[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.
[Center [I [size20 ಥ_ಥ]]]
Corbin and Carrick had started below deck, and the sight of Saraya was not what they were expecting. She was sat up, as if in a daze, breathing laboringly, and looked like she was in pain. Corbin hurried and helped her sit up with an abundance of pillows, and Carrick, with the captain of the ship shouting that they were preparing to dock, had ordered the nurses to draw a hot bath for Saraya, and to do the same for Adimar.
[I [#f8c49b "Lady Saraya, are you-"]]
Saraya nodded and relaxed as she heard the approaching footsteps of Aria and Rhuarc. She saw Corbin sit at the foot of the bed as Carrick sat beside her. Aria had filled into the room, and Saraya was once again relieved. Aria had hurried around the bed to hug her, and Saraya obliged. Tears wet her lashes as she relished in her silent victory, then relaxed again. When asked how she was, Saraya shook her head with relief. [I [#da3c18 "I should be asking you this, Aria... I am glad you're alright... "]]
Carrick softly smiled. Rhuarc and he had met eye to eye before Aria sat on the bed. Carrick grabbed Saraya's hand, ensuring her that it was alright, and Saraya began.
[I [#da3c18 "My Priestess... I have told you before The Mage's interruption of a plan you may not like... The reason why you may not like it is because The Mage had done a heinous alchemy to my fallen late husband and my son... And The Mage's magic is here... "]]
The sentence set everyone on edge, all except three people
Aria and Rhuarc had stared in confusion as Corbin stood, turned and bowed in respect. [I [#f8c49b "My Lady Priestess... Sir Jai"]] he said softly before standing upright. Carrick stood beside him. [I [#9bacf8 "He can do no harm... In fact, he wishes to do no harm. He may have been reanimated by the hands of Egos, but he somehow maintained his innocence he still possessed in his soul when his life was snatched away from him. It was fortunate that he had found Kil'heed's gates. "]]
Rhuarc looked at Corbin, growling at him in warning. Corbin stayed put, but nodded to his mother. [#da3c18 [I "Corbin is the closest being to the Mage's power. But, because he was reborn with his innocence, he was capable of understanding right and wrong. He chose us in Fenlyk. And, I believe we can use him to draw The Mage out and finish him in Caledon"]]
Carrick looked to Saraya a little confused. [I [#9bacf8 "Saraya, what are you saying?"]]
Saraya looked between Carrick, Corbin, and Aria. [I [#da3c18 "Carrick, I don't want to do this... But, he is most capable. He is able to move in the shadows, he can feel auras, and his emotional state is like mine. The more he feels, the stronger he becomes. He is perfect for spying and protection."]]
Carrick looked to Corbin, who's face hadn't changed. He nodded and looked to Carrick. [#f8c49b [I "It is alright, Carrick... I had agreed to it because if I can help the Guardians defeat the Shade Stealer, it will be enough to die with honor"]]
Carrick was astonished how quickly he accepted his role. He was his mother's son. Saraya looked to everyone. [I [#da3c18 "I must make sure that we have no surprises. Caledon is in the mountains, though beautiful, treacherous and merciless... I didn't want to return... Not after I have learned that Felliope and Corbin would be my adversaries... Fortunately, Corbin had chosen us... But, that still leaves Felliope. And he will be a threat to all of us..."]]
She could see on Aria's face that she didn't like the plan. Carrick either. Nor did she. Using her son as a false beacon to draw The Mage out is bad business. And, adding that an abomination taking the form of Felliope was already eerie in itself. She knew Rhuarc would agree to use The Mage's power against itself.
[#da3c18 [I "... I am not doing this because of selfish intent, I do not want this attention. I'd be happy to stay aside as the shield, but it just didn't happen. We are all evolving, we are all changing."]]
Everyone voiced their concerns, and perhaps the sharpest tongue would be Rhuarc. Saraya hid her face from them all as he spoke strongly of his concerns. She stared at Aria, who seemed torn. Then, an unsettling silence impregnated the room.
They, after hearing that they were docking in Caledon soon, had left to prepare.
She was too weary to even attempt to stand, and thoughts were rattling around in her mind so much, it made her still. No matter how many times she had witnessed or experienced the miraculous, so- called coincidences of this world, it still amazed her how tightly woven the threads were within the grand design. So odd, but not, that she would be chosen to be what she was destined to be. It had happened so long ago that she would thought she'd made her peace with being in blood ties with both Guardian and Hïgásçà- the again, how could one really make peace with that?
When Carrick appeared in the infirmary threshold, she could almost weep in relief. She didn't have an ounce of strength to spare to speak a word to him, but his eyes held so much worry and pain that she made an attempt to smile before he would sit heavily on the bed.
He closed the door behind him softly, and walked in a bit before thudding on the bed. [I [#9bacf8 "... Saraya"]] he said slowly, his voice so quiet that is made her lift her head to him.
[I [#9bacf8 "The Guardianship has changed. I am no longer Captain of the Holy Guard"]]
Saraya felt a heavy weight plummet in her stomach as she sighed. [I [#da3c18 "I have caused it, haven't I?"]]
[I [#9bacf8 "What? No, Aria thought it would be best that I tend to you, being so close to giving birth. It was selfish of me to have taken that position after you've given me such a gift"]]
Saraya shook her head. [I [#da3c18 "You have always wanted to be Captain. It wasn't my place to stop you. "]]
Carrick looked so tired, battle- weary, like he just wanted to just lay down and weep while holding her in his arms, but was too proud to ever allow that to happen.
[I [#9bacf8 "I know you have a plan, my love... "]] he said in a ragged voice. [I [#9bacf8 "i say do not to make a plan before seeing your home's condition. I've come too close to losing you once. I will not let it happen again "]] Saraya turned his face towards her. Tears glittered in his eyes, and she touched the side of his bronzed face, admiring the handsome, regal quality of it.
His hand covered hers. [I [#9bacf8 "Saraya, I hope you can feel the fatigue from my sitting up all night, worrying, praying, and beating my own arse about what happened to you... "]]
She swallowed hard and looked down to her belly.
[I [#9bacf8 "I know you also picked up how deeply wounded I am seeing you like this. It cut my soul to the marrow and emotionally bled me out until I had to come to you. You are as much a part of me as I am of you, my love. So my main concern then was, as it is now, is to protect... And I have been failing you"]]
Carrick murmured, his emerald eyes locking with hers. [I [#9bacf8 "I don't want to lose anyone else to the hands of death- especially not you, Saraya. If the mage ever touch you again, I swear on the shield that I will kill him. I don't want you to suffer, have a part of you die inside, because it will kill me... We are connected there"]]
He took her mouth, so slowly, so tenderly, that only the balm of touch could close the wound he exposed to her. Saraya allowed her hands to stroke his magnificent tresses, glittering like winter's first snow. His family, their family was changing, evolving, and having only started practicing his powers that Caledon bestowed on him frightened him- a man who'd found love and came close to squandering it because he put the duties to The Priestess first.
In her arms she held a struggling pride, having to adopt and apply simple solutions and strategies... The simplest solution being not to speak of it all.
All she could say was [I [#da3c18 "I love you, Carrick"]]
The ship docked. A call to the company that Caledon was ahead.
She had been prepared to melt under the hot water in the tub. She nearly passed out from the relief as Carrick massaged grime from her scalp and skin. She had bee. Prepared to just drop from aches and terrible cramps. She had been prepared to feel the lump of anxiety forming in her chest when the ship captain called again that they were docked near Caledon.
However, nothing could have prepared her to see Carrick step out of the washroom, freshly bathed, wearing a more slimmer wear, though blessed by Volshi hands, held Caledonian traditional wares, his hair wet and slicked back, falling past his shoulders now, his jaw set hard, and his eyes were staring at nothing.
It was that blank stare that did her in. Suddenly, it was so hard to breathe, the slight hurt so badly.
Saraya let her gaze roam past her freshly cleaned and dressed troupe. She wanted to weep, but refused to do so.
She forced her mind to cling to the mundane, inane, anything but the fact that the person she wanted to wrap his arms around her and tell her it would be alright, was not alright. Carrick was gone. All she could hope was that he would come back and soon... Because, though she knew she wasn't alone... She felt alone.
[Center [pic https://i.pinimg.com/originals/e6/02/8a/e6028ad34c1756a859471d8f638e37c8.jpg]]
Rhuarc could tell from Aria's voice that she was hurt by his action, despite knowing that he likely wasn't any happier at the necessity of it than she was. Aria herself had decreed that the true nature of their relationship must remain secret lest Rhuarc become a target...personally the Jai already thought that he was a target, he was a Guardian and the High Priestess' General how much more of a target he could become Rhaurc was not sure but if Aria thought it was for the best then he would defer to her judgement.
Rhuarc wasn't expecting much good to come from his conversation with Carrick about his removal from his position. The man was obviously still emotional over Saraya's injuries, and rightly, his place was obviously with her now and his response to his comment while not unexpected was still disappointing. [i "She saved Aria, and gave us the glory, Rhuarc."] This had nothing to do with glory, and if Carrick thought that Rhuarc cared about that then he was greatly mistaken. Rhuarc cared far more about duty and honour than glory. While some might see honour and glory as the same they simply couldn't be more wrong. Glory is what young children and fools dreamed of, honour comes from within oneself and in the respect of others. Then Carrick was said something troubling to the Jai, [i "Rhuarc, my friend, I feel as though we should open up to Aria. I have a feeling Caledonia will not allow us to bottle up our emotions, nor hide away our fears... To withhold them from them, to even have the priestess do it... It will turn them against us."] Did Carrick suspect that he and Aria had feelings more than friendship? They had been so careful, acting careful in public and being sure that no one could suspect anything. Rhuarc kept his face impassive and unreadable, as he always did but Carrick's question had put him on edge.
Carrick patted him on the shoulder in an apparent show of friendship but Rhuarc couldn't help but feel that the relationship between the two men was a hairs breadth away from being strained to breaking point. Rhuarc wanted to get away from both of them, he wanted to go and sit by Adimar's bed as he still felt responsible for the Volshi mage's condition and while Adimar had been conscious for small periods of time until Rhuarc had a chance to talk with the man and could tell for himself that he was alright Rhuarc would continue to feel responsible. His desire would need to wait for now as Saraya asked him to go and fetch Aria. Rhuarc left and headed down the corridor towards Aria's quarters, and while he was glad he would get to see Aria again, Rhuarc was unsure that it was a god idea. He had just reprimanded her and reminded her to keep their relationship professional in public and if Carrick suspected something...this could be unwelcome. The High Priestess was not alone, Rhuarc had expected Max to be by her side as the newly promoted Captain of the Holy Guard but it seemed that Luther was the one by her side this hour. [b "Priestess, Saraya has asked that I bring you to join her in the infirmary. It seems like a matter of great importance, she said that it was urgent."] Luther made a thinly veiled barbed comment about wondering who was really in command. Rhuarc could see what the Watcher was attempting, he was clearly trying to drive a wedge between the Guardian and Priestess, but why? To gain better position amongst her guard and council, to earn her trust was the obvious reason but it would only weaken the Guardians and the priestess in their long term battle against the False King...would Luther really risk their success for personal gain? It seemed such an alien concept to the Jai, it would never happen in the Wastelands but out here in the Wetlands anything could happen. Despite that thought Rhuarc couldn't help but agree at least a little with the Watcher, Saraya did seem to have an air of self importance about her sometimes. In any case in no time at all Rhuarc and Aria were heading to the Infirmary to speak with Saraya and find out what was so urgent. Hopefully whatever it was wouldn't take too long and he could go and see Adimar.
[+red “By your leave priestess.”]
His words hurt and Aria had never known regret until that moment. Her hand felt cold without his warmth, and the weight of truth in her own words, which he reminded her of sat heavy in the pit of her stomach. She was clearly unhappy with the situation, but knew she couldn’t let her emotions take control, and knew it was true. She turned away from him, her gaze now focused on the dark and snowy horizon of the forested mountain tops of Caledon. Her ire was with Malik not Rhuarc, and it was growing everyday. She blamed Malik, but at the same time… she knew she most likely would not have met Rhuarc otherwise.
[+pink “You may go, General. Thank you,”] she managed, voice soft, and refused to look back until she was certain he was gone and below deck. Once gone, she turned and wistfully watched the door he vanished through.
[b “Something on your mind, Priestess?”] Aria gasped, startled by the voice, and would have to remind herself Max was not Carrick. Max would be a perpetual shadow from here on out. If she honestly thought she could sneak away to see Rhuarc without Max noticing, she was dead wrong. She quickly forced a content smile to appease any worry he might have had and shrugged.
[+pink “There’s always something going on in my mind.”] She leaned against the railing looking down below at the frosted tops of the trees, and felt a cold northernly wind blow through. Before she even had a chance to shiver, Max had removed his cape and draped it over her shoulders.
[b “Perhaps you should take yourself and your thoughts below deck where it is warmer. Adimar has been moved to his own quarters per your orders, and Lady Saraya and Carrick are still in the infirmary. If you want my opinion, her babe is not long from joining us.”] That made Aria smile, but she still had her reservations about the child. It would have to be put away someplace safe -much how Aria had been put away since the fall of Central City. She just hoped the infant’s parents would be able to return to them when this was all over - if it ever ended. Still, to see a new life brought into the world after seeing so much loss would be a nice change.
She had to remain confident and optimistic -despite her realistic nature, and her understanding that the Harbinger was now gone. As far as she knew it was lost now, and with it the only option she had to effectively destroy Malik.
[+pink “Yes, I think going below deck would be best for now. I wish to speak with you as it were.”] Little did Max know that he was gaining a new appointment, but upon learning later when they entered her room, he was humbled and honored. He took a knee before her, head bowed in humble submission, and pledged not only his sword but his life to her honor and her safety. He vowed to not let her down, and Aria was certain he would not fail her.
[b LUTHER] had taken up a place outside the infirmary, partially to keep watch over Saraya, but also to listen in on conversations. He had helped move Adimar with Thad and Rupert, and was now relaxed against the wall and watched as Rhuarc, who filled the space of the hall, approached him. Luther was always studying Rhuarc, observing him and hoping to find a weakness, because despite Luther’s age and differing race, the Guardian was still more powerful than he. The only weakness Luther could find so far was the Guardian’s lack of understanding to the depth of his own power. Certainly all of the Guardians were powerful in their own right. Caledon could shape the earth or create barriers of profound strength, Fenlyk could move the ocean tides and heal the sick or injured, Volshi could send winds to tear down trees, and stir up the oceans, but Jai’hash…. With the power of fire, was on an entirely different level of power and destructive potential. Without his ring of power, now lost, Luther stood no chance against Rhuarc, or the other Guardians. So imagine the Ancient’s surprise when the Guardian complimented him on his quickness in battle. Luther gave a simple nod of thanks, but truly Luther had stepped in only to protect Aria. At least in that regard, they were in agreement.
He hadn’t heard yet of the change in command, having not been around to eavesdrop on that particular conversation, and stepped aside when another more prepared Guard stepped in to take over the watch, allowing Luther to take a break and clean himself up. He was heading to the shared quarters for the guards when he heard his name being called.
[b “Luther, what good timing.”] It was Max, and standing just behind him in her room was The Priestess. He gave a quick bow in respect to her.
[#00ffff “Max, anything I can do for you?”] Luther dared to ask, glancing past the bald and bearded man to see Aria turn away into the depths of her room. Max stepped out with an affirmative nod of his head.
[b “Her Holiness has issued a change in command. Carrick has been released to pursue fatherhood, and I have been awarded his position as Captain.”] Luther was shocked by how deeply that angered him, though he did not show it. Regardless, he wasn’t surprised to hear that Carrick had been removed, but he was surprised to know that Aria had initiated it and not General Rhuarc. Still, it was a position Luther desired, and yet once again he had been passed by another.
[#00ffff “Oh? Do you wish for a congratulations?”] Luther asked with what appeared to be a teasing sneer. Max smiled good heartedly, but shook his head.
[b “No, but I would like to promote you as my Lieutenant.”] Luther swelled a bit and stood a bit taller, having not expected that at all. Not what he wanted, but it put him one step closer to his goal. Had he unknowingly gained the man’s trust? [b “If I am not with the Priestess, you will be. You are the most skilled of us all, and I may rest easy knowing she is safe. If you would please, I should go and inform the others of her Holiness’ orders, I will return shortly.”]
[#00ffff “Yes, of course. By all means, Sir. I am honored to serve as your second.”] he would have preferred first, but he understood… his priestess had trust issues.
He stepped aside to let Max take his leave and turned his focus on the priestess who was attempting to dig through her small bag of clothes to find something to help keep her warm. The further towards Caledon’s temple they got, the further north, and the colder it became. He crossed his arms over his chest, the V of his tunic open in a carefree way and his long blond hair shifted over his shoulder as he watched her empty the contents of her pitiful little bag. The Volshi robe was folded neatly on her cot, as was a pair of fingerless wool gloves, a small wool cap, but nothing to really provide any warmth in the cold of Caledon. For now the Fenlyk robes she wore would have to suffice. He finally looked away from her and glanced down the halls and saw that once again the Jai Guardian was approaching. What could it possibly be now, he wondered. It turned out Lady Saraya was in need. In Luther’s opinion that woman was a liability. A direct descendant of not only Caledon himself, but a celestial being that Luther had dealt with nearly a century ago. The being was the downfall of Malik, he had a past with which Luther hoped to never resurface.
[#00ffff “The General, Your Holiness. He says Lady Saraya has summoned you…”] a devious look crossed his face when Aria turned to see him and Rhuarc standing in the doorway. [#00ffff “She certainly does like to summon you doesn’t she. Makes me wonder who’s really in charge here,”] it was of course a challenge, a halfhearted attempt to drive a wedge between the two women. It garnered a frown from Aria who walked over towards them and made her way to Rhuarc’s side.
[+pink “I suggest you don’t forget who’s really in charge here,”] she warned, her voice and her gaze cold, and it impressively reminded him of Azera. He just smirked arms crossed and gave a nod to Rhuarc, and left Aria in his capable hands.
[#00ffff “of course. I’ll be sure to inform Captain Max of your new whereabouts.”]
[+pink “Yes, you should retire, you look like you could use rest, and please be in proper gear and uniform when next you guard me.”] He bowed to her, head down and waited until she and the Jai were gone from sight before rising back to his height and entered her room. He wanted to know if his ring had found a new owner… instead he found a small journal, and curiously he flipped to the last entry to read:
[center [i [+pink We go into battle tomorrow for Astoria. I have learned what really happened in these tunnels under the city. The Harbinger has been cleansed, but I’ve also lost it. The last I remember the cabin boy approached me, we spoke and then all wen black. He has not been found since -nor has the sword. I learned that the horseman first approached Luther, and he killed Malik. I saw the horseman bring him back to life, and the darkness consume him. Why did Luther betray his brother? I still don’t know. What did the horseman want with Luther, or rather, what was Luther planning, and what is he planning now. I don’t feel I can trust him, but so far he has shown no reason no to. Am I becoming paranoid? I don’t know who to trust, even Adimar, my own kin, has kept knowledge he has received from Malik’s own seer. I learned he’s been in contact with her, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. I think I should keep close to Rhuarc. Not that I’ll mind that. More and more when I look at him my heart flutters, and I worry I’ll never see a day where I can be open about how I feel. It frustrates me, but I know it must be done. If anyone knew how I truly felt, Rhuarc would be in danger. I fear he is my greatest weakness, and after tomorrow I know Malik will hunt harder than ever to stop me from defeating him, and I doubt he’ll stop until he’s destroyed me as much as I plan to destroy him. ]]]
Luther closed the journal and from the first entry he gleaned it started when she entered Central City, but he didn’t read it too deeply, for even then he saw her mention of Rhuarc, and he refused to read more. He frowned gritting his teeth, wishing he could read more, but knowing he couldn’t take it, and put it back where he found it. He left frustrated he couldn’t find his ring still, but he was more certain than ever that one of the Guardians had it, and his money was now on the Volshi Prince…
[Center [I [size20 ಥ_ಥ]]]
[center [youtube https://youtu.be/3z2NxnW7zng]]
[b [#f684da Saraya means a great deal to you Carrick, I’ve known you loved her for a long time now, and during that time, you have been a faithful guard, and a true friend."]] Carrick looked at the trail of blood, feeling anger and discomfort to his heart. [b [#f684da "... I know there was a time that being Captain of the Holy Guard was everything to you, but I know now, that is not the case. You have found love, and that love is going to bear you a child. You will have a family, something I know is very important to the Caledonians. They revere family and loyalty to ones kin above all things… as we all should...”]] She had stopped a moment. Carrick looked away from the trail to her just before she would speak again.
[b [#f684da “Carrick, I was made aware that one day your loyalty would be tested, that you would have to make a choice. I do not want you to have to make it, so I am making it for you..."]]
What was Aria saying? Carrick lowered his head, preparing for the worst. [b [#f684da "... If you seek vengeance I would have to release you from your oath as it were. I’d rather release you to allow you to focus on what is important - Your family.”]] He wanted to protest, but he couldn't find any reason not to be removed from Holy Guard. She was right. [b [#f684da “I’ve been contemplating this a while now, but today has confirmed to me that it is for the best. I release you Carrick of the Holy Guard, to pursue life’s new adventures and plans for you. In your place I am going to appoint Max as the new Captain of my Guard. You are free to be your own man, and to take a wife if you wish it.” ]]
Carrick looked to Aria... As she concluded that he was to be removed, he began to understand. He chose a better future than that of protecting a prophecy... He is part of the prophecy. His title as Holy Guard was a good position, probably the best honor he could ever have... And he had that... But, the consequence for being this honored would be to never be able to have a family, to forfeit love for honor, and his people had condoned families for warriors. He sighed as he heard those words, then nodded before looking at her. [#9bacf8 [I "Thank you, Aria... It is only just that Saraya gets what is needed. She needs all of us... And all of us she'll have"]] he said and smiled before settling his temper to go below deck...
And as he stroked his beloved's hair, the reality of the shift occurred to him. He wanted to be holy guard as a man, but now it has changed since the moment he laid eyes on her in his forge. He realized he aimed too low. Saraya dubbed him to be her protector, her Knight... Her man. He was already a Guardian before he took the title of Captain, and he wanted to kick himself. She well ignored the rules of holy guards just for him. He needed to catch up and fast... Because being a Guardian was nothing like being holy guard.
As Guardian... He will end Egos and rid her of this nightmare once and for all.
[Center [youtube https://youtu.be/9BLseWEf2Pk]]
Carrick's gaze narrowed on the dark blue horizon as he thought. Going to Caledon was not the issue at this point.
He could hear it, too. Saraya's pain- filled screams slammed into his brain. Not a good sign. The Mage didn't just attack her, he literally tortured the living hell out of her. He could feel every touch she felt, and every instruction came with a consequence. One that she would call to him for, begging him to make it stop.
Carrick closed his eyes. He had to give them time to work on her. He had to ignore her call. He let his breath out slowly as he clutched the ropes in his fist tighter. It was about caring for her enough to help her any way he could, even if he had to stay out of the way for it to happen... Even though it hurt his soul to do it... Just when silence came, nurses had appeared, giving him the OK to come and see her.
He took that invitation to stay by her side, keeping a watchful eye.
Corbin had stepped below deck, wiping tears from his face. Carrick had tilted his head before Rhuarc came to his attention. Honestly, Carrick didn't want to hear what he had to say. He was blunt and filterless, especially when it came to Aria. This occasion was no different. [b [#f60415 "I wish you no ill will, but I am glad that you have been removed as Captain of the Priestess' Holy Guard. It means that I did not have to remove you myself."]]
Carrick looked to him before looking to Saraya's steady breathing and Corbin's well hidden shivers of worry. He shook his head, chuckling to himself before looking to him. [I [#9bacf8 "Frankly, my friend... I feel we both would die by a sword if anything happened to her, whether you killed me... Or the world had. "]] he looked back to him. [I [#9bacf8 "It wasn't us, nor the guards, nor any other shipmate that saved Aria up there... "]] he looked to Saraya and sighed. [I [#9bacf8 "This woman, the one laying on her back, bearing the pain of the sacrifice she took to save whom you care for... Who we all care for... "]] he looked away, hurt by those words. [I [#9bacf8 "She saved Aria, and gave us the glory, Rhuarc... "]]
He looked to Rhuarc. [I [#9bacf8 "I feel we are going about this mission wrong. We learn from our ancestors, learn from our past... But also to learn what is virtue and weakness... Malik and The Mage see her love for all of us as a weakness..."]] he looked to him. [I [#9bacf8 "I feel that is her strongest virtue... She won't stop fighting because she cares enough to protect what she can... So, now that I am free of chastity, I shall protect whom protects our Priestess. "]]
He looked to Rhuarc. [I [#9bacf8 "Rhuarc, my friend, I feel as though we should open up to Aria. I have a feeling Caledonia will not allow us to bottle up our emotions, nor hide away our fears. Though it is in ruins, it still holds value to emotional and spiritual attributes... To withhold them from them, to even have the priestess do it... It will turn them against us. Saraya has a lesson yet to teach us... And it may be something far more valuable to the cause than we realize"]]
Carrick had patted his shoulder before starting his way towards Saraya when he halted on his heels. Saraya was struggling. She looked like she wanted to get up, but arched instead of the pain that followed. She stifled a bellow of agony through her gritted teeth as she kept fighting to move, and Carrick had hurried to her. [I [#9bacf8 "Saraya, stop... You're safe now... "]]
When her eyes found his, he saw puffy red eyes staring. [I [#da3c18 "A- Aramis... "]] she squeezed through her teeth before falling back onto her cot. Carrick grabbed onto her hand, watching attentively as she fought to find solace in knowing if their child was alright. Carrick kissed her gently, her finally finding the space to relax. [I [#9bacf8 "Aramis is alright. The wound was far from him.]]
Saraya huffed and gripped the sheets tightly, feeling a wave of pain she hadn't felt before. Still, she put on a brave face before looking to him. [I [#da3c18 "Carrick, have we passed into Caledon...?"]] She whispered. Carrick, hiding away the sadness he bore from seeing her in the state she's in, nodded softly. [I [#9bacf8 "Yes, my love... "]]
A worried look came on her face before gripping the sheets again, tightly, bearing the pain before squeezing out words she couldn't before speak.
[I [#da3c18 "The Mage's magic is still here... "]]
This set him on edge. He looked around, prepared to draw his sword, but Saraya had managed to wrap her hand around his. [I [#da3c18 "No... He is of no threat... He was born and dead from me... But was remade to stop me. He still bears the innocence he died with... So, I have a chance to save him now from The Mage's clutches"]] she said, worried that Carrick would make things worse. But, Carrick nodded. [I [#9bacf8 "Who is this reanimation?"]]
[I [#da3c18 "It is he who you assigned to keep me safe... My and Felliope's son... Corbin"]]
Carrick looked at her confused. [I [#9bacf8 "Are you sure of this? How did you know of this?"]]
[I [#da3c18 "The battle of Fenlyk... You assigned him to stay with me during battle... While we fought for the armory... He had called me mother... And while we were running towards the docks to save Ayab... He used his ability to see dark auras... He has to have been my son... Reanimated, either escaped or was dropped at Kil'heed's door, and became a guard"]]
Carrick thought a moment. All this time, The Mage had reanimated her first family, just to taunt and torture her. As he thought, Saraya's hand found his cheek. [I [#da3c18 "I don't have much time... Aramis will be coming soon... I need you to get him... So I can tell them... "]] Saraya's speech was cut off with a pained huff, and Carrick looked to a nurse to tend to her while he had done as she wished.
Saraya the looked to Rhuarc. [I [#da3c18 "Rhuarc, I need you to get Aria... Quickly... I haven't much time... "]]
[Center [youtube https://youtu.be/xIeN_N13vyY]]
Carrick was above deck now, walking along the ship, thinking. Wondering... Pondering... Corbin? Saraya's first son who died at the hands of Egos? He could fathom a filthy trick like that one... He already knew Saraya would have to face her past in this upcoming battle. Felliope may have been touched by The Mage, too. Which is why Saraya was so reluctant to even go there so soon. She may not be ready to fight her late husband and son, to watch them die a second time... That's where he comes in.
He felt partial blame for the mishap. She shouldn't be worried about surviving... She should be content... Or that's what his mind would tell him. She was going through too much to handle on her own, but she did without a whimper or a cry of complaint. He felt that she should be commended for the extra miles she put in to save them all so far. It was terrible, once he summed up everything as a fault. But, he knew he would make up for lost time and help her by picking up the pieces... As a start. He had a lot of making up to do for her for neglecting her this long.
The sun beamed, and the air was cold but he took a deep breath, taking in fresh air after a night of misery and turmoil
He spotted Corbin watching the horizon. Interesting. Carrick thought of all the possibilities that The Mage's next move could be... But, as he approached, and Corbin turned to salute, he saw weary and puffy eyes, still stained with water despite him wiping his face a few times. Why was he crying?
[I [#9bacf8 "No need to Salute. I'm no longer your captain"]] he said. Corbin sighed and looked to him. [I [#f8c49b "You are still a Guardian... "]]
Corbin turned to look out on the horizon. Carrick had found a spot beside him and planted himself there. [I [#9bacf8 "Saraya has told me everything... "]] he said. Corbin looked down. [I [#f8c49b "Are you going to kill me?"]]
Carrick looked to him. [I [#9bacf8 "And why should I? You haven't harmed her... "]]
[I [#f8c49b "Well, I haven't been exactly saving her either, Guardian... I fear that The Mage may try to use me against her... "]]
[I [#9bacf8 "You have shown me you're more than capable to help, Corbin... You've already chosen a side. It is up to you to protect, just as I do, the cause. "]]
[I [#f8c49b "Sir, I want nothing more but to be a part of a family... And to protect it"]]
Carrick sighed and nodded before patting his shoulder. [I [#9bacf8 "You're already in one, son... "]]
Corbin looked to him and smiled before the nurse had appeared, approaching Carrick. [I [#9bacf8 "How does Saraya fare?"]]
[b [#914c12 "She's going into labor... She will be ready to birth within a few days, or with hope, a fortnight "]]
Carrick and Corbin looked to eachother. The nurse pressed on. [b [#914c12 "She also requests you make haste... She is growing very tired and will not be able to stay awake for too much longer"]]
As the Jai Guardian, Rupert, Thad and Max made their way up to the deck of the ship the sight that greeted them was a strange one indeed, Aria was clutching her chest in pain but that was nothing compared to Saraya throwing herself over the side of the ship with the Mage. The Jai stood watching in disbelief, Saraya was dead, there was nothing else that could explain it, no one could survive a fall from this height. Luckily it seemed that Saraya's end was not quite at hand just yet and through some kind of arcane power she reappeared on the ship, still wounded but miraculously alive. The Mage was still absent but that was the last thing on Rhuarc's mind, Saraya was bleeding out on the deck of the ship. The other Guards rushed forward with Carrick and together carried Saraya down to the Infirmary where a waiting Healer Meena started working on the Caledonian Guardian immediately. Most of the Healers worked tirelessly on Saraya, there wasn't much else to do, Adimar had returned to sleep, still looking pale and weak but at least he seemed to be on the mend. Some of Rhuarc's stitches had ripped so one of the other healers who was not caring for Saraya patched him up quickly. Rhuarc barely felt the needle sew his flesh together as he stood contemplating what had just happened.
Saraya, a Guardian, had very almost died, so had Aria from what he had managed to piece together about what had happened while he was stuck below decks with the wraiths. The Mage had been able to strike at them from one of the most secure places that Rhuarc could think of. Was it possible that things were even harder than the Jai had expected? Rhuarc did not actually think that that was possible. Rhuarc overhead Aria and Carrick talking, how she was removing him from her Holy Guard and naming Max as his successor. Max was a capable fighter and less distracted than Carrick. It was a good decision but Rhuarc could not help but wonder if Ayab would have been named had he not been killed. The Jai guardian removed himself from the infirmary and headed back to the deck of the ship. It was quiet and peaceful up here, the crew were cleaning up the blood that was splattered along the deck but it was easy to ignore with the vast expanse of the world before him as the ship sailed through the sky. It was clear that they were entering Caledon as the land below them changed. Rhuarc wondered what awaited them in this Province, and whatever it was he knew that it wouldn't be easy.
Aria made her way over to him as he stood by the railings on the ship watching the world fly by beneath them, and what she spoke was right, things were only going to get worse. That was inevitable, the path they were on was a long, dangerous and dark one, the longer they were on it the more likely that something was going to go badly. [i “We cannot afford to battle on two fronts. We have to dispose of this Mage, effective immediately. If he attacks us again, we attack with the intent to destroy.”] Aria was giving him a clear order from a Priestess to her General, she was giving him permission to do whatever it took to defeat this enemy. Rhuarc was glad to see Aria evolving, not so long ago she would have balked at giving that order, even about something as abominable as the Mage. Rhuac nodded solemnly at his Priestess and resolved to end the fight with the Mage. The serious moment was followed by a tender moment as Aria's tender fingers found his own rough calloused hand and in that moment everything seemed like it would be alright. Malik, the Mage, the Fade, the entire outside world ceased to matter while she held his hand, as simple a gesture as that was before Rhuarc forced himself to extract himself from her grip. It was far more difficult than he could ever have imagined but his sense of purpose in this matter was clear. [b "No, Priestess."] Rhuarc moved a few steps away from Aria, his face blank and unreadable. [b "You made it clear that we must keep our feelings for each other secret. We are in public, anyone could look around and see, Shade-stealer could be scrying us. We can not afford to be careless. Unless we are totally alone, there can be nothing between us."] Rhuarc bowed his head slightly, [b "By your leave, Priestess."] Rhuarc intoned, ensuring the barrier between Priestess and General was firmly in place.
Rhuarc returned below decks looking for Luther, and found him quickly enough, he was standing outside the infirmary, unofficially on watch duty. Rhuarc was pleased to see him take up the post despite not being specifically ordered to do so. [b "Watcher, you did your duty well today."] Rhuarc still did not trust the man, despite the man doing everything right, he was acting at the archetypal Holy Guard, and as far as anyone could see Rhuarc had no reason to distrust him...yet he did. Be that as it may, the man had done well and Rhuarc would have been remiss if he did not commend the Watcher for doing his duty. Having said his piece the Jai entered the Infirmary and made his way to Carrick, who was expectantly at Saraya's side. [b "I shall take up but a moment of your time friend."] Rhuarc pulled the former blacksmith to the far side of the room, just far away enough for their conversation to be private. [b "I wish you no ill will, but I am glad that you have been removed as Captain of the Priestess' Holy Guard. It means that I did not have to remove you myself."] Rhuarc stared Carrick in the eyes, his implication clear, if Carrick's torn loyalties between Saraya and Aria had endangered the Priestess then Rhuarc would have had no problem in killing Carrick in order to keep Aria alive. In his mind there was no question over the importance of the life of a friend and the life of the High Priestess. Rhuarc wanted the man to know how close he had come to death had he continued down the path he was on and endangered Aria's life.
Aria reeled in dazed confusion. The ship was spinning around her, and she could not make out what was up or what was down. She’d used a great deal of arcane power herself this day, channeling Azera’s memories and abilities to keep her alive, now her heart removed and returned.... it had left her feeling displaced. The closest feeling she might attribute would have been intoxication -if she’d ever been drugged or intoxicated before.
She was vaguely aware of a set of hands that had grabbed. All she knew was they were familiar, and she welcomed them to lift her and move her away from the fight between Saraya and Egos. She managed to look up and back and saw it was Luther. He spoke to her, but everything was muted, leaving her to stare dumbly at him. Max came into view next, the two men carrying her to the opposite side of the deck in an effort to put distance from Aria and the fight that was threatening to destroy their only mode of transportation at the moment. If the ship fell from the sky now, they would surely all perish. As Aria attempted to catch her bearings, above her Luther and Max discussed the best course of action in moving Aria to safety. The need was little as Saraya and the Mage fell in a free fall, forcing Carrick to shout over the edge for Saraya. Max had to jump and catch the man before he could follow. Aria looked about and saw that Rhuarc was among the other guards that had fought their way back to the top deck.
Moment’s later Saraya’s feet landed back on the deck, and she looked victorious if not full of lethal intent. She collapsed a second later, and Carrick was there to catch her. He laid her down despite any protest and Aria pulled on Luther to help her stand and take her to Saraya. She arrived just as Saraya asked where she was and Aria reached out to take her hand. Her hearing and her bearings had returned with a moment of reprieve, and she was able to answer Saraya that she was alright. The Caledon guardian lost conscious soon after and Carrick was left to hold her until a nurse came up to check on her and they were instructed to return to the infirmary.
Aria walked down the stairs to make sure Saraya was moved to a comfortable position. Adimar was still laid up in bed, face pale, but awake at least and he watched with mild confusion what was wrong with Saraya.
[#20b2aa “Saraya? Is she going to be alright? That’s an awful amount of blood.”] Aria frowned at Adimar’s week voice and moved to stand by his side and took his hand.
[+pink “Her body will heal,”] was all Aria could say on the matter before she leaned down to kiss Adimar’s temple and pulled his blankets up to keep him warm. Adimar did not fight her, and was quickly out in sleep.
With the quiet to contemplate Aria let her thoughts swim for a moment. She processed her feelings, confusion at what had happened, rage that it had happened, and determination to see this whole war ended before too long. That was when she was approached by Carrick and his request.
[+lavender “I’m going to kill him... I want to take his head, Aria... There will be hell to pay for what he's done to Saraya alone! I swear it... I want to take The Mage's head!”]
Aria sighed, she should have known this day would come soon. It was selfish of her to continue the way things were, she glanced behind her from where she watched Adimar and Saraya, Luther and Max lingered not too far away as apparently even their ship was not safe from the reaches of evil. Carrick still stood awaiting a response, and Aria sighed… she could no longer keep him. Father Penzone had been right about one thing, and she could no longer afford to ignore it.
[+pink “Saraya means a great deal to you Carrick, I’ve known you love her for a long time now, and during that time, you have been a faithful guard, and a true friend. I know there was a time that being Captain of the Holy Guard was everything to you, but I know now, that is not the case. You have found love, and that love is going to bear you a child. You will have a family, something I know is very important to the Caledons. They revere family and loyalty to ones kin above all things… as we all should.”] She contemplated thoughtfully, and chose her next words carefully.
[+pink “Carrick, I was made aware that one day your loyalty would be tested, that you would have to make a choice. I do not want you to have to make it, so I am making it for you. If you seek vengeance I would have to release you from your oath as it were. I’d rather release you to allow you to focus on what is important - Your family.”] She stated plainly and gave him a look that would not allow argument. [+pink “I’ve been contemplating this a while now, but today has confirmed to me that it is for the best. I release you Carrick of the Holy Guard, to pursue life’s new adventures and plans for you. In your place I am going to appoint Max as the new Captain of my Guard. You are free to be your own man, and to take a wife if you wish it.”] Both Carrick and Aria knew that part of being in the Holy Guard was the abstinence of having a family, fathering children, or taking wives. Released, Carrick could finally do all those things, and no longer burdened by his warring duties. Aria realized as well that only one woman needed Carrick, and it was not her.
She could see Rhuarc across the way, and knew he approved of the decommission of Carrick and promotion of Max. It was something that had been troubling Carrick for many months now, and Aria had finally put it to rest. Saraya came awake for a short moment and Aria was there to gift her a smile, and Carrick took his place at her side. Aria found it a fitting scene, and she removed herself from the room, instructing Max and Luther to see Adimar moved to his own room where he would no doubt be more comfortable. They obliged seeing that she moved to Rhuarc’s watch.
[+pink “The madness will only get worse from here. We’ve wounded Malik, enough that his Mage came after us, though… I’m beginning to wonder if the Mage is working for Malik or pursuing his own agenda. There was no threat of taking me, just killing me. As if to do so would coerce Saraya, and wound Malik…”] She sighed heavily in thought [+pink “We cannot afford to battle on two fronts. We have to dispose of this Mage, effective immediately. If he attacks us again, we attack with the intent to destroy,”] she stated with cold indifference. She meant to have him killed, just as the Necromancer was felled between Lara and Max. Since leaving Central City, there was a part of Aria that was hardening, further nurtured by having channeled the warrior like mind of Azera. Aria knew she could channel more, but until she could find a Spirit Guru in Abdu’Jai to help her unlock that ability, she didn’t think she’d be able to tap it again.
Below the ship the scenery began to change, from wetlands, and flat terrain, to more hilly slopes leading up to mountainous peaks, and dense forrest below. They were entering Caledon, and Aria knew they would soon be landing just near the ancient Temple of Caledon. She wondered what the ancient spirit would have waiting for them. More tests, revelations to learn, or quests to complete? Only time would tell, but in that moment, Aria was otherwise left alone with Rhuarc and her hand searched out his -holding firm to the man who had helped her find the well of courage within herself to truly stand up and face Malik, and whatever else barred her path.
[#da3c18 [I "ARIA!"]]
Saraya saw everyone were stuck. Rhuarc, Max, Rupert, Carrick... Even Luther. This situation wasn't going well.
Saraya tried moving, but the pain quickly reminded her of what she was in. She didn't let it stop her. With all the pain she could bear, she grabbed onto a barrel and hoisted herself until she could find her bearings. Once at her feet, she could see Corbin in the darkness. He looked to her in worry, but she could only think of Aria. The Mage was playing a foul game.
Corbin had launched from the darkness, quickly distracting him as Carrick and Luther could get to their feet. The Mage flung him off with some effort, leaving Saraya with an open opportunity.
She breathed deeply, the Mage waiting to hear her plead and agree to his terms, but instead, everyone could feel a tingling sensation in the air. The Mage looked to Saraya, growling at her refusal. Just when he was about to squeeze the still beating heart, something froze him. He was unable to move!
He forced himself to look to Saraya, who was standing erect now, but what he saw was a darkness with no end. Out of fear, he called his avaliable wraiths to take her, but as they tried, her gaze and a silent screech from them halted and made them retreat. Saraya's eyes were darker than the darkest black. Her face, though was expressionless, shown disdain and hatred. The Mage looked to Aria, before noticing that he was returning her heart against his will. Once returned, and his hand retreated slowly empty, he felt a force throw him across the ship. The wraiths looked towards their master, squealing and screeching to see their master being bested. Around that time, she could hear Rhuarc and the guards below gain advantage.
The wind began picking up. The power that sat on the air frightened the last of them until they disappeared, giving everyone below deck their opportunity to run to Aria's aid. Saraya began walking towards The Mage as he was trying to recollect his bearings. By the time he could clearly see her, he saw a beast as she was walking towards him, with a evil look upon her face, with no regard for his life. Rhuarc, Max, and Thad ran onto the deck, seeing Aria holding her chest, breathing deeply, then looked to Saraya... Who, as she began moving towards her target, didn't look like herself at all. He tried to use his power again, and each blow hit this time, but with little effect. It may have connected to her, but though it had momentarily slowed her down, she still kept advancing, her eyes fixed on her prey. The next blow of magic was deflected, The Mage shocked that his powers were waning around her. He tried to use the last and retreat, but all she did was dodge the blow, evaporating and reappearing behind him just before he could escape and raised a hand, as if gripping his throat. He gasped as he felt he couldn't breathe and slowly began to gravitate as her hand lifted him from solid ground!
[#da3c18 [I "Die, Mage"]] she growled. Just before she could squeeze, The Mage had evaporated and reappeared just before her. He tried grabbing her, but she used a pulse of her power to deflect him. She turned to him and advanced, making him back up before giving a battle cry. She materialized her sword, and was about to strike when he disappeared into the darkness.
That wasn't his last. He reappeared behind her, grabbing her dress and hauled her over the side of the ship, but Saraya managed to grab his cloak, taking him down with her. She fought on free fall, until he managed to grab her and hold her hostage with her hands behind her. She felt a sharp pain where the wooden shard was lodged in her lower back, letting out a scream before hearing him laugh. [#6e1291 "Don't fight this, Saraya... You belong with me... "] he growled, Saraya feeling the pain as he stabbed her deeper with the shard. Saraya used her sword and stabbed him in his side and he bellowed in pain. [I [#da3c18 "NEVER!"]] she growled, digging the blade deeper into him before he released and disappeared. Saraya's Arcane power had slingshot her back onto the ship, and her feet collided with wooden planks and barrels, waiting for The Mage to come back, but he didn't.
Suddenly, she felt a strange sensation that fluttered in her womb. She pressed her hand against her swollen belly. What was that? But, as she tried to shake off the weird feeling, she noticed she felt wetness that she knew was her blood trickling down her legs. She tried to ignore it at first. Too many issues competed for her attention and the most immediate was Aria.
That was just the adrenaline talking. Her beast like pants, her sword at the ready, crouched over with lethal intention slowly began to fade. She wanted to make sure they were safe. At that moment, she looked around to see Aria and sighed in relief as Carrick appeared beside her, and Rhuarc wasn't far behind, though he did scout the area for any more threat, and found none.
By the Gods, she managed to save her. The Light had returned her, and now it seemed as though she didn't know what happened to her. Beyond all that, this was was perhaps the most frightening experience for her.
The state of Saraya was in question- the wound, the baby, and as soon as her arcane powers had subsided it turned into tears, screaming, fighting against the hold of friendly hands.
A head on a silver platter would be her price. Yes. She and The Mage had unfinished business.
Her fighting against helping hands had halted abruptly before her body became limp and collapsed. Those helping hands had caught her and helped her lay straight before her body began to shiver uncontrollably. When Carrick and Aria finally made it to her laying form, Carrick started talking, just to see if she would respond.
He reached out his hand to touch Saraya's face, and her shivering form jerked away from him, unsure if he were a mirage, something vile and demonic that would intensify her pain more than it was already. Her pain rippled through him and rattled his bones. It sent a chill through him so thick it couldn't be cut with a knife. It drew his mouth into a tight line as he fought not to scream.
He finally saw Saraya's enemy... And he saw what he had done.
The head of the bastard who'd done this was the only acceptable answer to levy The Mage's debt... Paid in full.
In The Central City, they had a phrase: Fair exchange was no robbery. And for what he had done to her, this was no exception.
Saraya's shivering had began to subside as she closed her eyes. She could feel Carrick's cool hand stroke her brow, wiping away the sweat as Aria's felt along her back to find what other places hurt.
Confusion tore at her brain. The pain that was racing from her spine to her belly was so excruciating, that it left a chilling tingle as it circled back. Saraya opened her eyes, her breathing labored as she tried to form words. She searched Carrick's face as he continued to search her form for any damages as Aria yanked out the protruding plank shard in her lower back, making her jerk and gritted a scream. [I [#da3c18 "... Where... "]] was all she could manage to get out through gritted teeth.
Aria came into view, taking her hand with her bloodied one in reassurance that she was alive and real. She told Saraya that she was alright with tears shining in her eyes.
None of what she was saying could be heard clearly. She searched Carrick and Aria's face for confirmation that The Mage had gotten away, and found it.
Corbin had came into view with a nurse before everyone saw Saraya's eyes roll to the back of her head before her body began convulsing and jerking about, blood rushing from her lips as she fought to breathe!
Carrick was quick as he lifted her chin and when it only made it worse, he turned her to her side and cleared her airways before looking to the horizon. [#9bacf8 "How much further until we get to Caledon?"]
[#125654 "Not far, Captain. We should pass into Caledonian territory come midday and dock near Caledon come dawn the day after"] said a shipmate.
Carrick watched Saraya reduce to the uncontrolled shivering and close her eyes again. For the first time since the battle of Astoria had began to unfold, he saw it- her condition, the entire troupe's condition.
The awareness of how big of a threat The Mage was to his woman slammed into his brain. She'd survived the unthinkable. Tears of heartbreak stung his eyes and nose, and though he refused to let them fall, some emotional anguish forced his tears. The Mage must pay.
Carrick tightened his fists and hung his head for a moment. The sight of Saraya's blood- caked, tattered dress stole his breath and shredded his soul.
He lowered his head until their foreheads touched as he fought a losing battle against his tears. [#9bacf8 "Oh, my love, I am so sorry... "] Carrick said quietly, ashamed that he'd been so blind that the obvious never occurred to him. Each member of the Guardian troupe was dirty, bloodied, gashed and seemed to be hanging onto fatigue like it were a life jacket. But Saraya's condition made him weep. He kept his eyes on her bloodied face and allowed his gaze to travel down her disheveled dress, stop at her blood streaked back, and he was forced to look away, fighting the urge to jump the side of the ship to find him.
He watched tears well in her eyes as Corbin and Max tried to lift her as gently as they could. His abdomen clenched, and somewhere within the recesses of his mind he knew that her bruised and beaten body was riddled with a pain he could only imagine.
As Rhuarc returned with the plump nurse, he saw the face of pure pain lingering on Saraya's face as the nurse demanded with the quickness to get her to the infirmary. Though the nurse was demanding, Carrick didn't hear a thing, his mind was running all over the place, and it all stemmed from Saraya's worn down state.
The Dark side tried to claw life from her womb a second time, and now her body was doing everything it can to heal from it. His beautiful Saraya was hurting so bad from his assaults. Each male lowered his eyes and let out a slow quiet breath, almost as though they could feel the pain as Corbin and Max, lead by Aria, made their way down the narrow staircase to the infirmary.
A new level of respect and awe entered Carrick as he watched how Saraya bore the burden like a true warrior, only a grimace giving any indication of how badly she hurt. And he also knew that the pain went beyond the physical. It was a deep gash within her psyche that might never heal. It wasn't supposed to happen this way.
He could barely stare behind her as the nurse escorted Corbin and Max down to the infirmary. The Mage attempted to kill her, to murder his baby and had tried to take Aria's heart in the process... Yes... It was all coming to him full swing. There wasn't a place on the planet The Mage would be able to hide. Not for this.
Steadier now, Carrick breathed in slowly and let his breath out with effort. Carrick wanted to retch when he saw the pool of blood Saraya left behind on the deck. Defeat claimed him as he saw Rupert and Thad gather to clean the trail of blood leading below. He couldn't look at it. He couldn't. The remains of the Dark Side's damage had been reduced to Gore.
Carrick stared out into the night before Aria went to him, asking him if he was alright. [#9bacf8 "I'm going to kill him... "] he growled in his throat, fury stealing the words forming in his head. [#9bacf8 "I want to take his head, Aria... There will be hell to pay for what he's done to Saraya alone!"]
He held Aria's gaze as Rhuarc and Luther approached. [#9bacf8 "I swear it... I want to take The Mage's head!]
Saraya kept herself still once she and the nurse was alone. She could deal with this. She must. It was a miracle she and Aramis made it this far, through many attempts.
That's what she told herself as a wave of pain washed over her before she grabbed her abdomen as the nurse began to stitch the gaping wound in her lower back. Saraya briefly shut her eyes as everyone made their way to the infirmary. Carrick hadn't said a word as Aria came into her sight. She didn't know Adimar was up and conscious, but at the sight of the wound the nurse was tending to, Carrick could see a unsettling look on his face, like he was enraged.
She wanted to cry so badly, but no tears came; a crippling wave of pain almost doubled her over.
Silent tears coursed down Saraya's cheeks. She sucked in a deep breath, bearing the pain as another wave ran through her. Aria had stood aside, allowing Carrick to come forward to her. As soon as he had the chance, he kissed Saraya's temple then her hands before sniffling, unable to fight back his tears at the sight of her. [#9bacf8 "I'm here... "] he whispered. Saraya saw Aria's head nodding, confirming she was there for her, too, wiping away the wetness on her cheeks. [I [#da3c18 "Thank you"]] she said quietly, Carrick beginning to stroke her hair.
Rhuarc waited on bent knee wondering what Saraya's response would be. He was fairly certain that she would accept his request to take on Ayab's debt, she was a good and kind person and doing this simple thing for Rhuarc would mean a great deal for him, that alone should have been enough for Saraya to accept. Saraya confirmed his thoughts with her next words [i "I care about you, therefore I will accept in one condition... You've said it to Father Penzone, these are the days where rules and social order have been scratched from these lands. Take care of Aria for me."] That request was unexpected...but not entirely unwelcome. In a selfish way Rhuarc was glad for the excuse that Saraya's request gave him to spend more time with Aria although he was concerned that the Caledon Guardian had seen the depth of the feelings between the Priestess and the Jai. Rhuarc raised himself onto his feet, with only a slight protest of pain from his battered body, and the Jai deliberately kept his gaze on Saraya, lest a flicker of his eyes toward Aria give Saraya anymore clues as to their true relationship.
It was the look of fear in Saraya's eyes that warned Rhuarc that something was not right a fraction of a second before the icy voice of the Mage announced his presence. Rhuarc spun quicker than the blink of an eye unsheathing the heavy blade of midnight black steel readying himself for battle, as one sided as a bout between them would be. If Rhuarc fought the Mage there was only going to be one outcome. The Jai guardian took a half step to his left, positioning himself between the Mage and Aria. Saraya had charged him with protecting the Priestess, he was honour bound to keep her safe now, and he would do his duty. The Mage continued to taunt Saraya about Carrick and some other gift that Rhuarc did not understand. In an instant the tense situation on the deck of the ship erupted as Saraya pushed a shield towards the Mage and Luther sprung out from nowhere into action. Rhuarc hadn't even realised that the Watcher was on the deck of the ship and for all his distrust of the man he was supremely glad for his presence now! With one hand he grabbed Aria by the wrist and practically dragged her towards the hatch that led below decks but some sort of magic kept the door firmly shut. The Jai let out a harsh curse as the door refused to open, turning and raising his sword incase anything came for Aria. He could hear Carrick trying to batter the door down from his side and thankfully the two men were able to get Aria and the Jai below decks and the Captain of the Holy Guard towards Saraya and the danger of the Mage.
What Rhuarc didn't expect was to run into five of the Mage's wraith's, with Aria in danger he had no choice but to attack. He swung out with his sword but the positioning of his foes and the narrow confines below the deck of the ship. They were in an incredibly bad position, Rhuarc's swings were sluggish and did not carry his normal power behind the blows which the wraiths easily blocked or dodged. The Guardian also could not risk using any magic as one errant blast of flame would be all it would take to cause catastrophic damage to this ship. In addition to his other problems he also needed to keep Aria out of danger. Thankfully the other members of the Holy Guard came to their aid with weapons drawn but in the confines of the arena the battle was taking place in the wraiths had all the advantage. Rhuarc found himself too focused on one wraith and that ended up being his undoing, his sight was still compromised in his left eye and a second wraith slipped by his guard and into his blindspot before striking him three times in quick succession dropping him to his knees and knocking the blade of Jai'hash from his grasp. His head ringing from the blows Rhuarc and the other guards were stripped of their weapons and locked in the infirmary.
Aria's words were repeating in his mind constantly but as far as he could see there was no way for him to do everything. It was clear from what she said that Aria was not expecting to survive, she was giving Rhuarc a rallying cry to reunite the Guardians and finish Malik...but Rhuarc was not ready to accept Aria's loss just yet. Rhuarc would not abandon Aria and Saraya to torment and death, not while he had strength left. A blood chilling scream split the air and put everyone on edge. Adimar awoke violently and Rhuarc was glad that his friend was awake but right now that wasn't entirely useful. The man was still too weak, either to fight with steel or with magic, he was for all intents and purposes a burden right now. Thankfully when they had taken his black steel blade they had assumed that was the only threat that Rhuarc possessed, leaving him with his belt knife, it wasn't much but it was better than nothing. Rhuarc sat on the floor and closed his eyes, trying to meditate and clear his mind but the state of awareness that he usually achieved when he did this eluded him. Perhaps the grief over losing Ayab was clouding his thoughts, maybe it was his guilt over Balden's betrayal, maybe it was fear over Aria's safety or even his feelings of responsibility for stealing Adimar's magic the last time he entered this state...whatever the reason meditation and the benefits related to that were out of his grasp for the time being. Max, Thad and Rupert all caught his eye and gave slight nods of their head indicating that they were ready to follow his lead and do whatever it took in order to get out of this situation and help Saraya and the Priestess.
As much as he hated to admit it the fate of everyone in the room was not in their own hand, the truth was that they would need to exploit a mistake by the Mage rather than make it through on their own merits. Fortunately the Mage seemed to be the foe that could be goaded into a mistake because of his unstable temperament. Rhuarc and the others could do little but wait and bide their time, regardless of how desperate they all were. Seconds and minutes stretched for an eternity and felt like days while the Jai waited for his opportunity for them to act, he could not outfight the wraiths right now so he needed to outsmart them. Thankfully, eventually he got his chance. Something must have occured above deck with the Mage and Saraya because in unison the five wraiths turned as one to look to the roof of the cabin, as though they could see what was transpiring above. Rhuarc pounced and gave Max and Thad a look that very clearly said "follow my lead" while Rupert stayed by Adimar's side ready to defend the weakened guardian. Even as injured as he was Rhuarc's reactions were still incredible, he moved to the side and danced around the cabin in the tight space, watching to see the other members of the Holy Guard do the same, a little puzzled by his tactic but Rhuarc had confidence in what he was doing. The wraiths might be strong but they were mindless creatures and the one Rhuarc was dancing around lashed out with a clawed hand wildly. Rhuarc dodged the strikes by a hairs breadth two, three, four times before he pivoted and the wraith's claws struck one of its own and killed the monster. Rhuarc saw Max and Thad smile as they understood. It was a remarkable feat of teamwork between the three men, moving in sync, in perfect unity working the tight space of the cabin to their advantage and using the wraiths against themselves until there was only one left. The tactic was exhausting and clearly would not work with a single remaining foe as there was no other wraith that they could use to strike out at this last adversary. Thankfully Rhuarc still had his allies. Max and Thad distracted the wraith while Rhuarc dived towards one of the fallen creatures and with a great heave, using much of his remaining strength, ripped the wraith's arm from it's body and using the claw at the end of the limb as a weapon and the distraction that Max and Thad gave him managed to land a killing blow on the wraith. Rhuarc panted his slow heavy breaths, sweat glistening on his forehead, the other Guards were in similar physical states none of them even suggested resting for a moment. They all knew what they had to do. Without any hesitation they rushed out of their make shift prison cell and rushed up towards the deck of the ship and whatever situation was unfolding there.
Aria could see she had surprised Saraya with her appearance. The Caledon guardian must have been deep in thought, but it seemed that she did have a plan and Aria could see the resolve in her eyes. A fierce determination burned brightly behind her irises, and true to Saraya’s words, Aria had a feeling she wasn’t going to like this plan. Before she could learn of it, Rhuarc came upon the deck with a greeting of his own for Saraya. He spoke of her prowess in battle, and his gratitude towards what she did for Ayab, and how she had his respect. Aria watched closely as he knelt before Saraya and offered to uphold Ayab’s Toh.
There was a quiet moment and Aria looked to Saraya to see her reaction. she was pleased to find that Saraya offered a tearful smile and took his hand. Her words were kind and thoughtful, but with a look towards Aria, she felt herself tense unknowing of Saraya’s condition to acceptance. [+red "You've said it to Father Penzone, these are the days where rules and social order have been scratched from these lands. Take care of Aria for me. This part of the voyage will need you to do so. The Mage will use anything against you as far as love is concerned. He may not have his eye on Aria, but claiming her would be a bonus, so keep with her... "] Aria frowned at Saraya’s words. Did she know? If so, how? Was it that obvious?
Aria looked to Rhuarc nervous that their secret wasn’t as hidden as they thought. It seemed they were not as hidden from the Mage either. ARia felt the slightest change in the air around her when she heard his voice. He greeted Saraya, still desperate to use her bloodline to his advantage. Aria gasped in shock and fear. How had he found his way onto their ship?! She wasn’t paying attention to their conversation. Rhuarc was ahead of them prepared to fight, though he was certainly in no condition to, and Saraya had conjured her bow of shadows, Aria’s eyes fell to another... Luther.
He’d been on the deck this whole time, observing, watching, guarding. She couldn’t believe that for once she was glad for his presence. She watched him take cover behind a barrel of supplies, his own dagger in hand and preparing himself for an opportunity to attack. The Mage spoke crassly to Saraya, his words an attempt to whittle her down and make her pliable to his wants. He mocked her and Saraya let loose an arrow as a warning not to come closer, but he wasn’t listening and began his own approach towards them.
[+purple “Why do you resist? Carrick is weak. He will never be able to save you. You deserve a strong partner, my Lady. Your blood proves it!"] Wit that comment, Saraya sent the shield towards him in an attempt to cut him off, and called to Rhuarc to go. Aria would have fought him to let go if she could. She did not want to leave Saraya on deck alone. Thankfully, she could see Saraya moving to follow, but they weren’t fast enough to reach the hatch before the Mage thew it shut with his powers, locking it and them on the deck.
Luther was still topside, and slowly making his way around to attack the Mage from behind. Every bit of magic he threw at Saraya was rebounded off her sword. Luther was impressed to see the woman so heavy with child and yet so fierce of a warrior. Aria used the time to hide behind Rhuarc and tried to unlock the seal around the hatch. They watched as Saraya confronted the Mage, turning the tables and calling him weak. Something he did not appreciate.
They launched for the other, Saraya grabbing The Mage and pinning him to the deck. [+red "Get Carrick! Go!"] Aria tried again to break the Mage’s seal on the door, and from below could hear banging, no doubt it was Carrick, having heard Saraya’s thoughts and felt her emotions. Between Aria’s attempts to disenchant the door, and Carrick’s harsh beatings against it, they broke it open. Aria was quickly grabbed and dragged below, just in time to hear Saraya scream out in pain.
Carrick rushed Aria down below deck and helped Rhuarc down as well, before he vaulted topside just in time to see Luther charging across the deck in an attempt to protect Saraya. He could see her covered in blood and wounded. THe Mage and his magic had brought him to their ship... which also meant... wraiths.
Carrick remembered their last brush on the path to Kil’heed, and again outside its gates. The Mage was a wicked and cruel opponent.
[+blue “Saraya!”] Carrick called to her, and it was just the distraction needed for Luther. Hearing Carrick’s voice had clearly upset the Mage, who turned to snarl at him and throw a flaming ball of fire at him. The last thing they needed was a fire, a fire meant the ship would fall from the sky and burn. Carrick braced himself and caught the attack, throwing him clear across the deck and scorching his robes and heating his armor. He rolled in an attempt to put the flames out, and Luther was able to jump the Mage.
Luther sprang forward, moving quickly and tackled the Mage to the ground, managing to burry his dagger into the man’s chest. The Mage howled with pain, but the attack wasn’t fatal. Luther was thrown off and over Saraya’s head towards the main mast where he crashed into the wood and there was a resounding snap of his spine. Luther attempted to get up, but a blackened boot dripping oily blood stomped on his back and pushed him down into the deck. Even Carrick found himself in the same situation. The MAge’s wraiths had materialized on the ship and were moving through it collecting the others, taking advantage of their lowered guards and exhausted selves after their battle in Astoria.
[#87cefa “You won’t win!”] Luther attempted to intimidate, but the Mage only laughed, and that laughter grew when two wraiths came up from below deck with an angry Aria. [#87cefa “No... priestess!”] Luther called, and even Carrick tried to get up, but his burns kept him down.
After retreating below deck with Rhuarc, Aria and the Guardian of Jai’hash were face to face with five decrepit wraiths waiting for them. Aria’s fear was on Adimar who was unconscious and alone, and Rhuarc who was in no position to fight at the moment. Max, and two other Holy Guards had rushed to try and fight with them, but the wraiths were too powerful. They fought back until they were all disarmed and confined to the infirmary, hostages of the Mage. Aria, was dragged away and up to the mage, her final order echoing off the wooden planks of the ship.
[+pink “No matter what, protect Adimar, find Lara, get Saraya and finish this!”] she shrieked before the infirmary door slammed shut and the Wraiths kept guard over Rhuarc, Max, Thad, Rupert, and the other guards. If they wanted them dead, they would be... but at the moment they were to be kept alive.
Aria was hauled back to the deck and dropped at the Mage’s feet. [+pink “Egos... and here we thought you had run off like a coward...”]
[+purple “Sorry to disappoint you,”] he snarled and grabbed her face with his hand and twisted her face over to look at Saraya. [+purple “You love her, you’re like sisters, one happy little [i family]]” he sneered and his eyes turned on Saraya. [+purple “You’re either coming with me, or I rip her heart out.”] To prove his point his hand glowed and he thrust it right into Aria’s chest and held firm to her heart. Aria’s knees buckled and she gasped in pain, but no sound came from her throat. It was obvious she was in great pain, her eyes watered, and she was paralyzed with Ego’s hand wrapped around one of her more vital organs. [+purple “If you behave I will let her live. she might prove useful for us... would make a decent slave.”] He eyed Aria’s frightened and painful expression as she looked to him, his hand buried inside her chest. Somehow Aria managed to turn her head and look at Saraya.
[+pink “Don’t give him what he wants. Fight him...”] Aria managed to speak, her voice strained and filled with pain. Egos tightened his grip which made Aria scream out in her own pain. However with one easy yank, Egos removed his hand and in it he held a brightly glowing heart of gold. Aria stared at it, still alive, but feeling empty, her life was literally in Ego’s hand.
[+purple “I could crush it. It would be all too easy. You have a choice to make my dear Saraya...”] he crooned. Luther watched dismayed and unable to help her from where he was pinned to the floor, and Carrick was just as helpless but to watch.
Below deck Max sat eyeing their captors, forming a plan was impossible as they could not speak with the other, but when they heard a shriek from above, Max knew he could not sit idle and neither could Rhuarc. He shared a look with the Jai and though they were outnumbered, and unarmed with nothing more than Rhuarc’s belt knife, they had to attack and reclaim the ship. The scream seemed to awaken Adimar as well, who suddenly sucked in a shaky breath. Thad and Rupert were there to help him get his bearings, but it was evident he was in no condition to fight. It was bedlam, what were they going to do and how could they reclaim their ship and defeat the mage?
It was taking her longer to calm down. They were a few days on this airship from Caledon. It wouldn't be suffice to allow herself to be in such a panicked state.
It didn't stop her from jumping when she felt a hand on her shoulder. She sighed in great relief that it was Aria. [I [#da3c18 "Aria... "]]
[b [#f684da "Are you and the baby alright?"]] she started with. Saraya furrowed her brow as she looked around for some place to sit or lean on. [b [#f684da "You preformed an impressive feat during the battle, we wouldn’t have been able to hold off the forces without yours or Adimar’s skills."]]
Saraya chuckled a moment, looking to her. [I [#da3c18 "I have had some stern talking to that put me in perspective. I can feel some relief... Knowing I have saved... "]] she sighed as the fresh wound of losing Balden and Ayab in her sight throbbed at her remembrance. [I [#da3c18 "Though... I wished my efforts were better succeeding... "]] she looked to her. [I [#da3c18 "I know why Rhuarc hurts so. Ayab... Was a warrior, a true brother of the noble Jai. The Masters of the Fire Lands would grant him a warrior's burial. He deserves more... But I would bless his eternal slumber for being a friend, and honor his friendship he bestowed on me. "]] she sniffled a bit before letting the air that carried her prayer die away.
Aria had looked up to her as they looked out from the side of the ship. [b [#f684da "I sensed something dark earlier... it was the Mage wasn’t it?”]] Saraya's eyes expressed a certain fear as she saw Aria's frown. Just before she could quiver, Aria placed a hand to Saraya’s shoulder in worry and in comfort, and it calmed her down.
[b [#f684da “I think we should prepare to face him soon... he seems determined to reach you in much the same way Malik is determined to reach me. Do you have a plan to confront him before he does you?” ]]
Saraya looked at her, before looking out to the crescent moon, [I [#da3c18 "I have a plan..."]] she looked to her again, but now her face was serious, and her eyes shown a sort of resolve, and it carried all she was carrying on her chest. [I [#da3c18 "But, you will not like it... Not until I tell you... "]]
Before she could reveal her truth, Rhuarc's frame had caught her eye. He stepped into the light with a saddened look on his face, but he carried it with understanding and fortitude. Apparently, Aria was not the only important person she had to speak to. At the sight of Rhuarc, Saraya only wanted to comfort and bring the fire back into his strong features.
[b [#f60415 "Greetings, Saraya, how goes it?"]] She couldn't help but give him a welcoming smile. [I [#da3c18 "Rhuarc, this is sudden. Aria and I were just talking about a plan to rid me of The Mage"]]
Rhuarc had approached the two of them. She spotted him looking to Aria before looking back to her. [b [#f60415 "I wish to thank you for the part you played during the battle in Astoria. I do not think we would have escaped without you. You have my gratitude and my respect. You gained much honour... "]] Rhuarc was trailing away. There was a sad weight before he took a breath to speak again. [b [#f60415 "Saraya... "]]
Saraya looked to him. He never said her name before. Perhaps it was the biggest surprise to have heard it from him. [b [#f60415 "... Before he died, Ayab told me what you did for him, how you helped slow the Fade's poison... He told me of the [I Toh] he owed you... "]]
Saraya felt a weight on her heart as he took a knee. [b [#f60415 "... I will take on his debt so his honour may remain intact. I shall bear his [I Toh]. Do you accept my offer?"]]
Saraya could see his dedication to have his friend rest in peace. She grabbed his hand and when he looked up to her to see tears and a smile. [I [#da3c18 "My dear friend Jai, you don't need to bow to me. Your bravery to even say such things is gratifying enough. You have been my friend, and quite fun to butt heads with. I care about you, therefore I will accept in one condition... "]] she took his hand and looked to Aria. [I [#da3c18 "You've said it to Father Penzone, these are the days where rules and social order have been scratched from these lands. "]]
She looked to Rhuarc. [I [#da3c18 "Take care of Aria for me. This part of the voyage will need you to do so. The Mage will use anything against you as far as love is concerned. He may not have his eye on Aria, but claiming her would be a bonus, so keep with her... "]]
She saw something from behind him that had her eyes wide in shock and fear.
[size20 [b [#6e1291 "Hello, My Lady Saraya"]]]
That eerie voice sounded from behind Rhuarc. Aria looked to Saraya's panicked face, before seeing her swallow her fear that burned in her chest. Rhuarc had stood with a start, arming himself.
Saraya spotted the gleaming of his twisted maw, but she refused to bow down to the twisting pain of fear. She had to think quickly.
[size20 [b [#6e1291 Not happy to see me, my Lady? I've gone to many lengths to find you again. Did you not like my gift?"]]]
Gift? Corbin! She looked to Rhuarc before standing before him and he stood before Aria. She shredded her fear with battle tactic, growling in disgust.
[size20 [b [#6e1291 "I hope he is to your liking"]]]
Her bow and arrow had appeared in her hands now. [I [#da3c18 " Mage, you reanimated my son, but you still disgust me! How dare you!"]] The Mage smirked.
[size20 [b [#6e1292 "My dear, you look all the more ravishing the longer you hate me. You'll make for a merciless Queen, Saraya. Only wish you had the right cock in you"]]]
Saraya felt violated when he said her name and even more disgusted by what he said after. [I [#da3c18 "Leave Carrick out of this, you filth!"]] she growled aiming now. Her posture was perfect, and her gaze was ravenous. She could see that The Mage was being mangled by his own sick desires towards her. She wasn't thinking about herself now, she needed to get Aria to someplace safe. And, judging by Rhuarc's face, he was thinking the same thing.
Saraya quickly sent a message to Carrick. Though she was doing well to stall him, she was panicking.
[size20 [b [#6e1291 "Aw, my love, you needn't be so afraid to show your fear"]]]
Saraya let off an arrow nearly scratching him. He began to walk towards her, and instinct took over. She formed a shield around the three of them, halting The Mage.
[size20 [b [#6e1291 "Why do you resist? Carrick is weak. He will never be able to save you. You deserve a strong partner, my Lady. Your blood proves it!"]]]
Saraya swiped her hand upward, the wind slicing the deck as her target retreated. She saw an opportunity and looked to Rhuarc. [I [#da3c18 "Quickly, go... "]] she said quickly. Rhuarc took no time in grabbing Aria and running to the opening that led below deck. She hugged her belly and made an attempt to make it to safety.
She wasn't fast enough.
The Mage was blocking her only one way to Sanctuary.
[size20 [b [#6e1291 "I WILL CUT HIS UNWORTHY SEED FROM YOUR WOMB AND MAKE YOU MINE!"]]] He bellowed in declaration.
Saraya had grabbed her double edge sword, backing away slowly from him.
The Mage tried using his spells on her, but her blade deflected every one. He was surprised by this. She used her wind abilities to crack against the deck's surface where he stood. He backed away, becoming thoroughly annoyed. She just wouldn't stop fighting! Still, he pushed.
[size20 [b [#6e1291 "Do you not see? Your power well exceeds them. They can not defeat you now, no matter how hard they try! You can end this voyage now! Come to me!"]]]
Saraya growled. He thought her [I THAT] naive? She almost found it insulting. She couldn't help it. Sayan and Caledon couldn't have dreamed of what they saw next.
Agitated, Saraya lowered her weapon and began rubbing the bridge of her nose. The Mage was confused as she instantly switched up the weight in the air. He heard her sigh in frustration. [I [#da3c18 "Let us have an understanding, Mage"]] she began as she opened her eyes half mast. He could see an abysmal darkness in place of her eyes. It was an emptiness he hadn't seen or felt before. [I [#da3c18 "... You're weak"]]
The Mage growled.
[size20 [b [#6e1291 "Watch your tongue "]]]
[I [#da3c18 "You wish to overthrow your own master, and want to use me as that weapon, ushering in a darkness that will span all eternity... But, why can't you do it yourself?"]]
The Mage flinched. [I [#da3c18 "Malik will meet his end. I will make sure of that. But, I will never be so naive as to side with a low down, traitorous snake like you"]]
The Mage launched at her. Saraya was quick. She grabbed onto his wrist, and slammed him down onto the deck, the wooden planks giving to her strength. [I [#da3c18 "Whoo... Struck a nerve, have I?"]]
She quickly looked to Aria and Rhuarc before saying [I [#da3c18 "I was not finished"]]
She backed away quickly and turned to them. [I [#da3c18 "Get Carrick! Go!"]]
They ran below deck before she turned to The Mage. [I [#da3c18 "I will never follow you, Mage... You say I'm stronger without them, I'm stronger with them. They've become my family-"]]
[size20 [b [#6e1291 "It wasn't sisterly to leave the Jai for dead, or the Lad"]]]
Saraya felt a throbbing pain of Ayab's and Balden's death.
Before she could react, The Mage slammed her down onto the deck on her side. Saraya's scream was loud and clear. She grabbed and hugged her belly as a splitting crack of pain erupted from her spine to her belly. The Mage laughed as he grabbed her arm and lifted her. He punched her belly, making the air escape her lungs. He tossed her aside, Saraya hitting her back against the passageway door, knocking the air back into her lungs, and she vomited blood before letting out a screeching cry. A wood shard pierced her right side, lodged in her lower back. She couldn't move!
She saw The Mage coming. She tried to scoot away, but the wooden shard wouldn't let her. The Mage grabbed her and yanked her from the shard before slamming her against the deck again. Saraya spat up blood. She set up her shield again, stopping him. She could see his angry expression as she started scooting again, holding onto her belly blood seeping onto her dress from the wound in her back. She could hear Caledon and Sayan hollering to keep her shield up until help had arrived.
Saraya winced in pain as she spat up blood. Help had better come now!
She watched as the Mage bellowed.
[size20 [b [#6e1291 "IF I CANNOT HAVE YOU, I WILL KILL YOU AND RESURRECT YOU AS MY WHORE!"]]]
Aria tried to convince him that he bore no guilt over Adimar and that he would be finre given time and rest but the Jai didn't feel any better at her words. Rhuarc would need to wait until Adimar awoke...if he awoke, and see for himself and voice his own apologies to the Volshi Guardian. Aria didn't seem to realise just how serious a situation that Rhuarc had created, not only had he used the power and magic of another but had he not released Adiamr's power when he did the Volshi man could be dead. That fact was terrifying, Rhuarc could have just ended their entire crusade against Malik in an instant, they could not win without all of the Guardians. Was hurting the Fade worth risking the lives of his friends and the hope of the common people for a life without Malik? Rhuarc was not sure but it was something that he would need to figure out quickly before the Fade attacked them again and the Jai was sure that soon enough that abomination would be hunting them again.
Holding Aria in his arms was comforting despite the pained protests of his body, she understood his loss and her admission that she felt at fault hurt him more than the cuts, bruises or broken bones paining him right now, he never wanted to see her in pain but knowing the loss that this war caused was important for her as a leader, as Priestess she needed to understand what the cost of this battle would be but that didn't make it any easier to take on a personal level. As they separated Aria continued to work on bandaging and patching him up to the best of her abilities. When she was finished for the time being she gave him a stern look, the sort of look that always seemed so amusing to Rhuarc, how one so small could be so fierce. It was one of the things that he loved about her. [b "I will try Priestess."] Rhuarc was certain that sleep would evade him for the time being, he simply had too much on his mind...Ayab's death, Adimar's condition and Balden's betrayal.
Balden's betrayal had cut Rhuarc deeply and it was one of the things that he was most ashamed of. He had been the boy's teacher and had spent a lot of time with the former blacksmith's apprentice. He had liked the boy and thought that he knew him but obviously he didn't have a clue. How could he not see the betrayal coming...how could he not see the darkness in the boy's heart? The boy had changed since leaving Kil'heed and running to Fenlyk and Rhuarc wondered that if he had seen the change in Balden that Lady Stanos might still be alive and that Lara would be with them now heading to Caledon with the rest of the Guardians. Rhuarc thought about everything through the night, and sleep did not come for the Jai. Soon enough the first rays of morning sun could be seen outside and for the first time since getting on the ship Rhuarc decided to leave his cabin. Instead of heading outside onto the deck of the ship Rhuarc headed to the Infirmary, as Aria had instructed him to and he supposed that sh was right, he probably should see a healer but he had other motives for going to the infirmary.
As he entered the room his eyes were first drawn to Adimar's sleeping form, he looked weak, weaker than Rhuarc had ever sen him before and he could not help but feel responsible for the state of his friend. A healer came over as he entered the room, a small, plump woman who eyed him over quickly before firmly sitting him down in a chair and stitching up some of his wore cuts, she redid the bandages around his ribs in an efficient, if not entirely comfortable manner. She was a good healer, efficient if a little bit rough but Rhuarc welcomed that. She applied a salve and gave him a foul tasting tincture to drink but afterwards she was satisfied that his wounds would heal in time and there was nothing more that could be done for now. She instructed the Jai to come back in a few days to have his bandaged checked, cleaned and replaced. The plump woman made it clear in no uncertain terms that she would be displeased if she did not see the Jai then...and Rhuarc had no wish to displease Healer Meena, she was fierce enough to match the False King for ferocity. When Rhuarc was done he had intended to wait for Adimar to awaken but instead he made his way over to Saraya, she was awake and would make for better company. [b "Greetings Saraya, how goes it? I wish to thank you for the part you played during the battle in Astoria. I do not think that we would have escaped without you. You have my gratitude, and my respect. You gained much honour."] As he mentioned the honour that Saraya gained another thought came to the mind of the Jai. Ayab. Rhuarc remembered his friend telling him how it was Saraya that had kept the Fade's corruption at bay and allowed him the time to fight in the battle and how he had [i Toh] towards Saraya. He would never be able to repay that debt to her now. Not being able to repay a debt of [i Toh] would normally be a source of great dishonour but the manner of his death meant that he was not at fault for not being able to pay it. Despite Ayab acting in the correct manner he knew that his friend would want his debt paid so Rhuarc would do what he could. It would be one way that he could remember his friend. [b "Saraya before he died Ayab told me what you did for him, how you helped slow the Fade's poison. he told me of the [i Toh] he owed you."] Rhuarc dropped to a nee in front of her. [b "I will take on his debt so his honour may remain intact. I shall bear his [i Toh]. Do you accept my offer?"]
Aria was mindful to be careful and gentle with Rhuarc’s wounds. The conversation helped to distract him from the sting of the witch hazel that cleaned his wounds, but it didn’t help with the stinging loss of Ayab. She felt it too, but with Rhuarc’s words she knew she did not feel it in the same capacity as Rhuarc -who had lost a life long friend. He also carried a fear that he had harmed Adimar in damaging the Fade. Aria disagreed, but didn’t voice it at the moment, she needed to do more research. She was worried for Adimar who was still unconscious, but she didn’t fear him dying. She reached out to hold his shoulder and frowned.
[+pink “Adimar will be alright, he just needs time to heal, don’t blame yourself. He knew what he was doing and risks involved.”] She tried to tell him, but Rhuarc was still unconvinced. She supposed it would take Adimar waking up for Rhuarc to be at peace with it.
Rhuarc continued to explain to her how Ayab died. She frowned, picturing it in her mind as she applied a healing salve to Rhuarc’s wounds. It would stave off any infection, without robbing him of a well earned scar. She agreed the loss of Ayab was damaging to their group, so was the loss of Balden. She was focused on her task, when she felt his hand on her face and her own subsequent sting on her cheek. He praised her for her first scar, and tried to boost her confidence with a claim that she may be a warrior yet, but the burden of Ayab and Balden’s deaths were weighing heavily on her. She’d never lost a friend before -her mentor and guardian, yes... but never a friend. He asked how she was doing and she sighed, dropping her hands to her lap and frowned.
[+pink “I feel I am at fault, and I fear for the others traveling with us, and the lives we lost today. I’m not entirely certain how to feel, or how I should mourn the loss, but I know I feel guilt, and I know I’m going to miss his council.”] Rhuarc shared her sentiment, voicing he missed him, and then collected her into his arms.
She held him for as long as he needed, or rather they held each other. She could feel the swollen bruises on his body, and intended to see to his other wounds. Infection was something they could not afford, and she resigned to have her own cheek seen to by a healer later. For now, she knew her proud warrior would not go to a healer, and his greatest wound could not be healed by gifted hands, but only by time and patience. Aria couldn’t deny how nice it felt to be held either, she clung to him as tightly as he clung to her, and at his kiss she was made light and airy. She wished they could be free to express themselves, but the risk was too great, and while Aria cared for the other Guardians, Rhuarc was her weakness. When that had begun she wasn’t certain, perhaps it had been that first night, hidden in a false bottom of a wagon with no one to keep her company but the large Jai, or perhaps it had happened while on the road and their long conversations regarding their differing cultures. Regardless, she had grown fond of him, and had come to love him... even if she hadn’t admitted it. Neither of them had, but it seemed they didn’t need to -they could express enough between them by the way they looked at the other alone. That too, could be dangerous.
She parted from him with a sad little sniffle, but returned to her task of cleaning and wrapping the wounds that needed covered, but when it came to his bruises and more internal injuries she gave him a stern look and told him to find the Healer come morning. [+pink “Get some rest, I’ll be by to check on you later in the night. I expect to see you bright and early in the infirmary to have those ribs looked at. I’m going to sit with Adimar until he wakes. Soon I’ll know when we should be arriving in Caledon, and we can plan our next steps. Seriously though, please try and get some sleep,”] she parted from him with a final kiss and left the room to sit by Adimar’s side.
Saraya was still asleep with Carrick at her side when Aria returned to the Infirmary. All was quiet on the ship and it felt odd without Lara’s presence. Somewhere in the night Aria fell asleep with her own head on Adimar’s cot, in much the same way Carrick had fallen asleep in his chair next to Saraya. Still Aria found herself startled awake when she felt the dark and familiar presence of the Mage. She looked around the dark infirmary and found everyone deep in sleep, but she spied Saraya moving from the washroom and stealing away to the upper deck. Curious and uncertain if the Mage had in fact resurfaced, Aria rose from her seat and made to follow.
Quietly she followed Saraya, unaware another was watching her and following. Luther kept his distance, but never revealed himself. He had been watching Aria closely, and was relieved to see her return to the ship unscathed. He was also glad that he had been on the docks with Rhuarc, as he didn’t think they would have held it without the help of the Watcher, but that was probably the man’s ego talking. He made no move to hide himself and instead took up a seat on a barrel across the deck to allow the woman some privacy and watched as she approached a pensive looking Saraya.
[+pink “Saraya, are you and baby alright? You preformed an impressive feat during the battle, we wouldn’t have been able to hold off the forces without yours or Adimar’s skills. I sensed something dark earlier... it was the Mage wasn’t it?”] Aria frowned and placed a hand to Saraya’s shoulder in worry and in comfort. [+pink “I think we should prepare to face him soon... he seems determined to reach you in much the same way Malik is determined to reach me. Do you have a plan to confront him before he does you?”] Aria asked, ready to stand by Saraya’s side and fight with her, for her, and help her plan the Mage’s destruction.
[b [u Fenlyk Wetlands outside of Astoria]]
The Hoard marched behind him, his face shrouded by a tattered black hooded cloak and a face plate made to look like a raven’s skull. It cut a formidable visage of terror, allowing her black eyes to glitter behind his mask with rage. He could see from his vantage that his naval fleet had been sunk, and his Necromancer was dead -for half of his hoard fell upon the man’s death. It infuriated him. He gripped the reins of his horse, a decrepit creature that seemed to be made of night, with oily black hair, and seeming to drip oil and blood. It’s hooves were even misshapen and its eyes a deep blood red. Steam puffed from its nose with a chuff, a mirror of Malik’s own ire. She had been within reach, but with a look to the sky he caught the faint image of a Volshi Airship taking to the sky and heading North. He glared behind his mask, knowing she had moved on, and he had lost Astoria.
Ahead of him stood the crumbling city and he saw on the top battlements was a group of people all being led by a red headed pistol who seemed to aim her bowstaff at him. He grit his teeth.
The Guardian of Fenlyk had returned, and without the Necromancer or his full hoard he knew he could not take back the city. Not this day at least. It was a crushing defeat, and so he made plans to return to Central City and begin to dig into more darker magics. He turned to his hoard and shouted at them.
[+red “Go! Head north and begin raiding the villages of Caledon. Draw the Guardians back out! And if you find Egos... kill him for his betrayal.”] Malik hissed behind his mask, he then turned his horse and made his way back to Central City alone, while his hoard marched North to begin their campaign of destruction. To himself Malik cursed under his breath, [+red “If she wants a fight, then I’ll give her one...”]
Saraya has drowned out the sounds of Sayan and Caledon panicking about a solution. She had spent the break of dawn watching the sun rise, and silently pondered on the next trial that would await them. This one costed them the life of Ayab, a faithful man of Jai'hash. It may have costed them more significant lives just trying to get everyone out and safe.
The water beating against the shore kept her thoughts calm. She could feel the pain slowly subsiding, but it left a violent mark along her chest, and it stretched along her right side that became a violent color. Though she couldn't feel the pain anymore, she still felt an irritating twing. There was a thought as the sun began to appear from behind the ocean. Aria... Carrick can't be divided between the two of them. Aria and she are in need of each other, perhaps. Saraya may be facing something that may need Aria's help to pull her through. No doubt, their next destination was Caledon. She didn't feel ready to see what had became of her once shimmering homeland. She hadn't forgotten the vision she had, the dream that was violent, and could mean dire circumstances for her and Aramis. She was thinking... That if she blacks out and use up all her energy while fighting, she may not be able to channel her arcane powers next time, and could damage her to where there is no coming back. And that, was not a very pleasant thought.
Saraya's sombering thought was this... Saraya would have to defeat The Mage... Carrick is her only way of staying the way she needed to be. Her biggest problem... Was how serious it was getting. She had to think as a Guardian now... Warrior,
[center In all.]
Saraya's silent thoughts were cut short when the annoying nagging of Sayan and Caledon erupted again.
[b [i She channeled her energy, Caledon, if she hadn't she'd be in far worse condition than this]]
[b That still doesn't excuse the fact that she let her anger get the better of her]
[i [#da3c18 You do realize that i can hear everything you're saying right now, right?]]
Caledon and Sayan halted a moment when she spoke. [#da3c18 [i "I did let my anger get the best of me, but i am not being idiotic about this. I managed to help some... So it counts"]]
She felt Sayan and Caledon somber down a moment. [#da3c18 [i "After taking back Fenlyk... We will be making it to the next mission... I think we're going to Caledon... "]]
[b [i Saraya, are you okay?]]
[i [#da3c18 "No... The Mage waits for me there... And bringing Corbin along will make it worse. Aramis and i are going to be in danger... And i don't know what Carrick will do... But..."]] she sighed as she felt the sting in her unconsciousness. [#da3c18 [i "I don't suppose i can't figure this out"]]
[b You should tell Carrick who Corbin is... What he is] Caledon said.
[i [b You think so?]] Sayan seemed both amused and concerned.
[b I feel that it will benefit, even though it'll shock him a bit. Corbin knows little of the damage it will cost Saraya. Carrick needs to know so he can protect her]
[b [i Even if it means killing him?]]
Saraya's brow furrowed. She wished that wasn't a scenario... But it was. If he grew too out of control when around The Mage... They may not have a choice...
[I [#da3c18 "Caledon's right. It holds no benefit to keep the secret from him... I only found out moments ago. So..."]]
[b i shall tell him]
Saraya was sort of shocked of the news. But, in the condition she's in, she would be incapable of talking in clear sentences, let alone stay awake long enough to tell him.
But, she didn't let it stop her. She'd wake, but never long. She would fall back to sleep before she could utter a word... Until she tried again.
She had awakened hours later. Everything looked familiar. Were they already on a ship to Caledon?
She was fully awake. Carrick felt her move a bit and woke up with a start. The both of them exchanged looks before Carrick hurried to her face and kissed her.
It was harsh at first, desperate, but it softened. Carrick had been worried sick the entire time. She grunted, trying sit up before Carrick assisted. Once upright, Saraya could see the room. She could breathe again. And just when she could sigh in relief, she saw Corbin guarding the door.
With everything going on, she was somewhat relieved they were on the ship. But, the news she knew Carrick had gotten would come up when he asked her if she was alright. She waited until she was feeling fully awake before wanting to go to the restroom... She slowly had gotten out of bed, carefully trying to hurry to the restroom.
After the restroom, she carefully tried to stand and felt three times tired than before. She really couldn't move as much. In all honesty, she didn't feel like talk about Corbin, either. Her being on the ship meant they were moving to Caledon. She needed to rest... And she really needed a bath.
She managed to stand, and shed away her clothes before sitting in the steamy bath. It relaxed her more after sitting down... Nothing was happening, but she knew she wasn't going to think so beautifully about the situation. She could tell Lara wasn't with them, Corbin was a problem for her because he may just flip and try to kill her if he is too close to The Mage... And The Mage was trying to get to her... And as she closed her eyes, she spoken too soon.
The Mage appeared almost instantly in her mind. As a panic washed over her, she attempted to escape him. She knew that there was something terribly wrong when she saw his twisted face in such a fashion. She didnt know what to do. She did know that she needed to wake up.
Sitting up with a start, she splashed water everywhere as she looked around for any evidence of the pervert, but there was none. The rest of her time in the bath was short as she climbed out. Corbin and Carrick were speaking amongst each other while standing around Adimar, so she slithered away and up to the deck.
She needed air. And, it was only a matter of time before Carrick would come to her about Corbin. She needed to stay calm.
Even with the Fade having fled the battlefield Rhuarc still had to cut his way through the necromancer's army of undead to reach the ships. he had initially thought of fighting his way over to Aria, Max and Lara but in his current state it simply wasn't an option, he was injured and losing strength rapidly, he needed to head to the ships. If he died then they would never be able to defeat Malik, they needed all four of the Guardians. With his muscled screaming in protest it took a while but eventually Rhuiarc managed to find his way onto one of the ships and away from the battle. It was hard to tell if this had been a success or not, they had certainly achieved what they had set out to but they had lost many lives in the attempt besides, Malik was about to land and who knew what he was capable of. He was leaning against the edge of the ship, catching his breath, pain coursing through his body, the Jai casually glanced around the ship looking for the others when a small white blur came and hit him in the chest with surprising force as Aria wrapped her arms around him. He let out a yelp of pain as she impacted his broken ribs, but the pain was worth it to know that Aria had survived the ordeal in Astoria. She reached up and touched his eye lightly with her hand causing him to wince in pain again. Rhuarc mainly kept to himself for the time they were on the boat before transferring onto the airship heading for Caledon.
Even though he was injured, and injured badly it was merely the hurt of a soldier that he was feeling, unlike Adimar and Saraya whos injuries were more severe and required the attentions of the healers more than he did. Rhuarc stayed to his cabin and barely ventured outside. Truth be told he mainly only did two things, he rested and he thought about Ayab. He missed his friend. He had known Ayab for his entire life and his friendship had menat a lot to Rhuarc, he had been a constant source of support, a reliable soldier in a battle and always willing to trust Rhuarc. The world would be a worse place without Ayab in it. He knew that they had to go to Caledon but part of him wished that they could go to the Wastelands, so that he could see Ayab's family and tell them that he died in battle and acted with honour. He took out Ayab's belt knife and stared at the steel blade for he didn't know how long, it could have been minutes or hours, his mind on his dead friend until he heard a knock at the door. He didn't particularly want to see anyone but this could be important, Aria entered with a cloth and a bowl of water and started cleaning his wound while he still sat on the bed staring at the belt knife, occasionally wincing in pain as she dabbed at his eye. [b "Thank you Priestess. He was a good friend and I will miss him. I always knew there was the possibility that he would fall in battle and I have had other friends who have fallen to Malik's armies back home but none have been as painful as losing Ayab."] Aria mentioned that there had been some positives to come out of the battle, like finding a way to harm the Fade but Rhuarc wasn't so sure about that either. [b "I may have found a way to harm the Fade but at what cost? I feel responsible for Adimar's condition. I don't know how I did it but I took his power for myself, I channeled his magic, I was directing the power but he was still supplying the energy for it. I could have killed him, what if he is in such a bad state because I drew too much energy through him. If he dies it will be my doing."] Rhuarc was deeply ashamed at what he had done to Adimar, even if it was the only way to harm the Fade, he had stolen Adimar's magic, it was tantamount to rape. Adimar was still unconscious from what he had heard and still had very little strength, Rhuarc would have great [i Toh] towards the Volshi Guardian. [b "There was nothing peaceful about his end Priestess, that abomination ripped out his throat and killed him. For the brief time that he was still alive he was drowning in his own blood. I may have burned his body to stop the Necromancer from desecrating it but that was not Ayab. The Fade had already taken his life."]
Rhuarc saw the cut on Aria's cheek, it seemed that she had not emerged from the battle entirely unscathed but considering how bad Rhuarc looked, Aria had gotten off lightly. He took a finger and gently touched the wound. [b "Your first battle scar...in Adbhu'Jai this would be a great occasion. It seems that we will make a warrior of you yet Priestess."] Rhuarc looked into Aria's eyes and he could see the sadness in them, Ayab had been her friend as well and she had not grown up like the Jai had; surrounded by battles and death. She had suffered her own losses to be sure but Rhuarc wasn't sure if she had ever lost a friend before. [b "I am not the only one to grieve, you lost a friend in Ayab as well. How are you holding up?"] In the very beginning the Ayab may have been a little gruff but soon enough he had settled into the group and become as much a part of it as any of the Guardians. This was the first time that they had personally lost someone close to them on their journey and Rhuarc was sure that it would not be the last. Who would be next? Carrick? Max? Thad? Corbin? It could be anyone or even one of the Guardians. What they were doing was dangerous and death was inevitable but it didn't make it any easier. [b "I miss him Aria."] Aria had just about finished tending to the cut by his eye by now, his ribs were still paining him as were the numerous smaller cuts caused by arrows and blades that had struck him during the course of the battle but he didn't care about those right now. He gritted his teeth through the pain as he wrapped his arms around Aria as tightly as his battered body would allow, embracing Aria as emotion over Ayab's loss threatened to overwhelm him. Rhuarc took comfort in the arms of Aria, he knew that they couldn't show his affections for her in public but here in the privacy of his cabin he could express those feelings. In many ways it was appropriate, Ayab had approved of Rhuarc's naming Aria his [i da'thei] and Rhuarc had sometimes wondered if Ayab had felt a similar way about him but he would never find out whether that was true. Rhuarc was grateful that Aria had come to him, whether he was too deep in his grief or too proud to seek her out himself he was not sure but he knew that he would not have gone to her, but her being here now meant a great deal to him. The Jai Guardian planted a kiss on the Priestess' lips and in that moment the love he felt for the woman in front of him was almost enough to break through the veil of grief that was hanging over him but for now Rhuarc's loss was too great to be beaten so easily. [b "Thank you Aria, for being here."]
Aria watched for a brief moment as Lara dodged a heavy swing from Balden’s blade. He moved with lethal precision, striking out at Lara without comment. His face blank and emotionless. No matter what Lara tried to say to him, it fell on deaf ears. Balden was long gone. The Fade had seen to that many months ago. Whatever little piece of him that had been left to retain his place among the resistance was snuffed out. Not even Lara’s pleas could penetrate the void inside Balden. He knew only one thing: Destroy the Guardians.
Lara was fast and spry, evading Balden and hesitating to actually strike back. Part of her hoped Balden could be saved, but with a single dark flash of his eyes at her final desperate plea -she knew Balden was gone. He charged at her sword in hand, and came ready to swing it up and across her body. It connected with her staff, when his attention was suddenly diverted to a new figure on the field.
[+pink “Lara! Fight back!”] she called, her own eyes gleaming that same bright magenta from before. Balden’s attention was on Aria, and he shoved Lara off and began to charge for Aria. Max was busy covering Aria’s other side, that he reacted to late to stop Balden’s strike. Aria managed it just in time, but the hit knocked her backwards and to the ground. Feet stomped around her head and she looked up to see Balden rising his sword up. Before he could bring it down, Lara’s staff came flying down from overhead. She had jumped the space and struck Balden so fiercely upon his head he spun on his foot.
Finally an expression permeated his face, one of shock. He was stunned. Blood and spittle went flying from his mouth and he fell face first into the dirt. Lara stood over him, heaving breath and helped Aria to her feet. Balden remained a lifeless lump, blood pooling from his head. Lara had struck him with terrible force Max was there the next moment covering them both.
[b “This is all bullocks if we can’t stop that Necromancer.”] he barked at them. Aria agreed and spotted him just out of reach, on the rocks surrounding the dock.
[+pink “Get me to him,”] Aria ordered and Lara, gave a quick nod of her head, drawing water up from the shores and vaulting Aria over the several yards to him.
The Necromancer looked up with a grin as Aria came upon him with a wave of water behind her, and the seas turning the ships over violently in the bay. Lightning was now spiderwebbing across the sky and rain was falling in torrents. Adimar’s storm was proving to be a powerful one. She just hoped it was powerful enough. He was ready with a sword of his own. The blade was curved and clearly made of Jai forged steel. At least that hadn’t been a lie about him.
[+purple “My Master is making an awful big fuss over you, but after watching you these past weeks… I can see why,”] His voice was snakelike, and while he held the sword in one hand, his other began to burn with purple fire. [+purple “I see you have magic too. He says you are Azera’s reincarnation. That you have all of her memories. Is that true? Is this how you’ve learned to fight? Facing me means you might end up part of my collection-“] he glared to see her suddenly grin.
[+pink “You can’t kill me…”]
He shouted at his dead to capture her. He was going to run and Aria wasn’t having it. She chased after him, Lara and Max making it to her position and helpless to watch as she engaged The Necromancer in combat. Their swords clashed in rapid hits. He attempted to burn her with his fire, but she trapped it with water from the rain, before forcing it upon his face. She kicked him back, and went to strike, but he countered and they were back to their back and forth. For a magical user -he was quite proficient with a blade, but like any Jai he fought with cunning ruthlessness. Aria was beginning to struggle keeping up, Azera’s power and knowledge beginning to fade as Aria ran out of her own Arcane powers.
Their fight was broken by the sudden wailing and scream of the Fade. Aria and Rhys both looked to see Rhuarc deal a devastating blow to the abomination. He staggered and Aria looked back to Lara. As much as Aria wanted to send Lara and Max to Rhuarc, she needed their help with The Necromancer. She had to trust that Rhuarc would be safe, and she couldn’t dwell on it because The Necromancer had turned on her again, and this time he got her. His purple fire struck her square in the chest, and did something wholly unexpected. Instead of burning it knocked her into the Astral Plane. Her body fell limp to the ground, but before any dead could grab her or Rhys, Lara came in with an upper swing of her staff, clocking Rhys in the face. His head jerked to the side, and he spit out blood from his mouth and glared at Lara. [+ “You stupid bitch”] he spat and raised his sword at her.
It was Lara’s turn to engage Rhys. Max moved in and lifted Aria up into his arms. [b “What the hell did he do to you?”] Max asked, unaware of Aria’s ability to travel between realms. Aria had never been forced into the Astral Plane before, and it was not a situation she was enjoying at the moment.
Everything was dark, shrouded in mists, and dimly illuminated by no particular light source. Aria felt dizzy, sitting on a cool nondescript ground and looking around. She could see the shadows of the battlefield around her, Max’s arms holding her, and she could sense she was not alone.
[+red “He’s coming for you… they think you are weak -wake up!”] The voices f Azera roared into her mind. Aria struggled to find a way back to her own body. When the thought struck her to simply close her eyes and relax. She was in command of her own mind, and her own body, and she willed herself back to the land of the living.
Outside Max had all he could do to protect Aria from the dead picking her up and carrying her away. Thankfully Lara was holding the Necromancer at bay, when Aria suddenly gasped and wheezed for air. Azera’s magenta gleam had died off though. The fire had burned out and all that was left was a disoriented Aria. She looked across to see Max fighting off the dead, and Lara getting thrown back by a vengeful and angry Necromancer, but another figure caught Aria by surprise. Running headlong was Lady Stanos. She was covered in blood and mud, soaking wet from the rain, like all of them and heading straight for the Necromancer who was heading for Lara.
[+pink “Max!”] Aria screamed for him, her hand pointing towards Lara who had been knocked back and was attempting to catch her bearings. Max turned instantly and tried to reach Lara in time as well. Max managed to tackle The Necromancer to the ground, but not before his sword found lodging in the gut of Lady Stanos. She stood over Lara protectively, and fell to her knees. Max who had the upper hand the briefest of moments, raised up his knife and plunged it down into Rhys’ chest. He fought to stay alive, snarling at Max, who simply twisted the blade and ended the Necromancer. Instantly the undead collapsed leaving over half the field empty. Seeing the dead fall, the battle swung heavily in favor of the Resistance who now came out into the field to clear a path for the Guardians and the Priestess to board a ship.
Max had dealt the final blow to the Necromancer and Adimar’s storm began to die down as well, as he’d managed to sink Malik’s fleet. He’d run them into the other, capsizing them, and letting lighting catch them ablaze. Carrick had fortunately found his way to Adimar’s hiding spot and caught him just before he fell unconscious to the ground. Getting Adimar back was another story. Between both their armor and their weapons, there was a lot of weight to carry. Carrick shouted for help, seeing a small lull in the battle with the defeat of the Necromancer. Several Resistance fighters rushed over at his call and took Adimar up into their arms. He was icy cold to the touch, paler than usual with blue lips and eyes lids, and his breathing was slow and labored. Even Carrick could tell there was not much a Healer could do. Adimar would have to recover the energy on his own with time. He had spent his powers to his own breaking point -nearly killing himself, but it had worked out. Debris and bodies now floated in the harbor and the winds had died down as did the rain and the surf. Carrick leaned against a pole on the dock and removed his helmet and looked around. Saraya and Adimar were now safe on the ship until they could escape to the rendezvous where they would meet up with the air ship. He would wait for the others to return before he boarded.
When they finally arrived to the ship, Max was carrying the body of Lady Stanos, and Aria was walking with Lara. Lara who would not board...
[+purple “I have to stay here... help rebuild and guard them from further attack...”] Aria frowned at Lara, they couldn’t break up now, and Malik was on his way. It hadn’t escaped Lara either, who knew what she was doing, risking, and what she could be saving by staying behind. As if to further reinforce her wish to stay, Malik’s war horn could be heard on the other side of the city.
[+pink “You can’t fight Malik alone.”]
[+purple “He’ll think I’m with you, besides, once he learns you’ve left he’ll go after you.”]
[+pink “You sound so confident.”]
[+purple “It doesn’t matter. You have to go. Now!”] Lara then all but pushed Aria towards Carrick who didn’t argue, simply grabbed a screaming Aria and took her aboard the ship.
[+pink “No! Lara! Please! Come with us!”]
[+Purple “I’ll find you! I promise, I’ll return before the final battle!”] Lara called, turning from them and collected with the remaining resistance fighters. There was nothing to be done, as Lara had quite suddenly used the water to push the ships out from their docks and the bulk of them began to head south for the River Nine access. A single ship carrying the Guardians moved north before it would make its trip south.
Aria finally pushed herself from Carrick, and looked to see that many were huddled around Lady Stanos, most of them in tears. Aria felt her own cheeks burning with the threat of tears, and finally demanded of Carrick and Max where the other guardians were.
[+blue “Saraya and Adimar are safe down below. I have not seen Rhuarc, yet”] She finally spotted him, looking about as well. Throwing caution to the wind, she shouted for Rhuarc. She ran across the deck and towards him before all but throwing herself upon him. She was beyond relieved to see he was still standing if not bruised and bloodied. Seeing his bludgeoned face she reached up, brow pinch with worry, and she carefully touched the edge of his swelling eye and could see the blood vessels in his eye had ruptured as well, making his eyes burn with a reddened glow. [+pink “You need a healer...”] There wasn’t much time as they were sailing quickly to the rendezvous, and there waiting on the northern shores was the Airship. They needed to help make preparations to transfer ships. So their reunion post battle would have to wait.
Both ships tied off to the other and laid across a heavy plank for the Guardians and company to cross. Aria was shuttled across first, followed by the others and a small group of healers that wished to stay with the Guardians and tend to both Saraya and Adimar as they were in the worst state compared to the others. With the transfer complete, the Fenlyk ship made its turn south and the airship lifted up from the water and towards Caledon. Aria couldn’t shake the fear she had for Lara back in Fenlyk, or those who remained to hold off Malik’s forces. Time would tell what happened after they left, and part of her felt guilty for leaving before the battle was officially won, but Lara was right... Aria could not be there when Malik arrived. If she was to face him now, they would surely all be lost.
The flight was quiet and somber, and Aria sat down in the infirmary with plenty of time and quiet to think about everything. Adimar laid in one bed, and Saraya in another, Carrick sleeping worriedly at her side, his head resting by his hand that held hers, and his large body slumped in the chair beside her bed. Aria sat by Adimar who was still unconscious and deathly pale, but he had begun to start shivering which was a good sign. Aria kept him covered in blankets to stay warm and in his fleeting moments of lucidity she fed him spoonfuls of broth. Corbin was keeping watch of the room with a nurse while Max gathered some rest. Aria simply sat, her mind drowning in thoughts of Balden’s betrayal, his loss, the loss of Ayab, how Rhuarc must have been handling it... and how she was handling the loss of her friends. Lady Stanos’ sacrifice to save Lara, and the realization they were going to Caledon without her. It just seemed strange, they had started this journey together, she had simply assumed they would always be together. If they did survive and defeat Malik she supposed she would have to accept that the Guardians would leave to return to their own lives. No doubt Lara was on the fast track to becoming the leader of the Fenlyk people. Saraya and Carrick would probably leave to raise their child and live a peaceful quiet life. Adimar might stay to continue his pursuit of Arcane knowledge, but one day he too would be called to return to Volshi. As for Rhuarc, Aria could only hope he would stay... she would miss him the most.
She rose up from her seat without a sound, finally finding the gumption to do more than sit and dwell on the loss from the battle, and collected several first aid items as well as a bowl of fresh cold water and carried it to Rhuarc’s room. Of course he wouldn’t come to the infirmary, so she would go to him. She knocked on his door and waited for permission to enter, and when allowed she entered closing the door softly behind her and set the kit on a table and dipped a clean rag in the water to clean his wounds. Sitting down across from him she reached up to clean the cut by his eye.
[+pink “I’m sorry, about Ayab,”] she whispered holding his face and dabbing at the dried blood.[+pink “We lost lost a lot today... I have to remind myself we had our victories though. You found a way to harm The Fade, The Necromancer was defeated, and we did take back the city...”] If Malik had won it back was another story. [+pink “Caledon’s temple is a couple days away at our current pace... but... are you going to be okay? I heard you... gave Ayab peace.”] her own voice wavered at that and she stopped her tending to simply stare at him, both of them clearly saddened by the loss -Rhuarc more so.
All posts are either in parody or to be taken as literature. This is a roleplay site. Sexual content is forbidden.