[center ***This is an original Plot, please do not steal, copy, or use anything from this rp for personal use or your own roleplay.***]
Land of Azera. Four Provinces at war fighting the Rule of one evil man...
Four wandering travelers find themselves in The Central City. It is a bustling and busy place, centered in the middle of the four provinces. It is also where The Self Proclaimed "King" Malik lives. It was once the Holy Land for the Four Provinces, where the fabled Priests and Priestesses of the Old Gods of Azeroth held sanctuary for all. That was… until King Malik. He ran the Holy Ones from their Holy Palace and took over not only the Central City, but the four provinces as well.
Legend has it that the Four Provinces once housed their own spirit guardians. These Guardians were kept in elaborate temples, with their own contingent of temple masters and maids to attend to them. During Malik’s rise to power, he attacked the temples and slaughtered the Temple Hands. It was by the brave sacrifices of Temple Masters and Maidens that they were able to send the Spirits away. For Centuries the Spirits had not claimed a host… but with the rise of Malik, the Guardians searched out their perfect Human Host, marking them and imbuing them with awesome powers to defeat evil and restore the balance.
The Province to the North was guarded by the Spirit of the Forest, and often seen in the shape of a Caribou. Filled with thick dense forests and beautiful mountain passes to the Northern most parts, and gently sloping hills further south where farming is aplenty. Winter, however, is never kind in the North. The summers are kind and fair and allow for the Northmen to travel south and barter their furs and goods for food stuffs they will need in the winter months. This is the Province known as Caledon. The people there are hearty and Strong. Known to produce fine warriors, and are often seen as warmongering, as the Caledon clans tend to fight against Malik’s border agents on a regular basis, and guard the Dark Forest’s creatures from venturing south. Caledon is considered the bread basket of Azera. It is reminiscent to what we would have considered Ancient Germania and Scandinavia.
The Province in the South is guarded by the Fire Spirit often seen as a massive snake. Mostly Desert lands with the occasional watery oasis. Farming takes great engineering feats involving sophisticated irrigation, and travel is usually done on Camel. Most people live nomadic lives, but there are cities where water can be found, usually along the River Nine, named so for the way the main river forks out at nine different locations and leads to nine large grandiose cities of terracotta. All of it built on the back of a lucrative Slave Trade. Most of the people in what is referred to as [i The Wastelands] are considered barbaric by many, with their nomadic lifestyle and their staunch traditions to the Old Gods –namely their patron deity the Fire-Breathing Serpent (Ouk'nu), and ritual sacrifice. Snakes are considered holy and sacred to the Nomadic people of Abdhu’Jai. The Southernmost part is unpassable as the desert goes on for hundreds of miles with no water in sight. It is also rumored that Sand Wyrms live there and those who have tried to trek across it in hopes of exploring have never been heard from again. The Jai's are reminiscent of The Egyptians, & The Byzantine Era.
To the East is where the Mountains climb higher than even those of Caledon. Here it is said the people of Volshiv live among the clouds and are protected by the Flying spirit of Wind often seen in the form of a Dove. On a still quiet day, if you stand on the Eastern border you can hear the whistling winds careen through the highest peaks in all of Azera. Very little is known about the Volshi. They are very reclusive and rarely travel West to the Central City. They are known to be fair of face and hair, willowy and spry and some of the last humans to retain some semblance of magical power. The Volshi were the only ones to escape the mad grip of Malik in the beginning –but it did not stop them from sending their Guardian to find a host as well.
To the West is the Province of Fenlyk. Guarded by the Water Spirit, known to take the form of a massive Koi Fish. The Region is mostly littered with waterways and wet lands, it is the fishing capital of all Azera. More fish is produced in Fenlyk than anywhere else in the Four Provinces. They trade frequently with Caledon and Abdhu’Jai. Aside from fish and watersports Fenlyk is known for its textile and fashion. It is the most modernized Province of the four, the wealthiest and one of the most influential. Their Navy is without rival, as it should be to protect the city from the Ocean's monsters that tend to capture vessels that wander too far from the mainland. They would be reminiscent of Ancient Greeks or Atlantis.
One woman is tasked to find the guardians, teach them and guide them to their glorious destiny. To find them she pulls from the ancient Prophecy, one that even involves her. Her name is Aria, a native of Volshiv who was taken from her home when she was no older than three. She doesn’t remember her home, or her birth parents. Only that she was marked by the Spirit Guardians –slated by the Gods to be their High Priestess. She was destined to be the most holy and powerful figure of her time, but Malik’s invasion from across the open sea and his march across the border lands of Abdhu’Jai and Fenlyk brought him to Central City and the beginning of his reign of terror. Of course when Malik invaded she was but a small child of six, training to be become The High Priestess. She escaped with the help of an Elder Priest who raised her in hiding, and continued her training so she could ensure the Guardians would find their way. A bounty is out for Aria’s head – though Malik has no real idea of who she is, he is aware of the markings that would and do adorn her body. She realizes he will discover her soon enough, and finding the Guardians has become imperative to free the city and provinces of the would-be Tyrant. Destroying Malik and returning peace to the four Provinces is also the only way to restore the Spirit Guardians back to their pantheons and peace to the land.
A traveler from each province finds themselves in Central City. Compelled to travel and see the world, or to simply get away from their old life. For any number of reasons, Fate brings them to the Central City. What they don’t realize is: they are chosen and marked as the host of their region’s Spirit Guardian. It lives within them and gives them power. It is a comforting, and yet frightening source for the four individuals -it just needs to be awakened in them, and that is where Aria comes in.
Aria feels it in her bones that the time has come. She’s been gifted visions of the travelers to come. She only sees them as their spirit so their faces remain shrouded in mystery. The Gods guide her to come out of hiding after hiding away for nearly twenty years. The raids took place when she was only six, and now she is twenty-seven. Time has passed and the people grow deeper into oppression. Most of the Tyranny is evident in the Central City. The outlying villages and townships of the Provinces are routinely raided, and it seems Malik is constantly fighting with the Caledons. The Fennish bow down to his reign their pacifism making them complacent and easy to dominate. The Nomads –Jais of the south are raided frequently and without mercy. The Volshi remain for the most part safe, but rumor has it they have amassed a huge army and are prepared to come down from their cities in the clouds to set Malik straight. Aria knows it will be too little too late. Malik has to be cut down at the source… from his False throne: The Holy Alter that should be hers.
Aria must find the Guardians, help them discover their own powers and talents, and if need be –sacrifice herself to help them cleanse the world and usher in a new peaceful Era. She must help the Guardians restore balance, but first… she has to find them and convince them.
Personality:guardian soft hearted, peaceful, adapts to surroundings and situations quickly, reserved
Bio & History:before being chosen, Saraya was a beautiful soul that loved children of her providence. she was married to a knight that protected the temple, and they were expecting their first born... Until the ambush. her husband was taken from her, and after that, her baby didn't surviv. With the passion she felt, she thought she would never survive... Until the spirit chose her.
Personality: quiet, shy, honest.
Bio & History: She was chosen as a guardian from birth, but neither her parents nor herself knew that at all. Her parents were simple fishers, her dad going out to sea for the daily haul and her mom selling whatever fish had been caught in the markets. Everything was pretty peaceful, until Malik took the ruling of everything under his hand. Since the region she lived bowed down peacefully, nothing really bad happened there. But something was up, which came in the form of her house being raided by Malik's forces. She managed to run off, while her parents were nailed to the door of what used to be her house. Now just walks around the provinces, hiding herself from Malik's grasp.
Weakness and limitations to your powers: Manipulating water requires some concentration. No concentration, no hydrokinesis.
Bio & History: Adimar hails from the high peaks of Volshiv. He has traveled the Sky Cities, and down in the Volishi Valleys where most Volshi tend to avoid due to the dense foliage and wild animals that haunt the forest beneath them. He is considered one of the best warriors of Volshi -bested only by the High Lord of Volshi. Having been marked a guardian since the day of his birth, at 32 Adimar is well versed in the landscape of politics and battle. He's had his skirmishes with King Malik's invading soldiers over the years. Adimar has spent his life preparing for battle against Malik -knowing his destiny from the very beginning and in order to save his people, he must go fight.
Adimar travels to the central city in hopes of finding his fellow Volshi, Aria, who was spirited away as a baby to be the next High Priestess. All in Volshiv know the name of Aria, and an army is amassed waiting to help her at the call to battle. Adimar intends to lead that army and reclaim the Holy Throne... but don't confuse his motives as one of honor -Adimar has plans of his own... to be free.
Weapon of Choice: Archer by trade, but also carries a sword of Volshi Steel passed down in his family for generations
Primary Special Power: Weather Manipulation, allows him to create any number of storms for up to eight hours. Lightning, tornado, rain etc...
1. Flight Assist: Allows him to use the wind to propel him upwards into the air for short bursts of time, or to surge him forward quickly.
2. Lashing Tailwind: The name of his attack where he kicks out a devastating blast of cold air to temporarily immobilize opponents.
3. Eagle Eye: Allows him to possess the body of any bird and see through it's eyes. He uses this skill a great deal for scouting.
Weakness and limitations to your powers: As with any magic user Adimar will eventually run out of Mana: or his magical stamina. He is very powerful, but the more power he uses, the more mana he uses. His powers are limited he can only make one storm a day, but can use his three minor attack powers intermittently as long as he has the mana to do so. Also, his other great weakness is a pretty woman. He does not hide his playboy like nature.
Bio & History: Rhuarc is an extremely large man, standing tall at 6ft 10’ and weighing around 19st 12lbs he is an imposing physical specimen. Rhuarc is a muscled figure and very much represents the typical stereotype of a wasteland barbarian. His body is adorned with various, tattoos, brands and scars.
Born into the traditional nomadic life of the Abdhu’Jai people. At ten years old Rhuarc departed on the traditional journey to the sacred temple of Ouk'nu in the deep southern deserts, as all young men do in an effort to prove himself to his tribe and the great fire deity. It wasn't long before Rhuarc and his people grew used to the merciless raids of Malik and his forces, causing a deep distrust of anyone not from within the nomadic Jai. Rhuarc's father and brother were killed in one so called raid while his sister was taken presumably as a slave.
Weapon of Choice: A large, brutal looking great sword with a wicked looking serrated edge
Guardian: Not a Guardian, but the High Priestess of the Guardians. She is their guide and mentor. She is marked with the symbols of every Guardian in a straight line down her spine -each marked in their prospective color.
Personality: Passionate devotion, motherly, calm gentle -but a tempest of fury if invoked. A Natural Born Ruler
Bio & History: Born in Volshiv, Aria was marked from the day of her Birth as the next High Priestess wielding the marks of all four Guardians. Then they were tiny dots of color, now a woman they have taken full shape down her spine weaving one another together. Her arrival was kept as secret as possible but her coming was foreseen by the Holy Ones who came and collected her. They took her still suckling at her mother's breast, taking her into Central City before she ever knew her mother's name.
When she was six the raids of Malik's wrath arrived. He had laid claim to the throne for many years, but upon word that the new High Priestess had been born he ordered the temples and monasteries burned and destroyed. He decreed that the Old Gods, or Guardians, were no more and that he was God. He lived an unnaturally long life -one none of the Holy Scholars could figure out. It was by the handiwork of Elder Rigby that Aria was smuggled out. Since then she was raised in seclusion with nothing but Elder Rigby to teach her, and her many tombs and scrolls from which she studied preparing for the day to take her birth right. The Holy Alter. It would make her more powerful than any king or Lord of the Four Provinces, but it is not for Power she wishes to take the Alter Throne back... it is for the people. She too has suffered by Malik's hand, she wishes it to end.
Weapon of Choice: She is often seen walking with a Staff, this is her bow staff, her weapon of choice. Meant to disarm and injure but not kill
Primary Special Power: Absolute Intuition -she has a knowing about her. It is unexplainable.
1. Ability to enter the spirit realm either while sleeping or through meditation
2. Can whisper thoughts into the minds of men - Persuasion
Weakness/limitations: Aria is not a fighter, that alone makes her weak physically. Mentally she is strong. Her powers of absolute intuition are more like a strong 6th sense -but not always available. When she enters the spirit realm, awake or asleep she is vulnerable to attack and needs to be guarded by someone she trusts. Her powers of persuasion can be ignored by a person with an iron will.
[center *** Side characters who travel with the Guardians are more than welcome to help make up the caravan***]
1. All Standard ES rules apply
2. Have Fun
3. No insta-romance
4. This is a literate RP. I ask for a post on average of 800 words
5. Basic Grammar and Spelling please
6. PM Me with the title of the Rp: Rise of the Guardians, and a basic Character Skeleton.
7. You have ten (10) days to post. Failure to post within ten days forfeits your turn.
Please note: You may play more than one character, but you may only play one Guardian.
Your powers should not be so much that combined you are incredibly powerful and basically unstoppable. Please have ONE main power that does only a small handful of acceptable things, and up to three minor skills. All your power and all your skill -your character is still mortal and MUST HAVE A WEAKNESS. I don't want characters with god-like powers. Our group will face tasks where they are defeated, injured, or captured. No one should be capable of having fail-safes to constantly win.
Water Manipulation: can take water from the ground, the air, or even from a direct water source and create water funnels that attack, or a massive wave, or even turn that water to ice and create a spear with which to throw at enemies.
Healing: you can heal but not raise the dead -that is necromancy and would be considered a Primary power
Air Manipulation: Would be more like controlling the weather. Or maybe you can rush the air at an opponent flinging them back, take the air from them and let them choke.
Earth Manipulation: Use of the ground, make it shake, split open into chasms to swallow whole platoons, or maybe use the plant life around you, grow your own and use it to attack.
If you still have questions regarding your powers, please don't hesitate to PM me. I want these characters to be humble -not all powerful.
You don't have permission to post in this thread.
Adimar was pleased to see his friends and comrades return, and they came bearing good news: Hermès had been spotted in the sky. Of course the hawk would only land and confront one man -Adimar. Still feeling a bit fatigued from the battle and now his most recent spell, Adimar donned a cape to keep warm and followed his friends outdoors and into the center of the village.
[#20b2aa “Any sign of Lara on the road north?”] Adimar asked distractedly, his eyes skyward and watching Hermès circle high above.
[b “Not yet, Thad and I planned to start south in the hopes of meeting with her, and helping her finish the trip by foot. The Woods of Caledon can be dangerous, from what I’ve heard. Great beasts and whatnot that lurk in its shadows,”] Rupert informed. Adimar looked down from the sky to his men and nodded. He liked that idea, it gave him comfort, at least Lara wouldn’t have to finish her venture alone. His two most trusted men would be with her, and he wouldn’t have to forsake his duty to Aria.
[#20b2aa “Go, I’ll inform the Priestess that you both plan to go south and meet Lara. Ride all the way back to Fenlyk if you must, just bring her back to the group.”] Both Thad and Rupert gave nods of their heads and left Adimar to go in search of horses they might use, and provisions for the road.
With his men gone, Adimar made a whistle and raised his arm, now wearing a thick leather glove that covered his forearm. It would protect his flesh from Hermes’ lethal talons. The hawk made its own screech in reply, and came down from the skies to land on Adimar’s arm. A warm and happy smile graced Adimar’s face. Pleased to see his old friend returned to him and safe. Hermes weight was a welcomed burden to his arm, and he reached out to stroke the hawk’s feathers and fed him a piece of raw meat. Hermes gobbled it up quickly, wasting no time to look for more treats on its master.
[#20b2aa “Welcome back, old friend. I worried about you, but I am happy to see you.”] Adimar told the hawk and carried it inside to the table he was working at. Now he was alone in the long house, and whereas he normally hated to be left alone, he was happy for the silence of being alone. Hermes was also content to be perched on a sturdy chair and began to preen its wings, and Adimar took back to his research.
He didn’t get much work done, too distracted spoiling Hermes with bits of meat and conversation. He was in the middle of a very one sided conversation concerning his own problems, when he heard a ruckus in another part of the house. It was Rhuarc, no denying that commanding voice, or the heavy footfalls that thumped ever closer towards him. Sure enough the hulking Jai stopped upon his room and knocked. Adimar quickly called out for Rhuarc to enter and Hermes gave his own welcome in the form of a screech. Wings spread out in warning, Adimar knew Hermes had sensed Rhuarc was distressed and this put Adimar on edge.
[#20b2aa “My friend, what’s the matter? What happened to your face”] Adimar asked, seeing the bruises and cuts on the man, and watched as Rhuarc took a seat at the table. Adimar followed suit and looked to a man that had become a close and dear friend to him.
[b “Adimar, friend. I owe you an apology. I did you a great wrong”] Adimar cocked his head to the side, confused by what he meant. Adimar knew of no wrong that had been done.
[#20b2aa “Whatever it is, I’m sure it’s nothing, for I know of nothing you’ve done.”] Rhuarc was unconvinced and proceeded to inform him that During the Battle for Astoria, Rhuarc had reached out and controlled the lightning. He then said he would accept any form of punishment Adimar saw fit. It dawned on Adimar that Rhuarc felt responsible for Adimar’s collapse in battle.
Adimar felt no ill will, but was more preoccupied by a single fact. [#20b2aa “You channeled lightning? That’s incredible! I’m not mad at all. I’m impressed. Lightning is powerful, but it’s not of my making, it’s only a by-product. I call the storm from the winds of the world. It comes, and it creates its own force. My error was in holding it too long, not in you taking lightning that was freely available.”] Adimar then closed one of his books and folded his hands over the top of it. [#20b2aa “I do not imagine science and technology are something the Jai worry themselves with, but you should know… Lightning is like fire. It’s heat, it just moves… faster than fire. A Spark can make fire, because at its core that’s all it is. Fire is heat, is friction, is energy… Lightning is energy too, they are the same essentially. I think it’s time we amped up your arcane training. I want to see if you can create the lightning on your own, but in the meantime, I have something else to show you.”] Adimar said with an accomplished grin.
Seeing Rhuarc’s curiosity, if not his confusion at Adimar’s nonchalance to Rhuarc’s feelings of guilt, Adimar made a reach for the quartz orb in his possession. As far as Adimar was concerned there was no need for Rhuarc’s apology, if anything what he’d learned was cause for celebration. I meant there was more power to Rhuarc’s Guardianship than originally thought. However, he set such notions aside for the moment knowing this would please his friend, and General. Adimar handed it to Rhuarc and left his own hand to hover over it and muttered a single phrase in the ancient tongue. [#20b2aa [i “Glisse”]] The quartz instantly began to swirl a cloud in its center before clearing to reveal Aria and her location. She was currently standing on the edge of an overlook and could see the mountain range that spanned miles across the province. [#20b2aa “I created an enchanted pendant for her. So long as she has it on her person, we can find her wherever she may be. It’s bonded to her, it will reveal no other but her. I figured things will only get worse.. so we can think of this as insurance should we ever lose sight of her, and it gives her a little freedom to roam about as she is now.”] Adimar watched Rhuarc closely as he held the Scrying orb in his large dark hand. Since meeting Rhuarc and Aria, Adimar has his suspicions about them, but never said a word as evidence never revealed itself. Perhaps he hoped to see something from Rhuarc, though he was doubtful he would. He’d seen nothing from Aria.
Adimar took the orb and set it to the side, but let the image of Aria and the view of the mountains remain. Smirking to himself he stood up and approached his hawk to mask his own emotions on his face, and stroked the bird’s feathers. [#20b2aa “I know her safety is very important to you, Rhuarc. I saw the way you reacted that day back in the Volshi border town, and again when we found her in Kil’heed, and there’s been other instances… so I’ll call everything even between us if you’re honest with me.”] Adimar finally looked from his hawk to Rhuarc and gave the man a hard expression. [#20b2aa “She’s more than our priestess to you… isn’t she? We’re friends, Rhuarc, I don’t imagine the others suspect a thing, but I have for a long time, and next to you I spend the most time with her. The others follow commands and she shows them what she wants them to see. That orb is for you. Not her, nor I. It’s for you. To bring you peace of mind.”] Adimar carried Hermes across the room then, the orb still sitting on the table and showing Aria now speaking with Luther on the overlook.
His voice dropped to a whisper, [#20b2aa “Your secret is safe with me. I won’t tell her, or the others. ‘Glisse’ will reveal, and ‘vinte’ will turn it back to simple quartz. If I’m wrong though, you can leave the orb where it sits, and you can lecture me for good measure, but if I’m right…”] Adimar wore a wan smile then and reached out to clasp his hand on Rhuarc’s shoulder, the other had Hermes perched elegantly. [#20b2aa “I am sorry. We all want things we cannot have, friend. She’s colder than ice, and has only one thought on her mind. Think about what I said regarding the lightning, and clean yourself up. Our Priestess won’t be too pleased to see you beat up. Why are you beat up?”] Adimar asked again. It was then they heard a call from downstairs.
[i “Master Jai, I have done as asked,”] Adimar ventured out of his room with Hermes and Rhuarc to see the healer at the foot of the stairs. Curious, Adimar hurried down the steps and saw Corbin laid out on a table, and his jaw dropped. He looked to Rhuarc and the healer, before looking back at the unconscious guardsman.
[#20b2aa “The High Priestess explicitly said this man was to befall no harm… how did this happen? Rhuarc?”] Adimar demanded to know of them both. He was more than just the group mage, Aria had named him her viceroy of sorts, and he’d have to report this to her. He hated having to deliver bad news.
Rhuarc stood and watched as Corbin fell to his knees and seemingly begged for the Jai Guardian to end his life. Without realising it Rhuarc's hand had somehow come to rest on the handle of his belt knife, all it would take was one strike across Corbin's throat and he would bleed out in seconds. It would be quick, practically painless and it would rid the world of the unnatural monster. Before Rhuarc learned what his choice was going to be he was joined by two other figures, one was wearing similar robes to the man that Saraya met with which meant that this figure must also be a Priest. The other was a large figure, bigger than anyone Rhuarc had seen outside of the Wastelands but the two men did not seem to care about Rhuarc, instead they too were focussed on Corbin. The Priest seemed to take Corbin's words as a forfeit of his live and pronounced that he would be executed in three days time. Rhuarc was not sure what to make of that but it seemed that the duo were not content with just taking Corbin's life they wanted to make him suffer first.
The younger man, Mogar, slammed his fist into Corbin's midriff, dropping him to the ground before continuing his assault, three more Caledonian guards joined the younger man in their brutal attack of the Holy Guardsman. Every punch from the men had the force of hate and malice behind it, they wanted to wound and kill Corbin. It was sickening. Rhuarc despised the figure that was being bloodied before him, he was an abomination, a creation of evil but as much as Rhuarc wanted the creature dead Aria had commanded that he not be harmed. Rhuarc faced a fork in the road, follow his own desire and do nothing to help Corbin or follow Aria's commandment go against his own judgement and aid Corbin. He was Aria's General, he was duty bound to follow her instruction, he was an instrument of her will and yet...every fibre of his being was screaming to let Corbin die. These were the moments he had talked about with Carrick, when a choice was needed between doing your duty and anything else, duty came first. The famous Jai saying came into his mind [i “Death is lighter than a feather. Duty, heavier than a mountain.”] Rhuarc would do his duty. Always.
After one of the guards had delivered another sickening punch to Corbin's face Rhuarc grabbed him by the shoulders and threw him off the bloodied figure, and covered the man with his own body, protecting the shadowspawn with his own body. The guards did not seem to care that they now attacked Rhaurc in their attempt to get to Corbin. Their fists bruised his body and drew blood when they connected with his nose or mouth buT Rhuarc held firm. They would not get to Corbin, not while Rhuarc was there. Channeling the fire of Jai'hash into his skin, as one of the guards hit Rhuarc in his ribs, where his fist made contact with the Jai's flesh his hand blistered and burned as though he had stuck his hand in white hot fire instead. The guard screamed in pain and fell back, prompting the other two figures to do the same. Mogar watched on curiously as if unsure what to make of Rhuarc defending Corbin when moments ago he had been advocating for Corbin's death. In truth it was simple really, that choice was not Rhuarc's to make, it was Aria's and until she said otherwise Rhuarc would do everything in his power to keep Corbin alive, even if he disagreed. Rhuarc scooped Corbin into his arms, the beaten figure drifting in and out of consciousness and carried him across town to the longhouse and hopefully some medical help.
It did not take long for Rhuarc to reach the longhouse, kicking open the doors and cradling the unconscious, bloodied figure in his arms it was a dramatic entrance. Striding through the various rooms until he found a table big enough to lay Corbin on and do what he could for his one time ally. [b "Fetch a healer!"] Rhuarc barked at a young Caledonian who seemed to nod before dashing off. Rhuarc was no healer himself but he had been in enough battles to have learnt some basic skill. He opened a pouch on his belt and brought out a clump of dried herbs before putting them in his mouth and chewing them. It was a horrible, bitter taste but the Ichor Root was a useful plant, it grew in the deserts of Adbhu'Jai and had helped many a wounded Jai. Once he had chewed the root enough he took it out and spread it over some of the nastier looking cuts and bruises. It would help reduce swelling and stave off infection for the time being. Rhuarc did not have enough to use on all of Corbin's injuries but it would have to do for now until a proper healer arrived. As it happened, a male healer by the name of Leech, he was a tall, slender figure with a hooked nose and a shaved head inspected Rhuarc's makeshift handiwork and the rest of Corbin's injuries. He didn't speak much but seemed satisfied, if just barely, with what Rhuarc had done for Corbin. The Jai had thought about sending a runner to fetch Saraya and Aria but in the end he had decided against it. While Corbin's injuries were severe they weren't life threatening, and the presence of Leech would ensure that he was well cared for. Summoning Aria and Saraya away from whatever they were doing would serve no purpose but to worry them, they could do nothing to help so it was better they continue doing whatever it was that they were doing and see to Corbin whenever they returned.
Rhuarc let Leech work on Corbin in peace and Rhuarc made for another room in the longhouse; the one Adimar was currently studying in. Rhuarc had disregarded his own feelings and done his duty in relation to Corbin, it was time he faced his other feelings of shame and did the honourable thing with Adimar. He knocked on the door tentatively before sticking his head in, [b "I hope that I do not disturb you friend but there is something I need to discuss with you."] After being beckoned inside Rhuarc sat himself down on an empty chair before forcing himself to look Adimar in the eyes. [b "Adimar, friend. I owe you an apology. I did you a great wrong. During the Battle for Astoria while you were calling a storm down upon the False King's ships and I was battling the Fade...I stole your magic. I reached out with my mind, looking for something, anything to use against the Fade and I sensed your power and took it for myself. I controlled the lightning you had used, I drew its power through you. I violated you and could have killed you, friend. I beg your forgiveness and accept any penance you deem fit to impose."]
Time passed quietly between Adimar and Aria, both of them content with their own tasks, but comforted by the other’s company. Aria scratched a quill against the paper of her diary as she wrote her latest entry chronicling her travels and observations of the group, their encounters, and her own personal perspective on things. On the pages of this diary were the thoughts and feelings she could not otherwise express. While Adimar focused on a particular book out of three on the table he occupied, jotting down notes in a furious fashion. He had been this way for nearly an hour now, shuffling between books, but it was when he stopped that Aria took notice and studied him from across the room. He had a look on his face that Aria couldn’t quite understand. He was staring at her intently. when he suddenly reached for a pouch inside his trunk nearby. He stood back to her, and Aria could no longer contain her curiosity.
[+pink “What is it Adimar?”] He looked over his shoulder at her before turning to face her and bringing the pouch over. He gave it a shake for good measure and Aria could hear the tinkling of something like stones.
[#20b2aa “You’ll see. Just reach inside and give me what I need.”] Aria looked now to the presented pouch. It was made of navy velvet, and painted in silver Volshi runes. The pouch was small, no larger than the size of her hand, and she had no idea what was inside it. He held it in a way it was open but revealed nothing. She gave him a quizzical look, to which he responded: [#20b2aa “Just trust me. It is for you, so you must choose.”]
[+pink “I do trust you,”] Aria said setting her quill to the side and raising her hand. [+pink “But sometimes I’d rather like to know what you’re up to. You have a wicked streak in you, and if this is a trick….”] She warned reaching her hand ever closer. Adimar smiled and gave the bag another jingle with a jovial fashion.
[#20b2aa “It’s not a trick, or a prank. Just reach inside and choose.”]
Aria sighed, some what delighted for the distraction in her writings and the silence and finally reached inside the pouch. She wasn’t sure what to expect, but what she felt was cool to the touch, with faceted edges, some were textured, others smooth. Some were small and some were big. She glanced up to Adimar, and his eyes had slid shut, but when she withdrew her hand his eyes opened and they both looked to see what she had retrieved from the pouch. Aria turned it side to side and watched it flash and suddenly she saw a rainbow.
[#20b2aa “Not expected… but fitting.”] Aria turned away from the fractured light and the crystal was still once more. It was long and lean for a crystal, but was nearly as flawless as a diamond. It was roughly the length of her pinky finger and spired into a faced pointed top, and bottom. Through it she could see Adimar reflected upside down, but the image was different. She looked closely and saw that it was Adimar, but he was dressed in King’s robes, and wore a crown. He looked proud and strong, but when Aria blinked the image faded and he was himself.
He stood before her, his hand now extended for the crystal she had chosen, and she quietly gave it to him. She watched him take it back to his table, where he began to draw a ritual circle on a large piece of parchment.
[+pink “What did you mean by: unexpected, but fitting?”]
Adimar shrugged. [#20b2aa “I suppose I really shouldn’t be surprised. I thought you might pick a gem like a diamond, but instead you chose a that crystal. It’s the only one I have, and I came by it with great expense.”] Adimar took Aria’s closing of her diary as permission to continue. She made her way over to his table and over looked his proceedings. Inside the runic ritual circle he placed the Crystal in the center, and as she stood across him he raised a hand for her hair. [#20b2aa “I’ll also be needing one of these-“] He plucked a silver strand of hair from her head and tied it around a small bundle of dried herbs and placed it down in a small bronze bowl.
[+pink “So will you tell me of this crystal, or shall I remain in suspense?”] Aria teased, albeit curious of Adimar’s tasks.
[#20b2aa “Legend has it the crystal formed when The Guardians first came here. It is only found in one place in the world.”] Realization dawned in Aria’s eyes, she had never seen the crystals with her own eyes until today.
[+pink “You mean someone smuggled that out from under the High Temple of Azera?”]
[#20b2aa “In one form or fashion, yes, and it found its way to me,”] Adimar said and placed down the last ingredient for his spell, a round palm sized sphere of quartz. He gave a motion of his hand for her to move aside and stand behind him. Once she was clear, but still able to see Adimar held his hands over the crystal and began to chant in the ancient language of the mystics. He lit the bundle of herbs with a candle, and continued the chanting of his spell as he carried the smoke over and across the crystal several times. Slowly the ball of quartz cleared away and began to show the image of the long house they occupied. Adimar’s chanting ceased, but the herbs continued to burn as he set them back inside the bowl and lifted the crystal up and set it inside a wire fastening and weaved a short but thin length of leather through it and turned presenting the token to Aria. [#20b2aa “Now should ere the need arise, it will lead us to finding you.”]
Aria was stunned, and reached for the dangling crystal pendant. She was touched to realize Adimar had been trying to put this together for a while. Slowly collecting the things he needed.
[+Pink “Earlier, it showed me a different vision of you,”] Aria confessed. Adimar seemed interested by that, and reached out to help her tie it around her neck.
[#20b2aa “Oh yeah? And what did it show you?”]
[+pink “It showed me that you will become High King of Volshi. You looked proud.”] Adimar frowned then, stepping back to look directly into Aria’s lavender eyes. She knew that was not a future he wanted, She let it go, stepping back from him and watched as he turned towards his table and began to clean up after his enchantment.
[#20b2aa “The Crystal speaks to you. That is fortunate, and further evidence you are the High Priestess…”]
[+pink “You still doubt me?”] Adimar smirked, and shook his head no.
[#20b2aa “Never. I knew who you were the moment I laid eyes on you. It is others who seem to keep questioning you.”]
[+pink “They question the risk inherent in choosing to openly believe I am The High Priestess, for it means defying Malik. They will all believe soon, life and balance will return to the four provinces, they will have peace, and I will lead them to it.”] Adimar gave a nod of his head. He believed her, and she believed her words as well. Come hell or high water, she would lead the world to a new era. A better one.
It was then a knock came on the door and it opened soon after, revealing to be two of her guards, as well as Thad and Rupert who came to visit with Adimar. Satisfied to see her guards were settling in, Aria approached the two tasked with her and instructed them to follow her on a walk. She wanted to see the extent of Malik’s damage herself and to speak with the people, much as she had done in Volshi and in Fenlyk a tactic she continued to use. Both guards nodded their heads and followed behind Aria. She seemed to fit in just fine. Her dress was just as dingy and discolored from travel as the others she managed to glimpse before they scurried away out of her path and her sight. She held her Volshi scarf against her chest, keeping it draped over her shoulders as the wind made a strong gust through the village, kicking up dust and soot. She tried to envision what it must have looked like before the intense battle that took place here, but she could not. There was too much scorched earth, and too many empty plots were buildings had once stood. The air was depressed and as she walked she saw the people were as well. It was an odd welcoming, how unwelcome she was. It was cold, and the air grew damp -threatening rain, but Aria was determined to see as much of the destruction as she could. It was fuel for her fight against Malik. Everywhere she looked there was loss… and it filled her with rage.
Carrick was mortified about the Priest's unexpected action in imprisoning Corbin, but he was more mortified about Saraya's reaction. He could feel an angry jolt from within her, something that frightened him. What was worse was that she was so upset, she shown it by leaving them at his mercy. Teypion's return were met with bewildering and confused stares. When he noticed that Saraya wasn't there, he sighed deeply. Carrick could see that he hadn't meant to upset her. But, it was a precaution he had to uphold. Carrick didn't need any reasoning. They all didn't. So none spoke of it.
Still, Teypion turned to his guests. [I [#b506c6 "I'm afraid i haven't been a good host. I will escort you to the cottage. It will suit The Priestess and the Guardianship."]] He tried to pull a gentle smile, but Carrick knew he was hurting. There was so much to take in, and he took it all in, and quite like how Caledon would approach the situation... What Saraya just didn't count on, no matter how brave she tried to be, was how much it would hurt to see him ripped away from her, to where she couldn't protect him, by the one she trusted her entire life. Saraya was mortally wounded. Carrick didn't know what to make of that.
Teypion noticed his puzzled look as Aria and the troupe began walking towards the cottage. He made his way to him, seeing that this young man had an anguishing look on his face, and it was wetting his lashes. [I [#b506c6 " Carrick, isn't it?"]] He said, his old voice bouncing with curiosity. Carrick's quick nod alongside a look of concern swept his face, ignoring the tear that lingered and glistened on his cheek. Teypion knew it. He smiled and tapped his back. [I [#b506c6 "I will take you to her cottage. No doubt she'll take her old home."]]
The walk, unlike the carriage ride, presented more questions than answers. For one thing, children would be playing in this sunlight, undisturbed by cloud. There was cottages rarely spotted in between yards of regrowing swaying grass. What was more strange was the color of the grass. What he remembered from his past travels, the grass was said to be healing. Because Caledonians' green thumb in herbal as well as resources, it was named [i [b The Home of Healing]]. Looking at the grass, what he expected to be swaying in the spring breeze was a dark green hue, making the grass sway as if laps on the ocean shores. What was swaying now was sunset colors, reds, yellows and even close to purple long streching blades swayed in the breeze, giving the illusion that the ground was ablaze.
All this, and the biggest mystery was this... Where were the women? Not many were seen. Only some young ladies growing into their adulthood, and they were seen mostly tending to their chores. There were rare sightings of men, and male children and young bucks were either fetching water, or tending to fires to cook. This was strange, and as he followed behind the old Priest to their Cottage, he couldn't help but pry. He was speaking with Aria. It appeared that he began to listen as she asked of the customs, obviously keying in to the same thing he was. Carrick looked to his right as Teypion nodded.
[I [#b506c6 "Malik, the Lord of Shadows... He swept through here those years ago, taking away the only thing that man must have..."]] He looked to his left, spotting a sullen man, who seemed worn down, sad and destitute. Teypion looked to Aria as the group pondered. [I [#b506c6 " He took men's faith. He threw the balance of these lands. He had given many the abyss, others eternal servitude. The last of the men are what you see... Young bucks and old bucks, confused and unsure because of the imbalance he caused."]]
Carrick could feel the hopelessness from the earth. Though the sun was shining, the earth held no warmth. He was compelled to state the obvious. [I [#9bacf8 "So, the women were forced to fight instead"]]
Teypion looked up to the distant Carrick, nodding in agreement. [I [#b506c6 " My fellow Priest's daughter leads them. She is a She-Mage, a well refined weapon. She is also Saraya's best comrade."]]
With that, Teypion began his steady trekk to the cottage. Carrick looked to Aria before walking forward. The cottage seemed to be like any others they passed, but inside, it was bigger than expected. Carrick watched as everyone picked rooms and set up camp. They would be there for awhile. It was best to sit and grab their bearings.
All the while, Saraya kept coming to mind. He could feel her, could feel the grief from so far away. Teypion looked over to Carrick's far away look, obviously fighting a internal battle. He managed to get close enough not to rouse him before tapping. Carrick looked to the man. [I [#b506c6 "I do believe... Her cottage is just beyond those hills"]] he said. Carrick waited a moment before grabbing the simple baggages he carried. Just as he and Teypion were about to leave, Aria had appeared, asking about Saraya... If she would be okay.
His response? A sad, hurt look on his face. He just couldn't answer her.
Saraya couldn't believe it... The men... Where were the men? The women of Caledon weren't anything close to what she remembered. Women were blacksmithing, training with spears and swords, their tresses were done into warrior locs. Children were grinding powder and helping the old women with making medicines and powders for poisonous traps. Women were warriors now... But, what did that mean for the men?
As suddenly as she asked the question, something had approached from behind her. Saraya turned to spot an oh, too familiar face. [I [#da3c18 " Ruscal?"]]
Ruscal was one of the priests' daughter. She was much like Saraya, and was her best friend. No doubt, she had became an warrior. But, there was a vengeful fire in her eyes. As soon as she saw her face, Ruscal's golden embers flashed a look of surprise. Her hair was pulled into a single ponytail, locs flourishing underneath the tie. Her pale skin was smeared with soot and... Oh, no... Saraya felt a twinge again. She almost collapsed. She lost feeling in her left leg.
Ruscal grabbed onto her before Saraya had noticed that she was hugging her. Ruscal was near weeping, but she was relieved that she didn't prejudge her. [I [#411256 "I knew you would return"]] she whispered in their mother tongue. It was a silent happiness pretruding from Ruscal that almost made her weep. But a question crept in her mind... [I [#da3c18 " Are you not afraid i'm-"]]
[I [#411256 "I am a Mage here. There is no denying your identity, friend. Though, your aura is bright... Yet it is waning..."]] Ruscal studied Saraya's eyes, Saraya already feeling the gentle grasp of power as she watched her memories. Not a word needed to be said. Not a thing could be heard. Just Ruscal's radiating golden brown eyes, and a sharing of their powers as Saraya's memories spun the web of the tale that led her home. When Ruscal broke eye contact was when she felt the break in their power connection. Ruscal was near crying. Saraya had grabbed her hands. [I [#da3c18 " Ruscal, i am sorry-"]]
[I [#411256 "Sorry? I should be apologizing to you. I wasn't there that day... And i could have eased some burden on your journey..."]] Saraya squeezed her hands in tearful gratitude. [I [#da3c18 "... You are here now"]]
Ruscal smile calmed Saraya's anger a bit. She turned her attention to the warrior work before her. [I [#da3c18 " What had happened? Where are the men?"]]
Ruscal looked to her. [I [#411256 "They had lost faith. Some were imprisoned, some were killed. The remaining stay dormant in their cottages while we believed you would return. We decided to take their place, widows and wives and daughters alike. We will restore honor to Caledon. The Dark One will not win, now that you have returned, and you've brought The Priestess and Guardians?!"]]
[I [#da3c18 " Ruscal, it is not as simple..."]]
[I [#411256 "... Oh, yes... That monster who attacked you... He will be first to die by my hand"]]
Saraya huffed. [I [#da3c18 " Ruscal, Egos is my war! That demon killed and reanimated my family, one of which is imprisoned out of distrust, and the other is under his fist. Carrick is everything to me now. I have a new family to protect... and my child now is in danger"]]
Ruscal saw her swollen belly and placed a hand on it. She then noticed Saraya's deteriorated state. She was ready to fall over. [I [#411256 "You shouldn't be on your feet, Saraya. No doubt Teypion has escorted your Carrick to your cottage. You should come with me to my cottage. Crow and Owl should be there. They should be back with food and drink. "]]
Saraya grunted as she felt her body get weaker. The wound in her side was hot now and burning. She felt feverish as Ruscal helped her through the crowd and to her cottage.
Ruscal had been observing Saraya for a few hours. Saraya had been battered and bruised, and still willing to carry this Carrick's seed. This Mage, this evil follower of The Dark King seemed to be aiming at her, not the Priestess. Was she not the main aim for him?
Saraya's sleeping form raised questions. But, as she dressed the wounds in her back, a silver haired male and a gray haired female stormed in, and plopped down blocks of wood. [I [#8c3022 " Do you want me to cook? I've managed to nab a a few ducks and a boar"]] Owl smiled. She was like a nymph, small, but blessed with a powerful eye, and expertise with a bow and arrow. Crow, being the quiet one, chuckled as he set his satchel of fish down on the table. [I [#2e8c22 "I must admit, i agree to duck tonight"]]
Ruscal smiled. [I [#411256 " I agree. We've much to celebrate"]] she smiled as she stood. Owl and Crow looked at Ruscal before looking to each other. [I [#8c3022 "Celebrate?"]] Ruscal smiled wider. [I [#411256 " Ah, yes, Owl... Celebrate... We are celebrating the return of an old friend"]]
Confused, Crow and Owl looked as Ruscal stood aside. Owl's eyes widened in shock. Crow almost choked out a yell. They stepped closer... This friend... [I [#2e8c22 "No... Ruscal... This can't be..."]] Crow was brought to tears.
[I [#8c3022 " What Arcane power did you conjure to do this?!"]] Owl gasped. Ruscal shook her head. [I [#411256 "No Arcane powers. She is here, alive and more or less, well."]] Owl gently sat beside Saraya's sleeping form. As Crow observed, Owl reached to move a lock of her hair from her face when Saraya's hand grabbed tightly around her wrist, gasping as if avoiding being touched by an evil entity. Owl grabbed her shoulders as Crow jumped away. Ruscal jumped a moment, sighing as she helped Saraya calm. [I [#411256 " Saraya, calm! It is Owl and Crow."]] Ruscal reassured. Saraya's frantic panting had slowly calmed before laying down. Owl stared at Saraya's face. [I [#8c3022 "You're really Saraya, aren't you? By The Gods! We thought you dead these past two years"]] Owl laughed. Crow looked at her. [I [#2e8c22 " By the Gods... What happened?"]] He said, kneeling to her.
Saraya wanted to speak, but when she was about to, there was a heavy pain that hit her. A eerie, trembling grunt became Crow's answer. Ruscal hurried to her, moving the hide from her swollen belly and helped her sit up. [I [#411256 "Saraya... Are you alright?"]] Saraya shivered before placing a hand on her belly. [I [#da3c18 " I... I don't... "]] Owl looked to Crow before looking to Ruscal. [I [#8c3022 " Who is the one who gave her his seed? Has she been-"]]
[I [#411256 , "No, Owl. Her honor wasn't tainted. She had found a new Bond, and he is the only one who could have successfully planted a seed within her."]]
[I [#2e8c22 " Where is he?"]]
[I [#411256 "I suspect he is setting up refuge in her old cottage. She is a Guardian, chosen by blood. Barren after the ambush. He is her Ancient..."]]
Crow was confused. Ruscal huffed in irritation. [I [#411256 " Never you mind! I will explain later. For now, she is in first stage of The Coming. Soon, she will need to birth. She will need her Carrick's presence "]]
Crow and Owl both nodded before the pair stumbled out the door. Ruscal drew her attention to Saraya. Her skin was paling, her breaths were loud and weak, her hand was wrung into the hide as a shivering groan escaped her. Ruscal sighed a bit. [I [#411256 " Saraya, you must eat... I will make you some of my herb drinks until i finish. It should help with the discomfort"]] she was answered with a pained grunt, her head thrown back on the wall, sipping air to keep herself from screaming. [I [#da3c18 "Hurry..."]] She nodded quickly. [I [#da3c18 "... Please..."]]
Carrick sighed as he walked alongside Teypion. For awhile, Teypion and he were silent walking companions, and for awhile, Carrick didn't mind it. He could only think of Saraya, worrying beyond measure if she was alright. She may have been gone, but he could feel unnerved, worried, unhinged. For awhile now, all he could get out of their connection was a soreness she had been stuck with since the attack. That had saddened him... If they hadn't...
[I [#b506c6 "I can see on your face that you worry for her"]] Teypion sounded, dragging Carrick from his uncomfortable thoughts. Carrick sighed. [I [#9bacf8 " I am sorry, Priest."]] He spoke quietly. Teypion chuckled. [I [#b506c6 "Needn't be so scared. Caledon, even in its present state, still holds value to emotional connection. It is what Caledon stood for... The freedoms to feel, to practice your nature as a child and adult. Emotions are not to be hidden here. You showing your worry for Saraya gives me comfort..."]] Carrick nodded. [I [#9bacf8 " I see..."]]
The cottage had soot everywhere. The skin of the cottage had been claimed by nature. His guess was that they hadn't gone near the cottage since her 'death'. Teypion had opened the door, and sighed as a chilling breeze escaped. Carrick saw that everything had been set up and left as if in a hurry. Carrick set down their travelings, and looked around. Nothing had been taken, it appeared to him. Evidence of absence came eith carcasses and husks of insects appeared in corners. He would clean up the cottage and start a fire... Prepare for when she stumbled home. He turned to see Teypion speaking with a pair. He couldnt make out what they were saying, but as he neared the door, it would appear these two new faces wanted someone.
The boy, looking well into his young adulthood, turned to see him and approached him. [I [#2e8c22 "Are you Carrick?" ]]
[I [#9bacf8 "Aye. I am"]]
[I [#2e8c22 " I am Crow, this is my sister Owl. We have been sent to collect you"]]
[I [#9bacf8 "Collect me?"]]
[I [#2e8c22 " Saraya is with the Mage. She urgently requests you follow us"]]
Carrick pondered a second before gasping. [I [#9bacf8 "The baby! Is she alright?"]]
[I [#8c3022 " Please, we must make haste."]]
Carrick nodded quickly. [I [#9bacf8 "By your lead"]]
[I Mother... ]
The agony... The humiliation... Corbin couldn't fathom such a thing, but he expected it. Saraya, in all her purity, just wanted her Priest to know what had happened... It just led him to be shackled behind metal bars, held captive because of his origins. He sniffled as a shadow approached some time later, and it later revealed himself as Rhuarc... Corbin had stood, knowing his intentions. Rhuarc had a look in his eye, a look of hatred, resentment... Corbin sealed his own fate then.
Rhuarc helped him solidify his concern as he spoke. [b " You do not fool me Shadowspawn. You may have decieved Saraya that you are no threat but I am not so easily satisfied. I see you, Corbin spawn of Egos. Your words are a cloud but I see through them into your mind, into your heart. If it was my decision you would have been dispatched by now, but the Priestess has decided otherwise for now. Should that change...I will be there waiting. Even so I will be watching you, ready to act if I suspect that you are even thinking about possibly harming Saraya, Carrick, the Priestess or any other member of this party then I will end you. An abomination such as you has no right to exist."]
Corbin saw his seriousness... Rhuarc saw Corbin's submission. [I [#f8c49b "You're right... Sir Jai, I don't have a right to live... Egos never gave me the choice. If I can choose my fate, I'd die so to rid everyone of their hateful thoughts and release them of a burden not theirs to hold. I never wanted this... "]]
Corbin then sunk to his knees, exposing the back of his neck. [I [#f8c49b "End this, Sir Jai... End this... So I may restore her honor again"]]
Just then, a pair of new faces appeared. One was almost as big as Rhuarc, the other was dressed in worn Priest wear. They both looked at Corbin's submissive position, and the big one bellowed [I [#c6062f "Father, I do believe this prisoner forfeited his life"]]
[I [b "Yes, it would appear so, Mogar "]] The priest gave a smirk as his son approached the bars. [I [b "Needn't worry, Shadow spawn, you will be rid of your unnatural existence in three days time. I suggest saying your goodbyes. "]]
Corbin looked to the three crowding the gates. As Corbin struggled to get to his feet, Mogar punched him hard in his gut. Corbin, clearly hurt from the blow, writhed in pain as he coughed, trying to gasp for air. With that, he opened the gate door, and three other guards, including himself surrounded and proceeded to beat on him mercilessly. Corbin cried, Corbin struggled, but he only made the beating worse. It took them a few moments before the four left the unconscious Corbin, battered, beaten, and bloody. He didn't lift a hand to fight back. He didn't even beg them to stop... It appeared impressive to The Priest, but... Corbin was ready to die. He just passed out, grateful that the beating had stopped.
The Jai guardian watched from the deck of the ship at the delegation discussing matters below, things seemed tense but so far weapons had not been drawn yet which was about as good a sign as Rhuarc could hope for right now. The warriors all being women did not seem strange or phase Rhuarc in the slightest, in the Wastelands many Jai women were warriors, in fact some of the best that Rhuarc had ever fought with had been female. They seemed just as capable as anyone else that Rhuarc had seen outside of the Wastelands. After waiting for a little while longer Adamar and Luther approached the ship once more to present a brief report to the Priestess and tell her if it was safe to continue down into the village. The group descended from the ship into a few waiting carriages where Carrick, Aria, the Caledonian Priest and Saraya had entered one while Rhuarc, Adimar, Max and Thad took a second carriage. Corbin rode alongside them. Rhuarc did not protest at all about being separated from Aria, currently all he was focussed on was watching Corbin from where he sat in the carriage, watching the guardsman closely as a predator watched its prey. Watching Corbin also had the added bonus that if Rhuarc was watching Corbin he did not need to meet Adimar's eyes. Rhuarc was still ashamed at his actions in Astoria and not having found the time to apologise to the Volshi mage yet only compounded his feelings of shame. He would need to make amends with Adimar soon but for now the issue with Corbin took precedence.
Thankfully the ride in the carriages did not last long and soon they were all exiting the carriages having arrived in the village proper. At that moment the Caledonian Priest insisted that Corbin was to be taken into custody forcing all of the Guardsmen with the group to draw their weapons, Rhuarc made no move for his heavy black blade of midnight steel nor his belt knife, he merely watched it all unfold. [i “Are we really going to let them take Corbin?"] Luther's question hung in the air and for a moment Rhuarc was unsure as to what the Priestess' answer would be. The whole situation was on a knife edge the guardsmen unwilling to relinquish one of their own freely while the Caledonians prepared to follow the order of their priest, if neither side backed down there was bound to be a conflict. Rhuarc was curious if she would put the needs of gaining access to the Temple of Caledon over one of her guards, even if he was an unnatural abomination. Aria defused the situation with a single word and allowed Corbin to be taken away in chains albeit with a few words of warning not to mistreat the prisoner. She had made the right decision putting the needs of the world over the wellbeing of one man. The priest, Teypion, showed them to a large longhouse with enough rooms for all of them. Being a nomad and spending practically his whole life on the move Rhuarc did not keep many possessions with him and therefore did not have much to deposit in the quarters assigned to him. Once he did, the Jai did not stay in the longhouse with the others but instead set out into the village for some time alone.
Rhuarc wasn't paying much attention to where he was going, he just walked through the village ignoring the stares of the residents who had never seen a Jai before, some hurried away when they saw the large dark skinned barbarian, some just watched on with curiosity and others seemed almost in awe of Rhuarc's brutal looking visage but none approached. Rhuarc's mind was filled with thoughts of Ayab and how his friend had died, the image of Ayab's throat being ripped out would never leave Rhuarc and in his mind's eye he saw the Fade laughing at Rhuarc, Ayab's blood dripping from his toothy maw. Somehow Rhuarc found himself at the edge of the village and the tree line of the forest. Unsheathing his blade he took a large swing at the biggest tree he could see, it was old, tall and strong and while the black blade of steel took a large gouge out of the trunk the tree was nowhere close to coming down. With a bellow of frustration, rage and grief over losing his friend Rhuarc started hacking away at the tree for as long as it took for the old, proud tree to fall. With every swing he envisioned that his blade was landing on the Fade's neck instead of the wood of the tree. How long Rhuarc stayed hacking away at the tree he could not say but soon he was covered in a sheen of sweat and his muscles were aching in protest. As Rhuarc lay one final blow on the tree and it finally gave way crashing to the ground Rhuarc expected to see the Fade's severed head in his mind's eye but instead he saw that of the other abomination; Corbin.
In that moment Rhuarc knew that he had to confront the abomination, he left the felled tree where it lay and made his way across the village to where the Caledonians had taken Corbin. If any of the warrior women had any misgivings about telling the Jai where the prisoner was being kept they did not show it. Eventually Rhuarc was standing face to face with Corbin, metal bars separating the two men. The Jai Guardian studied the man in front of him closely, he had evaluated Corbin as an ally when he came aboard as a guardsmen but now that he was a potential foe...it was a different matter. [b "You do not fool me Shadowspawn. You may have decieved Saraya that you are no threat but I am not so easily satisfied. I see you, Corbin spawn of Egos. Your words are a cloud but I see through them into your mind, into your heart. If it was my decision you would have been dispatched by now, but the Priestess has decided otherwise for now. Should that change...I will be there waiting. Even so I will be watching you, ready to act if I suspect that you are even thinking about possibly harming Saraya, Carrick, the Priestess or any other member of this party then I will end you. An abomination such as you has no right to exist."] Rhuarc stared into Corbin's eyes as he delivered his steely warning, watching for any reaction.
Adimar quickly noticed that all the warriors who came to greet them were women. With a glance to the many stoic yet lovely faces, it all made sense why Saraya was as she was. To be fair, Volshi’s did not know much about the other Provinces after having their boarders closed for so long. Their xenophobic nature had left Adimar with a crash course in the other provinces cultures. He figured this would only help him in the long run, especially if he managed to make it back home and continue his predetermined path in politics. Adimar secretly wished for aria to keep him in the Capital when this was all over, and if they survived. There he would be free to practice magic and grow his abilities without question.
He watched and listened curiously as Saraya bantered with the only man who came forward to speak with them. Saraya tried to convince them she was who she said she was. Much to his surprise, they believed her to be dead, and even with her standing before them the refused to belief it. Their fear caused them to attack, three came rushing forward, and Adimar tensed -no where near battle ready, or capable at the moment. Luther was quick, as he was suddenly in front of Adimar, ready to protect as instructed to by Aria. Saraya made quick work of them with Carrick at her side, but the whole while Adimar feared for the unborn baby and he felt anger that a group of people would attack a pregnant woman. Did they truly care so little for who they attacked?
Adimar was helpless but to watch as Saraya called for a Temple Priest by name. Teypion, came forward in sullied robes that had seen better days, and equally questioning of Saraya. Adimar suppose he could understand their trepidation. When Adimar first met Saraya, her hair was raven, and her features soft. Yet the past year had changed her, and he accepted their reservations in accepting her. Yet Saraya seemed to convince them of the truth, and Adimar was released from the group to let Aria know it was safe. Adimar wasn’t so certain, but he had to follow Saraya’s lead on this. He walked back up into the shit with Luther on his heels, to an equally tense atmosphere on the deck. Aria stood tight lipped and focused beside an equally irate Rhuarc. Max and the other Guards were at attention behind them. Rhuarc was clearly upset, no doubt over Corbin’s origins, and Aria seemed unwilling to discuss it -but no less pleased either.
[#20b2aa “Saraya believes it is safe for you to come down.”] Aria gave him a hard look, that startled him.
[+pink “What do you think?”] Adimar shuffled forward nervously glancing over his shoulder as Saraya and Teypion spoke amongst themselves.
[#20b2aa “Honestly? Something feels… off. I don’t really have a welcoming feeling from these people, but… I don’t think your life is in danger here. Unwelcome maybe, but not in danger.”] Aria’s hard expression only grew stronger as she looked out at the welcoming party.
[+pink “Luther, does your observation match Adimar’s?”]
[#00ffff “It does. They are as untrusting of us as you seem to be of them,”] Luther answered bluntly. His statement caught Aria off guard, perhaps she was untrusting, but she had every right to feel that way. With a mild glare, she made her way to the gangplank to disembark. Adimar fell in line with Rhuarc, and Max, while Luther took his place at the front of the Guard.
Carriages were heading towards them an Aria looked to see Saraya deep in conversation with an obvious Priest. Good, hopefully Saraya was convincing him to allow access to the Temple. Aria just needed to stand before it, just needed to get close and it would open for her. Simple greetings were exchanged and Aria was shuffled into a carriage with Saraya, Carrick and the Priest, Teypion. She remained silent during the conversation between old friends, and felt like an odd person out of the group. Aria looked out of the carriage to see Max riding along side her with, Luther on his flank. At least they were close. Aria was surprised by how anxious she was to not have Rhuarc with her. It left her unsettled, and while it seemed Teypion was too engrossed with his conversation with Saraya, Carrick had at least seen how she fidgeted with her hands in her lap. His curious look at her sobering up and focusing solely on the passing scenery.
It wasn’t a long ride, and nothing of real consequence inspired her to speak until Teypion made a claim that set Aria further on edge. The Temple couldn’t be visited? Was he seriously telling [i her] she could not even go to it? Was he afraid she would open it? Because she would. A glare crossed her face, and at first she was glad to hear Saraya question him, but it was not for reasons Aria had hoped for. It was because of Corbin.
The carriage came to a stop and Teypion insisted Corbin be taken into custody. Knowing what their Priest wanted, the guards that rode with them, immediately grabbed Corbin and dragged him from his horse. Luther pulled his blade in an instant, which caused the ring of several more to join, Max, and every Guardsman included. Aria watched from her seat impassively as Saraya tried to resist Corbin’s arrest, and Carrick who tamed her, but Aria’s thoughts were elsewhere.
[i [b “He dies, Priestess. One way or another he dies.”] ] Those had been Rhuarc’s words. Aria was torn between her thoughts on Corbin, and she hadn’t wanted to confront them. Deep down a part of her screamed to lock him up and throw away the key, he wasn’t human. And yet, as Aria knew him, Corbin had never done a thing to warrant distrust. Yet… she believed Rhuarc’s words. Trust him or not… Aria did not foresee the boy’s continued life. Once the Mage was gone, so would all of his magic, and anything animated by him. Corbin included.
[#00ffff “Are we really going to let them take Corbin?”] Luther demanded angrily, his eyes on the other guards, each one of them itching to fight.
[+pink “Yes,”] Aria answered plainly, internally she was pained for Saraya, but Aria knew she could not show it. They needed access to the temple and Aria would do whatever it took to make that happen. Slowly Aria’s guards and Caledon’s lowered their weapons. Aria watched Saraya walk away in defeat, and finally turned her gaze to Teypion. [+pink “He may be an abomination -an unnatural cursed thing, but he is one of my Guardsmen, and while in your care, I expect him to come to no harm. You may lock him up, but you will not touch him.”] Aria warned, her tone level but sever and heavy with the authority one such as herself should carry. Her expression left little room for doubt that her wrath would be exceptional and she stepped down from the carriage with the help of Max and Luther. [+pink “If you are willing, Elder Teypion, my Guardians and men are in need of food and lodgings. As Saraya has told you, we come fresh from battle, and are in need of sanctuary.”] Aria didn’t bother to mention the temple. She would give it some time, and hopefully Teypion would come to reason.
As requested everyone was granted lodgings in a long house that they would share. There were plenty enough rooms that everyone had their own, but the guards, Max, Luther, Thad and Rupert would have to bunk in the barracks with the other soldiers. Aria had no idea where Saraya had gone off too, but since this was her home… Aria imagined that’s where she had gone, and all things considered, she understood wanting to be alone.
Their bags were brought from the airship, and placed in their rooms, and the ship left for the Volshi border to resupply, and it would not be back for a week at least. Since practically everything Aria owned was on her back, her bag was small and insignificant compared to the trunk that was delivered for Adimar. Princes. Aria shook her head to see that while he was still pale, he had sat down before his trunk and began to unpack his many arcane gadgets and books, and set up shop in the middle of what would have been the kitchen of the house they were given. Thankfully there was a dining area just off to the side of it and Aria took up a seat to watch, and write further in her diary. She might as well enjoy the quiet and stillness of the afternoon, for tomorrow she was sure she’d be knee deep in Priestess duties and gaining access to the temple, but so far… it oddly seemed the Clergy and the people didn’t seem to care that she was there, nor did they seem to care for her help in coordinating against Malik. With seemingly nothing better to do, Aria decided to check the stocked pantry for something she could make for everyone, and this seemed to catch Adimar’s attention.
[#20b2aa “What are you doing?”]
[+pink “I thought I would try to make something for us all to eat,”]
Hesitant and wary, Adimar chuckled [#20b2aa “Uhh, do you know [i how] to cook?”] Aria pouted at him and crossed her arms, but eventually sighed.
[+pink “No… and the times I’ve tried in the past, Elder Rigby would make a point to do the cooking”]
[#20b2aa “Then why in Azeroth would you subject us to your cooking? Do you want Malik to win?”] Adimar teased. Aria could only roll her eyes and take back her seat at the dinning table, admitting defeat with a wan grin and offered unhelpful advice to Adimar as he continued to set up his conjurations.
nter [I [size20 ಥ_ಥ]]]
Tears had been shed. Her heart was in knots. Corbin... Though she prayed and hoped that Rhuarc was wrong, she couldn't help but find truth in his words, despite the delivery. Corbin wasn't Corbin, yet he was. She spotted Adimar, Aria... Rhuarc, Max, Rupert, Thad... Carrick... Corbin... She may have put them all in danger by trusting him... But, she could feel that he was her son. She could just know... But, still Rhuarc's words slammed into her mind... He wasn't her son.
Carrick... Though she wanted so badly to hide away in his pocket at the moment, she still feared that he was still gone. He refused to look at her for too long, and it seemed that he snapped the moment Aria removed him from Holy Guard. He had been Captain longer than an Ancient Guardian. He could possibly feel vulnerable, like an infant first born. She had saw Rhuarc's irritated stature, and sighed. So much pain was surrounding her now. She was trying so hard to save, and failed. Ayab was gone... Felliope was gone... Her son was gone... She had focused so much on saving others... But in her mind came a heartbreaking thought... Who would save her when the time came... Or worse... How could she even save herself?
It wasn't long before it was time to do her duty. She could feel Caledon... She felt him weeping from within her, and Sayan felt a sadness deeper than the deepest darkness. Unbeknownst to them, all three had a deep attachment to this place. To see how terrible Caledon had become... She wiped her tears and sighed.
Saraya's silent stare had seemed colder than the wind that swept past their cheek. She was escorted off the ship to the dock. She looked at the soot covered path, the once proud bridge now sullen and sad. As everyone followed, Saraya's gaze spread throughout the area. The smog had long dissipated, but her remembering the last moment she'd seen the damages till now... It just seemed terrifying, and her heart was beating in her ears.
The guards that opened the gate were ready for retaliation. Saraya felt that Caledonian adrenaline, where attacking was never short of being an option. She sighed as she started walking, taking in each step so not to show any sign of pain. Carrick had gently wrapped his arm around hers, to give her balance. He nuzzled her to reassure her that he would be by her side, and she felt relief.
On did The Priestess' Envoy go.
He couldn't look at her, knowing she would forge a smile for his sake. Not now. The wound was still too fresh and bleeding inside erratically, irrationally, hemorrhaging him to the core. And the fact that not only Corbin is being used as a secret attack to the mage- that this fiend was aiming to take Saraya from him and do with her his sick desires, was cresting a deeper conflict within him than he cared to address.
But, a mission was at hand. Aria was depending on them to get her inside and at that temple. But, he will be a shame to them. He was Caledonian, though he never lived there long enough to even call his blood by that name. But, looking at Saraya, that fearful side of her was nowhere to be found. It was a blank, warrior stare. This must be their custom. No emotion outside the walls, perhaps?
Corbin looked to Luther before going to tap Carrick... But after Rhuarc's words, he abandoned the notion and sunk into the background, keeping his eye on Luther. Saraya had stopped just before them, halting her envoy. This was the part they had to let her do on her own. Saraya had tapped Carrick in reassurance, before stepping forward.
[B " State your business! "] the men spoke in her mother tongue.
Saraya mustered her strength and called out in her mother tongue. [I [#da3c18 " I am Saraya! I am your Guardian, and i bear need of-"]]
[B "Saraya, Felliope, and their unborn son has been dead these past two years! You are a lie!"]
[I [#da3c18 " You have never known me to lie!"]]
[B "Then reveal your face, woman, before we kill you where you stand!"]
Saraya took a moment, gathering more strength to follow through. She used her right to take off the hood of her cloak, and what revealed was a porcelain beauty, with hair white as snow. Stricken, the guards stepped backward. Carrick watched attentively as each guard grew confused. [B " What witchery is this?!"] The voice yelled.
[I [#da3c18 "It is no trick. I am Saraya, and i need-]]
Too fear- stricken, a few guards launched at her. Saraya saw it coming. With her hands, she stopped one in mid stride, the second spear rang as she deflected the attack with ease. She growled, feeling a strain. But she resisted. Saraya watched the guards before looking over their head and yelling [I [#da3c18 " Bring me Teypion. He will prove my claim true"]]
The Priest? As custom to Caledon, the request to see a Priest cannot be denied. But, for someone like her to demand one by name was unheard of. Only Caledonians know the names of The Priests.
Begrudgingly, the guards complied to her demand. The guards backed away, allowing the sea to part. Saraya watched as a cloak appeared. Saraya was panicking. The Priest's robes should be bold and soft like an ocean breeze... Now, they were tainted, worn, and robbed of its shine.
The look on her Priest's face shown two years of tears, two years of anguish and malice. She knew she had to prove her innocence, and he was the best option.
[b [i "Speak"]] The Priest uttered. Even his voice sang pain and sorrow. [I [#da3c18 " Teypion, it is i... I have returned as The Caledonian Guardian. The Priestess of Astoria is in need of the temple-"]]
[b [i "If you were Saraya, she would know not to ask of the temple. No one is allowed inside."]]
[I [#da3c18 " This is a different time, Teypion. War is on our doorstep, and my Guardianship and i are the only way to stop Malik!"]]
[I [b "If you are Saraya... What was the one word i would never let you say?"]] Saraya stared at him. The Priest turned and walked away. [I [b " i Thought so"]]
Just when he thought he fooled a false guardian, her voice said [i [#da3c18 "Hïgàsçá"]] she let the raw version of her mother language out as she spoke.
Teypion looked over his shoulder to her. [I [#da3c18 "He was my father... He entrusted my life with you... Yes?"]]
Astonished by her words, he slowly walked over to her. [I [b "SA... Saraya?"]]
She nodded and smiled a teary smile. As Teypion approached, his next question gave her chills. [I [b "And Felliope? Where is he? You are still swollen with life all this time?"]]
Saraya looked to Adimar to give him the go ahead to allow Aria forward before looking to Teypion. [I [#da3c18 "Teypion... There is so much to tell you... And you may not like it... "]]
[I [b " i almost had her!"]] The Mage snapped, his eyes slits of glowing black rage. [I [b "My opportunity to sire the greatest child of Darkness hrough the vessel that carries the blood ties to the strongest Guardian would be lost!"]]
His creation only stood in the darkness, watching its master.
[I " My Lord, she is weak now. Would it not be feasible to grab her now?"]
[B [i "No!"]] Egos shouted. [B [i " She may have thwarted me this time, but there won't be a next"]]
[I "Your self pity sickens me"] his abomination hissed in Sicanti, its mother language.[i " You claim to be all powerful, yet you're unable to claim a woman"]
[B [i "Why don't you ask Malik this, a demon who possibly possesses all the dark power of this world"]]
The Mage glared at its blank eyes, breathing hard when he couldn't immediately respond. [B [i " This will not stop me, slave"]] he said, snarling. [B [i "Once i return, we will have the conversation again... In a way she will regret"]]
The shadow lifted! his chin. [I " If my challenge makes you act, then it will not have been in vain. My goal is to encourage you into action, and if i must draw the fire of your rage to strengthen you"] the shadow seemed lazy [i "... Then whatever toll you exact on me for my honesty, i will endure"]
The Mage glanced down at is stab wound and winced, momentarily preoccupied. The shadow stepped forward to its master and motioned to his wound. [I " She hit you, using your power against you. You've been underestimating her from the beginning. The only reason you could still stand to pursue the Prya is because you had fight adenaline black energy and battle lust racing through you... But, soon the pain will set in"]
The Mage growled. [B [i "You should leave me be. Tell the wraiths to watch the Prya. I want her uninjured and unharmed when the time comes. But the male... His head on a pike"]]
Carriages had been readied. Carrick, Aria, Teypion and Saraya had sat in one carriage, Rhuarc, Adimar, Max and Thad was in the second. Corbin, feeling out of place, settled with his own horse, but was accompanied by guards, Rupert, and the nurse.
Teypion heard it all.. From the battle that costed her everything, to her journey with her father and great grandfather, every event leading up to them riding in his carriage. [I [#da3c18 "... Fenlyk has been restored, thanks to our efforts. We had to come here next, as we anticipated his next possible move. With this knowledge, we hope to stop his attack without costing numerous lives"]]
[I [#b506c6 " I see... Unfotunately, though we are glad to see your return, the temple cannot be visited yet. If what you say is true, Malik's forces are heading here, and Corbin cannot be trusted"]]
Saraya's eyebrows furrowed. [I [#da3c18 "What are you saying, Teypion?"]]
[I [#b506c6 " I am sorry, Saraya, but Caledon now bear scars. If the people find that your late son is alive by the hands of the enemy, they will kill him. The best option is to keep him in my holding cell, until the time comes to use him."]]
Without warning, the guards had grabbed onto Corbin, binding him. Saraya, shocked of this, climbed out of the carriage in protest, Carrick grabbing her by her arms to stop her from getting involved. [I [#b506c6 " I am sorry, Saraya. It is the best option"]]
Corbin disappeared with the two guards and Teypion, leaving Saraya in tears, fighting to be free. When Carrick did, Saraya stayed still. [I [#9bacf8 "Saraya, please... He will be safe with Teypion"]]
Saraya didn't say a word. She was drenched in anguish as everyone tried to reason, but she couldn't hear them. Instead, she started walking away. She refused to hear their protest. She simply walked away, to her home, to her hiding place. The pain was too great. Everyone was against her... So, let them. She thought this before disappearing, leaving the Troupe at the mercy of Teypion
Rhuarc was set on edge as Saraya mentioned that the Mage's magic was still lingering on the ship, and when Carrick started speaking and it became clear that Corbin was the lingering aspect of the Mage's power Rhuarc reacted. As quick as thought Rhuarc had his left hand around Corbin's throat, his grip firm enough to suffocate but not crushing the man's windpipe and his right hand had unsheathed his belt knife and had the tip resting against Corbin's breast bone. If the Jai put any amount of force into the blade and thrust it forward the man would be dead in seconds, worringly it looked like Rhuarc had murder in his eyes. [i "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."] Rhuarc could not believe what he was hearing, it was absurd, how could they possible believe that this unnatural thing was no threat. [b "You don't know that! You can't know that! None of us know the full extent of the Mage's power, how can you know that the only reason that this thing hasn't killed us all is because the Mage's magic is preventing it. For all we know the Mage has given it false memories!"] The Jai Guardian longed to plunge the knife into Corbin's chest, ending the discussion right now, as far as he could see Corbin was a threat and Rhuarc could not allow that threat to become any greater.
Then Saraya went and proposed some harebrained scheme about using Corbin as a spy or as a way to bring out and defeat the Mage. [b "You are deceiving yourself Saraya! You want a family so badly you are willing to believe anything to make it true! This abomination is not your child Saraya. Your son is dead! "] Rhuarc unconsciously put some force onto the belt knife, piercing the skin, stark scarlet drops of blood started leaking from the front of Corbin's tunic, the thrice forged Jai steel would be scratching the bone and it wouldn't take much for Rhuarc to kill Corbin, all he needed to do was force the blade another inch further, no one here would be able to react quickly enough to stop him. Rhuarc drew the knife back and realesed Corbin's throat, as the man coughed and air returned to his body. [b "I can not be part of this, it is because of abominations like him that Ayab is dead."] Rhuarc made to leave the room and everyone in it, he could not bear to look at either Saraya or Corbin any longer. As he reached the door he turned back for a few last parting words, [b "A word of advice, do not go mistaking your home burning down for the dawn."] Rhuarc stormed off to his quarters, too angry with everything to go and see Adiamr.
The Jai spent what little was left of the journey in his cabin, seething at the revelation of Corbin and what that could mean for everyone. he simply did not understand how anyone could trust a construct of the Mage's especially one that they knew to have previously perished, it was a perversion of life of the worst kind. It was an abomination and could not be allowed to continue existing. As the ship started to descend Rhuarc made his way to the deck of the ship and watched as they made their way towards a glade in the forest large enough for the ship to be put down in. There was a city, or what may have been a city at one point, by the clearing that was mostly just rubble and lost magnificence now. Rhuarc saw Adimar on his feet for the first time since the battle of Astoria and guilt flooded his body. He still had not spoken to the Volshi Guardian since he had stolen Adimar's magic from him, he had acted shamefully and Rhuarc would need to rectify that at some point. The Jai was about to make a move towards Adimar but at the moment Aria arrived with her guards in place, and the Airship finally touched down on solid ground once more, it looked like the next step of their journey had truly begun.
They were not alone, however, as soon as the ship had touched town a party of soldiers were moving towards them. Rhuarc could see fear in those eyes, they clearly saw the ship as a threat and it was not hard to understand why, this land had been devastated by Malik's forces before and they were clearly afraid that the False King's forces had returned to finish them off. As the group approached Rhuarc eased his sword from its scabbard, ensuring that if necessary he could draw it without issue and take out any that posed a threat, although looking at the group that did not seem all that likely. They were poorly armed and they did not seem like true fighting men, Rhuarc sized the group up quickly and assessed the most effective method of disarming or killing the men so that none of them could harm Aria. As the Priestess designated those who would meet the envoy of the Caledon village. In days past Rhuarc would have wished to be in the delegation but as it was he was glad to be as far away from that monster Corbin as possible and staying close to Aria. Rhuarc took up a position on Aria's left side as Max was already on her right as befitted his position as her Captain of the Guard. [b "He dies, Priestess. One way or another he dies."] Rhuarc spoke softly enough so that Aria could hear but Max would not, he hoped that it was clear that he was speaking about Corbin, it should be clear after all his outburst at hearing about the revelation surrounding Saraya's one time child was evidence enough of Rhuarc's distaste for the reanimation. All that was left was for the delegation to return and for them to inform the Priestess if she was to be allowed access to the Temple of Caledon.
[center [b Some time later...]]
Adimar groaned as he finally came to in the middle of the night. His head was pounding and prior to his awakening he heard two soft voices, and when he opened his eyes two faces blurred into vision. Rupert and his mustache, as well as the young face of Thad, both of which looked exhausted. [#20b2aa “Did we win?”]
Rupert chuckled and nodded his head. [b “You don’t remember much do you?”]
Adimar shrugged, but winced at the level of fatigue his body was experiencing. [#20b2aa “I remember calling up a storm, and the battle below, I remember seeing the ships sink, but then... nothing really.”] Rupert nodded in understanding.
[i “You’ve been out for a while, used too much energy, and you missed a lot...”] Thad informed. Adimar frowned, just what could he have missed in the short time he was passed out? [i “Also, you have a guest,”] Thad motioned behind them both to a chair where Aria was sitting, arms crossed and looking stern, but seeing him lift his head, he could see relief flood her features and she made to stand and join him at his side.
[#20b2aa “Aria, dear cousin...”] he reached out to take her hand, and she reached for his as well and made to sit on the edge of the bed at his side. It was then Max came into view sporting the Captain’s lapel. Before he could question it, Aria squeeze his hand and captured his attention to ask how he was feeling. Adimar frowned and looked to his friends and finally again to Aria, [#20b2aa “I feel like I’ve been hit with a hammer all over. Weak, and tired, but I’m glad to see you well. Tell me all that’s happened,”] he said. Thad and Rupert helped him to sit up in the bed so he could talk better with Aria, her expression still stern, and her shoulders seemed heavy with stress.
He took her silence as a cue for the others to leave them in private. Adimar gave a wave of his hands and the three men obediently left. Aria watched them filter from the room quietly and shut the door to leave them in peace. Aria stared at the shut door, only peeling her eyes from it and back to Adimar when he collected her cheek in his palm and turned her back towards him. He had a dreadful feeling in the pit of his stomach.
[#20b2aa “What has happened?”] Aria sighed heavily, her shoulders slumping and turned to face
[+pink “After you collapsed on the field, we left quickly with the battle won. However, once airborne... Egos attacked.”] Adimar tensed at that news. How had he managed to track them from the skies?!
[#20b2aa “You are alright though... is Saraya-“]
[+pink “Saraya is...fine...”] Aria said gently pushing him back into his pillows to relax. [+pink “Things are just... complicated.”]
Complicated was a minor understatement. Not only had they been attacked by Egos, but his plans for Saraya were now clear, and Corbin was a reanimation of her lost child. Adimar reeled at the level of arcane power and skill that had to take. Such feats would kill a normal person. No way was Egos a true mortal... and if he was, how did he control that much power? More surprising was that Aria had released Carrick from his duties and had promoted Max to Captain. He agreed that Max would make her a fine captain, but his next question seemed to put Aria on edge.
[#20b2aa “So where was Lara for all of this? Aria? Where is Lara?”] He asked seeing her shift nervously. He had a dreadful feeling at that point and he reached for her hand, gripping it tightly. [#20b2aa “Please tell me she is on this ship,”] he begged to know. Aria swallowed tensely, he could see her throat bob before she finally dropped her head.
[+pink “She stayed behind. It was her wish to see the battle to the end and stand with Fenlyk. I could not deny her.”] Adimar stared at Aria long and hard, both of them feeling the tension grow in the room. Adimar could only grit his teeth and dropped his head back, fury building inside him.
[#20b2aa “How could you let her do that?”] he finally demanded glaring at her. Aria stared back, her face expressionless and Stoney. She’d been getting better at hiding her emotions, Adimar noticed, or perhaps like the rest of them, she was simply tired of all the bullshit.
[+pink “Adimar if I didn’t know you better, I would say you care about Lara... I get it, your spirit guardians were once lovers. It gives you two a special bond, but don’t let it distract you from today’s current course. Lara is far more capable than you give her credit-”]
[#20b2aa “I know she’s capable, and she knows it too. That’s what worries me.”]
[+pink “I think that fear is unwarranted. Lara survived a long time without us, and she will continue to do so until we are reunited again.”]
Aria left shortly after that, informing him they had landed in Caledon and there was no going back for Lara. She wanted him to get dressed, and join them outside. He called for Thad and Rupert to help him get up and moving, and in no time he was dressed in fresh clothes. Since his armor needed repair and cleaning, he opted to wear is light leather armor. The fitted jerkin covered his chest, and helped him to keep his worries bottled up. He made his way topside with Thad and Rupert at his sides to find they had indeed landed in the thick of scorched earth. The once lush forested city was in ruins. He looked around and found Saraya taking in the remains of her home, but there was another who caught his eye. Rhuarc was watching him, a guilty expression on his face. Adimar couldn’t fathom the expression on the large man, but it was there and it made Adimar curious. Before they had a chance to talk, Aria approached them all, flanked by her guards. Max to her right and Luther at her left. She had also changed into the only clean dress she had remaining, with the Volshi shroud draped over her silver hair like a veil. She carried a powerful presence with her flanked by her guards. Which was good, they needed to present themselves with strength if they hoped to have the Caledon people support them. However, charming them would have to fall into Saraya’s hands, as these were her people.
They had landed the airship in a clearing just wide enough for it, and in the forest was not only Caledon’s oldest village, but the home of its temple. Adimar looked out at the tree line and could see warriors coming to greet them. They carried crude weapons, their blades dirty and old, and it was clear Malik’s men had been here already, long ago, but the impact still a gaping wound. Adimar could see the caution in their eyes to see a Volshi airship land just outside their village. They had been attacked once before, he doubted they would allow it a second time -if they could help it.
[+pink “Are we ready?”] Aria asked addressing them all.
[#20b2aa “I think they are…”] Adimar jerked his head toward the advancing group of soldiers that came to greet them. Aria looked at them for a moment, and then to Rhuarc just as a call was made from the commander of the Caledon soldiers.
[b “State your business and who you are!”] Aria looked to Carrick and Saraya [+pink “It’s up to you now, Saraya. These are your people, this is your home… inform them that you have returned and we have arrived. Adimar will go with you and Carrick, as my Herald, and speak for me until he determines it is safe for me to join you.”] Adimar stood a touch taller, he still felt fatigued and weak, but he was confident he could play his role. He made his way over to Saraya’s side, with Carrick on the other and Corbin following behind with Luther as guard. And so Aria had sent down her envoy to meet with the people of Caledon’s oldest village.
Adimar kept pace with Saraya, and as they made their way from the gangplank to the grassy field, four men approached, swords and shields still ready for a fight. Both groups met halfway, and Adimar looked to Saraya and then the soldiers, the tension thick. Adimar hoped Saraya could talk some sense into them, and explain the situation. From what he could tell, they had not heard about the Battle for Astoria. He just hoped they would help them, both Aria and Saraya needed to gain access to the temple of Caledon…
[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.
All posts are either in parody or to be taken as literature. This is a roleplay site. Sexual content is forbidden.