#da3c18 "What is happening? Why do you wear your..."]] Her bewildering cloud began to fade as she realized... Ruscal never worn her Griffon mask unless she was aiming to go to war. [i [#da3c18 "Where is..."]]
[i [#411256 "Need only to concern yourself with healing and your son for now... We will be fine"]]
Mogar was two steps from the door as Carrick swung the door open again. Carrying his sword, he greeted his fellow warrior.
[i [#c6062f “Has everyone arrived?”]] Mogar asked in a low, ready- for- war rumble, and then nodded towards Saraya [i [#c6062f “Good evening, Wargoddess”]]
Consumed with concern and frustration, she bundled herself up. She tried her best to keep calm, lowering the blanket from her face, just in time to see Owl charge into the room with Crow, both giving Carrick a quick bow, then did the same to her. Saraya only asked one thing of the twins... If they would go and bring her Aramis. Crow did it quickly before taking a seat on the stool nearby.
Crow had his bow and arrows, wearing armor underneath his slim attire. Owl’s muscles contracted as she grabbed her crossbow, and her assortment of daggers, arrows, and her favorite, her trusty sword. Rhuarc and Aria then appeared in the doorway, and she was somewhat distraught to see them this close. After what he had said on the ship about Corbin… Corbin… she couldn’t get over the fact that she lost him to the battle… But, at least he was safe at last. Now, Aramis, Crow, Owl and the voyage was her concern. She was mourning her son’s death… Just now, the time had come for strong faces, not mourning.
Aria had made it to her side as Rhuarc had filled the group significantly. Carrick had spoken briefly to Rhuarc, before looking over to Ruscal, nodding to her that the time had almost come.
Saraya’s eyes tore around the stone faces, hoping that someone would at least tell her what was going on… But, as soon as Teypion walked through the doors wearing his old adorned armor, her hopes considerably dimmed.
Hanti came in quickly, gripping his spear, holding onto it with both hands. There would definitely be no talking or reasoning with them.
[i [#9bacf8 “Has everyone armed themselves?”]] Carrick asked in a low rumble, gaining nods and everyone tightening their grips on their choice of weapon. [i [#9bacf8 “Then, let us go”]]
For Saraya, it was an out- of- body experience. She knew the delay might take a few moments, but she wasn’t even trying to argue. They had already made up their minds. She knew Carrick. There was that certain look on his face that she had come to learn- That face where death was the taste he desired.
[i [#9bacf8 “My Lady, Priestess, please stay with Saraya. Crow and Owl will stay behind and keep guard. We will return”]] was Carrick’s last words before kissing Saraya goodbye and kissing the forehead of his day- old son. With that, he and the group left the cottage, leaving Saraya and Aria alone with the midwife…
Felliope let out a screeching roar as he walked out to Corbin, who was at the ready. [i [#9bacf8 “You… And that damned Egos… Have done too much to Saraya and me so little to stop you… I will regain some of my honor back… By beating your face in”]] he bellowed at him. Felliope growled at him. [i “You honestly believe you can keep me from her?”] he bellowed. Carrick felt the adrenaline again, and drew his sword, finding the courage and the determination to stand his ground. [i [#9bacf8 “I plan to keep all of you bastards away from her!”]] he yelled.
[i “You will have to kill me to stop me, Ancient!”]
[i [#9bacf8 “That is my intention!”]] he barked loudly, tightening his grip on his sword. Anger was thoroughly washing over him. He felt a surge of her pain, and took it as his motive. He reached out and grabbed an available shield that sat on the cottage wall. Corbin had looked to him, nodding in his reassurance that they would take him down. Saraya’s scream sounded, and Carrick nearly hesitated from it. He ran at Felliope full swing, accelerating his speed with each step. [i [#9bacf8 “I will never forgive you, Felliope! You’ve made her hurt! You’ve made her cry!”]] Carrick began chanting the sentence between blows, Felliope wasn’t nearly fast enough to stop any of his attacks, his rage began to show on his face. Corbin was back into attacking him as soon as Carrick made the charge.
Felliope had taken the blow from Corbin, and Carrick was seeing his sword through. When Felliope dodged the blow, he knocked Corbin away, taking his sword with him. Then made an attempt to aim after Saraya, but Carrick made it in time, and blocked his way with a sword swing, knocking him back and near Corbin. Sky and Star were nearby, surrounding the cottage for extra protection as Corbin stood back up. [i [#f8c49b “Well, father…”]] Corbin grunted as he stood, and took his fighting stance. [i [#f8c49b “It’s just you and me…”]]
Felliope snarled at him as he finally stood. [i “You’ve chosen the wrong side, son… You could’ve been promising had you bowed to Malik. You can still choose this, Corbin. She deserves to die, for killing you. Don’t you want your justice?”] he asked. Corbin growled. [i [#f8c49b “No… Egos killed me, just like he killed you. It was his cannon that hit you directly. She was trying to stop you from going in range. And when she was trying to get to you, Ego appeared, and stepped on her, killing me.”]] He said, before readying himself. [i [#f8c49b “It seems that you were on the wrong side… Not me”]]
Felliope and Corbin were tussling, fighting, and it was nearing the cottage. Carrick had gripped his sword and slashed against him, making Felliope howl in pain before he landed a blow to his check, him stumbling back until he was against stone. Carrick grunted, looking up to him and took a step forward before heaving inward. [i [#9bacf8 “I… Will have my VENGEANCE! YOU WILL ALL PAY!”]] Carrick’s voice bellowed
[i “How can you when your fate is sealed? War is approaching the gates and you will never be ready”]
[i [#9bacf8 “It was not I who started this fire. Your masters had done this!”]]
[i “No… Of course you didn’t… But nonetheless, it will burn you to ash. As a Guardian, Saraya has dedicated herself to the salvation of your precious world. You should be happy about that at least…”]
Carrick growled at the sentence. [i [#9bacf8 “What did you…”]] he stepped forward and charged at him. [i [#9bacf8 “BE… PROUD… OF HER SUFFERING?!”]] His sword came down, and Felliope, though successfully blocking it, still staggered back from the incredible force.
[i “Yes! And, I am not afraid of saying it again. Your lover, MY wife…”] he tried to emphasize on the words, [i “… Has always been devoted to the cause, even in saving a putrid world like this”] Carrick growled at this blasphemy. He felt his anger become greater than he had ever thought it could. [i [#9bacf8 “WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE!”]] he yelled, his gums bleeding from the force of him bearing his teeth. No amount of pain he could inflict on himself could match the anger he felt.
Felliope snarled, but gave him a smirk. Carrick snarled back, and readied himself before using his legs to run at him. [i [#9bacf8 “You and Egos are alike! You seek power through pain and with fake promises of freedom and happiness”]] he bellowed as he let his sword slash at him a few times surrounding him.
[i [#9bacf8 “I grow tired of your face! I’ve grown tired of Egos! You will pay for hurting my wife! I care not that you were once hers... HOW DARE YOU MAKE SARAYA SUFFER FOR YOUR OWN GAIN!!”]]
He let out a cry as he slashed at him, making Felliope fall away, down the hill to where Corbin was. Corbin used his strength to fight him back to get him further away from cottage as Saraya let out another pained cry. Carrick had turned his head to the cottage. [i [#9bacf8 “Saraya!”]] his voice carried. Corbin grunted as he blocked a blow from Felliope’s talons. [i [#f8c49b “CARRICK!”]] He yelled. Carrick looked to the battle, and took off downhill to knock him from his balance. But, Felliope was readying to stab him once he was close enough. Corbin had saw this, and before any swords could clash, He was struck in his lower back with the dagger, saving Carrick in the process.
Corbin grabbed onto Carrick’s forearm, gasping at the sharp pain that came from it. [i [#9bacf8 “Corbin!”]] Carrick yelled. Corbin grabbed his forearm, and knelt before him. [i [#f8c49b “Finish him…”]] was what he said. Carrick tried to stand, but grunted as he saw Corbin’s blood fall from his wound. [i [#9bacf8 “Don’t move!”]] Carrick said, seeing Felliope getting closer. [i [#f8c49b “Father… It is my end… You and I… Must finish him…”]] Feeling a defeat against his better judgement, Carrick nodded and stood, drawing his sword again as Corbin pulled himself to his feet.
Felliope and he had met midway before Felliope attacked. Carrick growled and used his hands to stop him mid launch. Saraya‘s scream of agony sounded again, and that pivoted Felliope’s head for vulnerability. With that opportunity he landed a left kick on his adam’s apple, making him fall back before Corbin came into view. They both rushed him, and with Carrick’s adrenaline, had subdued Felliope with a punch, then had him locked down behind him. Corbin used the dagger that was in his back to strike Felliope through the heart, Felliope roaring in anguish before falling limp. Corbin watched as his black blood spewed from his chest, and he heard his weak chuckle. [i “How…”]
Corbin didn’t answer him. Carrick had released him, and watched as the light in his eyes faded. [i “Funny… Love had saved you…”] were his last words.
Corbin was laying out in the grass now, taking deep breaths, keeping himself calm to rest. Carrick ran to him to help him up, and Corbin refused. [i [#f8c49b “No…. Go to mother… She needs you now…”]] he coughed up blood... Red blood. Carrick looked to his side, seeing the blood flowing from his wounds before grabbing onto Corbin's hand.
[i [#9bacf8 “What about your…”]] He wanted to help him with his wounds, but he shook his head. [i [#f8c49b “It is my time… And I am ready to protect her from the other side.”]]
[i [#9bacf8 “The other…?”]] before he could think clearly, Saraya’s pained screams sounded again. Corbin panted before setting a hand on his shoulder. [i [#f8c49b “Go… And tell her… I will protect her from the other side… Go!”]]
But he stayed. He stayed for his boy, Saraya's boy. He watched as the last glint of his human life had slowly faded, with the words [i [#f8c49b "Mother... Father"]] on his lifeless lips. After witnessing his final breath, Carrick had turned away in defeat and bowed his head in sorrow... But, before he could, Crow made it back with guards and even the other guardians. He was shocked to see Corbin lying next to the enemy, and Carrick had put his hands on his chest as he bowed his head in respect.
Carrick, confused by his words, but still saddened about Corbin’s death, took off towards the cottage. [i [#9bacf8 “Saraya!”]] he yelled. Ruscal was yelling for her to breathe, to calm down, but she was failing. He could hear her struggling, could feel the pain of trying to hold on tight, and as soon as he made it to the door, there was an infantile cry and a thud on the ground. The screams ceased immediately.
Carrick hurried in. Saraya was being helped onto the bed, and Ruscal was wrapping a bundle up in her arms. Carrick saw Ruscal smile and look to him. [i [#411256 “It is a boy. Rejoice”]] she smiled. Carrick looked to Saraya, who seemed tired, and broken. He wanted to go to his son first, to see what his little one would look like, but Saraya was pale, weak, and dying by the feel of her aura. [i [#9bacf8 “Saraya… No…”]] he whispered. The Midwife looked to him. [i [#914c12 “The wounds she sustained from the fall has made her very weak… My Lady may not make it.”]]
This infuriated him. No… Saraya, no! Not her, of all people, not her! He looked to her in a panic, and felt her skin. [i [#9bacf8 “Saraya…”]] he called to her. She wouldn’t wake. She wouldn’t move. Her breathing was failing. Carrick's heart twisted into knots before he looked her over. Every place her skin touched his, he could feel that her skin was burning. Carrick pulled in a deep breath and covered Saraya's mouth and nose with his lips, and pushed the breath of life into her lungs.
When she didn't respond, he willed himself not to panic. He checked her belly, seeing the violent color of purple and blue spread across her body. It pained him to see the full extent of her injuries. Everything on her seemed broken and bruised. He never thought that he would see such terrible things after she had given birth to their son.
He massaged her heart, continuing to breathe for her, with her, into her, spitting out the excess blood in the process, until he was left with no option but to pound on her chest.
Her body convulsed, shivered, and her eyes opened, glassy and with no glint of light. The sight of it nearly stole his breath, and he scooped her up, dashing down to the restroom, where he carried her into the icy cold pools of water and began washing away the blood from her pretty porcelain tan skin.
Fury roiled within him. Saraya was in worse condition than he thought. The Mage's work could be seen clearly now, bruised along her worn out form, the violence against her was beyond judgement.
[i [#9bacf8 "Come on, Saraya. Come back to me. Fight it. I'll take the pain, don't run from it!"]]
He gradually moved her around, hoping it would help her to slowly come around, stepping into the water with her to keep her limp body pressed against his, sending her his warmth, breathing into her, cleaning her, begging her with his mind to come back.
A sob of total defeat claimed him as he rocked her and just held her against him, petting her hair finally abandoning his attempts to revive her.
[i [#9bacf8 "Oh, Saraya... I'm so sorry... For everything"]] he whispered, his head back, eyes closed against the force of defeat as waterfalls escaped his lashes.
[i [#9bacf8 "Don't do this... Please, Caledon... Please... Do something, don't let him take her from me like this"]]
The running water bearing against skin drowned out his quiet sobs. He sat there, just rocking her, nuzzling her overheated body, trying to build enough acceptance to will his legs to move her out with him, but he just couldn't... Then, against it all, he didn't have to.
A sudden gasp passed through her body, into his chest and into his splayed palms upon her back. It forced him to jerk his head down, to roughly take her jaw into his hand. He frantically tilted her head, and covered her mouth again, forcing another breath into her, then began tapping her cheeks to wake her.
She opened her eyes stunned, disoriented, weakened, her irises spat out the last bit of darkness left in them before normalizing to hazel. He breathed into her again, until she gasped on her own and began coughing and sputtering, clinging onto him for dear life as her body began shivering again.
Her skin wasn't burning, but cool and flushed. All he could do was reach out and trace her jaw with wet lashes and trembling fingers, brushing away the stray hairs from her face. She nuzzled the inside of his hand and brought her mouth to his to exchange a kiss, which he returned so tenderly that she deepened it immediately.
Relief buckled his knees as his arms enfolded her and leaned against the tubside. His fingers wound through her hair, caressed her back, pulled her so hard against him that he was afraid he might hurt her. He kissed her face, her neck, her shoulders, her throat in his tearful joy. He then hugged and rocked her. This Guardian's prayers had been answered.
Carrick had turned his head when he heard a familiar shuffle of feet. Corbin had confirmed it, by backing away from him, and shrinking to Saraya’s room and to her side. Carrick turned away from the fireplace, seeing Rhuarc approaching, and sighed a bit. [I [#9bacf8 “Rhuarc…”]] he started.
[I [b "Carrick, my friend. How fare you?”]] Rhuarc spoke, and Carrick may have been mistaken… But, did he sigh in relief? Carrick saw it in his eyes that what he wanted to say was justly between the two, so he looked to Ruscal, nodding to her. She knew the signal was for her to have everyone vacate, so the two could speak alone. Once the room was empty, but the three of them, Carrick sat down and Rhuarc began.
[I [b “I know there has been some tension between us recently. We have had our disagreements but I am here for you now.”]] He started. Carrick looked to him, prompted himself to keep his mouth shut, and sighed, turning away to the fire as Rhuarc continued. [I [b “I am not a fool, I know what you intend. You mean to go after the Mage and end him... and I wish to aid you in that endeavor.”]]
Carrick looked back to him, to where he could see the entirety of his face cascaded into the shadow of the roaring fire before him. [I [#9bacf8 “I have never pegged you for a fool… And I would never do so… The question is, are you alright with leaving Aria here? The Mage has Felliope firm in his clutches. There is a possibility that-”]] Rhuarc shook his head. [I [b “The Priestess will be fine; all she needs is some rest but if we don't defeat the Mage then it is all for naught. My duty as General is to win this was for her, in whatever way I can. Taking out the Mage rids Malik of a valuable Lieutenant.”]]
Carrick nodded in understanding before looking back at the fire. [I [#9bacf8 “I am aware of the opportunity… But, I am also aware of the vulnerability”]] he said softly, almost child-like compared to his tone of voice. Rhuarc then sat next to him in a stool, before looking to Saraya, struggling in her bed before finally resting. [I [b “I like Saraya, I care for her, not like you do Carrick but in my own way. Let me help you."]]
Carrick looked up to him. His hand was stretched out to him, calling a truce, his once chiseled expression was softer, almost pleading for him to allow him to help… For Aria’s sake. [I [b "The sooner we move out the sooner that we can kill that bastard. What do you say?"]] Rhuarc said, his voice filled with determination.
Carrick looked to Rhuarc a moment before sighing. [I [#9bacf8 “Rhuarc, there is no quarrel between us. You are my brother, and I hold value to your brand as well as I would expect you to also value in me… Saraya, she…”]] He looked to Rhuarc, putting together the words to understand the cold shoulder, but he just couldn’t find them. Instead, the only way to make the understanding clear was to take his arm. Carrick gripped his forearm, a bit of his aura dispersing from his hand. [I [#9bacf8 “You will always be family, Rhuarc. You are welcome to come”]]
He nodded before standing up and going to Saraya. She was gritting her teeth, letting out a shivering moan as he patted her head of sweat. [I [#9bacf8 “They’re going to need all of us… We have one shot to get both Felliope and The Mage before the battle.”]] He said before turning to him. [I [#9bacf8 “We must buy time to prepare, and make sure that there are no other attacks aimed at them. We will need to put Aria and Saraya together, that way we can be sure that they are taken care of.”]]
Carrick then nodded towards him. [I [#9bacf8 “Can I tell you a secret, brother?”]] he asked as he stared at him. [I [#9bacf8 “Saraya knew that you were falling in love with Aria. Still, she didn’t interfere. She wanted you to be happy in the end… Especially after Volshi”]]
When he mentioned Volshi, Rhuarc’s eyebrows furrowed. [I [#9bacf8 “She told me… In her vision in Volshi, we had a son. His name would be Aramis. You were running in with him, play sword fighting, and Aramis called you ‘Uncle’. You had let us know that Aria had wanted Saraya’s company, and she went to see her.”]] Carrick smiled and looked to him. [I [#9bacf8 “She said she was heavy with life. She had a smile that made any room bright. She had a wife band of Jai’hash on her finger, and she was at peace.”]] Carrick looked to him. [I [#9bacf8 “She always looked out for the two of you. She loves you both… She loves everyone here in this voyage. The only thing I ask… Is show her you care too”]] he said before punching his chest, then sitting down. He nodded and said [I [#9bacf8 “We leave in two nights”]]
Saraya was fast in sleep. Carrick, in his persistence, remained near the cottage bedroom door, head resting on his knee. Guards took turns on the watch outside the cottage, many were willing to take turns between Aria’s location, too, so that The Guardians could get their rest. Carrick always refused. He needed to be there for her. He was already tortured by the agony of her absence. No one could pry him from that threshold.
Meanwhile, Saraya had been suffering in that room. Wanting privacy was one thing, but with her body aching, possibly worse with her older wounds after a drop from the sky, the decline in her health had made it harder for anyone to stand idly by. They could hear her through the closed doors. Her voice was cracking, her sobs sounded dry. Her silence was worse. Infinite hours of painstaking silence were enough to drive a man into insanity. Even the guards didn’t have to see Carrick’s face to know the troubling stress that lingered on it. Most were too afraid to approach him. He seemed confrontational against any he didn’t recognize. Any he recognized, he would be tamed. Teypion stayed in the distance, never daring himself to even approach the den that housed the lioness and their pets.
Suddenly, as the night wore on, like the past two, as Carrick packed his satchel of weapons and gear for the planned travel up the mountain that night, he jumped to a sound of a thud. He looked next to him. It came from inside.
Hesitant, he crept to the door. [I [#9bacf8 “Saraya?”]] he asked. He heard faint scuffling, but still not a word. [I [#9bacf8 “Love, you’ve got to tell me if you’re alright.”]] He said this louder. He caught Ruscal’s attention, but she only watched silently. Carrick had slightly turned to the door, hearing another thud. This time it was louder. Ruscal heard it. It made her jump. Carrick’s breath hitched before growling her name in a panic. [I [#9bacf8 “Saraya, please-“]]
A sort of whimper sounded. Carrick placed a hand on the door, then his forehead. [I [#9bacf8 “Let me in, Saraya. Please…”]] sobs sounded, before hearing a loud clatter from inside.
Carrick’s hair stood up. His eyes opened in a panic. Ruscal shot to her feet as Crow sat up with a start. Carrick couldn’t stand by. He scrambled to his feet, turning the knob and hurried in.
[I [#9bacf8 “Saraya!”]] his voice bellowed. Saraya wasn’t in her bed. She was across the room, grabbing onto the stone wall, trying to hoist herself up. He hurried to her, grabbing her gently to help her to stand.
She was crying. She was shivering uncontrollably. Carrick was panicking as he got her off her feet. [I [#9bacf8 “Saraya? What’s happened?!”]] he asked, noticing her red and puffy eyes were shut tight, and her teeth were ground together. The grip on her dress and his arm were tight, and when she let out a pained grunt, he feared that the damage was worse than any of them thought.
[I [#f8c49b “Carrick!”]] Corbin yelled, Crow next to him. Carrick turned to leave the room when a darkness had blocked his vision. He stepped back, letting this eyes adjust to the darkness that was consuming them. Saraya gasped at the sight, and Carrick had set her down gently to shroud her with his body.
When a face appeared, he could see what used to be human. So, that was Saraya’s late husband… Felliope. The Mage’s magic had distorted his face, had let this man deteriorate with his magic, and now he was bent to his will. A growl had escaped him as he noticed that Saraya was growing weaker. She couldn’t bring herself to scream, but to whimper. What did he do to her?
Felliope had took his form again, as a man, staring at Carrick. [I [u “Stand aside, Ancient. Your end is not today.”]] He hissed. Carrick looked to Saraya, who was leaning against the brick, and was at the brink of unconsciousness. Saraya was waning, he could feel it. [I [#9bacf8 “Don’t ever tell me to stand aside.”]]
[I [u “I do not quarrel with you. Saraya is all that I want. Stand aside and we will torture you no more”]]
[I [#9bacf8 “You lie! You bastard, you want to harm my Saraya. I won’t let you do that to her.”]]
[I [u “’Your’ Saraya? Do you know who I am?”]]
[I [#9bacf8 “Yes… But you are not him, you are wearing him. Saraya had spent a year of mourning for you. It has been two years after that. It has been done.”]]
[I [u “Saraya betrayed me. She didn’t listen. She should’ve stayed away, but her stubbornness had caused our deaths! Corbin didn’t deserve to die by her selfishness! She needs to pay!”]]
[I [#9bacf8 “She didn’t cause this! The Mage murdered you and your son. And yet you sit with him. For you to believe the enemy is selfishness of its own. You sought revenge on her when your real culprit, you’ve been standing next to for two years”]]
Felliope looked unfazed, but he knew he was considering his words. There had to be a part of him that was still human, that knew that it was still wrong. Saraya’s pain was excruciating and it was numbing. Saraya was whimpering against the wall, before she fell still. Carrick looked behind him to see her struggling to even keep consciousness. Carrick wanted to run to her, see if she was alright… But, Felliope was still struggling with right and wrong, and moving Saraya just wasn’t an option yet. When he spotted a shadow, and it shut the three of them in, Crow jumped and backed up, standing in front of Carrick. Corbin drew his dagger, taking position in front of them, too. [I [#f8c49b “Father, stay behind us!”]] Corbin yelled.
[I [u “No. You lie. She was the cause of our deaths!”]] Felliope bellowed ready to launch at her when Corbin stopped him. [I [#f8c49b “Don’t you dare touch her!”]] he yelled. Felliope turned to him, screeching in anger as he changed his target. [I [u “Son… I will enjoy this killing better if you were by my side. We can finally be at peace… But, her death must happen. Egos can use her to make us a family. Do you not want us to be a family again?”]]
Corbin looked at his form as Carrick hurried to Saraya’s side, trying to wake and move her. [I [#f8c49b “Of course I wanted a family before… But I already have that, Felliope. You died the moment you let Egos sink his claws into you. You’re not my father…”]] He said as Carrick found a way around Felliope and out the bedroom. Felliope tried to follow, but Corbin prevented him. [I [#f8c49b “No”]]
[I [u “Out of my way, betrayer!”]]
[I [#fbc49b “It sounds better when an enemy says it”]] he retorted. Felliope growled in anger as Corbin stayed the wall between Saraya and him. He charged him, and Corbin used his shield. being knocked back a few feet out of the room. Crow gasped in surprise, Ruscal was tending to Saraya’s passed out form. Carrick stayed before them, keeping an eye on Felliope. [I [#9bacf8 “She- Mage, hurry. Saraya doesn’t have much time”]]
Ruscal looked to him. [I [#411256 “She doesn’t have any more time… She is ready to birth”]] she said in a panic. Carrick and Ruscal locked eyes. Carrick couldn't turn from her, surprised with the sentence… No… Not now… Not when she’s in danger!
[I [#9bacf8 “She-Mage, you can’t mean…”]] Carrick looked to Felliope, and growled at him. [I [#9bacf8 “I need to get rid of him now before she regains consciousness.”]] He said to himself. Ruscal looked to Crow. [I [#411256 “Go! Get guards, get the midwife, get the guardians! She is in trouble; she will need reinforcements!”]] Ruscal yelled. Crow nodded and ran out as fast as he could. Corbin kept Felliope distracted, as Carrick kept in front of Saraya and Ruscal.
Corbin had struck Felliope, landing a good blow before dodging one of Felliope’s. The angry Felliope then tried to change targets, trying to get through Carrick to get to Saraya, but Carrick braced his shield for impact. His hand had reached out unconsciously, before he felt a surge of adrenaline run through him. It was like liquid fire, rising from his ankles to his knees to his abdomen, and when it took over his torso and ears, he felt a need to release a rage he had never felt before. He growled as he felt Saraya’s pain, felt the tears streaming down her cheeks. He could feel her agony, and was growing more and more pissed the more he felt his heart tighten.
He suddenly saw it. Who was showing it to him, he didn't know who... Caledon? Her father? The She- Mage? It couldn't have been Saraya... She was too weak to do it, even unconcious... But, what he saw made his blood curdle. Saraya watched as he manifested in the corner, and her voice was messed up, so she couldn't scream, she couldn't call out to him. She tried to get up and escape the room, but Felliope had the upper hand. He tossed her everywhere, had taken advantage of the little time he had to attempt to kill her... When he came in, seeing her trying to stand... She was beaten within an inch of her life. [I [#9bacf8 “You…”]] Carrick looked back to the approaching Felliope. [I [#9bacf8 “You… Made my wife…”]] He looked back at him, and with his shield, hit Felliope in the face so hard, the metal had dented and broke. [I [#9bacf8 “YOU MADE MY WIFE CRY!”]]
Corbin was next, He ran at Felliope, using his shoulder to knock him away to the left. Carrick’s boiling blood had launched him forward, landing a punch on him, and Felliope was falling backwards out of the cottage door and to the trees. Star and Sky jumped to the noise while they were in the forest. Star sniffed the air, trying to decipher whether it was a threat or not… Sky watched her ears perk in realization, then lower in fear. Star looked back to Sky then, jumping around, as if saying that Saraya was in trouble. Sky whimpered, but sniffed the air himself to confirm. With the smell of evil aura stinking the air, Sky growled before sniffing again. Saraya’s aura was faint, but he could still tell where she was. Carrick’s was… Was before Saraya's… And Corbin's was adjacent than that of the evil aura, and it was full of rage. Sky stood up from the water and shook himself dry before barking to Star. They took off running, aiming for the evil aura that was ahead.
Carrick’s rage was beginning to show in his eyes. It almost brought him to tears. Carrick’s breathing was animalistic, heavy, untamed. Felliope was going to kill Saraya if he didn’t do something. Egos will get his share. Malik will, too… How dare they… They have made him weak… Central City… Forgive him.
He took it upon himself to learn everything he could so far, especially about Saraya and her ways… But, he finally understood. He would have to do something. He waited too long to do something. She had suffered far too long. And he hadn't lifted a finger to do anything but react. But, as he saw the enemy, the true extent of what she agreed to, he felt foolish to not seeing it sooner.
[I [#9bacf8 “I won’t… I won’t let you... Not anymore”]] Carrick growled, walking outside, looking to the She- Mage, his gaze telling her to move back into the room. Saraya’s body was arched… She was coming to… They had to be quick.
Rhuarc left Aria to rest while he went once more to the edge of the village, to find some peace, somewhere where he could reflect in quiet contemplation. Rhuarc came to the same place he had found when he had first come to the village, where he had cut down the tree in anger before going to confront Corbin in his cell. He saw the fallen tree trunk , the deep gouges that his heavy black blade of midnight steel had left in the wood. Rhuarc could see the violence in those strikes and he sat down by the fallen tree and began to meditate. He focused on his breathing and let his mind go blank, he sent out his consciousness like he so often did in his search for serpents, as it helped him clear his thoughts. To his surprise he felt the faint presence of a snake on the very edge of his awareness, many miles from the village but the presence comforted the Jai. Rhuarc could feel the fire of Jai'hash inside his body, an impossibly hot furnace in his core, he remembered what Adimar had said about lightning being fire without aggression, being precise and needing peace of mind to master. The Jai continued to focus on his breathing before holding out a palm and willing the fire of Jai'hash into his hand, the warm flames danced in front of him. Rhuarc thought about the fire, the heat it gave, the power to destroy...he understood the nature of fire. From his understanding he knew what Adimar meant about lightning being cold fire, fire without aggression and he used that understanding to let the energy flow into his fingers. He felt sparks dancing between his fingertips, the exhilaration flooded his body as he saw the sparks under his control. He thrust his hand out towards another tree hoping to see the sparks fly from his hand but no such thing happened. It seemed that while he had taken another step into mastering lightning he still lacked the true peace of mind required to summoning the precise, deadly cold fire.
Knowing that he would make no further progress in his personal quest to summon lightning today he looked up to the sky to see what time it was, it was well after midday and he was shocked to discover just ow long he had spent in meditation. He pulled the quartz orb that Adimar had given him and muttered ‘Glisse’ revealing Aria to him. He could see she was well enough and talking with Adimar, that was good. He had done all he could on his own so he made his way back into the centre of the village, towards the longhouse where Aria, Adimar and the rest of the Holy guard were...until he caught the words of two women talking. They were simple ordinary women, but he heard their mutterings, of the Blood Leader, the trial and what had happened, of what should happen to Corbin and that there was a group mustering that was about to go into the mountains. It was obvious to Rhuarc that Carrick was about to go after the Mage for his latest attempt at getting to Saraya. The Mage might have gone through Bantu this time but make no mistake, it was definitely his hands pulling the strings, the Priest was nothing more than a puppet. The Jai changed direction away from the longhouse and made his way instead to where Carrick and the small band he was gathering were before they made their assault against the Mage.
It didn't take long for Rhuarc to reach Saraya's house, he hesitated at the door, before knocking twice, the Jai did not wait for an answer before entering the abode. Inside the home he could see Saraya lying on the bed, she looked weak, but whether that was from her recent ordeals at the hands of the Mage or the imminent arrival or her child, Rhuarc did not know. He was here for another reason, another person. He wished Saraya well and he knew that action had to be taken soon, she was running out of time. The Jai found he former blacksmith by the fire and he was not alone; Corbin was there as was Ruscal, Owl, Crow and Mogar and the Jai could not help but tense at the sight of the large son of Bantu. He may have intervened to help Corbin and stood against his father at the trial but Rhuarc remembered not that long ago the sting of Mogar's fists as they struck his body while the Jai attempted to shield Corbin. Rhuarc was slow to trust at the best if times, so trusting Mogar who had been an adversary not that long ago was an even tougher ask, but Rhuarc had a duty to do so he would do it...regardless of anything else. [b "Carrick, my friend. How fare you? I know there has been some tension between us recently. We have had our disagreements but I am here for you now. I am not a fool, I know what you intend. You mean to go after the Mage and end him...and I wish to aid you in that endeavour. The Priestess will be fine, all she needs is some rest but if we don't defeat the Mage then it is all for naught. My duty as General is to win this was for her, in whatever way I can. Taking out the Mage rids Malik of a valuable Lieutenant. I like Saraya, I care for her, not like you do Carrick but in my own way. Let me help you."] Rhuarc was not a fool, he knew that Carrick and he had been having more disagreements of late but if he could help Saraya in any way then he would, it helping to fulfil his duty as General was just an added bonus. Rhuarc held out a hand, hoping Carrick would take it. [b "The sooner we move out the sooner that we can kill that bastard. What do you say?"]
Adimar was the first to come and visit with Aria after cleaning up from training with Rhuarc. Adimar was back to his usual energetic and flirtatious self, charming as ever he walked over with his smile, ever the prince and sat on the edge of her bed.
[#20b2aa “Glad to see you awake, gave us all quite the scare, but you certainly showed it to the village that you’re not to be messed with. When you stood up after Bantu stabbed you, I think they all fell in love with you. Now the whole village is rallying behind you, they support Teypion who is in support of you and Saraya. Just took you getting stabbed to do it. Always so full of drama.”] He chided her playfully. Aria managed a smile at him, but her mind shifted to Saraya.
[+pink “I’m sorry I made you worry. It’s quite uncomfortable being stabbed you should know, but I’m glad to hear that the village is beginning to unite... How is Saraya?”] Adimar’s face fell at that question, but he explained to her that after the chaos of Bantu’s capture, the Mage made another attempt at Saraya which caused fresh injury and now she was bedridden until she gave birth.
[#20b2aa “He’s getting desperate. That makes him even more dangerous.”]
[i “I heard that Carrick is planning an attack with Hanti’s son, Mogar, the she mage, and her compatriots. At least that’s what Corbin told us.”] Said one of the Holy Five. Both Adimar and Aria looked at them curiously, and finally to each other.
[+pink “Egos is not the only one who is desperate,”] she observed.
[#20b2aa “I fear Carrick is on a precipice of doing something stupid to save Saraya.”]
[+pink “Carrick might be desperate, but he’s no fool. Saraya is a Guardian, and she needs to be protected. I cannot do what must be done without all of you. When Rhuarc arrives we will go to Saraya’s home and meet with them both. Carrick should not have to act alone. We need to be a united front. Speaking of which... have you heard from Thad or Rupert yet?”] Adimar shook his head. He hadn’t heard from them yet, but he hoped to by the end of the day or first morning light.
Thad and Rupert were doing their best to hold off the Wraiths. Thankfully The Staff of Fenlyk had some power to repel and damage the creatures, but they knew they couldn’t rely on Lara to destroy them all in mele combat. Rupert was struggling the most, his axe did little to protect him, and did little to damage the Wraiths, he was nearly overpowered until Lara was suddenly there to block a hit for him, and she tossed him a sword. He didn’t have time to wonder where it came from, and caught it with his good hand and brought it around with practiced skill to match another hit from the Wraith.
Lara called for them to push the wraiths towards the rivers edge. They didn’t question her and followed her order as if it were Adimar’s. Both men shouted as they gave all their strength to push the wraiths towards the water. Lara had fought these creatures before, and this sword seemed to repel them as much as her staff. Rupert wasn’t the best with a long sword, more of a rapier man, but he found the blade surprisingly light in his hands, which allowed him to use his speed to trip up the Wraiths until they were suddenly swept up into the water. The both stood their ground, protecting Lara behind them so she could concentrate.
Thad almost couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Lara had trapped the wraiths in water, suspended in the air, and began to condense the orb to let them experience the pressures of the deepest depths of the ocean. They were crushed inside and exploded in a show of water and black vapor which curled up to the sky and was washed away on the wind. A thud landed behind them and they turned to see Lara pale and sickly -just as Adimar had been after Fenlyk. She told them to flee and both men chuckled hurrying to her side.
Thad and Rupert each took a side and lifted her up. [+navy “Not without you, lass. Easy does it. Thad ride with her.”] Rupert took command from that point and helped Lara into the saddle where Thad could keep hold of her from falling off. [+navy “You have a better chance of protecting her, I’m the fastest rider-“]
[b KAW!] Rupert and Thad both looked up to see Hermes spiraling down. Rupert stepped away from the horse and rose his arm. He came down to perch on Rupert’s arm and he removed the letter at his ankle and handed it to Thad.
[+red “Adimar says to send word. Corbin is to be executed... what? That cannot be... Anyway, he says to be careful, the mage is close by... Gee thanks... we hadn’t guessed.”] Thad sighed and turned the paper over to scribble a quick note that read: Have Lara, attacked by wraiths, riding back.
Thad and Rupert watched Hermes fly back north, leading the way to Caledon’s oldest village and the others. They rode together as fast as possible, towing Lara’s horse with them, stopping only when necessary, and trying to shave a day off their return trip. Adimar had potions to help restore ones energy after using too much mana, and Lara was showing symptoms of over exertion.
Aria was hurried away to the long house in Max’s arms. He tried to comfort her by stating she would be alright, and calmly asked her to recite the Five Pillars of Azera. Aria did so with great effort, and all in an attempt to keep her from succumbing to the shock that was beginning to take over her body. Aria could not focus on her surroundings any longer, as everything was fuzzy and dimming. Max brought her into her room just as Luther arrived with a flustered looking healer. The poor man was manhandled by Luther who practically dragged Leech by his arm.
[+green “Boil water. Lay her in her bed, and let’s get these clothes out of the way.”] Luther rushed over to start a fire in the hearth of the room and prepare boiling water as instructed, and Max laid Aria in her bed and helped her out of her robes. She hissed and moaned now that she was away from prying eyes she could show the pain she felt. Her dress was soaked in blood, and torn, but that was the least of her worries. She looked up and saw the blurred visage of Rhuarc entering the room. Too weak to protest the healer, she carefully removed her dress, cheeks flushing and wrapped herself in the blanket he gave her and helped her lay down comfortably in the bed, while helping her conceal herself from the others in the room. He brought the blankets up over her legs and to her hips and laid a second blanket over her chest, keeping her stomach exposed. The red of her blood was vibrant against the paleness of her flesh.
She shivered as she laid on the bed, her hearing was muffled, she felt she might pass out soon. She couldn’t hear what was being said by Leech, and she was not left alone for long as the kettle began to whistle, and very soon a cup of tea was placed before her.
[+green “Drink this, it will numb the pain and help you sleep.”] Aria obliged and with his help drank the bitter hot brew. The effects were quick and helped to clear the fog of her head so she could see she was in her own room, and Rhuarc was there. He stood just out of reach, and she focused on him as Leech began to clean her wound and poured a substance over it that burned. Aria gasped, as the tea’s effects had not taken root yet, and with teary eyes, locked her jaw tightly as he began to stitch her up. Halfway through she began to feel a lightness take over her body, and she was able to relax. The tea was working, her body was weighted to the bed, but the pain was a dull distant ache, and she felt she could finally close her eyes. Leech’s work was not done until he had finished his stitching, placed a healing salve over the wound, and then wrapped it tightly with linen. He then brought the blankets all the way up to her chin to help her stay warm and covered. That was the last Aria saw of him for the evening, and he left the room.
That left Aria alone with Rhuarc, and she feared he might chastise her as he did in Volshi, but she was also uncertain how much longer she could stay awake. To her surprise his words were calm and assuring, and he even placed a gentle kiss to her forehead. She couldn’t help but smile at him. He’d changed, he’d grown, and she lacked the energy to tell him so, she could only manage a sluggish nod of her head, her eyes falling closed and her hand weakly holding onto his until she felt his hand slip away and the world went dark.
She did not wake again until midday, and woke up ravenous, thirsty, and aching all over. The sun was blocked by a heavy curtain, but a banner of light managed to break through and help illuminate the space. She winced as she attempted to sit up, but yelped at the pain and fell back into her pillows. This alerted her guards who suddenly rushed open the door, and chimed with happy faces her title and surrounded her bed. They asked her what they could do and she admitted she’d like a nightgown or something to cover up with properly, so Owen rushed out to find new clothes for Aria. Eli went to fetch her food and drink, James ran to find the other Guardians, and Jordan went to find Leech and inform them Aria had woken up.
Within a quarter hour, Owen had returned with a grey robe and pin. Aria recognized it as a temple Priest robe. It would do, and she managed to get it on without stretching her stitches just in time for Eli who returned with food and drink. Luther and Max were diligent at her side, helping her sit up on pillows and handing her whatever she needed. They gladly entertained her and kept her company until Leech arrived to check her bandages, but she was still encouraged to stay in bed at least another day, but a short walk would probably do her some good later.
Wraiths, the dark, cruel, abominable creatures, were no easy opponent. On foot they were tireless, relentless, unbending, a sole mission driving them onwards until they succeeded or utterly destroyed. Destroying them added another impossible task to evading them, for destroying them required one to have such a weapon to pierce through the unyielding, dark aura; not many weapons existed in this world.
To add more woes, the wraiths they faced sat on mounts that equally matched the pungent, dark aura of the wraiths themselves. Those black, perverted mounts had been bred and raised for a singular purpose; serving as mounts of the Wraiths!
The charge of Thad and Rupert, stupid did it seem at first, also had a singular purpose. Their plan had not even an inkling of fighting mounted Wraiths, early snipping of the mortal coil that would lead to, but the plan was full to the brim of dismounting the wraiths from their high and mighty positions and force the battle to more favourable terms.
Lara had already slipped down from her mount while readying the staff of Fenlyck for battle, ready to break the legs of the black horses. But it seemed that plan wouldn't be put into action. Thad's and Rupert's charge made the Wraiths prepare for the eventual clashing that would come, but that eventuality never came as Thad and Rupert made a hit-and-run upon the wraiths' horses.
As the wraiths unceremoniously were dumped on their undead behinds, Lara ran towards them staff drawn while Thad and Rupert dismounted, somewhat gracefully while unsheathing their weaponry, and also charged on foot.
Now at first thought, this whole dismounting business seemed such an utter waste of an advantage. Mounted men did indeed have an advantage over men on foot, but the current situation actually was one of the many examples of why it was not always the case. Wraiths, unlike living creatures, could tank any of the blows dished out by Thad's and Rupert's weapons, and Lara was not capable enough to hold of three such creatures by herself. And besides, all it would take would be for one well aimed blow at Thad's and Rupert's horses for them to unceremoniously dumped onto the hard ground causing unnecessary confusion.
Lucky it would've been had the wraiths remained dumped long enough to take advantage of such an advantage. Alas, the wraiths, quick to react, stood back up and stood up defesiively to meet the charge of Lara, Thad and Rupert.
This battle devolved into three separate mini-battles, three separate one-on-one duels to the death.
Lara's staff and the wraith's blade were in a constant dance, a dance where each weapon wanted to out dance the other and get to the owner of the weapon. Lara's staff sang a shrill and quiet whistle as Lara effortlessly moved it through the air, while the wraith's sword silently cut through the air with an equal determination to match that of the staff. The two weapons clashed many times, either while defending a move from the other or in a mighty clash in the middle with a simultaneous attack from both owners.
Lara knew she would lose the endurance battle. Fighting an undead creature meant fighting something never tiring which needed neither sleep nor sustenance to continue in its deadly goal. Lara, Thad, and Rupert were still living, and thus needed rest and sustenance at intervals to continue living. Although Lara did notice the wraith taking a dislike of her staff, evidently something inside the staff grinded against the dark, evil husk.
Risking a quick glance around the battlefield in the briefest of pauses, Rupert and Thad were in no better situation, Rupert especially as the short reach of his axe dwarfed to the long reach of the wraith's sword. But how to help them if she couldn't defeat the wraith in front of her.
Blocking yet another blow from the wraith, an idea cascaded through Lara's head. One single mistake meant painful deaths for the three of them, but better they be quick than drawn out no?
Even though her next jab to the wraith's midsection had been effortlessly blocked, the intended effect of pushing it back gave Lara the time to sprint to her horse and unsheathe the sword. Lara had not a clue as to what this sword was. Someone had found it laying around on the battlefield unbroken and pristine and brought it to her. The design for it was intricate yet deadly, perfectly balanced just as all things for a weapon should be.
With staff and sword in left and right hand respectively, Lara beat aside the wraith's sword with staff and pummeled it with the back of the sword to slip past it and run towards Rupert. Leaving her back exposed to a wraith was dangerous yes, but not long enough for the wraith to backstab her.
Or so she hoped.
Flushing the backstabbing though away, Lara charged at the wraith locked in combat with Rupert. The wraith wasn't stupid, it knew the guardian would be attempting a laughable at best attempt at a backstab. But Lara's plan did not involve backstabbing, for after blocking Rupert's axe yet again and effortlessly meeting her swinging staff, Lara threw the sword towards Rupert who caught it with practiced ease. [+purple "PUSH THEM TO THE WATER!!!!!"], blocking another blow from Rupert's wraith before rushing back to face her own.
Pushing the wraiths as close to the water would allow for easier encasement of them with the water.
Lara could feel one tiny change in the tide of battle. Another quick glance in a brief moment of pause revealed Rupert pushing back his wraith as it seethed and hissed, more at the sword than at Rupert. Thad, oh that smart bastard, had pulled his fight to join with Rupert's so that two of the wraiths constantly being pushed towards the water.
Letting out a war cry, Lara began to pummel anything her staff found with the staff. She knew that this state could only be kept up for a few seconds at most, but each second closer to the river meant an easier task up ahead.
The wraith completely did not like this. Each step back meant closer to the river for it meant being one step closer to the river, and this guardian in particular had an affinity for water. But the guardian's speed and wildness in her attacks left no space or time for it to even slightly stop the guardian's attacks.
Now all three wraiths were exactly where Lara wanted them, a mere two or three feet away from the river. And suddenly the river lifted itself and came crashing down upon the wraiths, swallowing them up. [+purple "Rupert, keep them at bay with the sword!!!!"]
With Rupert putting the sword in between the wraiths and her, Lara closed her eyes and let her full concentration devote to this task. She could feel the vileness that oozed out from the wraiths and into the water they were trapped in, this vileness enraged Lara. SHe had felt this darkness multiple times and each time had been a bad one, time to show this pieces of shit who they were messing with.
Lara formed an orb of water, the wraiths trapped in between the edge and center of the orb. The hisses and snarls bounced quicker and quicker as the orb slowly shrunk and compressed anything trapped into it. Lara let the rage fuel her, forcing the rage into a orb of water as it slowly grinded against the wraiths. She could feel as the wraiths' movements stopped and they began to crush against one another.
And then the orb imploded, a loud whooshing sound flying everywhere as the wraiths and their very essences were torn and destroyed.
That's when it hit Lara. She sunk to both her knees, vision swimming with ears a ringing and shivering from a chill slowly spreading across her skin. Lara couldn't even raise any of her hands a single millimeter to comfort the growing headache. The next breath felt labored and even more tiring, such so that Lara lay on the ground on her side still alive and breathing but barely. She knew all to well that she had overtaxed herself, the previous times being some of the training sessions inside the Fenlyck temple, but the only way to defeat the wraiths.
[+purple "Now flee you fools."]
Saraya watched as Bantu had attacked Aria, and felt her heart shatter when she smelled the stench of blood in the air. Aria was stabbed. As the Guards apprehended Bantu, and Luther and Max ran to lift Aria, Carrick had doubled back to help. Corbin, turned behind him, and even he had turned and limped back towards her. Saraya’s attention was on Aria, then it gravitated towards Bantu. She has had enough of this.
Sayan and Caledon watched in surprise at the sudden surge of energy that built up. Saraya’s eyes diolated, her vision blurred as the Wolves gathered her and ventured downhill. The female, now named Star, walked by the group and the black wolf, Now Sky, helped in aiding with Aria as much as possible until Saraya was back. Saraya had an evil look in her eye, a savage feeling that kept her aim strong. She was in sight of Bantu, chained down in the middle of the city, and with effort, dismounted Star.
Bantu still carried a crazy look on his face as she reached out and forced his face to stare at her. Bantu growled, spitting at the ground before her when she released his chin. Saraya’s demonic stare was hidden by the sun, and she hadn’t budged from before him for a while. Bantu let out a sick chuckle. [I [#084582 “What, are you supposed to decide my fate, oh, Heavenly Blood Leader? You make me sick, parading around as if you are better than us, better than me… They put fairytales in your head, Guardian. You will be stripped of that title, too, when I am freed”]]
Saraya looked down at him. His words would’ve carried some pain if it weren’t for the fact that she never trusted Bantu. It was not unfathomable to know that he would do such a thing, after some years on the throne that was meant for her. Thanks to the Guardianship, she managed to learn to listen and get any intel out before doing any harm to him… And, Oh… Did she have some ideas.
Death by lashing? Battle to the death? Death by dismemberment? So many pleasurable punishments ran through her mind, but she knew just the one. She just wouldn’t sentence him yet.
[I [#da3c18 “Your life is in my hand, Old Bantu. You betrayed Caledon… You betrayed the Guardianship… And you had the gall to assault The Priestess…”]] Saraya’s dark aura stretched as she spoke further. [I [#da3c18 “… My Priestess?!”]] Bantu never had seen such a sight. A woman with this much anger was indeed not Blood Leader material in his eyes. Saraya inhaled sharply before straightening up, and her dark aura calmed a bit. [I [#da3c18 “Your incompetence cannot be tolerated, and your betrayal of our people as an act of treason. You do not deserve a merciful death. You deserve the maximum punishment… But, I will not sentence you yet… I want you to watch as your master dies by my hand”]] She growled.
Bantu looked at her in shock. She didn’t flinch. She didn’t smile… Merely stared. Bantu swallowed hard. [I [#084582 “The Darkness…”]]
[I [#da3c18 “You are such a fool, Bantu… It was only a matter of time before I would find out. You wanted to get rid of Corbin, but I had to put it together…”]]
[I [#da3c18 “Teypion had taken Corbin away to a holding cell in his quarters… Somehow, through that time, you’ve had one of your spies inform you that we have arrived, and one was arrested. You were informed on this, to know just which one you were looking for. You used your son to terrorize Corbin into admitting that he was an abomination, and took his submission as your opportunity to exert your power. You have been on The Mage’s cloak tail, trying to gain all the power you can possibly have… Your power hungry ways end with me.”]]
Bantu chuckled and looked up to him. [I [#084582 “After the battle, The Blood Leader will never take the throne again… All of you… Your nameless and your bastards will never see the light of day when they come. Caledon will fall”]] He chuckled as she stared down at him. [I [#084582 “And, then… Caledon will be mine!”]]
Suddenly a hand grabbed onto his throat, forcing him to stand and meet her terrible gaze. Her beautiful features were pale, her eyes were dilated, and her stare could coil the very blackness of his soul. [I [#da3c18 “Not before I decide your fate. We will end The Mage… We will end your tyranny to my kingdom… “]] She brought him close enough to see the emptiness of her remorse. [I [#da3c18 “… And I will make you pay for selling out my people for power. You will see your master choke on his own blackness”]]
[I [b “-- Will I?”]]
Suddenly, The Mage appeared behind Bantu, a tall dark figure was behind him, with only two orbs for eyes. She stared at him, seeing the familiar features of her late husband… Felliope.
The Mage expected to see a cowering woman, fearing the safety of her life, but Saraya was no longer afraid. She stared at him the same as she had done to Bantu. No. She, instead, had stared at Felliope, a demon of his former self, and The one responsible was standing just beforehand.
[I [b “Have you chosen?”]] The Mage asked. Saraya looked at this villain, staring at the foulness that stood before her. [I [#da3c18 “Not… You”]]
Egos looked to Felliope, smirking. Felliope stared at Saraya before letting out a growl. Star growled, standing behind Saraya, her blue eyes glinting in anger. Saraya stared at the three, before The Mage huffed. [I [b “You know this will not stop. I will claim you”]]
[I [#da3c18 “You will not claim me. But, I will claim your putrid life by my own hands.”]]
Felliope growled again, before advancing. Saraya stood her ground, but Felliope still advanced, Star barking loudly, attracting attention, breaking the connection between Saraya and the evil before her. Saraya gasped from the surprise. Bantu looked over to The Mage! [I [#084582 “Help me! Release me from the bonds”]]
The Mage looked to Bantu and then to Saraya. [I [b “No…”]] he hissed before he punched him in the chest, knocking the priest out.
Saraya wasn’t ready for what came next. Felliope attacked her, grabbing her by her neck. Saraya gasped, and Star’s efforts wasn’t quick enough. Her teeth sunk into the dark aura about him, and Felliope threw the wolf away, her yelps calling to Carrick.
Carrick heard the yelp from Star, then saw Sky look up with concern. Carrick reacted as soon as Sky growled and was ready to run for war. Carrick ran to the male, looking to where Sky was looking. What he saw was that Star was slapped away by a dark entity, and it had its hands around Saraya’s neck. Carrick’s fear hit its peak before looking to Sky, and grabbing onto his tuff. Sky took off by then, towards his mate, as Carrick aimed for his woman. Saraya was in trouble! Aria was in need of help… They both did! He had to get to Saraya before-
Felliope let out a heinous laugh as he began ascending into the sky. Saraya gasped as she watched his face. She heard Carrick screaming, Sky and Star were barking frantically after her. Carrick looked to Ruscal, who had already instructed Owl to hit the aura with an arrow. Saraya stared into Felliope’s vacant orbs. She saw this in her vision.
[I “You denied The Mage… You will die”]
Saraya chuckled. [I [#da3c18 “I’m sorry, Felliope”]]
Perplexed at her words, a sudden zip through the air cut his concentration short. An arrow hit its’ target, making him screech and release Saraya, and down she went, from the sky.
She exhaled, watching The Mage and Felliope’s face twist in agony and rage as she shrunk. Carrick urged Sky to run forward to save her from the impact of the earth, but he wasn’t so lucky. Saraya collided with the sand, rolling downhill, and fell motionless at the bottom.
Everyone could hear Carrick’s frantic cry. It seemed as though time had stopped, as he jumped off Sky and hurried downhill to reach her. Her hands were holding her stomach, and she had a cut above her right eye. Saraya wasn’t moving. Sky and Star had watched for the dark shadows, but they had disappeared.
Saraya’s pained grunts as he picked her up bridal style. Saraya coughed, her grip on his neck tight as she tried her best to make out whether or not she was okay. Her weak attempts to ask if Aria was alright had ended. Carrick climbed onto Sky, and he took off, Star in tow. Sky had ran to the infirmary, but had changed course. Aria was already there, being tended to by an entire class of nurses. Carrick understood his change in direction.
Saraya was coughing weakly, gasping for air. Carrick couldn’t tell, but Saraya was now in a great deal of pain. Tears fell as he helped her off Star’s back. Her grip to his tunic and her dress were proof enough. He hurried inside, and set her down on pelts, before clearing the bed, made it as comfy as possible, set a roaring fire, then claimed her to set her in the bed. Saraya’s quickened breath had rattled him. He dared not leave his side, kept his eye on her while she rested.
While they were the room, Carrick was sitting beside the fire, just staring at it. Corbin had been tended to after Saraya and Aria, and he fell victim to the crackling flames. Everyone around him was blurring, and when Owl and Crow walked in, Corbin looked over to them. [I [#2e8c22 “How does Lady Aria and Lady Saraya fare?”]] Crow asked. Carrick had propped his elbows to his knees in thought. [I [#9bacf8 “Aria fares better than if left to a doctor. Saraya could’ve healed her…”]] Carrick sighed afterward, before squeezing his hands together. [I [#9bacf8 “Saraya’s hurt… Bad… Caledon warned me of this, but…”]] He shook his head and hid his face. Corbin looked to Carrick, sighing as he looked from him, and to the door. Corbin and Owl looked to each other.
[I [#f8c49b “He didn’t make it in time, Owl… Saraya can’t be moved… Not until she births”]] Owl stared at Corbin, nodding, before looking to Carrick, who was fighting a losing battle against his own anguish. Corbin had to go to him, comfort him. All the while, Carrick’s taste for vengeance began to fill his palate. He wasn’t going to let this happen again. Corbin could feel it off of him… The searing thickness of the air proved that he was an Ancient. His glare was dark, full of lethal venom, but it was showing through those Sapphire eyes. Saraya was caught off guard, just as Aria did. Both were trying to contain the threat, when another was brewing. Caledon was trying to tell him this… They had to do something before either one of the girls were harmed… Now, both were laying, victims of attempts on their lives. Carrick has had enough of this.
Carrick looked over to Corbin. [I [#9bacf8 “Can you still weild a sword?”]]
His voice somehow ignited movement inside of the cottage. Corbin looked to the door, before looking back over to Carrick. [I [#f8c49b “Aye, father”]] he said with a brave look on his face. Carrick nodded to him. [I [#9bacf8 “Then, you will wait for my signal. When the time comes… We will ambush the enemy in the mountain.”]]
Overhearing this, Mogar looked over to Carrick and nodded. [I [#c6062f “I’m in”]]
Hearing this, Carrick looked to him. [I [#9bacf8 “No, I cannot let you fight him. We have a war approaching, it would suit it best if—“]]
[I [#411256 “We will be ready for the battle.”]] Ruscal said through the shadows. [I [#411256 “It is imperative that we protect The High Priestess and the Blood Leader. We must do something to keep them safe. If we do not go stop The Mage, then how can we call ourselves warriors?”]] Carrick looked at the faces of those who stood in agreement… a good number of warriors willing to take on the challenge. Carrick could try to sway them, but he couldn’t help but admit that they were right. They had to do something, otherwise, it would mean certain heartbreak and failure… If they didn’t do something… Something…
Corbin looked over his shoulder to everyone. [I [#f8c49b “No one feels comfortable in leaving The Priestess and mother unattended, however”]] he voiced, and looked back to Carrick. [I [#f8c49b “With this battle afoot, we can’t run for the mountain. We must plan strategically. We’ve not failed yet... I can suggest that we put Aria and Saraya together before we go searching for him. Perhaps they are stronger together”]]
Carrick looked to Corbin. [I [#9bacf8 “I’ve not said we were leaving at dawn or dusk, the danger is still too close. Malik has surely planned this to happen, and used Mogar’s father to set them up.”]] Mogar looked apologetic, but Ruscal rubbed his shoulder to assure him that they were fine. [I [#9bacf8 “They were trying to use Saraya’s emotions. Probably The Mage’s idea. He thought that her emotions being exhausted, and by the death of her son, would set on some kind of death path, and destroy everything… anything… Except Aria…”]] Mogar growled as he heard. [I [#9bacf8 “The Blood Leader needs us to protect her. We’ve failed both of them by heeding such foolish laws. Many of the men here are broken. They can’t even build the courage, let alone express their selves” ]]
[I [#b506c6 “Aye, son, but you also must understand the urgency.”]] Teypion keyed in. Mogar, looked to the old man, and Carrick’s eyes met his. [I [#b506c6 “The Urgency of trying to get Saraya out of the way. The act itself seemed rushed… Like, the battle was closer than we have originally anticipated. We will have to see what will come of Saraya once the child is here”]]
Carrick was confused a moment. But, Hanti’s soft voice chimed in. [I [#228b8c “I’ve studied many things in my youth… I know a greatness when I see one. Her father, was once a great knight here… Sayan, or what The Guardians once called him… Higasca. The Shadow Guardian we began to call him… The only of his kind, and the only that had the emotional strength that matched Caledon’s.”]]
Carrick and Corbin turned their heads to him, and Hanti leaned forward. [I [#228b8c “It is emotion that drives her, it is emotion that fills her. Her judgement so far has not been recognized. Her choices were right. It is instinct, it is sacrifice. She allows herself harm instead of others. It is not coincidence that she is still fighting, even when things looked bleak. She was going to cut the rope and save Corbin”]]
Carrick furrowed his brow. Corbin looked to Hanti. [I [#9bacf8 “How did you know?”]]
[I [#228b8c “I saw her atop that white wolf in the temple’s doorway. Her attention was on Bantu, but when he was dragging him along the temple and up to the noose, she was preparing to cut the rope. When she saw you save him, she held back.” ]]
Corbin looked to the door. Mother… He was beginning to understand the seriousness… The heaviness… Of the threat coming. They attempted to break Saraya by using him, and leave Aria vulnerable. The Mage’s sick desires were intended to use his mother for a vessel, but even Saraya in a weak state would never concede. This was putting them in a tight spot, and the best move would be to attack the enemy as soon as possible, and hopefully cripple The Dark King. The Mage had to pay, and he knew his life was meant for him to meet his end.
For now… Aria would seek out Saraya when she can fare better. Saraya was in critical shape, and none could move her to the infirmary. This time the doors were open, everyone could visit… But, she still wouldn’t speak. Not now… Even if she tried, her chest would hurt, and she’d cough up bits of blood, then Carrick would turn lethal, as lethal as the wolves that kept guard of both masters. She was not faring, not well at all… Carrick knew it… Ruscal knew it… Corbin himself knew it.
She needed help… And she needed good people around her that cared. It was up to Aria, Corbin surmised… Aria was her strength before… Perhaps she could give it to her now when she is mobile. This Corbin could only pray.
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