[center ***This is an original Plot, please do not steal, copy, or use anything from this rp for personal use or your own roleplay.***]
Land of Azera. Four Provinces at war fighting the Rule of one evil man...
Four wandering travelers find themselves in The Central City. It is a bustling and busy place, centered in the middle of the four provinces. It is also where The Self Proclaimed "King" Malik lives. It was once the Holy Land for the Four Provinces, where the fabled Priests and Priestesses of the Old Gods of Azeroth held sanctuary for all. That was… until King Malik. He ran the Holy Ones from their Holy Palace and took over not only the Central City, but the four provinces as well.
Legend has it that the Four Provinces once housed their own spirit guardians. These Guardians were kept in elaborate temples, with their own contingent of temple masters and maids to attend to them. During Malik’s rise to power, he attacked the temples and slaughtered the Temple Hands. It was by the brave sacrifices of Temple Masters and Maidens that they were able to send the Spirits away. For Centuries the Spirits had not claimed a host… but with the rise of Malik, the Guardians searched out their perfect Human Host, marking them and imbuing them with awesome powers to defeat evil and restore the balance.
The Province to the North was guarded by the Spirit of the Forest, and often seen in the shape of a Caribou. Filled with thick dense forests and beautiful mountain passes to the Northern most parts, and gently sloping hills further south where farming is aplenty. Winter, however, is never kind in the North. The summers are kind and fair and allow for the Northmen to travel south and barter their furs and goods for food stuffs they will need in the winter months. This is the Province known as Caledon. The people there are hearty and Strong. Known to produce fine warriors, and are often seen as warmongering, as the Caledon clans tend to fight against Malik’s border agents on a regular basis, and guard the Dark Forest’s creatures from venturing south. Caledon is considered the bread basket of Azera. It is reminiscent to what we would have considered Ancient Germania and Scandinavia.
The Province in the South is guarded by the Fire Spirit often seen as a massive snake. Mostly Desert lands with the occasional watery oasis. Farming takes great engineering feats involving sophisticated irrigation, and travel is usually done on Camel. Most people live nomadic lives, but there are cities where water can be found, usually along the River Nine, named so for the way the main river forks out at nine different locations and leads to nine large grandiose cities of terracotta. All of it built on the back of a lucrative Slave Trade. Most of the people in what is referred to as [i The Wastelands] are considered barbaric by many, with their nomadic lifestyle and their staunch traditions to the Old Gods –namely their patron deity the Fire-Breathing Serpent (Ouk'nu), and ritual sacrifice. Snakes are considered holy and sacred to the Nomadic people of Abdhu’Jai. The Southernmost part is unpassable as the desert goes on for hundreds of miles with no water in sight. It is also rumored that Sand Wyrms live there and those who have tried to trek across it in hopes of exploring have never been heard from again. The Jai's are reminiscent of The Egyptians, & The Byzantine Era.
To the East is where the Mountains climb higher than even those of Caledon. Here it is said the people of Volshiv live among the clouds and are protected by the Flying spirit of Wind often seen in the form of a Dove. On a still quiet day, if you stand on the Eastern border you can hear the whistling winds careen through the highest peaks in all of Azera. Very little is known about the Volshi. They are very reclusive and rarely travel West to the Central City. They are known to be fair of face and hair, willowy and spry and some of the last humans to retain some semblance of magical power. The Volshi were the only ones to escape the mad grip of Malik in the beginning –but it did not stop them from sending their Guardian to find a host as well.
To the West is the Province of Fenlyk. Guarded by the Water Spirit, known to take the form of a massive Koi Fish. The Region is mostly littered with waterways and wet lands, it is the fishing capital of all Azera. More fish is produced in Fenlyk than anywhere else in the Four Provinces. They trade frequently with Caledon and Abdhu’Jai. Aside from fish and watersports Fenlyk is known for its textile and fashion. It is the most modernized Province of the four, the wealthiest and one of the most influential. Their Navy is without rival, as it should be to protect the city from the Ocean's monsters that tend to capture vessels that wander too far from the mainland. They would be reminiscent of Ancient Greeks or Atlantis.
One woman is tasked to find the guardians, teach them and guide them to their glorious destiny. To find them she pulls from the ancient Prophecy, one that even involves her. Her name is Aria, a native of Volshiv who was taken from her home when she was no older than three. She doesn’t remember her home, or her birth parents. Only that she was marked by the Spirit Guardians –slated by the Gods to be their High Priestess. She was destined to be the most holy and powerful figure of her time, but Malik’s invasion from across the open sea and his march across the border lands of Abdhu’Jai and Fenlyk brought him to Central City and the beginning of his reign of terror. Of course when Malik invaded she was but a small child of six, training to be become The High Priestess. She escaped with the help of an Elder Priest who raised her in hiding, and continued her training so she could ensure the Guardians would find their way. A bounty is out for Aria’s head – though Malik has no real idea of who she is, he is aware of the markings that would and do adorn her body. She realizes he will discover her soon enough, and finding the Guardians has become imperative to free the city and provinces of the would-be Tyrant. Destroying Malik and returning peace to the four Provinces is also the only way to restore the Spirit Guardians back to their pantheons and peace to the land.
A traveler from each province finds themselves in Central City. Compelled to travel and see the world, or to simply get away from their old life. For any number of reasons, Fate brings them to the Central City. What they don’t realize is: they are chosen and marked as the host of their region’s Spirit Guardian. It lives within them and gives them power. It is a comforting, and yet frightening source for the four individuals -it just needs to be awakened in them, and that is where Aria comes in.
Aria feels it in her bones that the time has come. She’s been gifted visions of the travelers to come. She only sees them as their spirit so their faces remain shrouded in mystery. The Gods guide her to come out of hiding after hiding away for nearly twenty years. The raids took place when she was only six, and now she is twenty-seven. Time has passed and the people grow deeper into oppression. Most of the Tyranny is evident in the Central City. The outlying villages and townships of the Provinces are routinely raided, and it seems Malik is constantly fighting with the Caledons. The Fennish bow down to his reign their pacifism making them complacent and easy to dominate. The Nomads –Jais of the south are raided frequently and without mercy. The Volshi remain for the most part safe, but rumor has it they have amassed a huge army and are prepared to come down from their cities in the clouds to set Malik straight. Aria knows it will be too little too late. Malik has to be cut down at the source… from his False throne: The Holy Alter that should be hers.
Aria must find the Guardians, help them discover their own powers and talents, and if need be –sacrifice herself to help them cleanse the world and usher in a new peaceful Era. She must help the Guardians restore balance, but first… she has to find them and convince them.
Personality:guardian soft hearted, peaceful, adapts to surroundings and situations quickly, reserved
Bio & History:before being chosen, Saraya was a beautiful soul that loved children of her providence. she was married to a knight that protected the temple, and they were expecting their first born... Until the ambush. her husband was taken from her, and after that, her baby didn't surviv. With the passion she felt, she thought she would never survive... Until the spirit chose her.
Personality: quiet, shy, honest.
Bio & History: She was chosen as a guardian from birth, but neither her parents nor herself knew that at all. Her parents were simple fishers, her dad going out to sea for the daily haul and her mom selling whatever fish had been caught in the markets. Everything was pretty peaceful, until Malik took the ruling of everything under his hand. Since the region she lived bowed down peacefully, nothing really bad happened there. But something was up, which came in the form of her house being raided by Malik's forces. She managed to run off, while her parents were nailed to the door of what used to be her house. Now just walks around the provinces, hiding herself from Malik's grasp.
Weakness and limitations to your powers: Manipulating water requires some concentration. No concentration, no hydrokinesis.
Bio & History: Adimar hails from the high peaks of Volshiv. He has traveled the Sky Cities, and down in the Volishi Valleys where most Volshi tend to avoid due to the dense foliage and wild animals that haunt the forest beneath them. He is considered one of the best warriors of Volshi -bested only by the High Lord of Volshi. Having been marked a guardian since the day of his birth, at 32 Adimar is well versed in the landscape of politics and battle. He's had his skirmishes with King Malik's invading soldiers over the years. Adimar has spent his life preparing for battle against Malik -knowing his destiny from the very beginning and in order to save his people, he must go fight.
Adimar travels to the central city in hopes of finding his fellow Volshi, Aria, who was spirited away as a baby to be the next High Priestess. All in Volshiv know the name of Aria, and an army is amassed waiting to help her at the call to battle. Adimar intends to lead that army and reclaim the Holy Throne... but don't confuse his motives as one of honor -Adimar has plans of his own... to be free.
Weapon of Choice: Archer by trade, but also carries a sword of Volshi Steel passed down in his family for generations
Primary Special Power: Weather Manipulation, allows him to create any number of storms for up to eight hours. Lightning, tornado, rain etc...
1. Flight Assist: Allows him to use the wind to propel him upwards into the air for short bursts of time, or to surge him forward quickly.
2. Lashing Tailwind: The name of his attack where he kicks out a devastating blast of cold air to temporarily immobilize opponents.
3. Eagle Eye: Allows him to possess the body of any bird and see through it's eyes. He uses this skill a great deal for scouting.
Weakness and limitations to your powers: As with any magic user Adimar will eventually run out of Mana: or his magical stamina. He is very powerful, but the more power he uses, the more mana he uses. His powers are limited he can only make one storm a day, but can use his three minor attack powers intermittently as long as he has the mana to do so. Also, his other great weakness is a pretty woman. He does not hide his playboy like nature.
Bio & History: Rhuarc is an extremely large man, standing tall at 6ft 10’ and weighing around 19st 12lbs he is an imposing physical specimen. Rhuarc is a muscled figure and very much represents the typical stereotype of a wasteland barbarian. His body is adorned with various, tattoos, brands and scars.
Born into the traditional nomadic life of the Abdhu’Jai people. At ten years old Rhuarc departed on the traditional journey to the sacred temple of Ouk'nu in the deep southern deserts, as all young men do in an effort to prove himself to his tribe and the great fire deity. It wasn't long before Rhuarc and his people grew used to the merciless raids of Malik and his forces, causing a deep distrust of anyone not from within the nomadic Jai. Rhuarc's father and brother were killed in one so called raid while his sister was taken presumably as a slave.
Weapon of Choice: A large, brutal looking great sword with a wicked looking serrated edge
Guardian: Not a Guardian, but the High Priestess of the Guardians. She is their guide and mentor. She is marked with the symbols of every Guardian in a straight line down her spine -each marked in their prospective color.
Personality: Passionate devotion, motherly, calm gentle -but a tempest of fury if invoked. A Natural Born Ruler
Bio & History: Born in Volshiv, Aria was marked from the day of her Birth as the next High Priestess wielding the marks of all four Guardians. Then they were tiny dots of color, now a woman they have taken full shape down her spine weaving one another together. Her arrival was kept as secret as possible but her coming was foreseen by the Holy Ones who came and collected her. They took her still suckling at her mother's breast, taking her into Central City before she ever knew her mother's name.
When she was six the raids of Malik's wrath arrived. He had laid claim to the throne for many years, but upon word that the new High Priestess had been born he ordered the temples and monasteries burned and destroyed. He decreed that the Old Gods, or Guardians, were no more and that he was God. He lived an unnaturally long life -one none of the Holy Scholars could figure out. It was by the handiwork of Elder Rigby that Aria was smuggled out. Since then she was raised in seclusion with nothing but Elder Rigby to teach her, and her many tombs and scrolls from which she studied preparing for the day to take her birth right. The Holy Alter. It would make her more powerful than any king or Lord of the Four Provinces, but it is not for Power she wishes to take the Alter Throne back... it is for the people. She too has suffered by Malik's hand, she wishes it to end.
Weapon of Choice: She is often seen walking with a Staff, this is her bow staff, her weapon of choice. Meant to disarm and injure but not kill
Primary Special Power: Absolute Intuition -she has a knowing about her. It is unexplainable.
1. Ability to enter the spirit realm either while sleeping or through meditation
2. Can whisper thoughts into the minds of men - Persuasion
Weakness/limitations: Aria is not a fighter, that alone makes her weak physically. Mentally she is strong. Her powers of absolute intuition are more like a strong 6th sense -but not always available. When she enters the spirit realm, awake or asleep she is vulnerable to attack and needs to be guarded by someone she trusts. Her powers of persuasion can be ignored by a person with an iron will.
[center *** Side characters who travel with the Guardians are more than welcome to help make up the caravan***]
1. All Standard ES rules apply
2. Have Fun
3. No insta-romance
4. This is a literate RP. I ask for a post on average of 800 words
5. Basic Grammar and Spelling please
6. PM Me with the title of the Rp: Rise of the Guardians, and a basic Character Skeleton.
7. You have ten (10) days to post. Failure to post within ten days forfeits your turn.
Please note: You may play more than one character, but you may only play one Guardian.
Your powers should not be so much that combined you are incredibly powerful and basically unstoppable. Please have ONE main power that does only a small handful of acceptable things, and up to three minor skills. All your power and all your skill -your character is still mortal and MUST HAVE A WEAKNESS. I don't want characters with god-like powers. Our group will face tasks where they are defeated, injured, or captured. No one should be capable of having fail-safes to constantly win.
Water Manipulation: can take water from the ground, the air, or even from a direct water source and create water funnels that attack, or a massive wave, or even turn that water to ice and create a spear with which to throw at enemies.
Healing: you can heal but not raise the dead -that is necromancy and would be considered a Primary power
Air Manipulation: Would be more like controlling the weather. Or maybe you can rush the air at an opponent flinging them back, take the air from them and let them choke.
Earth Manipulation: Use of the ground, make it shake, split open into chasms to swallow whole platoons, or maybe use the plant life around you, grow your own and use it to attack.
If you still have questions regarding your powers, please don't hesitate to PM me. I want these characters to be humble -not all powerful.
You don't have permission to post in this thread.
[center [I [size25 ⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓]]]
It was as though the pieces were slowly coming together. Saraya had been wondering why... Why was it that she was tamed by an unborn child, which was done by her father's hand? Fatigue and exhaustion crept up... And while she slept, Carrick had came in, with food and rubbed her arm softly to wake her. She turned to him, letting him speak his concerns. [B ". “I brought food just in case you were up for something to ease your stomach..."] Saraya smiled a bit before grabbing the bread, breaking a pieces of and slowly began to eat, not too much, but enough. While she did, he continued to remove his armor as he spoke. [b "You did a brave thing today, and I know it cost a lot of your energy. You don’t have as much now that you’re pregnant. Protect the group, but don’t kill yourself over it. It’s okay to ask for help sometimes. We still have a long uphill battle to win, and I don’t know how life would be if I ever lost you,”]
One of his concerns was his need to get her to an infirmary in the morning. She didn't argue.
As she are, all she could think of was Lara now. Pieces of the puzzle wouldn't fit to her. Luther being here, of all people had her on edge, but this cabin boy... He shocked her a bit even risking his early life to explore plateaus that needn't be explored... That alone was sending alarms. Everyone was preoccupied, even she. She even hoped Ayab was alright.
She saw that he had removed his armor and had slid into the blankets with her, showering her with kisses and gentle embrace, and she blushed some. [I "You know this is how our child was concieved, Carrick"] she joked softly. Carrick smiled and nodded. [B "I suppose it is... But, regardless, I still wouldn't have it another way"] Saraya began yawning. Carrick took the bread from her fingers. [B "Eat in the morning... Don't deprive yourself of sleep... "] in fact, he gently took her in his arms, craddled her to him. Saraya felt warm, safe... And he even began singing a song she was familiar with... It brought so much joy and sorrow, she couldn't hold back any tears... [I "Home... "] she whispered, appreciating the song and who sang it before drifting to sleep.
[center [I The Dream]]
Carrick's singing had kept her sense of hearing preoccupied, even while sleeping. She difted in the darkness, unafraid, until she felt a surface. She sighed as she began walking forward, towards a slight brightness. There, Caledon and Sayan were standing, waiting on her. She was led through the threshold, and to a peaceful field of time and space... Her time and space.
As she marveled, the two stood behind her as kings. There, before them, was a Queen and she was not afraid. [I "I need answers, Father... Caledon..."]
Caledon turned to her father. [b [u "She must be speaking about Fenlyk, Sayan"]]
Saraya turned to the two of them. [I "Part of it is Fenlyk... Moreso... It is about Luther, Lara, and my Carrick"]
[I [u "Carrick? It is this serious, my daughter? "]] Sayan asked. Saraya nodded. [I "I fear... That The Mage has a plan... Some way to harm him through me... Through our child... "] she held her belly, feeling the warmth of Carrick's existing embrace. She looked up to the two as they exchanged glances.
[I "Father... Great Grandfather... I need your help... I have finally tasted fear... Not just of my own safety, but Carrick's. I fear that... "]
[b [u "Saraya, don't say a word... We will not allow that to happen"]]
[I "My visions haven't failed me yet, Caledon, whose to say that my last vision I had on the ship will come true... "]
A growl escaped Sayan's lips. [I [u "I will not allow you to get hurt! Not you, my Son- in- law, or my grandson. "]]
Saraya closed her eyes, weathering the storm. Once Sayan was calm again, Saraya sighed. [I "The Mage is using Felliope's body... Bewtiching a corpse and using his memory to attack me. My unborn is in his clutches, being transformed into a heinous beast, bloodthirsty and wanting... I can hear it... As if linked to his aura, I could see what he is doing... And... "]
Sayan and Caledon helped her kneel and sit onto the grassy plain... [I "... Home isn't far from Fenlyk... Without a doubt, they will charge towards Caledon after defeating this abomination and finally realizing the story here... And there... "]
She turned away, shaking in fear. [I "... There, The Mage and his abominations will be waiting... "]
Sayan watched his daughter before hugging her. [I [u "... There, I will be waiting to stop them. "]]
[B [u "As will I"]] Caledon added. Saraya stared. [I "I am not too sure, but Adimar has been trying to help, too... I believe he's found a potion to protect me, so I will thank him for the two of you... "]
Sayan and Caledon nodded. Sayan sighed before clearing his throat. [I [u "Now, about Luther and Lara"]]
Caledon stared. [B [u "What's the matter, child? What concerns you about Lara? "]]
[I "... I feel that there is something wrong... There's a cabin boy that seems to have been swooning her, but since Balden returned... "]
[B [u "... The cabin boy? That does sound odd that a young child like him decided to follow into such a dangerous place... "]]
Sayan looked to Saraya. [I [u "... And Luther? What is your concern with him? "]]
Saraya looked to him. [I "He has been acting strange... And the longer we stay in Fenlyk, the more restless he becomes"]
Sayan nodded. [I [u "Let him be... Soon enough, they will see the truth for themselves"]]
Saraya didn't push the issue. Instead she nodded before Sayan lain her head on his lap and Caledon sat in her line of sight. [I [u "Rest, my child... "]]
[I "What about my arcane powers? And it's ties to my baby?"]
[I [u "I will tell you when your well rested. For now, sleep, be content in Carrick's arms, and when you wake, do what he needs of you, especially the infirmary"]]
Saraya chuckled softly as she closed her eyes, Sayan running his hand on her cheek.
[Center [I Awakened...]]
Saraya had awakened with a twinge... She could smell Carrick's apex, still, but it was soft and comforting. She groaned some, feeling a bit groggy... Then dizzy... She hurried out of Carrick's arms, alarming him to awaken as she turned away and heaved. Carrick sat up quickly to see what was wrong, noticing she was trying to use the sand underneath to cover it. It wasn't effective, he spotted dark droplets from her lips. [b "Saraya! "] he exclaimed.
Saraya was unable to speak, she collapsed onto their cot, and Carrick quickly collected her into his arms in a frenzy. He hurried out of the tent and towards the infirmary, hurrying past welcoming faces and Guardians alike, with a fearful look on his face. Rhuarc and Adimar had yelled their greetings to him, but after seeing how much of a panic he was in with Saraya in his arms, Adimar was compelled to run after them. Aria had just came from her tent to see Carrick in the distance, unable to decipher the situation.
When Carrick had gotten to the infirmary, he hurried her into one of the cots before yelling for someone to help. Saraya was breathing erratically, like she was fighting to take her next breath. And Carrick was terrified that something happened to her.
When one came, Carrick explained that she had heaved out blood, and they went to touch her, but as soon as the nurse tried to rub her belly, Saraya screamed, and like a chain reaction, her hand gripped the girl's throat. [I "DONT TOUCH ME! "]
Carrick grabbed her wrist. [B "Calm, love, it's a nurse! She wants to help!]
Saraya stared at the blurry figure before noticing that she was a nurse. Her dropped her hand before she let her body crumble to the cot. Carrick saw the shaken nurse start to work on her, and looked around, hoping the others weren't around.
As Adimar recounted his encounter with the Seer, it was concerning to say the least. Rhuarc had little knowledge of the arcane as his own experience had been limited to anything Adimar had told him or what he had figured out about his own abilities through experimentation, if Vega could co-opt one of Adimar's spells and use it to find him could Malik find Aria that way. The False King was a powerful Wizard in his own right, who knew what other spells Malik or Vega could subvert. [b "She could gain any number of things from lying, she is an agent of Malik's as far as we know. We have to treat her with suspicion. What if going to the Medici is the key to the Priestess' victory over Malik? What if going to the Medici is the only way that Fenlyk can be won? There is too much uncertainty. Even so, I think you did the right thing. If there is even the slightest chance that Vega's warning is true then we must treat it as so."] The warning about evil incarnate hunting Aria, darkness itself trying to get close to her seemed fairly obvious to Rhuarc. The Fade was an evil beast its wound on Ayab was evidence enough of that and it used darkness tot ravel, it had even warned them outside Kil'heed that t would never stop hunting the Priestess. If Rhuarc had to guess then he would stake his sword that the darkness hunting Aria was the Fade. The warning about the friendly face was far harder to pinpoint and far more concerning...
[b "I would agree, it seems logical that the Priestess must pass some sort of test, although it seems that we need not take it with her this time. I am glad you told me all of this Adimar, never be afraid to bring something like this to me. Protecting her to ensure that Malik can be beaten is more important than anything else. Anything. I won't lie to her but she doesn't necessarily need to know everything."] If the situation changed and Rhuarc decided that Aria would be safer or better served by knowing this then he would reevaluate the situation, until then what Aria didn't know couldn't hurt her. Just as they finished talking Carrick entered with some food, Rhuarc accepted gladly and took a few bites of some bread and meat he nodded in agreement to Adiamr's comment. [b " It is nothing that you need concern yourself with. We are merely talking about the Priestess' safety and what Fenlyk might have in store for her. For the moment she is safe, relax, rest and spend time with Saraya, she needs you more than anyone else right now. Thank you for the meal Carrick, it was most generous."]
Rhuarc left Adimar's tent and returned to his own, it was late and he had just finished meditating and was preparing to rest for the night when the entrance to his tent rustled opened, with one hand on his belt knife he turned and saw that it was Aria who had entered, it was a pleasant surprise. [b "Priestess, you are always welcome, regardless of the hour."] Aria spoke about Ayab, and about the Temple Master that ran the infirmary, he sounded like a good and honest man and his presence could only be a boon to everyone here. [b "I'm sure Ayab appreciates the effort you are making. You are fighting for him as he would for you, it is all that he could ask for."] If the Medici only appeared when they were needed most then a worrying thought, what if the Medici would only reveal themselves if Aria herself was injured or perhaps a guardian. Ayab was a friend and a companion of the High Priestess but he wasn't necessary to take down Malik, he was merely a soldier, easily replaced. If true need was the only thing to draw the Medici out then Ayab's need might not be enough. It was then that the conversation turned to something of a more private nature between the two figures. [b "Priestess, the stall of your lessons in the Old Ways is my fault. I let my pride and selfishness get in the way of your education, the fault lies with me. I would be more than happy to continue your lessons when you have the chance."] Rhuarc hated hearing Aria feel so lost and useless in her purpose, how she might insult others through ignorance, how she had little control of my powers but she said something that Rhuarc could not let stand.
[i "Sometimes I fear I’m a poor excuse for a priestess."] [b "Banish such thoughts from your mind. You can not afford the luxury of doubt like the rest of us. Sometimes I think you focus too much on the title rather than the woman who bears it. Malik has a title and it may give him claim to the throne of Azeroth, but men don't follow titles, they follow courage. Now the people know you. Noble, and common, they respect you. And if you would just lead them to freedom, they'd follow you. As I do."] Rhuarc spoke with as much passion as he could, the fire of Jai'hash heating his words. He wanted her to see that he followed her not because of what she was but because of who she was. She was Aria of House Tolshiv. [i "I can’t even figure out what Da’thei means.”] Perhaps it was time for Rhuarc to explain what [i Da'thei] meant. [b "Forgive me, sometimes I forget how much that you don't know, and not just you personally, anyone not from the Wastes. [i Da'thei] has no true translation in the Common tongue but I suppose the closest would be close to Ever Heart."] Rhuarc stared into Aria's captivating violet eyes as he explained. [b "It is a pledge, mostly to myself, a declaration of the strength of my feelings for you...for my love. Do with that what you will. Reject my love, ignore it, return it. The choice is yours and yours alone. Whatever you decide, I will respect and you by no means need to make a decision now. The fact of the matter is that my heart is yours, and shall always be."] Rhuarc paused for a moment hopefully giving Aria time to collect her thoughts, he wasn't sure what he thought she assumed [i Da'thei] meant but he was sure she would not be expecting that. [b "Aria, you will help these people because you have to. You will help these people because that was what you were born to do."] Rhuarc used the Priestess' name instead of her title for only the second or third time since meeting her, he hoped it would reinforce his earlier point about people following courage instead of titles but also, hopefully she would see that he saw her as so much more than just the High Priestess.
Aria relaxed in the pristine water as best she could. It wasn’t exactly easy considering she was trapped underground, Ayab was not doing well and Saraya was looking weak. She was also alone for the most part, which made her an easy target for Malik to sneak up on her. She knew Max stood just out of view to allow her privacy, but maintain her protection. She only had one visitor while she cleaned herself up, and it was a young woman who brought Aria a set of robes and sandals to wear. It was getting late, so Aria finished bathing quickly and stepped into the silken toga of dark marine and gold fastenings. She then draped a mint green robe over her marine toga, and stepped into the sandals. She let her hair dry on its own in the humid climate making it frizz out, but Aria wasn’t overly concerned with appearances. The past few days had been a whirlwind of travels and planning, but Aria was more concerned with something else. Her own group and their well being. She would meet with Lady Stanos soon enough, but for now rest and recuperation was most important. On her way she passed by a number of people milling about in the tunnels, most heading for bed.
She made her way with Max to the infirmary. It was quiet and dark and Aria could tell Ayab was already asleep. At least the cot he laid in looked comfortable. She saw there was a cup beside his cot, but it was empty of water, and she promptly refilled it incase he woke up in the middle of the night thirsty. She then saw to it he was tucked in comfortably, and as she smoothed the blanket out, her hand stopped over his heart and she frowned watching him sleep.
[#DB7093 “Please, if you can hear me Gods of Azeroth… protect my friend. Protect all of them. I have been blessed to have them, but I don’t know if I can bare to lose any of them. They… they’re all I have.”] Aria whispered looking up at the cave ceiling, but a old raspy voice interrupted her prayer and her thoughts.
“It sounds to me that you are burdened with conflict, child,” Aria turned and saw an elderly man dressed in grey robes. Even Max had tensed nearly drawing his sword, but it was only a Temple Master and apparently the healer. “I’m sorry to have startled you, Priestess,” He bowed to her respectfully, and approached. “The Gods can always hear you, you are their most precious child, but not even you are exempt from the experiences of loss or sacrifice. If anything you are intimately familiar with it.” Aria frowned. The old man was right, she was familiar with loss and sacrifice, and she knew she’d have more to experience before Malik was usurped. “Your friend is not doing well, something very dark and very evil has touched him. I do not think he is long for this world,” Aria grit her teeth angrily at that and looked back at Ayab. He wouldn’t have gotten hurt if she hadn’t of wandered off. “I see you carry blame. The fault is not yours-“
[#DB7093 “You don’t know that,”] Aria snapped, but her anger was rooted in fear. She felt a hand settle on her shoulder and she saw that the Temple Master had come to stand beside her and gently began to lead her from the infirmary, less she wake Ayab up by accident.
“I know a guilty face when I see one, but I see he is also Jai. He is a warrior, and any warrior understands the risks of traveling with someone like you. Is that not true Master Guard?” Max gave a gruff nod of his head when Aria looked at him expectantly, and the Master smiled at her leading her back through the tunnels and towards her camp. “See? It is a risk they take knowingly, because you represent something bigger. You are the herald of a new era, and you can not usher this new world without help, without loss, and without sacrifice. This is something you must accept.” Aria looked to the Temple Master and finally asked him his name. “I am Master Penzone, a humble servant of Azera -of you High Priestess.”
Aria studied him closer and decided she might like this Master Penzone. Even at his age, his hair was full and long, as was his beard. He had warm eyes, and wrinkled tan skin, and he was a temple Master, but before Aria could ask more questions he stopped, hands folded inside the sleeves of his robes. He had showed her kindness and wisdom, something Aria needed, but even he knew she needed sleep and bade her goodnight. “I am sure I will be seeing more of you. I promise you, your friend is in good hands. We have very fine healers, and will make him most comfortable.”
[#DB7093 “What my friend needs is the Medici. Do you know where I can find them?”] Master Penzone shook his head sadly. Saying he only knew that the Medici traveled Fenlyk, but had not been seen by the resistance, yet always seemed to arrive when needed. Aria supposed that for now it would have to do. As if he knew better than she, she suddenly yawned, and Max ushered her back towards camp with the others.
Luther was still sitting at Aria’s tent, and when she was handed over from one guard to the next, Max made his leave for bed. Camp was quiet, and even with her exhaustion Aria knew sleep would be elusive. Luther had risen to let her in her tent, but she wasn’t ready for that, instead she went towards Rhuarc’s tent, hopeful he hadn’t fallen asleep yet. She had questions for him, and she wanted to let him know she’d seen to Ayab. Besides she was stuck underground, with the only light protecting her coming from a small fire and bioluminescent plant life, who was to say the Fade couldn’t follow her here? Was being here putting the rest of the resistance at risk? Those thoughts were bound to keep her awake for most of the night. She knocked softly on the wooden post that held the tent up and waited for permission to enter. For a moment she almost hesitated… she’d never gone into a man’s tent before, and Luther was watching her curiously and she could feel his disapproval. Good thing she didn’t care much what Luther thought, and proceeded to enter Rhuarc’s tent and apologize for her late night visit.
[#DB7093 “I’m sorry for my late visit, but I promise to be quick. I know you probably want to rest, but I wanted to speak with you, to let you know I went and saw Ayab. There was a Temple Master who is helping in the infirmary. I haven’t seen a temple master since my guardian was… well… murdered.”] A look of sadness crossed her face. She’d never forget the image of those curling tendrils of smoke rising from the cabin she had called home for several years. She moved past it though and went to take a seat on the packed earth across from Rhuarc. [#DB7093 “I asked if they might know where I can find the Medici. I’m sorry to report, but I’m not having much luck in locating them. Though, I was told that the Medici always manages to arrive when needed most… so I’m holding onto hope. Hopefully The Medici finds us, or Adimar’s men find them first and bring them here. I’m not going to stop asking around though; I just wanted you to know I made sure he’s cared for and comfortable -as comfortable as he can be.”] The worry for Ayab was legitimate, since not even an amputation was an option. Aria’s greatest fear was what would happen to him if that darkness reached his heart.
[#DB7093 “There was something else I wanted to talk with you about, but it is more personal, and can wait till morning if you’d prefer.”] He didn’t seem to mind it so she continued. [#DB7093 “Before we left Kil’heed you called me something. I don’t know what it means, you haven’t taught it to me yet, and there weren’t enough context clues for me to figure it out. I’m also a bit sad we haven’t had the time to continue my cultural lessons. I know there hasn’t been much time to teach me, but I’ll need all the lessons I can get before we visit the Temple of Jai’hash. It’s expected that the priestess understands and knows all aspects of the old ways and traditions of the Four Provinces, and no province upholds the old ways more than Abdhu’Jai. They have always remained faithful, and I would hate to insult them with my ignorance. Sometimes I fear I’m a poor excuse for a priestess. I have no control over my powers, or to what extent I can use them. I don’t know the things I should know… I can’t even figure out what Da’thei means.”] He might have said she was stronger and more sure... but Aria wasn't really feeling that way. Determined? Yes. Confident? Not so much. She couldn't help but look down to her hands folded in her lap and feeling wholly inadequate. [#DB7093 "How can I possibly help these people?"] she murmured sadly.
Carrick, like the others, helped unpack and get things set up. He mostly focused on setting up Saraya and his tent, while two other guards prepared Aria’s tent. He was worried, Saraya did not look well and he was half tempted to take her to the infirmary as well, but she was adamant that she was and would be alright. So he let it go. He went with Max to escort Aria to the underground reservoir of water that was used for bathing. Thankfully as it was late at night, the underground pond was clear of anyone else. He stood with Max for a moment until he was certain that Aria was safe, and Max told him he could handle it. Carrick decided he needed to find Saraya some food and water, in the hopes she would eat something and start to feel better.
The tunnels were filled with refugees, but when he stopped a group of older women asking where he might find some food for one of the Guardians, he was delighted to find they were all kind. They voiced their excitement to learn that The Priestess had finally arrived with the Guardians, and quickly showed him the way, speaking all along the way and asking him who he was, what he did, what it was like serving the Priestess. They asked him about the other Guardians and he candidly told them the basics of the guardians without giving away too much information. He gave names, where they came from and what Province they guarded. They were most interested in Lara, which wasn’t surprising as she was their Guardian. They asked what she was like and Carrick could only tell them that she was unlike most teenagers. She was tenacious, bullheaded, smart, a skilled warrior, and mature for her age. Then they asked if all the Holy Guardsmen were as handsome as he. That had coaxed a hearty laugh from him, b ut he had no way of answering as he was a man and had never thought of it, so he simply shrugged and told them they would have to be the judge.
Before the group of elder women left him at the great hall where food was distributed, they asked him to send their wishes to the Priestess for good health and victory. He promised he would relay their message and thanked them for their help. Able to gather some food not only for Saraya, but the others, he made his way back to the groups camp. He found it fully set up with the other guards bunking down for the evening until they started rotating their shifts for the watch outside Aria’s tent. He was glad to see them getting rest, except for Luther who had taken up the first watch outside of Aria’s empty tent. Saraya didn’t trust Luther, she’d made that clear back in Kil’heed, but Carrick had no reason to distrust him even after Lara went rummaging through his room. He felt guilty for not telling the man that it had happened, but he respected Rhuarc’s desire to keep Aria safe -it was something both men shared, so it was beyond Carrick why they couldn’t get along. Before returning to the tent he shared with Saraya he stopped by Luther and handed him a cut roll with meat and cheese on it as well as a bit of fruit to eat.
[#000080 “Here, it’s not much, but it’s what the kitchens could spare until breakfast tomorrow.”] Luther looked up from where he was sliding a whetstone across his blade. He grinned at the food and accepted it without complaint, just a simple thank you. [#000080 “Where is everyone else?”] Carrick asked. Luther looked around their camp and then to Carrick informing him that Lara had gone off with Balden, Aria had not returned yet with Max, the other guards were sleeping, the cabin boy had wandered off as well, and that both Adimar and Rhuarc were in Adimar’s tent. Now that Carrick found odd, especially when Luther mentioned that whatever they went to discuss looked important and secretive. Carrick thanked Luther and left him to enter Adimar’s tent.
Just as Luther said, Adimar and Rhuarc seemed engaged in a riveting conversation, and it was something that was clearly meant to stay private. Carrick hoped that if what they discussed had anything to do with Aria they’d tell him, but instead he was greeted with silence. He held up the rolled napkins of food and offered them to both men.
[#000080 “Went and grabbed some food for us. Should tie us over until a full breakfast. I know Lady Stanos mentioned wanting to speak with you all over a meal, but we’re all half starved and I’m assuming from the late hour that we won’t sit down with her until tomorrow at the earliest.”] Adimar finally adorned his trademark smile, and quickly reach forward for the small meal giving his thanks in the process. [#000080 “You both seem involved with something,”] Carrick observed. Adimar just grinned as he took a bite of a mango.
[#20b2aa “Oh you know, just the usual. The Priestess is being hunted, how best to stop it, what more we can do, what’s our plan now that we’re here, etcetera and so.”] he shrugged nonchalantly. Carrick then asked if Admiar had any luck locating where the Mage was hiding, and much to his dismay, Adimar had been unsuccessful, but if it changed he promised that Carrick would be first on his list to notify. Satisfied, Carrick bid them goodnight and left to find Saraya.
She hadn’t move from where he left her and he smiled softly to see her tucked under the blankets. He wouldn’t be surprised if she turned the food away, but he hoped she might at least try to eat it, and if not eat it later when she was feeling up to it. He sat down beside her, reaching out with a gentle hand to coax her to roll over and face him. He gifted her a loving smile and set the food down beside the cot. [#000080 “I brought food just in case you were up for something to ease your stomach. You did a brave thing today, and I know it cost a lot of your energy. You don’t have as much now that you’re pregnant. Protect the group, but don’t kill yourself over it. It’s okay to ask for help sometimes. We still have a long uphill battle to win, and I don’t know how life would be if I ever lost you,”] he whispered and leaned over to plant a kiss to her temple, and warned her that if she wasn’t feeling better by morning he’d be taking her to a healer, which probably wasn’t a bad idea regardless. It would be nice to know for certain that Saraya was coming along well and that the baby was healthy. He could only hope they might find a midwife among the other refugees.
He let her eat while he removed his armor and prepared to bed down for the night with Saraya. Everyone was tired after the long flight from Kil’heed into Fenlyk, and hungry after an entire day tense and stressed they would be discovered. The Watch was taken care of, Aria was well protected, and he kept his sword close on the off chance he needed it in a pinch. Free of his armor and gear, Carrick laid down on the stacked bed furs and brought Saraya into his arms so he could hold her through the night and bring her comfort. He could feel her body slowly relaxing, and sometime in their quiet moment he began to sing an old Caledon folksong to Saraya. The song of the Stag and the Dove, one every Caldonian knew by heart. It was a story of love and loss, but also acceptance and peace. The gentle tune helping to carry them to a relaxed and comfortable state, but for Carrick, it brought him great joy to sing not only for Saraya but to their unborn child as well.
Adimar watched as Aria left to find the underground bathing pools to clean up before she met with Lady Stanos. Rhuarc was just as quick to approach Adimar and suggest he explain further about the seer, and to tell him everything. Adimar was prepared to do so, and he quickly looked around seeing that Saraya had not gone with Aria and was laying down with Carrick tending to her. Lara and Balden snuck off to catch up, and the Cabin boy was unpacking some of the gear they brought and seemed otherwise preoccupied with his tasks. Adimar admired that the young man was brave enough to tag along, and had such a hearty work ethic. Yet since Vega’s warning… Adimar trusted no one outside of the group and his men. He didn’t even trust Balden.
Being relatively alone, he still preferred the privacy of his tent and ushered Rhuarc inside. Saraya wasn’t doing well since they landed, and Carrick was busy helping to make her comfortable as well as the baby. They certainly didn’t need the added stress, and it would be for the better if it stayed between himself and Rhuarc… at least for now.
[#20B2AA “It’s even hard for me to understand. I was in my room on the ship, studying my arcane books, and attempting to locate where the Mage was hiding. I thought if I could find him, we could better attack, and kill two birds with one stone. Remove one of Malik’s men, and protect Saraya from further attack. Unfortunately, my spell didn’t work, I didn’t find him… but someone else found me: Vega. I don’t know how she did it, but she came with a warning. I don’t know to believe her, but she has nothing to gain from lying.”] Adimar said feeling a bit put off and guilty that he had to keep this from Aria. [#20B2AA “It was Vega who said I couldn’t mention this to The Priestess. I was told that she cannot go in search of the Medici. She’s needed here. Vega warned that if The Priestess went in search of the Medici, Fenlyk would be lost forever. Others could go in search, but not her. That’s why I sent Thad and Rupert off. I want Ayab healed as well, we all do, but something is hunting her along side Malik. Vega called it evil incarnate, a darkness that’s trying to get close to her. I don’t know exactly what it is, but I was also warned not to trust a friendly face. I didn’t get more than that before our connection was lost, and she was gone.”]
Adimar told Rhuarc everything he knew, in hushed voices so their words stayed between them. He didn’t like the last bit, it was too vague, and so far every face they’d seen since entering the tunnels had been friendly. Adimar didn’t like the uncertainty, but it was out of his control. Aria had no idea just how much danger she was in, and honestly… Adimar wasn’t certain at what level either. Only that there seemed to be forces conspiring from all sides. Even now, Adimar wasn’t completely calm with Aria being out of sight, with or without Max. Thankfully, Fenlyk didn’t seem hell bent on making them prove their worth the way Kil’heed demanded of them. Still, Adimar was vaguely aware that Aria would have to do something while in Fenlyk. He just wasn’t certain what it was she had to do. [#20B2AA “I assume there is a task Aria is needed to complete while here, which is why Vega was adamant she not stray. I’m sorry to tell you this, and more sorry that I’m asking you to keep it from her. I don’t like it either, but if means protecting her, and ensuring that we can take down Malik… I don’t see an alternative.”] Adimar admitted begrudgingly. Keeping secrets didn’t sit well with him, and he had a feeling Rhuarc would feel the same. Aria trusted both of them explicitly, if she found out they were hiding warnings and information there was no telling how she might react to a betrayal. Especially a betrayal that would force her hand to choose between a friend, or her fate.
Lady Stanos was pleased, which meant Balden was pleased. He had told them time and time again that he knew the Priestess, and assured them that one day soon she’d arrive in Fenlyk. They had been more inclined to believe him than the resistance cell outside of Central City, though they still had their doubts. Now those doubts were extinguished, and Balden felt pride in knowing he was the one who delivered her safe to the Resistance. Balden was also realizing how long it had been since he’d seen Lara, and how much he’d missed her. She, like him, had grown over the past six months. Her hair was longer, she looked more and more like a woman and less like a girl. Even he was starting to look more like a man and less like a boy. It would be interesting to see how much their personalities had changed if they changed at all. If anything, Balden was more confident and sure of himself.
He went with the group to help them unpack, but his eyes trailed off to the new face of the cabin boy. Who was he? What was he doing with the group? How long had Lara known him? Why did he have a strange sense of familiarity with him? For a moment the two of them locked eyes, and while the cabin boy smirked, Balden felt a strange sickness settle in his stomach. He had to look away, it was more uncomfortable than the death glares he was getting from Rhuarc. Thankfully he felt Lara at his side and whispering in his ear. It coaxed a warm and mischievous grin to cross his face. He quickly took her hand and led her away saying, [#A52A2A “I know the perfect place, follow me.”]
He led her down a series of tunnels until they had all but left the general population of the underground dwellings. The next cavern he took her into was massive, but uninhabitable. Stalactites and stalagmites in bright colors of pure ivory, red, gold, and slate wove through the minerals, and glittered with moisture. The drip, drip, drip of water into a shallow pool kept a steady beat in the hollow space. It was dimly illuminated by the bioluminescent plankton in the water, making it glow with a strange green and blue color. Regardless, the space was lovely, quiet, and most of all private. They wouldn’t be bothered here. He grinned at her leading her over to the edge of the shallow pool of water, and feeling confident that if ever he had a chance -now was it.
[#A52A2A “I found this little spot after my first month of being here. The caves are easy to get lost in, but you’ll learn them soon enough. I’m still adjusting to the fact that you’re here. I… I missed you,”] he confessed as he came to sit down on a rock with her beside the glowing pool of water. He didn’t let go of her hand even as she sat down beside him. [#A52A2A “And I’m sorry I left you behind, but I couldn’t sit still and do nothing. I wanted to make sure the way was ready for you all,”] he shifted his seating on the rock to face Lara and took both her hands in his. He liked holding her hands, and it made him smile warmly at her with deep affection. [#A52A2A “I can’t wait for you to tell me what happened after you went into the Sanctum, what it was like, and how you got Aria back. I waited weeks for you to return, to know that you were alright, but when you didn’t come out… I knew it was time for me to make my own move. I didn’t want to leave you, but… I felt I had my own part to play, and knew that as long as I remained loyal, and kept my faith, I’d be reunited with you one day. I’m so glad it was sooner than I was anticipating… which is why… I don’t think I can wait another moment to…”] His voice trailed off, his heart pounding, and his eyes took in the sight of her. He’d always remember how the glow from the water illuminated her face, and glittered off her red hair. He licked his lips nervously and before he lost the gumption, leaned in and kissed Lara: His first kiss.
A warm feeling bloomed from her heart to the rest of her body upon seeing Balden once again. He had safely returned, and successfully had made Malik's men get extremely lost.
No matter how long Lara would have liked to stand there and gaze upon Balden, time was still of the essence. Even though that patrol of Malik's men had been confounded beyond measure, that did not mean that they would not seek reinforcements. Every second their group did not spent moving meant another second in which Malik's men would reacquire them.
As Balden introduced his companions, Lara took a look back at the rest of the group. Everyone seemed relieved, but Lara noticed that look in Rhuarc's eyes which she knew all too well from personal experience; that glowering, distrustful look. She would need to talk to Rhuarc about Balden, see what was bothering him and perhaps calm down the flames which had been kindled inside him.
Balden had suggested splitting the group in two, rushing all the female members to the Fenlyck hideout on horses. Even though it made some sense, as it was harder to spot a smaller group, Lara liked this idea not at all. Her thoughts were echoed by the Priestess, who expressed those thoughts aloud. Their group had experienced many things together, from the good, to the bad, and all the way down to the ugly. These experiences were what bonded them, a bond that could not easily be broken. It felt as if she were part of a family once more. A family always on the run from one dangerous event to the next, from the frying pan and into the fire, but a family nonetheless.
Balden, evident by the frown on his face, had not anticipated this at all nor did he like that they would be going with a different idea. Unfortunately for Balden, Lara felt sorry for him, it would be hard to argue when the entire group wanted to run as a group.
It's like water in way. When water moves, no matter how small or big it is, all of the water moves at the same time. Never does one part of water move without moving another part. Unless there was magic involved, but magic was a factor that could be added or removed at any time.
Balden offered her to ride with him, that still boyish smile on his face. Lara accepted, but she did notice the somewhat sour look on Aerik's face. Lara found this somewhat uncomfortable, as she had told him quite explicitly that she and Balden had feelings for each other.
Aerik's face quickly changed to a smiling expression, and he even offered an apology via that "you should go with your friend". But even this felt unnatural, as if it were forced.
Anyways, there was no room for neither more talking or thinking.
Lara felt herself being pulled up by Balden, she helped him with her pulling up so he didn't accidentally break his back.
After she had been comfortably sat down in front of Balden, she wrapped her arms around the horses neck.
And like that, they were away while the rest of the group ran. Lara wanted to talk to Balden very badly, but a conversation on top of a moving horse wouldn't be very effective. Especially when one considers that her back was towards Balden's face, meaning whatever she said would be lost.
Instead, Lara dozed lightly. She had done this many times on her lonely wanderings, and this time it was even easier as she didn't have to worry about controlling a horse.
What awoke her from her snoozing was the loud and piercing sound of a conch horn being blown. Even though one conch horn would never produce the same exact sound of another conch horn, it still reminded her of all the festivals and fun times with her parents she had had. Or at least those that she could still remember.
Shortly after the conch horn had blown, Lara both noticed and felt how everything became darker and slightly more colder. A quiet boom echoed as the entrance was shut, slightly startling her.
But Lara could hear the water dripping down the stone, reaching out she could feel the vast amounts of water. Were they under a lake, or did some large source of water flow through the cave?
That question, for now, would remain unanswered as all of them walked towards the glim but piercing lights further in the dark.
Lara kept looking around, being ready in case something nasty unexpectedly jumped out at them. Maybe it was nonsensical, but that did not change the fact that any safe place had to contain something dangerous; each garden had its own snake.
They eventually came down to a large cavern. It was truly breathtaking. The light and shadow difference, especially up higher, made the cavern seem bigger than it actually was.
And there were noises, noises of living people which bounced around and echoed against the stone walls. It was heartening to hear it, for it meant that there were Fenlyckians living out of Malik's rule.
Balden welcomed them to the Fenlyck Resistance, as many Fenlcyks looked upon their group which had just come in.
Lara graciously accepted Balden's help in helping her dismount, as she looked back at her people. Her people... It was hard to think about it that way. For the past three years, she had not been back to the place of her birth, nor had ever bumped into another Fenlyckian. But they were still her people. It did not matter the time nor distance, she represented them and a chosen of the Fenlyck spirit, something which she'd carry with pride and honour.
Ayab was led off to the infirmary to have his leg looked at.
An older woman surrounded by another group of people, all wearing the tradition Fenlyck garb. The older woman's garb, a plum colored toga and a peach/gold robe, indicated that she had some sort of authority. While the clothes indicated authority, the voice spoke it. The older woman questioned Balden about what he had brought in.
When Balden had responded who he had brought back, the old woman burst into happiness. The curious thing to note here was that Lady Stanos, the old woman, had not for a moment question Aria's validity of who she was. Lara was not complaining at all however, if it meant avoiding what had happened back in Volshi then she was totally for it.
Lady Stanos asked about the rest, and Aria politely introduced eachand everyone of them to Lady Stanos. Lady Stanos offered a polite bow to all of them, but to Lara she also offered a show of awe. Lara just stood there, shocked a bit at this sudden awe towards her. And again, comparing her looks to the painting of Fenlyck. Lara truly wondered whether her looks were similar to how Fenlyck had appeared on the painting.
A question for the Fenlyck spirit, but now was not the time for such a question.
Now was the time to rest and relax as much as they could before going on forth and overcoming new challenges.
After they were shown the new quarters they'd be living in, they could finally rest. Lara walked up to Balden, and leaned towards his ear. Whispering, [+purple "Want to find a quiet place and catch up?"]
[center [I [size25 ⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓]]]
Saraya was fatigued greatly. She used to much energy, her forehead oozing beads of sweat, but she remajned docile, so her friends wouldn't worry. The darkness finally consumed the land, and with it came her anxious habit. The warrior in her alarmed her, and her guard was up. But, she hadn't the energy to move. She was panting through her nose, still putting on a brave face for the rest.
And finally... Balden had returned.
He was trying to hurry them. Everyone was eager to move, even Ayab, who still had to consider his wound. Saraya watched as everyone gradually slipped from her, and she tried to give herself the strength to move... But she was like stone. Carrick had notice she hadn't followed and turned to see her struggling to stand. [B "Saraya? "]
Saraya tried once more to stand, using the trunk of the trees for support as she finally could put some weight on her bare feet. Carrick had hurried to her. [B "Can you stand? "] he asked. Saraya huffed hard before slowly beginning to lift her body, and grunted as she felt a bit of a strain. Around this time, Aria had suggested the horses be for Ayab and Saraya. She was willing to protest, but her breath was shallow, and she couldn't catch it soon enough to speak. [B "It's alright... You catch your breath. I'll help you"]
Carrick lifted her off her feet and walked his way back to the group, setting her on the horse. She frowned. [I "I... I can't... Let Aria... "] she squeezed out. Carrick shushed her. [B "We'll make sure she's safe. It will be alright. "] he encouraged her to stay on the horse.
Having not the strength to protest any longer, they group had taken off, jogging to keep up with the horses. Saraya could see the dim luminous midnight ahead of them. Saraya heard a conch shell, and stared ahead as an opening had appeared, and everyone had entered.
Saraya heard the stone close behind them and they were led away, through darkness, dank and silence... Until they reached an opening with light.
Saraya saw stone and attempted to adjust to her surroundings... But, for some reason, though the darkness had some sort of comfort, she felt lightheaded. She felt the fatigue note than usual, and her overextended power had effected her to where her hearing and her sight were distorted. The tunnels led to a chasm, and to the leader of the Resistance... Lady Stanos
Aria and the Lady had started conversation, while Carrick attempted to help her down from her horse. Saraya had hard trouble finding her footing, and finding her stomach... She started trembling, and hurried out of Carrick's hands behind the group so not to be noticed, and vomited.
She coughed silently before staring at the brick wall... Her father began showing the Guardians surrounding him in this very room. He spoke with a distant voice of his purpose... Saraya watched in silence the scene until Malik and Luther had fought vigorously. Sayan tried to stop them, but Luther had yelled something she didn't quite understand, and her father had mistakenly hit Malik, nearly killing him, making the others restrain Luther and look to Sayan.
He didn't want to kill him... He brought him back with his magic, and bestowed upon him his power. Saraya started trembling some. Carrick had noticed and knelt to her. [B "Saraya? Do you need rest? Do you need food? "] he asked before looking back to Aria and Lady Stanos. Saraya looked down to see bodily fluids... But it was dark, black... Blood. She knew it... If she used her Arcane powers while she was carrying, it harms her, and possibly her child. She quickly wiped her mouth and used the sand to cover it from sight.
[I "I... I'm alright, Carrick"] she whispered before trying to stand. Carrick looked to everyone as he helped her up. Saraya slowly regained her footing and returned to the group, Carrick regrettably leaving her side to accompany Aria's.
Carrick's new power had allowed him to speak to her in his mind, even project images. And all the while that he stayed guard, he would whisper sweet nothings into het mind. Saraya sighed to them... It comforted her as she heard them, and even whispered Thank you to him for even trying. Carrick would be happy to help her, but now was his duty... And he had to do so before making such a feat.
Finally the wait that the group had been forced to endure was coming to an end, Balden had returned and with the young man's arrival the group could finally get moving again and start their journey again. Fenlyk was too dangerous to simply stay in the same place for too long. As Balden returned and introduced the two men from the Fenlyk resistance with him Rhuarc glowered at the former blacksmith's apprentice, he still was not sure how to deal with Balden'a abandonment from the group, even if he did what he thought was right he still walked out on his friends and companions. For now Balden would have to accept the glares from the Jai until the situation was resolved. Aria unconsciously voiced a similar opinion as she made a barbed comment about sticking together to Balden. It almost brought a smile to the serious Jai's face. As the group made to move off, Adimar extended and arm and halted Rhuarc before he could start moving and what he had to say was very interesting. The Volshi Prince asked for Rhuarc's word that he would keep this private and the Jai replied a nod before continuing...at least before he was cut off by the Priestess. Malik's Seer had visited Adimar? How was that possible? At the earliest opportunity Rhuarc would need to hear the rest of that particular tale.
The group set off at a run and Rhuarc had to admit it felt extraordinarily good to run again. They had travelled by airship and horse since Tanaka and to run again made him feel like himself again. The Jai were a nomadic people, they trusted their feet above all else, there was a saying in the Wastelands 'A Jai who cannot run is no Jai'. Rhuarc glanced at Ayab, on the horse, his leg looking even more sickly than an hour ago if that was possible. Rhuarc and Ayab had run from their home in the desert to Central City so the run to the Fenlyk hideout barely counted as a run, it was fun but certainly not tiring, at least not to Rhuarc. By the time that they had arrived, Aria looked a little winded and flushed...Rhaurc had not even broken a sweat! The Fenlyk resistance certainly wasn't as grand as Kil'heed but it seemed functional enough. What surprised Rhuarc was the number of people that seemed to be inside the hideout, it was certainly more than he expected, Rhuarc had always been told that Fenlyk had bowed to Malik practically unconditionally but what he saw here in these caves seemed to contradict that. Maybe Fenlyk did not have as much [i Toh] as Rhuarc had been led to believe.
Balden introduced them to Lady Stanos who seemed to be in charge of the resistance and to her credit she accepted Aria for who she was immediately. It was certainly easier than it had been in Kil'heed with Adimar's father and the other Volshi emissary. After the pleasantries were exchanged it seemed that everyone had some downtime to relax. Ayab was taken off to by checked by the resistance's physicians while Rhuarc went to set up a tent. Now that he had a moment alone he went to seek out Adimar in his own makeshift quarters. [b "Adimar I think it is time for you to explain about the Seer. Tell me everything."] Rhuarc didn't know what Adimar was about to say to him but he was certain that it would be important. Adiamr's instance that Rhuarc keep quiet about the conversation ealier had put him on edge. The Volshi Guardian would not do that unless it was absolutely necessary. Rhuarc would keep his word to the man unless it either endangered Aria or their mission but until that moment the Jai would keep silent. Now the only questioned remained was what was Malik's seer doing contacting one of the Guardians?
Aria was ready to move, and once the horses started off to lead the way at a quickened pace, she hurried to follow. She was flanked by Rhuarc and Adimar, with Max and Luther taking the front, her other two guards brought up the rear, and Carrick ran ahead with Lara and Saraya. Aria was no athlete but she wasn’t one to complain about the physical activity of having to jog to keep up with the horses and group. This was how the Jai generally traveled wasn’t it? Being in enemy territory had Aria feeling anxious and yet invigorated, giving her the energy she needed to keep up a steady jog with the group.
Thankfully the entry to the hideaway wasn’t very far, only a few miles. It was well hidden in the wetlands they crossed into but there was an obvious trail the horses could walk on to reach the entry. There was nothing around the collection of rocks that marked the entrance to the hideout, just marshlands and the sounds of the wildlife that inhabited it. One of the Fenlyk’s blew into a conch shell signaling their arrival, and the stones that bared their way, rolled to the side just enough to allow room for the horses the run in single file and the rest of them to slip inside afterwards.
After they crossed the threshold, the rock rolled back into place sealing them in darkness. Outside it had looked like a simple collection of stacked rocks, but it quickly proved to be anything but. Lights came from deeper in the tunnel, and water dripped off the walls, collecting on the floor to create a shallow stream of water they had to walk through. The light ahead of them reflected off the water creating a warm glow in the space. They never stopped moving, though now they were able to catch their breaths as they went down a path further underground. Aria was heaving for air, having never run that much in her life. As she took a moment to catch her breath, she felt a hand on her shoulder and looked to see Luther standing there. She was still angry with him for lying to her, and his suggestion to use her powers of persuasion on Ayab, but she couldn’t deny that he was an asset as well, and so far the only one who encouraged she test and use her powers.
[#00FFFF “Are you alright? You’re flushed.”] Aria raised a hand to wave him off, her face was pink from the exertion, she tried to catch her breath, and stave off the urge to suddenly vomit from the physical stress.
[#DB7093 “I’m fine, or I will be. I just need a moment,”] she heaved, but as he refused to back down, she accepted his offered hand to help her through the tunnels.
The lights they came upon were small glass balls filled with bioluminescent algae. They illuminated the space as they rounded a corner of the tunnel and with time found themselves hearing the noises of the underground residents who lived in hiding here. A well guarded secret after Malik’s invasion, the Fenlyks had begun carving out tunnels underground all of Fenlyk. Thankfully Malik’s men had not discovered the many entrances yet, and even if they did it was quickly obvious that one could easily get lost in such a labyrinth if they did not know their way.
The group was led into a large natural cavern that was illuminated by naturally growing mushrooms, moss, and algae all with bioluminescent properties. It was lovely to Aria who had never seen anything like it. Even Carrick was taken aback by how magical the space was, and he sensed Saraya’s impression of the place. More shocking was the many faces of Fenlyks that looked back curiously upon their arrival. At the head of the group Balden smirked.
[#A52A2A “Welcome to the Fenlyk Resistance,”] he told them and dismounted his horse to help Lara down, while Carrick helped Saraya down from hers, stealing a kiss as he’d come to always do when given the opportunity. The two companions of Balden’s offered Ayab help to get down.
“We’ll take him to the infirmary for you,” they told Aria and Rhuarc. She nodded and watched Ayab be led away to more relaxing quarters.
From the crowd of people going about their business, a group of men and women walked forward. All dressed in the robes and togas of traditional Fenlyk garb, not excluding the obvious warriors of the group, and all of them flanking an older woman in a toga of plum and wearing a robe of peach and gold.
“What is the meaning of this, Balden?” The older woman asked. She was easily in her 50’s, with grey hair, curled and coiffed in the fenlyk fashion upon her head. “You were sent out to scout the Volshi Airship, not return with…” her voice trailed off as Balden reached back and Luther brought Aria forward. A look of recognition on both their faces.
[#A52A2A “These are not mere refugees, General. May I present to you my friend, Her Holiness, the High Priestess of Azeroth. Priestess, this is the Resistance’s General, Lady Stanos.”] The elder woman placed a hand to her heart, stunned by the vision of Aria. She was flushed, with muck up to her knees staining the only dress she owned, and damp with her sweat even though they ran through the night, it was warm and humid in Fenlyk.
“Oh my, the last time I saw you… you were… such a small thing! Priestess, welcome!” She reached forward and collected Aria’s hands in her own; a large and bright smile on her face and eyes growing misty. “The divines must have heard our prayers and sent you to us.” Aria smiled at Lady Stanos kindly and stood with her. Aria had a faint memory of the woman, though she too had been much younger with strawberry blond hair, not grey and much less wrinkles. Aria also remembered that Lady Stanos had been the Elected Ambassador of Fenlyk before Malik’s invasion. Now it seemed she was the Resistance’s leader.
Aria had to ask, [#DB7093 “You do not question the validity of who I am?”] Lady Stanos smiled.
“Oh no, your holiness. I still see that little girl with those unique eyes of yours. To me you have not changed a bit… taller, older, more womanly, but you are still clearly you. Are these [i The Guardians]?” She asked. Aria smiled and nodded sweeping a hand back and introducing them.
[#DB7093 “Yes, I present Lady Saraya of Caledon, Prince Adimar of Volshi, Rhuarc of the Farlan Jai, and of course your own… Lara of Fenlyk.”] Lady Stanos bowed respectfully to them all as they were introduced, but when it came to Lara she seemed to be in awe of her.
“Why you look just like the paintings of Fenlyk that once graced her temple… a shame I cannot take you there to see… Malik-“
[#DB7093 “Destroyed it. We know. Please, my people are in need of rest, food, and medical attention.”]
“Yes of course! Come, we will see to it that all of your needs and that of the Guardians are met. You are welcomed and safe here. Balden has told us much about you… I get the feeling we have much to discuss.” The lady waved for others to come and help the Guardians, and showed them to a section of the tunnels they would be able to use to store their things and set up their own living space.
They weren’t impressive quarters, and it looked as though they’d all be sharing the space together. It was clear the tunnels were not used for actual living, but for operating from. Still, there was space enough for them all to set up their own sort of camp, and Lady Stanos called for tents and cots to be brung to their space so they would have some semblance of privacy while in hiding.
“I apologize, I know it’s not much, and we weren’t expecting you. Though we have been waiting and hoping for you to come for many years.” Lady Stanos stated, which explained to Aria why they’d been so secretive for so long, slowly networking tunnels underneath Fenlyk, and into its major cities; while amassing supplies, weapons, and fighters. Aria only nodded in silent understanding and watched as her guards and the Cabin Boy set about erecting tents and making the space livable for them all. “When you have settled in, I should like to meet with you all. I will have a fine meal prepared for us all to share over our conversation, and fresh clothes if you need it.” She then informed the Guardians where they would find a place to bathe, told them where they would find the other fighters training if they so wished to stay strong and fit, and explained that they were welcomed to any part of the underground. Then she bid them goodbye, letting them know she’d send someone to lead them to supper, and turned to leave. Aria turned to face the group and clasped her hands.
[#DB7093 “Alright, we all heard Lady Stanos. Let’s take some time to get settled in, then we can all eat and plan with the Resistance how best to reach the Fenlyk Temple. In the meantime. I am going to wash the mud and sweat off.”] Aria grabbed her bag, eager for the bath was that mentioned and invited Saraya and Lara to join her if they wished. Before Lara or Saraya could go to follow, if they decided too, Carrick suggested taking their weapons with them. They couldn’t be too cautious, despite the safety of the underground. With Aria gone, Adimar looked over to Rhuarc, hoping for a chance to confess further about the visit he received from Vega and share her message with him.
Adimar waited as patiently as he could. He was normally very patient, but when it came to hiding in wait? Not so much. Adimar might have been more of a scholar, but he was a trained warrior, and even he knew to be this deep in enemy territory it was best to remain cautious. He had to rely on everyone else’s faith in Balden, because he certainly didn’t know the young man very well. Balden did not have Adimar’s trust.. and considering what Vega had told him the other night? Adimar felt himself becoming almost paranoid and shifty. At least for now he had dissuaded Aria from venturing off after the Medici. When Rhuarc made his comment about their returning shortly, Adimar cocked an eyebrow and looked over at him. How had he known that? It suddenly dawned on Adimar that Rhuarc possibly possessed a skill very similar to his own. This was a coastal region, known for its marshlands and wildlife. No doubt water snakes were prevalent in this province, and if Adimar was right… Rhuarc would need a familiar, the way Adimar had Hermes. A conversation for another time though, as they had to keep quiet.
Luther was another matter all together. His brazen suggestion made even Adimar prickly, and he wasn’t the only one. He could feel Rhuarc beside him glower with irritation. Neither of them trusted Luther as far as they could throw him. Adimar was still curious to know what the ring Lara had found was all about. Adimar just hadn’t had the time to look it over, but whatever it was there was something dangerously powerful about it. Which begged the question: why did Luther possess such a ring? Why did he have a full notebook filled with drawings of Aria? He watched the Watcher closely as he sat and waited, head tipped back and eyes closed as if he was simply sleeping. It rubbed Adimar the wrong way and he shared a glance with Rhuarc, glad to see he wasn’t the only one wary of Luther’s presence.
Luther wasn’t the only one that Adimar was unsure of, but that might have just been an overprotective need inside him in regards to Lara. She was young, and her blushing smile at whatever the cabin boy murmured to her had not gone unnoticed. That too made Admiar a bit prickly to watch, Lara was quickly becoming important to Adimar in the way a sister, niece or cousin might be, that he didn’t even like how handsy Balden had been earlier with her. Maybe that was just the paranoia talking. Perhaps Vega had come to him in an attempt to sway him from his path? He almost wasn’t sure what to believe in anymore, but he did know there was at least one person he could trust implicitly: Rhuarc. But even Adimar wasn’t certain that if he told the man about Vega’s visit that he would agree to keep it from Aria. Still, he kept his comments to himself even as the Cabin Boy flirted unashamed with Lara -despite her warning of feelings for Balden. Oh to be young…
Nightfall was moving in, and Adimar was growing more restless -they all were. It grew to a fever pitch as they heard hooves thundering towards them. Lara seemed to know it was Balden, and Adimar would have used Hermes to verify, but the group of riders returned before he could connect with Hermes and made their presence known. Balden had managed to get the patrol off their trail and was able to double back. The Fenlyk resistance was very good at deflecting and misleading Malik’s men, that putting them on a new heading was easy. Malik’s men were all brutish, but they lacked intelligence.
[#DB7093 “Balden! You’re here!”]
[#A52A2A “It’s nice to see you all,”] Balden quickly introduced his companions to the others. He could see Rhuarc’s directed glare at him, and he knew he was in trouble with the Jai. Ayab had warned him, but Balden had done what he felt was right. It still didn’t quell his anxiety at having to confront the man and speak to him.
One of Balden’s companions dismounted his horse and brought it over for Aria, while the other dismounted to give his horse to Saraya. Balden suggested rushing Aria, Saraya and Lara ahead to the base, but Aria did not agree with the group being split, much to Adimar’s relief. She reached back, and moved to stand between Rhuarc and Adimar a different idea on her mind.
[#DB7093 “Ayab and Saraya should each take one of the horses.”] She instructed, and looked to the two men accompanying Balden. [#DB7093 “Saraya is with child and Ayab needs The Medici. Walking is difficult for him. I’ll be fine on foot. This group does not split up, Balden. We are stronger together.”] Balden frowned, he clearly didn’t like what she had decided, or her subtle jab, but he voiced no argument against her. Aria wasn’t going to leave the others behind, there would be no breaking up their group. Not this deep in enemy territory, and that was obvious. She felt there was better strength in numbers.
Balden was less convinced. Sometimes it was easier to move through the wetlands in smaller numbers. At the same time he sensed a level of distrust coming from Rhuarc and even Adimar, and it hadn’t gone unnoticed his subtle reaction to the idea of splitting the group -but maybe it was the plan to separate Aria from their line of sight. He had to relent and help move the group as a whole. It wouldn’t take them too terribly long to reach the hideout on foot, but it would take longer than Balden would have liked.
“Come on, we can’t stay here or they will find us. Let’s move quickly.” One of his companions stated. Balden turned then for Lara, a warm smile on his face, and held his hand out.
[#A52A2A “Will you ride with me? We have a lot to catch up on. I want to hear all about the trials in Kil’heed,”] he said to her eager to spend time in her company again. From where he stood carrying his many bags, Rhys watched with extreme displeasure and obvious jealousy, but he quickly pasted a smile on his face and looked to Lara with an encouraging tone.
[#8B008B “You should go with your friend. He seems like a fine enough fellow…”] Balden frowned down at Rhys for that, holding his horse steady and reached down for Lara, helping her in one strong pull of his arm until she was seated comfortably in front of him in the saddle. Rhys only grinned as if he knew something the others didn’t, and watched as they rode off to lead the group to the hideout.
As greetings were made and they were urged to move quickly under the cover of darkness, Adimar reached for Rhuarc holding him back as the rest of the group moved forward, and whispered.
[#20B2AA “There’s something important I need to tell you, I need your word that this will not leave us. Vega, Malik’s Seer came to me the other night. She warned me-“] they were cut off by Aria who had turned from the group, realizing they had not followed with the others.
[#DB7093 “Come on you two, no dawdling,”] she chided. Adimar forced a smile and glanced to Rhuarc, a silent promise to pick it up later.
To be truthful, she had not expected any hugs at all. But at the same time, Lara deeply appreciated this show of instantaneous gratitude from Balden. It meant that despite their long separation, both distance and time wise, he still clearly remembered her; Lara still clearly remembered Balden.
Lara had embraced Balden, smiling as she wrapper her arms around his soaked clothes and body. Lara missed Balden as well, but their moment of reunion had to be cut short due to a patrol of Malik's men closing in on their position.
She became worried when he mentioned that he'd try screwing up the trail on purpose, scared that he wouldn't come back. But Lara could feel that Balden had changed. He had less of a 'boyish' voice, and more of an authoritative voice. His body felt as if it had gone through long, intense physical work.
As Balden let go of her, Lara let go of Balden. There was no time for standing as Balden quickly moved her in the direction of Adimar, who grabbed her by the arm and dragged her to where everyone else was hiding. Lara felt completely displeased at being dragged in such a manner, she could've easily run towards the hiding spot without this physical contact.
But since it already happened, she couldn't really change it.
Now, now time would tell whether Balden's efforts would pay off or not. Sitting down, Lara closed her eyes and prayed without words that Balden would be successful and return alive and scratch-less.
For now, the patrol had come up where there were many prints of both horse and human. All of them could hear what Malik's men were saying, and there was a discussion. Lara listened intently, waiting for some sign that the hiding spot had been compromised and prepared to call upon the sea to sweep these foul creatures to deeper waters and end up as snacks to the beasts of the deep sea.
But that would not be neccessary at all. With a deep sigh of relief, a heavy weight was lifted off of everyone; Malik's men took the bait and went after Balden. Now, now they had to wait for Balden to come back.
Now begun a very uncomfortable waiting period. They could only sit there while the patrol of Malik's went after Balden's deception, not knowing whether Balden had succeeded or not.
Lara closed her eyes and reached out with her mind to the water. She could feel as the water gently swished forwards and backwards in small, rolling waves, going up and down the sandy shore. Despite the heavy pressure suddenly thrust upon their shoulders, Lara found this forwards and backwards motion calming. It reminded that her that even though there was evil in the world, there still remained those quiet and pure bits.
She opened her eyes upon hearing someone crawling. Turning her head around to the crawling sound, it was Aerik. So, he had also come with them to explore the lands of Fenlyck. Lara hoped that he knew for what he was volunteering for, since they had already met danger in the form of Malik's men.
She turned her head away from him as Aerick showered her with compliments, she even blushed just a tiny bit as her heart raced ahead of her. Turning around just a tiny bit, she could see him grinning at her;she quickly turned away.
Despite feeling happy, Lara still felt awkward at this showering of attention from Aerik. It felt as if he was going for some sort of relationship with her. But Lara knew that she had already committed to Balden relationship wise. But at the same time, she couldn't be cruel and crush Aerik's hope sofast as if popping a balloon.
She slowly turned around to face Aerik, a serious expression on her face as she begun to speak in a quiet tone. [+purple "I thank you for your shows of affection. No one has ever told me that I look like those depictions of Fenlyck. At the same time, I do not remember how any depictions of Fenlyck appear as. As to appearing 'peaked'"], Lara gave a bit of a jovial smile before returning to her former serious expression, [+purple "Lets just say I have.... you know.... feelings for Balden and he has feelings for me... And, you know, we just happen to meet up after I nearly drown him."] Lara chuckled a bit at her own last statement.
And then Rhuarc spoke up, Balden was supposed to return soon.
By this time, night had slowly replaced day. It was hard to see as it slowly became darker and darker.
But sounds, sounds traveled. And when there was water for the sound to travel, the sound could be heard more distinctly. In this case, it was the sound of galloping horse. Lara once again reached out to the water, and she could hear the hooves of the horses thundering along the sand, tearing it up.
Lara stood up. Stretching out her arms, she then gripped her staff and quietly walked towards the edge of their hiding spot. [+purple "It's Balden all right."]
[center [I [size25 ⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓]]]
She watched as they disappeared from sight. She exerted her power again, shielding the others. She shivered. She never used her ability for this long at this big a stretch. Shielding everyone, more than five people... This was definitely a stretch. She felt a little fatigued, but when she saw Malik's men, whooping and screeching upon their neighing decaying steeds halt a moment to observe the sand, she summed up as much of her energy she could and kept it strong.
The horses were evil, malnourished... Strands of hair were hanging on their mane, their swishing tails looked like straw. They had wounds... Holes in their chest, and looked hollow within them. The horses were the fallen steeds of Fenlyk... Bent to do their whim. The men took to the hoof prints in the sand the water couldn't touch. Saraya held her breath and tensed. She felt a growing strain on her belly, knowing she was reaching her limit. The heavy hoofbeats and shrill neighing sounded as they chased down the source. Once she was sure they were far enough over the dunes, she slowly allowed her shield to subside. She relaxed, panting after fully dissolving the shield. She could recollect herself while they waited. Balden was growing to be a formidable guardian.
Saraya sighed as she sat down, and Carrick followed. Everyone was tense, still. She understood, but she also knew that the task must be done... And she had to put faith in Balden. If he didn't come back, she would take the time to play leader, and she had to find a way to the Temple. She sighed as she felt Carrick move her hair, and leaned close to whisper to her.
[b "How are you feeling after shielding us?"]
She chuckled some. [I "A little winded... But I think I can manage"] she joked, trying to calm her anxiety down. She had always been a warrior. But, to be a guardian... A pregnant guardian had a whole new meaning to her. Her motherhood was stolen in an attempt to save, and through her death become a mother again... She had a role to play, Not only to Aramis... But to everyone. She had to be a warrior for a whole new reason... To protect life outside and inside her circle. To be Hïgàsçá was her ultimate weapon. To keep her family safe, she had to be sure to be on her toes.
Even if she was swelling with life...
[b "Do you still have enough energy to run when the time comes?"]
[I "i think I can make it half-way... "] she joked. Carrick chuckled some, showing his smile. [b "Because I will carry you if I must,"] Carrick said, leaning in and nuzzling his nose with Saraya's. She smiled softly, relaxing some as she was this close to him. [b "Your bravery and compassion will be the death of me I'm sure... but it's what I admire most about you. It's why Caledon chose you, and it's why I love you, and always will."] He leaned in and kissed her, after whispering his tender words.
She sighed and understood it all. With one kiss, she understood that she had a destiny... And she had a goal. And if it took her last breath, she will go down with knowing she saved Aria, the High Priestess.
She sighed a thank you to him, and nuzzled him. She finally could sit all the way down on bark. She needed to breathe. Waiting for Balden would be tedious, but she watched as they resisted. She could see the darkness within the trees. Everyone was getting impatient which was normal. There wasn't a thing she could do about that... Be cause she could slowly feel herself slip into that category. She started rubbing her belly, watching the dunes as she felt the comfort of Carrick...
The sun was setting...
The darkness was spreading...
And patience was thinner. Saraya began listening to Luther, suggesting using magic to blank Ayab's mind from pain. She felt offended by that. She growled at Luther, making him look to her. [I "No... I won't allow that"]
She could see her emotions were dancing on a thin wire. It only took a word to make her switch up from bliss, to worry, to anger. She calmed herself as she averted her eyes from him to the fading light. She had to hold tight, but the darkness worried her... Darkness had eyes, and she couldn't bear anyone else getting hurt from it... Where was Balden?
Night came.... And with it, Saraya's anxiety began. She began to watch the darkness. She didn't have enough energy to protect them yet... She tried, and she panted hard, feeling the stretch. It wasn't good. At this rate, she wouldn't be able to make a run for it to the temple.
Lara dissapeared into the water, ready to use her abilities the second that they were called for and she got her chance as several horsemen were dragged under the surf to be dealt with by the Fenlyk Guardian. Rhuarc stood with his sward drawn, ready for if there were more men or they somehow escaped Lara's trap in the water...that was until she released them. One of the figures was familiar, even at this distance, despite the changes that had come over him in the last six months one of the figures that had ridden out to meet them was unmistakably the one time blacksmith's apprentice. Rhuarc's hand tightened on his sword, the knuckles going white from the pressure, in many ways he was more concerned to see Balden than an enemy, he knew how to deal with enemies, the betrayal of a friend on the other hand was a far more delicate matter. Time passed slowly and eventually it seemed that the patrol that Shade-stealer had sent for them had been sent on a wild goose chase by the tracks that Balden had left for them to follow. Rhuarc glanced at Aria and saw fear in her eyes, but whether that was from almost being discovered or the state of Ayab's wound he was unsure, her eyes were somewhat fixed upon the injured Jai. Luther made a suggestion on how to help Ayab but all it did was make Rhuarc want to slit his throat, how dare he even consider using magic to mess with Ayab's mind it was unthinkable! The suggestion might have been made out of a genuine intent to help but Rhuarc thought the idea an abomination, after everything else had been taken away at least a man still had his wits. An uncomfortable voice in the back of his head wondered if he would still hate the idea if anyone other than the watcher made the suggestion...
The pain burned through Ayab's wound and it was unimaginably painful, the worst it had been in months. The truth was he was exhausted, and the injury dealt to him by the Fade was taking all of his strength. If he did not make it to the Medici soon then Ayab knew that he would die sooner rather than later and he had made his peace with that. Ayab knew that he was becoming a liability, if he wasn't one already and that it was at least a little selfish of him to come along with the group, he would slow them down and while even a weakened Jai was a better warrior than most of those in the wetlands, he was not the protector he had once been. In truth he was there for Rhuarc, to keep him level headed, to call him out on his misjudgments and to spend as much time with his old friend before he died, as he knew that he would. He was glad that he had finally named Aria [i da'thei] she would be strong enough to do all of this when Ayab could not. He was in too much pain to really hear what the Priestess and Luther were discussing but whatever happened he trusted Aria's judgement, he always had and that would not change for anything. In fact he was so delirious he thought he saw Balden...no, that was not a hallucination. Balden was real.
Rhuarc agreed with Adiamr's sentiment, they should be moving but, as much as it galled him to admit it, Luther was right, it was too great a risk to start moving without knowing where they were headed to or if their enemies were lying in wait to ambush them. The smart move was to wait until Balden returned to them. They had not been in Fenlyk for even a day and already Malik's men were breathing down their necks it showed just how dangerous Fenlyk was going to be. Rhuarc attempted to clear his mind and focus on what was around him, he focussed on the serpents, tried to see through their eyes the way that Adiamr did with his hawk but he simply could not, his arcane training was nowhere near strong enough so he had to settle for communicating with the snakes and interpreting the images that they saw to find out what was happening out on the wetlands. FRom what he saw Balden and the two men with him were leading Malik's men far enough away and seemed to have left such a confusing trail that even the most skilled of hunters or trackers would be out for hours looking for the true trail, and soon it seemed Balden was returning tot he group.
What was Rhuarc to do with Balden, the young man had been a friend, and a good student who Rhuarc had liked. When Balden had left he had disrespected Rhuarc as his teacher and made a serious transgression in the Jai system of honour and obligation, by Jai custom Rhuarc had the right, and should, take Balden's life for the insult but Balden was not Jai. He probably did not understand how serious what he had done was and how much it had hurt Rhuarc, even if he refused to show it. The question of what to do with Balden would weigh on Rhuarc's mind for a while yet. The Jai guardian, came out of his trace with the serpents and reported to the rest of the group. [b "They will return shortly."] Rhuarc continued to grip his blade tightly, wondering just what to do with it.
They waited in silence for what felt like hours. Shortly after taking cover, Malik’s men shouted as they neared. They lingered at the sight of the prints, and one of the men dismounted his horse to walk around. Saraya’s shield did little to calm Aria’s nerves too. Adimar and Lara had finally rejoined them, with word that Balden was near and drawing the patrol away from them.
“They were here.” He said, but another pointed out the hoof prints in the sand. Aria closed her eyes and prayed to Azera that the patrol took Balden’s bait and let them be. She didn’t doubt their ability to fight Malik’s men, but it would be prudent to not make their presence known just yet.
“They have horses, that way.” Another shouted. Her prayers were answered! From where they hid Aria held her breath and she didn’t relax until the sound of their horses rode off. Even then she didn’t move. She was surrounded by her guards, and the guardians, but the initial fear of Malik’s men was enough to keep her frozen. For the longest time the only sounds they heard came from seagulls, and the lapping waves against the sand. Aria didn’t like sitting either. She felt like a sitting duck, just waiting to be found and plucked up from the ground like some helpless flower.
She looked over and saw Ayab gripping his leg and gritting his teeth. She crawled over to sit beside him and took his hand away from his leg. She didn’t speak, but the look of her eyes spoke enough: Let me see. She doubted she could do Ayab any good, but Ursula had said she had the potential to heal wounds such as Ayab’s. She only needed taught. Aria was beginning to wonder if she had the time to not only be taught, but to find the Medici as well. This was her first real chance to see Ayab’s wound up close, and what she saw was frightening. Ayab’s wound was festered and rotten, with a spiderweb of blackened veins stark under his skin. His once tanned flesh looked pale and sickly. Perhaps if she gave Ayab just a little bit of her own powers, maybe if she channeled it the right way, she could help him. Just by looking at it Aria could see the wound leaking off a dark aura.
[#00FFFF “Use your powers of persuasion, make him think he can’t feel any pain from it until he reaches safety.”] Aria looked over to see Luther had come to crouch beside her. Aria frowned. She’d only ever used that skill with animals… persuading a man would be too difficult. [#00FFFF “you don’t have the skill to heal him, but you can make him think it causes him no pain.”] Aria looked to Ayab. She didn’t feel comfortable getting in his head like that.
[#DB7093 “There has to be something else I can do,”] She whispered under her breath to him. Luther only stared back with an expression that told her he didn’t think there was another way. Frowning she looked at Ayab and gripped his hand tighter. [#DB7093 “I know it hurts Ayab, and I will do everything I can to see you well again, but I won’t make you believe a falsehood.”] Luther looked displeased by that, but made no comment and sat back to wait like the others. Aria stayed where she was, holding Ayab’s hand. He had guarded her the longest of them all, and had kept watch during her and Rhuarc’s quarrel. She feared loosing him too, the fear of not being able to find the Medici was daunting and left Aria to stay close at his side, what little comfort it might have provided him, and laid her head on his shoulder as they all waited in silence for Balden to return. Eventually her gaze found Rhuarc’s, her expression nothing short of worry for the Jai they both cared deeply for.
Carrick didn’t like waiting, even if he didn’t show it. The air was tense around them and it seemed the time was dragging on. He looked over to see Adimar leaned against a tree his eyes open and vacant of color. Instead they were a cloudy white, staring up into the sky. Overhead Hermes flew past them and along the shore, following the patrol from a safe distance and making sure the coast was kept clear around them. It reminded Carrick of Aria’s trance like state when she left her body for another plane: Vulnerable. Carrick was learning quickly that all magic comes with a price. Adimar could do great things with his magic, but he’d been practicing for years, and researching it, and he still had his limitations. He looked over to see Saraya relaxing beside him, the need for her shield passed with the patrol. He looped his arm over her shoulder and decided to wait it out with the rest of them, since he had little choice in the matter. He brushed his fingers through her hair, but like the rest of the Holy Guard, he too had his sword drawn and waiting. Lara had her staff, Admiar kept his bow and arrows safely in his lap, and Rhuarc’s blade was never far from his hands.
[#000080 "How are you feeling after shielding us? Do you still have enough energy to run when the time comes? Because I will carry you if I must,"] Carrick said leaning in and nuzzling his nose with Saraya's. [#000080 "Your bravery and compassion will be the death of me I'm sure... but it's what I admire most about you. It's why Caledon chose you, and it's why I love you, and always will."] He leaned in and kissed her, after whispering his tender words. He was not ashamed to show his adoration for Saraya in front of the others.
They all waited with baited breath to come out of hiding, but they all knew they couldn’t make a move until Balden returned. It begged the question: What would they do if Balden didn’t return? Luther wanted to know if he should go scout, but Adimar finally spoke, taking a deep breath and his eyes returned to normal. According to Adimar, Malik’s men were enough away they could move a bit more freely.
[#20B2AA “I don’t like sitting here. I’d feel more comfortable making our way inland towards Astoria.”] Adimar stated.
[#00FFFF “Not enough cover for us to move under. We’d need a guarantee that Malik’s men aren’t on our path there. Which doesn’t matter since we don’t even know where the Resistance is hiding.”] Luther reminded from where he sat. Adimar looked displeased, but relented, not in the mood to argue with the watcher.
Rhys sat observing the group. It was what he did best -observe. He carried a large bag on his back full of provisions, maps, and other survival tools they might need. Rhys hadn’t been ready to cross paths with a Patrol of Malik’s either. He’d have to expose himself too soon, and he had to keep tabs on the Priestess and her group. The mark of the Fade was strong with the lad Lara had seemed so close with, that Rhys was impressed none of them had found the boy out yet. To be fair, the Fade was crafty and cunning, so it wasn’t that surprising that his work was unnoticed. As far as Rhys could tell, the boy wasn’t even aware that the Fade was with him. With the downtime he had the opportunity to get closer to Lara. He crawled over to where she sat and leaned in to whisper to her.
[#8B008B “Everyone is pretty tense with that close call. How are you hanging in there? You look peaked about something. Was it that guy from earlier or was it using your powers? I had no idea you could do that! It was brilliant! Has anyone ever told you, you look just like the depictions of Fenlyk when she was alive? Because seeing you rise out of the water like the goddess she was is not something I’ll soon forget…It’s got to be the red hair…”] He teased with a handsome grin.
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