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Carrick... Saraya's heart was filled with joy when he accepted. She was face to face with him. She saw the marking that was placed over her heart had appeared over his, and he couldn't help but to let it go. He kissed her, just as suddenly as she could breathe. Her heart thumped hard into her rib cage, there, body felt warm, light. She could be content at last with a simple, yet potent victory. Her heart was protected once more.
He lifted her up, making sure she wasn't showing any discomfort than she already had been feeling. Having the emotional connections that had been long overdue gave her a expected boost. She could feel the tension swelling, though. The longer she stayed in bed, the more agitating the feeling got. And, as she dreamed, she would not have dreams, but visions. Carrick, her sweet Carrick, had visited quite frequently since that night. He was happy, more determined than ever. And with the power now in him, he had a certain aura about him, one that threatened action if trifled with. Despite this, Saraya could tell what her vision was. She saw clear as day the threat that was upon them. Malik's bewitched Felliope was showing her his plan, and she was determined to stop him now.
This morning, she heard a voice, and felt a light kiss on her temple. She stirred, and opened her eyes to see his smiling face. She smiled and stole a kiss as he helped her sit up and handed her lunch to her. [I "Thank you, Carrick"] she said as she got comfy and began eating. After a few bites, though, Saraya looked to Carrick. [I "I must tell you... I have been seeing something..."] She began as she set down her utensil. [I "... I think it is visions, visions from a vessel that had been bred by Malik. The bewitched Felliope has shown me that we should not exhale just yet... "]
Malik? [I "Carrick, we have waited long enough, love... "] Carrick looked to her with confusion, and she looked back with eyes he had long seen when he first met her. [I "Call upon our people... There is a threat among us... And it is targeted at Aria"]
[center [I Ӝ]]
Saraya was surrounded by Aria, and Rhuarc, Adimar had been called before his departure along with Balden. Ayab, Max, and trusted knights were surrounding her, and all were perplexed as to why they were called to her room. Carrick sat next to her as she looked to everyone. This was a matter that needed to be spoken.
[I "There had been tension throughout this kingdom, and conspiracy. The attack that had involved me had halted all attempt in malice, but it does not stop our enemy. It has bought him time to steal away your Seer, and plot to take away your priestess."] She scouted everyone before looking to Aria. [I "I do not blame you for being with your people"] she said. [I "As priestess, you should be able to give your people a need of hope, and in that, I am not upset as Rhuarc is. But, Malik is coming with an army of hundreds to claim you... And if he succeeds, it would mean a fate worse than death. I will not allow this. And the Guardians shall not scold our priestess either. "] her eyes darted to Rhuarc and Adimar. [I "Malik is counting on her to be doubtful and in pain. He is counting on us to turn against each other. This I will not allow"]
[b "How do you know this, Saraya? You cannot tell us there is threat afoot when you have been bedridden for days"] spoke Adimar. Saraya looked to him as Carrick stood in her defence. [I "Do not question me, Guardian. You, of all people, should understand the risk is high, and I do not lie. "] Carrick refused to sit, but Saraya carried on.
[I "I have heard his plans... The Seer made certain to upset him... She made good of telling us where to keep her safe... The ancient city of Kil’heed is still standing, and possess great promise in rebelling against him... We must leave or else have her taken by the False king... By the Fade... "]
Rhuarc was shocked of this. [b "The Fade? "] Saraya nodded before going on. [I "We must have everyone vacate. If you, Adimar, can do this, then the rest of us can lead them there. We must reach the wall, and we must train. We will not win against him now, he is striking while we are weak. If you make it, we stand a chance against him, and may well save our land from him. "]
Adimar looked suspiciously at her. She speed him and looking at his face, he was to upset her further. [b "You tell me this with no proof, Saraya. As Guardian-"]
She let it a show chuckle. [I As Guardian...]
She slowly swung her legs over the side, holding her side as she slowly stood, Carrick grabbing onto her quickly in case she lost balance. She stood tall, and watched her public. [I "I am Prya. I am the vessel to my spirit. I do not lie of this I have seen with my own eyes. You question what you fail to realise, Adimar. These walls are firm, but they are weak. They will not hold against The Fade. If you wish to give Aria up, that is your choice... "] she slowly walked to the door, opening it as everyone watched her. Carrick was surprised of her strength. She had become a warrior once more, and there was no fault in her intention. She looked to Aria, then Carrick, Rhuarc, Ayab, Balden... She let a tear fall as she looked back to Adimar. [I "...But, I refuse to give up my family for borrowed time... This I swear. "]
With that, Saraya had slowly limped away, down the stairs, out to the bright light of day, and shrouded her eyes. She looked to the guards who bowed to her and nodded. [I "Call your men... Gather the people... We are moving the priestess and her people to Kil'heed"]
Two Days! How hard could it be to capture one man just on the border? Adimar paced his study while Thad watched on from the door looking nervous. Rupert couldn’t be bothered to look up from the dagger he sharpened, and Max scowled sporting a black eye to match Ayab’s. Adimar had not been particularly happy to learn that Max had lost sight of Aria during her little stint out in the city. Rhuarc hadn’t been too pleased with Ayab either. Neither of them were pleased with The Priestess. Adimar hadn’t wanted to be so upset with her when he found her crying on the front steps, but one look at her lovely face marred with tears was enough to stem his temper. She cried over the guilt she carried knowing she had caused those who cared about her to worry. Adimar hadn’t seen her since, he had heard from the young man who traveled with them, Balden, that The Priestess would not leave her room for fear of causing her companions to worry about her again. She wasn’t taking visitors either, and had instead resigned herself to intensive meditation, prayer and reflection. If she wasn’t in her room, she was in the city’s temple surrounded by the small clergy who maintained the building. Outside of her room she was never alone. Guards had been doubled since the attack inside the Governors House and in the city. They wouldn’t risk what happened to Saraya or Lara happening to Aria.
A Knock came on Adimar’s door and in entered a young soldier. “My Lord, Team six has returned with the conspirator,”
“They found him?” Adimar demanded rushing the young man.
“Yes… but…” The soldier shuffled his feet nervously and Adimar glared. “He is dead. He left our men no choice,” the young soldier confessed. Adimar cursed, he’d have to inform Rhuarc of this. “We have the body so you can string it up with the other two. We confiscated the horses and gear. He did have this in his possession.” The Soldier handed Adimar a leather bound book, and he opened it up to see it was a journal. It was stuffed with lose paper, letters and missives mostly, and they all came with the seal of King Malik –a raven’s skull over two cross bones. The Journal held many entries and plans and it was a gold mine that Adimar counted his blessings to have. He would give this to the Priestess. He left from his study, with his men close on his heels and marched right over to the Governor’s house to learn that Aria had left in the early hours of morning to visit the temple. Adimar knew she’d be there all day, and instead sought out the others. He stopped first at Carrick’s room and knocked on the door. The man opened it looking well rested and happy.
“Good Morrow, Lord Aethon,” Carrick greeted as he stepped out.
“Good Morrow, I come with word. The third conspirator was captured and killed. I have a personal effect of his that I’d like to give to the Priestess-“
“At temple, I know,” Adimar said. “I also wanted to know how the girls were recovering.” Carrick informed him that the Physician had managed to find an antidote to Lara’s poison and that she was back in her room healing up. Saraya was also on bed rest but much improved, and Carrick was on his way to collect meals and bring them back to the women so they could eat in their beds. His only hope was that Lara would wake up soon. The poison had been hell on her young body and while they were glad to be out of the dark, it would be up to Lara to wake up. Adimar waited as Carrick called on Balden and the two of them descended the steps towards the kitchens. Adimar already knew where to find Rhuarc and Ayab, and headed to the Proving Grounds.
Since their last conversation, Adimar had gone further in depth about the Arcane arts, and the Jai had proved to be a quick learner. Already the man could create his own fire and maintain it. Adimar wanted to help him get to the point he could create a mass of fire and hurl it towards an enemy not just once or twice, but consecutively. He crossed the grounds and edge of the city towards the barracks and proving grounds where he knew he could find the two Jai. Calling his attention, Adimar waited for the man to finish his round of training. Once available Adimar greeted him like an old friend, but after a small round of talk he got to the point of his visit.
“I’ll get to the point, the third conspirator was captured last night, and unfortunately my men had to kill him. Something tells me he did not come peacefully. I have this though,” he held up the journal to show Rhuarc. “It was found on his person. It’s filled with letters from Malik’s court. Some are in code, others in a language I can’t read. I’m on my way to the Temple to deliver it to her Holiness, but I wanted to inform you of the news since you’ve been waiting and wanting to hear about the third man. I intend to travel to the border this afternoon and set the bodies as a warning, you’re invited,” Adimar told him with a wicked grin. “If you want to come meet me at the gates at high noon,” Adimar told him, leaving with a friendly clap of his hand to the Jai, but Adimar made certain to hit a bit harder than he normally would have out of respect to the Jai Traditions. Adimar would ask him later if he had confronted the Priestess since the other night. Adimar didn’t know what was said, but whatever it was had struck Aria deeply.
He found her in the temple’s empty sanctuary. The only other body was an elder who was replacing dying candles with new fresh sticks. He eyed Adimar out of caution, but seeing who it was, the Elder bowed respectfully and left the room. There was a quiet calm in the room, isles of benches marked the room, and Aria was at the front Alter before an ornate stained glass window that depicted a dragon wound in a circle biting his own tail and at the four corners were the animals of the Guardians. Centered inside the Dragon was an anatomically correct Heart of Azeroth. Adimar stopped just short of where the Priestess meditated, intending to wait, but her voice cut through the silence of the room.
“You bring me something,” she said, stopping her prayers and turned to look up at him. Adimar gave a solemn nod and handed her the book. She took it with furrowed brows and opened it.
“The Gods have anything interesting to say?” He asked, attempting at some light hearted conversation. Aria looked up from the journal to him with an unreadable face.
“Not today,” She sighed and held a hand out. Adimar was there to help her stand and escort her from the temple. “They are quiet. I am meant to reflect on my own actions it seems.”
“Are you still beating yourself up over that?” Adimar asked humorously. Aria did not find it as humorous.
“Shouldn’t I? Rhuarc was right… as usual…” She sighed with a minor roll of her eyes. “I should not have stayed out alone. The moment I was able I should have returned to the house where it was safest.” Adimar scratched the back of his head, feeling awkward. He liked Rhuarc, but the man wasn’t Aria’s father, her guardian, or her man. Adimar understood though, the desire to keep her safe, but she was a woman wasn’t she? She had needs, dreams and desires just like the rest of them… didn’t she?
“Yeah… I suppose. You are safe here-“
“Tell that to Saraya,” She snapped back. Adimar wanted to sigh and shake it off, but he couldn’t do that either. Damn. All he could do was shrug and admit defeat in that.
“Fair. I don’t think you are at risk as much as the others though… Malik should know he can’t kill you.” Aria stopped short of the main city street and gave him a strange look. It gave Adimar pause and he turned to find her staring at him with a wealth of confusion.
“I am just as Mortal as any other,”
“That’s not what I meant. He’d make a Martyr out of you, it wouldn’t matter if you were here or not, or if the guardians were… the people would rebel. The only reason he didn’t have a full on rebellion when he first invaded and took Central City was because you got away. People have been hoping for your return for twenty years. So they’ve been buying their time.” He ushered her to keep moving through the city and back towards the Governor’s home with a hand to her back. ‘We all have,” he told her and saw her to the front steps. Aria still acted distant and quiet. He could see a sadness and pain in her eyes, a stark difference from the smiles she had worn the first day she’d been there, but he supposed with the attack and her confrontation with Rhuarc she’d lost a little bit of her fire. He believed with time it would come back and he bid her farewell to prepare for his trip to the borderlands with his men.
[i “I love you…”]
Had three words ever sounded so sweet? Carrick didn’t think so. Injured and bleeding from her wound, Saraya had come to him in the dead of night two nights ago to confess her feelings. When he’d returned them, he’d felt a spark of power deep within him at her touch. Knowing that he did not have to hide his feelings any longer Carrick was free to shower Saraya with time and attention. He made frequent trips to her room and Lara’s as he took on the role of nursemaid for them both. He sat long hours in Saraya’s room, reading to her, or speaking with her, to playing card games to help her pass the time until her wound closed up and she was good enough to start moving around again. Carrick didn’t ask her about what she meant making him her sword. He didn’t quite understand it, and he was currently too obscured by bliss to think much on the other things she had said. All his one track mind heard was “I love you,” from a woman he realized he didn’t only like, but he loved too.
Carrick would be a liar if he said he wasn’t worried. He was. Lara had yet to wake up, Saraya’s wound was healing, but they feared infection, and Aria had become aloof and quiet and no one seemed to really know what had caused it. Carrick felt slightly guilty he hadn’t spoken with her, but he’d taken it upon himself to look after Lara and Saraya. He could feel a change happening within him, and if he really thought about it, he’d felt the change taking place within for some time now. When Aria had showed up with Balden at his forge by chance, Carrick had been tempted to do as originally instructed. Kill whoever tried to protect her and drag her kicking and screaming to Malik. He’d partially lied to the group, by withholding information, but with time he eventually told them what he did now… just not that he’d ever actually worked for Malik. For now he kept that to himself, and he knew that some of their team already wondered if Carrick had ties to Malik, but they never spoke of us. Carrick was with the Guardians now –where he belonged. Carrick had found what he was looking for, and Malik could suck his di-
“CARRICK!” Balden shouted catching site of him and hurried forward. “I was told by Adimar that he and the other men are going to the Border to string up the assassins. I want to go, Adimar told me to find someone to ask. Can I please go?” Balden begged. Carrick nodded, but chuckled.
“I’m not your father boy, and you’re almost sixteen. Man enough to make your own choices. I trust Adimar enough, you may go,” Balden’s face lit up with joy and he brought his fists down towards his side.
“YES!” He hissed excitedly. “Is Lara awake? I wanted to see her before we leave.”
“She’s still asleep. I’m on my way to bring them food, go Lad, and have fun. She might be awake when you return,” Carrick told him and watched as the young teen nodded his head and turned to leave. Was it just him, or had Balden grown over night? The boy was looking larger, more angled, more like a man and less like a boy. Carrick wondered when that happened. Shrugging with no real answer he continued his task of collecting food for the women.
He passed Aria on his way back up the stairs towards the rooms. She was just ahead of him on the steps when he called to her.
“Priestess? You’re back from Temple,” Aria stopped on the stairs and looked back at him, offering to take a tray from him and together they started back up the steps.
“Yes, I was praying, but Adimar gave me a surprise visit. He brought me a journal. It belonged to one of the men in the group that tried to kill Saraya. He said he was leaving for the night, and so I assume Rhuarc will go with him, they seem to have befriended one another quite easily. So, I figured it would be best if I let him bring me back… for my own good,” She said, but nothing about what she said sounded like she was ‘fine’ with it. Carrick frowned at her.
“What did Rhuarc say to you?” He dared to ask. Aria’s face remained placid, but her eyes dimmed.
“Nothing… just the truth… I heard about you and Saraya,” She said attempting to sound cheerful and change the subject. “I think it’s lovely, and I’m happy for you both. If you want, go to her, and I will sit at Lara’s side,” She offered, but left Carrick little chance of speaking again as she moved quickly and hid away in Lara’s room. Carrick sighed. What would he do about Aria and Rhuarc? Rhuarc had become Aria’s voice of reason and next to Saraya, her closest friend. She went to him with most of her questions or concerns. Whatever he’d done or said hadn’t made her angry, but it had intimidated her from upsetting him again. She respected him and admired him, but she was sadder than usual, and he knew she wasn’t sleeping –that much he could hear with her pacing her room at night. Carrick knew better than to get into the middle of it, and instead focused on helping Saraya. He walked into her room with a smile and carried to tray to her and sat down on the edge of the bed. He watched her for a moment, her hair strewn over the pillow and her breaths even and shallow as she slept peacefully. Long thick lashes curled back from her rosy cheeks, and from where he was she looked like an angel.
“Wake up,” He whispered to her, leaning over and kissing her temple. “I brought you lunch.”
Malik laughed with full laughter at the image displayed before him. He laughed with such gusto he had to hold his gut. “Oh this is wonderful!” He bellowed. Before him was a large saucer filled with a silvery liquid that emitted a vapor and spilled over the edges of the bowl. Holding it was a young woman of Fenlyk heritage with bruises on her arms. Her dark hair had been shaved, and around her neck hung a heavy iron that held up the tattered rags that managed to cover the parts that needed covering. She was dirty and held lifeless eyes, but there was a set of red ones that glittered with malice. The Mage watched on with pleasure and off to the side was a frail old woman, hunched over… the old woman from Tanaka. “You did wonderful Vega!” The woman looked away with sour bitterness. “The seed of Doubt is growing within her!” He chuckled further as he watched the scene of Aria’s arrival to the Governor’s Home. She didn’t even make it past the front door when one of Aria’s favored Guardians confronted her. He reveled in the pain that crossed her face, the humiliation and guilt the Jai brute managed to instill in her. Malik had never been so pleased. He finally had her in his sites. Her Guardians were no match for him -well The Volshiv one could be a problem, but the others were so ignorant to the power they possessed it would be easy to destroy them. Now was the time to do it, now before they had the chance to learn and grow. Aria had to be destroyed no matter what, so long as she lived -with or without the Guardians, she could reclaim the Septum and it’s temples. The people would follow her, rally behind her. Malik knew he couldn’t outright kill her either -or risk creating a Martyr. Aria would have to destroy herself… and from the looks of the Jai’s words… it was working perfectly. The Jai left Aria on the steps, both Jai did, and Malik’s smile furthered as Aria fell to the steps and hid her face in her hands. He wanted to speak to her again, to see the fear course through her face, but he didn’t want to over do it. Now that he had the power to whisper into her mind, no thanks to his Mage, he could terrorizer her whenever he wanted. He’d drag her down within her own mind and let her drown.
Malik was an older man, if one could call him such a thing. His skin was sallow and pale with greasy black and grey hair, and nails as long as knives. He resembled a corpse more than he did a man, the only lively thing about him was his eyes. They were beady black things, like a spider’s, and they danced with pure evil, and like a black hole absorbed anything good and light around it.
“Egos, you are certain we can not… sway Carrick back into his place?” Malik asked and looked over towards The Mage.
“He has not returned any summons I’ve tried to set on him. Something blocks me.”
“Love.” Vega said from her place against the wall, beside the Mage. She gave him a foul, dirty look and eyed the False King. “A Woman’s Love… and that woman is the Guardian for Caledon. His love for her shrouds and protects him from your dark ways. Caledon has chosen, or he would not have encouraged his small host to foster her own emotions.” Vega informed, and the image in the saucer morphed in clouds of ink to show Carrick hunched over Saraya in his doorway. Malik observed the scene and watched the young guard he had spared, caress the Caledon Guardian with tenderness and reverence. It made his stomach curl with disgust. Carrick lifted Saraya up into his arms, kissing her lips and carried her back to where she had come from. “Carrick now shares the power with Saraya. He will act as her sword and her shield, and if they manage to breech these walls and face you-“
“ENOUGH!” Malik shouted. He would not hear of a potential future where that fool takes him down, and he certainly didn’t want to hear about a small woman doing it either. “Tell me something helpful, hag!” He seethed. Vega pursed her lips with distaste, not wanting to help Malik one bit, but knowing she had no other choice. She was more helpful to the Guardians here at Malik’s side, than dead.
[pic http://cdn.obsidianportal.com/assets/226976/FaeryElder.jpg ]
She let the current future come, letting it play out before her. It had changed again since the last time she had looked. The Future was ever changing, sensitive to suggestion, some events were set and would come to pass, but in between and the final result? That was what constantly changed. Her eyes had turned milky, and her voice distorted, power oozing off of her in palpable waves. “The guardians are at the weakest they will be for a long time. They are a completed force and will soon begin to grow stronger. Tensions are high, and emotions threaten to crack their shaky foundation. If you wish to cement your hold on the throne now is the time to act, and you must do so before they learn the true extent of their powers. If you do not act in time…” Vega warned, her tone grave, “The Priestess and the Guardians will travel deeper into Volshiv, they will reach the ancient city of Kil’heed, and the Priestess will learn where she comes from. She will amass an army with her Guardians and for the next year she will be out of your reach, they all will. Now is your time to strike and deliver a deadly blow to her Guardians. If you don’t act, you will most certainly lose.” Vega inhaled as her eyes returned to their usual shade of white blue and stared a pensive looking Malik. He grit his teeth. His most recent assassination attempt had failed -no thanks to another guardian. His three men had yet to report… and Vega had assured some level of success. If that was true then why the hell was the Caledonian guardian still alive? Out of the traditional Guardians Caledon and Jai’hash were the most powerful and most dangerous. Together with Earth and Fire they had forged the mountains the terrain and the Earth. Fenlyk filled the oceans and lakes, and Volshi gave it air to breathe and wind for Azeroth to sail on. Malik snarled in displeasure. Those Guardians were the ones he had to worry about. The Fenlyk had proven she should not be underestimated though with her victory over his man, but The Priestess was just as elusive as ever.
“Egos!” The Mage snapped to attention and Malik’s eyes narrowed.
“Yes, My Lord?”
“Send The Fade to head the next attack. I don’t care if they burn that entire city to the fucking ground, but I want the Priestess [i alive].” Ego’s left quickly snapping for his slave to follow. The young Fenlyk woman hurrying behind him with the jangle of her chains. That left Vegas and Malik alone. He was silent, his mind an ever turning tide of if he should kill her or let her live. So far she had remained useful, and her little charm with The Mage had been gold. For once Malik was able to see the Priestess alone, he could observe her, learn about her. The better he knew his enemy the better he could destroy them. She should have been so easy to catch and break, but she hadn’t. hen he’d had her in his sights all those years ago, she’d been nothing but a small child then. The terror and fear in those lavender eyes of hers had struck a deranged cord inside his heart. Even now he recalled on it with great joy. It was one of his better memories, and even now he felt the same desire to posses her.
“Tell me now, Vega. Despite what the final result will be, if I maintain this throne or not… do I at least destroy her?” Vega stared back at him and her brow furrowed.
“It has not changed in the times I have searched the future… she will be delivered to you whole and pure… if she will leave you that way has yet to be seen, if she leaves you at all.” Malik’s lips curled with sadistic glee, his hands tightened over the edge of his armrests, and he marched down the steps of the Dias and gripped Vega’s frail shoulders in his knife like hands. “I will make the whore kneel at my feet and decide! A life of servitude to me in exchange for the lives of her pitiful guardians, or death for all of them! [b BRING HER TO ME!]” he roared, his voice echoing off the rafters and shaking dust, as he bellowed to each and every one of his advisors, soldiers, and consorts. They scrambled away like roaches to complete their master’s bidding, and Malik? Malik stormed down the hallway, grabbing a maid in passing, and despite her pleas and protests, threw her into his room and did as he pleased until he felt stated, leaving behind a broken, naked, and bloody corpse in the wake of his rage. He would have the Priestess, he would have Azera, he would get his heir, and he would make certain that the Guardians were erased from History completely.
Ayab trailed behind Aria with Max at his side, eyes scanning for any potential threats to the High Priestess of Azeroth within the corridors of the governors house, despite the unlikely nature of this place as an ambush point...still Ayab's hand hovered frequently neat the twin hand axes he wore at his belt and when they strayed away from those weapons they usually rested on the hilt of his belt knife. Their first stop was to the infirmary, to Saraya and Lara, a quick nod to Carrick upon entering was all the greeting that Ayab gave to anyone else in the room. His dark eyes settled on the Fenlyk Guardian. She had acted as one should and acted well. Lara defended her fellow guardian to the best of her abilities and had put herself in harms way to do so, that was honourable. In Ayab's eyes she was finally starting to repay the [i Toh] that her people had incurred. There was hope for Lara, and Fenlyk, yet. Carrick looked exhausted and while Adimar was also there he seemed much more lively than the former blacksmith, the man was ready to keel over. Ayab followed in the High Priestess' footsteps as she stepped out into the city of Tanaka properly. It wasn't long before the large Jai, Volshiv soldier and legendary High Priestess started attracting attention and soon enough the crowd of people trying to gain a glimpse of Aria or receive her blessing forced her apart from her diligent guards. At first the Jai tried to force his way back to Aria but despite being larger and stronger than practically everyone in the crowd he was no match for the sheer number of folk that kept him away from the High Priestess. Soon enough the force of the crowd and the surge of people wanting this chance to tell their children and grandchildren that they had actually seen the High Priestess of Azeroth was too much for either Ayab or Max to withstand, as the crowd carried fought past the Jai and caused Aria to disappear around a street corner and out of her protector's sight. [+red "Rhuarc is going to have my hide for this..."]
Rhuarc was out in one of the courtyards attached to the governor's house running through as many sword forms as he possibly could; Kissing the Adder, Leaf on the Breeze, Leopard in High Grass, Twisting the Wind, Folding the Air, The Moon Rises Over Water, Oak Shakes Its Branches, Parting the Silk over and over he moved until the heavy blade of black steel was a blur of movement in his hands. Rhuarc's eyes were closed as he felt the blade in his hands move as he directed it, his muscles slowly screaming in protest at the strain he was putting them under. Rhuarc finished his sword forms with a mighty downward swing, The Serpent Strikes, as he opened his eyes to see a one or two of the Volshiv guards looking on impressed at the display that the imposing Jai swordsman had just shown. Judging by the ease at which he had moved the huge weapon of black steel through the technical and extremely advanced set of manoeuvres it was apparent that Rhuarc was a tremendous swordsman, but Rhuarc's training was not complete just yet as the words Adimar spoke ran through his mind.
Adimar claimed that his arcane abilities were powerful because he worked them, trained the Arcane Muscles and Rhuarc was going to do the same, he needed to be at his best if he was to take down Shade-stealer. Thrusting the blade of his sword into the ground Rhuarc closed his eyes and began to meditate. He thought of a flame and nothing else, as he focused on that fire he focused with an iron will, all concerns - emotions, thoughts, even the concerns of life and death - were fed into the flame. He stretched out a palm and focussed, causing a small flame to appear in his palm, with his will he caused it to grow and shrink but always maintained the spark of magic that lived inside him. It was a relatively simple exercise but even that was hard work given that he had only recently discovered that he had the ability for such arcane arts. Rhuarc slowly stopped his exercise with the flame in his palm and opened up his mind in an attempt to stretch some different arcane muscles, ones he was only beginning to realise existed. In the back of his mind he felt several small presences, all over the city of Tanaka and one beyond it's walls before his awareness faded into a haze of mental and magical weakness. He was searching for the serpents. It was no real surprise that Rhuarc had an affinity with snakes, it was the symbol of his god and he had the animals branded on his body as a sign of respect but only now was he realising what that affinity could give him. It was a most surreal experience, attempting to communicate with the serpents they spoke not in words but images and emotions, a language far more primal than any spoken today. They had their own concerns and the petty squabbles of the walkers meant nothing to them but they watched and they saw and much of that was useful to the Jai...
As Aria walked through the doors of the governor's home well after night had crept up on the city Rhuarc's eyes had a quick flash of relief but his stern expression never shifted. Ayab was standing on his left, a few steps back, sporting a new black eye and if Aria looked carefully enough a recently broken nose and the residue of some blood on one of Rhuarc's fists. The Jai Guardian's voice was never raised but it held a cold fury and...profound disappointment. [b "Do you care so little for us? Do you think that this is a game that we are playing? Lives are at stake, yours, mine everyones here. I would gladly lay down my life to keep you safe, as would Ayab or Carrick or Balden. Carrick told me of Father Rigby, you insult his memory tonight. He died to give you time to flee and you would throw that away by walking unprotected at night when you know there to be danger. That is a poor way to repay such a gift. We spoke Aria, you know that you were not to be alone, you saw the need for protection after what happened to Saraya, you gave me your word. You spit on me and my honour. You have [i Toh] Aria of House Volshiv."] Rhuarc gave one last hard look at Aria not quite sure if his anger or his disappointment was greater before turning away and walking to his rooms unable to even look at the High Priestess any longer.
The city of Tanaka was more quaint and lovely in daylight and down on the ground then it ever was at night and locked in her room. Max and Ayab kept their distance allowing her room to breathe, but they were close enough they could react at a moment’s notice. She had gone to see to Saraya and Lara, Carrick’s diligent presence leaving her to calm, but her worry spiked at seeing his exhaustion and she had asked him to seek rest as soon as possible. She could only hope he listened. Balden had taken Rhuarch’s words seriously and was training with the Volshiv Guards. Aria? Well Aria was becoming acquainted with Tanaka’s people and the city. She was currently walking the main strip of the city, the cobblestone streets filled with vendors hawking their wares. Shop windows held all sorts of finery and trinkets. There were two butcher shops, several flower stands, Produce, general goods, armories and smithies. There was even a bookstore, a candle maker and so much more, Aria knew she’d never get to see it all in one day. It was fair to say this was her first time out and about among real people, and in a city to boot. She took in the smells from the bakery, the sounds from the children who rushed through the streets chasing one another, the laughter of young couples in love as they courted on this lovely afternoon, the sounds of men laughing inside the pubs, and the sights of people who looked like her. They were all as pale as porcelain, all with silvery white hair, or hair black as pitch… but they all possessed lightly colored eyes. Some had pale green, some a pale blue like Adimar’s, honey, or a light lavender like her own.
At first no one seemed to recognize her, they passed by her as if she were another like them, but it did not last long as people quickly noticed Ayab, and even quicker noticed Adimar’s man Max with her as well. They put the puzzle pieces together and very soon Aria found herself quite suddenly surrounded by a mass of people.
“It’s true! The Priestess is here!” a man asked in the crowd, murmurs all around
“The Priestess?” another shouted
“Where? I want to see her!” the voice of a child. Aria was walled off from all sides including Max and Ayab who were now trapped within the crowd. Aria felt her heart quicken no used to being so surrounded by so many people, or having this much attention. She habitually looked around her and into the crowd for Rhuarc or Carrick, but saw neither, even Ayab and Max had vanished from her sight. She had meant to observe, not be confronted by the people, but it seemed she was now known among them and she looked back at the mass of people who looked back expectantly. What were they expecting of her? Elder Rigby had never told her how a Priestess should interact with the public. He probably thought she’d be dead by now and so had never bothered to instruct her.
An elderly woman approached, leaning dependently on her cane and the crowd let her pass. Aria stood stone still, her heart racing with uncertainty, but she hoped it didn’t show. The old woman smiled and her face crinkled in the corners showing she had spent a life filled with smiles.
“You have returned to your people Aria of the House Tolshiv,” The hushed murmurs continued around her, indiscernible whispers that Aria couldn’t make out, but the woman held a hand out for her and Aria hesitantly reached forward and rest her hand on the aged one before her. The old woman, moved quicker than Aria expected forcing a gasp from her lips when the elder whipped Aria’s hand over and began to study it.
“What do you see, Vega?” a man asked from the sea of faces. The woman, Vega, seemed almost perplexed, stunned, worried, and excited all at once.
“I see greatness, sacrifice, uncertainty… You will rise to meet your destiny, but you have many dark days ahead of you, and you will be tempted by things not meant for you. If you can learn to defeat yourself you will rise victorious. If you cannot defeat yourself… we are all doomed.” The old woman let her go as if she no longer wished to touch her and gazed up into Aria’s face. She felt a sense of dread at those words. Defeat herself? What did that mean? “You must overcome yourself, an ancient soul cries out for freedom and it waits for you to liberate it. If you fail to act in time, they will die… all of them. Those you come to know and care for, those you love, and all that you see… will be reduced to ash.”
“Do… do you believe I will overcome all?” Aria dared to ask, her voice causing the crowd to go silent as they watched on curiously, but for the moment it was only Aria and Vega.
“Do you?” she challenged back with a mischievous grin.
“No,” Aria confessed honestly, her eyes glassing over with tears of fear and self-loathing that she dared not shed. “Though I am determined to make things right. To take back what is mine.”
“And what is it that you think belongs to you, when you belong to all of us?” Aria looked out at all the faces, still unable to find Ayab or Max. Everyone stared back, the same expectant curious expression on their faces. Some held pity, others worry, some fascination, others indifferent curiosity. She finally looked back to the old woman with a fierce glint in her eyes that wasn’t there before.
“The High Septum is my home, and the people of Azera mine to protect. I could not do so as a child, so I will as a woman, but I know I cannot do it alone. I am not a warrior, I am a simple woman-“
“There is nothing simple about you, child,” Vega warned with a snapping tone. Aria swallowed past the lump in her throat, but continued on.
“A Simple woman, with a great burden,” Aria corrected, staring the old woman back. “I may call myself the Priestess, but until I reclaim the septum… I shall be what I must to destroy Malik. I will learn to be a warrior, if I must. I will learn to be a temptress, if I must. I will learn to be a killer if I must. I will sacrifice myself… if I must…” An almost wicked smile crossed the woman’s face and she nodded.
“I believe you will overcome much, how much… is yet to be seen. Your future is clouded and contradictory, so many outcomes are possible for you… most of them dark, but a few shine with hope. COME!” The woman called to the crowd. “Come and greet Her Holiness!”
Aria was swarmed by the masses, clamoring for blessings or words of wisdom, and some just wanted to touch her hair or bestow blessings and prayers themselves over her. Aria looked over the heads of people and into the crowd searching for the old woman, but found she had vanished on the wind. Aria was carried down the street with the crowd, as if swept in a current of wind and sea. She was given flowers by men, women and children that by the time she reached the edge of the city near the front gates she had a bouquet that filled her arms. A Gaggle of young girls were all that were left tailing her when the crowd died down and returned to their own business, but they all kept a close eye on her. Aria felt strange by the reception, and yet she felt embolden… believed in. Ayab and Max were far from her vision and she could only wonder where they were or who they were harassing to find her. Aria actually smirked as she sat on the edge of a large stone and copper water fountain in the city square, enjoying her day of freedom. The group of young girls kept her company, and they spent the afternoon braiding the flowers she had received into crowns. They constructed a beautiful wreath of wildflowers and greenery that Aria wore for the rest of the day, as the girls wore their own feeling as if they were Aria’s own consort, that they were special to have her company. Aria felt humbled, flattered and the overwhelming nausea that was plaguing her had slowly disappeared into an afterthought.
She kissed babies and blessed them, she blessed newlyweds, and preformed acts of holy writ that she would have done in Central City… if Malik had never invaded. For the first time she felt invigorated by her position, not burdened by it. She delighted in seeing the people smile, some of them confessing their renewed hope in the defeat of Malik. She was offered many gifts, and politely refused them all knowing she’d be unable to take them with her when she left. With the sunset children had retired home to supper, people began to close up their shops and Aria had successfully walked the main city streets. Now she found herself very much alone under the gas lamps that illuminated the streets as the sun continued its decline beneath the edge of the earth. One moon had already risen and the next was not far behind. Wanting to watch the Sunset and enjoy a few more moments of solitude, Aria ignored the voices of Carrick and Rhuarc in her head yelling at her to return to the group where she would be safe, and climbed an empty watch post.
It was high above the city on the Western wall. It was quiet and before her laid the path towards the Volshiv Mountains, even now the clouds that shrouded the top half of the mountains burned with gold fire with the dying embers of the sun. Her mind wandered to the future, the words of the wise woman, and Rhuarc’s teachings of Ahrak-Toh. Honor and Obligation… Rhuarc had warned her not to question another if she possessed such a thing. What if she questioned herself? Was this what the old woman spoke of? Aria knew she’d incur the wrath of them all for being gone so long, but she could not will herself to climb down from the tower until she had a better grasp of the teachings she had learned so far. The Wise Woman’s words had stirred an introspective audit unlike anything before. What surprised her most by that interaction was the level at which it brought Rhuarc’s teachings to the forefront of her mind… Did she possess Toh? Did she honestly believe she could restore Azera? She certainly didn’t feel like it, despite knowing she wanted to do all she could to save Azera and its provinces.
[i “I see you…”] a wicked voice sang to her. It danced on the wind and turned Aria cold. Her stomach felt hollowed out, and her hair stood on end. She felt sick… she knew that voice. She had never heard it, but she knew who it belonged to… Malik. [i “You can’t hide from me little dove… I will find you, I will have you, and I will destroy all that makes you, you…”] he warned her, his voice dark and cold… he was enjoying himself –that much was obvious by his tone.
“Not if I destroy you first.” She hissed under her breath. She knew then she could not linger in the moonlight any longer.
[i “I can’t wait to see you try little dove… I’m going to enjoy your destruction…”] his voice faded and his words had left Aria feeling sick and violated. She didn’t want to show fear, but she felt it in the pit of her stomach, and hurried down the streets back to the Governor’s Mansion; preparing herself for a potential lecture from any of her companions for not only missing supper, but for being out alone –especially after what had happened to Saraya and Lara. Aria knew she was in for some level of chiding.
Carrick... She felt his frustration and fear. She felt something else, a long lost feeling she hadn't felt since she had became Caledon. Her lips parted, but nothing had came out. He looked tired , as well as hungry. He took her hand in his, and said the most earth changing thing to her... [I "I see Rhuarc and Ayab as brothers in arms… but you… You I see differently, you are… more. To me"]
He kissed her hand... It made her heart warm. She blushed when he had turned to leave. As he left the room, she reached out to the distant doors and slowly, her voice restored slowly... [I Carrick...] She let out a raspy voice [I Tell me... Tell me that you...]
In the wee hours of the night, Saraya couldn't sleep. Carrick was in her thoughts, much more frequently than Felliope. The spirit had been silent within her , still brooding on the hatred he felt. Saraya, on the other hand, felt that she couldn't be the Spirit of her homeland without being true to herself. The nurse had came in to care for her wounds. The nurse had noticed that she was not speaking, but had something on her mind.
[b Tell me, guardian, whom do you long for?]
Saraya's gaze traveled to the nurse, who had a whimsical smile. [I "A man that is afraid to... Because of what I am...]
The woman had nodded before looking to her. [b Go to him... And express to him your true feelings]
Saraya looked to the woman. Saraya saw that the woman had a glint of a fire in her eyes. The very air she breathed, she felt life as a gift. [I "...And why should I, nurse? If my heart is the reason of my wounds, then it is my heart that will deem much worse... If I put him in danger...] She hugged herself as if a chill came across the room only she could feel. [i ... I would not be any better than Malik and his tricks...]
[b "Do you love him? "]
Saraya looked to her with those icy eyes. As if surprised, the woman turned away quickly to hide her fluster. The nurse smiled. [b "You do... Because, otherwise... You would not be thinking of his emotions, his touch, nor his eyes if you were really ready to believe it. He wants you as much as you want him, if not more. He stayed by your side since he saw you laying out, near dead. He hovered over you and cared for you... Even ran off Adimar from his intentions. He loves you"]
Saraya stared as the nurse smiled and disappeared after dressing her wounds, leaving her to think. She was right. She must tell him. Carrick meant more to her than bearing alone wishing she could have said it to him... And it was too late... Like Felliope. No... She will not make that mistake again.
She struggled to move to the side of the bed letting her feet touch the ground. She slowly stood, feeling a bit dizzy, but managed, and slowly began to walk out of the room and slowly worked her way up the stairs. She was slightly surprised she didn't see any guards, but remembered that all were at guard outside the castle. As she slowly moved up to the stairs, she had one thought in mind... Carrick. She remembered where Carrick's room was. So, she slowly and patiently walked up the stairs, and down the hall until she found his door. She grunted, gritted her teeth to the pain she felt from moving too much. She still egged on. She had to tell Carrick... She had to. He was worth it. He deserved to know.
The door was finally in view. She knew that he would be sleeping. She grunted as she made it to the door. She felt a stretch and looked to her side. She had re-opened her wound... It wasn't terrible, but it was bad. Ignoring the pain that was escalating, she reached to knock on the door... But she froze. No... She would not disturb him. She had already put him through enough for one sitting. She, full of disdain, forced herself back down into the infirmary, where she stopped, mere feet from her bed... The sting was intensified five fold.
With her trying to make quick work of getting to her bed, she felt a sharp pain and slid down against the wall instead, panting from lost energy, and trying not to wake the others though she wanted to scream, the pain hurt terribly. There, she stayed, the stitches ripped open, and she steadily bled into the dawn... She was pale again. She was weaker than anything in the world... But, she stayed strong. Carrick was coming soon... She wanted to tell him still... She chuckled to herself. My, my... Have I became a foolish girl for love once more...
As she tried to get up from the wall to her bed, the door creaked open, and Carrick leaned out, looking right, then left to see her against the stone, bleeding from her fresh wraps.
Relief! She panted hard, wanting so bad to get up, but could not. Before he could even speak, she panted it out, loud enough for him to hear... [I "Please... Tell me"]
[b "Saraya! "] he knelt to her and was going to lift her when she touched his shoulder, making him halt. [b "You've opened your wound again... "]
[I "Tell me ... Please..."]
[b "... Saraya... "]
The grip on his shoulder slowly moved to his cheek , and she leaned forward some. [I "I want to know... Because I love you]
The mark over her heart took on a light hue, glowing magnificently as she let her eyes lock on his.
[I "... I love you, Carrick... And it does not weaken me or you for us to be in love... You did not fail me... You did not fail Lara... You did not fail the priestess..."]
Those words slid past her lips as a tear fell. She felt her heart flutter as she made an effort to assure him she speaks the truth.
[I You say that you are not my father, nor my brother... But I want you as my man... And if you accept, the spirit will have you become my sword]
She looked ahead to his chest and placed her hand there. [I As you said... I am woman, and the spirit allowed me to use his power freely, but I cannot body all of his power within me. I need another, and he spoke to me to say I can have you bear my power as well... But, you have to truly love me in order for the transfer to be a success...]
Saraya stared at him, hoping he understood what she had said. She was too weak to say it again. [I "..So, Carrick... Tell me the truth...] He hand warmed on his chest. She hoped she was not feeling false. All she could do is wait on him to answer
Adimar had seemingly been put in his place, and Carrick watched him make his way over to Lara. His eyes were flinty and dangerous, Adimar might have been a guardian, but he had yet to prove he was trustworthy to Carrick. He had his chance though, when quite suddenly, Lara convulsed on the table and they were made privy to the red handle of a dagger in her body. Adimar, was there at her side, so he reacted first. He lunged forward to catch her and place her back in the comfort of the linens. Carrick hurried over to help, and once they had Lara back in her bed Carrick removed the blade from her. The noise had alerted the physician who made his way back in to make quick work of Lara’s wound.
“Poison!” He exclaimed with mild shock as he ran a finger along the viscous oily coating that still lingered on the blade. “I need to make a poultice for her wound, and she will have to stay here to sweat out the poison until I can find an antidote or make one,” he told both men, and with a bow of his head left the room to hide away in his private office where he could mix tinctures and concoctions of all sorts to help Lara. Carrick sighed heavily, knowing of at least one person who would be deeply disturbed by this news: Balden. Lara never woke up, even after smacking her head on the floor, but Adimar had acted like a gentleman, lifting her up and gently laying her back down, calling for the Physician, and once she was settled again and asleep, Adimar took his leave, seeing that Carrick was not as welcoming as the others had been.
“I’ll inform my men about the knife, if someone mentions missing a red handled blade… we’ll have a lead,” was Adimar said and the left the room.
Carrick remained, as he had done all night and well into the day. He remained past lunch and into the afternoon before Saraya ever stirred. In that time, Aria had come to visit with Ayab and Max following behind her like two terrifying shadows. Carrick had watched quietly as Aria laid a soft blessing over each girl, a look of guilt and sadness etched in her delicate features. She thanked Carrick for his diligence in watching over them, and turned to leave the infirmary as well. There were a few short solitary moments of silence before Saraya came alive. She came awake with a gasp, and her eyes wide with some crazed emotion of vengeance, maybe fear. Carrick was on his feet in an instant and at her side. He was quick to grasp her hand and placed a hand to her shoulder to keep her against the bedding incase she tried to move. He didn’t want her to open up her stitching. “Calm Saraya, can you hear me? Saraya, can you speak?” he asked her. Her glazed over eyes eventually found his and the expression she gave him stole his heart further. Tears spilled from her eyes and she managed one shaky hand up to cup his scruffy cheek. He felt her fingers through the beard on his face and stilled himself from reacting, no matter how desperately he wanted to. He had to restrain himself, Saraya was not well and he’d be damned if he allowed his infatuation to give him liberties because she looked at him as she did. For all he knew, she was hallucinating and saw Felliope… so when she whispered his name he almost thought he was the one hallucinating and not Saraya.
The moment was gone as soon as it had come and Saraya became alert with realization and returned memories. She wanted up and she wanted out, but Carrick was having none of it and forced her with gentle hands to remain against the bed. “Moving would be unwise, you will tear open your stitches, and it will take you longer to heal!” He had pleaded with her. “Please, Saraya. Please stay calm, I know you are upset and angry. I know you are in pain, you are safe now…” His words seemed to do the trick and for the next few hours she stayed quiet, staring out at space and allowing her rage to fester.
In the midst of her silence, Carrick watched her, only disturbed by the quiet entrance of Balden who came fresh from training with Rhuarc and some of Adimar’s men to see to Lara before supper. With Lara currently out and the Physician spending the day trying to figure out what poison was used and how to treat it, Balden left to bathe for supper. Carrick had officially been awake for two days straight and he was at the edge of his awakened state. He knew he’d have to retire soon and eat something and get some rest. Aria had mentioned he needed rest, and the last thing he needed was for Rhuarc to slay him with Warrior Logic. He knew he needed the rest, but part of him was still so furious. Saraya would not speak to him, and so he decided before he left the room as well, he would speak his peace.
“You could have been killed…” He finally told her. “What would ever compel you to wander a strange city alone at night?” he asked her as calmly as he could. He knew it came off harsher, his voice was hoarse from lack of sleep adding the general gruff of it. His words did their work, as Saraya finally looked to him and apologized. So the Priestess had asked something of her.
“So you would go alone and not ask for help?” He demanded, and flinched knowing he’d let his frustration and exhaustion come off too harshly. With Tears in her eyes, she struggled to sit up and Carrick moved to help her, but she wouldn’t look at him, it was as if she was ashamed. After her explanation of what the Priestess had asked, and what Saraya had sensed, he felt even further frustration, but more than that he felt the need to comfort Saraya. He sensed her own frustration, pain, and exhaustion… personally he was just glad she was up and talking and on the road to recovery.
He held her, his arms enveloping her into the safe fold of his arms, where he struggled to maintain the words trapped in the back of his throat.
[i "Speak to me, Carrick... Why do you tremble so? "]
Carrick raised his head and looked at her, his brow furrowed in thought, and his jaw locked tight. His eyes moved over her face however, and lingered over her lips and gazed deeply into her eyes. “Just as the Priestess asked you to go out and learn, she tasked me to protect all of you. In that I have failed her, and I have failed you. My whole life, I have lived with the dream to become a Holy Guard of the High Septum. To do as I do now. Protect the Priestess and the Guardians… and so far? I am failing. Look,” He gestured to Lara’s bed and sighed, dropping his head into his hands before showing his meaty fingers through his auburn hair. “I couldn’t protect either you, and you were both attacked while I was with the Priestess. I know I cannot be at all places at once, but it was my job to guard the group, and I failed,” He glared at nothing in particular as he fumed with himself and his rolling emotions. “You are a woman, Saraya… I am not your father, your brother, or… your man… so I cannot tell you that you cannot go on your own, but hopefully as your friend I can encourage you to always be on alert and carry a weapon on you. If not for Lara sneaking out and finding you… you might be dead. She managed to take down your attacker. Adimar and Rhuarc made quick work of his partner. You’ll have to ask them for the details… I…” a minor flush filled his cheeks and he looked away. “I have not left this room since you were attacked. I have not left your side,” he admitted and hesitantly reached out for Saraya’s hand and took it into one of his own larger ones and let his thumb sweep over her knuckles. His lack of words were able to say enough. He cared for her, but saying out loud made it real, and right now… he was afraid they could not allow themselves to be too emotionally involved with one another. Which was rather ironic since Aria had insisted they all be like a family and care for one another. To love one another, and to protect one another. Oh Carrick knew he cared for Saraya, he just feared admitting his care, because to do so might allow it to grow into something more. “I am not angry with you, or with Lara. I am relieved you are both relatively well. I have come to care for Lara as if she were my niece, the same for Balden. I see Rhuarc and Ayab as brothers in arms… but you… You I see differently, you are… more. To me,” he stopped himself from saying another word, and instead lifted her hand, still in his to his lips and kissed her knuckles reverently. “Get some rest,” he rasped, and moved away from Saraya, feeling like a fool, but maybe that was the sleep deprivation. “I will return to check on you both,” he muttered and hurried from the room…
Carrick's face had came into her dark subconscious. She heard a child's laughter, then an evil pair of eyes appeared before the child's scream sounded. Saraya's heart sank thinking about the monster she saw before her. Not him... It can't be him... Please...
Her subconscious chanted it so much , tears fell to where Carrick to see. It hurt so bad, she screamed in her subconscious and woke up, taking a big inhale as she arched. Carrick had heard her resurrection, and hurried to her. Her eyes were blurry, her ears couldn't pick up sounds just yet... But her sense of touch was normal. Gradually, her vision adjusted until she saw a familiar face, followed by a familiar voice. [I "...a...ra...hear me? Raya... Saraya... Saraya, say something"]
Saraya saw Carrick, and after a few moments, her hand had reached a cheek, as tears of joy spilled with a quivering smile. [I "...Carrick..."]
She felt a certain joy in her heart and wanted to kiss him, but couldn't reach that far or react soon enough to ignore the pain. She grunted in pain before relaxing again. She was confused. How long was she out ?
She then remembered... She had been attacked... And by Malik's dark magic had he... She started struggling to get up, but it mattered not. Her body was in pain from what had happened . She wanted to kill Malik. How dare he use him in his evil plot.
Her body tried again to sit up and Carrick prevented her from moving. [I "Release me! I cannot lay here when he had... Let me go"]
All forms of protest had been voiced. Carrick had her attention more than anyone at the time. His pleas to relax had reached her. Then the words she spoke to him before she passed out... She remembered. They were all the first to help her since Felliope... She started to heed and lay down in defeat. Tears formed and fell, she felt as though she was beaten by better judgement... But, she hated that it would be her to delay the journey... Carrick had sat with her, and try as every one could, Saraya had not the heart to speak. She was defeated by the enemy, and had to carry on her shoulders the burden of having being foolish and falling for his evil deeds and causing the troupe to be delayed. Carrick began to worry. Why would she not speak?
The silent Saraya became stagnant. Her eyes gleamed a light so dim... As though with each aching second, her former self had began to fade into the shadow of her inner spirit. Her eyes began to burn with the fueled hate that flourished from within her heart. Her jewels that took solace on her skin began to glow ominously, as if charging to the power of her emotional - yet blank state.
[center [I sihepth nalto.... I shall tell you. Caledon is very displeased of Malik's action. In his fury, he has told me... His power will be mine to control. I accepted openly to this, because he had...] Her body began to tremble, not to the pain of the seared souvenir to add to her steadily growing collection, it was because of what he had done special for her. Her grip on the blanket tightened as her body trembled. Slowly, tears began to take on a red hue. Her eyes shown hate as one of her hands slowly gripped her shirt tightly. [I He had bewitched one to look like him... He took his face...]]
Saraya trembled as her hair began to glow red. [b Something is wrong, Carrick... ] she gasped and froze when she had realized ... She had completely forgotten that therecwas someone here. She remembered seeing Rhuarc... Lara... Carrick. She could not deny she felt ashamed. Her cold and angry eyes had slowly began to fade. She felt a hand on hers, and saw the face of Carrick riddled with concern and animosity... Something she was surprised to have seen. He looked as though he was fighting back tears... Maybe tears of relief that she was alive. Saraya looked to Rhuarc, to her surroundings as Lara had awakened with Baldwen at her beck and call. She then looked back to the attentive Carrick, who's grip on her hand was gentle, yet firm... And it was shaking.
Somehow, every blinding thought of rage and hate had evaporated once she had came to terms with whom was there. Carrick, of all men in the troupe. She sighed to herself. She felt a sort of relief to see he was there . Luckily, this was not where the roles were reversed. The Gods only knew what she would do.
Still, though, Saraya could not be silent with Carrick for much longer. The air seemed to cool and she couldn't find the perfect words to put together. She felt like a child trying to tell a little boy that she liked him. She covered her face, though... Her hair found a way to shroud her bruised face. The knife Nick on her neck was patched up, and she had a wrap tight around her torso where she had been stabbed. Her mind wondered so far, she had jumped when Carrick finally spoke.
[b "You could have been killed, Saraya! What would conceive in your mind to wander alone? "]
Saraya looked to him, eyes scanning her bewildered expression. [I "Carrick... I am sorry... It was a duty only The Priestess had bestowed upon me"]
[b "To go against evil forces alone?! "]
Tears began to well up in her eyes. She gripped the sheet as she struggled to sit up. Carrick, noticing her intention, helped her sit up before she turned away from him. [I ..." to keep an eye along the walls. I had sensed danger when I had went with her to the captain. The Priestess had given me a duty to assure safety... For everyone, once I knew she had sensed it as well. I had to see if my senses were not failing me"] she looked to him, the dim light gleaming in her eyes searched for his. Before she could speak once more, a pair of hands wrapped around her tattered and torn form, and as she gasped, a shoulder was offered as a hand found her hair. There, she could feel the suffering he tried to control. He trembled as he held her, wanting so bad to speak his true feelings. Though tears fell, she grabbed his forearm and bore down her pain. [I "Speak to me, Carrick... Why do you tremble so? "]
[I I do apologize for the short post. I haven't been able to get into detail at all... Was dealing with things...]
What was the deal with these persistent black screens? It wasn't like she wanted a vision to just float in, a good dream perhaps would be much more favorable, but it didn't really matter what was more preferable as it was hard to make choices when knocked out stone cold. Of course being the young, naive, maybe called a fool by the Jai, she had messed with things she didn't understand at all; yes there's that statement about not screwing around with things you can't possibly comprehend, but would it be more preferable to have two dead guardians, or would it be more preferable if someone had messed with the mystic unknown and prevented te slaughter of two guardians? And unlike Lara, you can definitely choose one preference over the over.
It was only when the morning light begin to stream into the room did she awaken from the stone cold sleep. The awakening would be barely noticeable, as it didn't involve any of the usual yawning, moving about, or anything else that would make it obvious that a person was waking up. She only quietly opened her eyes, she felt too tired to yawn, and too tired to move her own body. At this point it felt like her entire body was an anchor that was sinking her into the bed, although she could hear quite well unless the silence wasn't actually silent, and vision was more or less fine as it was still a bit blurry. It felt like all the energy within her had gone somewhere .
The fact that there was someone in front of her, not seen by her. The fact that this guy was talking to her, also not heard. The fact that this guy was Adimar and was trying to help her sit up by extending his hand, also not seen.
She made an attempt to curl up on her side, which somehow managed to work well until it came to the part where the legs were supposed to curl up after starting to rotate sideways; this caused her to roll off the bed and land on her back, hitting the floor pretty hard. She didn't even mutter, although she dimly began to be aware of some sort of pain in her right leg, a sort of sharp and stabbing pain. Now there were two problems instead of one, and both were not explainable, at least to her at the current moment.
She tried turning over came, but to her it felt like she was plastered to the floor. Her head was still hurting from the previous impact with the floor, this had also caused her hearing to start ringing and her vision to blur even more. And all this time, the pain in her lower right leg was increasing, not only in how much it hurt but it also spread outwards from the initial point of pain. Even when she moved her arm to get a grip on one of the legs on which the bed lay, it felt like she was stuck in a gravity well; she managed to reach the leg, and turn herself over, but that was all she could do as she felt completely winded out. Although this falling asleep felt odd, it felt like the whole world began to spin, like she was leaving the world behind.
The bad news was that the object stuck in her leg was a knife with a blade covered in poison.
The good news, the knife had a bright red handle.
Adimar watched and assisted Rhuarc in the interrogations and he was pleased with their new findings from the two they had captured. They confirmed they were sent by Malik, though neither of them actually saw or spoke to him, but rather a figure known as The Fade. Adimar had not heard that name before, and the Volshiv govt and Military prided itself recently on the amount of Intel they had on Malik, but this was news. All of them were targets it seemed, and that certainly changed things. They learned they were sent to spy on the Volshiv, and while they weren’t ordered to attack any of them, they had been given permission to attack if an opportunity presented itself. It had, and now they would pay the price.
[b "Kill them, place their heads on pikes and hang the bodies from the city walls as a warning. Let it be known that the Guardians and the High Priestess will not be threatened."] Rhuarc had said when it was all said and done. Adimar nodded, but an even better idea struck him.
“I like you’re thinking, By Volshiv law they should be beheaded for spying, but… perhaps in this case we can find an alternative. We’ll set them on a stake right at the border where we know Malik’s men like to sneak across. They shall be burned and left as vulture feed, a warning to any who enter this country who mean to do it or its inhabitants harm,” Adimar suggested. Having compromised, they both left the Jail and started towards the Infirmary to check on the others. Adimar answered Rhuarc’s questions about magic, and explained that he had been taught by an Arcane Master who served the Sky Lord, the ruler of Volshiv. He informed Rhuarc that all the guardians possed a basic power of their element, and he’d be more than willing to help Rhuarc learn to strengthen, what Adimar called, Arcane Muscles. The topic as they walked leisurely moved toward the steel staff Adimar carried and the blade that crested it. Adimar was delighted to inform Rhuarc that it was a family heirloom and made of Volshi Steel. Then he complimented Rhuarc on the color and shine of his own blade. Then men were clearly warriors, and perhaps even more shocking was how much they had in common. Adimar felt confident he had made at least one friend among the Guardians.
The infirmary was quiet when they made it there and they found a half asleep Carrick sitting up in his chair, head bowed and arms crossed. At the threshold, Adimar stayed back and watched the two men interact. The firm slap of flesh had Carrick startling awake and he looked up to see Rhuarc had arrived… covered in blood.
“Shit, brother… you look like hell,” Carrick teased. They both did, but on different levels. “Doc says Saraya will live, but he wants to keep her for observation, and as for Lara, she used too much power and is sleeping it off,” They chatted further and Carrick agreed with Rhuarc’s decision that all of them travel in pairs, and bid the man farewell. Adimar looked at Carrick and Carrick stared back. “Thanks for the help,” Carrick finally said. Adimar nodded his head and entered further to look over Lara.
“Thanks is not necessary. I’m glad to hear, the Lady Saraya will survive and recover… is she uhh…” Adimar looked her sleeping form over, appraisingly and smirked, “You know… taken?” Carrick’s jaw muscle ticked in irritation, but he shook his head.
“I know she was married, but he was killed,”
“Damn shame…” Adimar muttered. “Probably still pines for her lost love… I’d be willing to distract her if you know what I mean,” Adimar chuckled, but Carrick was having none of it and it caused Adimar’s laugh to die in his throat.
“She’s not a whore. You don’t get to make comments like that. I don’t care who or what you are, you won’t disrespect her, Lara, or the Priestess with your perverted comments. If you have no other reason to be here, you should leave,” Adimar was resigned to do as Carrick said until they heard a noise and saw that Lara was coming awake. Adimar lingered and made his way to her bedside and was there to smile at her when she came awake. “Baba Mouske,” he greeted in his language. “It means Little Mouse,” he told her, and ignoring the irritated scowl of Carrick’s. “I heard you awoke your Arcane magics, congratulations, your quick action helped save Lady Saraya,” he told her with a warm grin, and held out his hand to help her sit up.
“Trapped! I’m a prisoner in my own room!” She shouted loud enough to know that Ayab and Max would hear her through the door. She’d woken up at dawn wanting to leave the room, and even with sunshine they denied her. When breakfast had been brought to her along with a new outfit for her, Adimar’s man, Max tasted her food and drink before letting it be brought to her. It didn’t matter, she found she did not have the appetite to eat and instead spent the majority of her morning pacing circles in her room and constantly looking out her window. When Balden arrived with news, the door was kept open by Max and Ayab who refused to let even Balden be in a room alone with her.
“You’re not a Prisoner, Ms. Aria,” Balden tried to tell her.
“Well I certainly feel like one,” She grumbled. News of Saraya’s attack had left Aria slightly shaken, but she was more furious she could not go and see to either Saraya or Lara.
“You have to be protected, you’re the High Priestess, and you’re the only one who can rebuild all that Malik has destroyed. You’re the only one all the provinces will rally behind and follow,” Aria pouted as she stared out the window once more, her brow furrowed in thought. Damnit, but he was right.
“Without the Guardians we don’t stand a chance of accomplishing anything,” She grumbled darkly. Balden sat there with a small grin. He could see her frustration and her exhaustion evident in her body language, but there was strength as she held her head high and did her best to exude confidence and strength.
“And I don’t think the Guardians will be able to accomplish anything if something happens to you, they lose their leader. Everyone does. Ms. Aria, I know you don’t think it, but I think Azera will finally know Peace again once you take back the Septum.” Aria said nothing, Balden’s words echoed Carrick’s, but Carrick was a soldier and would follow her orders… Balden was not.
The door opened fully, but Aria didn’t bother to turn and see, figuring it was Ayab or Max, but Balden’s gasp and murmured curse had her turning around. What she saw made her eyes go wide like saucers and her jaw slacken.
“Rhuarc… you’re covered in blood!” She went to grab a damp cloth from the wash basin, but Rhuarc’s words stopped her. He’d been interrogating the attacker, it wasn't his blood. It gave Aria pause and she looked at him differently then she ever had before. From the looks of all the blood, it looked like he had beat the ever loving shit out of him instead. Malik was behind the attacks, but now there was a new figure to content with other than the Mage… someone called The Fade. It wasn't like they needed more on their plate, but at least the girls would be alright. At that both Aria and Balden let out sighs of relief. “Thank you, Rhuarc,” Aria breathed, relieved to know Saraya was not critical.
[b "I have suggested to Carrick that given the circumstances of the attack, Saraya being alone that none of us should be left on our own in the city, least of all you, Priestess."] Aria dropped her head then, hiding the frown on her face, the furrow of her brow in frustration. She was beginning to feel more and more helpless. She couldn't fight, which made her a liability... and it meant she was clearly to be restricted, but Rhuarc had a point. It was dangerous to walk alone, Spies could still be about, including the Fade, so in pairs they would travel from then on. Rhuarc mentioned Adimar and their staying in Tanaka, and as usual he was right. They couldn't stay, and they'd accomplish nothing from here. [b "Think on that..."] he had told her. Aria finally looked up at him and met his gaze.
"Your advice is always welcomed, Rhuarc, and I find that more often then naught, I am in agreement with you... You're right, I need to think about our next steps. Thank you for your council," Aria said and turned for the window to look out upon the lively city, and longing to be among the people.
[b "Balden, don't think that tonight's excitement excludes you from your swordsmanship lessons. Keep working. on them."] Balden had jumped at the sound of his name, not expecting Rhuarc to speak to him, but when he did Balden jumped to his feet.
"Yes Sir! If last night has taught me anything, it's that I need more practice," Balden said with a grin. Rhuarc seemed to appreciate Balden's excitement when it came to training, and took the moment to make his goodbye and excused himself from the room. Balden followed promptly after, and Aria was once again alone.
She remained at the window, unmoving as she watched the city and let her mind work out their situation. She might have had the look of cool contemplation upon her face, but inside she felt tormented and useless. She couldn't bring herself to smile, or even enjoy the view, nor the lovely dress she wore, the food she'd been given to eat, or the finery of her room. She did look the image of a princess, and the dress that had been given to her fit like a glove of sapphire fabric, but it was form fitting, and not the gossamer flowing silks she would be wearing if she was back in the septum. The dress was designed for warmth, and it served that purpose against the chilly wind that blew in through her window.
Aria would by lying if she said she wasn't lonely. For the whole of her life, she was basically prohibited from leaving Elder Rigby's sight, from socializing, from making friends... from being a child, from being a woman. Her position as High Priestess had enough restrictions as it was, Malik had stolen more than her Septum, he had stolen her childhood, and her home. Now he had sent someone to attack the first people in her life she felt she could call her friends, and Saraya was definitely one of them. She felt anger, she wanted revenge, she wanted to take back what was rightfully hers! She wanted to protect the Guardians, help them achieve their destinies. She knew her mind should have been on more pertinent things like what they would do next, where they would go, but her mind remained clouded. Aria knew first and foremost she had to gather a following, and not just the Volshiv. Then she was going to need an army to march on Central city and take it back. Perhaps Balden was right, perhaps she was the only one who could bring the Provinces together and take down Malik... then again... maybe she wasn't. She was doubting herself and her own abilities. It wasn't like she had asked to be the High Priestess, but here she was, and she would preform her role to the best of her abilities.
First things first, she was going outside, she would meet people... and no one was going to stop her. Not even Ayab. She opened to door and sure enough both Max and Ayab were still standing there. She tensed the slightest out of nervousness, but looked dead ahead and walked out of the room past them both. "I'm going for a walk... I refuse to stay locked up in that room on a day like today. If I hide I am only giving into Malik's games and I refuse to let him cajole any of us into fear,"
"Bravo, m'lady," Max murmured with a smirk while he chewed on a toothpic. "Then we will follow you," Max said with a bow of his head. "Where shall you like to go?"
"The Infirmary, I wish to see Saraya and Lara," ARia said confidently, hiding her insecurities deep within her. Max was the first to step away from the door and started down the hall. Aria looked to Ayab, with a silent plea to please follow her before turning and following Max.
Rhuarc searched the city with Adimar and his men, he was impressed at such a thorough job being done, no stone was left unturned and no establishment escaped the notice of those searching the city. It wasn't just soldiers searching the city either, once rumour spread the common folk wished to help in anyway they could and Rhuarc was not about to turn any away. After a while they had their success, a second suspect had been found but that was not the most interesting thing to happen during the search; Adimar revealed some of his powers as a guardian. Being able to see through the eyes of birds...incredible, although he had noticed some similarities with one of his own abilities on the rad traveling to Tanaka. Every night as he set up camp he let his mind wander and he could feel the presence of any serpents nearby. He couldn't see through their eyes as Adimar could with his ability but they did sometimes communicate with the Jai, not so much in words but base emotions and pictures, it had helped avoid a few minor bandit camps along the road but seeing what Adimar could do was something else entirely. Rhuarc was impressed and there could be absolutely no doubt, Adimar was the Volshiv Guardian. Adimar revealed that there was a third suspect waiting with means to make escape just outside the city gates and with a swift order men were dispatched to bring him in. [b "That is an impressive skill Adimar, you must be a powerful mage to be able to do such things. You are right we need answers and an interrogation is the perfect way to get them but i'll need a few things first..."]
Adimar led the way to the jail cells and one of his men picked up the things that Rhuarc had asked for soon enough the interrogation was ready to begin. The prison cells were small and cramped, just what this scum deserved, a wooden table had been moved in and on them rested the metal instruments that Rhuarc had requested. [b "You have answers that we want and one way or the other i will get them. Make no mistake about that."] Over the course of the next few hours Rhuarc asked his questions, aided by strategic cuts, removing fingers, flaying skin, pulling teeth and fingernails out also aiding his torture was the new additions of his own pyrokenisis and coupling the blades with searing heat made the torture even more effective. The questions were many: who do you work for? How many planned the attack? Where were they heading after the attack? Did they target Saraya specifically or would they target any guardian? Was the target even a guardian or was it the High Priestess? Some answers were obvious, this assailant worked for Malik but had no direct contact with "The True and Glorious King" as this lowlife claimed. They weren't receiving orders from the Mage either, apparently they were directly commanded by a figure known as "The Fade". Rhuarc let Adimar ask any questions he had and after the two men had tortured the second captive they had in order to corroborate their story Rhuarc saw no need to keep them alive. [b "Kill them, place their heads on pikes and hang the bodies from the city walls as a warning. Let it be known that the Guardians and the High Priestess will not be threatened."] As long as Rhuarc drew breath he would protect Aria and the other Guardians.
By the time that Rhuarc and Adimar left the cells, the Jai still covered in much of the assailants blood, the morning had well and truly begun, the sun rising in the sky steadily. The Jai's first point of call was to the Infirmary, the Volshiv Guardian led the way. [b "Aside from your Eagle's Eye, what else can you do Adimar? I'm afraid i'm not particularly versed in the Arcane."] The two men talked to pass the time on the way to the nfirmary, the two men it seemed had much in common, Adimar was a soldier as was Rhuarc and while the Volshiv didn't have a blade like the Jai Guardian it was still an impressive weapon. [b "That is some fine steel you have there, is there a tale to that blade? I know my own weapon has an interesting history, what I know of it at least."] Rhuarc spoke of the legend of the black steel and how there was supposedly a twin blade out in the world somewhere, Rhuarc would like to find it someday. Before he knew it he was standing in the infirmary with Lara, Saraya and Carrick. The Jai clasped Carrick's arm in greeting, [b "Ho Carrick. What has the physician said?"] Carrick relayed the information Rhuarc gave a silent nod, to his mind Saraya would be fine, it was in the hands of the Gods now surely they would not allow a Guardian of their own to fall in such a way and Lara was in no danger. [b In light of this attack none of us should go anywhere alone. It is too dangerous. There are enough of us to go in pairs plus Adimar's men as well. I will not allow this to happen again Carrick. Forgive me but I must leave you now, Aria should know of what I learned."]
The looks that the blood covered Rhuarc received walking through the corridors where the Guardians had their quarters ranged from disdain to fear only Ayab had a grin when he approached. [b "Saraya was injured but is being seen to for now, the assailants no longer live. How is the Priestess?"] [+red "Frustrated more than anything else, she actually tried commanding me to step aside, you should have seen her face when I told her that she had no power over me. She isn't a clan chief and I am not one of her precious Guardians. Only Balden was let inside and even then I watched him closely."] Rhuarc nodded in satisfaction, Ayab was loyal to a fault, if he was watching Balden it was not because he distrusted the boy but to make sure it actually was the blacksmith's apprentice, there were some peculiar magics out in the world. [b "I've spoken to Carrick and given the circumstances of the attack I don't think any of us should be alone, that is when we are vulnerable. Unless I am with her I want you to stick with the Priestess, she is too important to us. She needs to be protected."] Ayab looked at his friend sternly, looking as if he wanted to say something but instead nodded in agreement. Rhuarc moved past his friend and into the room with Aria and Balden. [b "Forgive my appearance I have just come from interrogating Saraya's assailant. He of course works for Shade-stealer but reports to something known as a Fade. Likely another one of the False King's abominations. For now both Saraya and Lara are resting but with time they should be alright."] Rhuarc glanced at Balden giving a sigh of relief at that news. A smile almost touched the large man's lips. [b "I have suggested to Carrick that given the circumstances of the attack, Saraya being alone that none of us should be left on our own in the city, least of all you, Priestess. There are likely still spies or potential assassins that evaded our search, possibly even the Fade itself. I won't risk any Guardian or yourself because we believe that we are strong enough on our own. We have the last Guardian now, once we have suitably rested we need to move again. We will not bring down the False King from Tanaka and in the end that is all that matters. Think on that Priestess if you would. Balden, don't think that tonight's excitement excludeds you from your swordsmanship lessons. Keep working. on them. If you'll excuse me I will take my leave now."]
Balden was woken up by the sounds and the toiling of the city's bell. He had jumped up, startled and disheveled from sleep. Were they under attack? He had no idea what was happening, he'd been so excited to sleep in a bed, he had passed out within moments of his head hitting the pillow. Curiously, he shuffled his feet across the room and poked his head out to find Ayab and another man standing at Aria's door. Confused, and with furrowed brow, he walked over with a large yawn and smacked his lips.
"Wassall the fuss?" He murmured sleepily. When the men explained to him that there had been an attack, Balden blanched fully awake. "Seriously?" he asked shocked. "We [i just] got here! How could they know we were here?" Neither Ayab or Max had an idea, but spies were everywhere. They let him pass into Aria's room, and after knocking he was relieved to find Aria answered it and was unscathed.
"Priestess!" he exclaimed, rushing in as Aria ushered him into her room.
"Balden! Thank goodness," she cupped his face in her hands and looked over his face with the concern an older sister might have, and quickly grabbed his shoulders. "I need you to do me a favor, I can't leave my room, but I want to know what is happening. We don't know much up here. All we know is that someone was attacked. Please go and find out what's happened and what is going on so we can have some idea."
"Right," Balden didn't bother to ask questions, besides; he wanted to know what was going on himself. Aria could not see to anyone, and her safest place was in a guarded room. In his opinion, between Ayab and the scarred face of Max he didn't think anyone would be dumb enough to try and take those two on by themselves. "I'll see what I can find, and then I'll be right back," He promised.
Balden left the room promptly to dress himself and go searching for information on what the Hell was going on. Dressed he stopped by Lara's door, intent to ask her if she wished to join him, but when he received no answer he felt a nervousness in his gut. Pushing open Lara's door, he found her room empty. Had she gone out to investigate as well? He decided to just go look, and perhaps he'd find her during his own investigation.
He found the entire city was awake and moving, though things looked like they had calmed down, and a group of soldiers were gearing up their horses to leave the city in search of what Balden learned was an accomplice of the attacker. Unable to find Rhuarc and join him with Adimar in the jail house, Balden was instructed where to find the infirmary and headed that way promptly. He had yet to see Lara as he asked around and spoke with Guards and soldiers. They weren't so willing to divulge information to him, but some of the villagers he passed were. Rumor had it that one of the Guardians had been attacked and another retaliated. Who was who, no one knew, but Balden knew he'd find answers in the Infirmary, what he saw was not what he was expecting.
Lara and Saraya were both laid out on beds, and while Lara looked like she was sleeping without a care in the world, Saraya was covered in blood and Carrick looked like he was about to suffer from a heart attack or bludgeon someone to death....
The Infirmary was on the second floor of the barracks. Thad led the way quickly, dodging rushing soldiers with ease as he carried Lara in his arms. Carrick kept his feet quick and could tell this Thad was a man used for agility and speed by Adimar. Following Thad and seeing how the entire city seemed to come alive from the attack, and how every soldier to villager was out looking for who attacked Saraya and the Guardians; led Carrick to finally believe they might actually be in a safe place. It was a small town and word spread like wildfire that the High Priestess of Azeroth had arrived, and to see the city come alive to catch the culprit, put a bit of faith in Carrick. It also proved to him that nowhere was actually safe for them, and they certainly were being watched and or followed.
They had just reached the hall to the Infirmary when Carrick heard the pitiful sound of Saraya’s voice. There was no denying the level of pain she felt. He heard it clear as day in her voice, and felt it in the way her body trembled slightly in his arms. Hearing his name compelled his arms to tighten the slightest and his steps slowed until they stopped. Ahead of him Thad marched right into the Infirmary. His voice echoed into the hall as he shouted orders, but Carrick heard not a word.
[i "... Carrick... Tell... Everyone that-”]
“Shh…” Carrick cooed, already knowing where she was going with this. “You’re going to be fine,” he told her. Her bleary, unfocused gazed seemed to almost look through him then at him. Carrick was concerned for her. Rhuarc might have stopped the bleeding outside... but what about inside?
[i “I am... Sorry... "] she passed out in his arms then and Carrick grit his teeth as he stared down at her. Mouth dry and his stomach weighted with worry he finished his path into the Infirmary.
Thad had already laid Lara down on a bed where a frazzled elderly man was knelt over her.
“Ask him,” Carrick heard Thad speak as he entered.
“Ask me what?” Carrick questioned, laying Saraya down on a bed.
“Lara, she has no wounds, but they said she used her powers,” Thad informed him. Carrick’s brow furrowed.
"Has she been using them for very long?" The physician asked.
“They’re all just now learning about their powers, I don’t think any of them knew what they were or were capable of until just recently.” The Physician seemed to understand and walked towards a cabinet where he returned with a cookie biscuit.
“I have seen Lord Adimar succumb to such things in the past,” Thad said with realization. “When we were younger and he discovered his own power he could rarely do even the simplest of magic. He said it was like a muscle, you had to work at it everyday to strengthen it… perhaps…”
“My thoughts exactly,” The physician murmured and set the cookie on the table beside Lara. “She will be fine… just needs some rest and this cookie when she wakes up. Magic is energy and she’s used all hers up. Nothing to fear with this one… but she,” His feeble bony hand pointed a finger towards Saraya, and he shuffled his feet over. “She looks injured and pale… covered in blood too…” Carrick didn’t step back from the bed, but remained close his hands curled tightly over the edge of the bed as he watched the old man like a hawk.
"She was attacked," Carrick explained as the physician looked over the scorched mark on Saraya and began to feel along her abdomen. He listened to her heart, checked her vitals and went to work patching up and cleaning Saraya up, the entire time Carrick stayed like a shadow hovering over her table.
When Balden entered the room, Carrick's head snapped up to pin the shocked boy with a look. "Balden, what are you doing here?" Balden tore his eyes away from Saraya's bloody dress to Carrick's face and stammered.
"o-oh... I... Lady Aria asked me to find out what is going on. I think not knowing anything has made her anxious." Carrick sighed heavily and ran a hand over his face with exhaustion. "So it was Saraya who was attacked..." he murmured more of a statement then a question. Carrick nodded his head and looked down at her forlornly.
"She's fine, resting, but the doc says she's just suffering from exhaustion. Nothing to fear there, boy," Carrick assured him. Balden nodded and moved to look down at Lara's still figure.
"Will Ms. Saraya be alright?"
"Only time will tell..." The Physician said as he finished apply a salve to Saraya's burns to help them heal and then began to wrap her torso up tightly in linen. Carrick helped to move Saraya into a sitting position while the Physician worked. "Multiple lacerations and stab wounds... at least the wound was cauterized and stopped the bleeding, but internally if there is damage there is nothing I can do. She felt fine to me, there's no swelling, but it's best if she stays here until I deem her ready to leave." Balden nodded at the Physician's words and looked again to Carrick as he laid Saraya back down gently.
"I will let The Priestess know," Balden assured them. Carrick gave a firm nod of his head.
"That's a good idea. Go, I will stay with them both." Balden hesitated, his gaze traveling to Lara. Carrick caught it and smirked. "Go, boy. She will be fine, just needs her rest." Balden nodded and left the room leaving Carrick alone with both, as the Physician had left with nothing more to do but lay back down in his own bed in a back room.
Carrick pulled up a seat beside Saraya's bed, but between both women. It was the wee hours of the morning, well past midnight, but still hours away from sunrise. His mind was clouded with thoughts about how they were so easily discovered. Who attacked Saraya and Lara? Was there a way to travel without being seen? He wasn't sure about a whole lot by the time the sun began to rise, and he trusted no one. No one but the Guardians and the High Priestess. He looked outside to greet the rising sun shade the sky in lavender and peach hues. "I vow to serve and protect the Guardians and their Priestess until my dying breath..." he growled, his heart boiling for Malik's blood. For none other could be behind this...
Although this time, she didn't completely fall asleep; she was still aware of everything that was unfolding around her and Saraya, but wasn't able to do much as for some reason her body didn't want to move. It felt weird sitting against the wall and being able to hear and see and feel, while her whole body felt numb and unresponsive. Rhuarc had arrived with Adimar and a group of guards, Ayab was most likely guarding Aria, Carrick soon arrived after Rhuarc had requested for his presence to be here. Since this all was happening off to her side, and she couldn't turn her head, all she heard were the conversations that were happening. One notable thing to hear was that Rhuarc had somehow healed Saraya so the wound wouldn't be fatal no more.
But she did feel afraid, if she couldn't do anything in this state she wouldn't be able to defend herself. It wasn't that she didn't trust those around her, it was just the hard habit of self-reliance instilled within her those three years of traveling around by herself.
And then she was suddenly lifted off the ground, and she could feel arms below her, as well as see a guard, the guard who was carrying her. Now she didn't know what felt more unnatural: knowing what was going on around while sitting and not being able to move, or being carried and feeling the air flow going around while still not being able to move. Either way, both were a novel experience. Just like it was a novel experience to be later down on a bed while the body felt numb and unresponsive. Ever since entering the city, it had been a series of novel and sometimes unfortunate events. And this series had only just started, and it would only get more crazy.
As she lay on the bed, she remembered something she'd need to do once she could move properly by herself; she wanted to talk to Adimar about two specific things, and in private if possible.
[center [i No... Spirit, tell me this is cruel magic from the False King... Tell me Malik had bewitched a stranger to look like him... Please, Spirit, speak with me... Tell me it was not him!]]
Her eyes scaled the blurred surroundings as she felt the warm liquid in her legs. She placed her hand along it, feeling a chill of shock still having it's grip on her. She felt betrayed by her senses. She felt the evil that her eyes had seen. Her body collapsed again as footfalls approached her, and was trying to end her there. But, all went black as she felt something lift her head to end her, and a sudden thud soon after. Her hand, though she was too weak to heal herself, held on to the gap, sending small pulses of cold to ease the pain... Until everything began to go black.
Commotion, it all disturbed her ears. She heard "Saraya has been attacked" and felt a pair of hands lift her and turn her to expose the wound. "I am sorry, Saraya... Will be Painful... " a searing pain touched her skin and she arched hard, letting out the true feeling of pain. Her hands gripped his wrist and the earth, the beauty bled tears before reaching her limit. When her skin suddenly began to feel ice cold, she arched and coughed up blood from her lungs and wheezed in air from where she could find it.
The pain in her stomach spread and her body's rebirth of ancient pain she felt once before resurfaced. The man's face... She remembered seeing his face... The works of Malik. She could've growled to the evil, but her body was still fresh in pain. She arched some before Rhuarc lifted her. She could feel his strength as he held her carefully. Orders were given, and she was handed to Carrick in a hurry. The pain in itself had been unbearable, but, her weak eyes saw a scared expression, hidden behind a face of rage.
Before his mind could clear, she used all the strength she had in her arm to reach for his neck. She grabbed the neck of the shirt he wore, and yanked him gently in worry. She was confused, in pain, and in his arms . She wanted to get up. She wanted to fight. She wanted to erase the abomination the evile Mage had done. Tears fell as she fought, but Carrick had forced her to ease. The Spirit within her prevented her from causing more pain, and she finally gave in to their pleas.
Carrick had began to move, going to the infirmary as soldiers ran up and down stairs to guard the rooms of the priestess. Lara had been escorted to the infirmary to rest. Saraya felt betrayed. She felt that the Mage will pay... And felt terrible to cause yet another ruckus because of the evil. Her head finally rested on him as she attempted to speak with the last of her strength
"... Carrick... " she forced out. Hearing his name slowed his stride to a halt, mere feet from the infirmary. Her lips trembled as she felt her consciousness fade. "Tell... Everyone that... I am... Sorry... " she said finally before all strength was exhausted, and she had passed out in his arms.
[I Spirit! This rage I feel from within my heart... This evil being I saw before me openly offended my mourn from within. I beg you, Spirit, I must kill him for the card he has drawn]
[b [I Peace, love. It cannot ease into battle with the wounds you possess. You have another matter that presented itself...]]
[I What other matter?]
[b [I Listen, Saraya...]]
Saraya nodded and allowed her sense of hearing to awaken, wondering... Why did the Spirit tell her to listen? What was she expected to find?
Adimar had never been a light sleeper, more often than naught he was up into the wee hours of morning before he’d steal maybe four hours of sleep, wake up and begin a new day. So when Thad knocked on his door that night, Adimar’s eyes shot open and not a moment later Thad entered the room with Rupert and Max. Their armor and weaponry clinking a little too loudly for his liking. Of course he’d make it to bed at a decent hour for once, only to be woken up for Gods only knew what.
“It better be good…” Adimar groaned from where he laid in his bed.
“My Lord,” Rupert stated as he too entered the room. “One of the Guardians has been attacked.” Adimar was up and out of his bed in the blink of an eye shoving his feet into boots. He wore naught but his trews and boots, grabbing his sword and started down the halls with his men tailing him.
The halls were alive with activity as security was amped up, and soldiers went rushing to lock down the city to ward any enemies from escaping the city. Adimar did not go down to the courtyard where they said the attack happened. Instead he made his way down the hallway where the Guardians and the Priestess were staying. He spotted Ayab with both axes drawn at the Priestess door. She stood within the doorframe, seeming to plead with the Jai to let her go and see to whoever was hurt.
“Priestess,” Adimar called catching her attention. She turned to look at him and his improper appearance and glared at him.
“Tell me what is happening,” she demanded.
“A Guardian has been attacked, do as Sir Ayab instructs you. The safest place is your room for now. Sir Ayab seems of good stock, he will protect you.” When Ayab confirmed it. Adimar nodded approvingly and clapped the man’s arm in passing. “You’re a good man, Ayab. Keep our Priestess safe!” He called as he continued on down the hall. “Max stay behind and help,”
“Aye m’Lord,” Max grumbled and turned to stand on the other side of the door with Ayab.
Only Rupert and Thad continued to follow Adimar down to the courtyard where the scene was. He saw Rhuarc kneeling over a fallen Saraya, and the little Fenlyk Guardian was down too. He watched as a group of five soldiers escorted a prisoner.
“Report!” He commanded. The nearest lieutenant turned and saluted Adimar before relaying the events that had transpired. Saraya had been attacked. “There are bound to be more spies in the city. Hunt them down and bring them to the jail for interrogations. I want to know who is behind all of this. GO!” He barked. The soldiers went running as orders were dished out to the officers to patrol the city and lock her down. “Master Rhuarc!” Adimar called making his way over as the massive Jai lifted the waifish woman up into his arms. “My men listen to you,” he smirked, impressed. “What more assistance can we give you?”
[b "Adimar I am grateful for the assistance your men have given us. I will interrogate Saraya's attacker myself, you are welcome to be there with me if you wish."]
“I’d like nothing better Master Rhuarc,” Adimar intoned and snapped a finger towards Lara. Thad was there to lift her up from the ground and carried her over.
“What the…” Carrick had come to join them and looked stunned between Saraya and Lara. “Rhuarc?” he asked confused, and bleary eyed. He’d only just fallen asleep to be woken right back up.
[b "It is good to see you friend, it seems that Shade-stealer attempted to dispose of a Guardian while he could. Luckily Lara was able to intervene in time.”]
“Saraya is wounded!” Carrick barked angrily.
[b “I have dealt with her wounds for now but we must monitor her for any other injuries that may present themselves.”]
“Agreed,” Adimar intoned. “Thad will show you the way to the Infirmary. Our Healers will look after them.”
[b “I want Guard at the doors of all the Guardians and at Balden at Carrick as well.”]
“Consider it done,” Adimar agreed.
[b “Ayab is Guarding the High Priestess' door as we speak. I do not think we can be too careful.”] Adimar nodded in agreement, liking this Rhuarc more and more.
“My thoughts exactly, I have one of my men standing watch with yours. She was demanding we allow her to leave so she could come here.”
“No,” Carrick growled. “This is the last place she needs to be right now.”
[b “Let her rest for now, there is nothing she can do. I'll let her see Saraya in the morning, they both need their rest, Lara as well."] Adimar and Carrick both agreed with Rhuarc’s words, and Thad carrying Lara offered to show the way to the Infirmary.
“I will take Saraya, Rhuarc, search the city with Adimar.” From there Carrick took Saraya from Rhuarc’s arms and stood there as both Adimar and Rhuarc took off taking a platoon of twenty men with them.
Adimar was ready to turn the city inside out to find the culprit of the attacks. They had one man in custody, but he was sure they’d find more rats lurking in the dark corners of Tanaka. They searched every pub, and inn, every brothel with nothing to show for it, it wasn’t until Adimar was showing Rhuarc to one of their watch towers that Adimar was called upon. A Second suspect had been caught trying to scale the walls of the city to make an escape. Adimar jumped at the chance.
“What wall was the trying to leave from?” he demanded the soldier.
“The southern wall, Lord Captain.” Adimar’s gaze narrowed.
“Fetch me my Hawk.”
“Aye Lord Captain!” He scurried off and Adimar watched the sky waiting for his Hawk to be released from its pen and out into the sky.
“Let’s find out where our man was running to…” Adimar murmured. The second the hawk cawed into the night sky, Adimar exhaled slowly and his eyes clouded over to a silver white. The hawk dove off towards the south and Adimar stood stone still.
“We call this his Eagle Eye…” Rupert told Rhuarc as they waited for Adimar to finish his searching. “He can possess the eyes of any bird and see through them. Generally he uses his own Hawk,” Rupert whispered, his eyes focused on Adimar.
“There is a third. Waiting for his brethren. Take a handful of men south towards the River wood. He is waiting with horses.”
“Aye,” Rupert turned abruptly and started off shouting a series of names, for men to follow him. Adimar blinked and his steely blue grey eyes turned clear once more and he looked back at Rhuarc.
“I say it’s never too early for an interrogation, shall we?” He asked as if he’d done nothing short of amazing and led the way to the holding cells.
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