[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.
Teypion’s face shown disdain. He didn’t start right away. He needed to form the right words, words of a Priest’s stature.
“The past few days, I have noticed… Strange things. Things would move, things would disappear. But, I had almost believed that it was my aging mind that seemed to forget. Until last night, Aramis had been a heavenly child. He would mostly sleep, or pay attention to his surroundings, which seemed a bit odd to me. He never cried until last night. And when he did, he seemed… distressed. Like, something was there that shouldn’t be.”
Carrick had looked at him, halfway wishing that he had the power to see memory as Saraya could, but to an extent, he could easily detect the truth from a lie, and Teypion was not the type of Priest to lie of something so serious. “Before I knew it, everything went dark… I felt my body being slammed left and right, and Aramis was bawling, in a panic. I tried to get up to save him, but my body wouldn’t budge. A hooded figure had laughed as he picked up a bubble, ad set fire to the ground. I tried to stop him, truly, i…”
Carrick didn’t want to hear anymore. He waved his hand, signaling him to calm himself. Teypion had lain back down now, and Carrick had watched over him for a moment before standing and leaving the infirmary. At that time, he could see everyone had huddled around Saraya’s cottage. Owl and Crow were doing what was asked of them upon Saraya’s order… Keep guard of the doors. Ruscal and Mogar had been well into their training, but they kept it minimal, considering they were charged to protect Saraya. Adimar was nearby clearly exhausted, but still kept using his mana. Star had been patient, protecting the door, until as he approached, the door finally opened… And Saraya was stepping out. Carrick couldn’t help but see the beauty, though everything about her demeanor didn’t say anything was beautiful. Rage was in her eyes. She was wearing her armor. She had her insignia sported on her mail, and though it looked heavy, it seemed light as a feather to her. She hadn’t said anything, but she did approach Adimar as he panted, clearly tired now. She then stood before him. “Reach out your hand…” she said.
Admiar had seen this woman before her, the moonlight cascading her form into mystery, and her silver hair reflected the moonlight. He did so, listening for new instructions. “You are in battle… You’ve used your mana. You’re wobbling, close to passing out. Your enemy sees it as an opportunity to strike true and end your life. You must save yourself. Dig quickly, search for the light of your essence. Channel it at your enemy. Feel your resolve, and strike!” she ordered.
Adimar took a moment. On his part, he was following instruction, and Saraya wouldn’t rush it. She then heard him inhale, and he thrust his hand forward, and his power had aimed straight for Saraya. Carrick rose in fear, but it wasn’t necessary. Saraya had allowed the current of his power to whip around her, and it scratched her cheek, but she still didn’t budge. Adimar gasped and apologized, but Saraya shook her head. “No need. You’ve done well for a first casting… But it must be stronger. Cast again” she said. She had him cast a few more times, each time, he would the current towards her, a little stronger than the last, but she still wouldn’t use a shield to protect herself. One successfully cut her leg, but she still didn’t move. She chuckled and approached him, patting his shoulder. “You’ve done well… Battle will teach you more.” Adimar and Carrick had asked if she needed to go to the infirmary, but she shook her head. Before them, a dark flame had ignited on her wounds, and as they watched, they had healed. “We will win this battle yet.” Silently, she had made her way to the training grounds, with Star next to her.
Hours into the night, Saraya had found herself trailing, walking through absentmindedly back to the healing pools that housed her before she met Star and Sky. She wanted terribly to find the enemy in the trees. She did manage to see the enemies moving on open field towards the cliff on which they were huddled… And, she could see the magic bound army coming underneath a thundering cloud. Saraya had looked about the forest, before crouching down, and slowly made her easy to the Cliffside, so not to be spotted by the enemy. There were thousands, and by the feel of the footfalls on the earth, they were wraith magicians. The name itself was made by her mind, but it summed the description of the army before her. They looked as though they were corpses, with dark insides. Their footfalls were not heavy as humankind doe bodyweight was needed for the living. They looked as though possessed, and it was apparent that they looked cloaked in darkness, much like Ayab had been when the Fade surrounded him. She growled as she spotted Egos with a glowing lavender orb within his clutches. She gasped to herself, and a tear silently fell as she stopped herself from almost launching at the fiend. “Aramis…” she uttered, her voice shaking as she watched him mishandle her son.
Egos had grunted in utter disapproval. He had kidnapped this child to kill him… But, this child had seemed to create an indestructible bubble. He couldn’t find a spell strong enough to break the barrier. No doubt, Saraya had found that her abomination has gone, and has made a brash decision in going to retrieve him. He needed to dispose of the infant; the longer the thing was alive, the more dangerous she would become. And he wanted her broken, not overbearingly, powerfully… Angry.
Egos had growled in frustration. “Damn it all, I’ve only made my queen angry… This blasted thing must die…” He sighed as he walked on, and was oblivious of the ever infuriated Saraya that hovered over them. She was breathing heavily, feeling the rage riding within her as she saw the wretched murderer’s hands on her son. She saw Star whimper to her before turning away back into the trees. She had no choice but to back away slowly, and disappear into the trees. As she backed into the trees, tears gushed as she collapsed onto her knees, begging the Gods that she had the strength… The strength to deal a killing blow to her enemy, a slow and painful decline from Azeroth for kidnapping her son. She turned away, and climbed onto Star, hot and ready to go to war. With the armies this close, come morn, the war would be imminent.
She rode Star into the village, and hurried inside the cottage, where she gathered her armor and hurried outside. She then materialized her bow and arrow, aimed it into the sky, and released it, hitting the shield, and making it fall apart. As the shield was going down, she dug her feet into the earth, and stretched her arms out to the sides, and sent a current along the earth’s surface for hundreds of miles around the kingdom, making the earth shake, and wake everyone else. Warriors poured outside, and so did the startled Carrick and the rest of the troupe. Carrick was the first to spot Saraya, and hurried to her. “Saraya, what are you doing?” hea asked, yelling a nit so she could hear him. Saraya looked to him, tears in her eyes. “A plan is formed. We are ready… We must move… Now!”
Carrick could tell she had saw something that triggered her, but it also meant that there were more than one. She used to her abilities to show him… She saw Aramis in the hands of Egos, and an army of thousands camped below the cliff. She had to do something now before the think themselves bold enough to fight them. Carrick looked to Adimar and Rhuarc. “We need the barrier now! Lara, can you add your water abilities? We make the gates their only entryway!”
Saraya had pushed the earth far enough to create a wall, careful not to destroy the cottages and marble monuments. She turned to them. “They are below the cliff… By dawn, they will be scaling to approach. It is time to get the people safe!”
Ruscal looked to Mogar, and he spared no time to making haste. Owl and Crow had followed, while Ruscal had approached Saraya. “My lady, we fight with you” she pledged. Saraya nodded, and put a hand on her shoulder. “gather the warriors. Bring the straight here. We will need to make the formation!” she looked to the entrance she had made. “… Don’t worry, Aramis… We will get you back… I swear it” Inside, Caledon and Sayan declared the same thing. The war was going to be legendary. And The Guardians and Saraya would be first in line… Queen, Higasca, Prya… Guardian… this would be bigger, and she had faith they would make it through it… Anything for Azeroth… Anything for her family... Anything for her son…
Saraya had stayed silent, that was until she felt Adimar’s hand fall onto her shoulder. [U “Let’s focus on our plans, so we have the best chance of getting Aramis back,”] Adimar said, but his voice was soft, he gave her a pitying smile. [u “I’ll give you a moment, and then we can plan. You can tell me all you know about Chi, and how you know about it.”]
Saraya looked to him, almost ready to attack him for his mocking smile, for his lack of understanding of how much she was in turmoil, but she sighed away the impulse. He was only trying to show her that he understood that she was in great emotional pain, and that he wanted to help in any way that he could to bring Aramis back into her arms again. The only way, though, was to not waste time… And there wasn’t any to waste.
[I “Chi… It is the very essence of your lineage.”] she said, looking to him. She huffed, as fresh tears had fell, not of sorrow, but of the all too familiar feeling of rage. [I “Each Guardian has a connection… Caledon had found a way to use our very being to use our power… Instead of using strength, which can go out on you at any time… He discovered using our inner essence, the most indefinite strength we all should have, but only very few of us know how to tap into it…”] She then raised her hand only slightly, and a light glow appeared within it before a dark aura surrounded it. She then closed her hand and it surrounded her hand before disappearing.
Adimar had asked why she couldn’t control her abilities while pregnant, and Saraya looked to him. [I “Chi is not only just a value of self; it also sustains life. While pregnant, Chi is to be use solely on the infant while they are inside…”] she placed the same hand on her belly, looking down. [I “We don’t have a choice but to use mana to protect ourselves. It was dangerous for me because I also have my father’s dark abilities. It was battling to protect the baby, but it only hurt me because I hadn’t the opportunity to properly learn my abilities prior to carrying…”] she looked forward. [I “I am surprised that you have no knowledge of Chi. Volshi and Caledon had been frequent practitioners of this. I guess they never wrote books on this…”]
She could only think of Aramis, knowing she had to take this steps were necessary, but she didn’t shy away from the fact it’s annoying. [I “It is a test all Caledonians do in order to achieve the status of General in battle. Initially, it was to show just how much mana the one can control in the heat of battle, but on very rare occasions, one would show that they were never depleted, and enemies lay defeated.”] she looked to Adimar. [I “The only way that you can achieve Chi, is if you strip away your mana and push past your limit. Then, and only then, will you feel the true power you seek…”]
She tightened her grip on her stomach, forming a rip on her dress. She teared up again, and looked down. [I “I’m sorry, i… I am so sorry…”]
She wasn’t saying it to Adimar… She was saying it to Aramis… But, she also meant it towards Adimar, too. She didn’t mean to feel so apprehensive towards him. The situation didn’t make it easy to think so clearly. She looked back to him. [I “I will work with you soon… For now, work your mana until you are depleted. I will return then…”]
Carrick looked to Adimar and sighed. [I “Do you think it is a good idea to make her do this right now?”] He was only worried. He didn’t know the kind of rage rising within her. It well surpassed his, but knowing that she was the one hit with it as much as he was, it was crucial that she needed some time to calm… But, Saraya wouldn’t have it. She silently stood and went into her cottage, slamming the door shut, Star and Sky looking sad and whimpering at the door, feeling the despair in her heart.
Saraya had been crying for hours, praying, and cursing, and Star was always nearby. Sky had been keeping Carrick company, often communicating to him with grunts and soft barks. Carrick was thoroughly surprised that he was having a conversation with a giant wolf, and the wolf was confident enough to befriend and communicate with him. He didn’t know if this was Saraya’s works, but it was comforting nonetheless. Still, his mind was on the same thing hers were on… Aramis. He began cursing Egos for this, and almost wanted to make a foolish attempt to retrieve his son. But, knowing that Saraya’s heart had been scarred one too many, his possible demise from a foolish errand would truly send her over the edge, and make her kill anything with alliance to Malik, and spill her hatred onto those who were undeserving of her wrath.
He and Sky had been walking around, keeping an eye on the troops as they prepared their weapons, and practiced. The cottage that Aria and Rhuarc was in was closed in, and he wanted to know what was being said about this. If he had a hand in his son’s kidnapping, he wanted to be the first to know. But, other matters had kept him from finding out… He wanted words with Bantu.
He walked into the dungeon as some of the warriors had returned to their positions after filling their bellies. He received respectful bows, and “My Lord” had been whispering along his path, but he hadn’t heard them. Sky and he made it to his cell, and stared down at the chained man, who looked beaten and about broken now. He looked up to Carrick’s silhouette and chuckled. “So you approach, Nameless…” he tried to chuckle, but it sounded as though he had a difficult time breathing. Carrick could see that his ribs were purple and broken, and his naked form had been dragged on rock and stone. Carrick wanted to feel sympathy, but knew that this was an enemy, a traitor and slave master to his own people. For his part to play in his son’s kidnapping, this punishment was not enough in his eyes.
“Tell me where they have taken him, Bantu. Your life if forfeit, and your punishment will be legendary, just as you wanted, “ he said, looking down on him, ignoring the prideless title he had given him… Nameless. Of course he was nameless. It was because of Bantu that he had the title… That his family held the status of traitor because they opposed him… He had held in his memories, hoping that they would subside, but the longer he stayed in Caledon, the more of the truth he saw, and it was not a pretty one. He knelt down to him, stared into his bruised face, and sighed. “Oh, how the tables have turned, Bantu. You exiled my family for sticking to Caledonian ways instead of the ways of a coward. Now, look at you. A woman Caledonian, one you hoped that died in battle, one you have hated because of her lineage… Because she was the only thing that would turn the kingdom against you and expose you for the traitor you were, has dethroned you and humiliated you. Just as you have done to her… Just as you’ve done to me… Just as you’ve done to Caledon, My Leader” he stared at him, Bantu trying to keep up his smug smile.
“You know not of what you speak, Nameless. You were not worthy of Caledon- “
“So sayeth a traitor. Do not worry. Saraya will have just the punishment you deserve soon enough. First, we will kill your messengers and your hope. We will rob you of what you robbed us, and the last bit of our rage will be satisfied with the perfect punishment my wife picks for your final moments on this land. You shall be Malik’s whore, and he shall do what he deems worthy of your black and poisonous soul… For the Gods have abandoned you… And now, so do all of Azeroth”
Bantu’s smile finally faded, and the weight of his word finally fell onto his shoulders. Carrick stared back at him, not giving him the satisfaction if feeling that he was fibbing… Because he wasn’t. “You have betrayed Caledon, Steward. You have aided the enemy in kidnapping his great great granddaughter’s son. You crossed Higasca, and he will surely have your life on a platter once this battle is over. You have allowed Egos and Malik to taint your mind, and so your life is hers. She will decide your fate, steward, and it will not be a simple death. You do not deserve such mercy. As for me, I will have a title. I will have a name, and it would not be of your volition.”
Bantu stared at him, his old face seeming longer and longer the more the call of death seemed to make sense. Carrick said nothing more. Instead, he stood, and walked away, allowing the guards to take their positions. After leaving the dank dungeon, he sought out Teypion in the infirmary, and he was well into the throes of sorrow.
His eyes shown sadness and fear at the sight of Carrick. He wanted to throw himself at the mercy of The Blood Leaders, to beg for his forgiveness and lighten the punishment that would brought upon him, but Carrick had taken his hand. “Still, old Priest. You are not at fault.” He said, sitting beside him. “You are not in danger of punishment.”
“Oh, Sir Carrick, I feel ashamed. I could not do more to protect Aramis. The guards were spirited away on errand, and I had hoped that no matter such as this would happen. Alas, I am unfortunate” Carrick stared at Teypion, his elderly features seeming to become more defined as he lain in the bed in the infirmary. He sighed and looked to him. “We are preparing for battle. Saraya has a plan, but her emotional state seems that of rage and turmoil, and it will cloud her judgement.” He said. Teypion nodded. “Such as a mother and wife. She lost one family, Carrick. Losing another is just not in her heart to suffer” he said, looking to her. “Higasca and Caledon suffered such fates, but she is a Prya. This would mean that her fate is based on who she saves, just as it had done for Caledon. Higasca had become the beacon of darkness as Caledon the light. Saraya as to hold the balance of both”
Carrick looked to him. “How do you know this, Priest?” he asked. Teypion nodded “I know her. She was always giving life to those robbed of it, and protecting those who needed protecting. Her power is now of life and death, darkness and light… That will be her strength in battle. The beasts… They pledged their allegiance to her as us Caledonians do. They will follow you and Saraya into battle. It was set the moment the wolves stood at her side”
Carrick began to believe that the old Priest was speaking his mind, as a way to handle his own pain he endured. He was beginning to sound delirious, like he was rambling on with his thoughts aloud, making sense of the attack and of the entire ordeal. Carrick sighed as he looked at the old bard. “Teypion, do you think that Bantu was involved with the kidnapping?” he asked slowly, trying not to stress him too much. Teypion looked to him, his purple irises scaling along his memories to see if the evidence before him. “I wouldn’t put it past him… After much of the evidence I have noticed, I would hold Bantu partially accountable” he said. Carrick leaned forward. “Tell me”
Rhuarc enjoyed Lara being back with the group, her good natured energy was infectious and the strong Caledonian mead helped the atmosphere grow even more merry. Rhuarc didn't have the heart to tell her that likely the group would be splintered gain before their journey was over, possibly more than once. Malik was a cunning commander and every General knew that a force that had been split up was easier to defeat than a united front. If the Jai was in the False King's position he would probably try and split up the Guardians and pick them off one by one, or simply bide his time and wait for an opportunity where he could simply capture the Priestess by herself. Such occasions would be rare but inevitably they would present themselves. Rhuarc listened to Lara speak about the patrol boats being sent down the River Nine to inform about the Battle of Astoria and listed off four possible outcomes for what could have happened to those patrols. [b "There is a fifth possibility...I don't know what that is but never discount the possibility of that which you can not expect."]
Soon enough Thad and Rupert came to join them, being beckoned over by Adimar and while they would happily have joined the group with a mug of ale or mead it seemed that they had other reasons for coming over. It seemed that they had managed to recover the Harbinger, Malik's former blade. Rhuarc was able to study it up close for the very first time and having the weapon of their enemy in his hands...it made him feel as though he could understand the False King somehow. Rhuarc had such a personal connection with his own blade of midnight black steel, ha simply had to believe that Malik had once had a similar relationship with the Harbinger. Up close Rhuarc could tell that it was an exquisite weapon. It had been forged by a master blacksmith, he would maybe suspect that either Caledon or Jai'hash had had a hand in its crafting. The sword was lighter than one would expect for a sword of its size. It was smaller than Rhuarc preferred, the Jai favoured a two handed great-sword but this weapon was unique. It was clearly designed specifically for Malik's use and it might even give an insight into Malik's fighting style. The Harbinger was a broadsword which would normally mean that it would primarily be used for slashing instead of thrusting but this also had a leaf bladed design, which was unusual as that would enhance the cutting prowess of the blade but render the steel heavy and unwieldy. That was if this was regular steel. This was not the mysterious black steel of Rhaurc's sword, nor was it the desirable thrice forged Jai steel that was the pinnacle of weapon-craft that smiths could produce today. This was a lost art, this was Xiphos steel. Xiphos steel was a lost art but reputedly a weapon forged in this manner would remain sharp without needing to be honed and crucially be lighter and more durable than any other weapons. It was remarkable. The blade had the distinctive pattern of banding and mottling reminiscent of flowing water, a clear sign that this was Xiphos steel. [i“We assume it was recovered after the battle. I believe the Necromancer posing as the Cabin Boy is the one to blame for its loss and the attack of the High Priestess while we sought refuge in the underground."] Rupert's words shook Rhuarc out of his focused examination of the Harbinger. [b "You have done good work recovering this, I shall keep it safe, you have my word."] Rhuarc spoke as he fastened the Harbinger at his hip . Rhuarc thought about handing the sword to Aria, she was the one that needed to land the final blow on Malik with the Harbinger, maybe she should get used to wielding it but almost immediately Rhuarc discounted the notion. She was not ready yet, the last time Aria had the Harbinger she had lost it to the enemy once before, there was every chance that it would happen again. Rhuarc decided that for the time being at least the Harbinger would stay with him. Rhuarc returned to the longhouse with Adimar and Lara in a fine mood and quickly found a deep and resting sleep.
Rhuarc awoke feeling surprisingly rested, lately sleep had often evaded him lately but the recent events in Caledon had exhausted him into sleep, perhaps his summoning of the lava beneath the earth during the encounter with the wraiths had left him more drained than he had expected. As he made his way out of his quarters he heard that Carrick and Saraya were looking for him, he assumed that it would have something to do with the upcoming battle against the False King's forces but that was about as far from the real purpose of the meeting as he could get. Rhuarc joined Aria, Carrick and Saraya in the room and sat down by the Priestess's side. Saraya extended her hands and Aria took them before Rhuarc tentatively reached out and also took the Caledonian Guardian's hands. The vision played out before him and he watched all of it until the images ceased and Aria demanded why she would do such a thing with fire in her voice. Rhuarc also wondered why Saraya had seen this vision. In his own Trial of Desire he had seen Aria laying a marriage wreath at his feet after he had slain Malik, somehow she had even managed to get native Jai flowers for it. Yellow Crowns with their spiked thorns to signify that she was strong and would continue to be, blue river seeds to signify that she would endeavour to value life above all else and a singular red knife-edge to show that she would not stop fighting for that which was right. Rhuarc remembered the vision vividly, it was as if it was etched into his memory but deep down he did not believe that it could come to pass. They would need to survive everything that was to come, defeat Malik and then somehow work out a way for them to be together. Rhuarc was a nomad and once his quest was over he had always thought the he would return to the sands while Aria was the High Priestess, her place was in Central City. There were simply too many obstacles. [i “You two should not be afraid to show how much you love each other. I can feel it.”] Rhuarc tried to remain impassive but what Saraya said was true, he did love Aria, he had named her [i da'thei] but just because he felt such things did not mean he had to be a slave to his emotions. He was unsure how Saraya knew about the growing feelings between Priestess and Guardian but now that she did there did not seem any point in pretending otherwise, it would serve no purpose. As Saraya spoke to Aria about Malik's love for Azera and that being the reason for the Dark King's mental intrusions into her mind, Aria's face blushed red, she had of course told him about Malik's attempts to break into her mind but he wasn't sure how frequent or powerful these intrusions were. As the Priestess glanced at the Jai to see how he would take the news of the true severity of Malik's invasions of Aria's mind. Rhuarc showed no outward reaction, he kept his visage disciplined, the only concession was the tiniest most imperceptible smile at the corner of his mouth and a look of warmth from his eyes. He wanted Aria to know that no matter what he supported her.
Saraya spoke about Ayab's [i Toh] and Rhuarc had not forgotten the promise he had made on his fallen friend's behalf. When Rhuarc had asked to take on Ayab's debt and Saraya had asked him to stay close to Aria, watch over her and protect her. When he had heard that he had been please to have the opportunity to spend more time with her without arousing suspicion. He had enjoyed the extra time that he had managed to have with Aria alone, it was nice to be able to spend time with her, however it came about. He would have done anything that Saraya had asked of him in order to fulfil Ayab's obligation but he was grateful that Saraya had instructed him to watch Aria. He wondered how she had come by her suspicions...were the two of them really so obvious? [i “Oh, my friends… I do not want to scare you, but Malik is close, and he is ever watchful."] Rhuarc could not disagree with that statement, Malik was many things but careless was not one of them, he was a natural predator, he watched his prey, learned their strengths and weaknesses before striking. As the thought passed through Rhuarc's mind Saraya sensed something terrible was amiss before fleeing from the cottage at speed, leaving the High Priestess and her General alone. There was an awkward feeling between them as they tried to understand what Saraya's revelation that she knew about them would mean. Would it strengthen them or shatter their fleeting relationship into something that could not be restored? [i “It appears we are not as good at hiding our feelings as we thought.”] [b "No, it appears not. I wonder if that is a bad thing."] As Aria made her comment about Adimar Rhuarc could not help but laugh, it was a rich laugh that helped cut the tension in the room. [b "Actually he does know, and he is very supportive of us. Accepting and willing to help if he can. He is a good man and a better friend. We need not fear judgement from him."] Rhuarc listened to Aria speak about how she didn't know if Saraya was right, her desire not to waste any more time and her uncertainties for the future and Rhuarc found himself thinking the same...but he knew what he wanted. [b "I do not know what the future holds for us, what the future of this land will be. I do not know if what Saraya says about Shade-stealer is true but I know I want to spend what time I can with you. You have a good heart."] As Aria gave Rhuarc the chance to think about her offer making it clear that he did not need to give an answer now he thought back to Fenlyk, to his tent in the Resistance caverns where he had told her what being [i da'thei] meant to him, how he had given her a chance to take time to think about what that could mean for their future. She did not need time back then, and he did not need it now. [b "Aria, I need no time to think, if you will have me I am yours, from now until the last star falls from the sky, until the waters of the River Nine run dry, and until the last spark of Jai'hash's fire burns out."] Unfortunately any more of their conversation would need to wait, Aria could feel Saraya's pain and no sooner than she asked if he could smell smoke Rhuarc already knew what had happened. Now that he was focused he could smell the smoke on the wind but more than that he could feel the fire that was still burning in Saraya's cottage, that was reducing her home to charcoal, that until moments ago held her newborn babe. [b "We must go."]
Rhuarc stood by and watched while Luther and Bantu were dragged before Saraya and Carrick, they were a fearsome looking duo and Rhuarc suspected that the look of fury in their eyes over what had happened to their son would force mountains to quake in fear. Saraya and Aria questioned the pair and Luther admitted to spending the time with Malik. Rhuarc was not expecting that answer but now that he knew it made sense, the Fade had likely killed the Shield Maidens that were patrolling with the Watcher and that was why they had been killed so brutally and how Malik had managed to snatch Luther without arousing suspicion. That abomination could sneak into the tiniest crack in their defences. The Priestess demanded that Luther be released into the custody of Max and himself so that they could question him further. Aria gave her orders for what everyone to do now that the battle was teetering on a knife edge, any moment now it would begin. Rhuarc left with Max and Aria to question the Watcher and find out what exactly was going on here. Before leaving Rhuarc gave a few words to Saraya; [b "We will get your son back. I swear it on my honour."] It was a solemn vow and Rhuarc would do everything in his power to return Aramis to his parents unharmed. Rhaurc left Saraya and made his way to the infirmary and came face to face with Luther. The man had been badly beaten making is beautiful face a swollen mess of bruises, it would not give permanent damage but it would hurt like all hell until it healed. [b "I am only going to say this once Watcher, do not lie to me. The Priestess is here and she will know any falsehoods you give. There is too much at stake to be playing games. I would prefer to keep this civilised but if I have to I will resort to Questioning in the Jai fashion."] Rhuarc let his last statement hang in the air, everyone knew about the Jai Questioners, they were the finest torturers alive, able to keep the body alive on the very cusp of death long after it should have passed. There were tales of unimaginable pain and unending horrors until they got the information that they were after and they always got it eventually. [b "Why did you meet with the False King? Is this the first time you have done so? What does he know of our defences here? Do you know when he plans to strike? Why did he choose you to capture instead of any of the Priestess's other guards? What information have you given Shade-Stealer?'] Rhuarc paused before kneeling down so that he was eye level with Luther, he wanted to look into his eyes, he needed the answer to this question more than any of the others. [b "Have you betrayed our Priestess?"]
Something about hugs, something about those feelings which came from an overdue hug. That someone was almost indescribable yet for one word; completeness. Two halves which started off not knowing that they completed the other, with one half going off on what was a side quest before stranded all alone once again. While one of the halves travelled into new lands, the other half rebuilt a new empire while searching inside for improvement. From this inner searching did the stranded half begin comprehending who the other half was. And it was at this moment, that hug where the two halves first feel each other.
There was something about letting out a contented breath of air while entwined with someone, two bodies constantly moving into each other even though there was no further space so move inwards. Lara had not done such a completing embrace in a long time, not since her parents’ deaths. Learning to move on from the morbid past, Lara smiled as she felt Adimar’s face upon her red, silk-smooth hair. As Adimar questioned whether what he felt emanated from himself or from the guardian spirit inside him, Lara thought she could feel both at work. Not only were they physically and mentally connecting, but the spirits, separated for so long inside their respective guardians, connected on a theological plane.
Quiet moments do not last forever, and this one ended with Adimar’s stomach complaining for him to eat. While embarrassing and awkward, any preparation would amount for nothing if it meant ending up exhausted from an empty stomach.
Lara happily followed Adimar, not having eaten in quite a while. The walk there showed sights of a beaten up village, gloomy and quiet. All this constant seeing the effects of war made Lara question how the Jai had been holding out. They were a proud and strong race of warriors who’d fight until no one was left. Aside from a few caravans which she’d accompanied down there, Lara had never gotten a good look at their cities.
Once settled inside the mess hall Lara ate in silence, filling her belly with warm, delicious food along with some drink. She ate slowly and methodically chewing each bite while savoring the food, as well as not overwhelming her stomach with too much food at once.
After a hand-covered burp, Lara lay to rest the eating utensils and leaned back slightly while exhaling, having a full stomach made this moment that much better. Once Adimar asked his first few questions, Lara waited a few more seconds before straightening out.
A spirited Q&A mixed in with discussion ensued, Adimar curious for Lara’s experiences with Lara having the same curiosity about Adimar and company. This discussion slowly turned more into a one-way conversation as Adimar was intent on fully figuring out her happenings while in Fenlyck. While discussing how the new government worked Adimar slipped in a sarcastic comment comparing the new Fenlyck government to the Volshi’s, Lara could not hold it in and burst into laughing.
And at this moment Rhuarc walked in. He didn’t even leave any space to answer his question, joining the two of them which made Lara continue to laugh and chuckle. She had wanted a talk with Rhuarc, but the talk would need to wait as Rhuarc started another Q&A session. This Q&A session was more heated than Adimar’s, not because of anger or other such negative feelings but due to the rapidity of the question followed by the answer. Lara could feel the partial breathiness starting its slow kick but also felt alive as she enjoyed having Rhuarc engage her mind in such a fashion. [+purple “It feels great to be back with you all, reunited once again. I pray we never get separated on this journey!”].
Turning to face Adimar, [+purple “About that thinking”], her voice trailing off as she turned in Rhuarc’s direction. Donning a serious expression, [+purple “Rhuarc, a day or two after we freed Fenlyck I sent two river patrol boats down the rivers to the Abdu’Jai and give them the news of what happened. Now either one of the four happened: One, your people didn’t believe them and sent them away. Two, they didn’t believe them and took them hostage. Three, they did believe them while letting them go back. And four, they believed them but took then prisoner as a safety measure. Which one of these four paths was taken I do not know, but I hope they are safe nonetheless”].
Shortly after a pair of familiar faces entered. Thad and Rupert, those two had pulled over and above their weight in protecting her while out of action. Lara wasn’t surprised they still had the sword for she'd given it to them while battling at the river. And with this upcoming battle, they’d need such a powerful as this Harbinger sword; if it helped stave off those abominable wraiths then it would help stave off any other infernal creature thrown at them.
What had Aria done or what had been done to her so that she ended up in the infirmary? Lara couldn’t shake off feeling worried and disturbed at this news, understanding that while gone some important event or series of events had occurred.
Whatever happened would need a later time for catch up as Adimar’s statement of getting rest was correct. With a battle coming up, they needed all the rest that time afforded them.
After finishing the food and partial inebriation, Lara once again followed Adimar. She wouldn’t have minded sleeping in some random place either on the floor or some rackety bed, but with Adimar going out of his way for her to rest in his room and being partially drunk Lara did not refuse.
Just as falling into the deep clothes came quick, so to did the awakening. After a quick breakfast Lara proceeded to check the only piece of fighting equipment she had, the Staff of Fenlyck. Only a few patches of easily removable dirt marred its otherwise simple, elegant beauty. An experimental flicking showed it still retained its lightweight nature.
But the day was not done. Adimar came to collect her and lead her once again somewhere. This time the destination was the temple. On the way there Lara became puzzled as to why Luther, along with someone else, was led in chains, and further confused when Adimar hurried her ahead. While meeting everyone else assembled in the temple was uplifting, everyone’s’ faces were covered with seriousness. Something new had occurred involving Luther and the other boys person. This upcoming trial would brief Lara on the missed occurrences.
Luther’s admission in meeting with Malik only served for further confusion. Lara could not understand why someone who was on their side and proclaimed so would meet with the enemy they were hell bent on removing from those lands. Was there a connection between Luther and Malik that she knew naught of? Did that connection lay on that one ring she’d found aboard the airship in his room?
The trial was extremely short with Aria releasing Luther for treatment and for further questioning. With that uncertainty dealt with, Lara still desired more answers from Luther, next came the plans for the upcoming battle.
The moment Lara heard her orders from Aria she motioned over two of the guardsmen and walked out with them in tow. [+purple “Start rounding up everyone. Once everyone is ready, we’ll spread out into a triangle with the civilians inside our protective triangle. I will use water in aiding our disappearance.”] The two guardsmen nodded and accelerated to a slow jog while Lara walked to the nearest city exit to the forest and began pulling water for the stealth screen.
Luther was sorely out of sorts when he finally woke up. Thankful for his Ancient heritage he was able to heal from some of his more superficial wounds a bit faster than the average Azeran. He woke up in an unfamiliar place, and quickly realized he must have been in the jailer’s house, because across from his cell sat a ragged looking Bantu. The man who had injured the Priestess, Luther could only manage to glare at the man with what energy he had, and wondered how he had managed to end up here himself.
Before he could question further, a group of Caledon soldiers came marching into the space. The first person they grabbed was Bantu, and then they came to his cell.
[#00ffff “Someone want to explain why I’m here?”] He got no answer, was just lifted off the floor without care to his injury and dragged out. Luther didn’t have the energy to struggle, his whole body was throbbing with pain. The last thing he remembered was Malik’s fist across his face, something struck him in the back of the head, and then there was nothing but darkness. Luther could see where they were being carried to, towards the Temple steps. Adimar and Lara were walking that way, and Luther tried to call to them, asking if they knew what was going on, but Adimar would not answer him, simply moved Lara ahead of them all and escorted her to where they were all gathering. Saraya waited for them, she looked vicious, and he could smell the charred remains of her cottage. What on Earth had happened here over the course of the night?
Luther was shocked to see everyone there. Even Aria stood to Saraya’s left, Carrick to the right of Saraya, and Rhuarc stood off to the side of Aria, the Holy Five and Max had also gathered, along with both Adimar and Lara. Bantu and Luther were forced to their knees before Saraya, and Luther looked to Aria. She seemed upset, her eyes on him and hopeful... hopeful for what?
Bantu was the first to speak, his condescending tone only drawing Saraya’s ire further. Her son was missing and it seemed Bantu was in on it, and Saraya retaliated with a fist. Her gaze turned on Luther who tried to square his shoulders and lift his head. He could feel his shorter hair brushing against his face, and glared up at her. He couldn’t believe this! He had been the only one to defend Corbin when they had first entered, and here she was trying to lay blame on him. Luther didn’t answer her, only glared back with a look of supreme disgust.
Bantu was tied down and Luther lifted back up to his feet, he winced in pain at the way the handled him, but he made it to his feet and looked once more to Aria.
[#00ffff “Priestess! Please! Tell me you do not believe these lies! I would never betray you! NEVER!”] He pleaded. Aria frowned, and finally made her move to approach him.
[+pink “Tell me true, Luther. Where were you last night?”] behind her Saraya fell to her knees and cried, Carrick there to hold her and comfort her. Luther swallowed tensely, his eyes looking into Aria’s as she waited his answer.
[#00ffff “I was with Malik,”] Luther’s admittance seemed to startle Aria. Had she expected him to lie?
[+pink “Why did he let you live?”] Aria asked firmly. Luther sighed, his shoulders slumping in defeat, she wanted to exonerate him, she wanted to believe him, but he could see the confusion and uncertainty in her own eyes.
[#00ffff “So that I could tell you, he [i is] here,”] Both Adimar and Lara had walked over to join them, and Aria waved her hands for the guards to release Luther. They seemed reluctant, but Aria barked her order and demanded his release.
[+pink “Release him to my General, and my Captain, they will both question him further... Max, take him back to the infirmary.”] The Caledon Soldiers looked over at Max who had also joined and he took Luther’s arm to lead him away. Luther did not fight Max and went with him easily.
Aria steadied herself, she was eager to follow and question him further, which she planned to do with Rhuarc as soon as she could ask him. The first thing she did was turn and head towards Saraya, Carrick held her closely, Adimar stood beside Rhuarc looking on with sympathy. Aria was there to wrap her arms around Saraya as well, holding her tightly.
[+pink “We will get him back. Do you hear me? Egos will rue this day, and it will end when you finish this once and for all. Malik is waiting for us on the other side of him, and we will greet him with the death of his Mage.”] Aria spoke it like an order, a command to Fate to make her words true... only time would tell if it would be true. Aria released Saraya and looked at the others with a stern expression. [+pink “This was done to make us act with impulse. The best thing we can do is not be hasty to react. That’s what they want us to do. Right now we must move quickly to put our plans in motion. Rally the people, fortify defenses, we prepare for battle. Lara, I want you to take two of my men, and begin to gather those who cannot fight and prepare to take them to the forest. Adimar, stay with Saraya and the two of you try to find ways of beating Egos with your magic. Rhuarc, you will come with me to question Luther further.”] Aria turned to leave with the remaining three of her guard as two of them moved to stand with Lara and go with her.
Adimar watched Lara go with the two Guardsmen, and the turned his attention to Saraya and Carrick. He frowned for a moment, it was oddly unsettling for her to go, as if he was afraid she would leave again. He cleared his mind though and reached out to place a hand to Saraya’s lithe shoulder.
[#20b2aa “Let’s focus on our plans, so we have the best chance of getting Aramis back,”] Adimar said, but his voice was soft, he gave her a pitiying smile. [#20b2aa “I’ll give you a moment, and then we can plan. You can tell me all you know about Chi, and how you know about it.”]
[b Fin ]
Adimar was glad to hear that Lara was in the mood for food. He was as well, if he was being honest. He hadn’t a proper meal since returning from the mountain with Rhuarc and Carrick. His previous conversation with Saraya had also left a part of his mind questioning [i Chi] and to study it later when he had a moment, or could find material on it. It defied everything he knew about Magic and its inherent limitations. Perhaps as Guardian there was something greater for him to tap into and exponentially increase his arcane output? All thoughts were disrupted when he felt a body slam against him suddenly. He looked down to see a head of glossy red hair, the face hidden against his chest. Adimar immediately tensed, his face turning red, and questioning if he should move. All he received as validation, was the empty room around him, and without a care he quickly wrapped his arms tightly around Lara. His head dipped down rest his cheek against her soft hair. It certainly felt nice to have her close.
He stayed like that with her for a long while, neither of them speaking, but content to remain trapped in the others arms. It was strange to feel this way... a sense of completion, of returning to someplace he no idea he missed so much. When Adimar finally spoke, it was soft, so not to disturb the gentle peace they had made in the quiet of the room.
[#20b2aa “I can’t truly tell you how happy I am to see you. I don’t know if it’s Volshi... or if it’s me, but I’m glad.”] It was that moment that it was his stomach of all things that suddenly growled. He stepped back with a mildly embarrassed expression and chuckled. [#20b2aa “Didn’t I mention food earlier? We should do that! Perhaps others might join us later.”]
Adimar who was usually such a flirt, hadn’t been since the day Lara had walked into Tanaka. He hadn’t realized it until he was walking across the village in awkward silence to the village mess-hall. It was no doubt what was left of the village pub, and was now where people went for a hot meal and drink when in need. Caledon had been struck hard by Malik’s regime in ways differently than Fenlyck, and that left Adimar to wonder what it must be like in Abdhu’jai. Would there even be the glittering cities of the River Nine left by the time they get there to see?
They found the mess-hall practically deserted, what with the whole village preparing for the upcoming battle, but the keeper was still present and was quick to bring them food and drink. Adimar knew they all had things to prepare for, but food and rest were paramount, and right now he would take advantage of Lara’s attention. [#20b2aa “So now that you’ve had a bite, how are you feeling? Thad and Rupert said you took out Three Wraiths by yourself, that you saved their lives. That must have been a tremendous amount of power for you to channel.... maybe Saraya is right about mana’s capacity for instability...”] Adimar murmured the last part to himself, quickly slipping into his academic thoughts and listening to Lara speak. They were eventually talking easily, Adimar listening to Lara speak of what happened in Astoria and who was currently in charge. He had made a sarcastic comment that had Lara laughing when Rhuarc entered. Adimar grinned over at the Jai from over his cup and waved him over. From there Rhuarc was able to speak with Lara, and Adimar was happy to have the group back together, even if there was some missing faces at the moment.
[b “It is good to have you back, little one.”] Rhuarc said and Adimar nodded his head in agreement. Food and drink was brought to the table for Rhuarc, and Adimar looked over to him a moment after he’d had a chance to eat something.
[#20b2aa “We should should begin thinking about how we’re going to get to Adbhu’Jai. We’ve avoided Central City so far... but, Malik knows that The Temple of Jai’hash is the last one. No doubt he’s already planning how he’s going to stop us, this battle can’t be his only plan.”]
It was then another pair entered the building and made their way to join. Thad and Rupert were up and moving around, redressed and clean. Thad was carrying a wrapped item in his hands making a B-line for Rhuarc.
[#20b2aa “Thad, Rupert! You want to join us for supper?”] The men nodded, also eager for a meal, but had other plans first.
[+red “We’d love to, but we came here to deliver something, as it were, and have other things we need to do before tomorrow.”] Rupert stated and motioned to Thad who carried the swath of fabric in his arms.
[+navy “This was in Lara’s possession when we found her. We thought it best to give this to you. It is safer with no one else, in my humble opinion, Master Jai’hash.”]
[+red “We assume it was recovered after the battle. I believe the Necromancer posing as the Cabin Boy is the one to blame for its loss and the attack of the High Priestess while we sought refuge in the underground. “] Rupert informed. Thad nodded in agreement, but then looked to Lara. Adimar rose his brows at what Thad said, and the shape of the wrapped item, when Thad pulled back the cloth to show the sheathed Harbringer. They all watched as Rhuarc took the blade, unsheathed it and examined the flawless reflective steel. The Harbringer had returned, and on the eve of a battle against the very creature this blade was created to destroy.
[#20b2aa “The Priestess will be happy to hear some good news,”]
[+blue “We watched Max escort her from the infirmary back to the Longhouse. We planned to take her something to eat. She looked pretty out of it...”]
At this Rupert made his way over to the barmaid and requested three meals, which were placed on a tray and given over to Rupert, who made his ay back to the table and both he and Thad bid the trio goodnight and left. Adimar looked over to the blade that Rhuarc now possessed and grinned.
[#20b2aa “I’m feeling confident about tomorrow now... let’s finish eating and head back, we should be getting our own rest soon as well.”] They did just that, eating their fill until they all felt their stomachs swell and the post meal drowsiness take over. Of course there had been a few drinks among them, nothing to inebriate, but enough to allow for easy laughter.
The main room was full of the Holy Five, sleeping on their bedrolls, but one was awake and gave a nod in greeting to the Guardians as they arrived. Adimar made his way up stairs with the others and bid Rhuarc goodnight before he walked Lara to his own room and opened the door.
[#20b2aa “You can sleep here, we did not have a room ready for you, so feel free to use my space. Keep Hermès company for me,”] Adimar smiled at her and allowed her into the room and in a very princely way bowed to her with a soft smile and bid her a fond goodnight before he made his way back down the hall and chatted with Max for a moment before he joined the Guards below and took up the only sofa and slept upon it.
[b ARIA] made it to the longhouse where the infirmary was kept, with Max in tow. She hurried through the doors until she saw Luther laid out on a table and Creech bent over him examining his wounds. Aria hesitated at the sight, he did not look like a man who had gotten away easily. At her entrance those in the room moved out of her way and bowed with respect.
[+pink “How is he doing?”] Aria asked coming to stand on the opposite side of Luther’s bed. He was covered in bruises, his face swollen from repeated punches. Whoever had done this... it had been personal. That disturbed Aria. She had already lost Corbin on this trip. Was someone targeting her guards? Or was this something more sinister? His hair had even been cut short, now hanging in jagged ends above his shoulders.
“He’s been beaten badly, whatever killed the sheildmaidens had been quick and efficient, but this...”
[+pink “Was personal... Will he be able to fight tomorrow?”] Creech shook his head, followed by a resounding ‘No’. Aria bit back a sigh, Luther was one of their strongest fighters. What could have taken him down?
“Luther will have to go with you and the others to safety,” Max informed her. Aria nodded and reached down to take Luther’s bloody hand in hers and held it gently. She might not have completely trusted him, but she did on some level. He had pledged himself to her, confessing his own feelings to her while in Caledon, and she couldn’t help but feel sympathy for him.
Luther suddenly came awake with a violent jerk, and sharp inhale of breath. Quickly collapsing back against the pillow and coughing with blood staining his lips. His grip was tight around Aria’s hand, and when the coughing ceased his eyes opened. Bloodshot and damaged, the blue seemed to gleam dangerously. They were pinned on the startled face of Aria, when his other hand suddenly reached over and grabbed a fistful of fabric at her shoulder and jerked her close.
[#00ffff “He’s here, He’s here! He’s here! HE’ S HERE! HERE! HE’S HERE!”] Luther wailed, his eyes wide and paranoid, his own voice strained with fear and the rawness of his wounds and pain. It was an uncomfortable sound, that caused Max and the two other Caledon guards to quickly restrain the inconsolable Luther to the table and Aria was able to pry herself away from him, her own expression one of horror.
Creech was quick with a cloth and a strong smelling vapor he had soaked the rag in. He quickly placed it over Luther’s face, and after the Watcher had taken several deep breaths of the vapor, his body grew slack and until he was out once more. With Luther sedated, Max stepped back and turned to see Aria with hand over her mouth and eyes wide in horror.
“Well now we know what happened to Luther.” Max groaned. Looking back at the man, Max resolved himself to take Aria and lead her away from the room as there was nothing more to be done with Luther unconscious.
[+pink “Do what you can for him, and prepare him to be moved to the hideaway with the others,”] Aria managed to order of the room’s occupants, just as Max made her leave.
Aria walked in a daze, Max guiding her with a hand to her arm, while her thoughts swirled on what to do now that it was truly confirmed that Malik was here. She had to do something to stop him from coming here. There had to be something she could do.
“Don’t do whatever it is I think you’re thinking of...” Max warned before the thought had the chance to enter her mind, but the moment he spoke it, she thought it.
[+pink “What’s that?”] she challenged innocently enough.
“Turning yourself over to save everyone. He is not a man of honor, he would take you and still lay waste to the last bastions of Caledon. Killing all and showing no mercy.” Max was right of course, Aria knew that, and she knew he was right. It would be stupid to do such a thing.
He led her right to a door, and when he opened it she was led back into the shared house the Guardians were using and ushered back into her room. There she sat on her small bed and reached for her diary to write down her thoughts. It wasn’t until much later in the evening that she heard people returning to the long house, and from the voices she knew it to be Adimar, Lara, and Rhuarc returning from their supper, and clearly in good spirits. Aria sat up in bed, for a brief moment excited for Rhuarc’s return, when she knew she could not go to him. Deflated, she listened to their footsteps come up, Max greeted them all in passing and, their footsteps faded with the shutting of doors. Aria simply tossed and turned in her bed, before finally pacing and staring out the window. Sleep again, eluding her.
When morning came, Max entered the room to wake Aria who had finally gone to sleep only hours ago. He gave a gentle shake to her shoulder, a tray of food in his other hand, setting it down with a chuckle as she groaned and rolled away from him. She mumbled something incoherent along the lines, of: A few more minutes. He reached over again and shook her once more.
“This is why you should go to sleep early, and not stay up all night,” He chided her and she eventually rolled back over, her eyes slowly peeling open. “Master Carrick arrived this morning, he is downstairs waiting for you and Rhuarc to join him. Lady Saraya has something to say to you, it seems.”
Saraya was seated outside under the grey sky, the village already awake and prepping for battle, when they reached her. There were those building barricades around the edges of the city, others repairing or forging weapons and armor, while the rest trained. Aria had grown accustomed to Saraya and Carrick’s open displays of affection, but it she hadn’t gotten over the minor sting of jealousy over what they shared.
[+red “Come with me…”] Saraya said, and Aria followed with Rhuarc into the cottage and had the strangest feeling she was about to be chastised for something. Once they were seated she asked them about how to defeat Malik, and how she had wanted to speak with them for a while, only she hadn’t found the words, still she extended her hands for them both and Aria eyed Saraya suspiciously.
Reluctantly Aria took Saraya’s hand and without warning a series of images played across her mind. She remembered Saraya saying something of this potential future, but to see it only had Aria swelling with anger. Aria and Rhuarc? Married [i and] expecting? Aria did not believe it for a moment. It was a future she truly believed she could not have.
Aria withdrew her hand and bowed her head to hide her frustration.
[+Pink “Why are you showing us this?”] Aria demanded.
[+red “You two should not be afraid to show how much you love each other. I can feel it…”] She smiled a bit as she looked to Rhuarc when he asked how long had she kept this secret. She had known since Kil’heed, the vision that was given to her, but had not noticed it rang with truth until Astoria. She believed it was the best way to expel Malik from Aria’s mind. Aria frowned, frustrated once again that she hadn’t been able to keep a single secret to herself.
[+pink “How do you know this will work to keep Malik out of my mind?”] Aria asked her arms now crossed over her chest and looking rather put out.
Saraya sighed a bit before becoming a bit more serious. [+red “Aria, I knew that Azera’s love for Malik was still dormant. That is the reason why he can come to you when you are sleeping. He’s still scratching to Azera, hoping that she would give in and in turn, make you give in to him… When you, Aria… You don’t love him.”] Aria’s face did flush then, she hadn’t been totally honest with Rhuarc as to how bad Malik’s invasion of her mind had been, and even she glanced to him to gauge his reaction to this news, but Saraya had reminded him of her request against Ayab’s Toh, and her reasoning behind it all. She had wanted their love to grow, and to stop Malik. Aria frowned, it hadn’t done much to stop Malik, it had only made the attacks worse. She wondered if Malik was already aware of her affection for Rhuarc, and if so her attempts to shield him from Malik were in vain.
[+red “Oh, my friends… I do not want to scare you, but Malik is close, and he is ever watchful…”] That was an understatement, but Aria allowed Saraya to finish what she had to say and then she spoke of how she needed them most, when she suddenly stopped and whispered her son’s name. Even Aria could feel a shift in the air... something had happened. Before she had a chance to ask Saraya what was wrong, Saraya bolted from the cottage.
Aria and Rhuarc were left alone in the silence of the room and the tension that had been left behind in the wake of Saraya’s words. Slowly Aria turned her gaze over towards Rhuarc, but she wasn’t certain what to say. How did they move forward now? They had agreed to keeping their affections private and hidden, to know it was now out in the open was... odd.
[+pink “It appears we are not as good at hiding our feelings as we thought...”] Aria mused. To be fair, Aria and Rhuarc had yet to even truly act on their feelings since that night on the ship when they confessed to the other. Still, she sighed and looked away towards the door Saraya had fled out of.
[+pink “Next you will tell me Adimar knows as well...”] He did actually and Aria could only drop her head before reaching up to run her hands through her hair as she lifted her face with a sudden expression of determination. Rhuarc the only one to truly see Aria as herself. She couldn’t have this distraction, not with Malik at her heels. [+pink “I don’t know if Saraya’s idea is plausible, or if her vision of the future is true. I do not wish to give you false hope, but... I also do not wish to waste what time I have now, here, with you.”] Aria finally looked at Rhuarc, her lavender eyes intense, and knowing she was proposing a change to their terms. Rhuarc had just as much say as she in this. [+pink “I still think it wise to hide what we can from others, but in the comfort of our companions? I... I should like to try. You do not have to answer me now, it’s probably best it waits, something is wrong... I can sense Saraya. She is in pain, her heart...”] Aria placed a hand to her chest, her brows furrowing with concern. She knew something was terribly wrong, more so than she originally thought. Aria sniffed the air then and got up to move towards the door. [+pink “Do you smell that?”] Aria opened the door to see smoke coming up from a cottage in the village.
She didn’t think, simply took off in a run towards the smoke and the cries of Saraya for her son. It took no genius to see that Aramis had been kidnapped. Aria’s hands flung to her mouth, her eyes wide with horror. Saraya had enough resolve to demand Bantu and Luther, when Aria frowned. Luther?
Saraya had awakened moments later, feeling as sore as she could from such ordeals. Star and Sky had been eagerly waiting outside. Saraya had gotten up a moment before submitted herself to a much needed bath. She took her time, allowing the scented mint bars of soap to shed the dirt and grime from her skin. This made her happy, although she had noticed, she didn’t feel the sting of giving birth as she would after giving birth only a few days ago. She could probably guess why, but she kept it further from her mind. There wasn’t any need to question a rapid healing. It only meant that there were powers not known yet that she could appreciate… Which reminded her of the smell she recognized… It was Carrick’s Apex. She had forgotten all about the smell. There had been so much battle, so much blood… She could hardly remember the sweetness of it. But, it all was a thought she had to toss aside.
After dressing herself, hiding the scars she gained, she had made her way to her door, and had sighed as the bit of sun hit her skin. She took a seat nearby the temple now, watching the group of warriors train with Mogar. Upon her presence, Mogar had stopped and bowed in respect in her direction before she signaled him to continue. The Temple’s doors were shut, and she had remembered that there had been a home attached to it… A castle of marble, that had been taken down once Bantu had come into power. She looked at the mountain, and then, to the fields. She had to do something about her people. And that would mean she would have to destroy the very beast that breathed down their neck… Her thoughts were interrupted by Carrick, who had been searching for her for some time. Rhuarc and Aria was with him. She sighed in relief as she turned to them. Carrick swept her into his arms, and kissed her before looking over to Rhuarc and Aria. They seemed to be blushing, trying their hardest not to expose their likeness of each other, and it made Saraya smile a bit. “Come with me…” she said.
With patience and silence, she had made it back to her cottage, where she allowed Rhuarc and Aria to take their seats. Once they were seated, Saraya had turned to them. “I’ve said before, that there was a way to defeat Malik inside, no?” she asked. When they had said they hadn’t remembered, she smiled and took a seat. “Well, I’ve been trying to speak with you about this for a while now, but I couldn’t find the words…” she said as she looked to the two of them. “I’ve been meaning to tell you this for a long time, now. I’ve done so subtly, but I wanted to speak to the both of you privately about this…”
She stared at the both of them. She then had extended her hands, and allowed her abilities to create a scene she had seen in her memories… There, she had shown her vision in Kil’heed, from the moment she had awakened that morning, to seeing Aramis with Rhuarc, with a confident grin as he played Knights and Dragons. He had said that Aria was awaiting her company, and she had fast forwarded her memory to when she was going to her throne, and sees Aria, endowed in Jai’hash attire, wearing a wedding band from Rhuarc’s homeland, and was heavy with life. She allowed the memory to fade, and looked to the two of them. “You two should not be afraid to show how much you love each other. I can feel it…” she smiled a bit as she looked to Rhuarc when he asked how long had she kept this secret. Saraya smiled gently. “I’ve known since Kil’heed… But, I’ve seen since Fenlyk… I’ve said before that you have to speak true of your love for each other… It is the only way to push Malik from your mind…” She heard Aria ask how she knew about Malik.
Saraya sighed a bit before becoming a bit more serious. “Aria, I knew that Azera’s love for Malik was still dormant. That is the reason why he can come to you when you are sleeping. He’s still scratching to Azera, hoping that she would give in and in turn, make you give in to him… When you, Aria… You don’t love him.” She looked to Rhuarc. “I asked you as penance of Ayab’s Toh that you take care of her… The reason why is because it was my intention that you develop your love for each other, to block Malik from trying to advance on her… Like Egos is trying on me.” Saraya had looked to both of them seriously. “Oh, my friends… I do not want to scare you, but Malik is close, and he is ever watchful… There had been a flux, one of which is a string of jealousy and rage could be detected every time Rhuarc was around you, or you’ve shown a daze and affection towards him. I say I’ve wanted you two to not be afraid to show your affection towards each other. I believe it is the strongest defense we have beside my unknown abilities. I believe it is your best bet and best interest that we keep emotional content and affections in the open, for Malik to see… It will prevent him from making any foolish moves… He will be too distraught and caught off guard to try” she looked to Rhuarc and nodded.
She sat down finally, and looked to the two. “I need you two the most. My friends, my family… I need you both to help me channel my anger. My powers are strong, but there are still powers I don’t know as of yet. Aramis… I…” Aramis? Why was she speaking of Aramis…? She looked to Carrick, before looking to Aria again… Suddenly she hurried to the door, to see Crow running towards the cottage. She could only assume the worst…
He hadn’t said a word, Saraya only knew to start running towards the last cottage. She saw smoke. She saw the cottage burning. She couldn’t stop, her speed picked up as she ran towards the cottage, and saw the cottage in shambles. She stopped at the hill of the house, trying to feel for a heartbeat, any type of sign that there was life… Teypion’s groan had sounded from behind the torn down cottage. She hurried to him, helping him up. “Teypion?!” she asked. He grunted, allowing him air to breathe. “Aramis…” he called out. Saraya looked down to him. “Where is he?”
What she feared had come to light… She didn’t need to hear who had done this… She knew who was behind it, it took no time to think. She growled, looking up to the other three that towered her. Carrick’s face had turned red with rage. Aria, and Rhuarc looked to each other before she looked to Crow. “Get Teypion out of here” she growled. She had allowed him to take over before getting on her feet. She said nothing. All she did was look around. She hid her face before collapsing to her knees… Carrick had hurried to her, hugging her tightly, saying not a word. All could be heard was silent weeping, and sniffling, mainly Carrick was sniffling, trying to fight his tears. By then, she silently sent Carrick a message that she wanted Bantu and Luther… Now… And Carrick had looked up to them with eyes of rage and shared sorrow. “Bring Bantu and Luther… They are to be questioned… Now”
Saraya was not in a talking mood… And all saw it. Owl, Crow, Ruscal and Mogar had stood at the Cottage door as she waited for Bantu to be dragged in. Aria, Rhuarc, and Carrick had sat, waiting, unable to even voice what had happened. Saraya wouldn’t have it. She was now narrow-minded on her enemies, and she was going to get her son back, if it was the last thing she’d do.
Bantu was tossed in as Adimar, Lara, and the Holy Five came in. Luther was shoved in after, forced to be on their knees before her. She said nothing for a while, only watching the two stare at her. “Well?” he asked, feeling the anticipation on her lips. “Are you going to say something, you pompous idiot?’
Saraya stared at him, before standing. “You know where my son is, don’t you, Bantu?” she asked, almost inaudible. Bantu laughed. “Ah, so Egos has your bastard. How quaint”
She growled at him and punched him, hard in fact. She growled as she looked to Luther, staring him down as he tried to maintain his innocence. “There’s a stink on you, Luther… Did you have a hand in my son’s kidnapping?” she asked, looking to him in intense anger. Luther chose not to speak, trying not to victimize himself. She looked to Bantu. “You are involved, aren’t you?” she asked. Bantu laughed. She growled before looking to Owl and Crow. “Tie him down. Throw Luther back into the cell. I want Bantu stripped, and I will decide his fate soon enough. Get him out.” Owl and Crow nodded, before claiming the villain before clamping her hands together tightly covering her lips as she thought. Everyone had burst into frantic conversation, mainly Carrick being irate about getting his son back, they had almost forgotten her sitting there. It took a sniffle for Carrick to pay attention to her.
Her hands were clamped tight together, hiding her lips, her eyes could be seen past her tresses, and what he saw broke his heart. She was in tears, trying not to cry, trying not to break down. Egos had gone too far… He kidnapped her son… In an attempt to sway her decision. He may have been weak, but he managed to nab her son. The moment she said his name while talking to Aria and Rhuarc, she knew something had happened… It was as if Sayan had told her that there was foul play, and it happened the moment she was in audience with them… Carrick knelt to her, grabbing onto her hands, trying to calm her. She shook her head frantically, not wanting to speak… Not now. She let Carrick grab her hands, set them aside… “We are here, Saraya… We’ll get our son back…” he said with determination. Saraya looked to him. “He is in an orb… Protecting himself from Egos, whose beating against it to get to the baby… Aramis hasn’t got that much time. His life depends on the outcome of my battle with Egos… And I will end him.” She said before putting her hands back before her lips, falling silent in her thoughts as the waterfall of tears commenced.
After a while, everyone had been sucked into frantic conversation. Saraya refused to speak… All she could think of is her son… Aramis was kidnapped, protecting himself in a bubble as she did when Malik murdered her mother… She needed to kill him… He was making himself a bigger threat than he is… She had to stop him before Malik gets his hands on him. This was her thoughts, before she felt everyone hug her, and tightly. She didn’t want them to do that… But, it didn’t take her long before she broke down crying, Carrick and Aria the first to hug her and tightly. She didn’t know what to do… She had to get him back… They had to stop Malik… They just had to!
[i [b END]]
*Sorry... I wanted a moment with Rhuarc and Aria. The kidnapping foreshadows the fight coming*
As the night strung along, there was one cottage still active. Ruscal had been going into her cooking area, looking for her bottle of rum. Her partner for the night had been laying there, watching her, as if a beast on prey. “Ruscal, why do you not tell Saraya that you are my woman?” said the voice, seductive and teasing. Ruscal smiled as she made herself a cup of rum. “Mogar, you know she is far too smart for me to hide such a thing from her. My guess is that she already knows.” She said as she sat next to him, pouring him a cup.
Mogar smiled as he grabbed the cup. “I could not have said it better” he said as he looked to her. “What do you think she will do with my father? And now that Luther is in custody, it can only mean an infiltration is in the works.” He said, watching as Ruscal had made her way towards him with a cup of rum. “Well, that is not up to us, Mogar. But, there is one proper punishment for your father’s betrayal and it is death. Just, for now, Saraya sees a way to protect us. The best way is to follow her lead…”
“I know, Ruscal…” he said as he took a sip. “I would rather that I wasn’t a child of the betrayer. It looks bad on my achievements”
Ruscal smiled and kissed his forehead. “You are not your father. You make your own impression. Saraya knows better than to blame you for what your father has done. Besides, it is dawn. I have to make a routine check on Teypion and prepare the prisoners… Would you like to join me?” she asked. Mogar nodded. “Aye…” He set the cup of rum down, and yanked her to him. “… But after a while…”
Owl and Crow had been patrolling as they had been lost in thought. “Do you think that Saraya will take us along for the journey? Crow asked. Owl had grunted silently, steadily moving forward. “I know not, Crow. This be the first time in days she has even spoken to us since her return. I am sure her new babe keeps her attention most nights” she said, with a hint of jealousy between the lines.
Crow had looked to his sister. “Aw, come now, sister. I am sure she still adores us as she did year back. We should be grateful of her return”
“Yes, but to what benefit, Crow? There is war afoot. What preoccupies the mind is that babe, The Shade-Stealer, and this impending war that seems to inch ever closer with each moment we blink or breathe.” She growled. Crow was appalled. “Sister, we have been there for her for a long time! We ought to not falter on our vow now” he chided, moving ahead, sighing a bit. Owl sighed a bit, feeling a bit of pity for her brother. He could marry, have a life he always wanted… She couldn’t. She couldn’t mother children even if she tried. The attack saw to that. Her womb had been destroyed with the blow of a canon, and before she could even be as lucky as Saraya was. Still, though, the circumstances called for more answers. Saraya was going to meet with everyone come dawn, and she suspected that it would be about that Guardian from Kil’heed… This Luther. She had her suspicions. It wasn’t every day that a handsome tyke like him would be sorely bound to the cause. There was a messier web of things under the surface Saraya was paying attention to. Saraya was good for that kind of thing. There hadn’t been a time where she had been wrong in any of her battles. Or, perhaps it was a lucky hunch that seemed to come when she was in the heat of battle. Either way, she would return victorious.
This occasion, it was no exception. The quiet of the night seemed deafening now to her, and as the patrolled, she began to make mental notes of what was in place, and what wasn’t. The torch lights were in place, [resenting a good visual perch for the line of the shield, but what lies beyond it was waiting for the shield to fail. Perhaps, Saraya had this planned, too.
They stopped when dawn approached, switching shifts with a pair of Handmaidens. They made their way to Saraya and Carrick’s cottage, By the time they had gotten there, though, Carrick and Saraya were already awake. Saraya had looked to them and smiled a bit. “Thank you for doing so much… I would need you to accompany us. The Guardians and I are going to interrogate Luther”
Crow and Owl looked to each other. “It would be an honor, Blood Leader” Owl had said. Saraya tilted her head. “Now, when did we use titles between us, Owl?” She asked. Crow and Owl had looked to her, sitting up a bit. Saraya had placed a hand on each of their shoulders. “I have not been trying to leave you two behind, little ones… I have been preoccupied. You are a part of this group, this voyage. And, I hope to keep you two by my side… That is, if you want to be more than soldiers and acquaintances.” She said with a softer smile. Owl and Crow had looked to each other, but Crow felt the courage to speak. “Saraya, we wish to be by your side as your kin, as your family. We wish to be your protectors, your most trusted guards, as important as that of the Holy Guard of Volshi. We made a promise to you, and we intend to keep it.”
Saraya looked to Carrick, who smiled softly and nodded to her. She smiled in return, and looked to the twin orphans. “I shall keep my word… And you shall be by my side. Alongside Mogar and Ruscal, we will defend our home” she straightened up before Crow gleefully filled in the space beside Carrick, and Owl filled the side with Saraya. “What are we to do, Saraya?” Crow asked. Saraya had turned to them, her face now serious. “We need to interrogate our prisoners. I have questions that need answering” she said. Crow and Owl had bowed. Saraya looked to the gates. “Dawn…” She turned towards the gate now. She stayed still, taking in the stiff morning air, striving for the moistness it needed from the lake not far from them, but it wouldn’t come… Not yet. There was rain coming, and she knew by the time it did, the war would be afoot. She knew better than to move so quickly. She wasn’t completely healed yet, so she took that time to take a seat. Owl and Crow had looked to Carrick as he knelt to her. “You rest easy, my love. I will go and get food for the morning. Is there anything that you need of me?” he asked, kissing her temple.
Saraya looked to him and nodded. “Would you be so kind as to ask Rhuarc and Aria to come? I need to speak with them privately…” she said. Carrick smiled to her. “Are you going to tell them…?” he asked. She nodded and looked up to him. “If we are to win this battle, she will have to sever her ties with Malik by building that bridge with Rhuarc. They’ve had their suspicions, but it is obvious to me. We’ve told them before… But, they didn’t hear… Perhaps this time… They will” she said as she leaned back against her cottage wall. Carrick was compelled to kiss her before standing. “I will return soon, love. I am sure Rhuarc and Aria will be interested in your proposal.” He said as he turned and walked with purpose downhill, leaving Owl and Crow. When she tried to stand to make it inside, Crow was quick to her aid, and Owl would follow. When they set her down into her chair inside, Owl had suggested to go get Mogar and Ruscal. Saraya had agreed to this. Then, Crow had suggested checking in on Teypion and Aramis a moment. It had been a day since she had given him her son. There hadn’t been any word. Saraya had agreed to this also, submitting herself to sleep once more as the house became vacant with only her and her wolf pillows beside her.
Owl had finally made it to the cottage of Ruscal. By the time she had gotten there, she could guess what had been going on since she had disappeared. Ruscal and Mogar had been courting each other for a while now. To her, it would have depended on the amount of time they chose to ignore it. She was glad it wasn’t too long. Mogar and Ruscal had been in her herb garden, plucking herbs for healing potions that could be made within her cauldron for a few hours now. She was good in her magical talents. She always acted as the healer when necessary, so she picked up a few tricks on how Saraya had gone into battle. Strategically, the Healer is mostly protected, and has a huge advantage… They can last longer than any other warrior, because they reversed the damages done within hours. This was a major advantage in Caledon… Perhaps a great advantage as Guardian. She had wondered about love. She hadn’t thought anyone would want to love her if she couldn’t give them a son. It was their custom, after all… A baron woman was not considered a woman, but a child. It was a tragic accident that befell her because of that ambush, but she had survived two years with it…
Knowing what love was what she had to see from Saraya and Carrick, and Ruscal and Mogar… There were in two different relationships, but one thing was the same… They loved each other. It was evident while she watched Ruscal stir her cauldron. Mogar would incline himself to hold her close from behind, burying his beard into her reddish tresses. This made her blush. Saraya, Their Priestess, and even Their She-Mage had something she only prayed to The Gods to find… And when Ruscal had spotted her, she had a light blush about her cheeks, but it wasn’t in embarrassment. “Does Saraya call for an audience?”
Owl nods. “She requests Mogar train the warriors that wait near the temple. Come midday, she and the others are to question Luther and Bantu. She wishes that you and Mogar be there.” Owl said, watching Mogar release Ruscal and grab onto his gear. “Then train I shall. I will unite with you all come midday, to await the interrogation. I look forward on what they find.” He said, kissing Ruscal before moving downhill.
Ruscal had looked to Owl. “Come. Help me bottle this healing potion. This may be a great benefit to Saraya and Aria.” She said. Owl eagerly agreed, grabbing flasks and giving them to her, who filled the vials with the concoction. With that, Owl and Ruscal made their way towards the cottage that they had been informed to meet the ladies and available hands for the two most important to the cause.
[i TO BE CONTINUED]
Rhuarc stood silent as Saraya voiced her mistrust of Luther and it echoes Rhuarc's own thoughts perfectly. He had never trusted the Watcher, even in Kil'heed Rhuarc had disliked seeing him near Aria...although he did admit that in the beginning before he had expressed his own feelings for the High Priestess his dislike of the beautiful man may have been fuelled by jealously but not now. It was more than that, Rhuarc's instincts told him that Luther was a threat, a danger and not to be trusted and Rhuarc trusted his instincts more than anything else. They had been honed in the crucible of the Jai Wastelands where everything could mean death for the unprepared. He also trusted Saraya, he trusted all of the Guardians with his life, but Saraya had a cognisance about her, she seemed to know that which she had no basis for. It was remarkable, perhaps it was her lineage of being both the Horseman and Caledon's descendant, perhaps it was her being a Prya it mattered not but if Saraya doubted the Watcher then so did the Jai. More often than not her judgement was impeccable.
[i “You must channel, Adimar. Using mana leaves room for magic to become unstable, and can backfire when your dependence on it is great. Where magic comes from doesn’t come from books, it comes from inside… Your heart. You have to use your chi to prevent a plummet in energy and stamina.”] Rhuarc listened to them talk about magic and the arcane, he still did not truly grasp the true nature of magic. Adimar was skilled and refined with his castings and had studied the arcane for years while Rhuarc was far more instinctual with his castings, like with the lava he had brought forth from the earth in order to vanquish the wraiths. That was powerful but it was crude casting, Adimar and Saraya were far more accomplished than he was, they were master mason's chiseling beautiful sculptures while he was smashing boulders with a hammer. The talk of chi and mana was clearly meant for the Volshi mage as Rhuarc wouldn't know how to preserve his mana in the first place. Besides he would be far too busy in the thick of battle his black blade cutting through Malik's soldiers to worry about the arcane. As Rhuarc asked about the safety of the High Priestess, Saraya answered, [i “Of course, but leave her safety to me. As they said, she will accompany the young, old and incapable. I will select a place in the trees near the mountain, and shroud their presence from them so they will not be attacked. This, and the beasts of the forest will protect them.”] Rhuarc smiled as he nodded at Saraya's idea of hiding Aria away from the battle, hidden amongst the trees in the mountains. That would keep her well away from the battle and out of harm's way...if she decided to stay there that is. Aria was a headstrong woman and Rhuarc knew that she would not be able to find it easy to sit and hide away while her friends were in the heat of battle against the False King's Armies. It would test her resolve and whether her head could prevail over her heart.
Rhuarc took his leave of the meeting with Saraya and Adimar and went about his duties making sure that Caledon was prepared for the undoubtedly bloody battle that was coming so soon. Once the equipment was inspected and he saw that the scouts and watchtowers were being manned and used effectively the Jai Guardian found himself approaching Carrick but he could see that the former blacksmith was having a private moment with Saraya, and Rhuarc refrained from interrupting them. They had just had a child together and they deserved the private moments that came with that. For a split second Rhuarc wondered if he would ever be able to have those quiet moments with Aria, free from having to keep their feelings a secret from the world before the Jai put those thoughts out of his mind. It did not do to dwell on that which he had no control over. Instead he let the lovers be and went off instead to find another companion, he had not wanted to leave Lara especially after she had just returned to them but duty always took precedence over everything else. Since they had a bit of downtime Rhuarc felt that it was best that he catch up with Lyra, he had missed the spirited youth. It didn't take long before he found her in one of the longhouses being used as a mess-hall. She was quite happily eating and regaining her strength. He heard her laugh at something that Adimar had said and it warmed the Jai's heart. It really was good to have Lara back among them
[b "Ho Lara! Do you mind if I join you?"] Rhuarc plopped down onto the bench next to her before he received an answer. [b "It really is good to have you back with us lass. Tell us all about your time in Astoria, how fares things there? How is the Resistance?Has Shade-stealer reclaimed thew city? What happened on your journey to us?"] The questions from Rhuarc came thick and fast, things had not felt the same since Lara had left the group in Astoria, ever since finding Adimar in Tanaka and their group had been completed despite all of the setbacks they had it had just felt right them all being together but when Lara had stayed in Fenlyk it had seemed like a part of Rhuarc had stayed behind as well. There was no getting away that the Guardians were tied together by destiny, or perhaps something even stronger than that. Now that the group was back together...despite the odds stacked against them Rhuarc could not help but feel hopeful about the future. There was, however, an elephant in the room as the matter of Balden lingered in Rhuarc's mind. The Jai felt guilty about not spotting Balden's betrayal sooner, he had been the boy's teacher after all, he should have seen what was coming. The blame for Balden's betrayal sat squarely on his shoulders, the burden was his alone. While Rhuarc felt a tremendous amount of guilt he was still sad, he had liked the boy, in the beginning he was an energetic and enthusiastic boy, a childlike innocence about him but that had changed after he had been refused entry into Volshi's labyrinth in Kil'heed. Was that what had pushed him over the edge? Maybe he would never know...but one thing he did know was that while he had lost a student Lara had lost far more, it was obvious that the two youngsters had been growing closer up until Balden's sudden turn to Malik's side. [b "It really is good to have you back Little One."]
Saraya had made sure that everything was seen. She wanted them to watch… A farce is always a perfect way to mislead an enemy, but she had to be sure. Adimar and Rhuarc had stood aside, preparing themselves for the conversation that they would talk about. Saraya only had a limited time while the enemy was distracted. Within the time she had, she turned to her two comrades. [I “I think that there is foul play happening here… And it involves Luther…”] They were puzzled, Saraya understood. They didn’t heed her warning before the voyage to keep him away from Aria entirely. They were naïve all in their own right. He seemed innocent in Kil’heed when they first seen him, but after the trials, and before she was attacked, Luther have had a serious attention problem when situations other than Aria presented themselves… He didn’t show any character but a guilty one to her… And after seeing her father’s past…She could see why.
[I “Luther is not to be trusted. I care not that he is on this voyage. We have seen clearly a few times that some are not to be trusted, such as the cabin boy. We’ve had enemies on our tails the entire time, and I have a feeling that Luther is one of those parts Malik wants to move.”] she looked over to Adimar. [I When the battle rises, I will be taking down the shield. When i do so, I will need a barrier of fire and air outside the walls. We will leave only one opening. This will limit the enemy’s attempt to attack on all sides. It must be indistinguishable, so they cannot come up with any bright ideas of putting it out”]
When asked how they would be able to cast such a big feat, Saraya replied. [I “You must channel, Adimar. Using mana leaves room for magic to become unstable, and can backfire when your dependence on it is great. Where magic comes from doesn’t come from books, it comes from inside… Your heart. You have to use your chi to prevent a plummet in energy and stamina.”] She looked to Rhuarc as he asked if it would help Aria. She gave a soft smile. [I “Of course, but leave her safety to me. As they said, she will accompany the young, old and incapable. I will select a place in the trees near the mountain, and shroud their presence from them so they will not be attacked. This, and the beasts of the forest will protect them…”]
Just as she was explaining, Owl and Crow had made it back and bowed. [u “Blood Leader, indeed, two Handmaidens have been missing in the lineup. Their bodies were found on the west wall, they were killed in a manner most heinous.”] So, Saraya was right. Luther had done something… Or at least, that was what they were led to believe. Luther had gotten an invitation… And it seemed to her that the pieces were definitely moving.
She said nothing, however. She only nodded, before looking over to the gates. [I “There is less time than realized…”] she mumbled to herself before looking to Crow. [I “Alright, Crow. I have a task for you… You will go back. You will tell the warriors to stay within the towers. They are already spotted as those at the gate, they will routinely switch watchwomen every few moments. Archers stay in sight of the gate above. Owl will then find the mages. The best mages of Caledon. They will be informed of the plan then, but we need them to stay out of sight. We must meet them in the dead of night. By then, we will have enough time to meet the Warriors from other small villages at the temple.”]
They both nodded and made haste from sight. She suddenly felt the urge to hold her son… But, she had to hold off on it. Now wasn’t the time to show any weakness. He was still watching.
She sighed a moment, before looking away. She sighed as she let Adimar and Rhuarc dissipate into their own business, and it was this action on its own that had her thinking. She sighed, watching the horizon, taking in the chill of the air whipping left and right about her. For some odd reason, it didn’t seem cold at all. And, all she was doing was sitting in a stool outside her cottage, watching the horizon as it became a silver lining. She hadn’t budged for a few hours, but soft footfalls had come, and she knew who it was. Carrick had come around the corner, with two mugs of hot herbal drink. [b [I “You can’t be out here in the cold, Saraya… It’s not safe”]] he said bluntly. Saraya sighed lightly before taking one of the mugs.
[I “I can’t… Not yet, love…”] she said as she watched the silver lining. Carrick had looked to her before sitting beside her. [b [I “You shouldn’t worry so much about this. We will make sure this is successful.”]] He said as he pulled her close. She looked to him. [I “Luther disappeared from the shield. Two handmaidens had been killed. I need to interrogate Bantu, and once this is done, we must make a stronger shield.”]
Carrick nodded before looking to her. [b [I “Have you thought about yourself lately?”]] he asked. She looked to him. [I “I haven’t”] she said simply. Carrick smiled lightly. [b [I “You have done so much for others, even gave your life for a just cause that only few understand…”]] he said as he tilted her head up. [b [i “I will be sure to treat you like the Queen you are once this is over. You deserve that much”]]
Saraya looked to him. [I “What are you saying, Carrick?”]
Carrick had hugged her close and embraced her with a s passionate kiss… When he released that, he kissed her forehead before placing his own onto hers. [b [I “When this is over, I will make you my wife”]] This made her blush. Was he proposing marriage? Now? Saraya looked up to him. [I “Carrick…”]
[b [I “I have waited… I have thought about this for a long time and I cannot allow myself another day of fighting without saying it. You have given me so much, and I didn’t deserve any of it. You gave me your kindness, your pure form of yourself. You gave me a purpose after shaming myself. You gave me a chance to be your man, and even gave me a son… I don’t deserve any of it, Saraya… You were more suited for the likes of Adimar, not me… But, you chose me, anyways. Since that night in Tanaka, that was the question in my mind that I’ve pondered over and over. And now, I finally understand.”]] He took in a deep breath and closed his eyes as he hugged her close. [b [I “I will make sure that we make it through this, and once we do, I will make you my wife, and give you all the love, honor, and loyalty you so deserve. I will give you everything your heart desires, or die trying…”]]
Saraya looked up to him before placing a hand on his cheek. [I “Don’t say such things, Carrick… You are just as capable as Adimar. There’s so much your bloodline has hidden, that you don’t even know that you are capable of such blessings. Your bloodline was that of Mage and Warrior, Carrick. You are an Ancient. You have earned your rite before what had happened. And, we are going to make it through this. All of us”] she said.
Just as she hugged him, Ruscal had approached them. [u [I “Pardon, Blood Leader. Luther has been found. He is beaten and cast to the side of the shield.”]] Saraya looked up to him, before looking to Carrick. [I “Grab him… Bind him. Put him in a cell and bring him and Bantu to me at high noon. They will be questioned by me and Carrick privately.”]
Ruscal bowed before departing. Saraya sighed as Carrick took it upon himself to stand. He gave her the mugs, and swept her off her feet, bringing her inside to a roaring fire and Sky and Star were laying nearby, waiting. There, the four had gathered around the fire, Sky, and Star were laying around the two as Carrick sat her down on the cot and sat beside her. There, they spent time together until they fell asleep.
Aria crossed the village with her men towards the temple where she enlisted the help of the other temple masters in gathering the townspeople together to begin moving them to a safer location. For if Malik broke into the city, all Hell would break loose. Regardless, Aria remained confident that the Guardians would be able to protect them all. She had watched them grow stronger over the year together. Of course it had been longer, but six months of sleeping inside Kil’heed wasn’t really something Aria was counting. It was winter now, and in the north that made battle more difficult. She was thankful for the warm robe and boots given to her by the elder woman, if Aria was being honest the pink robe was by far the most beautiful dress she had worn, and for the first time in a long time Aria felt feminine again. It was soft, beautifully detailed, and seemed to suit Aria perfectly, making her lavender eyes seem to pop with brightness.
Her entire body still ached with pain from her fall, and she was clearly exhausted, but a part of her was afraid to fall asleep. If Malik was really as close as he was she didn’t want to risk his presence invading her dreams. Her nightmares were bad enough, her moments of solitude were a thing of the past as well. Didn’t matter, no where was safe from Malik’s physiological attacks, she just wished there was a way the counter them, or at the very least haunt him as he had done to her.
She yawned heavily into her hand as she marched from the temple with a handful of volunteers, and flanked by Max and the holy five.
“You look tired Priestess,” Byron mentioned, James rolled his eyes from where his halberd was propped lazily over his shoulder.
“Of course she does. She’s jumped from one frying pan to the next with little to no rest, and even when there is downtime, she doesn’t. Go. To. Sleep!” James chided with an annoyed look to the Priestess. She gave him a contrite smile, Luther and James tended to be the ones who kept watch at her door during the late hours of night. “If Luther is compromised, maybe you can sit up and listen to her pace at all hours of the night-“]
[+pink “Does it bother you that much?”] Aria asked, stopping James with a heavy embarrassed blush. He pouted with a sidelong glance to the modest homes that lined the street.
“Enough to warrant concern, Priestess. That’s all... You should sleep more. James is just a pigheaded idiot,” Eli mentioned from his post.
“I’m going to punt you back to Fenlyk...” James murmured with annoyance to his comrade, but Aria raised a hand to silence them all and she smiled fondly at them.
[+pink “Let’s not worry about my sleep schedule, and instead focus our efforts on informing the people to begin making preparations to leave. They will need time to gather supplies and make arrangements to move those who cannot move themselves.”]
[b “Yes Priestess!”] They acquiesced together, but Max remained stoic and silent at her side.
From there the Holy Five made quick work to knock on every door and informed every inhabitant in Eyuwen that Malik had come with his wraiths and to be safe, those unable to fight would be moved to a safer location. Aria was standing in the center of the town watching her men work to help the village prepare, Max was barking orders to the men, It was the horizon of an incoming storm, and soon there would be the calm... just like in Fenlyk. She shuttered a breath, the fear of Malik’s intervention making her nervous.
“Priestess!” A man called out. Max quickly moved towards Aria’s side protectively, but the runner slowed his pace and came to a stop before Max. “They have found your man, the Holy Guardsman.” Aria and Max shared a look, and quickly hurried off to see to Luther who had apparently been found beaten but alive, and currently in the longhouse
The neatly tucked in bedsheet stretched and compressed, the oval bump outlined appearing suddenly sprouting much thinner oval shaped which slowly moved up and down. Then the bedsheets shuddered as a long yawning noise emitted from an object poking out above it.
Lara has awoken. She felt refreshed, as if awakening from a deep slumber. Until the bedsheets hadn’t lifted she felt no chill neither outside nor inside, meaning whatever treatment she’d received had worked. The stretching not only helped for warming up but for banishing the sore feeling out of the body, also aiding in worming upwards so the back rested against the wall.
The eyes blinked slowly, blurry blots growing more and more detailed with each blink. Lara’s head turned clockwise, holding for a few seconds before turning counterclockwise. Except for a door left somewhat open letting in a vertical beam of light, no other living creature except herself existed for this room. But outside the door Lara heard sounds of voices and footsteps, and some of them sounded familiar.
Lara swiftly threw the bedsheets off, her right arm on the mattress as the legs swung over in preparation for landing on the ground. Taking a slow and deep breath in, Lara gently lowered first her left and then her right leg. Neither leg felt pain nor soreness as they settled against the ground, and Lara let off a short chuckle as she stood up with some help from the pushing arms.
Someone either saw shadows moving, shadows creating a noise, or both as the door burst open and flooded the room with light. Lara covered her eyes right away as they blinked many times in quick progression, the pupils closing as she began to see again while somehow sitting back down on the bed. While the sit down felt lowering, in no way did it compare at what happened next.
Lara smiled, the corners of the lips pulling upwards as high as they could feeling the warmth of Aria’s body. Lara’s tears joined those of Aria’s, a relieving and happy warmth, cupping Aria’s bandaged hand which in turn was covering her own cheek. Lara closed her eyes as her cheeks flushed, not finding any words sufficient in expressing the deep well of many positive feelings coursing through both mind and body. The painful feeling of separation vanishing, Lara even adding a quick, tight hug to physically feel the connection be renewed.
This place had more than one level, which meant that they’d need to descend for surprising everyone else. Lara has no trouble walking in straight lines with no help, but this flight of stairs did not let her pass without help. The balancing act between the accompanying guard and Aria definitely was hilarious, but once on the lower level Lara could walk without help once again.
Lara froze in her tracks. She felt how her heart jumped in every direction, everyone whom she’d literally pushed away in Fenlyck was alive and well and still discussing fighting back. One could feel the atmosphere filling with contentment knowing they were reunited once again, a chance to catch up on the happenings of the world.
After sitting down, Lara kept silent and listened. Everything being discussed happened during her absence so there was absolutely nothing to contribute, except maybe a literal helping hand for Aria who kept hold of it the entire time. Some trouble was afoot, people dead and Luther missing along with people needed to be evacuated.
Lara had hoped Rhuarc would stay so she’d be able to discuss certain things along with Adimar, but he to left to carry out his immediate preparations. Letting out a sad-infused sigh, Lara turned back to look at Adimar. Even though she still felt somewhat tired, the unchanged mischievous glint still remained in those ocean blue eyes of her while a cheeky smile formed, [+purple “Aye, some food would be good. And if another one of your potions won’t hurt, then maybe I should take it for safety sakes.”]
Then a few seconds if silence as she furrowed her eyebrows. There was that other feeling, a feeling of attraction to Adimar. Lara shook her head, this wasn’t really the time to discuss such a feeling. [+purple “Maybe, maybe history will repeat itself”], standing up and breaking into a jog as she hugged Adimar after lightly bumping into him.
Adimar, Max and the rest of the Holy Five led Aria away to the hut where Leech the Healer was based, no doubt that he would be doing his own preparations for the battle that was soon to come, there would be many that would need a healer and many more for which Leech would be able to do nothing for. As much as Rhuarc wished to accompany Aria and to be by her side he had his own duties to take care of. What Adimar suggested was right, the Priestess needed to rest while Saraya and himself planned the defence of Eyuwen. Rhuarc studied the map that Saraya laid down in front of them, carefully studying the terrain, the villages and cities that it displayed and the most likely routes that Malik would take in order to crush them completely. Saraya was concise in her assessment of the situation, from the waning strength of the vile Egos to what the False King's appearance at the mountain could mean. Rhuarc did not think that Shade-Stealer would leave Central City in order to merely observe the coming battle. The Jai Guardian did not doubt that the False King would want to observe the Guardians to learn their strengths and weaknesses but instinct told him that Malik would want to take part in the battle himself. In his Trial of Desire he had crossed swords with an apparition of the False King and he had found that Malik both delighted in inflicting pain on others and was by far the best living swordsman that Rhuarc had ever encountered. He did not think that the Trials of Volshi would give him this knowledge if it was not rooted in truth so for now Rhuarc had to assume that Malik would wish to cause the Guardians as much misery as possible and preferably in person. Rhuarc looked at the map once more and noted the position of the Volshi Airship upon it. [b "I feel i would not be doing my duty as General if I did not propose another option. The Priestess has already completed her ordeal at the Temple of Caledon. In some ways it would be best to move on as swiftly as we can, towards the last Temple that the Priestess needs to interact with in the Wastes of Jai'hash. If Shade-Stealer has his eye fixed on Caledon then he will not see us departing in the airship. We would remain one step ahead of the False King. It has the added benefit of being the option with the smallest risk to the High Priestess herself."] Rhuarc did not expect for one moment to ever go along with that particular plan but he would be remiss in his duties as General if he did not provide every option available to win the war against Malik. While it might be the safest option for her Rhuarc knew that Aria would never abandon the people of Caledon to cruelty and death while there was something that she could do with it. One of the Shield Maidens who was also at the meeting took exception at Rhuarc's suggestion to leave the people of Caledon to their fate. [i "How can you suggest such a thing! You would leave the our people to suffer and die at the hands Malik's armies? How would you feel if it was the Jai who were suffering and left to die?"] Rhuarc fixed the woman with a fierce glare before answering, his voice as cold as ice. [b "I know that all too well. Do not forget that at this very second it is my people who are standing against the False King. It is because of them that Shade-stealers armies have not already swept through these lands. The Jai have fought the False King from the very beginning so do not dare to lecture me about sacrifice. The blood of the Jai stains the sands red so that others may live."]
[b "As it happens I agree with Saraya's strategy for battle, gather those no able to wield a weapon while the rest of us hold a defensible position. This is her land, her judgement is superior."] Rhuarc gave his fellow guardian a nod of support before Adimar started talking about the arcane aspect of the approaching battle. Until his recent experience in drawing lava from the ground he had not realised how important stamina was for extended or powerful magic, what Adimar said made sense, the Mage must have some sort of talisman in order to bolster his power, if they could remove that from him then the beast would cease to be a problem. [i "Aria should go with the young, elderly, and disabled. I will take the front with Saraya. Rhuarc, you and Carrick should lead the armies. Saraya and I will take Egos- L -Lara...”] Rhuarc blinked in confusion for a moment before turning and seeing the Fenlyk Guardian standing in the meeting room, she looked tired but was standing by her own power. Rhuarc was glad to have the young guardian back with them, the group had felt incomplete without her. With all of the Guardians reunited the Jai was much more confident in taking on the False King. Rhuarc was also glad to hear that for once Aria had no objection in staying far away from the raging battle, it would mean that he would be able to focus completely on his own task and not have to worry about her own safety or being near danger. If Malik was going to be near the battlefield then Rhuarc wanted Aria nowhere near it.
[b "As soon as you know anything about the Watcher's disappearance I want you to inform me."] Rhuarc did not have a good feeling about this, it was the same gut feeling that told him that Luther was not to be trusted, that feeling had never left the Jai and now he was beginning to wonder if he was about to find out if that feeling had been proven true. [b "Indeed it is good to have you back little one. It has not been the same without you. Unfortunately as much as I would love to catch up and hear about your time in Astoria I have matters that I need to deal with imminently. The battle will be upon us soon and I have preparations to make."] Rhuarc left the reunion with a heavy heart but his duty came first. He needed to ensure that those able to fight were equipped and able to do so. Rhuarc immediately went to the various armouries that were being used to equip the soldiers of Caledon. Rhuarc's mind was not wholly on his task though, he was consumed by what Adimar had said about Talismans being able to store arcane energy, the obvious thing that came to mind was the ring that Luther had hidden away but that didn't mean anything in itself. If a ring of power was available to him Rhuarc would take it, Watchers were Ancients and while most people had no arcane spark in them the Ancients were a different breed. Rhuarc's knowledge or magic was so limited that he wouldn't know what an Ancient was capable was in relationship to the arcane was another reason why the ring of power was proof of wrongdoing. The Jai pulled out the quartz orb that Adimar had gifted to him before whispering [b "Glisse"] and revealing the visage of the High Priestess to him. He could see the determined look on her face as she went to gather the infirm, the elderly, the children and anyone else who was not able to fight. When she was back he would raise the issue of Luther's ring with her, she was the High Priestess and could make judgements on issues such as these, besides Rhuarc would need to wait and see what Crow and Owl could find out about the Watcher's sudden disappearance. The Jai found himself once again examining the war effort before finding himself in the vicinity of Carrick. [b "How goes it, friend? What else can I do to help?"]
Nightfall had come over the village of Eyuwen when Luther took two Shield Maidens of Caledon with him to patrol the border. All was quiet on the front... it made Luther uneasy. He couldn’t sense where it was coming from, but he felt eyes on him from all sides. Before he could really take a moment to look around and question this uneasy feeling, the woman beside him spurt blood from her throat which suddenly ripped wide open. The thick red essence splashed across the deadened leaves warming the frosted ground beneath their feet. He felt a slight breeze behind him, hand moving to his blade, and watched the woman beside him moved to stab a dark figure beside them.
It was the laugh that informed Luther who had come. He tensed ready to draw his blade and watched with little care for the woman who was slaughtered before him. Luther knew the Fade well. Had battled it once before many moons ago, and was lucky to have gotten away with his life intact. Luther knew his brother had sent the abomination, and he had no choice but to go.
The darkness swallowed him whole. He could not breathe, he could not see, he could feel nothing but the abscess of everything. It was a disconcerting experience and left him gasping for breath as he was suddenly flung back into reality and tossed at the feet of a blackened horse. Hooves covered in blackish blood like oil, with matted fur and powerful flanks. Luther was forced to look up at his brother, and attempted to rise to his feet, but a powerful hand camped down on his shoulder and forced him to remain on his knees.
Slowly Malik reached up and drew back his cowl to reveal a face that Luther had not gazed upon in ages. It was an incredibly handsome face, square with a firm jaw and deep soulful eyes, eyes that had blackened and hardened into something evil and dark. This was not the grotesque visage he had been flaunting the past two decades, but the face of a man who some might call beautiful. An angel of darkness. His dark hair shined under the moonlight, and his alabaster skin gleamed like freshly fallen snow. His armor was black with silver adorned accents and filigree, his raven skull shaped helmet sat in his lap and Luther blanched as he drew his blade. The streamlined weapon flickered for a moment in the darkness, the black steel razor sharp and pointed right at his face. Azera’s blade.
[+purple “Brother, how good it is to see you again.”] Luther couldn’t speak, for once too frightened to do so and simply swallowed the tension in his throat, steadying his breath and glancing from the sword to Malik’s eerily beautiful face. [+purple “It pleases me that you came willingly. It shows you have gained intelligence over these many years, but it makes you no less a coward.”] His voice was cold, dripping with cruelty and disgust for his kin. Luther could only glare back, unable to do little more than take what was coming to him.
[#00ffff “What is it you want?”] Luther dared to ask.
[+purple “don’t patronize me. You value your life more than that of others. I’ll let you keep it, for now... but you must bring me that which I desire.”]
[#00ffff “I won’t bring her to you.”] Malik lowered his sword and began to chuckle, sheathing the blade and dismounting his horse. Luther was kept on his knees by the Fade’s hand as Malik made is way to stand before Luther.
[+purple “You owe me... for [i everything]. Every soul I sever with my sword, is a soul you have taken. Now I am blessed with glorious burden to reign the four provinces and maintain order. You gave me that power. Now you will help maintain it. I will not be exiled again. You will give her to me. She belongs in Central City with me.”]
[#00ffff “I was only a youngling!“] Luther’s face cocked to the side as Malik’s fist collided with his cheek. He slammed into the ground before he felt himself being jerked back up by the Fade to face his brother again. Malik was glowering from where he stood, his eyes blazing with unfettered rage, and his voice dripped venom as he hissed at Luther.
[+purple “You wanted to prove yourself to Azera all those years ago. You did this... and you will pay for what you have done, brother of mine.”]
[+purple “What I ask is simple. You provide me with information, and you keep her safe until she is brought to me. So... where will she be tomorrow during the battle?”]
[#00ffff “Brother, do not make me do this- ack!”] Luther could feel pressure around his throat, cutting off air as Malik gripped his hand in the air. Luther could hardly rasp: [#00ffff “I don’t know. They are discussing that now,”] Malik seemed to weigh Luther’s honesty, but knew his brother was not lying and released him.
[+purple “We once shared rings... do you still have it?”] Luther looked away embarrassed at this point and shook his head. [+purple “My Gods, you fucking idiot. You lost it, didn’t you?”] At Luther’s lack of response, Malik frowned with a look of supreme disappointment and reached into his cloak. [+purple “Do not lose this. It will allow you to communicate with me.”] Malik placed in Luther’s hand a simple flat river stone, but it was etched with an enchanted rune. Luther recognized it as a whispering stone. He took it reluctantly and placed it inside his jerkin, and glanced up at Malik with an expression that begged him not to make him do this, but Malik was right... Luther would do anything to stay alive, quite suddenly Luther was cuffed on his wrist with a metal band. It was silver, matte in texture but hidden within the metal was runes to encourage Luther to do as asked.
[+purple “That cuff will ensure you do as you’re told. Failure to comply will result in a rather swift but painful death. Try to remove it and you will experience such pain you will wish you were dead. You never should have stepped foot outside Kil’heed. I will have her.”]
Before Aria’s rise from the temple, Rhuarc had posed a question as to whether or not he had changed over the time of knowing him. Adimar had to think on that for a moment. He wasn’t sure if Rhuarc had actually changed. The man was rather confident in who he was as a person, a very admirable trait, and he seemed like a mountain: constant and unchanging. However with that being said, Adimar had noticed a slight change, like the turning of leaves in the season, or the fresh blooms of a new spring. Adimar mused his answer for a brief moment with a fond expression and shrugged. Before he could answer, however, Aria had made her appearance claiming to have planted a new sanctuary tree.
A tree of myth and legend, a tree that connected the four provinces together, a tree that upheld all life in Azeroth, and supposedly connected to the worlds above and below. To hear that the first had perished to the corruption of darkness Malik had brought into this world was disheartening, but seeing that Aria was victorious was relieving. He’s just wished she hadn’t been so clumsy as to fall and get hurt. She was still healing from her stab wound, which had obviously reopened, and now she was more of a liability than ever before. Adimar remained quiet as Saraya and Aria shared affectionate smiles to the other at the accomplishment, and she requested an update on what had happened and if they were successful in thwarting the Mage yet.
Rhuarc delivered the report, as General it was his place, and informed her that while Egos had slipped away from them, they were as ready as they would ever be for an attack. Aria had turned pale and her gaze moved to the north where Malik and his Wraiths clung to the edge of the barrier. They hadn’t told her, but she seemed to wear an expression that knew what waited on the fringes.
[+pink “What of Lara?”] Aria asked suddenly. While a new battle was edging closer, her priority was Lara at the moment. Adimar did speak then.
[#20b2aa “Lara is resting. I administered a mana potion to her when we brought her back, it is only a matter of time before she wakes up. I am prepared to give her a second dose if she does not wake in the next couple hours.”] Aria gave a nod of her head, pleased to hear that and Adimar reached for her. [#20b2aa “We should take you to see the healer again, and get you patched up. Let Rhuarc and Saraya take care of strategy.”] Aria looked between the two, uncertain, knowing that both Saraya and Rhuarc often had differing ideas of war play. Adimar knew she could not deny his logic in getting her to healer and reluctantly agreed to let him take her under his arm and helped her hobble along to the cabin.
Everyone made their way into the main cabin where the Guardians were staying to plan and prepare in more detail how to take on Egos. Aria was unable to attend and listen as she was attended by two elder women and the healer, who cleaned her up, redressed her in borrowed clothes and the healer saw to setting her fractured rib and wrapping her sprained ankle, as well as restitching her stab wound. Max and Luther remained close as well as the Holy Five. Knowing Malik was close, they would not risk leaving her alone for even a moment. Cleaned and redressed in new bandages Aria smoothed her hands over the gifted robe. One of the Elder women had said it once belonged to their daughter. It was a lovely robe of pink with violet geometric lines and silhouette of leaves. Her waist was cinched with an obi of violet and her hair, which was getting rather long was plaited over her shoulder. She walked from the back room quietly listening to the voices of Saraya, Rhuarc, and Adimar from downstairs.
It was another sound that captured her attention, and it came from Adimar’s room. The door had been kept ajar, and as Aria peeked in she watched with elation as Lara was stirring and rising from the bed.
[+pink “Lara!”] Aria hurried into the room and sat on the edge of the bed to help Lara sit up. [+pink “How are you feeling? Up for joining myself and the others downstairs? They’ll be so happy to see you.”] ARia was certainly happy to see Lara sitting there and staring at her with those oceanic eyes. Aria possessed the touch of a mother or caring older sister and reached out with bandaged hands to cup Lara’s face. The last she had seen the girl, bodies littered the docks of Astoria at the end of a gruesome battle. She was beyond words at her joy to see Lara, and suddenly Aria was smiling with laughter and tears in her eyes and she brought Lara forward and placed a tender kiss to the girl’s forehead. It had been painful for Aria to part with Lara, she knew from Adimar that it had pained him too, and she suspected it had done so to the others; which led Aria to realize that they were all bound to each other.
[+pink “Come, come... let us go and surprise the others,”] Aria whispered and helped Lara into warmer clothes and with a guard’s help made it down the stairs in time to hear Saraya speak of moving people.
[b ADIMAR] sat with a solemn expression as a map was brought forth and Saraya was surrounded by her council. There were young and elderly that would need moved, Aria and Lara were also part of that group. He was low-key sulking. He wanted to go upstairs and check on Lara, but more pressing matters were at hand. It was strange however, as he suddenly felt a sensation that was unfamiliar, but not entirely unwelcome.
[#20b2aa “Saraya is right. If Malik is here, then Egos is severely weakened by his previous failures. I suspect he is here to study us. We can not give him too much insight into our methods. The more time he has to watch us, the more time he has to prefect a plan for our demise. This will not be a fight like in Astoria. This fight will be won by the one with greater Arcane powers.”] Adimar tensed, he was their most powerful Mage, but against Egos it would take more than him. Saraya was powerful in her own right... he stared at her tensely, knowing this was her enemy to defeat, but she would not be able to do it alone. It would take at the very least the three of them that stood in the room.
[#20b2aa “Egos like me, like you, or like any other mage has only so much limited power. The law of Magic is very clear. All magic comes with a price. Egos seems to have a way to circumvent that limitation. He must be using enhancements of some kind. There is a way to store extra mana in gemstones, or to use an enchanted conduit to increase one’s power... ”] Adimar looked to Rhuarc then, both of them knowing he meant the ring of power they had found on Luther and had so far kept secret from the Watcher, but a darker, more nauseating thought struck him... [#20b2aa “There are other, more insidious methods of creating enough energy for magic, but nothing I would ever do. I wish not to even speak of it... I will work with Saraya to find a way to increase our arcane strength. Perhaps Eyuwen has information on methods of arcane that the Volshi libraries were unaware of. Aria should go with the young, elderly, and disabled. I will take the front with Saraya. Rhuarc, you and Carrick should lead the armies. Saraya and I will take Egos- L -Lara...”] Adimar tensed from where he was currently standing at the table, and stared at the stairwell where Aria and Lara had emerged from.
[+pink “Look who’s awake!”] Aria said happily, with a warm smile and an arm wrapped around one of Lara’s. Despite the fact that Malik was just outside the village, Aria seemed quite happy, and Adimar felt that feeling from before multiply.
With all of the guardians reunited a sense of contentment washed over them. Aria and Lara were quickly brought seats by Adimar and Max, where they were able to sit and take part in discussions. Adimar repeated his suggestion to Aria after she and Lara were brought up to speed. Aria gave a heavy sigh, her hand still holding Lara’s as if the simple act was something Aria needed to do. It clearly brought her comfort to have Lara back.
[+pink “If I must, I will do what I can should defenses fall.”] Aria acquiesced with little to no opposition. It would also set Saraya’s mind to further rest knowing Aria would be close to Aramis. It certainly pleased Adimar to know that for once Aria would be far away from the battle theater. Adimar was also curious to what this method was of avoiding risk to his well being in using an excess of mana. It was a well known fact that one could bolster and enhance their reserves and abilities, but like all things, there is no such thing as infinite power. To have such would make one a God. A God, something none of them were. He was also a little suspicious as to why Aria so easily agreed to displace herself from the battle this time, when in Astoria she had gone into battle against their wishes. He wanted to know what she was planning, but as always her face remained impassive, stoic and expressionless.
It was then Saraya seemed to sense a change in the air. Night had come over the village of Eyuwen, and Luther had left not long ago to run patrol with a couple of the Caledon Shield Maidens. According to Saraya, he was no longer behind the barrier. Heartbeats were missing and blood had been spilled. Apparently something had breached the shield of Caledon. Immediately Max was at Aria’s side to help her to her feet and move her to a safer location. Adimar was tense and was prepared to go with Owl and Crow, but decided to stay back and attempt to calm Saraya.
[#20b2aa “We do not know what has happened. Luther was probably attacked and drawn outside the shield. Let us not be hasty and jump to conclusions.”]
[b “Lord Adimar is correct. I will go-“]
[+pink “No.”] Aria’s voice was sharp and demanding with no room for argument. [+pink “Crow and Owl have gone to investigate. I need you with me and those who cannot fight.”] Max went tight lipped, and bowed his head in acceptance of her order. [+pink “We have much to prepare, and no time for rest...”] Aria mused and Adimar watched her rise to her feet, leaning over to kiss the top of Lara’s head with a loving smile, so happy to have her back, and turned to walk from the house with Max and her men in tow to gather the elderly, the disabled, and the young to head towards the protection of the Northern Woods.
Adimar stayed behind and looked to Saraya, awaiting what it was she wanted to speak about, but realizing it would have to wait a moment longer. He finally cracked a smile and placed his hands on his hips looking to the other three.
[#20b2aa “Well, I’m just glad we’re all back together again. It feels nice. Welcome back Lara, are you feeling alright? I have more potion if you need it, ah! We should also have some food brought in! We can’t scheme and battle on empty stomachs! Crow and Owl will be back soon, and the Priestess is doing what she can, we should do the same.”]
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