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Ayab was drifting in and out of consciousness throughout the frantic flee from the Fade into the city of Kil'heed, the wound from the whip was like nothing the Jai warrior had ever felt before. A wound from a mere whip shouldn't have caused this much damage but clearly it had, just looking at the wound made him want to vomit, only he didn't ave the strength to do even that. The cut itself was thin and blood oozed from the gash but more than that, it was the surrounding flesh that showed how much danger Ayab was in. The flesh was turning black and necrotic as the flesh around the wound died, a spiderweb of black, rotting veins and shadow spread from the cut; it was not unlike the same rotting spiderweb of shadows surrounding the toothy maw of the Fade's vile, misshapen mouth. He heard in the distance a large explosion and shouts of pain as the ground erupted from underneath them, thankfully the wagon that was carrying the normally strong Jai was surrounded by Adimar's men who leapt into action to defend their incapacitated comrade. The pain of burning ice and freezing fire pulsed from the unnatural wound, sucking his strength, drawing his life steadily and Ayab was unded no illusion that if the wound was not seen to quickly then the Jai would die in the mountains of Volshi.
The familiar noises of the battlefield surrounded Ayab lying uselessly in his wagon and they were so small comfort to the man who yearned to help defend these people and the friends he had made. Out there were carrick and Saraya, Balden and Lara, Adimar and all of his men, Aria, the High Priestess on which all of this rested and of course his dearest friend in the world, Rhuarc. Ayab would die for Rhuarc as he knew Rhuarc would for him, their friendship had been forged years ago in the harsh Wastelands fighting against Shade-stealer's forces. Thinking on his memories distracted him from the pain that threatened to overwhelm and destroy him if he let it. A sudden thunk in the side of the wagon followed by a splintering of wood showed an axe imbedded not that far away from where his head rested. Ayab's normally dexterous fingers seemed to belong to someone else as they floundered about trying to find the axes at his belt but he simply couldn't make himself pick them up or defend himself in anyway...thankfully the men surrounding him sprung into action and a guard that Ayab didn't recognise, although that might be because the pain in his leg was causing his vision to blur, in any case the man with the blurred face decapitated the Scourge with a swing of his blade. A grateful pant escaped Ayab's lips as he struggled to be of use. Fumbling for his bow was much more of an effort than he would like to admit and he did eventually manage to loose an arrow although it veered wildly to the left before a spasm of pain forced him to drop his bow into the dirt on the battlefield. Occasionally a jolt of pain from the wagon hitting a particular bump in the road as the driver speed towards the closing gates of the city. In the second before the gates closed Ayab managed to toss whatever weapons he still had on his person to the side before he crossed into sacred ground. The battle was a blur and he didn't really know what was going on but as soon as he passed into Kil'heed the pain in Ayab's leg diminished somewhat but didn't leave him completely.
As soon as the gates closed Ayab was shifted from the wagon to a blanket on the city floor with many of the other wounded, the dark, stain of rot had spread since the initial gash, which looked even more angry and more worryingly the blood oozing from the wound was also now black. What in the name of Azera was that whip doing to him? The feeling of molten ice and fire as cold as anything a man could ever imagine raged inside the wound on his leg, the pulsing had stopped but it was painfully clear to all that he was dying, and quickly. Carrick stopped by and gave him a drink of cool water from his canteen, he knew it was the blacksmith from his voice as his vision was still a bit blurry, but it was a welcome gesture nonetheless. Ayab could hear healers at work tending to the wounded and the dying and one even came to him, again giving him cool water to drink, which he accepted gladly before inhaling sharply in shock as they saw the wound he had sustained at the hands of the Fade. In a tongue that he did not understand someone called over frantically and several healers came over immediately, muttering in the foreign tongue presumably deliberating on how best to clean the terrible wound. Ayab felt something being applied to his leg, a poultice of sorts but the exclamations of alarm from at least three healers as Ayab knew the herbs that were applied turned black and shrivelled as soon as they touched the his wound. "This is beyond my skill, let me fetch a Watcher. They may be able to do more to this."
The minutes that passed seemed excruciatingly long but sure enough the footsteps returned along with another, Ayab could tell even with his vision fading steadily that this was not a normal person. They seemed to have a bright Aura about them, dazzling white and with a resoluteness about them that could not be adequitely explained. The Watcher, as the other healer had called them placed a hand directly on the wound causing Ayab to let out an involuntary shriek of pain but the Watcher kept their hand where it was. "This is a wound of great evil. I will contain it for now but even I can not completely eradicate such mark. This will require divine healing and even then it is uncertain whether it can be removed." A flood of warmth entered the wound and it seemed to battle with the piercing pain and it was almost as if a barrier went up around the spreading shadow of the wound inflicted by the Fade's hellish weapon. Ayab could still feel it, the fire and ice raging inside the wound but they seemed detached for now, whatever the Watcher had achieved, it was holding for now although Ayab doubted whether it would hold for any great length of time, he could feel it in his bones, this wound was going to kill him...or do something altogether much worse.
The battlefield and Rhuarc’s image was fading rapidly. Aria kept her eyes on Rhuarc for as long as she could. Her eyes burned with tears as the hoard consumed where he’d been left behind. She glared angrily and punched her hand into her captor’s armored chest. It hurt her more than it did him.
“How could you leave him behind?! Where are you taking me?!” Not even a moment later, they landed on the roof of the Watch Tower.
“I had to leave him behind, he is a warrior, you are not,” The Watcher with his piercing inhuman eyes looked at her. “You are too important. So I am taking you, there,” He pointed behind the high gates of Kil’heed to the palace built into the side of the mountain, as well as the rest of the fortress. “Somewhere I can keep you safe,” Aria gasped as he suddenly picked her back up and jumped towards a massive open platform off the highest room of the fortress. She screamed from the speed, the shock, and fear of uncertainty.
When he landed once more outside an obviously opulent room, she shrieked. “Put me down!” Aria shouted, desperate to get away from the strange man.
“As you wish,” The Watcher murmured, and set her down. Wind rustled where she stood. It was open and large, as if meant for something to land and take off. They were in large suite, covered in dust and the ancient furniture was covered with dust cloths. Aria backed away from the Watcher slowly, her eyes riveted on him. He stood tall and strong, with a handsome face, cerulean eyes and golden hair. His hand rested on the pommel of his sword at his hip, and his eyes remained as transfixed on her as hers did on him. He was inhumanly handsome, and Aria was having a hard time getting past that. It was like looking back on an old dream.
“My Friends-“ she tried, but he interrupted her.
“They will be fine,” he told her, his tone as unreadable as his stoic face.
“Who are you?” Aria asked backing away from him and further into the shadows of the room. He looked thoughtful for a moment, even though his eyes continued to penetrate her very soul.
“Stay in the light.” He said stopping her from taking another step back. She looked behind her to see the shadows. “The Fade can find you if you are in darkness…”
“How…” she began, but he cut her off.
“I am a Watcher of Azeroth.”
“Do you know who I am?” Aria attempted at sounding arrogant… and failing splendidly at it. For a brief fleeting moment the Watcher smirked at her.
“I do,” He answered, moving his body into a more relaxed stance, but still remaining at attention.
So he was a Watcher, but that didn’t tell her if [i he] was trustworthy. Aria feeling shaken and riddled with anxiety, began to pace the room -desperate to get out and find the others. His eyes never left her, following her every move and step. It was disconcerting, and was causing her heart to hammer in her chest with uncertainty.
“I have to get out of here, I have to find my friends!” Aria tried turning and making a run to the door. The Watcher caught her before she had a chance to duck him. A strong, muscled arm, looped around her tiny waist and turned her back around to remain in the room. She stumbled forward, barely managing to catch herself against a covered table, her dislocated shoulder throbbing in pain. How frustrating! She turned around and tried again, and again to escape the room and the Watcher keeping guard. Every time he caught her and maneuvered her back into the room. Aria eventually grew winded, struggling with The watcher. She knew he meant her no harm, the way he handled her, even trying to keep her contained, was done with gentle care. If she wasn’t mistaken -he was finding amusement in her.
Aria charged at him, one more time -determined to break past him, but like all the other times before he stopped her. The only thing different, was this time when he picked her up, instead of spinning her right back around, he kept her pinned to his chest and side. Aria’s feet dangled above the floor and she wiggled as best she could.
“Let me go! Let me go!” she demanded, pushing at him with her good arm. He only continued to hold on, and then he spoke.
“Struggle all you like Priestess, you will not leave this room until the others have proven themselves worthy,”
“Worthy? I trust them explicitly! Which is more than I can say for you!” Aria snapped. Unfortunately, Aria frustrated, was only comical and not intimidating in the slightest. Her comment caused her captor to smile, and it caught Aria off guard. She was held aloft in his arms, and nearly nose to nose with him. She felt that hammering in her chest again. That couldn’t be good. “I want to see my friends… RHUARC!” She shouted in the off chance he might hear her. She knew he wouldn’t -but she tried anyway. The Watcher suddenly dropped her and his expression turned solemn. Aria caught herself on the floor and scooted back from the Watcher. He did not advance or move, but remained at his post.
“My name is Luther,” he told her with a gentle voice. Aria sucked in a startled breath at the sudden admission and looked back up to see him standing there in all his glory, and holding a hand out for her. She reluctantly took it and accepted his help in letting her stand up. At least now she knew what to call him.
“Aria, High Priestess of Azeroth. Yes, I know who you are. I-We’ve been keeping an eye on you for some time,” He bowed his head, for the first time looking away from her. Aria was almost thankful, except he still held her hand aloft between them. They both looked at their hands and then to one another. Aria couldn’t understand why a simple touch was affecting her so.
“Can you tell me if my friends made it safely into Kil’heed?” Aria finally dared to ask. Luther seemed startled by her question and quickly dropped her hand.
“Ah,Yes.” He glanced behind him to the open Platform as if looking for something. “The Gates are just now closing. I promise soon you will be reunited with your group. My Commander is very… territorial and protective of all things she deems worthy of protection.”
“She?” Aria asked impressed “Your commander is a woman?”
“A Shield Maiden if you want to be specific… but yes, a Woman.”
“I was afraid you would not accept us into Kil’heed,” Aria told him.
“Why would we not? You are the Priestess. If anyone has a claim to walk the Sacred Ground of Kil’heed it is the High Priestess of Azeroth. Besides… prophecy has foretold us that in the mist of darkness a Priestess will return to all the Ancient Keeps and restore them, Kil’heed is one of those ancient keeps. Come, look upon it,” he said leading her towards the balcony, and exposing the door. Aria stayed rooted, her eyes traveling towards the door. To Freedom. Luther watched her closely, amused and daring her to make a run for it. “Please don’t make me chase you, priestess. I fear if I catch you, I will not wish to release you,” Aria hated that his simple comment made her blush so furiously. Now there was no denying the immediate tension that had been brewing between them since she laid eyes on him on the battlefield. Her mind was preoccupied though. Her friends were still out there… and she needed to know that Rhuarc was alright.
It was because of him, that the other Watchers were forced to intervene in the battle. He had been arguing with Ursula to let him leave and rescue the Guardians and the priestess when he spotted them in the Golden Sea. Then the attack happened, and Ursula gave him a gift.
[i “Go. I can not fight you on this. Secure the Priestess, Luther. We will defend the rest of her people and the guardians. I will grant them one year of refuge in Kil’heed.”]
Luther hadn’t waited after that, he flashed from the tower right into the thick of the battle and whisked Aria away to a Master Suite inside the fortress. She was everything he dreamed she would be, and more. “I can’t let you leave,” he reminded her gently. Her face flushed with indignation. “Come and look, your friends are below.” For a long moment she was quiet as she stared up at him, her eyes swimming with uncertainty, but she slowly nodded her head. Luther felt a wave of relief to see that, he extended his hand to her, and she accepted it. He led her closer to the edge of the platform, and together they looked down. It was then the wind blew their way, and all he could smell at the moment was her. Lavender and sage… Aria looked down to the city beneath her and frowned. The people down below milled about, there were cries of pain, indiscernible shouts, and it seemed almost chaotic. At least they were safe in Kil’heed.
“My group is smaller than before…” Aria noticed sadly.
“People die…” Luther reminded her. “Not all could make it. I’m sorry, we did not foresee Malik’s use of the Necromancer so early on… he must have been terribly desperate to have you…” Aria frowned, her brows furrowed at that comment, but looked over the ledge, her anxiousness giving away to one of masked confidence.
“He has been hunting me since I was a small child.”
“We know. If it makes you feel better, his goal is not to kill you-“
“No, of course not. He just wishes for a wife… one to make his claim legal and binding. The Four Kingdoms are not a Monarchy -and I am not a Queen.”
“But the people will follow you, right into a rebellion, and he knows that… just as they followed you on a dangerous path,” Luther advised showing her again the people that followed her, because they believed in her. They didn’t have to evacuate, the didn’t have to follow her, and yet they had.
When Luther looked back over to the Priestess, he saw her staring at him, with intense eyes.
“Why do I feel I’ve met you before?” Aria suddenly asked him. Luther frowned, almost ashamed.
“In a way you have…” Luther began.
“What does that mean?”Aria dared to ask.
“On a Rare occasion a priestess can be reincarnated. Like you… You’re a reincarnation…” Aria’s browed furrowed at him.
“How could you know something like that?”
Luther shrugged, “I know things,” he said. “I’ve been around for a very long time… Your past self used to come here… before the Central City was established as the hub and Holy Center of the Four Provinces.” He saw a frown cross Aria’s face, mostly out of confusion.
“A Priestess before Central City?” she questioned.
“Yes… the first Priestess… Azera.” Aria laughed then, disbelieving his story. “What? You think I lie because it’s not in the holy books you spent years studying over in that cabin with a lonely elder?” Aria’s laughter stopped on a hiccup and she stared him own in wide eyed shock.
“You have been watching me. You specifically,” Luther looked contrite, but he didn’t deny it. It made Aria’s face twist with anger.
“Ever think the Elders could have been wrong?”
“Impossible!” Aria challenged.
“Is it?” He asked back with an amused expression and arched brow. “I was there, Azeroth was the name Azera used to deflect her enemies. The truth is, the The Dragon Guardian was in fact a woman… and I seem familiar because I was one of her guards, and I loved her with every facet of my soul.” Aria stood shell shocked.
“Azera was the First Priestess?”
“And the Head Guardian of this land… Yes.”
“I… I don’t understand…” Aria whispered. She finally looked out and saw the fires in the Golden Sea… but her people were safe inside the fortress. Everything she was told was a lie?
“somewhere along the passage of time, people began to call the land Azera, and the Guardian Azeroth… when it should be the other way around… Azera was… magnificent.” Luther said, his eyes glassing over as he relived a moment of time.
“Just how old are you?” Aria asked. Luther smiled at nothing in particular and stared down at the small bodies moving about in the courtyard.
“I am as old as this land… I am-“
“An Ancient…” Luther turned his head to pin Aria with a look, her own beautiful eyes wide with wonder. “The Watchers are Ancients…”
“Malik is an Ancient… back when the lines between light and dark were not blurred Grey as they are today… Malik was one of us… Malik was my best friend… but darkness corrupted him and the man he once was is no more… now he is the embodiment of that darkness and everything that made it dangerous…” Aria reached out and grabbed his shoulder then, her eyes pleading.
“Why did Malik succumb to the Darkness? Why is he back now?”
“Because you are back, and because he loved you as much as I…” Aria was quiet for a long moment as she processed the news. She was cautious though, not giving it much validity, but hearing it out all the same.
“Malik was capable of love?”
“At one time he was. He was Azera’s Captain of the Guard.” Luther shook his head. “Azera chose neither of us. I accepted it with grace and humility… Malik… obsessed over his jealousy with who Azera chose in the end. He ended up threatening to do as he has now, and she managed to seal him away, at the cost of her own life…” Aria stared at Luther with uncertainty, fear, and understanding.
“All that you’ve said is quite… controversial. To hear that not only was Malik was once capable of love, but that Azera had a lover,”
“Lovers,” Luther corrected. “Azera had many lovers.” Aria gave him a look, but continued with her point.
“That there was a fifth guardian….” she shook her head. “I’m beginning to wonder how much of what I know is truth, and what is falsehood,”
“Sometimes the truth is relative… it depends on who delivers it, who wrote history… here you will receive nothing but the absolute truth. On that you have my word…” He watched Aria pace the edge of the platform giving him a wary look of distrust, and inside his chest his heart thumped when a small rock crumbled from the stone and fell down. Aria didn’t even flinch, seemingly unafraid of the height.
"Volshi was Azera's lover I'm assuming?"
"No actually, the ancient Volshi built this hold for Voshi, but Azera made frequent use of it before Central City was established. It's the closest hold to the City."
"Of course," Aria said, trying to sound like she'd known that. "So who was it?" she dared to ask. Luther sighed heavily and pinned her with a saddened look.
"The very same Guardian you are falling in love with now..."
“I love all of them,” she admitted as if that should have been obvious. “To which do you refer?” Luther gave her a challenging look, and Aria stared right back.
“One of the Guardians is your kin, the other two are women… that leaves Jai’ash.”
“What makes you think I don’t secretly pine for one of the women?” Aria asked coyly. Luther blinked, caught off guard but realizing she was playing with him now. Aria sighed and turned to face him, standing on the lede of the platform and looking like one stiff wind would send her sailing over the edge. “I do not know you. Why would I divulge my deepest secrets to you?”
They were interrupted by the door to the room opening and in entered a woman and a man. Aria turned to face the other two, clearly Watchers, but the woman’s armor was intricate and lovely.
“Lord Commander,” Luther saluted the woman, and she approached Aria. Aria stared back, and the woman walked around her. “Priestess, this is the Commander of the Watch, Ursula Tijis. This is Sub commander Variys.”
“Priestess,” Varyis bowed to her. Aria glanced to him, and wanted to keep her eyes on the woman who suddenly stopped behind her. Ursula was a good foot taller than Aria, making her nearly the same height as Adimar. she was tall and gorgeous and Aria wondered what she was. She did not look like an Ancient and she didn’t look human either…
“They claim you are the Priestess of Prophecy,” Ursula said and reached out and brushed Aria’s hair off her back and over her shoulders. Aria tried to squirm away, but Ursula gripped her shoulders suddenly halting her.
“No-stop!” Aria tried, but the Shield maiden didn’t listen. She held Aria with one arm and made quick work of the laces on Aria’s dress, she pulled them without an ounce of care and finally exposed Aria’s back. From behind her, she heard the shield maiden take a deep breath.
“So it truly is them…” She murmured.
“Did they made it past the septum?” Luther asked. Ursula nodded her head and released Aria, who quickly put as much space as possible between her and the three Watchers. She held the fabric of her dress up at her shoulders and stopped when her back pressed into a stone pillar that lined the interior wall of the suspended platform.
“I would not be here if they did not. All but one made it through,” Ursula told him. Aria could only tremble where she stood and stared them down.
“What have you done to my friends?” She dared to ask. Ursula turned to face her and used the same vacant expression with Aria as she had used with the other guardians down in the septum.
“I have done nothing, they are on their way to you now. If they pass the set of trials Kil’heed has in place, they will walk right through that door and you will be reunited once more. If they fail… then they will perish.” Aria gasped at the admission and her heart hammered dangerously in her chest. “First things first… you have your own trials to pass…”
“Me?” Aria asked trying to dodge the woman, but she grabbed Aria by the arm and brought her to the edge of the platform. Aria gasped, when the maiden picked her up and held her over the edge. Aria looked down to see nothing under her feet, and the only reason she wasn’t falling through the air was because the Shield Maiden held her with the effort it took a child to hold a baby doll. Aria’s heart raced, if she was dropped she would certainly die after a long fall like this.
“Do you know what this platform is for? Come now, you’re smart… I’m sure you’ve figured it out by now.”
“A-Azera could transform into the Dragon Azeroth!”
“Azera [i was] the Dragon… she alone possessed the special ability to transform.” Aria stilled in the Shield Maiden’s grasp and listened closely. Could this really be true? “She is the only guardian to have that power. Do you think you might have it?” Ursula challenged. For a moment Ursula teased like she might let go and Aria screamed in absolute terror, reaching up to hold onto Ursula’s arms. No, Aria did not think she had that sort of power. “Oh? don’t want me to drop you to see if you can fly?”
“No! Please, no!” Aria cried glancing back down below her and again up to Ursula.
“You really have no idea what you are capable of do you?” Ursula asked. Aria sniffled, her face marred by frightened tears, and stared back at Ursula. “We will have to fix that, if you ever want to defeat Malik,” Ursula told her. Aria suddenly felt her feet back on the platform and she wobbled, collapsing to her knees, and counting her lucky stars she was not dropped from the platform.
No you can't," Ursula said cutting the breathless Aria off. "Not yet at least. Take her to the Pointe…” Ursula said, sounding bored. “She has her own tests to preform…” Aria was rendered immobile when both Luther and Varyis came on either side of her and lifted her up to take her to The Pointe....
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Through it all, he held her hand, stayed close to her, making sure she felt his strength, and through it all, Saraya only listened... The Spirit within began to speak to her. and the Spirit was very entertained by this Elf. In his words... [I [b She had not changed a bit since Azera...]]
Azera? She recognized the name... The first priestess, one who established the Central City before her disappearance... Saraya stared silently to Ursula, as time slowly began to slow down. Saraya knew some history of Azera... The Spirit told him this when she first became a guardian... But, her curiosity peaked once more. [I "Was Malik a Watcher before he was corrupt?]
The Spirit hesitated, but it spoke:
[I [b Yes, my love... He was a Watcher... The greatest Watcher that ever protected Kil'heed. That is until Hígasçä had corrupted his mind and took over.]]
[I "Hígasçä? The Dark Horseman?"] She looked up to Ursula as time froze, then stared somewhat into the distance. [I "Tell me what this Hígasçä had done... "]
[I [b The Dark Horseman was once a beam of light... He cared for the world, his sole duty was to guide souls onto the Gïtál where they were placed in the hands of our heavens... But, the horseman grew greedy... He wanted control of the souls that were corrupt... He wanted to purify those that were not accepted into the heavens... The Great Council denied him... So, he took it upon himself to purify some of his own... And with the Council banishing him from the heavens' grace, he sought to make a kingdom of his own on earth... But he could not do it without a great power to channel his Dark Gift... He found Malik as a guard of Kil'heed, and corrupted him by giving him a power beyond reckoning... The power to manipulate and create an army using souls]]
[I "And did he use this power to claim Felliope's soul? "]
The spirit had not spoken for a moment. Saraya felt that the spirit was not comfortable speaking of this. [I "Spirit, tell me... "]
He still would not speak of it. Frustrated and powerless to make him speak, Saraya sighed. [I "If you do not wish to tell me, then tell me of Azera. You fought aide by side with her, so you must know... "]
[b Azera was my Priestess... The most valued, as Aria is... Perhaps, you and Aria have more in common than realized "]
[b "My love, you are smart. The truth will reveal itself in time...] With that, time had sped up until where Carrick's voice sounded.
Saraya saw everyone defend her, and that alone warmed her heart.. And suddenly... Ursula had changed her demeanor. The gates behind her opened, and Adjmar, though still weak had walked through first after her warning. [b "Guardian of Caledon... "]
Saraya looked to her and Ursula nodded. [b "Inside, you will see the truth... Whatever happens... Do not let it change who you are... You are magnificent... It will show you... "]
Saraya had not completely understood what she meant by that. But, through it, she managed to nod to her and she herself had walked into the gates.
Saraya instantly saw these five doors. Adimar and Rhuarc tried doors that wouldn't open. Saraya became nervous. This was a whole new venture... But, she was really good at solving different situations resourcefully, and it could prove useful.
[I "We must keep going, Guardians. Aria is counting on us... "] she sighed before saying. [I "I will meet you guys on the other side. We will find her... "]
Adimar said something, and it eased her worries before all but darkness took them as they entered the door. Careful, Carrick had led, then she followed, along with Lara. The room was lit dimly, but markings on the ground and on the walls matched. Carrick went first, but fumbled and a shaky feeling came about the room. The walls were slowly but surly coming at them. Lara began to panic. Saraya, on the other hand, managed to look ahead to the markings. They were the markings of the Guardians...
Looking on, she looked to the floor, then to the wall. Serpent first, fish next, then Dove, then a sword. She then looked to the ground. The markings were bot matching on the ground, in fact, it was like a puzzle... They had to jump onto each one in order... Saraya looked up to Carrick before yelling [I "I've found the pattern! Follow me! "]
She searched for the Serpent and jumped on, going on to the fish, then the dove. Once she gotten onto the sword, Carrick jumped onto the Dove while Lara made it to the fish. One by one, Saraya led the two by jumping in order, and the walls were steadily closing in. She jumped onto the surface on the other side, and pushed the door open. [I "Hurry! "]
Carrick had made it, but Lara fumbled and stepped on a Fish instead of a Serpent, and the walls accelerated. Carrick gasped and tried to reach her, but the walls were too close for him to grab her. Saraya thought of nothing, but ran towards her, yanking her out before the walls collided together. She gasped and exhaled as Lara and Carrick panicking breaths slowly stopped. [I "Are you alright? "] she asked them. Carrick nodded, and Lara did after. Carrick stood and looked to the open way. [I "It is dark Saraya..."] He said before looking over to the girls. [I "Our test isn't finished"]
Adimar lingered at the door and watched as Carrick held the door open for Saraya and Lara.
“Hey,” He called, garnering Carrick’s attention. “You all take care of yourselves, and we will meet you on the other side -Gods Willing.” Carrick gave a firm nod of his head and Adimar turned to follow Rhuarc. Behind him the wall sealed shut. “No going back that way,” he murmured. Well this was turning into a fun little adventure..
Adimar met up with Rhuarc inside a large and spacious cavern. The cave floor was separated by a couple hundred feet with a near void of blackness underneath. A Fall that would surely mean their doom if they slipped off the narrow and crumbling bridge that cut over the gourge. It was quiet… too quiet.
"Prince Adimar?" Rhuarc suddenly asked from beside him. Adimar sighed and his shoulders dropped, even if Rhuarc asked purely out of curious jest and not malicious intent.
“Please don’t call me that,” Adimar asked of him, their voices echoing off the walls.
"What do you make of this place?”
“It’s too quiet…” Adimar observed looking around, and lowering his voice.
“Obviously there is more to it than meets the eye, the bridge is the key. Be ready." Adimar nodded as he looked to the bridge with Rhuarc and they both made their way to it. Adimar was looking across the bridge towards the opposite wall and saw the outlines of a door. Rhuarc started across it first, eager to get to the door and through, while Adimar stood at the edge and looked down.
“I wonder how deep this thing goes…” he murmured, and kicked a small rock down into the depths. It clinked and clacked on it’s tumble down, the sound not really stopping just fading away. Adimar’s brows raised, noting that it might not end well if one of them fell. He saw Rhuarc already halfway across before he started making his way across. He honestly wasn’t sure how much the old bridge could take as far as weight was concerned, so it was probably best for them to be spaced out.
Adimar had taken his first steps onto the bridge when the cave started to tremble and the bridge shook. Adimar cringed, this wouldn’t be good. It went from bad to worse when from the dark depths, a massive creature raised its head and body to look at them. Adimar stared in stunned shock, even Rhuarc had stopped to look. It reminded Adimar of an armored sloth… with fangs, and six big yellow eyes. It was huge.
“Hey Rhuarc… you see this right?” Adimar asked, because it was just too fantastic to be real. Rhuarc did see it though, and he shouted to hurry for the door and Adimar hopped-to-it right behind him. “You don’t have to tell me twice,” he’d murmured and hurried after him. “Rhuarc, look out!” Adimar shouted as the creature swung at the man. Rhuarc avoided it, and Adimar used the air to push against Rhuarc and help him balance himself. That was too close. However, his shout had garnered the attention of the beast, and now it was Adimar’s turn to jump and sprint across the bridge. The creature was massive and powerful, but slow. Adimar had dodged the second swing, but nearly not the third. He used his flight assist to shoot him up in the air before the creature took out an entire section of the bridge.
Adimar landed, skidding to his feet on the other side, his brow furrowed as he prepared to be a decoy if Rhuarc needed more time to open the door. The creature was turning around to come at them again. Adimar shouted back to Rhuarc, his hands raise and ready to blast agains the creature if he could, but his Mana was already terribly low. “Have you opened it yet?” Adimar asked, but he caught the Jai’s frustrated look and then saw that the door was just a drawing on the stone wall. Adimar cursed and looked back out at the creature wondering exactly as Rhuarc. They had no weapons, Adimar was already exhausted, and he wasn’t sure how to get through this. Locking eyes with Rhuarc, Adimar gave a nod. A silent agreement that he would follow Rhuarc’s lead and do what was necessary to pass.
Suddenly Rhuarc was charging to the other side a determined look in his eyes and Adimar watched as Rhuarc went to jump the break int he bridge. He’d never make it… not alone at least, and so Adimar sent the wind at his back and helped him make the distance, landing safely on the other side. Adimar jumped to follow right after him, and saw as the beast watched them with an almost curious expression. It was a animalistic look that reminded Adimar of a cat. Rhuarc made a shout to follow his lead, and Adimar watched the man make fire in his hands and begin to weave it. Adimar kept his eyes on the creature, his hands raised and ready, sweat breaking down his forehead and temples. The creatures eyes became alighted on the ball of flame.
“Whatever you are doing my friend, best to make it quick… the creature looks mighty interested and ready to pounce!” As if knowing his words the creature snapped at them, but Adimar shot a gust of air at it, startling it back, while Rhuarc was busy at work creating a dancing weave of fire. It caught the creature’s attention and Adimar sent a current of air around the room. The beast made a strange sound, but turned its back on them in an attempt to catch the dancing fire.
Across the broken bridge, the runes on the door glowed to life, forming in the stone. “Hurry, back across the bridge,” Adimar whispered this time not wanting the creatures attention any longer. Rhuarc and Adimar made quick work getting across the bridge once more, and by the time the reached the door the fire was burning out and his wind dying away. They hurried through the door and into the next room. Adimar slumped over, hands on his knees breathing hard.
“I need to catch my breath, I’ve never used so much magic in one day before,” he admitted. He only took a minute to do as requested and straightened back up. “Good thinking with the distraction, brilliant really,” Adimar complimented. “I just hope the others are doing alright, Carrick will make sure they get through, and look, there’s another door etched in the stone,” Adimar said pointing to the marking and walked over to it. There was nothing in the room, no challenge, but from the marking Adimar was able to make out what it read. “Here you shall remain, until you are complete again…” Adimar sighed and took the moment to sit down with his back to the wall. “I guess we aren’t moving forward until the others meet up with us.” Adimar remained seated and watched Rhuarc closely, the man had nerves of steel, that was for certain -but there it was obvious at the same time how wound up the man was on the inside. “We will find her,” Adimar suddenly said eyes still on the man. “She’s counting on us to get through this…” Adimar looked away then, a frown on his face an a dangerous look in his eyes. “And I don’t know if we can actually trust these Watchers…”
When the others finally came through, a door appeared in the wall then vanished once they were through. Finally the other door came to life, and they could all move forward.
Carrick was the last to enter the passage behind Saraya and Lara, he raised the torch as high as the low ceiling would let him, and lighted their way. The narrow passage led down into a large room. The floor was tiled with several different designs and markings. On the far wall was the door, but it also wasn’t. Torches lit it on either side, and Carrick could make out runic drawings. It would open once they figured out how to open it. The chamber was lengthy and spacious with four handing ornaments on the walls. Each one bore a different symbol. One was a set of lines in the shape of a feather, the next was in the shape of a tear drop, the third looked reminiscent of a lotus bloom or burning flames, and the last was an outline of a stag’s face and its antlers. Carrick stepped forward to stand between Lara and Saraya and looked to the door.
“I have a bad feeling about this,” Carrick murmured. “I’ll go first,”
Carrick stepped on one of the tiles and then the next, but the third moved on him, and he looked down to see a symbol on the tile that looked different from the ones on the wall. He removed his foot, back to the tile he was already on, but it was more than that and too late -the walls began to quake as they slowly began to shift towards the center. Carrick blanched, they would be crushed! They had to get across, but it was obvious the floor was booby trapped.
“The floor rigged with pressure plates, the walls will crush us if we don’t move past!” Carrick shouted. A part of him wanted to dodge across and reach the door, but he was fearful of what the other tiles might do. Would they speed up the walls progression? Will flames or arrows be shot at them? Carrick didn’t know, and he didn’t want to know. He looked behind him to Saraya and Lara, and frowned. He had to shout for them to hear him over the rumbling and scraping of the moving walls. “We have to figure out how to cross this floor!”
The atmosphere deep inside the fortress was tense to say the least, Rhuarc may no trust the Shield Maiden but he at least kept his distaste to himself for the most past, unlike Saraya. The CAledon Guardian had a fiery spirit to her and that was something that Rhuarc could respect but there was a time and a place for such words and actions. This women held the Priestess and like it or not without her blessing they would not see her again. Carrick voiced agreement with Saraya, unsurprisingly, but Carrick was an honourable,dependable man and his opinion carried weight with the Jai, even Adimar signalled his agreement by stepping forward, joining his fellow Guardian and the blacksmith that watched over them all. [i “We are in the presence of royalty...Prince Adimar”] That was certainly new information, Rhuarc knew that Adimar was highborn, any fool could see that from the way he carried himself but royalty? It certainly was an interesting development...as was his decision to keep it from his fellow guardians. Ursula's challenge extended to everyone else in the cavern and one by one they all stood by Saraya in solidarity.
Time seemed to drag on as Ursula stood there surveying them all and the Guardians as one matching her gaze before Ursula smiled and informed them that Volshi had allowed them to proceed. This was a test, their first test, Rhuarc was starting to understand Kil'heed a little better evry moment. Everything in this city was a test, a challenge to be overcome, that was why Aria had been separated from them...was she too facing similar challenges? Adimar confirmed his thoughts as he translated that ancient text, and Ursula gave her warnings. It was a curious place indeed. [b "I will do what I must. We all will. This Labyrinth will not, can not, defeat us. We will reach the Priestess. This I vow."] One by one the guardians entered the labyrinth with Adimar entering followed by Saraya, Carrick and Lara until it was Rhuarc's turn to enter, he clutched the handle of his belt knife in his fist as he took a deep breath and entered the labyrinth. The labyrinth was dark and full of cobwebs and the skeletons of small animals, not a good sight but if Rhuarc strained his ears he heard slithering, how he hoped there were snakes here. That small hope of contact and allies here was a small comfort, they reminded him of home if nothing else.
[i “Balden is not a Guardian, perhaps that is why…"] Rhuarc couldn't help but think that Carrick wasn't a guardian either but maybe his bond with Saraya was enough to compensate for that fact. If he truly did hold some kind of Spark of Caledon then perhaps that allowed him to be present in this labyrinth. The Jai was glad for his company anyway. Adimar led the party and Rhuarc brought up the rear, the passage was cramped for Carrick and Adimar so it was nigh unbearable for the much larger Jai, he was hunched uncomfortably and his shoulders often scraped the stone walls leaving shallow cuts and scrapes in his skin. Eventually they came to a larger area and for that alone Rhuarc was grateful, five doors stood before them each a different colour, Rhuarc checked the doors with Rhuarc and they both found that only two doors could be opened. The call was made to split up, Adimar and Rhuarc in one group, Carrick, Saraya and Lara in another. The Jai was initially unsure about the split, surely one of the two warriors should go with the other group but the more he thought it maybe that wasn't the right choice. Carrick was no stranger to battle and steel and there was no way in Azeroth that he would leave Saraya behind and Lara was far from defenceless. With a nod to the others and a few brief words of encouragement the Guardians split themselves and headed through their respective doors.
Stepping through the door with Adimar Rhuarc took in his new surroundings. They appeared to be in a large cavern and the first thought through the Jai's mind was that he was gla that he could finally stand up straight and had enough room instead of being hunched in the passages of the labyrinth. It wasn't easy to see in the darkness of the cave, there were a few clumps of moss or lichen that glowed softly growing sporadically on the walls. Rhuarc could just make out a long stone bridge that crossed a vast cavern that would surely lead to their deaths if they fell and across that there was another door. Tat must be the way out but the Jai was hesitant to move. There was no clear sign of danger but Ursula had warned them and only a fool would disregard that. His hand once again found the hilt of his belt knife, the familiarity was comforting as his eyes searched the cavern for sign of the test they were about to undertake. [b "Prince Adimar?"] Rhuarc said the words questioningly but there was no hint of malice or accusation in his voice, he was merely curious, after all the lands of Adbhu'Jai had no highborn nobles only tribe chieftains and anyone in the tribe could be elevated to that position if they proved themselves worthy. [b "What do you make of this place? Obviously there is more to it than meets the eye, the bridge is the key. Be ready."] Rhuarc tentatively took a few steps forward towards the stone bridge across the cavern and as soon as he did a great bestial squall sounded, the sound reverberating around the cavern and the echo ringing in the Jai's ears. A great hellish beast emerged from the darkness to face the two warriors. Clearly this was the challenge here.
The beast had a thick silvery hide along it's back that would ensure that any attack against it would be no use, even had Rhuarc had his black blade he wasn't sure that it would have made much difference. The beast's armour was the least of their worries, at the end of the quadruped's four legs were feet that ended in sharp claws, at least a foot in length and that looked wicked sharp, the pointed face held six glowing yellow eyes and fangs that also looked as if they could pierce through plate mail. To fight this monster would be certain death. Rhuarc's eyes darted once again to the door and his first instinct was to flee, if you can't win then don't fight at all...all they need to do was get through the door at the other end of that bridge. [b "To the door! Quickly!"] Rhuarc leaped to the side as one razor sharp claw came at him from the left as the beast turned and took a swipe at them. The Jai sprinted towards the stone bridge and caught himself as he misbalanced before he went tumbling into the chasm, it didn't take too long to cross the stone bridge. The monstrosity heaved two great big claws down on the bridge sending a spiderweb of cracks into the masonry , a large chunk of the bridge cracked open and fell into the dark depths below. The two Guardians had reached the door but it was nothing more than a few faint markings on a wall of solid stone. The Jai pounded on the rock two, three, four times to no avail, clearly this test was going to be more than just a simple case of getting to the other side of the stone bridge, the hellish beast needed dealing with. The only question was how the hell were they do defeat that thing without any weapons?
Rhuarc turned to Adimar and looked him in the eyes wondering if he had a solution to their current predicament, he saw no answers but a steely resolve to do what must be done in order to proceed through the labyrinth. Rhuarc exhaled before running back across the bridge, leaping over the break in the bridge Adimar trust his arms forward in Rhuarc's direction providing a gust of wind for the two of them to sail over the chasm and back towards the snarling hellish beast. All six of the glowing yellow eyes were fixed on the two men, an expression that Rhuarc couldn't quite make out in those eyes.[b "Follow my lead, I have an idea."] Rhuarc said a quick prayer to Jaihash and Ouk'nu under his breath before setting his hands alight the same way he usually did to his blade. He expected there to be some sensation with his flesh now aflame but he felt nothing out of the ordinary, the flames did not damage to him, the yellow eyes flicked from Rhuarc's and Adimar's faces to the flickering fire in the Jai's hands and for the briefest of seconds the beast seemed distracted before it snapped its jaws at the men trying to make a meal of of one of them. Rhuarc had an idea, he tried weaving the flames in his hands into something he'd never tried before, he brought the fire together and held the ball of flickering fire. This new weave of flame was serving it's purpose as the beast changed it's focus from the men to the fire, the beast was definitely intrigued by the ball of flames at least. Adimar then added his piece to the scheme by spinning a current of air around the cavern that the flames could dance around the cavern. It worked exactly as Rhuarc had anticipated as the hellish beast completely forgot about the two guardians and instead decided to focus on the swirling ball of flames dancing around the cavern completely enthralled by the distraction. The two men might as well not have been in the cave at all. Adimar nudged him and nodded towards the door. It was no longer a simple stone wall, instead runes flashed brightly for a few seconds before the door swung open allowing the Guardians to continue upon their journey. One obstacle had been conquered but Rhuarc was sure that many more remained.
Family, friendship, loyalty, and love…
This was a basic understanding among the group of Guardians and their young ward. Adimar stood on shaking legs to face the Shield Maiden. She faced off with Saraya in a verbal battle. Adimar did agree that Saraya seemed too quick to sacrifice herself, when the war was just beginning. However, he didn’t like this Shield Maiden’s tone. Prove themselves? Was she mad? Adimar glared to no one in particular as he silently fumed over her argument with Saraya. At Saraya’s proud shout about Family, he could have sworn he saw the Maiden smirk from where she stood. He knew Varyis was smirking. Did they approve? Adimar certainly did, and he felt great pride to have Saraya among them.
“Foolish love guides your strongest Guardian? I am not surprised to hear that from a woman.” Ursula mocked, even as a woman herself… though she certainly wasn’t human like them. From beside him Carrick growled a warning. Ursula looked upon them all with an unreadable if not amused expression. “I see a lot of sour faces, do any of you disagree?”
“Aye,” Carrick said, the first to stand forward and defend Saraya.
“Of course you do…” Ursula mused. Gritting his teeth and tiresome of her irk, Adimar stepped forward and crossed his arms. He said nothing but stared the Maiden down. “Oh… I almost forgot,” Ursula turned back to her men, looking smug, before she faced Adimar. “We are in the presence of royalty!” She jumped back and gave Adimar a quick bow. “[i Prince] Adimar…” Adimar’s face tensed. “Oh that’s right, you didn’t want your friends to know… what a trusting group you are…” She mocked. “Do you also disagree about the foolishness of love?” Ursula asked Lara and Rhuarc, both of which came forward as well as Balden and Ursula was forced to face the truth -they were a united group. “Oh joy, an angsty teen, an overzealous boy, and the dull brute of the group…”
“You know nothing of us!” Adimar proclaimed, and from behind him Saraya spoke.
[i “We all love Aria... And she loves us in return. It is not foolish, Watcher, because you've never experienced such a thing.”]
For a long moment the Watcher was quiet, studying them, and finally looked behind her and the dias. Adimar could feel an odd, yet familiar sensation tingling up his spine, and he knew it was Volshi. From the wall a door formed out of glimmering light. It creaked and groaned as it opened and made way for them to enter deeper into the fortress.
“The Ancient spirit of Volshi has granted you permission to pass,” Ursula said with a smile, and a much kinder disposition. Her expression softened towards them all. “You are right Guardian of Caledon… Love is not foolish, but it can be dangerous. You can not move forward from this room unless you are resolved as a group for a common goal. You all love The Priestess, that much is certain. You are all devoted in protecting her… and in the coming war, she will need it… you pass,” She stepped aside to let them by and to enter. Adimar was the first to step forward. As The guardian of Volshi, it only seemed right he enter the labyrinth first. He stopped just under the door and read the old markings. It was close to Volshiv text, but ancient enough Adimar struggled for a brief moment to read it. The perks of an expensive education.
“What does it say?” Carrick asked.
“Only those who be worthy may enter,” Adimar answered.
“A Word of caution to you all,” Ursula said from where she still stood, her face turning grave and her voice full of warning. Adimar stopped at the door frame and held the stone… his heart was still a flutter with the realization he was within the most holy place in all of Volshi, and he could feel the Guardian advising him to heed Ursula's warning. “Once you enter the labyrinth, you can not come back out… You will either find your way to the Priestess or you will die in there. Just because some of the things you see are culled from your mind -does not make it any less real. You will face your darkest fears, and your deepest desires. You will be tested singularly and as a group. The closer you get to her the harder it will be. This is olde and ancient magic that protects her… good luck Guardians…” Ursula said.
Adimar nodded his head and entered through the doorway, the darkness swallowing him whole, when he turned around all he saw was a wall of shadow, and ahead of him a narrow passage filled with animal skeletons, spiderwebs and hanging moss, mushrooms along the wall, and he was sure he heard the slithering of small creatures. The air was stale and musty. One by one the Guardians entered the narrow passaged behind him… all except Balden.
Outside the room Balden attempted to enter after the others. He had tried to walk in with Rhuarc… but Balden’s face and body slammed into a solid stone wall. He blinked and looked around him to see he hadn’t been granted permission to pass with the others. He felt crestfallen, hurt, and a darker part of him raged with petulance. How dare he be denied! Had he not traveled and tried to protect the priestess?! He turned and saw Ursula and her men had him circled.
“Why can’t I enter?” Balden dared to ask.
‘You are not worthy… “ Ursula stated coldly.
“I’m good!” Balden exclaimed angrily. “I have fought and traveled just like the others!”
“Yes, and you also ran like a coward the night your village was burned to the ground. You ran for the Priestess in hopes of self preservation,” Balden paled at her words. “We see all,” Ursula warned darkly. “ I would have been surprised if Volshi had let you pass, but seeing as he did not… you may not remain in the temple… and so back to the courtyard with you.” Balden didn’t have a chance to protest as he was suddenly lifted up on either side by two of the massive watchers and carried away.
Adimar waited for the last off the guardians to enter. Rhuarc was the last, and Carrick voiced his concern over Balden’s absence.
“Balden is not a Guardian, perhaps that is why… let’s move on…” Adimar advised and reached to the wall and removed a torch to light their way. The passage was narrow and cramped, and Adimar spent a good bit of time clearing away the cobwebs that barred their path. He could tell they were moving up at an incline, when suddenly the passage opened into a large chamber with a set of five doors branching off. Each door was marked differently, leading in a different direction, and all of them sported a different color. Adimar frowned and looked around the room at all the doors. The markings were so faded, Adimar could no longer make them out, so he had no idea what doors led where. There was no way they could turn around, and their only option was to move forward. The group spoke amongst themselves as to what they should do. Some thought it would be best to split up, others felt the best course was to stick together. As they debated Lara checked the doors to see which ones would open and which ones wouldn’t. Out of Five doors, only two opened for her. Even Rhuarc tried the other three and they wouldn’t budge.
“Looks like we only have two options…” Carrick observed from beside Saraya, his hand firmly in her own.
Adimar sighed in slight frustration. “How the hell are we going to find The Priestess in this mess?” He murmured. Saraya made a motivational statement not to give up and Adimar gave her a tired smile. “Always the optimist,” He noted, and turned to Rhuarc. They were both, aside from Carrick the most experienced warriors and strategists in the group. “It looks like we will have to split up,” Adimar said and turned to face the group. “Rhuarc and I will take the door to the left, Carrick, Saraya, and Lara will go to the right. We will travel forward, and meet back here in an hour… “
“If we can come back here,” Carrick reminded. Adimar frowned. “Hate for us to be separated and unable to meet back up.” Adimar frowned and looked to Rhuarc.
“It’s a risk we have to take.” Adimar ventured into the passage with Rhuarc while Carrick took Saraya and Lara with him the other way….
[b Carrick, Saraya, and Lara find themselves trapped in a locked room after traveling the passage. Waiting for them is a puzzle they must solve together to release the locks and be free… before the walls close in on them.]
[b Adimar and Rhuarc awake a hellish beast when they enter a large cave with a suspended bridge of stone crossing a massive chasm towards another door.]
[i -Both Parties will learn they are unable to turn back, they must move forward and hope they can be reunited before they are faced with their next challenge. -]
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Four times she tried to sleep... Four times had she failed on her attempt. Saraya stared at rocks for hours, trying to put herself together... So much of her mind had been strained from the venture that she could take. She had to calm herself enough before she would grant herself the power to stand and face the guardians... If only it were that simple.
Adimar would be the first to chastise her. Her choice in bringing Aria's kin along on their journey brought along casualties, and she couldn't accept him putting her down on her decision. Rhuarc would be no better. Especially when the J'ai had a slight problem with Aria, still holding a grudge because she went to her people alone when in fact Ayab had lost sight, would've directed his anger on her, and that, too, would not be suffice. Lara wouldn't be so angry. She preceded to think as a child... And Balden was no better. His sole purpose was to learn. He hadn't known the danger with being around guardians. But, Carrick... Her loving Carrick would be the worst to take from. He would be furious! He'd be the only one that would protect her from their words, but he would still have a few for her to hear because she chose to sacrifice herself. All of them would have something to say... She wasn't sure if she was able to handle such a dilemma.
She sighed to herself. She couldn't hole herself up, now. She at least got the survivors safe, and it was of good number. She felt a shiver run up and down her spine... There was something that was not right in her heart... But as she slid from her shadow, guards had approached. [I "Caledonian, we seek audience with you and the guardians"]
She felt a surge of urgency. [i "On what grounds? "]
[I "The Shield Maiden requires you be there"]
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Saraya followed the guards, revealing a secluded room deep within the earth surface. The doors opened, and she followed, seeing the Guardians standing on her right..Each with an eye and the balls to give her a piece of their mind. Saraya avoided eye contact with them. The only one she saw was Carrick, and even then, she didn't want to look at him, she felt so ashamed. [I "Ah, now we can begin"] had sounded into the room, Saraya directed her attention to her. The Maiden looked dead at her at this point, and Saraya, feeling no control now, became the blank warrior that stood atop the battlefield.
Immediate jealousy took the Maiden's face. She was fair, beautiful because of her heritage, but in comparison to this Guradian, she could see why the spirit took to her so easily, and her to him. She was beautiful, but beautiful for reason she could never reach for. Saraya was beautiful because of her tragedies and she refused nevertheless to face and conquer.
This Ursula had stared at Saraya a moment too long and Saraya cursed in her language. [b Scongä, tûllit mus çåran] [I "Damn it, I hate this staring... I would prefer you permit it to memory what I look like... It seems to be everyone's favorite treat"] having made Balden chuckle, and the others looked away as soon as her eyes could spot them. Carrick was brave enough to look, and Saraya saw his eyes... But, what he saw in them were not anger... It was relief and resolution. What he saw in her was remorse and sorrow, traits she had never shown after a battle this massive... Perhaps he saw that she was drained of all possible fight that was on that field. There was a reason she was sacrificing herself to save them. He was going to find out why.
Saraya was quiet as the people settled their weapons. A blank expression came across her face as Ursula spoke.
[b "To whom was given the idea to bring Tanaka to my gates? "]
The Guardians looked amongst each other. Saraya had her eyes only on the elven Watcher, building her courage and aired her presence. [I "It was I, Watcher"] her voice rang from the chasm of which they stood. She then stepped forward, unafraid. [I "I had led Tanaka to your gates. "] Ursula stared her down from her massive steed, but Saraya knew better. She kept eye contact, and made sure she was never shook, no matter how intimidating this elf could be.
[i "Do not blame my fellowship, they only sought to get here safely with Aria... I put the burden on their shoulders... "]
Everyone looked to her puzzling face. Why was she taking the wrath for everyone? Rhuarc said his piece and the Shield Maiden raised her hand to his notion, silencing the humble Jai with her eyes still on the beauty.
[b "I see"] she began, a smirk slowly creeping onto her lips. [b "And what is your excuse to make such a foolish errand, Caledonian? "]
Saraya watched as she swayed her horse left and right, further strengthening her fear, but also, her desire to make reason of her fate, and fully submitted to her duty. [I "I bear the gift of foresight. After transcending into my still forming power, it had revealed to me that a dark entity would enslave and manipulate her kin in hopes of snatching her from our clutches. "] she looked to the Guardians as they stared upon her, before turning to the elf. [I "I was attacked before that, by followers of The Mage. I felt that I must do what would save Aria's-"]
[b "You will refer to her as The Priestess in my presence, Caledonian, or have you lost your manners when you ran from battle? "]
Saraya felt a surge of power rush through her. Slowly, wind began to dance in the chasm, and everyone could tell... Saraya would not tolerate being considered insignificant. [I "Watch your tone with me, Watcher. I have not come to be a child or to be treated as such. Aria is more than a priestess to me... "] with the sway of her hands, wind picked up and her eyes glinted something sinister... Something with a fear. [I Aria is my friend... My family, as is everyone that stands in this room. I acted out of Love, a key attribute my Spirit chose me for. And I never ran from battle... I'd a vision... One that would decide if Aria would be taken or otherwise... I chose to buy everyone time by being a diversion."]
[b "A diversion? "] Ursula laughed to this. [b Running towards them in the heat of battle. This sounds very much like a dying declaration"] she looked down on her once more and realized that her expression changed. She shown determination through those eyes. Ursula knew she was not lying at that moment. [I "If it was meant, it shall be. "]
Ursula soon saw her face go blank, with nothing but fire behind them. She would not win this battle with her. Saraya stared upon her... But, wasn't. This was not her, this was... Ursula felt a surge of power from her. [b "Caladonian, you are not ready as a Guardian. Even if you sacrificed yourself for your friends, you would not survive a fortnight in their clutches. They will torture you, beat you, rape your body and your mind and rob you of your humanity... And love? "] she looked to Carrick before looking to her. [b "You should let that dream die. You've already made the mistake of mating with a blacksmith, not a guardian-"]
[I "Do choose your next words wisely, Elf... Do not ever put my Carrick Ill with your remarks. I love him with everything I have "]
[b "... And yet you want to sacrifice yourself? "]
[I "I MUST PROTECT MY FAMILY! "] Saraya's angry yell cut through the air before a rush of wind blew through the chasm. [I "... I must protect my family... They are all I have left... "] As tears fell, the wind slowly surrounded her form, as if personally ending the conversation with the Watcher. Ursula was impressed. She shown determination and was not afraid to fight back. Her priority was more than mere duty... She believes that her family are the Guardians.
Carrick hurried to her side, and began speaking to her... Ursula couldn't tell with the wind whipping about, but whatever her said seemed to calm her... Just enough for the wind to stop. She clearly heard [b "I love you"] escape the blacksmith's lips before attaching them to hers. No shame! She looked away, directing her attention to the others that stood in the room. This time, she shall see who will break.
[b "Foolish love guides your strongest Guardian? I am not surprised to hear that from a woman. "]
Carrick growled under his breath. [b "Oh? Who disagrees? "]
Carrick stood before Saraya. [I "I do"]
One by one, each guardian walked to Saraya, and stood before her, further shielding her form. [I "We all love Aria... And she loves us in return. It is not foolish, Watcher, because you've never experienced such a thing. "]
Rhuarc galloped towards the city of Kil'heed as quickly as the beast would carry them, he wasn't a particularly skilled rider which meant the journey towards the city was probably rougher than the Priestess was used to but it was about to get a whole lot worse. Balls of flame erupted from behind them and all hell broke loose. The very ground in front of him split apart and threw all three of them to the ground as the dead started rising from the dirt to draw weapons and slay anyone in front of them. With the horse on top him Rhuarc was unable to move, unable to protect Aria from the dead that would surely be coming for her, he wasn't too worried about himself it was the Priestess he was concerned for, she was unarmed and even if she had a weapon, her skills left something to be desired. Thankfully the High Priestess of Azeroth had other skills, reaching out a hand to calm the beast atop his chest and thankfully it shifted and allowed Rhuarc to rise to his feet, along with the injured priestess. Rhuarc's blade of heavy black steel had escaped his grasp at some point and all he had on him right now was two spears and his belt knife, not particularly useful for fighting an army of the dead. It looked like a losing battle.
A blinding white figure cut through the Scourge in front of them and continued to speed around the battlefield when another of the glowing figures landed next to Rhuarc, he was even larger than the Jai was. The first glowing figure stared at the Jai and that was when things got even worse. The first glowing Watcher picked up Aria and immediately left the battlefield with the priestess shrieking Rhuarc's name. [b "Priestess, Priestess!! Aria!."] Rhuarc's own voice boomed out after Aria as she was carried away from them. The Scourge were upon them once more, Rhuarc stabbed one through the eye and his spear punctured through the back of his skull, and whipped the weapon around in a wide arcand took out a few more of the Scourge, it was all for nothing though, the Scourge kept coming. [i “Focus your flame, Jai’hash. Your friends need you,”] The giant bear of a Watcher handed Rhuarc his precious blade and given how fireballs were still raining down on the battlefield Rhuarc gave a nod in response. With a great battle cry Rhuarc waded into the fray fully, blade in hand and the power of Jai'hash flowing through him, he was fire and he would make his enemies know it. He cleaved through as many of the Scourge as he could, his black steel blade engulfed in holy flames and anytime a fireball was sent his way or if he saw any fireballs head towards the fleeing civilians he did his best to save them if he could. Doing just as the watcher suggested, he focused his mind and the power of fire inside him he threw up a hand at a ball of flame hurting towards a group of Adimar's men and sent it back to where it had come from.
Swinging his blade and taking the head off one of the Scourge where it had gotten too close, occasionally he caught a glimpse of one of his allies, Adimar looked exhausted and Balden had stuck to the Volshiv Guardian closely, a good strategy. Rhuarc was fighting near to the Gate to the city of Kil'heed, keeping what Scourge at bay as he could, giving as many people as possible the opportunity to enter, the Watchers were doing an excellent job of beating back the Scourge. One of Adimar's men, Max, was fighting side by side with Rhuarc and the large watcher. Rhuarc had used up the last of his spears and the gate was creaking shut slowly, at the very last minute he thrust his sword into Max's hands, a startled look on his face before sending out a torrent of flames towards the Scourge as a last effort before he too entered the gates as they shut behind them and finally they were safe. Max was still holding the heavy blake blade, struggling to hold it along with his own weapons, a questioning look on his face. [b "Jai custom, I can't hold hold a weapon on sacred or consecrated ground. Give it to Carrick or Adimar."] Those were the two men other than Ayab that Rhuarc trusted most. That blade was very precious to the Jai guardian. The voice of one of the watchers boomed out across the courtyard they were in and Rhuarc stepped forward, as did the others...except Saraya. Come to think of it Rhuarc hadn't seen Saraya since before the Fade's attack, he had been too preoccupied getting Aria to Safety and the battle with the dead. [i "You will all follow me."] The woman in charge said and her voice carried, almost without effort, Rhuarc spared a glance at the others and followed, eyes searching for Aria in the city, he was very interested to see what the Watcher who had taken Aria had done with the Priestess. Rhuarc followed the woman in charge his fingers often finding the hilt of his belt knife, the belt knife having a more important place in Jai culture than any other weapon and so exempt from the other laws regarding weapons on sacred ground.
The Guardian followed the Watchers through the mountain and eventually into a large cavern, it likely would have been cold if Rhuarc had not had Jai'hash's flames heating his body, he would never be cold again, but he had other matters on his mind. His eyes caught Carrick's and his mind once again turned to the missing Guardian, where was she? Could she have fallen in the battle to the Scourge? If so what did that mean for the rest of the Guardians? Many questions raced through his mind but he kept silent and he contented himself with studying the surroundings and Adimar's reaction when they were led further inside the septum. Ursula spoke to them and Rhuarc wasn't sure he liked what she had to say. His left hand found the handle of his belt knife as she spoke...they would learn where the Priestess was if they earned her trust? How ridiculous, they had travelled with Aria for months and had done all they could to keep her alive. Rhuarc's brows furrowed and Ursula obviously caught his reaction, it seemed she could sense that their mistrust was mutual. All he wanted was to find Aria and make sure she was all right, she was the key to defeating Malik. [b "What is this place and who are you, you may have given a name but that doesn't answer who, or what you are."] Rhuarc let a little bit of fire into his voice as he spoke, these people might be powerful and had saved them from certain defeat at the hands of the Scourge but Rhuarc and the others were still the Guardians of Azeroth. They deserved respect and it seemed unlikely that Ursula would give it to them. The Jai stared into her shocking blue eyes that seemed to go through him, it was an intimidating sight, yet Rhuarc held his gaze almost defiantly. The doors opened once again and Rhuarc's head whipped around to see Saraya being escorted inside, relief flooded the Jai knowing she was alive. [i “Good, now we can begin…”] The words rang ominously in Rhuarc's ears. What was it they were about to begin?
The battlefield was more than Balden had anticipated. To be fair, the young man thought he’d be battling other men, not a hoard of undead. He was primarily alone, fending for himself, as the wails and terrified shrieks of civilians polluted the air. The stench of death and rot was also permeable around him, but he paid it no mind as he struggled to stay on the living side of the fight. From a ways across the Golden Sea, Balden could see Lara, Saraya and Carrick fighting their own group, but it was the flashing of light that came from the distant tower that had Balden nearly getting his head loped off by being distracted. He clashed swords with other undead, pulling all of what he’d learned from Rhuarc, Ayab, and Carrick; but it was no good. Balden was getting over powered by the sheer numbers of the dead that surrounded him. He thought he was soon to be a goner, because there was no way he could keep this up, when a beam of light landed near him. A Blast of power rocked him back to his feet, while the skeletal soldiers crumpled into heaps of bones within the blast radius. When Balden opened his eyes, standing over him was a gilded woman on a massive white war horse.
“Get up boy,” She commanded him. Balden stared in awe at her, she wore an angled headdress adorned with wings, and golden filigree like the rest of her elegant armor. Whoever she was, she was obviously high ranking, and definitely not human. She had pointed ears, pearlescent skin, hair as white as snow -as white as Aria’s, and petite fangs encased by blood red lips. she had a stern look about her face, and Balden knew not to keep a woman like her waiting. He jumped back to his feet with his sword in hand and began fighting once more, keeping close to this mysterious female watcher.
Adimar was the next person, Balden stumbled upon with the help of the woman.
“Young Balden!” Adimar called over the roar of battle, and rushed towards Balden.
“Master Aethon!” Balden called back. Seeing that Balden was returned to one of his ilk, the maiden suddenly bolted across the battlefield into the thick of the hoard. Adimar stood entranced for a moment, until Balden grabbed his arm. “We must hurry to Kil’heed, look!” Balden pointed across the sea towards the massive gates behind the tower that were slowly creaking open.
“Right! Let’s go! Help me keep the civilians safe!” Balden agreed and hurried after Adimar to protect those who were rushing across the Golden Sea. It was suicide really. Balden was helpless to watch as a boy no older than him was gutted violently and dropped to the ground. Balden wondered if they’d be able to get through this, but Adimar looked confident at his side, if not exhausted and pressed on. Balden had not done any training with Adimar, but the entire battle suddenly became a new training session, Adimar calling out tips to him, and letting him know when to cover his back. Talk about a crash course lesson in surviving a battle against undead…
Balden, Adimar, his men, and a random watcher had cleared their area of Scourge, but there was no rest for them as they pressed further into the battlefield to reach the others. On the way, Balden caught sight of Lara. He couldn’t tell if she was struggling or not, but he knew it wouldn’t hurt to cover her back.
“Lara!” He called, garnering her attention and ran towards her. He slashed down a scourge running at them both before he met up with her. “We have to hurry!” He told her, and grabbed her hand. “where are the others?” he asked. He’d only seen Adimar and Lara now, but he had no idea about where Saraya had run off to, Carrick close on her heels. Not to mention he had no clue where to find Rhuarc or Aria. He had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach about the fact he hadn’t seen Rhuarc or Aria since the Scourge had risen.
“GO!” He suddenly heard Adimar shout to them. The dead they had left behind were starting to rise for a second wave. “It’s a siege!” Adimar bellowed, his voice impressively carrying over the other shouts and screams of battle. Balden blanched, watching the people he’d been traveling with, rise up from where they'd fallen and pick up weapons from the ground to start running for them.
“Where is Aria?!” Balden shouted over the chaos.
“I do not know! Rhuarc had her!” Adimar shouted back. The three of them were huddled together, fighting off the scourge and making their way towards the safety of Kil’heed. Balden instantly felt better knowing Rhuarc was with Aria… that was until he saw Rhuarc on the field fighting side by side with one of the watchers. He was a massive bear of a man, with striking inhuman features and the same gilded armor as the other Watchers.
“Adimar!” Balden pointed towards where he spied Rhuarc and a dark look of fear crossed Adimar’s face. Where was Aria, if not with Rhuarc?
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[b Egos] Looked down among the battlefield, his lip curled in irritation. The Guardians were still pressing towards the Gates of Kil’heed and their window to catch them and destroy them was getting smaller and smaller.
“We are running out of time!” Egos spat at the Necromancer. “Malik will kill us both if we return empty handed!” The Necromancer looked over boredly at him and shrugged.
“He won’t kill us. We might have failed him this time… but he knows we are more valuable to him alive then dead. Loyalty is hard to find these days…” Egos curled his lip in further indignation at the Necromancer’s nonchalance to the situation.
“It will not take away from the truth that the Priestess is no longer down there! I can not see her!” The Necromancer stilled then and looked to Egos with an arched brow.
“Then we have already failed in that regard. If you can no longer see her, she is beyond the Tower,”
“No Shit!” Egos spat at The Necromancer. “Malik is going to be pissed.”
“Then I guess we shall not return until we have them,” The Necromancer said calmly.
“You want to sit here for the next year and wait for them to emerge?!” He shouted angrily.
“My thoughts exactly.”
It was painfully obvious that where Egos the Mage was all temper and and rage, the Necromancer was calmness and logic. Egos thought the Necromancer was insane to think of staying in wait for a year. The only upside to this was if they did return, they knew where the Priestess was and when they could strike again. From the shadows behind Egos, the Fade reemerged and in a rage the Mage turned around with his power, and pinned the Fade against the mountain stone.
“You failed to collect! I should destroy you!”
“Calm, Egos, he is not your creation to destroy -that lies with His Highness.” Egos growled angrily and glared back at the ever calm Necromancer, and released the Fade.
“Then send your abomination down to at least capture the Prya.”
The Necromancer shook his head, a resolute no. “Now is not the time… it will be soon, but not now… I will not spare my Scourge just yet.” Egos scoffed and for good measure threw another onslaught of fire balls down on the crowd. More civilians were killed by the exploding impact, as well as Scourge. Within moments, the vast majority of the battle field was ablaze with fire consuming the Golden Sea, and transforming it into a massive fire pit. Steam rose from the moisture of the recent rain, making visibility difficult as time went on.
Their efforts were wasted when they saw that the last of the caravan and guardians rushed behind the safety of Kil’heed's gates. Watchers guarded the doors from Scourge as they closed. From where they stood Egos could see who was leading the watchers. A Woman on a horse.
“They have a Shield Maiden, a fucking Shield Maiden!” Egos cursed at the sight. He felt the air growing with static and energy. He watched with The Necromancer as she rained down a hell storm of lightning across the battlefield. It was a cyclone of energy, shooting lightning all around and destroying the Scourge Army. Even the Necromancer sighed with annoyance. Neither of them foresaw that happening.
“We are defeated this round… it is best we regroup,” The Necromancer murmured to Egos. Egos stood there fuming, his rage hitting a point of no return, and a scream of rage erupted from him when they both spied the Watcher Commander raise her sword and aim it at them. She knew they were there. “Time to go,” The Necromancer whispered, backing into the shadows towards the Fade.
“Mother fucker…” Egos hissed. He too receded into the shadows, and they all reached out to hold the Fade who took them far away from the Mountains of Volshiv and back to Central City, traveling the very shadows he was made from.
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[b Carrick] rode through the battlefield, still mounted on his horse when he made it past the gates of Kil’heed and they began to close. He quickly sheathed his blade, and led his horse through the crowds that huddled by the fortress walls. Women and children, crying in pain; injured were laid out on blankets and one lonely healer who had managed to survive rushed around trying their best to help those hurt. Carrick spotted Balden with Lara, helping a woozy Adimar sit down. The man was pale and ashen, looking ill, and Carrick knew that Adimar had used all of his energy in this fight. It was a wonder they had survived. Behind him the gates sealed shut. They were safe…. For now. He dismounted his horse and led it to an old post. Kil’heed was an ancient fortress, mostly ruins now, but as he looked around, he saw a safe haven -a new home, one to rebuild.
He stumbled upon Ayab laid in on a blanket and looking ill. Whatever the Fade had lashed him with, it was quickly infecting him and leaving him in pain. Carrick knelt at his friend’s bedside and gripped his shoulder. “I will find the healer for you, friend, and hope he can pull this pain from you,” Carrick told him, and handed the man his canteen of water attached to his hip and helped Ayab drink from it. Carrick was not a healer, he was a brawler and smith, but he could at least try and give his friend some semblance of comfort. As he knelt beside Ayab, Carrick looked around the group for Saraya, but found her no where. He bid Ayab to rest, and he rose to find the healer and hopefully Saraya in the process. The gates did not open, but from the depths of Kil’heed’s main septum, carved into the mountain itself came the very Watchers who had come to their aid. They were lead by the woman on her war horse and she walked right into the center courtyard where the masses had gathered.
“I will speak with the Guardians of Azeroth,” she shouted, her voice a command, full of power and authority.
“Guardians, step forward!” A Large burly bear of a man shouted from beside her where he stood on the ground. Carrick stilled and the crowd followed, everyone and everything going silent. Carrick watched as Rhuarc, Lara and Adimar made their way. Adimar wobbling on his feet, but remaining stoic and strong. Where was Saraya.
“THis is not all of you. Where is the Guardian for Caledon? You,” She turned and pointed at Carrick who blanched. “You carry his power… shared… with another…” Carrick stepped forward cautiously. How in Azeroth did she know that? She eyed him just as strangely and Carrick felt exposed, as if this woman could see into his soul.
“Where is The Priestess?” Adimar suddenly demanded, stepping ahead of them all and using his staff to help him stand upright. The woman looked down on Adimar from her horse, looking like she might strike him, but she simply turned towards her second in command and murmured something they could not hear.
“The priestess is safe, and that is all you need to know for now,” The man’s voice warned. That didn’t seem to sit well with either of the Guardians or Carrick. Even Balden had risen to his feet to approach.
“You all will follow me. Find me the Prya,” The woman commanded her men, and three men marched out from the lineup in search of Saraya. Without another word, the Shield Maiden turned her massive war horse back to the main hall of Kil’heed and disappeared into the shadows, only her second in command moved to follow, after the others did too.
The Shield Maiden led them down the dark corridors, and as they moved deeper and deeper, torches against the wall came alive of their own will, illuminating the way, and extinguishing as they passed. Moisture dripped down the walls, and inside it was cold. The Main Hall eventually opened up within the mountain to expose a massive cavern carved from nature and by hand. Heavy Stalactites hung from the cavern ceiling, and the moisture glittered from the reflected light. It was obvious that the fortress had been abandoned and forgotten for generations, but it did not dim the magnificence of the Mountain Fortress. Carrick looked behind him, curious to know where the hell Saraya was, and hoping she’d come peacefully when the other Watchers found her… where ever she was. He certainly hadn’t been able to find her, then again, he hadn’t the time to do so.
They came to a halt before a large door carved of wood, which opened for the Maiden, and inside a bright light shone. It was the Dias leading into the septum, above was holes cored out from the mountain to let in sunlight, mirrors were positioned, and covered in dust from where they were perched on the walls to reflect light about the room. Carrick was in awe of the sight, and he felt guilty to be here when Saraya was missing. Beside them Adimar stopped and fell to his knees, but it was not out of exhaustion, it was out of humility. He bowed low to the ground, tucking his head and began to chant a prayer in the Volshiv tongue. Before them the Maiden dismounted her horse and the creature moved away, knowing the way back to it’s pen.
“My name is Ursula, I am Captain of this watch, and this is my second, Varyis,” She said and approached Adimar. “Stand up Guardian,” She told him. Adimar looked up at her and nodded, rising to his feet. “You are all here for a reason, and do not ask me where the Priestess is. In due time, when I feel you have gained my trust, I will let her out from where I have her. First we await the last member of your group…” Ursula eyed them, a quick smirk crossed the Captain’s face at the sight of Rhuarc’s angry and frustrated face, it was one of clear approval and she looked ready to mock the massive Jai. “You don’t like me,” She observed easily. “You don’t trust me… good,” She turned then and walked back to the Dias where she stood with her second and they waited, until the doors opened again and they saw Saraya being escorted inside. “Good, now we can begin…”
[center [size20 (๑•́₋•̩̥̀๑)]]
Carrick would be furious with her if she had made it back. But, Saraya refused to let herself fail the mission. She hadn't failed a mission yet, and as guardian she refused to fail now! Her steed beat the earth to the thunder as her mind blanked out of everything else. Aria was the prime target to The Fade... So, she made it her mission to target Malik herself.
As she ran, she realized that there were multiple hoofbeats besides her own. Looking back, Lara was on her left. [I "GO back, Lara!! Aria needs you there! "]
She realized that Carrick was running up behind her. Oh, no... Not Carrick. She didn't want him to follow her. Suddenly, balls of fire fell from the skies and wrecked the earth's surface. She grabbed the reigns to steady her horse as they fell, and she looked back, seeing that the hill was being swarmed by beings... DEAD BEINGS?!
Saraya saw Carrick retreat, then looked to Lara. [i "Go, Lara! Aria needs you"] Lara refused, staring at her with the intention of staying. She knew Lara, and she knew that she wasn't the type to run if it meant a demise of others... She stared through her eyes and let a tear fall. Saraya knew of the fate set in her hands...her heart was heavy and as she was forced to accept it, she whispered to her [I "...Then, you will be the doom of me"]
The earth broke and out came skeletons, undead warrior who fell to the power of The Watchers. Saraya turned and pulled her sword from her gown, shrouding the young Lara. She cut the head off of one, and ran through the other. She backed up keeping the skeletons nearby on her only. Each one approached, and each were felled by the sword. Saraya had successfully saved Lara, and turned to her with a plea that she would be safe. [I "You must go, Lara. It is not your time yet"] she saw a spear impale her horse and down she tumbled, so Saraya denounced her steed and used a surge of great power to create a path for her. As she fought, she saw a big one coming at Lara, axe in hand. She growled and raised her hand up, and slammed her hand down to the earth to instantly make the enemy fall. The dead fell like flies, and she looked to where Lara was, hoping she wasn't too late. When she peered above the dead, she sighed in relief. Lara and Carrick were safe.
She made it back to the hill, hearing Carrick curse and bother about her wellbeing. She said nothing to protest. She thought it would be a moment that she would sacrifice herself for the team... But it was not this night. Something was not in place yet... And if that was the case, she'd have to get back and protect Aria... Though everyone else seemed to to be doing their job. The warrior in her slowly began to rest as she walked over the dead, and up the hill. She saw the full extent of her stubbornness, and it made her heart writhe in anguish... Her efforts had been a failure.
The Watchers saw her as she walked forth, and of abundance did she come. Carrick, still upset about her actions and Lara, a bit shocked of the events that happened had trekked behind. Saraya was patient for the while. Everyone in the group had been safe, and looked to Saraya as if she had made yet another foolish decision. Rhuarc... Ayab... Adimar... The guardians looked to her with confusion and doubt. Saraya said nothing. Even if she told them, there would be nothing they could do. If it was her duty to save Aria this way... Then, she would accept it... But, not without a fight. The Watchers had opened the gates with one word in the wind... Guardians.
Citizens went in first, and Saraya was relieved that most were safe. She looked out into the field... Blood decorated the ground before them, bodies claimed by the dead lay postrate and she held in her wails of sadness. This was why they stared upon her so evilly. It was her idea to take them from Tanaka to Kil'heed... And it was her that the bloody hands rested. Her eyes welled up in tears as she watched The Watchers retrieve the bodies. She walked away, The Guardians waiting for their opportunity to speak unto her their frustrations, but Saraya never came to them for solace. Instead, she ventured away and down between rock and space, and sat in the shadows, where none could see her... There she wept till her eyes had become swollen, and still she wept to herself until she had fallen asleep. It was her fault... They were all going to say so... She was selfish... And with all things running through her mind, the worst one came about... She would rather die by Malik's hand than to carry a dishonor like this.
Sleep didn't last, however... The same knight from her vision appeared again, and she was startled awake. She hoped that this was not a fluke. The knight was the beginning of her doom... She hadn't spotted him yet... And as long as she stayed silent and waited, she would eventually find him. But, not before Carrick and the other guardians find her first.
Carrick was looking left and right for her after a night of being alone in their caves. Saraya must feel horrible... She hadn't appeared to him all night. He asked if the other guardians had heard word of her... None have seen her... Why did she seek solace from them?
It took some while to catch up to Saraya; no wonder, with Saraya pushing her own horse the way she was. Lara urged her own horse faster, but it didn't seem to be of any use as the distance didn't seem to shorten at all.
And then out of nowhere, Carryck galloped out of nowhere. Coming out of nowhere, he was going to somewhere. That somewhere, was Saraya. What was his task? His task was to protect the two of them. Personally, Lara wouldn't be surprised if he went for Saraya first because of the relationship between the two of them.
But then, one of the many possible worst case scenarios emerged. In truth, the actual scenario could've been worse; but this was the now and not the any of the ifs, bette focus on the shit that was happening [b "now"] and not the [b "if"] shit.
The shit that was happening right now, consisted of one-half raining fireballs and one-half of a chasm opening and a horse of undead crawling out. Carryck yelled some words out, but Lara didn't manage to comprehend them; what she did manage to comprehend was some sort of spear-ish looking weapon flying past her and impaling an undead scum. It took Lara a second to realize that, and another second to realize that the three of them were in the midst of an undead horde which was totally hellbent on annihilating them. Carryck yelled about turning around; unfortunately, that involved going through a horde shitstorm. At least the undead would die.
Although right away, some bad shit started happening.
Lara wanted to go towards Carryck, her horse wanted to go another way; what Lara wanted and what the horse wanted were two different things. Unfortunately, being on a horse meant being subjected to its wants. What the horse wanted, was a 90 degree rotation clockwise and a rapid full gallop ahead. That was working only for an extremely short moment, until the undead horde closed in.
First problem, the horse suddenly stopped; it had been impaled by a spear, and the sudden stop caused Lara to fall off the saddle and tumble down to the ground. Like a cat, Lara landed on her feet; the sword on the other hand, stuck tip first into the ground.
That led to a second problem: being surrounded by an undead horde without a horse. Lara did not have any clue how to fight with a sword, except that you either swung at enemies with the sharp blade or you stick them with the pointy end; all the other complicated footwork and blade work was unknown to Lara. Lara could only wildly swing the sword and occasionally stick it in one of the undead horde members.
Third problem, this luck would eventually run out. Lara had finished turning one of the members of the undead horde into a raw shish-kebab when she felt something hit her on her back. This in turn led to her vision to swim like a fish, her hearing to start ringing, and as well as being knocked forwards down to the ground.
Fourth problem, being down on the ground meant being exposed to enemy attacks. Lara felt a throb of pain in her left leg; when she attempted to move it, it would not move. Only one possibility, the leg had been impaled and pinned to the ground. Lara looked up, and wished she hadn't looked up. There was an undead in front of her, and it was raising the axe it had in its undead arms. There was no doubt about how her life ended, no doubt at all. Decapitated by an undead with an axe in the midst of a battle.
And then the axe stopped, went up a bit, and then the axe started to drop.
[center [i Goodbye cruel world]]
The cold feeling of dread that Aria feared she was feeling, was vindicated the moment she came face to face with her hooded stalker. He greeted her by name, with a voice that dripped with cruelty. Aria shuttered as he revealed he was The Fade; the one following them all along! Aria felt a stab of fear, realizing she was alone in this moment. Slowly she began to back away from him, but he approached, lowering his hood.
It was a frightening face, twisted and deformed. It was a milky white, his eyes were pitted and missing, and his lips cracked blackened with rot. Aria found herself frozen in shock at the sight of the dark creature before her. It was truly terrifying.
[i “It would be best if you didn't struggle, oh but how I hope you do…”] he teased her, mocking her fear. Of course she would struggle, she’d fight him with all she had to stay out of Malik’s hands. She wouldn’t fail so early in the fight.
“I-I’m not afraid of you,” Aria said her voice trembling with the slightest vibrator of fear. They both knew it was a lie. She was terrified. Camp was still within eyesight and as she looked past the Fade, she saw charging towards them, none other than Rhuarc. Her heart jumped at knowing she was saved! He was flanked by Ayab, Adimar, his men, and Balden. “I’m not going anywhere with you,” She proclaimed boldly, and turned to run out of the way just before Rhuarc’s blade cleaved through the Fade’s face.
[b Adimar] had been near Aria’s tent, as his was just beside hers. They had her entirely surrounded. Nothing was going to get close to her; not if he could help it. Thad and Rupert were in the middle of getting ready to report on their scouting trip when Rhuarc, Ayab and Balden had approached Aria’s tent to speak with her. After knocking on the post outside her tent, with no answer; Adimar took it upon himself to enter Aria’s tent… They discovered it empty.
“Where could she have gone?” Adimar asked curiously, looking out at the rest of the quiet and sleepy camp. Ayab was the first to find the path, and Rhuarc wasted no time in running headlong down the track. They found Aria within the Golden Sea, a look of horror on her face for the monster standing before her. Rhuarc rammed his sword into the skull of the figure reaching towards a frightened Aria. Adimar remained tensed, his arrowed notched and ready. They waited for the figure to collapse, for blood to splatter the ground around him… but he remained standing.
[i ”As if mere steel could defeat me...I shall deal with you before I take her." ] The next moment happened so quickly Adimar hadn’t the time to worry about Aria. The Fade vanished, only to reform from the shadows around them. He rose up with a serrated whip, that lashed out connecting with Ayab, and felled him promptly. Adimar had no choice, he fired three arrows consecutively right for the Fade. It was enough to distract the monster so Adimar was able to reach up and focus all of his arcane mana to compel the lingering storm. He knew he’d be out for the count after this, but he had to give it his all. They couldn’t let the Fade get away with Aria.
The lightning struck The Fade, and Aria screamed as she bounced away from the impact -having been too close. She rolled about, her body bruised and now covered in scratches and cuts. She watched with baited breath, as the smoke cleared, hoping and praying that Adimar had defeated it. Back in camp, Adimar’s attack had called attention to others. In the distance, the sounds of soldiers and the other Guardians gearing up could be heard; as could the laughter of the still standing Fade.
[b Aria] cowered for the briefest of moments, wishing the golden sea would hide her, but knowing it wouldn’t. She had to run, she glanced over her shoulder towards the tower… if she could at least lead the Fade away from the camp and the others…. She went for it! She jumped up to her feet and sprinted with all her might towards the tower and Gates of Kil’heed. She spared one glance behind her to see the others were chasing after her, when she noticed the Fade was not behind her. It was then she slammed into something hard and cold. She fell backwards to the ground, and before she could catch her bearings she felt a hand grab a tight fistful of her gilded hair, and wretched her head back to a painful angle. Aria struggled with him, grasping at his hand in her hair and fighting to keep him from touching her. The Fade spoke of how happy Malik would be, how they were going to rape and torture her. That her death was highly possible, still Aria struggled against him.
“No!” Her struggles seemed to amuse him.
[i Even if you die, know that the Fenlyk and Caledon Guardians will share your fate." ] Aria froze in fear, gasping at the thought and looked out to see both of them galloping headlong in the distance. She couldn't let that happen to either of them! Without the guardians, Azera won’t stand a chance. Aria could feel the magic emanating from the Fade and she knew she was probably going to never see them again.
Rhuarc suddenly shouted at the Fade, and both Aria and The Fade tensed at the vicious shout. Aria looked up to see Rhuarc standing just away, Ayab and Adimar were down for the count, but Max and Rupert had managed to catch up. Aria reached for Rhuarc, not wanting to be taken away, and pulled herself as hard as she could from the Fade. Not a moment too soon did Rhuarc’s hands wrap themselves around her forearm, she turned her wrist and held on back. She didn’t pay attention to their shouting, she only held on, and pulled from The Fade with Rhuarc’s help. Eventually the tug of war brought Aria to a painful cry as she felt her shoulder dislocate from her arm, and yet they still warred to free her. Saraya and Lara were approaching, and the Fade knew his time was ending. Aria felt his grip lesson, so she used it as did Rhuarc, to put all their weight into pulling free from the Fade. He released them, and they both went tumbling to the ground. Aria’s fall was buffered by Rhuarc’s body. She rolled over to see The Fade hovering over them both, and with a hiss, he threatened and vowed to hunt them down. He seemed prepared to swipe at them, Aria cowering into Rhuarc’s side, when a great force blocked the Fade and sent him back into the shadows. It was Saraya! She shouted at Rhuarc to get Aria to Kil’heed, and from the looks of it, the rest of the camp was packing up and moving too. Saraya kept the ward up long enough for Rhuarc and Aria to get onto the horse she’d rode in on.
Aria suddenly had a dark feeling… The Fade wasn’t the only visitor they had….
[b Carrick] had been woken up by an anxious Saraya. He’d been sleeping so well too. He did as asked, and more. He gathered up the camp and helped them get back on the road towards the Gates of Kil’heed. They obviously couldn’t stay here, it wasn’t safe. Carrick had to be honest though, he admired Saraya’s compassion to bring them… but would be happy to deposit them here and be on their way. Adimar had been carried into camp, having exhausted his powers against the Fade -and they still weren’t enough. This gave Carrick a bad feeling. He was preparing his horse when Saraya returned to him. She was frantic.
“Saraya? Love, is the Priestess alright?” She assured him with a nod of her head.
[i “Go... Make sure Aria gets there safe”]
Carrick frowned, confused. “But what about you?” He demanded, she tried to shake him off, but Carrick wasn’t about to hear that either. It burned a hole in his chest that Saraya didn’t trust him to fight by her side. What was she afraid of? That he might be another Felliope? Carrick didn't want to leave, but Saraya pushed him. “Don’t give me that, other’s can assure she makes it to Kil’Heed. My task is protecting the Guardians who protect the Priestess!” He argued, but Saraya turned to give him a pitiful look, he cursed. He realized then what she intended to do, and his heart couldn’t bear it. “You can’t… I won’t let you sacrifice yourself,” He told her, reaching out and taking her hand, that he might stay her from leaving. She only shook her head, speaking of her friends, and all the others. What about him?! What about [i THEM]? Carrick wasn’t willing to let her sacrifice herself -if she did then they’d all be in trouble! They need all Four Guardians to defeat Malik. It took Saraya, pushing Carrick away and fleeing on a horse to get away from him. He shouted after her, growing angry and watched as Lara went charging after her. It gave him little relief. Carrick cursed under his breath. He had vowed to Aria to protect the guardians. By Gods he would. Mounting his own horse he took off following Saraya and Lara towards the earlier fight.
Malik rasped his hands upon the armchair of is throne, watching with supreme dislike at the unfolding events before him. Egos stood looking grim, and sour. The Fade’s plans were not going as expected.
“The abomination is failing me…” Malik warned. Egos, cleared his throat, and gave his best effort at a wicked grin.
“My Liege, The Fade is facing a very… difficult task. Clearly the Guardians are stronger than anticipated. I will go myself and personally-“
“No,” Malik said, leaving no room for contest. “No…. you’ve failed me time and time again now… I have a narrow window of time to get her…” Or forfeit a whole year in reaching her. Malik didn’t like that. He had to have the priestess in order to accomplish what needed to be done. What he needed to do to secure the city as his own -and for good. Good thing he had installed a back up plan… “I have new plans for you… I am sending you to help the Necromancer. He’s there to collect her now. He’s been waiting in the mountains for my signal this whole time… You will teleport to him and follow his command. Because for now they are trapped,” Malik Sneered. “And Soon,” his hand curled over the edge of the saucer that showed him Aria on the horse with Rhuarc. “I will clip your pretty wings.”
The Tanaka Caravan might have been fast moving… but nothing would be able to save them from what was coming for them. Egos appeared on the ledge of a mountain, and standing beside him, dressed in fine black robes, with swarthy skin, dark hair, and a handsome face was the Necromancer. Beside the Necromancer stood a shadowed man, his face hidden by his cloak… but he was clearly Caledonean. Egos wondered who was special enough that the Necromancer brought him around with him. He simply turned and grinned at Egos who glared back. “Malik says it is time,” Egos spat, the Necromancer simply grinned, raised his hood over over his head and splayed his hands out before him.
“Did you know, that a thousand years ago there was a great battle that took place here? A Mad General wanted the City of Kil’heed to be his new fortress, the Watchers stopped him… now there are so few Watchers…” He grinned wickedly, “but there are plenty of dead….” His hands glowed an eerie shade of purple and down below in the Golden Sea the ground began to shake.
“You intend to kill them all?” Egos asked.
“Of course,” The smooth talking Necromancer crooned. “All but the Priestess.”
“Don’t kill the Prya,” Egos warned.
The Necromancer smiled devilishly. “Fancy yourself smitten with the whore?” he mocked.
Egos bared his filed teeth and cracked lips, while his eyes burned with fury.
“Her blood is directly descended from Caledon the Mighty, her blood holds a wealth of power-“
“Not near as much as the priestess…” The Necromancer noted with boredom.
“Yes, but the power of Prya can be inherited…” The Necromancer turned to look at the Mage and they both smirked.
“You and I, are going to get along just fine I think,” The Necromancer said and together they wrought hell upon earth.
[b Carrick] pushed his horse to breakneck speeds, until he finally caught up with Saraya and Lara. He was about to shout out her name and grab the reins of her horse when the ground began to shake, causing all of their horses to stumble. It was then Fireballs rained down around them. It was a great spattering of explosions, that began to light the whole valley on fire. Carrick turned back at the sounds of horrified screams coming from the Caravan. He never got to get a good look as the ground beneath them split apart, and limbs reached up from underneath the ground. Carrick raised his sword, and spun his head around. They were being surrounded by animated Skeletons brought back to life. Some were still fleshy, and most of them sported armor and carried swords, axes and shields. Carrick knew exactly what this meant when he watched them turn towards himself, Lara and Saraya ready to attack. That meant the screams coming from the caravan were people being slaughtered by Scourge.
“It’s the Necromancer!” Carrick shouted to the others. “Hurry to Kil’heed!” Carrick urged. One of the Scourge screamed a high pitched sickening sound and began to charge at Lara on her horse, but Carrick moved quickly standing in his saddle and threw a pike right for the Scourge. It pierced its eye and felled it. So they could be taken down. “Let’s move forward! Rhuarc is unguarded with Aria!” Carrick told them and he turned his horse towards the Towers in the hopes of catching up with Rhuarc and Aria.
[b Adimar] was feeling weak. His last attack had really taken a toll on him, and yet the Battle was just getting started. He’d felt the ground shake, heard the dead howl, and the living scream. He pushed himself to keep fighting the scourge of dead that had come to attack them. He was losing his soldiers, and he was losing his people. What dark magic had risen the dead?! Would they survive this? Even Adimar was beginning to fear the worst until the saw the flashing of a bright light coming from the distant Watch Tower. His jaw slackened in shock at the sight. Seven great beams of light shot forth into the fray from the tower… the Watchers had come to their aid! It renewed Adimar’s hope and he cleaved with greater power and renewed energy to make his way to the Tower and the others. In the process he and his soldiers would save as many Civilians as they could. Already the ground was becoming soaked with blood…
[b Balden] had stood in fear when the Fade vanished into the shadows… but he didn't feel the Fade’s presence leave… Balden felt that the Fade was with him, like a companion. It frightened him, but he shook the feeling off and found himself standing in the middle of a field of reanimated corpses, and there were some running right for him!
[b Aria]’s shoulder was killing her, her heart was racing, and her mind was reeling. The horse galloped down the narrow dirt path towards the Watch Tower, and she sat up in Rhuarc's lap to look over his shoulder as the first fireballs fell from the Southern Mountain. “Stop! Rhuarc, look!” she tried. “The others need us!” She reached back behind him as if she might hold onto their image. That was when she watched a crack forming in the ground come speeding up from behind them. It broke open from under them and the horse collapsed into the chasm. It wailed and cried in pain, and Aria fell down as well, but she was tossed at the last minute and landed in the grass. She looked around and saw the thistle burning gold from the distant fires and crawled back towards the trench where she found Rhuarc pinned under the injured horse. She called his name, garnering his attention and with her good arm reached out for the horse and concentrated on her powers of persuasion. The Horse suddenly stilled and calmed, allowing Rhuarc to help it stand so he could get free. Then Aria watched as the lame horse was put out of it’s misery.
Aria offered Rhuarc her good arm to crawl out of the trench. With Rhuarc freed from the chasm, Aria sat up and looked on in horror as she saw armored skeletons and corpses engaging in battle, and there were several charging their way. Aria looked over at Rhuarc, she was injured and unarmed, and Rhuarc was only one man… how would they get out of this? She opened her mouth to apologize to him, for leading them all down this path -one of failure and death. The words never came as suddenly a bright light shot through the air, and it was wielded by a man in white and gold robes, with gleaming armor. He moved like a spirit and cut through the Scourge like a luminous blur… and he wasn’t the only one. There were several of them all coming from the Tower. A second one landed just shy of Rhuarc’s side where a Scourge was charging with sword raised. They all wore the same armor, they all possessed the same light… and not a single one of them looked entirely human. The Man who had been the first to protect them returned after making a lethal loop around the field. He stopped just long enough that Aria was able to see his face, and his frame. He towered over her, and shined like a God in his armor, he carried a heavy looking staff, two swords crossed on his back, with long blonde hair and a short beard. It was his eyes that caught Aria -they were an electric blue color. He spared Rhuarc a single glance, before he knelt down by Aria and lifted her up into his arms. She couldn't stop the blush that burned her cheeks from the way he stared right into her. He gave no warning, suddenly taking off, leaving the gleaming aura of his powers and Rhuarc behind. Aria shrieked and reach back for Rhuarc. "NO! NO! RHUARC!" It was no point, she was already cleared of the entire battlefield and sailing rapidly towards the Tower.
The Second Watcher turned to Rhuarc and tossed him his coveted black blade. “Focus your flame, Jai’ash. Your friends need you,” He said and twirled his heavy axe in his hand to point it towards the thicker part of the battlefield. Within it were all the others fighting to get through. Thankfully the other five remaining watchers helping to destroy the scourge were still destroying them with ease. The Watcher beside Rhuarc roared a great battle cry and shot himself into the fray with blinding speed.
Another pause, another silent moment as both of them sat in silence; the silence didn't last forever. Lara felt the priestess' hands go around he own hands, and she waited for what Aria was about to say. Lara hoped that what Aria would say, would help her clear her mind of this present confusion. If not, then hopefully Aria wouldn't mind a few more questions.
Aria started by a comparison of how mysterious guardians could be; this transitioned into a comparison of how forceful water could be. But, what was the point of these two comparisons? It was easy to notice the transition from the first comparison to the second comparison, but what was going to be said afterwards?
Having a fear of not being enough? At first, Lara would have contested this claim. But after thinking about it, it made sense. That was as far as Lara could think before Aria tisked, as if she found all this highly amusing. Even as Aria went on, Lara couldn't understand why Aria found it highly amusing. And then another interruption to the thoughts, this time it was Aria lifting up Lara's chin so the latter could see that Aria didn't find this highly amusing. Looking into Aria's eyes, Lara could see the seriousness and also some other things which she wasn't too sure what they were supposed to be.
And then it was one long monologue about trying to find her own way through the world. Caledon and Saraya and Prya, whatever Prya actually was. Rhuarc, and his cultural('cultural') ways. And then Adimar, how he was so different from all of them. Each person was supposed to be an example of how each one behaved and thought differently. Lara, she definitely behaved differently, but her thoughts were usually stuck in some sort of picks. It was helpful to hear this, as Aria mentioned Lara had tried to emulate others and failed. But at the same time, Lara was thinking that her old ways of acting, the three years that she had lived alone, wouldn't do in this group.
And then Aria lent Lara her hand, helping Lara stand up. This was somewhat unexpected, which meant Lara didn't exactly hear what Aria had just said. Then Aria looped her arm around Lara's shoulder, Lara could feel her smallness in this gesture but only followed Aria. Stoping at the bank of the lake, Aria made a suggestion of trying to clear and unclutter the mind by taking a dip in the lake. A few last words, and Aria left Lara standing alone by the shore of the lake.
Lara was contemplating Aria's words. She sat down on the shore, and put her hand in the water. It felt cold and smooth to the touch, and then Lara retracted her hand, slowly curling it until it almost reached a fist. Going into the water did make sense, but was it a good idea to do it right now? It was night, and the only person who knew she was down by the lake was Aria. If somethings happened to her, any attempt to rescue her would result in confusion as only one person in the multitude of people here knew where she was. On top of that, there was an uncertainty of how safe the lake actually was; it might look safe from the surface, but one couldn't judge a book by its cover. Beneath the lake, well there could be anything down below the surface. Anything from a few fishes, to possibly some sort of scary creature that ate anything. Lara decided not to dip in the lake, maybe once they reached the safe haven she had heard about would she take a dip in the lake to 'clear her mind' and 'unclutter her mind'.
She simply went back to the general area where everyone was and went to sleep. Nothing happened during her sleep, just had a normal night of sleeping.
Waking up the next day, the routine wasn't any different. Waking up, dressing properly, eating, packing, and then continuing their journey to this safe haven. Today, instead of dawdling on the sides of this great big caravan, Lara rode a good distance in front of the caravan; far enough where it wouldn't be easy to discern her, but not too far so she could quickly get back in case there was some sort of danger.
And no surprise here, Lara was again contemplating in the saddle on a horse. At least she had something definite to contemplate about: last night's conversation with Aria. It was mostly the part about not using others as examples of how she should be. Most of the internal self-debate reg lived around the Jai guardian, Rhuarc. Adimar, or least from what se could understand, had some sort of interest in her. Aria, same as Adimar. Saraya, Saraya was doing things only Saraya knew what about. But Rhuarc, first impressions hadn't gone to well; that was putting it somewhat nicely. Maybe she shouldn't have insulted his culture, but by now it was too late to do anything about that. She could try improving, but there was one barrier which kept nagging her; her nationality. She was Fenlyck, Rhuarc was Jai. The Jai had an extreme dislike towards Fenlycks because of something about not fulfilling the Toh. She felt as if Rhuarc didn't see her as an individual, but as part of a collection of people who didn't fulfill their own Toh. It did lead to that gloom of the whole 'what's the point of changing if you'll be thought of the same' gig. Maybe she needed to have a talk, one-on-one with Rhuarc. See if anything could be changed by talking about some topics carefully.
At that moment, Lara heard yells behind her and they appeared to be coming from the caravan. The ears on the horse se was riding perked up, and the horse looked alert and tense. The only reason a horse would do this, it was because the horse sensed danger. Now the most sensiblest thing to do when there's danger is to go away from it, but since it was coming from the caravan there was only one option; go towards the danger. Turning the horse around, se put it into a gallop and galloped back to the caravan.
The sight that greeted her, she was surprised by what she saw. There was mass confusion and panic. Soldiers had weapons out, one or both of the Jais were blessing, Aria looked shocked, and where the hell was Saraya? Looking at Carrick, he seemed to be staring of into the distance, where it appeared a horse had just galloped off. So Saraya had galloped of by herself.
Without thinking, Lara put the horse into another gallop. But the horse decided to rear up on its hind legs and neigh out loud for everyone to hear before thudding its hooves back on the ground and accelerating into a gallop. It was dangerous to go alone, especially if it was something that had caused the hardy Jais to bleed; with this Lara went on a pursuit after Saraya, she was hellbent on catching up to Saraya. What happened afterwards, maybe it would've been a good idea to think about it before, but Lara was hellbent on catching up. On the way she managed to snatch a sword from one of the soldiers holding it, not giving a damn about whether anyone cared that she had snatched the sword nor knowing how to use it.
The best case scenario, nothing happened and the two of them could make their way back to the caravan in peace. But considering what had just happened, a worst case scenario was much more likely. And the number of options for a worse case scenario was too damn high.
[center [size20 (๑•́₋•̩̥̀๑)]]
Saraya was pleased that Aria accepted. She wanted to keep her safe. She needed someone, like Carrick did. But, her needs were something she had been pondering on while Carrick had been away with Adimar and Rhuarc. There had to be some sort of solution, especially with a demon like The Fade on their trails. She allowed Aria to sleep in her lap as she watched the caravan move considerably fast. She sighed as Balden and Carrick had started conversing...
All the while, she dozed off gradually to the gentle sway of trees. She felt the warmth of the rising sun... But, her dream was far from a warming feeling...
[b Avast on her heart, she saw what was meant to be seen by her own eyes. She saw The Fade take form of a knight, which one she didn't know... It attacked her before the towers of Kil'heed. With it, she screamed, into another surrounding... The vast room she was in was dark, and hard to breathe... She looked down to see her belly swollen with life, but a dark image approached her, as if to do her harm... It grew dark, and as she pulled hands to her face, blood trickled from them. A scream she recognized sounded, before seeing Carrick's face, and Felliope's. The blood was hers... The two stood off, and Malik was aiming for Aria... She tossed something and it was about to hit its target...] She woke with a start, gasping somewhat to the shock she felt... This was no dream... It had to have been a vision of what will be...
Unaware that Aria was startled awake when she had awakened so harshly, as if in a trance, she stared at the trees. The dream made sense from the first second she saw it. Her heart sped up, as if a fear had can from within herself. Aria saw this, even attempted to snap her out of her trance. Saraya would not budge.
Her heart raced, without a use of war. Her eyes had widened to the review of it all. Something was gonna happen... She would fight and fight hard. Balden depended on her... Lara... Rhuarc... Ayab... Adimar... Carrick... Aria... Saraya still would not budge from her mission... She wouldn't dare fail the fellowship... Fail The Priestess... Tears fell as the dream played again in her mind. No... She would have to do anything in her ability to keep Aria away from Malik... Even if it meant... Her dream became clear...
She was snapped out of her trance finally after Aria called he name, making Carrick halt the wagon. She slowly looked at to Aria. The look in her eyes... It was a he same look she gave her in her vision... The same worried expression she had given her when Saraya had seen it... If she was to sacrifice herself for her... Her vision had shown her that she would survive... But, what...
She looked to Carrick, who raised his hand to place it upon her cheek. She sighed in relief when she saw his eyes. But, the mountains were close, and their journey wasn't finished.
Days had passed and she wasn't able to sleep since then. Nights, after being with Carrick, when he was sleep in his bliss, she was wide awake, watching the horizon, feeling a threat still around them... Then... One day, came the rain.
No one had learned that she hadn't slept. In fact, Ayab had been doing well in caring for Aria, Rhuarc hadn't been talking to her, nor was Adimar. Balden and Lara were too busy to even communicate with her. It seemed because she decided to save Aria's people, it made it dangerous for the lot of them... Saraya reconciled in her isolation... Until a scream was heard. Saraya then felt power surge on earth. The Fade!
She took off, bare foot and restless towards the feeling of power surging through the earth. When she got there, Aria was being protected by Ayab and Rhuarc. Adimar was using his power to try to stop him but, he was too slow... Suddenly, the demon spoke:
[I [size10 [center "Know this, wherever you go, I will be there. There is nowhere that I can not reach you, you shall never be safe as long as I walk the land. I could hide in plain sight and you would never know. I will never stop hunting you and eventually I will win."]]]
Saraya saw reinforcements, but The Fade was not moved. Saraya saw this in her vision... She was going to meet his adversary in a form of the knight...
[I "Run for Kil'heed... "]
Her voice was low, but she made sure Rhuarc could hear it. The Fade turned, sniffing the air... Then let out a smoky breath with an evil smile that would make even the dead cowar in fear and the blood curdle and the skin crawl on the living. Saraya looked to Rhuarc, eyes wide with fear. [I "Rhuarc, take Aria and run..."] The Fade stepped towards her and she created a small barrier... [I "GO! "]
With that, she took off, rushing past trees and through brush as the grotesque thing get away. She ran to the wagon, shaking Carrick awake. [I The Fade!! ARIA!!! RUNNING TO KIL'HEED!! "]
Without a moment's notice, she had taken to the horses, unlatching her steed Pride and a stallion that Carrick mounted. She ran past villagers, whom once they saw her ride past with haste, quickly picked up the importance of the situation and jumped onto their wagons and steeds, galloping behind her.
Saraya wouldn't stop. She ran through villagers and onto the dirt road, seeing Aria and Rhuarc running ahead on his steed. She saw everyone pile up in an attempt to run through rain. She slowed down to ensure everyone was ahead safely. Kil'heed was not far now. They could make it!
Saraya kept in the back, making sure Saraya had made it to the hillside to see Kil'heed proud. She looked to Carrick. [I "Go... Make sure Aria gets there safe"]
Carrick was confused. [I "What... What about you... "]
[I "Do not worry about me, Carrick... Make sure she gets there safe"]
Carrick didn't want to leave, but Saraya pushed him. [I "Please! I do not want my efforts to be a failure! "] she stared at him with tears falling... Through the rain, Carrick knew what was happening... [I "Saraya.. Saraya, don't-"]
[I "If it means to save you and save The Priestess... To save my friends, my guardian friends, the villagers... I have to... "]
[I "NO! I'm not losing you! "]
[I "Carrick, please! I promised to protect her... How else to slow it down if not this? "]
Carrick didn't want to let her fight alone... But, Saraya was hard on her decision, and he knew she was too stubborn to detour from it... [I "Saraya... "]
She kissed him hard, before drawing her sword. [I "Go, Carrick... Keep Aria safe"]
With that, she [I "Hyahh! "] her steed on, galloping full speed back down the path, in hopes on buying her guardianship time
Adimar had not exaggerated when he said that the journey to Kil'heed would be a dangerous trek, the path that they traversed passed through narrow mountain passes, gorges and narrow ledges, which almost cost Rhuarc his life as he slipped and just barely managed to catch his footing with the help of Ayab before recovering. None of this was made any easier by the presence of those that followed from Tanaka and Rhuarc resented their presence, they slowed them needlessly and only put themselves in more danger by coming with them. Saraya was foolish for insisting they travel with them. Fortune seemed to be with them though as other than the skirmish with the fifty scouts earlier Rhuarc had seen no further attempt by the False king or his forces to strike at them, or if they were being pursued the Guardians were too far ahead for it to matter. Maybe the group might just arrive at Kil'heed unscathed. The Jai Guardian still made time every evening to work with Balden and improve his swordsmanship, the young man was progressing well, he was a formidable opponent for how long he had been working with the weapon and the other bonus was that while he was working with the boy he did not have to spend that time with Aria. While Rhuarc would never shirk his duties of protecting the High Priestess he had let her lessons in the ways of the Jai fall by the wayside, Ayab had picked them up and was continuing them while Rhuarc still ignored her as much as possible.
[+red "You cannot let this go on Rhuarc, not only do you shame yourself but it will end in strife. One day your pride will be the death of you, and I will not allow it to do so. If I must I will put you in white to save you from yourself."] A smile crossed Rhuarc's hard face for a moment before he realised that his friend was not jesting. He truly would make him an [i Akh] a Jai who had been forced into subservience by a custom stronger than written law. [b "That is bold talk Ayab, do not say such things lightly."] [+red "I mean what I say Rhuarc, I do not want to, but if it must come to that then so be it. Try to move past what it is that holds your anger."] In the next day or so of travelling that followed his conversation with Ayab Rhuarc still did not talk to Aria but at least he now able to stand or walk next to her instead of heading in the opposite direction. It was the smallest of steps in the right direction. Soon enough the city of Kil'heed was visible and a lone Tower dominated the skyline, to think one more day and they would have made it to the sacred city of the Volshiv, it would be a relief to have reached their goal. With Kil'heed looming Ayab thought it prudent that the High Priestess should know of Jai customs in relation to consecrated or holy ground, such as this city. [+red "Priestess, the Jai have three main customs that must be observed on sacred ground and they are simple. No Jai may carry a weapon on holy ground, our belt knives excluded of course but they can not be drawn. A Jai must answer all questions put to them and most importantly, a Jai can speak no word that is not true when on Holy ground."] These were important for her to know but Ayab had another reason for telling her this, and he hoped that the High Priestess of Azeroth could puzzle it out; Inside Kil'heed would be the greatest chance for Aria and Rhuarc to discuss and set their differences aside, especially if his stubborn friend could not evade the question or lie to avoid giving an honest answer.
[right [pic http://i64.tinypic.com/s6kvnm.jpg]]
The Fade could not feel boredom, it was one reason why he was created, he could wait for day,s weeks, months on end for an opening to achieve their objective and now, finally it looked like such an opportunity was presenting itself and not a moment too soon. The storm looming overhead slowed the progress of the caravan and camp was set up for the night. The Pristess, his target, was camped between the Jai and the Volshiv Guardian, not an ideal target but the Fade was sure an opportunity would present itself. The magic of Kil'heed was strong, as sacred consecrated ground the Fade could not set foot into the city but with the way these supposed guardians were fractured it was unlikely that he would need to. Night fell and the Fade waited and watched for an opportunity to strike at the Priestess, and she gave it to him on a silver platter. Alone she walked out into the Golden Sea, the covering of thistles made following her path easy as her footfalls trampled the flowers, his own tracks led no trace of course. This was the moment that the Fade had waited weeks for, since before the Guardians had first reached Tanaka the Fade had been waiting.
[#06b9ea "The High Priestess Aria Tolshiv..."] A cold, raspy voice came from the figure under that tattered hood, behind the Priestess where seemingly a moment before she had been alone. [#06b9ea "I have been waiting to be alone with you for some time now. I am the Fade, I believe you have heard of me."] The Fade slowly took down his hood to reveal his face, and the reason this figure always covered their face was now blindingly obvious. The Fade was bald with pale skin, almost like bleached white bone but what drew the eyes was the covering of skin where the eyes should be. The Fade had no eyes but somehow his gaze always seemed to follow his prey and seeing his face in full it would paralyse any mortal that saw it in fear. Men had gone mad by seeing the Eyeless One without a hood. His lips were as black as the abyss with a spiderweb of cracked black veins surrounding them stained with shadow. [#06b9ea "It would be best if you didn't struggle, oh but how I hope you do..."] That cold rasping voice saying those words was enough to send a shiver through anyone's spine.
Rhuarc had just finished his training session with Balden, the young man had actually managed to land a blow on him and Rhuarc now sported a growing bruise on his forearm but that was not what occupied his thoughts, it was Ayab, he was accompanying his friend to the Priestess' tent so the two could talk but no one was there. Adimar was hanging around for his own reasons but when Rhuarc saw Adimar he grew tense, if the Priestess wasn't wit either himself or Rhuarc or Adimar then who...the Jai had spoken to Carrick before Balden's training and he was with Saraya. She was unprotected. Immediately Ayab turned his gaze to the ground and saw tracks leading into the Golden Sea. With a curse in the harsh Jai language Rhuarc took out his blade and sprinted after him, the other men following in his wake. The tracks were easy to follow and up ahead he saw the Priestess facing him with a terrified look on her face, a bald man lowering a hood talking to her. Without worrying Rhuarc lunged with his holy blade of heavy black steel, wielded with deadly purpose and hit has mark, the blade imbedding itself through the back of the man's skull, a foot of black steel protruding out the front of his face. That should have been the end of the matter. Should. The figure, blade still through it's skull started to chuckle in a slow, rasping, cold voice. That laugh was like ice. [#06b9ea "As if mere steel could defeat me...I shall deal with you before I take her."] Thee figure melted into the darkness before reforming a few paces to the side, whip in hand and moved, whatever this eyeless creature was it was impossibly fast. With a crack it snapped the coiled whip out and struck out at Ayab, the weapon finding it's mark leaving a truly horrific gash in the Jai's leg, that seemed to pulse with dark energy. With a scream of pain Ayab fell to the ground incapacitated and out of the fight, Rhuarc marvelled how one wound could bring a man like Ayab to his knees so easily. Clearly this foe was even deadlier than Rhuarc could imagine...and he had already thought him a most dangerous enemy. The Fade gave a horrifying smirk as he sensed who else the foolish Jai had brought with him to the battle: the blacksmith's apprentice that held the seed of hate and cruelty, that one would be unable to strike him down even if it was possible to kill him with mere steel. Adimar shot several arrows at the Fade before all finding their mark where his heart should be but the abomination moved unperturbed by the shafts in his chests and continued to fight, striking with his whip at the Volshiv Guardian, who deftly avoided the deadly weapon. The rumble of thunder sounded overhead and it was then that Adimar unleashed his powers over the storm overhead and channeling the raw power of the storm and sent four bolts of lightning hurtling through the sky to strike at the Fade. The ground exploded where the dark abomination stood, Rhuarc having to throw himself out of the area, but still being struck by a number of sharp stones that left him with a number of bloody wounds across his body. Luckily Balden had been far enough away from the devastating power of Adimar's attack seemingly frozen in fear by the visage of the Fade.
Rhuarc's heart sank as he once again heard that same icy rasping laughter...but that wasn't possible, Adimar's magic was enough to destroy any man, turn them into ashes and dust but there the Fade stood apparently unharmed. [#06b9ea "You think you're pathetic magic is any more effective than mere steel. You have much to learn [i Guardians]]." The scorn in that voice was evident. The Fade turned his back on Adimar and Rhuarc not deeming them threats as he turned his attention to the High Priestess, she had made an attempt to flee but in an instant the Fade materialised out of the darkness in front of Aria as she ran into him and bounced off the monstrosity, landing on the ground at it's feet. With one hand he grabbed the Priestess by her silvery blonde hair and ran a stained black fingernail down her cheek, if that nightmare inducing face had eyes Rhuarc was sure that there would be a hungry, cruel glint in them. [#06b9ea "Malik will be pleased to have you in his hands. Maybe once he's finished with you I will rape you myself. The pleasures of the flesh are beneath me but knowing that it causes you pain is all the pleasure I require. Perhaps not, the only question left to answer is whether Malik will use you for his pleasure before or after he has killed you. Perhaps you will not survive his rape, he is quite vicious, but not half as cruel as I can be. I long to have you as a quivering husk before me, broken. Even if you die, know that the Fenlyk and Caledon Guardians will share your fate."] The darkness around the Fade started to coalesce as the abomination prepared to take his prize straight to Malik when a bestial roar made the vile creature look up to once again face Rhuarc, his blade lay forgotten in the ground but the Jai Guardian stood his ground nonetheless. [b "Take your hands off her demon!"] The Fade opened it's toothy maw, revealing the sharp points of the fangs that The Fade possessed, it was a grim imitation of a mocking smile, the aberration not able to understand any feeling other than cruelty or hate was, certainly anything that would cause a genuine smile. With nothing left to lose the Jai Guardian muttered a prayer to his God under his breath and leapt at the Fade and wrapped one large, powerful hand around on of Aria's slim wrists, and he was holding on for all of his might. [b "Either kill me or take me with you but I will not abandon her to face you or Shade-stealer alone!"] [#06b9ea "Your fate is of no concern to men, brute."] There the Fade and Rhuarc stood in a life and death game of tug of war with Aria the instrument of their struggle. A number of galloping horses were making their way to where the raging encounter was taking place, no doubt attracted by Adimar's lightning and now that reinforcements had arrived, the Fade started to recalculate his position. Two Guardians were already present with the other two likely with the reinforcements...That meant he was in danger. The Fade could only be destroyed if all of the Guardians used their power as one against him, there was no way they could know that but even so there was a chance that it could happen. Rhuarc felt Aria's shoulder pop out of the socket as he struggled to keep her out of the Fade's hands, and by extension Malik's when the monstrosity left his grip weaken and released the High Priestess. Rhuarc and Aria went sprawling to the ground, the large Jai cradling her close to his chest. [#06b9ea "Know this, wherever you go, I will be there. There is nowhere that I can not reach you, you shall never be safe as long as I walk the land. I could hide in plain sight and you would never know. I will never stop hunting you and eventually I will win."] The Fade gave one more look towards the many arriving reinforcements and towards the bloodied Jai, High Priestess in his arms, fear stricken blacksmith's apprentice, and the warrior Mage who had called down the power of the storm on him to no effect before slipping into the shadows and for now at least out of their lives.
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