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Egos had called him mad for laying in wait. They all called him mad, all except Malik who had given him a rare grin and encouraged him. Rhys liked to think of it as being patient. Afterall, when you were nearly as dead inside as the corpses you could raise, you had all the time in the world. So imagine his delight when he saw the airships touchdown in Kil’heed. Unlike the Mage or the Fade who couldn’t step foot inside the temple or run the risk of serious injury to their person if discovered... Rhys didn’t have that problem. At his core, he was still a man. He found a way to get inside Kil’heed, and not only that, he managed to infiltrate the crew of the gifted airship. He remained inconspicuous, working as a simple cabin boy, scrubbing the decks, folding rigging, cleaning rooms, anything that needed done. They were all menial tasks, but if it got him closer to the Guardians, he would do it, and he would prove his worth to Malik as more than just an on call death riser. Rhys would prove he could do so much more, that simply because he was younger, didn’t mean he was incapable. He would prove his loyalty and his love for the man who had practically raised him and taught him everything he knew.
Since news of the Guardians awakening, and word spreading through the city, Rhys had been watching them, keeping his eyes on them, and on one in particular. The youngest of their group was the Fenlyk Guardian. She wasn’t hard to miss with her bright red hair and piercing eyes. She was also a teenager, which meant gaining her trust would be all too easy, or needlessly difficult. He was hoping for the former as she was generally left to her own devices and seemed the most impulsive. Which became all the more apparent by her adventurous nature as she scaled her way up to the Crow’s Nest. He’d been watching them all from where he was in a corner, on his knees with a brush in his hands, scrubbing down a section of the deck. No one noticed him, no one paid attention to him. Which was just how he liked it. He waited for the Mage Guardian to go down the stairs as he had seemed the most protective of the little Fenlyk Guardian; and watched as the hulking Jai and Holy Guardsmen went to a section of the ship to have what seemed like a private conversation. Now was the chance he could make his move. He should have gone right below deck and grabbed the Priestess. Malik wanted her above all things. He could have even moved closer to the Jai and Guardsman to hear their plans, but he was motivated by the Fenlyk Guardian. He dropped his scrub brush and started across the deck and began to climb upward. He took his time, until he finally reached the top and jumped into the nest. Sure enough, there she was. It pulled at his chest, she was young and beautiful... and he decided he wanted her. Water was a powerful force of nature, and he had no doubt that this young woman was no different. He was also hopeful that Malik would approve, and would certainly welcome an impressionable Guardian to his fold.
His first goal was to befriend her. With the Fade’s help, they had managed to make the boy who traveled with them leave, allowing Rhys to replace Balden and complete the mission. Rhys was nearly the same age as the Priestess, at 26 putting him in a good position to not only befriend the Fenlyk Guardian, but hopefully win her over. He had to be careful, and work covertly. He couldn’t risk any of them discovering who he truly was.
The wind was cutting and cold in the crow’s nest, but it didn’t seem to bother the young Guardian. He stopped short, he’d never been this close to one of the Guardians before. If he wanted he could have reached out and touched her. He had to remind himself, to pace himself. This was a long con. He had to learn their plans, relay them back to Malik, and find a way to isolate the Priestess so the Fade could finally grab her. Unlike Egos, Rhys was willing to do the team work required to take down the Guardians. He didn’t mind working with the Fade. The Fade was efficient and calculating. He had learned much from the dark extension of Malik.
There was obviously no sneaking up on the Fenlyk Guardian, as she spotted him instantly. He could only smile at her. “Hi there,” he greeted. He had a handsome face, with dark curly brown hair that haloed his dark tan face. He did not look Volshi, but he did look like he came from a northern Jai clan. His skin was a dark tan, and his eyes a warm brown. He looked the part of a cabin boy perfectly with his dingy tunic, dark pants, and scuffed up leather boots. His smile showed straight white teeth, and was perfectly warm and inviting. “I wasn’t expecting to find anyone up here. You must be one of the Guardians. Gotta be, I ain’t ever seen a girl as pretty as you who wasn’t special.” A budding master of his craft, he grinned and looked embarrassed. “S-sorry, I’m Aerik. It’s nice to meet you,” He held his hand out to shake with her, and smiled when she gave her name. “Well Lara, you look pretty young to be a Guardian, although, I got to admit... I wasn’t expecting any of you guys to look so normal... Usually imagine hero’s to be bigger than they are.” He finally looked up at the sky where she had been looking before he interrupted her and he leaned against the railing to look up with her. “This sight never gets old... I love flying at night.” He’d never been on a flying Airship before, but she didn’t need to know that. “You can see every star, and all that makes up the heavens. It’s beautiful, don’t you think?”
Adimar was glad he was able to help Saraya and Carrick. The way he saw it, the unborn child was just another member of the team. He turned around with a grin, holding his book as he and Carrick watched Saraya walk away when they spotted a familiar face coming towards them.
“I didn’t know he was coming with us.”
“Nor did I...” Carrick murmured and stepped away to confront the man. “Master Luther... how did you-“
“Get on board? Ursula sent me to aid you all. My mission is to help you all succeed.” Luther gave Carrick and Adimar and warm smile and the men didn’t sense anything off, so they both shrugged and welcomed him. “I did have one question for you Captain, I wanted to know if I could formally submit myself to becoming a member of the Holy Guard?” Carrick had no doubts or reservations about Luther and neither did Adimar. Carrick thought it would be a wonderful idea to have an Ancient with his kind of power as a member of the guard, and welcomed him readily. “Wonderful, I was once a member of the Guard, but that was a long time ago...”
“Perhaps a story for another time?” Adimar asked with a grin. Luther smiled flawlessly and agreed before leaving to make himself comfortable in the cabin reserved for guardsmen.
With Luther’s departure, Carrick and Adimar decided to cross the deck and take in the sights, and made their way towards Rhuarc who also seemed to be enjoying the gift of flight.
“There’s a rare sight if I ever saw it, brother,” Carrick teased catching sight of Rhuarc’s rare smile. Beside him, Adimar yawned loudly and nodded his head in agreement.
“Looks good on you.” He told Rhuarc.
“Know what looks good on you?” Carrick asked Adimar. “Sleep. Go, you’ve been up, researching nonstop since you learned of the pregnancy. I appreciate the help, but you need rest too.”
Adimar sighed and nodded his head, tucking the book under his arm. “You’re right. I should get some sleep.”
“Try and convince the Priestess to do the same?” Adimar nodded and waved to Rhuarc and Carrick before he left them to return below deck. Carrick watched Adimar slump away, yawning once more before he vanished, and finally looked to Rhuarc. He was feeling nostalgic and looked out at the clouds they sailed through.
“It feels like a lifetime ago, you all stumbled into my shop, and now here we are... sailing into the most occupied province of Malik’s rule. It worries me. If this ship is spotted he could come find us. I know you’ve been tasked to make sure we win this war as General, but I’m in charge of The Priestess’ safety. I know neither of us want any harm to come to her, but we don’t have the means to conceal her as we did when we left Central City... I don’t fear getting to the Medici... I fear having to fight our way out. I wanted to start a plan or strategy with you in regards to what we should all do if things fall apart in Fenlyk. Once we figure out a plan, we’ll run it by the others. I want to hope for the best, and prepare for the worst. Best being we sneak in and out unseen and can head to the next temple with no issue. However, even I know that’s wishful thinking. Worst case... we’re attacked and split up... so what do we do if that happens? What am I going to do? My duty is to The Priestess, but my heart belongs to Saraya...” Carrick frowned and looked out at the darkness as if ashamed he had to make such a choice. “It’s why I want to build the Holy Guard so badly. I need the reassurance of knowing, that if I’m not there to protect her, at least she has an entire contingent of guards protecting her. I found two in Kil’heed, they’re good sturdy men. Adimar‘s man, Max offered himself, I of course accepted him, and The Watcher Luther offered his blade as well. So I have four men... but I know it’s not enough. I was there the night Malik attacked the Temple. He only had an army of maybe three hundred that attacked the city, but it was only him and five wraiths that killed every guard in the temple. I still wonder how we managed to smuggle her out of there in the first place.” Carrick shook his head of the thoughts and looked back at Rhuarc, both of them were warriors. Men made and bred for battle. “He has a great deal more than three hundred men now. He has an entire army filled with some of the darkest, most twisted souls on this earth. Adimar brought maps with him as well as all those books. When you have the time, I’d like to sit down with you and go over them so we can map out our battle plan. Perhaps after we’ve all gotten some rest,” he advised looking tired himself.
Aria had been in the safety of her room since they had taken off. She figured she would see the world below come sunrise, for now it was too dark to even try and look. She resigned herself to her cabin, with the door open, and open books littered around her as she sat on the floor combing over tomb after tomb hoping to find anything that might shed light on the first guardians. So far she hadn’t found anything, just mostly theory on the Arcane, and considering the hour she might have gone to sleep, but was there really any time for that? Sighing out she flipped another page in her book and saw an illustration of a great dark power. Tendrils of shadow and darkness curled around it, but a beacon of light seemed to hold it at bay. Curiously she ran her fingertips over the dark figure when the candle beside her suddenly blew out and the room grew cold.
A ringing grew in her ears, until everything went dead silent and dark. It gave Aria a bad feeling, and made the hair on her neck stand up. She closed her eyes to try and block it out, but it was no use... she felt a presence behind her. A small breath left her and it clouded in the air as she slowly turned around to face the unknown. She saw nothing behind her but a dark corner. It was rather disconcerting to feel a presence and not see who was there.
“I know you’re there,” Aria breathed nervously.
“I knew you would,” A voice rasped from behind her. It caused her head to swing back around to her front and she gasped at the hooded figure seated before her. Cloaked in darkness, and face hidden, Aria didn’t need to see his face to know who it was. She remembered those skeletal hands, and the cowl of his hood. She quickly scooted across the floor until her back hit a wall. She never expected to actually [i see] him.
“You’re not really here,” she tried to rationalize. His hood cocked to the side as if amused with her, but she couldn’t make out his face.
“No, no I am not.”
“What do you want?” Aria demanded, heart racing.
“I wanted to see you,” he said as if it should have been obvious. “You’ve been away for so long... I missed you.” His words rasped and groaned, but there was a fluidity in his speech that cut through Aria like a rusted razor blade. Still, he made no move towards her, even if it was apparent he was toying with her. This had never happened before, where Aria could see him, either one of them was getting stronger... or the bond was.
“I’ve been watching you since you stepped foot in my city-“
“MY City,” She snapped coming off the wall to intimidate. Not that it worked in the slightest. Under the hood, a sick smile twisted on his face.
“It could be ours, you know. I wouldn’t mind sharing with you... you’ve grown into a fine woman.”
“And you’re the same hideous monster I remember from childhood,” Aria growled right back. For a while he was quiet, but he was staring her down. Aria could feel his gaze, even if she couldn’t see it beneath the shadows of his cowl.
“I am a monster, but I wasn’t always. Would you like to see?” He reached one spindly and knobby knuckled hand out towards her, black claw like nails curling grotesquely. Aria looked to his hand and then to the shadows of his hood, but she dared not reach out. At least... not at first... Rhuarc had said the bond might have an advantage for them if they could only find it. She began to consider it, but a sudden knocking on her door had her concentration shifting.
[i “Aria?”] her head snapped over, with wide eyes to see Saraya in the doorway, and when she looked back... Malik and his presence were gone, and the candle was still burning bright. She let out a breath she didn’t realize she’d been holding and waved her in.
“Please, come in Saraya,” She said, trying to regain her composure and, slowly peeled away from the wall she’d been cowering against and scooted back to her spot on the floor. She quickly forced a smile for Saraya and motioned towards to space in front of her for her friend to sit. “You look distressed,” Aria observed deflecting from herself. “Is it the baby? May I?” She asked hand extended to Saraya’s belly. When given permission, Aria smiled and placed her hand to Saraya’s stomach. There wasn’t much in way of feeling, as the babe was only a little peanut, but it was comforting to sense that new life inside the Caledonian Guardian. “I’m sorry for seeming so cold to you earlier, I was experiencing a great deal of conflicting emotions. Kil’heed revealed much, and it was a lot to process. Do you remember when we first met, how I admitted my envy of women such as you.. for this very thing?” She ask smoothing her hand over Saraya’s stomach with longing. She finally removed her hand, and tucked her head to hide the glimmer of emotion. “I was jealous, and I disgusted myself because of it. I have no reason to be jealous of you. I am inexplicably happy for you and Carrick. This is the reminder I needed. This is what we are fighting for. The people, the children of tomorrow... your child gives me hope. Hope that when he is born, the world will be full of peace, and not darkness or war. Can you forgive me for being so cold earlier and so obtuse as to not notice how close you and Carrick have grown? Or that you’ve been fighting your own demons... such as Higasca... can you tell me why he came to our world? Why he threatened the peace and balance the Guardians had made?”
The sound of a metal staff hitting the floor is not an extremely pleasant one, it is in fact the complete opposite. It is a cacophonous sound which makes one feel as if their bones were being jarred. Lara felt the vibrations going through the floor, into her feet, and from there into the rest of her body. She heard the annoying ear-splitting sound. She felt as if her bones were being jarred.
But unlike the others, her level of frustration at the time of and right after the impact outweighed her sensitivity to cacophonous sounds and bone jarring vibrations.
Lara let out a fast and forced breath out of her mouth, still feeling somewhat frustrated. Where there had been some sort of conversation before, now there was only silence. Her staff banging had probably abruptly killed any civilized conversation that had been happening, and everyone else's attention was on her most likely.
Lara could not believe what Adimar was saying, most of his words concerning her were blatant lies. She was not 'upset', not one of the many meanings of 'upset' could describe her right now. There was only one word, and that was frustrated!
Unlike the rest of them, Lara was not under a lot of pressure; at least at the moment. And neither was she exhausted. Lara did not feel exhaustion, sleepiness, or any other behavior assumed with exhaustion or tiredness. Her current feeling of frustration came from what she had just witnessed. TWICE!
As to Carrick's comment concerning Aria, Lara had never for once questioned Aria's choices. Lara had always trusted Aria, even when meeting her for the first time Everyone else, including herself and Balden, she had questioned their motives from the start, and had continued do that for a good part of the journey to this place.
At the 'suggestion' of "getting packed", Lara found herself escorted to her room by a Watcher. She definitely did not mind being sent to pack, for she had really nothing to pack and she needed time alone to have some alone time.
There was no talk between her and the Watcher all the way up to her room. After she had entered her room, Lara could hear the Watcher turn around and begin his watch over her room. The security measures had been increased, especially after the last incident involving Saraya.
Lara had nothing really to pack. She had come to this place with everything that had been on her person. Lara had never found the need to tote around a chest full of extra clothes and other things. Especially during her three years of living alone, the best way of living was to have everything one needed on them. Anything else was extra and was not needed.
Lara sat on the chair and did not keep track of the passage of time. It was the day, it was the day in which she finally headed back to the place where she had been born and lived for most of her years alive. Even though she knew that Fenlyck was now a dangerous place filled with Malik's dark forces, her heart and mind had always wanted to come back to Fenlyck. Now she could come back and free Fenlyck from Malik's grasp, heal Ayab, and meet up with Balden.
A knock on her door awoke from her reverie. It was almost dark outside, but Lara did not mind the dark. It was the best time to view the stars and moon. That was if there were no clouds.
Being escorted outside, Lara met up with the rest of the company. Aria took up a position in the middle of all the Watchers and Guardians, while the people of Kil'heed cheered them on. It was a happy and hopeful sight to see people who believed in their cause. It felt warm, and Lara smiled brightly.
As they walked up to the airship, a collection of elderly people greeted them; the elders of Volshi. They offered custom weaved shawls to each of them. In the dark, Lara could not see how the other's shawls but hers she could see clearly. A dark marine blue, a similar color of the Fenlyck sea on a clear sunny day, with a masterly weaved coral fish on the shawl and pink tassels beautifully contrasting the dark marine blue. They even got flowers, and they smelled so pleasant.
But this moment, like any good moment, had to come to an end. All of them boarded, Lara noticed, with a happy feeling inside of her, as Aria lingered on the boardwalk before turning around and joining the rest of them.
The ship flew, but Lara did not feel any excitement. It was a ship, and she had already been on plenty of ships. But Lara missed the wooden creaking of the ship as it passed through the ocean waters, she missed the bobbing of the boat as it sliced through waves small to big. To her, this ship felt as a strange entity. But, it did have sails and rigging.
Lara knew that one could climb the rigging and get into the crow's nest at the top of the ship. In the dark, no one noticed as Lara swung onto the rigging and climbed it upwards. Just as she had thought, there was a crow's nest at the top of the mast.
Looking down, she could only see the weak, fluttering lights of the deck lights. But looking upwards, a very beautiful view of the moon and all presented itself. Leaning with her elbows on the firm and unyielding wood of the crow's nest, Lara craned her neck upwards and smiled. It had been such a long time since the last time she had been up in a crow's nest and gazes upwards at a clear sky. For the first time in three years, Lara could feel the ache of what she really missed from her old life. She knew her life after the final fight would never be the same as her old life, but that did not mean she could go and do the same things.
She heard a whistle in the form of a tune slowly approaching from below. It was a casual melody, as if the person climbing upwards did not know that someone was already in the crow's nest.
Even though Lara wanted to stay alone, she knew that there was no way in avoiding meeting the person coming up.
Lara continued leaning against the crow's nest, and looking upwards.
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Saraya had stayed silent as everyone spoke their piece. She could understand why Lara left, why everyone was itching to leave. She was itching to leave, too. Fenlyk was in need, and conversation was not going to appease the situation. Saraya raised her hand in a silent plea for them to calm their ails. She could feel the emotional strain from everyone, and even she was feeling the fatigue from it.
Saraya spotted a alarming expression on her Priestess face. She never heard Aria so distraught. She could read her face... If Hïgàsçá was her father, would it mean that she would be capable of turning her back on her and all she fought for?
Tears welled up when she saw hurtful expressions on Aria's face. She demanded to speak with Aethon alone. She wouldn't allow anyone but Rhuarc to stay with her. As Carrick had helped her stand and they began walking, Saraya raised her head to see her face, and it cut through her as if a sword. She tried to hold her tongue, but something in her told her to tell her what her heart was weeping. She reached out of Carrick's hold and grabbed Aria's hands.
[I "Aria... Please hear me... "] she said, struggling from within herself to speak through her tears. [I "By The Holy Council, You are not alone anymore..."] she looked at Aria, straight in her eyes. [I "I shall tell you the truth about Malik's creator, and how Malik came to be Azera's worst enemy. You will ask when you are ready... "]
With that, some strength returned and she straightened up before carefully walking away, a sick feeling of distress and anger took her features. She walked out, her face blank and eyes slowly became misty. As she stepped out the doors, though, she walked a few feet up before stopping. The Watchers waited for her command.
[I "Only Lord Aethon... Escort him in"]
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[center [pic https://img00.deviantart.net/04f5/i/2012/239/1/9/man_2_by_heise-d5ckrs7.jpg]]
[center In the planes]
A mist of colors, the and a once hazy surrounding of darkness of the void became a Nod of sorts... A clever plane between the spirit world and the connection to it... Life. Sayan had looked about her subconscious, somewhat relieved that his daughter hadn't rejected him as he had thought. He took a seat in the grassy plains, looking into the defining sunrise of her memories. She had perfect memory, Sayan thought in his mind. It could only come when she valued life, moreso than he had or ever wish to experience. His wife, her mother would be proud of her... If she were alive...
[I Ari would've been worried, too...] Sayan's head twirled to a cleaned figure, a face far too familiar. The horseman smirked some before beginning to stand. [b Yes... She was always the one to worry... Even when there was so little to worry about] he chuckled. Caledon nodded and joined the chuckle before looking forward. [I You know that it will take awhile for the others to trust you, horseman...] Caledon started. Sayan nodded and did a acknowledging grunt. [b I have all the time to get them to trust me... It is my daughter, your great granddaughter that hasn't much time]
[I You mean the child?]
Sayan looked to Caledon. [b No... The balance is tipping between darkness and light. Saraya is the only one left now since the ancients that once sat on the throne of The Holy Council was corrupted by Shadow, my brother. She holds light and darkness in either hands, and must keep them balanced... Malik will find out and will not like that I still linger for my revenge... I feel torn that my baby girl must be the vessel]
[I Aye, as do i. But, what does it mean, Sayan? That she is darkness and light?]
Sayan sighed to himself before turning to him. [b She is the only one besides Carrick that can ascend and claim the throne of The Holy Council]
[I What of Carrick? She is bound to him and him to her now, and now she's siring his child.] Sayan stared at him with a smile. [b Caledon, Carrick IS the only ancient that can take her side as King. Malik is also an ancient, which is why my brother could easily claim him after my battle with him. Carrick holds the ability of extreme rule, because of his lineage. His destiny as well as hers is to forever stand where he belongs after eons of being shunned by the corrupted Council. One of which aided me in my battle against Shadow.]
Caledon looked up to Sayan as his eyes absentmindedly traced the horizon. [b Saraya being Prya is just the tip of the iceberg. She and Carrick as a united pair can bring order to these lands, and save Azera's reincarnation from Malik's hands]
[I But, why have her carry, Sayan? If their child...]
[b You forget... She was barren before... She lost her first husband which is now a puppet for The Mage and her first son as well... Only an Ancient could make her carry a child... And not any Ancient... An Ancient that can win the heart of the woman or man Guardian with pure love alone... His power is great, enough to match hers now that they both share your power, Caledon. It was the only choice I had to save her from The Mage's plans...]
[I So, how do we protect her and the child?]
Sayan sighed as he took a seat. [b To be honest... We can't protect her until she is in a panic. Well, I can't anyways. You can help put a barrier around her so that it gives her relief from the strain... She'll need all the help we can give. I already put my insignia on her so she is protected from shadows]
[b The one thing Malik is searching for... Shadows, demons created from my brother and dwells in Fenlyk.]
Caledon sat next to Sayan with a sigh. [b What can we do? We'll have to protect Carrick and Saraya... They must sync completely]
[I They will... There will be a time where they will see for themselves just how important it is... Once they do... They won't lose against Malik... We must hurry, Sayan... Malik has Vega... And she is forced to reveal their teachings... So we will have to teach them some other way...]
Sayan chuckled. [b Your right... Ari would've worried...]
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Saraya had been escorted to the room after they had taken Lara to hers. Once she was inside, she turned to Carrick. It seemed that his previous request to pick soldiers had been summed down to just him. She nodded to him in silent agreement before he made his way down the hall.
She looked around for a chest, and carefully pulled it open. She started gathering garments, pieces of his armor and even her new gown to replace her shredded garment. She trailed away in thought, thinking silently of new feats that they were now faced with. Fenlyk.
She then thought of The Mage. The vial she had with his blood within it was locked in her mind like a cobra's deadly coil. She could use it against him... But, she had to think of how. And as she followed her thoughts to her realization... The Mage may have had a chance on creating a beast with her barren womb, but she managed to survive a deadly situation thanks to her father. There was a sort of peace with that notion, but also a knowing... She was now in a danger alongside Aria... And she had to make sure she wasn't the target... Perhaps she wasn't a sacrifice... Maybe she could use herself as a decoy... Perhaps even learn to confuse Malik with his power. After all, her father gave him his power.
As she finished packing the clothes, Carrick came in. She looked up to him, and his expression was soft and concerned. Her swept her up and asked if she was alright. [I "Yes, my love... I am alright... I'm just a little concerned"] she replied. He hugged her some before saying [I [b "I can tell you’re upset, you’ve got a lot of emotions going on. Just remember, you always have me,”]], casting her the most comforting smile of all smiles and kissed her. She kissed him back and nuzzled him. [I "I know, Carrick... I know... "]
Carrick took it upon himself to grab the chest. He then took her and the both of them walked along to the airship, where they were greeted by the people of Volshi... The citizens had given each Guardian a shawl. Saraya bowed as the young lady gave her her sea dancing shawl and smiled, filling the young girl's hands with hers before walking onto the boat.
Saraya was slightly excited as she looked over there the bow. The ship was magnificent, a true marvel if she did see one. As she looked, though, Carrick pulled her to him and kissed her. With all the excitement, she almost forgot that he was still Apexing... And all the kiss had done was excite her.
Just then, Adimar had ran up to them, excited that he had finally found a spell to protect Saraya and Carrick's child, but the rest of the ingredients were in Fenlyk. Carrick and she heard Adimar's doubts and Carrick assured him otherwise. Saraya smiled and nodded. [I "You are a true brother, Adimar... "] was all she could muster before seeing Ayab. Relieved to see him, Saraya walked to Rhuarc and Ayab, looking to them both. [I "Hey... "] she blushed. She wanted to speak to them... But she couldn't form the words... She did try. [I "Thank you... For everything... I may not say much, or have much of your respect... But, I respect you both and your [b Toh]. Perhaps, when the day comes, you would advise me... And perhaps teach my son on the rules of battle... "] Saraya wasn't much for punching, as it was their custom, but she gave the both of them soft punches on their arms and bowed her head to them both.
There, afterward, she made her way below deck and found a room. She scaled the room, sitting down finally in a bed suitable for her rest. She sighed some, as she began exercising her power, and saw Carrick above ground, watching the plateaus, though in the dead of night, and began smelling the sweet scent of his apex again. The scent made her shiver, and she wanted him to come and rectify this desire she had been feeling, but now wasn't the time. Malik's eyes was going to be upon them. But, it was going to be hard to avoid that sweet smell.
She then decided to wander, and down the hall, she could smell it stronger than ever... As she walked, though, she passed a room, and The Priestess was within it... Saraya stared before knocking gently on the door. [I "Aria? "]
Rhuarc watched Aria's face light up at the mention of Saraya and Carrick's child. the Jai thought that it was a good thing to see that even in such dark times, there could still be a light to be found if one looked for it. The name Higasca seemed to mean something to the Priestess she recognised it and knew that it had something to do with a horseman, of that particular figure the Jai Guardian had no knowledge of such a figure however what Saraya said was true, it was time that they moved on from Kil'heed. Fenlyk held the key to healing Ayab's injury and taking the next step in toppling Malik's regime. Aria wished to have a private audience with Lord Aethon, and Rhuarc couldn't help but agree with Adimar that being alone with the Lord was not the greatest of ideas. The man was a slick talker and who knows what he might try and make her agree to, thankfully Aria soothed both of their concerns by allowing Rhuarc a place at her side. Rhuarc swelled with pride as she said those words although his outward appearance never faltered and with Aria he once again entered the Sanctum and Lord Aethon once again made an appearance. Rhuarc stood stoically by Aria's side in case he was needed but the Volshi Royal was nothing but compliant and respectful, and he revealed his true intentions for the airship, he had not brought it for the Priestess, he brought it for his son. Adimar and his father may not have had the best of relationships but the man loved his son far more than the younger Aethon knew. He wanted his son to succeed and while he was constrained by what he could do to help by way of his position he had found a way to give Adimar what he needed. [b "You are a man of great honour Valerius of House Aethon."] The words were simple but Rhuarc meant them, and while others might not realise just how honorable he was Rhuarc would remember. The Jai respected Lord Aethon a great deal. The Volshi emissary gave his goodbyes before he left the Sanctum. Aria sat in silence while Rhuarc stood there, she was obviously considering something carefully, meanwhile Rhuarc was thinking of all the preparations that would need to be completed if they really were to leave for Fenlyk tonight.
[i "Walk with me."] Rhuarc nodded and followed the Priestess through the heavy door and once she had oppened it the sunlight view of Kil'heed greeted them. The city was coming along nicely and in maybe a year it would be one of the Land's great cities once again. The people had returned and were filling what had once been empty streets with life again. It was a good sight. [b "Of course Priestess."] If Aria wished to disclose something to him in private then this was obviously important. Aria spoke of how she had chosen Rhuarc as General for a reason, how he could do what must be done, how he could make the hard choices. [b "Pristess, I give you my word that if you fall I will continue on, I will not rest until the False King has fallen or I have, although I hope I never have to keep this vow."] A look of pain crossed Rhuarc's face for the briefest of moments as he imagined the possibility of a world without the High Priestess in it. He was not convinced that without Aria to guide them the Guardians would succeed, but he would do everything in his power to bring down Malik or die valiantly in the attempt. [i “I have a connection to Malik. I don’t know why, or how... but it’s there. I first learned of it in Tanaka, but when we leave I’m certain it will come back. I won’t have the protection of Volshi, and I don’t know what it will bring...”] Rhuarc was astounded at that revelation however there was nothing that he could do about it now so he needed to move forward. [b "That might not be such a bad thing, if we can use it correctly. It is merely another weapon that we need to find a proper use for. Fear not Priestess, it will bring what it will bring and we shall be ready for whatever that may be."] Rhuarc returned her smile although there was no sadness on his face. [b "There is no amount that you could lean on me that would be too much. Having your trust is a point of great pride for me. Priestess, I too am glad that we have put the past behind us, it was a point of great shame how I acted and I must let you know it was not of your doing. It was me. I was scared. As for the trials, I did not miss you for you were with me. You gave me the strength that I needed to continue when all seemed lost in the trial of Fear, you were there to guide me in the Trial of Desire. You were always there Priestess and for that I thank you."] The Jai figure placed a comforting hand of Aria's shoulder before considering something for a moment and continuing. [b "Aria of House Tolshiv, I will always be here if you need me, you have my word. You are [i da'thei]."] The Jai word would be unfamiliar to the Priestess, only Ayab would understand what Rhuarc had said and even if Aria did not realise the significance of the statement Rhuarc knew and that was enough. The two parted ways in order to prepare what needed to be prepared.
Rhuarc managed to catch the end of Carrick's session to try and build a holy guard for her and while he stayed out of sight he was curious to see the sort of men who would be defending Aria with their lives. Carrick was an excellent judge and chose only the finest to be by her side, Rhuarc gave a nod of approval to himself at the former blacksmith's choices. From there he went to help Ayab pack up his supplies and walk with him to the waiting Airship, he told his friend about his naming Aria [i da'thei] and Ayab burst into a glorious rich laughter, joy covering his face, he hadn't been this happy since before he was wounded by the Fade. Rhuarc was glad to see his friend happy again, he had feared that he might never be again but Ayab had a new life to him. As the two Jai walked to the airship they could see the crowds starting to gather, wishing them well and by the time they had actually reached the ship itself the streets were packed , it seemed the whole city had come to see them off, Watchers included. One by one they were each gifted a Volshi shawl that was draped upon their shoulders. Rhuarc actually had to take a knee in order for the woman to place the fabric over his shoulders before rising again, standing proudly surveying the glorious sight before him. This was what it was all about, the people. Fighting to free the people from Malik's tyranny was why they were doing this, it was them who were important, not the guardians. Rhuarc went straight to the bow of the ship as the great skyship took off, although it was dark he strained his eyes in order to see the ground below. He could see the others shivering with the cold but the fire of Jai'hash kept him warm, a childlike grin broke the normally rock hard face as the wonder of flight overtook him. Ayab on the other hand was below deck where he was reunited with Aria. [+red "Aria! How glorious it is to see you once more. The days were darker without your presence, Priestess. My wound has plagued me greatly but now that we are on the move again we can do something about it, and more importantly we can take down Shade-stealer!"] The two embraced before Ayab retired to his room and rested, while the Volshi airship sped towards the Province of Fenlyk.
“Alone… what is she thinking?” Carrick cursed, staring at the closed door of the Sanctum. He stood with Saraya under his arm, so he could help her stand. He knew she was upset from Aria sending them out, and the look on her face when she learned who Saraya was descended from. Beside him was a confused Adimar.
“Well, she’s not alone. Rhuarc is with her,” Adimar observed. “Besides, things got a little tense in there, I don’t blame her for sending us out, plus… that was a lot for her to take in-“ Adimar said, but was interrupted by the loud sound of Lara’s staff. They turned to see a frustrated look on her face as she gripped the elegantly crafted weapon in her hands. Adimar shared a look with Carrick and Saraya, before he decided to approach her.
“Hey now, no need to be so upset. We’re all in this together,” Adimar said hoping to cheer Lara up, though not knowing why she was so upset. Frowning Adimar looked to the rest of the group and sighed. “Look, we’re all under a lot of pressure, and all of us are exhausted, myself included. Let’s do what the Priestess has asked of us, and let’s be ready to leave when she gives the order.”
“Adimar is right,” Carrick agreed. “And this is for the best, The Priestess needs to start being our leader. She’s been too uncertain to truly lead us before now, and perhaps whatever she endured during her trials has changed that. We have to trust her to do what is right.”
Adimar nodded his head towards Carrick, thankful for the man’s agreeing words.
“It’s settled then, let’s get packing.”
From there Adimar gathered a group of watchers and enlisted their help in preparing the Guardian’s things to be loaded up on the Airship, as well as managed to get them to help him carry several books and scrolls from the archives of Kil’heed onto the ship for Aria and himself to read later, then he spent the remainder of his day with his father, leading up to a heartfelt moment before he boarded the airship that night.
As for Carrick, he saw Saraya and Lara to their rooms so they could prepare to leave, but Carrick had other concerns and left to complete his previous task. He watched several young Volshi soldiers try their hand at combat against one another, before he selected five to fight against him. Of those five, he only kept two to join the Holy Guard, but he ended up taking on a third. Adimar’s man, Max had offered his blade to join the elite Holy Guard. It was no debate, Carrick had fought beside the burly man, and he had protected The Priestess in the past. Carrick was quick to welcome him into the fold, and named him his second. By the time Carrick had finished his task and had seen his new men outfitted in new armor befitting their station, he made quick work to find Saraya, while Max went off to gather Aria and escort her to the Airship.
The sun was just beginning to set when Carrick entered his and Saraya’s room. He found her neatly packing their small amount of things into a single trunk, but something about seeing her bathed in the red glow of sunset set him on fire. He approached without words and drew her into his chest to hold her, asking her if she was doing alright and not to fear about The Priestess… or the Mage.
“I can tell you’re upset, you’ve got a lot of emotions going on. Just remember, you always have me,” He said with a warm smile before he kissed her. From there he collected their trunk of things and carried it under one strong arm, and used his free arm to drape over Saraya’s shoulders and walk with her to the Airship.
The Airship was packed and ready to go. Loaded up with plenty of provisions, the quarters of the ship were prepared for the ships crew and its passengers. Everyone was making their way to the airship, but word spread that the Guardians were leaving Kil’heed at sundown, and people flooded the streets. It was rather like a parade as the group walked down the streets of the city towards the battlements. The people applauded, tossed flowers, and gave their blessings for safe travel and victory. Watchers escorted them through the streets and in the middle of the Guardians and the Watchers walked Aria. With a single glance it was easy to tell how much she loved being out with the people.
Before any of them could board the airship, they were greeted by a collection of Volshi elders and were each presented with a traditional Volshi shawl.
“We offer you these traditional cloths for protection and warmth against the icy winds and your enemies. These were all made just for you,” An elder man said, and from his side came two young women. One of them smiled at Adimar with a soft blush as she draped a shawl over his shoulders. It was silver with the familiar patterns and prints of Volshi design. Another woman brought a shawl to Lara and placed it over her head and shoulders as well. THis shawl was a dark marine blue and shimmered like the ocean, and embroidered on one of the corners was a coral fish, and it had coral pink tassels that hung from its edge. Saraya’s was also draped over her head, and hers was a mix of watercolors blended together in shades of green, blue, and pink to represent the Earth. Soft beads like quartz decorated the brim of the shawl as it went over her head and glittered like a crown. Rhuarc’s shawl was a bright red, and given to him by an equally red faced woman who blushed as she gifted Rhuarc his shawl lined with a metallic fabric in the color of copper. Aria’s was the simplest of them all, a plain sheer white shawl that was draped over her head and shoulders. The fabric shimmered though as if dusted in glitter and it twinkled under the fading sunlight. Bouquets of flowers were even given to Lara, Saraya and Aria before they boarded the ship. “Go in safe travels,” The Volshi elder bade them, and then Lord Aethon bid them a fond farewell.
Aria was the last to board, and only because she lingered behind to look at the city she never got a chance to explore, and the people she never had the chance to truly meet. Thankfully Carrick saw her linger and he walked over to help her finish stepping over the planks. It wasn’t long after that, that the moorings and lines were dropped from the battlements and the ship rose higher into the air, taking off into the night.
They were off for Fenlyk.
Carrick had never been on an airship before, and he had to admit the wind was chilly as they sailed north among the clouds to skirt around Central City and reach the Oceans of Fenlyk. He was looking down at the world far below seeing nothing but darkness as the night had taken over. He almost felt like a young boy to see such things, and it gave him cause to smile. He couldn’t help but reach out for Saraya nearby and steal a kiss from her when they were both approached by Adimar who carried a heavy looking book with him.
“I found it!” Adimar exclaimed as the ship sailed effortlessly, the wind filling the sails of the ship and the runes beneath the hull glowed with power.
“Found it? What did you find?” Carrick asked unawares of what Adimar had been busy doing this whole time.
“When I found out that Saraya was with child, I decided to start researching for protection spells to keep the baby safe until it was ready to be born. I found it in one of the books I took from the Archives in Kil’heed.”
“Is that where you and the Priestess have been since we took off? Noses in books?” Carrick teased. Adimar gave a comical pout and leaned in towards Carrick, holding his book like a babe.
“I’ll have you know, that the written word can be just as powerful as a sword, if not more powerful. Knowledge is power, Carrick, and the more of it we have, the stronger we are.” He beamed triumphantly towards Saraya and turned the book to show her the runes. He didn’t anticipate her to be able to read it, since it was written in Volshic Runes, but the instructions were there. It dawned on Carrick then that Adimar’s exhaustion was from the research he’d been doing for Saraya and his child. It was comforting to know Adimar was such a loyal friend.
“What all do you need to complete this magic?” Carrick asked, and it was then Adimar’s face fell.
“I have a few of the ingredients needed, but some will have to be purchased in a marketplace when we reach Fenlyk. My greatest concern is that I can try to complete the spell, but I don’t know if I have the arcane abilities to complete it.” It was Carrick’s turn to reach out and offer encouragement.
“I’ve seen you use magic in battle, I have faith you can do it. Besides, you’re the most powerful Magic user in our group. You’re our Mage.”
“Thanks,” Adimar shrugged feeling the encouragement. He knew he was talented with magic, but he had never attempted something this difficult before. He could only hope he didn’t let Carrick and Saraya down.
Below deck Aria was reunited with Ayab who she hugged tightly, and placed a kiss to his cheek before she submerged herself into her room and began to pour over the books Adimar had brought. She left her door open, inviting anyone who wished to see her to enter. Adimar had been in and out since they had taken off, and was currently topside with Carrick and Saraya. Sure enough as soon as their ship passed the barrier of Kil’heed’s protection Aria felt the tingling of a tether in her soul. Malik would soon know she was on the move again.
The old crone had given Malik much to think about, if what the bitch said about Luther was true then he would need to be dealt with at some point but for now that was not one of the more important issues of the day. [i “Vega bring me the Fade, I wish to have words with the monster.”] As Vega bobbed her head in acknowledgement and made to leave the room as soon as Malik turned around the Fade was already standing there with it’s hood down, all of it’s monstrous features on display. Malik had created many abominations in his quest for power and in order to consolidate the throne he had taken but even he had doubts over the creature standing before him. The abomination was extraordinary at what was asked of it but the eyeless face and the black spiderwebs of rot surrounding the fanged mouth were off-putting even to Malik and he had done many unsavoury things in his time. [#06b9ea “You wanted me?”] Even his tone was insolent, disrespectful, if anyone else dared talk that way to their king Malik would have ripped the tongue from their mouth before they finished talking. [i “It appears those rebels are about to move away from that damned city. So far all of my Lieutenants have failed me, Egos, the Necromancer and you have failed to get me that bitch Aria. I expect better.”] The Fade almost smirked, at least that was what Malik thought that was what the toothy maw that passed for a mouth was doing. [#06b9ea “How exactly have I failed you? In fact as far as I can tell I’m the only one who has done anything of note. I’ve mortally wounded one of the blundering Jai, if he isn’t dead already then it is only a matter of time. He will die, that is a certainty. I have infected one of their group with my own seed of hate, I know where they are at all times, I know what they feel and in time I will be able to influence their thinking. I have spread paranoia and ensured that they will always be looking over their shoulder for me, I have them jumping at every little shadow lest I be there to draw the into it and place them before you. That is what I have done. It’s more than your pet mage.”]
As much as it pained Malik to admit it what the Fade said was true, the abomination had actually done good work, it wasn’t surprising that was the reason that Malik used ancient dark magic, to create a creature that could do what the Fade could, stealth, infiltration, manipulation were all second nature to the creature. [i “Egos might not be as loyal a subject as I had hoped, he seems to have his own agendas recently. I hope that you keep serving as loyally as you have been.”] [#06b9ea “I have never claimed to be one of your loyal subjects, and you know even if I did, I wouldn’t mean it.”] Malik nodded, the Fade felt no loyalty to anyone or anything, it couldn’t feel any loyalty. Only hate. Malik was convinced that the Fade continued to serve him partly because it allowed the vile abomination to continue inflicting pain on others, that and because Malik created the Fade in the first place, the king knew the secrets to the Fade's destruction. [i "You have been watching Kil'heed from a distance have you not? Tell me what you can."] The Fade took a moment and stared at Malik with his eyeless face, the rot seeming to ooze from his the cracks around his mouth. [#06b9ea "It is difficult to say as you well know that I could not enter the city itself, there were two airships that arrived maybe a few days ago, who is on them I could not say for sure nor could I say where they will travel to with any accuracy. I would guess to one of the other Provinces. They all had merit. If they went to the Wastelands they would likely find an army with the Jai to use against you, Caledon may reveal more of the Prya whore's power and maybe find Arcane secrets long forgotten. That could be dangerous. Fenlyk would be interesting, there are many secrets hidden beneath the water but it is the Province that you have the most hold on even with the recent rebellions. Fenlyk bent the knee to you long ago but even there there are places where your rule is weak. I would say Fenlyk would be the most dangerous place for them to go because of your influence. Either way I will track them down eventually, after all I still have my pawn in their midst."] The Fade gave Malik a lot to think about, the Jai had been a thorn in his side for years, refusing to submit to his rule, the bitch Aria at the head of an army of Jai would be troubling. Caledon and Fenlyk would both hold more mystical challenges, and if they learnt things there that could hurt him... [i "I want to crush them completely. Send forces to Caledon and Fenlyk, let them feel how harsh it is under my boot. Follow the one you have infected and see where they take you."] With a nod and a horrifying grimace the Fade slipped into the shadows to pursue his pursuit of the Priestess and her allies. The hunt was on.
His nails rapped against the stone railing of the balcony he looked out from. Below, the city moved quickly, strings of soldiers in black armor marched through the streets keeping the meticulous order he demanded. He had locked the city down when he’d heard the Priestess had been in the city, but it had been too late. As quickly as news reached him she was in the city, she was gone. It had taken weeks for the smoke from burning shops and homes within the city to finally die down. Once word had reached the people, there was a mass exodus of people trying to flee the city. The Sky turned red that day with the blood of those traitorous fools still clinging to the old ways. Didn’t they see that the old gods had abandoned them? That it was time for a new world of order? Hadn’t life been peaceful under his regime to those faithful?
How was it that one woman was proving to be so elusive? His Necromancer, nor his Mage, not even the old Hag could see her. The moment she had crossed the gates of Kil’Heed she had been gone from him; just as Vega warned. He could no longer whisper dark thoughts in her mind, nor could he see her, and for the past six months he stewed with little patience for the Priestess to resurface. Egos had been disappointing as well, and acting stranger than normal. He feared he was losing the Mage’s loyalty. He refused to let his rule crumble. He was in command and finally after years of meticulous planning he was close to completing his goal. He was also on the cusp of it all falling apart… It infuriated him. Made his Ancient Blood boil, and those around him suffered.
Higasca… That damned fallen spirit had caused this life, and once he had the Priestess he’d be able to finish what he’d started. He would finally have the last piece to controlling the Four Provinces, and bring order to chaos. He would take the damned souls and he would put them to use in controlling the masses. He’d already begun building his army of every fallen soldier in his raids creating a massive hoard of Dragur to do his bidding. It would all be for naught though, if Egos continued to slip away from his path for more selfish conquests. It all had something to do with the Caledonia Guardian.
He was not alone, however, as Vega and The Fade were in the room with him. The old woman frowned at him, seemingly unafraid of him and walked forward.
“I see why you wear the glamour spell when you are out of this room,” Malik glared at her, looking ready to strike the old woman, but she grinned a cheshire grin at him. “You are far too handsome to incur any real fear.”
“Do you have a death wish, Hag?” he demanded, black eyes glittering dangerously. Vega only heaved a heavy sigh and leaned on her staff.
“At my age, death would be a welcomed reprieve.” She looked at him as if seeing a different version of Malik. “That is why I do not fear you the way the others do. They value their life, I am ready for mine to end.”
“I am not ready for you to die just yet. You are still of use to me,” Malik warned her.
“I am aware, My Lord. However, I came here for a reason other than Egos’ questioning loyalty.”
“What’s that?” He demanded.
“I sense the Priestess has awakened, whatever slumber Kil’heed hid her in, she has finally awakened from it.”
That was news! Malik stood stunned, how had he not sensed her awakening? His stunned disposition did not last long as it quickly transformed into one of glee. A sadistic smile curled on his lips and he closed his eyes feeling out for her. It was faint, like the gentle caress of a feather, but he felt her aura. It caused him to chuckle darkly, and his eyes snapped open glittering like beady black beetles. He had been waiting a half year to sense her again, and there she was. He couldn’t reach her, but he could sense her again.
“I am so pleased that you are happy with the news,” Vega stated, pulling him from his reverie and causing him to glare. She stared back with her same deadpan expression, the creases of her face deeper than ever. Vega knew the truth: Malik’s obsession with Aria had nothing to do with wanting to kill her, it had everything to do with completing himself. It gave her great concern for the pure hearted priestess. Everything could be a double edged sword, and the Priestess was no exception. Sure she had a Pure Heart with the potential to do great good, but on the flip side there was the potential for her to turn from the light and become as Malik… dark and dangerous. It was that fate which Vega hoped to avoid. For if the Priestess did turn dark, they would all be doomed.
Malik could sense Vega was dying, and while he might not have cared for her personally -he was going to keep her alive for as long as she was useful.
“Has the future changed?” He asked. Vega sighed, closing her eyes to search the future. He felt the pressure in the room thicken with her powers, until it all snapped like a tense bowstring and her eyes snapped back open. They were a swirling milky white, and her voice was distorted as she spoke.
“I see the Priestess, she will still be delivered to you… your patience will pay off and you will have what it is you seek.”
“I still need that spell! Do you see where it is hidden?”
“In a book… soon to be discovered. He will not know what he carries, but with time will learn and if allowed… become the first Light Mage in over a Century.” Malik grit his teeth. The Guardians were getting more and more powerful and his odds lessening with each passing day. “I see more... I see a large ship, a sword, and raging fire...”
“What kind of sword?” Malik dared to ask. Vega’s eyes returned to normal and she leaned on her staff, winded from the energy spent to use her gift.
“I am not certain, only that it is important to the Priestess. I do see a death as well...”
“Who’s?” Malik demanded.
“The Mage... he will die soon. He will fail you... and I saw another face. One important to you, a man who betrayed you many years ago.” Malik’s shoulders tensed at the mere thought of who that man might be.
“And what did this man look like?” Malik growled tensely.
“Handsome, face like an angel, eyes like the sky and hair of gold.”
The stone railing under Malik’s hand crushed into pebbles and dust at Vega’s description.
“Luther...” He growled.
Luther was a distraction though, and he would get his vengeance on his brother for betraying him, just not now. Not until he proved to be a menace. Malik wasn’t going to bother with the man until he had the priestess or he became a problem -whichever happened first.
“Is there anything else I can do for you my Lord?” Vega asked. Malik grit his teeth and shook his head.
“Leave us Hag. I want to speak with The Fade.” Finally Malik looked to the silent dark figure that had remained in the room. He was there to greet him, animated from the shadows in the room, but as solid as a living man. The Fade had been keeping a watchful eye on Kil’heed for Malik, while he waited for the Priestess to resurface, and now that she apparently had, he wanted to know everything the Fade knew.
It was a tense scene, but Karrot learned quickly not to threaten Aria. She didn’t fear him, it was Malik she feared, and some little man on a power trip was not about to set Aria off. She maintained a cool and collected expression as those around her handled the situation at hand. Lord Aethon had at least recognized quickly who Aria was and no longer questioned it. She had shared a memory with him, one from her childhood. It had been the night she was ripped away from the Holy Temple.
[i Lord Aethon saw it all as if he was a small child of six years old. The scene opened to the view of the floor of her bedroom, dressed for sleep, and playing with a small doll. He instinctively knew it was the only toy the Priestess had, and she used the doll as a model of the Priestess she intended to be.
“And I decree that on this most holy day, everyone shall have a cup of sweet cream because it is the tastiest treat there ever was. It shall be my gift to you all,” She sang in a sweet little voice, like the tinkling of bells. Only to have her quiet playtime rudely interrupted by the heavy toiling of bells. She frowned, knowing those bells should only ring at the cause of celebration… or danger. Knowing there was no cause for celebration she padded over to the window and peered over to the best of her abilities to see what was going on, but too short to see beyond the city walls. It wasn’t much longer that her door was thrown open and there stood five men in gold and white robes, wearing elegant armor and with swords drawn. She gasped, startled by their sudden appearance.
“You scared me! That wasn’t very nice,” she chided.
“Priestess, we have to evacuate you,” The Captain of the Guard said, hurrying to kneel before her and be eye level with her.
“Evackooate?” She asked uncertain of the word, but they did not elaborate, and with one quick swoop, the Captain swiftly picked her up into his arms and they all proceeded to march down the halls of the Holy Temple. “Why are the Bells ringing, Cap’n Mercer?” her bell like voice had asked. The gruff old Captain frowned, but he did not lie to her. He informed her they were under attack by an unknown enemy, and they had to smuggle her out of the city before it was too late.
They had been caught by surprise, the walls of the city breeched and the Temple overrun. Lord Aethon had to witness through the eyes of a six year old girl, the vicious murder of her guards at the hands of reanimated skeletons. Running for her life, tripping over the slaughtered bodies of temple fathers and mothers, and coming face to face with Malik. He had stood tall, his face shrouded by the darkness of his tattered cloak, and looking more skeletal than man.
“Hand the child over to me,” he had hissed, bony hand extended and surrounded by wraiths.
“I will die first, you shall not harm her!” Captain Mercer had proclaimed, holding Aria in one arm and his sword out with the other. Still, she watched her Captain die protecting her in a duel against the False King. The last image she had of Captain Mercer was him facing Aria, unarmed, with a black blade covered in blood sticking up from his chest, and Malik wielding the blade behind him. Blood spurted from his mouth, falling to his knees and shouting for her to run fast and far away. Little Aria had done as she was told and bolted like a frightened deer with tears in her eyes. She wanted a place to hide, but a remaining Temple Guard found her and ran with her. That guard was Carrick, he carried her out of the temple with quick steps and all but tossed her to Elder Rigby who was waiting to smuggle her out of the city in an underground tunnel. ]
Lord Aethon had been released from the memory after that, and was eager to help her. His son had been right, he would be able to verify The Priestess without taking her to Aero City. Karrot seemed incapable of keeping his mouth shut and they both found themselves promptly escorted from the Sanctum and he relayed what he saw to his partner.
Inside the sanctum, Saraya seemed sick, which was alarming for Aria to witness.
“Saraya? Are you alright?” Aria had asked after requesting Lord Aethon and Karrot step out for a moment. Saraya seemed pale, a light sheen of sweat on her forehead, and wasn’t able to answer right away, but she noticed Carrick and Adimar were well aware of what was happening. “An explanation from someone would be nice,” she commanded, startling Carrick and Adimar, who had never heard Aria be cross or stern before today. To be fair, after Saraya’s show of prowess, Aria was a bit conflicted. She had wanted to make a good impression on the Volshi Emissary, and she feared between Karrot and Saraya they may have insulted the other to the point compromise might not be found.
“Tell her, my love…” Carrick encouraged Saraya.
[i “I carry Carrick's child... " ]
Aria gasped at the news. “You’re pregnant?” She asked in wonder and frantically looked between Carrick and Saraya. She had known they were close, known they cared about another, but she had no idea that their affection was so strong it had born a child out of love.
“We are,” Carrick confirmed wrapping his arms around Saraya and placing a kiss to her head. Saraya began to speak next, but Aria was having trouble listening… Saraya was pregnant. Aria felt further conflict within her. A Happiness at knowing despite all of Malik’s fear, there was still hope that they would succeed, that they could leave a better world for the children of tomorrow. On the flip side, Aria was embarrassed to admit she felt jealous. Jealous of the lovely Saraya who was free to have those things… she disgusted herself.
Aria had tensed at the name of Higasca. It derailed her thoughts on Saraya’s pregnancy and brought her back into the conversation. “The Horseman?” she asked shocking the others that she knew who Saraya spoke of. Saraya tried to assure Aria that her father was not a villain, but Aria wasn’t convinced. His appearance had caused the fall of the first Guardians, what would it mean now that he was manifested inside his own daughter?
[i “The time has come... We must leave for Fenlyk... My father says that there isn't much time before Malik overpowers the people left there. Send in the Lord Aethon. We must finish this meeting... Forget about me right now”]
Aria exhaled a shaky breath, hands gripping the armrests of her seat so tightly her knuckles turned white. She was torn between elation for Saraya and fear of what this could all mean. For a moment her thoughts churned in her head, and she watched as Lara quietly slipped from the room, but Aria was not fooled -she could sense Lara’s frustration and disquiet.
“I will finish this meeting… alone.” She left no room for argument. “Saraya, you should find rest. I need you sharp and ready to depart when I give the order. Adimar, please see to preparations for our soonest departure, and gather as many books as you can on the Ancients, and the First Guardians. You are all dismissed,” Aria called into the room. Adimar and Carrick both frowned from their place as the Watchers reluctantly filtered out.
“I’m not comfortable leaving you alone with my father,” Adimar tried, but Aria held a hand up and silenced him from saying another word.
“I will not be entirely alone,” She motioned towards Rhuarc. “Now, we do not have much time. We’ve made our first impression, and I need you all preforming other tasks. I want to leave before Malik can storm the gates of this place. I want to leave tonight.”
“Tonight.” She grinned.”Saraya is right, we must leave for Fenlyk.”
Aria waited for everyone to leave the Sanctum. The only person welcomed back in was Lord Aethon. Alone the three of them brokered their deal. Aria apologized for her use of powers and the memory, as well as the actions of her guardian against his man, but Lord Aethon was a far more reasonable man than she anticipated and allowed it all to slide. Stating that it was clear her guardians loved her and had devoted themselves to her, and in that he knew she was genuine and true.
“Your people love you, Priestess. I can not fault you for that. It is admirable, and having now had the chance to speak with you, I can see why they are so devoted.” Aria observed Lord Aethon from her seat, a look of masked indifference painting her features.
“Flattery will not gain you any favors,” She warned. “Besides, I have become accustomed to your son’s silver tongue, one I now know he has inherited from you. You should be proud of him.” Lord Aethon seemed solemn, but there was a flicker of pride in his wan smile.
“I am, though I know he would never believe it. He believes I brought the airship for you… I brought it for him.” Aria finally smiled softly, seeing love in the man’s eye for his son.
“I know, and I will try to help him see that, but you are helping more than just Adimar. You’re helping all the provinces and their people. You have given us a gift that will allow safe passage to the other provinces, will allow us to stay a step ahead of Malik, and I will never forget this. You have my gratitude.”
“I will tell tale of your arrival to my king and those in Aero City.” Lord Aethon did not linger much after that, and made his way from the Sanctum, leaving Aria to sit in silence.
She remained sitting for a long while, contemplating and thinking about their next move. No doubt the others were unhappy that she had sent them out to speak with Lord Aethon in private, but tensions were high and she didn’t want to risk another insult to any of her guardians, or the Volshi. She weighed all that she knew, The Sword, Azera and Malik, Saraya’s pregnancy, Balden’s whereabouts, Luther’s mysterious history, and Malik’s ability to get inside her head. She knew there was no time to waste and made orders to a Watcher for the ship to be ready to leave at sunset. They would take off from Kil’heed under the cover of darkness and begin their trip to Fenylk in hopes of healing Ayab, reunite their team with its missing member, purify the sword Carrick carried, and pass any test the Fenlyk spirit threw at them. Volshi had been challenging, she could only imagine what Fenylk would be like.
After her quiet thoughts and ordering the guardians and the ship be prepared for departure at sunset, Aria turned to Rhuarc. “Walk with me,” She requested, and started down from the dais to cross the Sanctum. She pushed open one of the heavy doors and allowed sunlight to fill the room with blinding power. Before her lay the entire city of Kil’heed, and above the battlements were the two airships. She felt a swell of determination fill her to know they were one step closer. “Our first diplomatic meeting went well, all things considered. Since we will be leaving in a few short hours, I am sure there are matters you wish to see to before we depart, but I want to make you aware of something before we leave the privacy of this room... I made you General for a reason, you are different from the others. You can and will do the things that need to be done, that most people can’t do. You are a leader, Rhuarc. If something should happen to me... I want you to make me a promise... finish this,” She told him, a serious look on her face. “Strike Malik from his throne, nothing else matters. I do not care if the Gods of Azera are forgotten, so long as the people are free...” It was then her brows pinched together with anxiousness and the hints of embarrassment edged her features. “I have a connection to Malik. I don’t know why, or how... but it’s there. I first learned of it in Tanaka, but when we leave I’m certain it will come back. I won’t have the protection of Volshi, and I don’t know what it will bring...” Suddenly she was grinning, though there a guilty sadness about it. “Sometimes I fear I rely too heavily on you, and I’m sorry for that, but... I am happy that we are speaking again. I missed my friend.” Suddenly she blushed as she realized she’d been staring, and quickly looked away from Rhuarc and out to the city, quick to add, “I missed all of you during the Trials, luckily we’re going to have plenty of time to plan and grow closer on our trip to Fenlyk.” No lie there, but she felt the urge to leave the room and save face. “I... am going to go see what the others are doing to prepare. I will leave you to your own devices. See you at sunset, General.” She dipped her head and turned back into the safety of the Sanctum and off to prepare her own things, what few there were, to leave.
Did Aria and Rhuarc just share a glance? Given that it had happened right after Lara had said something, Lara knew right away that Aria and Rhuarc had already talked about Luther. Rhuarc looked pleased, Lara guessed because someone 'spoke her mind and did not let what anyone else thought impose on her own views' in a stubbornly annoying way, but Aria looked as if she had eaten a fish who's stomach contents had not been cleaned properly before being cooked.
When Aria replied, Lara listened closely. What Aria said made sense. How could one wonder about someone's 'normal' behavior if one did not know the person well enough? The answer to that question was simple, it was inconceivable; comparable to judging the story of a book merely by its cover.
As to being cautious, one had to be cautious with being cautious. One had to finely balance the need of allies, as well as rooting out the traitors. Lara knew that this was a skill she would need to fine tune quickly, or it could possibly go down to where a potential ally walked off because of her trust issues. Someways to go to fine tuning this balance, but if she used the help of her Fenlyck guardian, she could do it for sure.
Aria putting her hand on Lara's shoulder was a surprise for Lara. So deep had she been in contemplation. But surprise quickly turned into appreciation, Aria had understood her concerns and was not angry with her in any sort of way.
But this moment was interrupted by the sound of booted feet, the Watchers had appeared once again. There was Ursula, Luther, Varis, and a few others who's names Lara did not know. Lara focused her attention on Luther, examining him over with her eyes. So far, to Lara's slight displeasure, nothing that looked suspicious.
She almost missed Ursula's memo about a note from a Central City. She heard Aria reading a note about what had happened in the past six months, all very horrible and depressing. But the very last word caused Lara's heart to skip a beat, as well as causing her face to put on a mask of shock with a bit of hope. The last word had been a name, the name of the person who wrote the note....
It had been Balden. Balden had left under mysterious circumstances while the rest of them were dealing with the trials of this place. Balden had always been there for her when she had been feeling down in the water, he had even admired her. Balden leaving had caused a hole in Lara's feelings, but now there was a chance for that hole to be filled since Balden wrote he was heading to Fenlyck; same place where the rest of them were planning to.
Lara was coming out of a certain trance of memories about her time with Balden. The first words she heard were, "prepare for your meeting with the Volshi Emissary”. Those words were in the undeniable voice of Luther. Aria was staring out the window, looking most likely at the city and the people. Aria, with what appeared as a sudden change, agreed in a firm and assenting turn.
Lara very much appreciated Aria's offer, as it would get the Watchers off all their backs for a time being. Unfortunately, it appeared as if Luther's orders now included following them like a lap dog; Aria simply walked off, and Lara followed Aria's example.
Luther and Varis caught up with them quickly. Lara slowed herself down, allowing the two watchers to pass in front of her so she could observe both Watchers simultaneously. It was disappointing to notice anything out of the ordinary between the two watchers, but it did not feel reassuring either.
Aria entered her room, Varis and Luther stood to the sides and guarded the door. Lara walked off to the side, hugging herself to the shadows and continuing her unscrupulous observations of both Watchers. Honestly, it felt boring to stand and watch two immobile and standing masses. But Lara did not let the bore put her into a lull, these two could do something unexpected if she did go into a lull.
The sound of armor stepping through the hallways, Lara assumed it was another Watcher. But when Carrick stepped through, Lara did not at first recognize him. He had an impressive suit of armor covering his body, and strapped to that impressive suit was a brand new sword which shone with purity.It was so impressive, that Lara's mouth dropped open.
But Aria stole the finale, she walked out as if Malik had never happened at all; gave one an extremely hopeful feeling to fight for a world without Malik in it.
Their group of five walked down to the big main area, the Sanctum. Aria sat down on the throne, Lara stood net to Rhuarc alongside with everyone else who stood to the sides of Aria; made for one hell of an impression for anyone looking in their direction.
Lord Aethon stepped up and bowed, going through the usual formal talk that nobles liked to do. Although in this case, going through the formalities would work in their favor. After all, Aria was persuading a man in high power to gift one of his mighty airships to them.
Aria's word apparently meant nothing at all to Lord Aethon. Internally, Lara felt disdain to Lord Aethon for questioning Aria's word; Aria had never gone back on any of her words. But as the priestess said, "but if it is a demonstration of power you wish". Although what sort of power Aria talked about, Lara knew naught and was extremely curious to see what Aria would do.
Whatever happened to Lord Aethon, Lara did not laugh. Instead, she looked on with shock and sorrowfulness for him. He had been looking healthy, and then on the switch of a coin he had turned into someone who had consumed some sort of poison. The rapidity of this change and how effective it was, Lara's breath slowed down and she went into her own mind.
Two bodies were lying on the floor. Each body had been stabbed multiple times, and some of the body parts had been cut off and mutilated. A quiet night, which suddenly turned into a howling and cackling bright red and orange. Flames engulfed the bodies, the room, and then the entire house. The bright and cackling flames jumped from the floor to the walls, before leaping to the ceiling. There they burned upwards, and reached out to the rood to set it ablaze. In the background, the peaceful and dark waters suddenly turned into a gruesome red and orange reflection. The silver moon that had been reflected in the water was now gone, replaced by the hideous violence of the flames on shore. That had been the sudden and effective power of those flames.
Lara quietly gasped as she returned back. What she saw, she could not understand. Karrot was surrounded by drawn swords, before Aria quicly diffused the situation by asking Carrick to put his sword away. Lara knew she had missed something, something that had to do with Karrot and his behavior. But if Aria was pardoning Karrot's behavior, then that meant Karrot's erring had not been too grievous.
But after Rhuarc spoke his 'stir to action speech', Saraya started doing something weird. Lara turned to look at Saraya, Carrick as well, something was definitely wrong with Saraya. She was not standing up straight and firm, and she was mumbling words. Lara would've walked up, until Carrick decided to walk up to Saraya faster.
Unfortunately, Karrot had also noticed and decided to use his mouth. He did have a point, but his point only made any sense if Saraya hadn't dealt with all of the adventures that had come along their journey. Otherwise, Karrot was making a stupid remark that had was due to his obliviousness to what Saraya had had to face.
This stupid and oblivious remark led to another fast and furious show of power. Lara could not believe that she had to witness two consecutive, rapid show of powers which were so effective. It felt, it felt so nauseating. Karrot had insulted Saraya, but was this show of power really necessary? In Lara's opinion, all it really did was publicly embarrass Karrot. Karrot, being a noble, would not take to public embarrassment kindly, and might want to repay that favor back; a dark part of the mind which Malik could use to his advantage against them.
Lord Aethon, Karrot, and any other visitor was dismissed. The only people left in the Sanctum, were the original group who had left the city minus Balden.
Saraya began explaining something, but Lara was not listening at this point nor was she having a memory flashback. This intense feeling of acute nausea that had come when Saraya had shown her powers, had grown. Lara felt that she might completely break down like Saraya if she remained here any longer.
Lara simply walked out of the Sanctum, not heeding to anyone's calls.
As Lara found it, it was not nausea that had infected her. Instead of nausea, was frustration. It had begun with Aria imposing her will on Lord Aethon, grown when she had seen Karrot in the middle of swords pointed at him, and escalated further when Saraya imposed her will on Karrot; now this feeling of frustration was a wild forest fire spreading inside Lara. As soon as she walked out, Lara took her bow staff and smashed its butt against the floor as hard as possible and a very angry look.
[center [I [size30 ❇❇♥❇❇]]]
Saraya's giggles were quickly halted by his sudden turn of duty. Saraya chuckled as she sat up, watching him put on his armor as he asked her to accompany him and Aria. Before she could answer, though, there were feverish knocks on the doors to their nest. Carrick grunted in frustration, but Saraya had another reaction in mind. She, before he could react, had collected and covered herself in a blanket before he proceeded in answering the door. After a few words of the Watcher, Carrick had closed the door, giving her time to dress in privacy.
Saraya smiled as she hurried to dress. [I "I'll come, Carrick. The matter is as important to me as it is to Aria and you"] Carrick smiled as he once again closed the gap between then and planted a love- filled kiss on her forehead before kneeling. He rubbed her belly and said his I love you's to their son, all the while looking up to her. He whispered one more to her before hurrying to meet the Priestess.
It didn't take her long to dress after he had left to collect Aria. She found a flowing gown suitable for audiences, and she dressed it with a elegant robe to hide her shoulders. She left her feet bare, and turned to the door, and was greeted by Watchers, who all agreed to escort The Lady Saraya to the Sanctum.
Saraya could only guess, but she didn't want to alarm anyone. Considering what had happened, Rhuarc no doubt had relayed that detail to her when she had awakened. Since those wee hours, she's been using Arcane powers... Only a little. Just interrogating Giji was but an experimental attempt, to see if they were controllable in uncontrollable circumstances. So far, there was a controlled balance with her, her Spirit powers and her father's Arcane ability of darkness. But, there was a matter of a surge of power that she felt from Aria. With possibility that Aria had met her ancestor, it could be detail on her father's behalf. That was for another time, for this one came with a series of questions that was in need of answering.
Saraya had met with Carrick before entering into the Sanctum. She saw Aria, who spotted her... She could tell the Priestess had questions and wanted to hug her. But, duty called, and it wasn't trying to be rude, but Saraya nodded to her and looked forward. She waited along with everyone for the doors to open... And they entered, surrounding the Priestess as they all were swallowed by the darkness.
The quiet Sanctum was pregnant with few bodies... One was The tired Adimar. He saw Saraya, and smiled. Adjacent to him was two men... One of which Ursula announced was Lord Aethon and Karrot. There was an odd presence around the two, but, she settled her thoughts and took her place beside Carrick, who stood to the right of Aria.
Rhuarc stood to the Left, with Lara standing next to him. Saraya could see Aria's nervousness. She sighed as she looked to the Guardians, and then to their visitors. Lord Aethon... What was interesting was Adimar seemed on edge about him being there. She could sense uncertainty and nervousness throughout the Sanctum, and as the visitor spoke, it made her uneasy.
The silent Saraya heard The Lord's nonchalant greeting. She knew he was a skeptic, and as she watched, she could tell that he wasn't going to be fair. Aria had something else in mind.
[b “You will understand I am under a very tight time frame. The Defeat of Malik is my top priority and I can not waste precious time or resources to appease your King. My word should be enough, but if it is a demonstration of power you wish…”] Saraya began to feel a sort of charge in the room. The Lord began to express a feature of shock, as did some of the Watchers that had the pleasure of seeing her authenticity.
[center The two seemed to stare one another down]
Saraya felt a twinge... A silent voice of Caledon had surfaced, telling her to breathe. Saraya felt the power of Aria and it was making her slightly lightheaded. But, she did what she was told, breathing slowly and deeply. As the room began to fill with a static charge, it made it harder for her to even breathe. From where she stood, everything began to spark into colors before she felt a sort of relief, leaving her in a certain state of nausea. By that time, Aria had began wiping something from her face, and Saraya began trying to catch her breath.
[b “Are you satisfied?”] Saraya heard from Aria. It seemed strained, and Saraya could only try to breathe as deeply as possible so her knees wouldn't buckle, but to herself, she felt she was losing that battle. From where she stood, she saw bewildered and confused looks. She could only keep her composure for as long as possible, so not to worry the others.
[b [i “My apologizes High Priestess. Anything you require to help you succeed, the Volshi Empire will offer it to you.”]] Saraya could see that his man, Karrot was his name, had other matters.
[i [u “What was the meaning of that?”]] He began. Saraya's nausea was cut through with her concern for what he was about to say. [i [u "You assaulted a member of the Volshi Royal Family. Priestess or not, the act is punishable-“]] Swords sang as quickly as he spoke. As Carrick drew his sword, Saraya, without thinking raised her hand as if clutching a bow and arrow, and in her hands, black smoke dispersed from them, forming a bow and arrow, and she held it, not knowing her nausea was returning.
[u “Choose your next words carefully little man,”] Carrick's voice rang in her ear, and Saraya's words came like the wind, but her soft words began to impregnate the room, and it shook even Rhuarc and Adimar.
[I "You will not touch her... Nor threaten her, lowly guard... "]
Saraya heard Aria speak [b “No need for threats, Captain. Mr. Karrot simply had an error of judgement.”] and heard Carrick sheathe his sword. She sighed as she opened her hands, and the smokey bow and arrow had disappeared, but as soon as she did, the fatigue she felt caught up to her, and it made her dizzy.
Rhuarc spoke, and it helped her fight to stand. [b [u "Calm yourself, I remind you of the conditions that that meeting is taking place under. You WILL show the High Priestess the respect that she deserves."]]
[b [u "Has this meeting not run its course? Your purpose was to ascertain that The High Priestess is who she claims to be, I think we can all agree that there can be no doubt of that. The time has come for you to stand up to Shade-stealer. My people have been fighting and dying since he first took the throne for himself while you hid away in your mountains. Stand up to him and join the fight, I believe that The High Priestess in front of you now can do what no one else could. I believe that she can bring down the false king and restore peace to the land. Will you fight with us? What say you?"]]
[u “Now that you have your verification, you will understand the severity of our need for cooperation and help from the Four Provinces,”] she heard Adimar begin... But, that's all she could hear. She felt the room begin to spin on her. She slowly began to lift her hand to her head. There were voices, then distortion... She shivered as she felt her knees buckle. By then, Carrick had noticed her change in atmosphere. He turned to her, asking if she was alright. She breathed in before looking to him. [I "Y... Yes, I'm fine... I-i... "]
A quick exhale and a faint came. Adimar gasped out of his list of requirements to hurry to her. Carrick yelled to a Watcher to get water and ordered another to get a seat for her. She tried to wake up, but all it did was make her body seem heavier. She could see Carrick as she breathed in deeply. [I "I- I haven't eaten yet... I'm sorry, I... "]
Carrick hushed her, telling her that she should just relax and breathe. A watcher came and put down a seat and he set her down on it. Adimar poured water and gave it to Carrick while hurrying to get some fruit. Aria, Rhuarc and Lara looked to her, in some concern. Saraya tried breathing in some so to tell them to continue with the conversation, but she was too breathless to speak at the moment. Karrot's voice broke through the mess, and it started some trouble.
[I [u "This is suppose to be your Guardian? A wench that makes a scene will not be beneficial to anything to this woman... "]] Saraya's gaze darted to Karrot through the crowd. Carrick turned to Karrot, with a threatening look on his face. [I [u "Who is this woman everyone is protecting so closely, isn't this woman a Priestess? "]] he asked, pointing to Aria. Saraya, though she felt nauseated, felt a surge of power in her arm, and reached out, trapping the guard in a shadowy grip, lifting him off the ground. Carrick gasped at the push of power, and Adimar only watched in amazement.
[I "I am the very thing that will hurt you if you speak further, guard. I am The Caledon Spirit... And if you want to save your skin, I would suggest you bite your tongue"] she growled.
She dropped him before being hugged by Carrick. He looked to Aria, in a silent plea to remove their visitor for a moment before Saraya could get any more upset. Adimar gave her some fruit as she finished her cup of water. She ate some, then sighed as she breathed in.
Aria had asked for them to wait outside, and once they were gone, everyone looked to Saraya. Carrick was the first to try to explain, then Adimar, but both were beating around the bush of the truth. Saraya tried breathing in some through Carrick's protective arms and said a simple sentence. [I "I carry Carrick's child... "]
She felt his arms hug around her as she stayed within them. [I "The Mage had used Giji as a host for his deception. After the attack, I've claimed my arcane power of my father, Hïgàsçá... At that time, my father explained that The Mage was trying to get to me... Use me as a vice to carry his child... But, my father told me that I am carrying Carrick's son... Our son Aramis, from my vision in the Trials... "]
Adimar and Carrick exchanged looks to each other before Saraya looked to the group. [i "It is so much to explain in so little time, Aria... Just know this, Hïgàsçá, my father, was not a villain... "]
She felt the nausea return and hid her face into Carrick's chest plate, trying to keep the room from spinning. [I "The time has come... We must leave for Fenlyk... My father says that there isn't much time before Malik overpowers the people left there. Send in the Lord Aethon. We must finish this meeting... Forget about me right now"] she urged, putting on a brave face, trying to quickly regain her composure
Aria might have expected Rhuarc to shut Aria away in her quarters and only let her out for the necessary events as he had tried in Tanaka but that had failed to have the desired effect, it had only served as the start of the wedge that had developed between Aria and Rhuarc. If she wanted to see the city then see Kil'heed she would, and as far as Rhuarc could tell she was safer with him than locked in a room when there were watchers that he did not trust. [b "I too have seen my blade's counterpart...I saw it during my trials. Shade-stealer was wielding it with an impressive amount of skill."] This was the first time that Rhuarc had told anyone what he had seen in his trials, he of course had not told Aria the whole story or even what trial his vision had been a part of but he remembered the casual ease at which Malik had used his own blade of midnight black steel, it was not surprising to hear that what he had seen was true. It was, however, interesting to hear that the sword had once belonged to Azera...there was much to ponder in that. The Jai could see that the Priestess was uneasy about the blood sacrifice but it did not matter much to the Jai, in his view his eyes his own blood was of little importance. [b "Priestess, if you require my blood you should have it. It has already been spilled in defiance of the false king and it will spill again before all of this has ended. Worry not, we will bring him down."]
As it became apparent that the blade that Aria was looking for had been removed the two figures left the armoury and immediately met with Lara, who again warned Aria of Luther. That was pleasing to Rhuarc, Lara always spoke her mind and did not let what anyone else thought impose on her own views. If Lara had misgivings about Luther then it was not simply because Rhuarc distrusted the watcher but for her own reasons. Rhuarc could not help but think that he was not being hasty to distrust, after all it was not all Watchers that he distrusted, just Luther. As the Jai was thinking over the issue with Luther he was approached by the man himself, thankfully the Watcher was accompanied by Ursula and her other officers who relayed a message that had been sent to them by Balden. So the boy had not simply abandoned them, he was working on preparing the Four Provinces for Aria's eventual arrival and the over throw of Malik. It was a bold and dangerous move and while the Jai could appreciate the risk the kid was taking it didn't change the fact that he left them. He could have done just as much good staying with the group, Rhuarc knew that it was petty but he was still bitter at the boy for abandoning them all.
Aria and Lara departed to prepare for the meeting with the Volshi emissary and Rhuarc decided that he should also play his part in the meeting, after all he had given his word that he would broker the meeting and he felt that it was right if he escorted Lord Aethon to meet the High Priestess, of course he also had to find the blade that Aria claimed to be so important, and if she truly felt that way then he was sure that it was. It wasn't long before the Jai and the Shield Maiden were escorting Adimar's father and Karrot to finally meet the High Priestess of Azera. [i “Lord Aethon, it is my great pleasure to introduce to you The Guardians of Azera and her Holiness, The High Priestess of Azeroth.”] Rhuarc moved and took his place beside Aria and his fellow Guardians, Adimar looked terrible almost as if he hadn't slept in weeks, whatever he had been doing through the night had certainly taken his toll on the Prince. Carrick on the other hand looked resplendent in his new armour, he was the archetypal image of a Captain of the Holy Guard and Rhuarc was confident that he would do his duty magnificently. The room was unmistakably set against the two Volshi men, you had the High Priestess, her Guardians and the Watchers of Kil'heed...it struck an impressive image. The meeting started just as Rhuarc would have imagined, with Lord Aethon demanding verification that Aria was indeed the High Priestess that she claimed to be and just then Aria displayed her power to Lord Aethon. Rhuarc had never seen this particular display of Aria's abilities and it fascinated the Jai to see that she was also growing in her strength. It seemed that the Trials that she faced had also done more than solidify her determination and strengthen her resolve, it seemed that her powers had also developed. That was when Karrot objected to the...methods that Aria chose to use in order to provide verification. As one the ring of swords from scabbards echoed around the room as the Watchers and Carrick unsheathed their swords and held them out towards Karrot, the Volshi now looking decidedly nervous. Rhiuarc didn't move an inch, his steely gaze just grew colder as it bored into Karrot. The Jai made no move towards his weapon as he was more than capable of ripping the man apart with his bare hands, in fact at that moment a weapon might have just slowed him down. [b "Calm yourself, I remind you of the conditions that that meeting is taking place under. You WILL show the High Priestess the respect that she deserves."]
[b "Has this meeting not run its course? Your purpose was to ascertain that The High Priestess is who she claims to be, I think we can all agree that there can be no doubt of that. The time has come for you to stand up to Shade-stealer. My people have been fighting and dying since he first took the throne for himself while you hid away in your mountains. Stand up to him and join the fight, I believe that The High Priestess in front of you now can do what no one else could. I believe that she can bring down the false king and restore peace to the land. Will you fight with us? What say you?"] The question hung in the air as it was asked, how would these proud Volshi men respond to his challenge? That was up to them, Rhuarc did have one other matter to attend to later in the day, and as he watched Carrick sheath his new sword Rhuarc glanced towards Aria also looking at the sword, was that the blade she was looking for? Carrick would need to put together Aria's Holy Guard and Rhuarc wanted to be there for that, he wanted to keep an eye on who the former blacksmith chose to surround the Priestess with and he wanted to stay close to that sword if possible.
Carrick had found Saraya with no problem, in fact it had been all too easy. He could feel her, hear her, it was as if she was one with him. She was heavy with desire and need, which in turn made him the same way. He knew he had to focus on a specific task, but the moment he caught her scent he had run like a lovesick puppy to her. He found her deep in thought and feeling her sensation of disquiet. It compelled him to simply walk up to her and hold her, where he wrapped his arms about her waist and whispered his concern into her ear. He had sought her out to ease the sensation in his body that made it ache with want and need. It was enough to coax Saraya away from the halls and back to their room, where they entertained one another for the rest of the night and even into morning.
Saraya woke him up with a gentle caress and soft words. It was nice, waking up in a bed beside her. She bid him to wake up and he did so with a smile.
“Good morning, my love…” he greeted, his voice was harsh from sleep and he cupped her soft cheek in his rough hewn hand, content to simply watch her bathed in morning sunlight. It warmed his heart to see her, but he felt an unease from her and it gave him cause for worry, despite how she tried to tell him she was fine. Apparently the Priestess was awake. That was enough to get him from their bed where he quickly set to dress and ready himself for his day. He had donned his clothes, when he began to shove his feet into his boots that he became aware that Saraya had been watching him. She was overwhelmed with emotions and sensations, and he was glad to bare some of that burden for her. It was an interesting sensation, being so connected. Before he could ask her what the matter was, her lips were upon his in a fierce kiss. It stunned him for only a moment, until she broke it and whispered in his ear to be ready for the call. He only grinned back and picked her up before tumbling back into the bed with her. “That is easier said than done when you kiss me like that,” he teased, and in turn peppered her face and neck with kisses. It should have been playful, but the heady mix of their scents and their desires threatened to take him away from his duty and his plans.
He had to force himself away from her, and stepped back to grab his armor, which he began to put on. “I will be ready. I intend to build the beginnings of the Priestess’ Holy Guard today. Care to join and help with the selection process?” He asked, but before she could answer a knock came upon their door. Carrick answered to see a Watcher who informed them that the Priestess had called upon her Guardians and Council to meet with the Volshi Emissary right away. Carrick assured them, they would be there and then closed the door to allow Saraya privacy to get dressed. He hurried over towards her, planting a kiss to her cheek. “I suppose we have a change of plans for the morning. Hurry, dress my love. We both know the Priestess will want you at her side. She plans to meet with the Volshi Envoy that is here, as well as relay some important information to us. I will see you in the Sanctum, and stay out of trouble. I don’t think my heart can bare another attack,” he warned with love, kissing her temple and then cupping her stomach where he whispered ‘I love you’s’ to his love and unborn child before he grabbed his cloak and sword, hurrying from the room.
Carrick made his way up the many steps towards Aria’s room where he found Varis and Luther keeping watch. Being captain of Aria’s Guard, Carrick had rank over the Watchers, and he walked right up to the door, knocked and waited for the door to open. Luckily, Carrick did not have to wait long as the door finally opened and Aria exited dressed in robes befitting a High Priestess of Azera. Her hair was brushed, her face washed, and her feet bare. Carrick could have sworn she looked nervous, but he made no comment, instead he smiled at her. “You look lovely,” He told her, which allowed Aria to smile softly and relax. “Priestess, I am here to escort you,” He bowed slightly and waited for her to pass and followed her down.
They arrived at the Sanctum where they met everyone there for the meeting. Adimar was there looking like he hadn’t slept since interrogating Gigi with Saraya, but he was presentable and came posed with a warning. His father was cunning, and though he would try to help, Adimar couldn’t make any promises that his father would listen. This was disheartening for Carrick to hear, the airship would be valuable, and he could only hope this Lord Aethon was a reasonable man. He glanced at Saraya giving her a gentle smile before they all began to filter inside the Sanctum.
It was the same cavernous space as when they first entered and seemed to swallow them whole. Waiting for them all was Lord Aethon and his man, along with several Watchers. Ursula was there and made the introductions.
“Lord Aethon, it is my great pleasure,” though she sounded as if she’d rather have her teeth pulled, “to introduce to you The Guardians of Azera and her Holiness, The High Priestess of Azeroth.” Lord Aethon, and Karrot bowed to Aria as she made her way in and took the only seat in the room.
From where he stood Adimar watched with a tired expression. He had been up all night researching what Egos could be up to. Buried neck deep in books and scrolls, Adimar hadn’t managed to sleep, but he was close to finding out what it was that Egos wanted, and he was sure if he’d had more time he would have found a protection spell for Saraya and Carrick’s child. At the same time, it was almost surreal to be standing in the Sanctum of Kil’heed with the High Priestess, playing politics. Adimar didn’t even have time to truly advise her on Volshi ettiequte or what sort of man his father really was.
“High Priestess, you honor us with your presence,” Lord Aethon stated with a deep bow. Aria stared him down looking rather regal and confident -though the Guardians knew better. There was a nervousness in her gaze, and a tension in her bare shoulders. Adimar knew his father would see it, and try to use it to his advantage.
“The Honor is mine Lord Aethon. I apologize for making you wait so long to meet. I was informed by my council that you are here on behalf of your King.” Lord Aethon gave another respectful bow to Aria, confirming that it was true and proceeding to claim he wished for her to visit with the King in Aero City where they could verify she was truly who she said she was. Aria did not look amused. “You will understand I am under a very tight time frame. The Defeat of Malik is my top priority and I can not waste precious time or resources to appease your King. My word should be enough, but if it is a demonstration of power you wish…” Aria’s voice faded and her eyes flashed a violent magenta and from his place Lord Aethon tensed, eyes going wide and bugging out of his head.
The two seemed to stare one another down, Aria with a look of extreme concentration and intimidation. While Lord Aethon seemed frozen in horror, unable to breathe or move. The room filled with a static charge, the power leaking off of Aria in waves, reaching a tipping point until it finally seemed to snap and Lord Aethon gasped, falling to his hands and knees. From her seat, Aria’s head tipped forward, and she reached up to wipe a trail of blood that had begun to trickle from her nose and her eyes were bloodshot.
“Are you satisfied?” Aria rasped. Lord Aethon, nodded his head rapidly and managed back to his feet with the help of Karrot. Confused looks decorated the faces of those in the room. Adimar certainly wondered what Aria had done or said to Lord Aethon within his own mind.
“My apologizes High Priestess. Anything you require to help you succeed, the Volshi Empire will offer it to you.” From his position Karrot glared.
“What was the meaning of that?” He demanded darkly. “You assaulted a member of the Volshi Royal Family. Priestess or not, the act is punishable-“ Suddenly Karrot silenced his own words as the Watchers of the room turned their weapons on him, including Carrick who had unsheathed his sword from where he stood at Aria’s side.
“Choose your next words carefully little man,” Carrick warned and held the sword out. Aria could hear the sword song and her eyes went right to it. She reached out and touched Carrick’s hand to lower his weapon.
“No need for threats, Captain. Mr. Karrot simply had an error of judgement.” Carrick resheathed his new blade, and it had not gone unnoticed by Aria. Adimar knew then it was his time to speak to his father, and ensure they got all that they would need.
“Now that you have your verification, you will understand the severity of our need for cooperation and help from the Four Provinces,” Adimar told his father. The man was shaken, clearly having not expected Aria to enter his mind as she had, making it clear to all of them in the room, she would not allow herself to be trifled with, and she did not have time for games. She was here to get down to business and Lord Aethon realized, as he looked at the other Guardians, he would not be able to play his usual games….
The morning was quiet, a gentle breeze came down from the mountains and over the city. The sun was beginning to paint the horizon in corals, and burning orange that pushed the darkness of night away. She was content to sit there and just watch the world wake up, but she was startled from her quiet contemplation when she heard a voice call her title. She gasped, and spun her head around to see Rhuarc standing in her room. She giggled to herself as he spoke, and allowed herself to relax. She gave Rhuarc her undivided attention. She had to lean back on one hand to see his face. He told her, much to her shock, about Saraya’s latest attack. This was concerning for Aria to hear, she couldn’t let one of The Guardians be taken or killed before they had a chance to face Malik. There was the matter of needing to travel soon as Kil’heed was not as safe as they believed it to be and Aria could only nod her head in agreement, letting him continue to give her the disheartening news, including Ayab’s wound. She frowned to hear that and looked to Rhuarc with a determined look.
[+purple “The path to Fenlyk won’t be the safest from here… but we will go. Ayab is one of us, and I think he is just as much a Guardian as Carrick. I won’t let him fall victim to this wound, and I will do what I can to learn what I can from this Medici as well… so I can be of better help in the future,”] She murmured looking away and feeling lacking. Ursula had said she could do healing, but without the knowledge, it was a power that lay unused, like so much of her untapped powers.
According to Rhuarc, that wasn’t all. He relayed the exact message Ursula had about the Volshi emissary. However, Ursula had not mentioned the use of a Volshi Airship or that the emissary was Adimar’s father. It was per Rhuarc’s suggestion that she meet with them that Aria finally decided to give it thought. From the ledge she sat on, she could see the two Air ships floating off the Battlements.
[+purple “If you think me meeting with the Volshi Emissary is the right idea… I will go, but I think I want Adimar to advise me in all things political. He’s grown up in the court, and seems to know his way around such things, and his silver tongue should come in handy. Besides, if this is his father, then who better to help me get what we need out of this man, than his son?”] She asked finally feeling hopeful. [+purple “Perhaps we can make them part with an Airship and we can use it to carry Ayab to the Medici.”] Rhuarc seemed to approve of her decision, and then surprisingly seemed to hesitate. [+purple “What is it?”] She asked, and Rhuarc posed a question she was not expecting.
[b “What do you think of the Watcher Luther?”] Aria’s brows lifted in surprise. She stared at Rhuarc uncertainly for a moment, wondering why he might ask her such a thing. Slowly her own face twisted into one of uncertainty, but she would answer Rhuarc honestly. It caused a small smile to grace her face, a sort of pleasure to know she wasn’t the only one with reservations about Luther. [+purple “I feel there is more to Master Luther than meets the eye. He’s hard to read… but I sense he’s already lied to me at least once…”] She pursed her lips in thought and irritation at the notion he would so easily do such a thing to her. She wasn’t ready to divulge what it was she suspected Luther lying about, and instead focused on the most important task. Meeting with the Volshi Emissary. [+purple “Let’s deal with that as it comes, and keep it between us. For now what we need to focus on is getting Malik off our trail and getting Ayab to the Medici. They’re the only one who can help him.”]
Rhuarc agreed, and stated that if the meeting would take place he wanted his coveted blade, which was kept in the armory. He invited her to tag along, which was strange as Aria was almost certain Rhuarc would have preferred she stay locked up in this room. Thankfully she was wrong, and the armory was the perfect place for her to go. Perhaps she could find the Harbinger there. She grinned, jumping to her feet and brushing out her skirt quickly and leading the way to the door almost excitedly. She swung the door open bouncing on her feet and made her envy known. [+purple “I’ve been so jealous that you all got to explore already, I want to see Kil’heed for myself.”] So they walked side by side down to the Armory.
The Armory was guarded by two devoted Watchers, who stopped them from entering, but once Aria introduced herself and Rhuarc, they quickly stepped aside and allowed them entrance. Aria’s jaw slackened at the sight of dusty weapons. They were everywhere, from spears and halberds, to axes and a spiked club that looked quite horrifying to Aria. She wasn’t looking for anything like that though, what she wanted was a sword. She stared by parting from Rhuarc’s side to cross the armory where a table full of swords laid out was sitting. She looked over every sword, even picking a couple up and looking them over. None were the Harbinger from her vision. Rhuarc must have found his blade, because he seemed wrapped up in his own task on the other side of the armory. Aria had waded herself into a cluttered corner and was looking under tarps, and saddle blankets. She crouched down low and looked under tables and moved piles, all with no luck. She knew it could take her all day just to search the massive armory for a single sword. Rhuarc’s task took no time at all for him, and before she could even really begin to tear the armory apart, he was behind her.
[b “You never struck me as one with much interest in weapons Priestess, are you looking for anything in particular?”] She blushed and smiled, caught red handed in her task before abandoning the pile she was digging through, already she’d managed a smudge of dust to stain her pale cheek. She looked around, distracted with her task, but she stopped as she checked the door to make certain it was shut. She looked to Rhuarc and stood back up, brushing the dust on her hands off on her skirt without a care.
[+purple “I… I had a vision. While I was sleeping, Azera came to me she showed me a memory from her life, and in it was a tool, a sword I can use to capture Malik and destroy him.”]
She saw Rhuarc’s blade wrapped up in cloth and safe in his hands. [+purple “I saw your blade in my vision too,”] She confessed. [+purple “It has a sibling. I saw it. It was Azera’s, but she gave it to Malik, and in turn Malik gave her his sword to carry, and that’s the one I need. It was called the Harbinger of Justice. Azera told me I have to take it to Fenlyk and cleanse it…”] She hesitated with the next bit, and decided in that moment to withhold the last of the steps in destroying Malik. [+purple “Then I’ll need each of the Guardians to offer a blood sacrifice over the blade before it can be used to pierce Malik’s heart and trap him within the blade. I just need to find it. Azera said it was here, in Kil’heed. I was hoping I would find it here, but I don’t see it anywhere,”] she sighed looking around once more in the hopes it would show itself, but with no luck.
[i -close your eyes, and feel for it. Reach out for what it is you seek and it will show you the way…-]
Aria could hear the voice in her mind. The knowing. That whispering power that had kept Aria on her path. She stepped away from Rhuarc and the pile she was digging through to stand in the center of the armory. Taking a steady breath, she closed her eyes and stood in the silence, she reached out to feel the magic in the fortress, and there was a lot of it. How would she ever sift through all of this to find a sword? The most overwhelming force was that within the walls of Kil’heed, she even felt Rhuarc’s presence in the room with her, then she felt the other Guardians, The Watchers, but it wasn’t what she was looking for. She tried picturing the blade in her mind and sure enough, she felt its echo in the room.
[+purple “It was here…”] Her feet carried her to where it had been hiding, her eyes still closed but her powers still reaching out to find it. She stopped just shy of a weapon stand, and opened her eyes. She attempted to push the weapons out of her way, struggling with the weight of it until Rhuarc came over and helped her move it with nearly no effort. Sure enough, behind the weapons rack was the outline of a sword on the floor. Dust had fallen around it, but the blade was now missing. [+purple “It’s been moved…”] She murmured and reached out to the floor to touch the space it had once inhabited. How had a blade such as that been so carelessly thrown away, and who had it now? She stood up with a defeated sigh, but she wasn’t going to give up. She would find it in time.
She knew the weapon was not in the armory, and so it was pointless to continue searching. Defeated for now, but not ready to give up, Aria left the Armory with Rhuarc in tow, and walked right into Lara who was entering at the same moment. She wanted desperately to go outside and into the city, she wanted to see one of those Airships as well. Sadly there was so much she wished to do, but no time to do it, and after what happened in Tanaka and again with Saraya, Aria knew she couldn’t leave the Holy Temple alone. Perhaps Lara would like to go! She and Rhuarc were finally back on speaking terms, and she didn’t want to ruin that -nor betray his trust again. She greeted Lara, pleased to see her down in the Armory with them, and was further shocked by her question concerning Luther’s strange behavior.
Aria shared a glance with Rhuarc and frowned. This was concerning. Lara was the second person to warn of Luther. It left a sour taste in Aria’s mouth.
[+purple “Well… perhaps you think he is acting strange, but we do not know him well enough to know what his normal behavior is like. Perhaps he is acting completely normal by the standards of those who know him best. I…”] Aria chose her next words closely just in case the walls could listen. Knowing Malik’s Mage could breech these walls and that two of the Guardians had suspicions of a Watcher made Aria cautious. [+purple “Would suggest we all be cautious of those we meet until Malik is destroyed, but we also need to make sure we are open to the opportunity to build bridges and create friendships. Malik’s forces outnumbered us a 1000 to 1 when we entered these gates. That was six months ago, and I’m sure his forces have grown. We need all the friends and allies we can get. Let’s not be hasty to distrust.”] Aria smiled to Lara and reached out to grip her shoulder when they were greeted by the sounds of armor coming to meet them.
They were greeted by Ursula, her second Varis, a group of five watchers, including the one who had informed Rhuarc about Saraya’s attack, and Luther.
“High Priestess,” Ursula greeted and all of them quickly bowed to her. “We have news. A Message has just arrived from Central City.” Ursula held out a rolled bit of parchment and Aria took it curiously to read.
[center [i Resistance is moving. C.C. is fallen. Civilians have been evacuated from C.C. Malik raising army of Dragur. Currently in the ten thousands. Southern boarder still holding. Five Thousand Dragur march from C.C. to Volshi. Fenlyk Overrun. Leaving C.C. for Fenlyk. Will attempt to bolster underground resistance. Stay Safe.]]
[right [i -Balden]]
Aria gasped, a hand covering her mouth as she realized the note came from Balden. She turned from the Watchers to Rhuarc and Lara, informing them that Balden had left to do more for them than they could do from Kil’heed. He hadn’t abandoned them, he was helping to prepare for their coming. There was just something off about it, as if this was not the first message to come through… were there others? She eyed Luther for a moment, unsure, but looked back to the message and Lara. She couldn’t let her own bias and assumptions cloud her judgement -not until she had evidence. Balden was heading towards Fenlyk, which meant they might be able to catch up to him. [+purple “Time is more precious than ever before. Ursula, find me the Volshi Emissary, and notify Adimar and Saraya. We must prepare for the coming scourge.”]
“You cannot be here when they strike,” Ursula warned. Aria, swallowed her nervousness down but maintained a look of bravery.
[+purple “I know, but what about the people here?”] They had followed her from Tanaka to rebuild their lives here.
“Kil’heed will protect them, but only if you leave,” Varis told her in his gruff voice. Aria knew he was right. She could not stay if she wanted the people to stay safe.
[+purple “Have we sent out scouts?”]Aria asked, her mind racing.
“No, but we can and we will at your request,” Varis mentioned. Aria nodded and instructed they do so immediately to better gauge how much time in Kil’heed she had left to find the sword, and move to the next temple. Ursula instructed her men to move, two raced off to find the other guardians, another rushed outside to find the Emissary, and the other two to send out scouts. Ursula left to see to the preparations for Aria’s meeting with Lord Aethon, while Varis and Luther remained to stand watch over her.
Aria remained in the hall, clutching the message in her hand and looked to the window and out at the people. So much of the city had changed, and the world was changing too. She looked down at Balden’s writing and felt a glimmer of hope. He was out there working to help her succeed. He was spreading the word that Aria was coming to reclaim the Holy Septum and the city.
“Priestess, we should hurry you to prepare for your meeting with the Volshi Emissary,” Luther suggested from where he stood. Aria knew she had to get presentable, and she knew she couldn’t make another move until she had that airship and the Harbinger. There was one other matter concerning her… Malik… once she left the safety of Kil’heed he would be able to see her again, and would be able to whisper in her mind. She decided not to let that hold her back, and perhaps with time she might find a way to use that to her advantage.
[+purple “Alright, time to play dress up. General, keep your eyes open for what I seek. You will know it when you see it… go, I’ll be fine,”] she promised him and offered a small smile to assuage any worry he had, and she turned to Lara with a smile. [+purple “Why don’t you come with me, so these two can go back to their task.”]
“You are our task,” Luther stated. Aria let out a breath.
[+purple “Of course, shall we?”] She asked and turned leaving with Varis and Luther hot on her heels.
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