*Rise of the Guardians* The Chronicles

/ By darien [+Watch]

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They waited in silence for what felt like hours. Shortly after taking cover, Malik’s men shouted as they neared. They lingered at the sight of the prints, and one of the men dismounted his horse to walk around. Saraya’s shield did little to calm Aria’s nerves too. Adimar and Lara had finally rejoined them, with word that Balden was near and drawing the patrol away from them.
“They were here.” He said, but another pointed out the hoof prints in the sand. Aria closed her eyes and prayed to Azera that the patrol took Balden’s bait and let them be. She didn’t doubt their ability to fight Malik’s men, but it would be prudent to not make their presence known just yet.
“They have horses, that way.” Another shouted. Her prayers were answered! From where they hid Aria held her breath and she didn’t relax until the sound of their horses rode off. Even then she didn’t move. She was surrounded by her guards, and the guardians, but the initial fear of Malik’s men was enough to keep her frozen. For the longest time the only sounds they heard came from seagulls, and the lapping waves against the sand. Aria didn’t like sitting either. She felt like a sitting duck, just waiting to be found and plucked up from the ground like some helpless flower.

She looked over and saw Ayab gripping his leg and gritting his teeth. She crawled over to sit beside him and took his hand away from his leg. She didn’t speak, but the look of her eyes spoke enough: Let me see. She doubted she could do Ayab any good, but Ursula had said she had the potential to heal wounds such as Ayab’s. She only needed taught. Aria was beginning to wonder if she had the time to not only be taught, but to find the Medici as well. This was her first real chance to see Ayab’s wound up close, and what she saw was frightening. Ayab’s wound was festered and rotten, with a spiderweb of blackened veins stark under his skin. His once tanned flesh looked pale and sickly. Perhaps if she gave Ayab just a little bit of her own powers, maybe if she channeled it the right way, she could help him. Just by looking at it Aria could see the wound leaking off a dark aura.
[#00FFFF “Use your powers of persuasion, make him think he can’t feel any pain from it until he reaches safety.”] Aria looked over to see Luther had come to crouch beside her. Aria frowned. She’d only ever used that skill with animals… persuading a man would be too difficult. [#00FFFF “you don’t have the skill to heal him, but you can make him think it causes him no pain.”] Aria looked to Ayab. She didn’t feel comfortable getting in his head like that.
[#DB7093 “There has to be something else I can do,”] She whispered under her breath to him. Luther only stared back with an expression that told her he didn’t think there was another way. Frowning she looked at Ayab and gripped his hand tighter. [#DB7093 “I know it hurts Ayab, and I will do everything I can to see you well again, but I won’t make you believe a falsehood.”] Luther looked displeased by that, but made no comment and sat back to wait like the others. Aria stayed where she was, holding Ayab’s hand. He had guarded her the longest of them all, and had kept watch during her and Rhuarc’s quarrel. She feared loosing him too, the fear of not being able to find the Medici was daunting and left Aria to stay close at his side, what little comfort it might have provided him, and laid her head on his shoulder as they all waited in silence for Balden to return. Eventually her gaze found Rhuarc’s, her expression nothing short of worry for the Jai they both cared deeply for.

Carrick didn’t like waiting, even if he didn’t show it. The air was tense around them and it seemed the time was dragging on. He looked over to see Adimar leaned against a tree his eyes open and vacant of color. Instead they were a cloudy white, staring up into the sky. Overhead Hermes flew past them and along the shore, following the patrol from a safe distance and making sure the coast was kept clear around them. It reminded Carrick of Aria’s trance like state when she left her body for another plane: Vulnerable. Carrick was learning quickly that all magic comes with a price. Adimar could do great things with his magic, but he’d been practicing for years, and researching it, and he still had his limitations. He looked over to see Saraya relaxing beside him, the need for her shield passed with the patrol. He looped his arm over her shoulder and decided to wait it out with the rest of them, since he had little choice in the matter. He brushed his fingers through her hair, but like the rest of the Holy Guard, he too had his sword drawn and waiting. Lara had her staff, Admiar kept his bow and arrows safely in his lap, and Rhuarc’s blade was never far from his hands.
[#000080 "How are you feeling after shielding us? Do you still have enough energy to run when the time comes? Because I will carry you if I must,"] Carrick said leaning in and nuzzling his nose with Saraya's. [#000080 "Your bravery and compassion will be the death of me I'm sure... but it's what I admire most about you. It's why Caledon chose you, and it's why I love you, and always will."] He leaned in and kissed her, after whispering his tender words. He was not ashamed to show his adoration for Saraya in front of the others.

They all waited with baited breath to come out of hiding, but they all knew they couldn’t make a move until Balden returned. It begged the question: What would they do if Balden didn’t return? Luther wanted to know if he should go scout, but Adimar finally spoke, taking a deep breath and his eyes returned to normal. According to Adimar, Malik’s men were enough away they could move a bit more freely.
[#20B2AA “I don’t like sitting here. I’d feel more comfortable making our way inland towards Astoria.”] Adimar stated.
[#00FFFF “Not enough cover for us to move under. We’d need a guarantee that Malik’s men aren’t on our path there. Which doesn’t matter since we don’t even know where the Resistance is hiding.”] Luther reminded from where he sat. Adimar looked displeased, but relented, not in the mood to argue with the watcher.

Rhys sat observing the group. It was what he did best -observe. He carried a large bag on his back full of provisions, maps, and other survival tools they might need. Rhys hadn’t been ready to cross paths with a Patrol of Malik’s either. He’d have to expose himself too soon, and he had to keep tabs on the Priestess and her group. The mark of the Fade was strong with the lad Lara had seemed so close with, that Rhys was impressed none of them had found the boy out yet. To be fair, the Fade was crafty and cunning, so it wasn’t that surprising that his work was unnoticed. As far as Rhys could tell, the boy wasn’t even aware that the Fade was with him. With the downtime he had the opportunity to get closer to Lara. He crawled over to where she sat and leaned in to whisper to her.
[#8B008B “Everyone is pretty tense with that close call. How are you hanging in there? You look peaked about something. Was it that guy from earlier or was it using your powers? I had no idea you could do that! It was brilliant! Has anyone ever told you, you look just like the depictions of Fenlyk when she was alive? Because seeing you rise out of the water like the goddess she was is not something I’ll soon forget…It’s got to be the red hair…”] He teased with a handsome grin.

-fin
  *Aria Tolshiv / darien / 108d 18h 42m 14s
The trees and tall strands of sweet grass gave them enough cover to hide in. Adimar had dropped behind a dune to hide just before reaching the trees. Lara had dropped back to dive in the water, no doubt to manipulate it, and Adimar did not want to leave her so far separated from the group alone. He was prepared to be her back up. From his back he removed his bow and notched an arrow. He kept his breath steady and waited listening, until he heard a grunt and looked to see Saraya helping Ayab. He was prepared to shoot at the coming party, but Saraya was quicker and used one of her shields to make them invisible. So Adimar held his position and waited as the scouts came back around having spotted their tracks. By then Saraya and managed to get Ayab to the cover of trees.

He could hear their hooves beating dents in the sand. He could hear a voice speak about the airship taking off from this spot and to spread out. Saraya however stepped out and at the tree line Carrick stood ready to attack. With Saraya confronting the enemy, Adimar made his presence known with his bow still readied. Adimar had only known Balden briefly, but he was almost certain that’s who they were facing, and by Saraya’s reaction it confirmed his suspicions, and he reluctantly lowered his bow.

Apparently there was a scouting party of Malik’s headed this way. Balden told them to make cover, and that they would lead the party away before circling back for them. How fortuitous that Balden would show up, but Lara was still in the water waiting to strike, which she did with a vengeance quite suddenly, snatching Balden off the sand and the other two off their horses and into the waves. The water had reached like a large hand, and pulled them viciously under the surf. Not even a moment later were they spit right back out, and Adimar sighed in relief, but time was short. If a patrol was coming, they had to move fast.

[b BALDEN] had rode out that morning with two others to scout the coast and try to intercept the Volshi Airship. They wanted to at least see who had landed and report back. Instead they had almost crossed paths with an enemy patrol unit. Ten men strong and all bearing Malik’s sigil. The Airship had moved too quickly, it had landed at mid day just as predicted it would, but Balden’s group wasn’t the only one who saw the Airship land and promptly ascend. It became a race to reach the landing site first. Balden expected to see a Volshi regime ready to fight, or actual Volshi representatives to delegate a union. What Balden had found was entirely different. He’d been genuinely shocked to see Saraya standing before him with sword drawn. Behind her Adimar had appeared on the sand with bow drawn. Seeing the Volshi Guardian instantly put a bitter taste in his mouth. Balden ignored him and greeted Saraya, but his mind was preoccupied. If those two were here, where were the others? Where was Lara? Aria? They needed to hide. He tried to tell Saraya to make sure everyone was hidden when he felt the water shift the sand suddenly under his feet. Before he knew it, the water had him wrapped up and was dragging him under. Balden managed one great breath before being ripped underwater. He knew exactly who had done it and he shouted into the Water, praying she would hear him.
[#A52A2A “LARA!!!”] his breath bubbled up towards the surface. Wether she heard him or realized her error, she spit him and his companions back out of the water. Balden landed with a hard thud onto the sand. His bottom rang out in minor pain from he landing. It all meant nothing, as he looked up and saw Lara rising from the water, and coming onto shore. For a moment Balden and the others stared in awe at how perfectly similar Lara had looked like Fenlyk in that moment. A beautiful tempest with the ocean and its power at her back.

She looked angry, no... upset. Didn’t matter, Balden smiled dumbly at her, not hearing a word she said. He was too busy taking in the sight of her. He smiled to see she had the staff he made her, and smiled as she helped him stand up. He adored the way she was blushing, and at her comment to have him back. He smiled at her, committing her face to memory before he grabbed her and held her tightly in a hug.
[#A52A2A “Lara, I missed you so much. We’ll talk soon, I promise. Right now I need you to hide. Malik’s patrol is headed this way, they saw the airship too. We’ll try and lead them away from you. I promise to come back for you.”] He let her go and tried to move her towards where the ground was hiding. He then turned for his horse, all of them did and took off quickly kicking the sand and making tracks to lead the patrol away.

A shrill whistle sounded then and everyone could see Carrick waving for them to hurry for cover. Adimar grabbed Lara by the arm and dragged her with him towards the trees. He turned back towards the sand and with a gleam of his eyes and a sweep of his hand, a gust of wind blew across the beach and took their footprints with it.

continued...
  *Adimar Aethon / darien / 108d 23h 48m 38s
As soon as she had answered Rhuarc's question, Lara felt a familiar and comforting hand across her shoulders. By a quick glance at Aria, Lara could see the motherly expression looking her way. Lara smiled, the burden of last night's feelings finally released.

At this point, Adimar walked up to where they had gathered with something on his arm. The thing on his arm was not a mere thing, it was a bird. Based on what Adimar said, he and the birds had a "best-friends-forever" relationship; the only way that human-bird bond would break, "till death do us apart".

The fact that Adimar could see what the bird saw would be an extremely useful tool in avoiding traps. The bird could go and fly inconspicuously, as if it were any ol' regular flying bird. But no one would suspect that the bird, Hermes, would be used by Adimar for spying on the enemy's movements.

Lara declined to pet Hermes, the pet bird. She was not afraid of the bird at all, but instead Lara had already decided to observe the ship's descent all the way down to the ground or water, whatever the ship would be landing on.

The bird's screech was high and piercing, and caused Lara to almost jump back. That bird did know how to screech, and it was most probable that Hermes knew how to use his beak and claws in a deadly fashion.

After the screeching had died down, two new pairs of footsteps had appeared. Turning around, Lara saw that Carrick and Saraya had come up to the deck as well. For the first time in a long time, unless she had missed one earlier, Lara noticed that Saraya was looking more refreshed and relaxed. It was a good sign and a healthy change from all the series of unfortunate events that Saraya had experienced, one after the other.

Lara sighed as Carrick and Saraya started an impromptu training session right there on the deck. There was not anything interesting to watch, so Lara watched the training session. It consisted of Saraya throwing items at Carrick and Carrick catching the items flying his way. He did not either miss or fumble a single item thrown his way, even being confident enough to throw a few items back the way they came; Saraya dogged all the items Carrick threw at her with ease.

And then it happened. The ship was finally flying downwards, closer to the ground of Fenlyck. Lara could feel the initial lurch as the ship slowly accelerated downwards before it floated downwards at a constast rate.

ANd then Luther approached their little group. Lara could see the look of frustration as clear as daylight. Had Luther looked through his belongings and had come to the conclusion that someone had gone through them? Lara giggled only to herself. The answer to that question, would remain a well tucked in secret.

It took awhile more, but in the end the ship finally touched down. It did not touch down on land, but on the water on a beach. Lara's heart fluttered, she was officially back in her country. After three years of absence, she was finally back. It was a mind blower for Lara, for not even in her deepest dreams had she dreamed that she would actually return to her homeland.

But there was not any time to keep on wondering. They had to get off the ship, and as far away from here as quickly as possible. No one knew if Malik knew about their arrival, and it was for the better that Malik did not know that information for as long as possible.

Adimar was the first to jump on to sand, after which he released his bird Hermes for scouting. Lara walked up to the edge and jumped on the beach shore. Adimar helped to soften her landing, and with Carrick and Saraya as well.

Lara took a tentative step. She could feel as the sand slowly gave way to her foot, her foot slowly displacing the sand. Lifting it up, she could see the impression of the bottom of her boot in the sand, as if someone had stenciled the bottom of her shoe onto a piece of paper. It all felt surreal, but it was actually happening. After three long years, she had finally taken her first step in Fenlyck.

By this time, everyone else had come down onto the beach shore and the ship had flown away.

The decision was made to send out Thad and Rupert in search of the elusive Medici, while the rest of them would start to head towards Astoria.

Thad and Rupert walked off, leaving only them standing on the beach. Concerning Aria's wish about learning things from the Medici, it would be best if Aria would stay away from the Medici. The Medici was as changing as she was elusive. The Medici might do something completely unexpected, and there were already too many things that could happen unexpectedly.

Speaking of things happening, they had just been spotted. A group of horsemen had noticed them, but whether they were friends or foes was unknown. Their only option was to run, although Adimar suggested for her to "sweep those bastards" into the ocean.

While the rest of them ran towards cover, Lara ran and jumped into the sea. Even though she was fully clothed and armed with a metallic staff, the ability to control water nullified all the extra weight.

It felt, there were so may feelings. Lara smiled, remembering all the jovial times she had swum alone as well as with her family. She also felt hope. She was back in her homeland, back in her own turf. All her fights here would be on her own land, a massive advantage in any fight.

But, she had to get back to "sweeping those bastards out to sea".

Unknown to Lara, the group of horsemen were actually friendlies. And their leader was Balden. If Lara had known this, then what happened next could have been avoided.

The three horsemen started to gallop back along the shore, but Lara was waiting underwater. As they galloped, Lara pushed the water further out onto the shore. And as the horses ran through that water, Lara snatched the riders out of the saddles and dragged them under the water. The horses stopped all of a sudden, completely confused as to why they suddenly had no riders.

Lara would have left the riders to drown, until she realized that one of them was Balden. When she saw that she was drowning Balden, of all the people to actually drown, LAra got a bit of a shock which caused the water to spit out Balden and his comrades out of the water, and on their asses.

Lara, using the water, propelled herself forward. Reaching the shore, she ran over to Balden. [+purple "Balden??!??? First you craft beautiful weapons for us, and then leave us without so much as a note."] She grabbed his hand and pulled him back up, the old feelings that she had had with him slowly returning. Blushing, [+purple "I'm... I'm sorry about nearly drowning you... It's good to have you back."]
  Lara / NorthernWolves / 110d 12h 26s
[center [I [size25 ⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓]]]

Saraya, after their spectical began to smell another wave of his intoxicating Apex. She had long ignored it, but it was still there. He was on guard, only retiring to their Chambers when his training was done... His constant concern for her and their baby was enough to warm her heart and bring a tear to her lashes. But, still... The Captain still needed his woman, and above all else, she'd start with her own circle.

Carrick had asked [b "Are you ready for our next adventure, my love? "] Saraya smiled. [I " Let's accomplish this"]

The ship had finally landed in water. Saraya saw everyone gather to take that drop. Adimar, Rhuarc, Ayab, Lara... Saraya was next. With Carrick's help, she had safely gotten down and into Adimar's arms. Aria came down on her own, then Carrick, Thad and Rupert. Saraya was safely on her feet as she looked around the waterlands. The water wanted to shimmer and shine, but she knew why it wouldn't. She could feel the sadness from there. Malik's grip was tight, and it was up to them to loosen it.

Corbin, Saraya's guard disembarked the ship, followed by Max. Corbin had trotted to Carrick and bowed. [b "A thousand apologize, Captain. But, it seems you'll need assistance."]

Carrick didn't have time to answer him. A call had sounded on the horizon, and it was coming towards them, by the smell of it... Not so far away, there was a bushel of palm trees. Everyone thought it trees cover and ran for it. Carrick took Saraya's hand and made haste.

Saraya had trouble keeping up at first, but through the Sting of cramping sensations had subsided, she could finally keep up with his speed. Her left hand was wrapped around her, so not to feel any pain as she ran. She looked to see Rhuarc and passing her, then ahead. Where was Ayab? She looked back to see him falling behind because of his wounds. She let go of Carrick's hand and turned back. Carrick yelled for her, but, she hurried to him. Corbin turned and ran for her, but she barked to him to go into the trees as she ran. Ayab saw her coming for him and tried to assure her, but she threw his arm over her shoulder and started trying to use some of her abilities to help alleviate the pain.

But, his massive weight had halted even her steps after a few attempts of helping him run and she could tell by the tenseness of his muscles that he was bearing a lot of pain. [I "Ayab! "] she gasped as he wanted to stop. She saw that her healing abilities wouldn't take effect soon enough! She had to do something while she worked her magic. She saw everyone make it to the forest and she saw that the small puff of smoke was getting bigger. She had to think fast!

She helped him sit as he grunted. She knelt behind him. [I "calm down. Breathe slowly through your mouth. "] she told him before putting her palm on the middle of his back. As soon as she did, to everyone, they disappeared.

Ayab gasped when he felt a sensation coming from his spine. She watched as the three of Malik's men approached. She was careful, making sure that she could get to work on his leg without being seen.

She started scooting him back, feeling the difficulty of helping such a big man like Ayab get to safety... But, she found it easier as she kept her hand on his back. The horses neighed, and ran past them... Good. She sighed as she looked to Ayab's leg... It seemed to dim the pain some. She looked behind her to see them running just a few feet from them, and helped him stand. [I "Come on, Ayab... "]

[b "Lady Saraya... You should be safe, not trying to help me"]

[I "Shush, Ayab. You are one of us... You won't be left behind... "]

[b "Lady Saraya... "]

[I "Come on... We have to get to everyone now before they are discovered!"]

Even though they were close, it didn't stop Saraya from coming up with a plan. As they ran into the thicket of trees, she delivered Ayab to Rhuarc before getting to Carrick. Before he could say anything, she raised her hands and quickly formed a shield, to shroud there scents. Everyone could feel the vibrating sensation from it. She looked to everyone as the sound of their galloping enemy or ally neared the trees. She looked through the opening of trees, and watched as their stress slowly halted. While everyone stayed low, she kept her breaths even. She felt that she needed to do so, so she wouldn't find discomfort and would have to let up, especially from using some of her energy forming not just a temporary healing spell, but to make her and Ayab invisible so she could have the time to let it get into effect.

She grunted some. She practices with her shield long enough that she could hold the barrier so long as she breathed. Corbin kept his eyes on Saraya, knowing that the energy she was casting would soon have to deplete, and he would have to ready for another plan. Saraya looked ahead... The atmosphere smelled like Malik, but... She slowly left Carrick's side and slowly made her way into the open. She drew her double edge sword and placed it's end to the back of the enemy. [I "Show your face, minion! "]

She waited as the first two scouts turned before the third did. What she saw, she was appalled to see herself. She slowly drew her sword away from him and smiled a tear filled smile. [b "Lady Saraya!]

[I "Balden... "]

When she saw that he mounted off the steed, she hugged him, tightly, happy that he was alright.

Afterward, though, Balden quickly switched topics. [B "Where's everyone? "]

[I "They're just-"]

[B "Lady Saraya, go and hide. Malik's men are coming this way. We'll lead them off and come back to collect all of you when they're deterred "]

Saraya nodded before turning and hurrying to the trees. Carrick held onto her, but she looked to everyone. [I "it's Balden. He said the real minions are riding here as we speak. I can shroud our scents, but we'll have to wait until Balden leads them off and come back for us"]

After everyone understood the situation, Saraya looked to Balden before nodding to him. With that, Balden had told his boys to hurry, and mounted their steeds. They ran off, and everyone stayed huddled in the trees, waiting. Saraya looked to Adimar. [I "Adimar... Can you use Hermes to see how close they are? Once they get close enough, I'll put up my shield"] she said, looking out to the sandy trap they were in.
  Saraya air spirit / Bloody_Eve / 112d 10h 40m 23s
Aria gave a very wise answer to his question and she was of course correct, it did not matter whether she was ready or not the world would not wait for them to decide that they were strong enough. She was determined to succeed in Fenlyk and with the attitude, the group that followed her and a little bit of luck she just might do it. [i “You’re not all glares and long silences anymore. You’ve opened up and have shown a softer side the betrays your exterior.”] Rhuarc looked at her, confusion on his face. He has never been called soft before, normally it would be an insult but Rhuarc knew Aria and so he knew she did not mean it as such. Rhuarc was a hard man, covered in scars, tattoos and brands, even his features were hard, he could have been sculpted out of stone for all the difference it would have made. The one thing he would never be was handsome and he had thought another thing he would never be was soft and yet here was Aria saying so, and seeming serious about it...and part of himself was agreeing with her. [b "I still have my share of glares Priestess."] The hint of a very rare smile tugged at the corner of the Jai's mouth but what he said was true, and recently most of these glares were directed towards Luther.

Adimar then took the time to show off his hawk, Hermes, and explained that his bond would allow him to see through the bird's eyes, an incredibly useful ability. Rhuarc could already see what an incredible tactical advantage that would be, always having an eye on the area, to see enemies from miles away...the possibilities were endless. Rhuarc refrained from petting the bird but it did seem like a magnificent specimen, it would have made a good trophy if he were to kill it in the Wastelands. The airship had been descending steadily and now it time for them to land, as the ship lowered Rhuarc felt a familiar, and welcome, sensation touch his mind. Snakes. In Kil'heed the protection of the city had kept the sensation from his mind and being in the skyship he had been too far from the ground to sense anything but now that he was heading back to solid ground the sensation was coming back. The first thing he noticed was that they were far more numerous in Fenlyk than he had sensed in Volshi, there were grass snakes, water snakes, swamp snakes and even a few sea snakes on the very edge of his mind deep below the waves of the water. It was a good feeling to have and he had not realised how much he missed the familiar sensation, in a way even though he was still far from his homeland the connection to the serpents who were sacred in Adbhu'Jai made him feel close to the desert.

Rhuarc still could not believe how much water there was in Fenlyk, the ship had landed on the shore and as the crew went about their duties with the synchronised precision that only came with experience and one by one they all departed the ship, Ayab requiring help to get off the ship, he now used a thick wooden quarterstaff to help him walk and support his weight. He had changed the dressing on his wound early that morning but already a very small hint of rot was seeping through the bandage, Rhuarc caught a glimpse and his jaw tightened in anger. Finally Aria jumped from the ship landing gracefully . Adimar suggested moving inland to find a secure location and Rhuarc agreed with his logic but he was not entirely happy with Adiamr's implication that they head straight to the Capital and away from the Medici. Ayab needed aid and if it came down to the choice Rhuarc between Fenlyk and the Medici Rhuarc would choose to go to the temple but such a choice had not become necessary yet. Adimar was acting odd, Rhuarc didn't know why or even what exactly was off about the Volshi Guardian but he seemed...shifty.

The call of a patrol completely changed the atmosphere of the group, Malik's men were so close and they had only just landed in the Province, it was a stark reminder that they were firmly in enemy territory. The whole group made their way to the cover of the coastal forest, Rhuarc had his sword in hand just in case they were discovered before they reached their shelter and Ayab was painfully slow, limping by his side, a look of pained determination on his face but Rhuarc could tell that his friend was determined not to be a burden to the group. He was a proud man and Ayab would do all he could to uphold the vow he made for himself. For now though Rhuarc needed to put his injured friend out of his mind and ready himself for the possibility that this patrol discovered them, and be ready to take appropriate action.
  Rhuarc / Kastanstyrax / 112d 20h 34m 7s
Across Fenlyk, on the outskirts of Astoria, Balden sprung up from his cot. His body was rife with sweat and his eyes haunted. His chest heaved for air. He’d had another nightmare, they were becoming more frequent lately. Balden had changed, hitting a growth spurt in the past seven months. Balden had grown another foot, and his body had thickened with corded muscles from his practice with the swords he crafted. He still followed Rhuarc and Ayab’s teachings, spending no less than a full hour everyday training. The rest of his time was spent either working in the rebel underground forges near the hot springs, or out in the streets of Astoria gathering intelligence. However, something was wrong with him lately...

Things had been a wild ride since Balden rode out from Kil’heed. In four short months, he had passed across the provinces and found himself in Fenlyk with a small group of rebel fighters. It wasn’t his intention to get involved with the Rebellion the way he had. His intentions had been to start spreading the word that The priestess was returned. He had done that, but during a stop in Central City, he crossed paths with an old man on the street. Balden had been laughed at by the Underground Resistance in a small village outside Central City when he told them he had traveled with the Guardians and that they were coming. He came as their herald to inspire the rebels to rekindle their fight. Instead he was laughed at and told the leave. Besotted and feeling like he might have made the biggest mistake by leaving, he met the old man. Balden never got a good look at the beggar’s face, but he suggested that perhaps words were not enough. Sometimes a man had to take action, had to commit to his cause. Balden, inspired by the man’s words turned back into the tavern and the rebels and told them he would join if that was what it took to earn their belief. They accepted and sent him to Fenlyk to give his message to their brothers and sisters in arms in the wetlands.

The Fenlyk Resistance was more inclined to believe Balden. They had been waiting for the day they could finally strike back. Balden learned Fenlyk had sacrificed their land, allowing Malik to take it and occupy it. They kept the largest numbers of Malik’s men confined to one area of the provinces, and essentially trapped. The Terrain was difficult to navigate, Caledon was to the North, Abdhu’jai to the south, and an ocean at their backs. They had no where to go except to Central City, and then they would be surrounded on all sides by the enemy. Balden wasn’t sure if that was the story they were telling or if they were just that ingenious. They saw everything like a giant chess match, it just wasn’t until recently the board had become active again. Balden was welcomed into the fold quickly and adjusted to a pretty consistent life with them.

He missed the others. Sometimes he thought he should return early, but he decided to stay and help. He just had to be back in Kil’heed by the end of the year. It still bothered him that the Volshi Watcher had called him unworthy, and a coward. He’d sent messages back to Kil’heed with no response back, he had to wonder if his messages were even going through. He wondered how angry Rhuarc would be if he knew he’d left. Ayab hadn’t been all that pleased, but hadn’t stopped him from leaving. No one had. Sometimes he could imagine the lecture Carrick or Aria would probably give him if they knew he’d come all the way out here alone. Mostly he thought about Lara. Balden spent most nights laying awake in bed, and remembering the way Lara looked beside the lake that fateful afternoon. He missed her red hair, her smug grin when she got away with sneaking around, and her voice. He missed her company and their conversations. Would she care that he left? Would she care if he didn’t make it back? He hoped when she woke up, that she got the staff he made her. Since her last one broke, he had set out to make her one that would be nearly indestructible. She couldn’t defend herself if she didn’t have the proper tools. Balden would be a liar if he said he wasn’t lovesick. He longed for Lara, but lately he couldn’t bring himself to think about returning. He didn’t think he was good enough for her, and of course there was Adimar. He was older, incredibly handsome, and it was no great surprise to learn the man was a damn prince. That lesson learned while in Kil’heed had been a real ball buster. Prince Freaking Adimar was everything ladies wanted -why would Lara want any different?

Dark thoughts, and voices of self loathing invaded his mind when idle, or when he thought of the others.
[i ‘ Why go back? It’s not like you were helpful. They called you unworthy. You really think any of them would be excited to see you again? That Lara would be excited to see you? You idiot, like some stupid halfbreed son of a whore could ever be in the same league as her. You honestly thought you were one of them? They’re heros! And what are you? Unworthy coward.’]

[#A52A2A “Shut up!”] Balden groaned in a hushed voice, his words frustrated and tired. His hands held fistfuls of sandy blonde hair on either side of his head. He just wanted the voices to stop. They did the opposite. They grew louder and louder, multiplying and all of them shouting at him incoherently, but the understanding was there. Balden was nothing and no one. They roared in his mind until he finally snapped, and for Balden things went black.

His body remained upright, his eyes glazed and he slowly rose out of his bed. He was dressed only in his trews, his feet bare as he walked from his bed in the cellar he was sleeping in and made his way through the tunnels. He eventually found the entrance to the underground cellar and hid, they usually kept two men on watch. Sure enough there was one seated quietly and playing a card game to pass the time. Balden approached quietly, crouched low until he was just behind the man and snatched him into a choke hold. Balden held tightly with no expression on his face as the man slowly passed out in his arms. With the guard taken care of, and his identity still safe, he climbed up the ladder and out of the cellar. The outside world was still dark, the early hours of morning still holding onto the night. Balden walked across the grass towards a line of trees, where the shadow was thickest. The moment he crossed the trees, Balden was swallowed by the darkness...

Before him stood The Fade who had come to greet his puppet, and learn what new developments were being made by the rat scum of a rebellion. You see, the strange beggar that Balden had been so inspired by to join the Resistance had been none other than The Fade... Balden had no idea he was even being influenced, and had been slowly losing himself to The Fade since The Mage and his wraiths had attacked on the road to Tanaka. Balden came to a kneel before The Fade. [#A52A2a “Master, I bring news... Rebel Scouts north the Caledon boarder sent word of a Volshi Airship heading this way. It’s just the one. It is expected to land somewhere in Fenlyk by mid-day today. The Rebels have no idea why the Volshi are coming, who or what is on the Airship. It was proposed that the Volshi have finally come down to either help or finish them off. It’s been suggested by some that the Volshi have come for alliance talks with Malik..”]

The Fade found this information, interesting. A Volshi Airship… he had a very good idea as to who and what was on it. It was no doubt the same Airship that they knew landed in Kil’heed. The Priestess had woken up, and it was no great feat to believe that the Priestess was doing as Vega said she would… In time, the Priestess would come to them. The Fade, satisfied with this new information sent Balden back to bed, who woke up the next morning as if nothing had ever happened. Balden couldn’t recall leaving his bed, and the guard who had been knocked unconscious had been too embarrassed to say he’d been bested without a clue to who had done it. The primary buzz amongst the rebels was: Why a Volshi Airship was spotted heading to Fenlyk, and should they send a scouting group to find out what they wanted. Balden of course, volunteering to join the scout group… a part of him hoping it was his friends.

[center ~*~*~*~*~]

The ship was landing and Rhys knew he had to be with the group that landed. He was one of the last to jump down, and he was carrying bags of provisions with him. He had charmed the Captain of the Ship to let him travel down and act as a pack mule for the Guardians. If Malik didn’t appreciate all the grunt work Rhys was doing to get close to the Guardians and the Priestess, than he didn’t know what would please that man. Rhys followed behind the others towards the tree line. Even he wasn’t ready for the group to be captured by Malik’s men. He had a job, and that was to find a way to get Malik closer to the Priestess, and now that they were landed in Fenlyk… make sure the temple remained sealed. He took cover with the other members of the Holy Guard and watched the Patrol make it’s way towards them, but Rhys kept his special skills to himself. For now he wouldn’t use his magic, but in time he might have to…

-fin
  *Balden / darien / 113d 21h 1m 42s
Saraya agreed to keep the promise Carrick asked of her, and it seemed that things had calmed down. Since her morning sickness, and pregnancy was draining her of energy she spent most of her time reading the books Adimar loaned to her. The morning they were to land, Carrick found her in a makeshift tub, bathing herself. He took a moment to look at her, the woman who was carrying his unborn child. Carrick didn’t want to imagine what his life would be like if the group of them hadn’t entered his forge. He felt humbled in her presence, and slowly made his way to the side of the tub. He had come to see how she was doing. She assured him she was fine and to focus on his duties as Captain to Aria. He gave her a chiding smile, and helped her stand up from the tub.
[#000080 “I will find a way to balance my duty as Captain, and my duty to you and our child. We each have a part to play, and I’ll wager one day our son will have his own part to play in this world. In the meantime, let’s enjoy the fact that Adimar got the protection spell to work. Even if the Mage does come after you, he can’t touch our son,”] Carrick was at least comforted to know if nothing else, their child would be protected. Adimar had been confident in the spells ability, so Carrick was too.

She seemed embarrassed by the way her stomach was swelling with life, but Carrick thought it nothing short of beautiful, and he made that very clear to her before they eventually made their way to the upper deck. Carrick had been considering asking Saraya to marry him, maybe once all the madness was over. If they saved the world, and if he was still alive, he knew he wanted to spend those days of peace with her. He wondered how she would take it if he asked her, he just needed the right moment. They decided to spend a bit of time training together. She threw him targets to hit, and he caught every one of them. He even slung a few back her way and let her dodge them.

Across the deck stood the rest of their group, and the ship had begun to descend down through the clouds towards land. Of all people, Luther approached the two of them. He looked frustrated, but for what reason Carrick wasn’t sure. Perhaps it had to do with not being able to find the things Lara has pilfered from his room.
[#00FFFF “Ship’s Captain says we will be landing soon, Captain. They’re dropping us off on the Northern Border between Fenlyk and Caledon. Then they say the’ll be waiting for us in Caledon.”]
[#000080 “Thank you, Luther. Prepare the rest of the Guards for landing. I’ll see to the Priestess.”] Luther gave a nod of his head and left to follow his orders, as a whistle sounded from the helm house indicating that their descend had truly begun. Carrick turned towards Saraya and took her hand. [#000080 “Ready for our next adventure, my love?”]

The ship came to a landing on the gently lapping waves of the shore not much longer after that. The Ship’s captain called out to them as crew members hurried to secure the ship for the short duration they would be landed.
“There isn’t much time. Disembark while we are still unnoticed. We can’t linger or we’ll be found out. Priestess, when you are ready to return to the ship, Prince Adimar will be able to summon us back. Please don’t die your highness.” Adimar assured them, death was the last thing he wanted to do and quickly jumped down from the ship to the shifting sands of the beach, releasing Hermes to fly freely as he did. He helped Lara jump down, and helped Carrick get Saraya down safely, too. The members of the Holy Guard disembarked, as well as Thad and Rupert who had tagged along. Their reason was: Someone had to keep Adimar’s neck in tact. Once Carrick had seen to it that Saraya was safely on the ground with the others, Carrick turned to see Aria waiting her turn. He offered help but Aria just smirked, sauntering up to the edge of the ship and looking down.
[#FFC0CB “I think I can manage to get down on my own. I learned a new trick during my trials.”] Suddenly she jumped down the several feet to the ground. Adimar rushed to catch her, but it wasn’t necessary. She landed on her own two feet splashing the water under her. Max jumped down landing with a splash behind her, followed by Carrick and the rest of the group. They were officially on Fenlyk shores. The island of the Medici was behind them, with the Capital and Temple ahead of them.

The Volshi Airship couldn’t follow them all the way into Fenlyk or fear being shot down from the sky. As soon as everyone had disembarked, the Airship took back to the sky and vanished behind the veil of clouds above them. Carrick watched them leave as well.
[#20B2AA “We should head inland, find shelter. The shores are not safe from Malik’s patrols, and if my calculations after studying a map are correct, it will take us several days to reach Astoria.”]
[#000080 “What about the Medici?”] Carrick asked curiously. Adimar looked tense at that question, which concerned Carrick. Adimar voiced what Lara had said about the Medici never being home, and that they should head inland.
[#20B2AA “I’ll send Thad and Rupert out in search of the Medici, but The Priestess must be moved to a more secure location.”] Carrick couldn’t argue with that, and gave a relenting head nod towards Adimar’s men, who took that as their cue to leave for their own mission. Aria however had her own disagreements to share.
[#FFC0CB “There are things I can learn from the Medici,”] she tried, but Adimar had other plans.
[#20B2AA “Then lets hope the Medici finds us…”]

A call or a shout was heard further down the beach, and the group tensed… One of Malik’s patrols was heading their way. They had to move quickly and for cover or risk being exposed. Past a hill of rolling sand dunes, stood a collective of palm trees creating the start of their own coastal forest. Perhaps cover could be found there. The group had no choice but to run, and Carrick turned grabbing Saraya's hand and ran with her. [#20B2AA "Lara, can you bring the surf up over the shore and cover our tracks?"] Adimar asked.
[#000080 "Maybe while you're at it, you can just sweep those bastards out to sea,"] Carrick smirked.

continued…
  *Carrick / darien / 115d 20m 1s
Adimar was intrigued by Lara’s idea to do both, so he followed her right into his own room. Curious, he wondered what she planned to do in his room. It was currently a mess, he’d taken every scroll, book, and journal he could find that would help them with any potential research on the previous guardians or ways to fight Malik’s magic. In the corner stood a tall covered bird cage with his hawk tucked safely, and sleeping quietly. Adimar watched her go over to a table in his room that was covered with alchemist tools, and potions. Leaving Volshi and accepting his role as the Guardian seemed to have changed Adimar. It had everything to do with a sense of freedom. Adimar had become a soldier because it was expected of him, but Adimar had always been more of a scholar. Now he was free to pursue his desires and that was to research as much magic as possible. Carrick had made a comment about Adimar being their Mage... he had no idea how true that was. Adimar had always wanted to become a Mage, but there was a stigma to being a mage. Which made sense as the majority of Mages in the history of the Four Provinces all used magic for evil. Adimar had the talent and the ability to become a Mage, that he had only managed a little bit of research into it in his youth, and now he was free to pursue it.

He was surprised to see Lara choose a bowl he’d been using to try a Scry Spell. He wanted to find their enemies, but so far he’d been unsuccessful. Now it seemed she would use it to tell her story. He was instantly captivated, and impressed by her natural ability. Adimar would even wager Lara had more Arcane talent than Adimar had at her age. He stood at the table and looked into the water curiously as her magic manipulated the water. Her story was as sad as her display was beautiful. A weaving of marine and crystal blues and greens, illustrated her story.

So Malik’s men had found her home, tortured her parents and left them to burn. He wasn’t sure who the strange figure was either, he couldn’t tell and from her story there were no clues as to who it truly was.
[#20B2AA “I’m so sorry Lara... it sounds incredibly lonely.”] He stared at her with sympathy for someone so young to have to live through such an ordeal. Malik had been cruel and relentless in his hunt for the Guardians and the Priestess. Fate, it seemed, had other plans. The Guardians had gathered regardless of Malik’s attempts and Aria was still safe in their company and free. Adimar had been impressed by Lara from day one. She was a spunky teen with an old soul, and he had to admit he’d grown fond of her the way an uncle cares for his niece. He could see the memory was haunting her, by the way her eyes glimmered with unshed tears.

She suddenly bolted from his room, startling him by her quick movement, but he didn’t chase her. She had slammed his door in leaving, and he could hear her slam her own door shut. It weighted his heart for her with guilt. Perhaps he should have left the past in the past, but he hadn’t known it would be such a painful memory for her. He decided to let her have the night to calm down and he’d check on her in the morning. Sighing heavily, he circled around his work desk and looked down at the water. It had returned to its normal stasis and remained that way. He decided to try again to find where The Mage was hiding, but after making the incantation and adding the powdered concoction to the water bowl he got nothing more than a flash of light, the water to bubble, and then nothing. The spell fizzled out and showed nothing. It was just the same old water from before. Adimar huffed in frustration. Was he missing an ingredient? Was he pronouncing something wrong? Had he mistranslated the spell?

He had almost given up for the night when the water began to bubble as if suddenly boiling. Adimar tensed and leaned back from the bowl, just to be on the safe side. He watched with tense baited breathed as a flash of light illuminated the water and it turned to a mirror like surface.
[#20B2AA “Holy Shit...”] He breathed, for a face formed in the surface of the water bowl. An elderly woman stared up from the water with weathered eyes, thin grey hair, and translucent skin. She was a walking corpse, but despite her obvious age and fading health, her eyes were sharp and aware.
[#2E8B57 “You, Fledgling Mage... Yes you..”] She groaned hoarsely. Adimar approached the dish carefully and glanced down into her wrinkled face. She grinned showing she miraculously still had all of her teeth. [#2E8B57 “Oh oh... you are a handsome one, aren’t you?”] The old woman teased looking him over.
[#20B2AA “Who are you and what do you want?”] Adimar demanded not in the mood for games.
[#2E8B57 “I am The Seer, Vega.”] Adimar blanched, this was Malik’s seer. What did she want with him?! Her next words were spoken quickly and with authority. Adimar intrinsically knew to listen carefully and heed her words. [#2E8B57 “I am going to assume you know exactly who I am, and you know I do not have much time, so listen closely. I have seen a potential future you must keep from happening at all costs. The Priestess can not go in search of the Medici, others can, but she cannot. If she goes Fenlyk will be lost. Watch her closely, she will be vulnerable to attack. A force seeks to get close to her, if it’s left to dig its roots in her she will be taken by a darkness most foul...”]
[#20B2AA “What is this force? How will I know it? How can I trust you?”] Adimar asked hurriedly, and his voice hushed.
[#2E8B57 “It is evil incarnate, it is darkness, it is death and decay, it is the absence of all things. It is the destroyer of light. I have kept The Priestess just out of Malik’s reach for the past twenty years, but you don’t have to believe me or trust me if you don’t want to. So long as you at least heed my warning. She can’t know we have spoken! Do not let the darkness take root in her as it has done to so many others... Or we will all be lost. Malik nears, my time is short. Do not trust a friendly face-“]

The water went blank and still abruptly, Vega vanishing in the blink of an eye. Adimar stared stunned by what had just happened, and rubbed at his eyes to make sure he wasn’t just hallucinating from a lack of sleep. Malik’s seer had come to him! To HIM! She had given him a warning. He wasn’t sure if he could trust her, but nothing she said made it sound like she knew where they were going what their plan was, but then again... it was The Seer Vega, a known mage whose sole gift was the gift of sight. She had foretold many prophecies in her lifetime, and now she came to Adimar. It was cryptic at best, but one fact remained... Adimar had to convince Aria not to go searching for the Medici, and he couldn’t tell her why. Adimar frowned... Ayab’s only hope was the Medici.

Adimar tried to sleep on it to the best of his abilities, but he only managed to toss and turn restlessly. When he woke up, it was with a minor headache. He cleaned himself up, and dressed for the day. They would be landing soon, and Adimar decided to pack a bag with a few things that might come in handy while he was away from the ship. In the corner was his Hawk’s cage with a heavy cloth tossed over it. He collected the cap and lifted the fabric over the cage, reaching inside and gently woke up his Hawk. He carried the hawk on his arm up to the deck of the ship and found the others. He greeted them all with a warm good morning, doing his best to shake off the memory of Vega’s visit last night. He also didn’t like that he was having to keep it a secret from the others. He didn’t have time to think about it as Aria gushed over his hawk.
[#20B2AA “I don’t think you’ve all been properly introduced to this guy. This is Hermes. I suppose you could say he’s my familiar. He’s going to be our scout while we’re on the ground. One of my skills is being able to take over birds. Hermes has been with me for five years now. Instead of having weaker bonds with random birds, I’ve created a special bond with Hermes, it’s very strong and allows for us to connect from great distances. What he sees I’ll see, and hear if he’s able to get close enough. He’s going to come in handy for us when it comes to keeping track of enemy movement. He’s surprisingly friendly if any of you would like to pet him.”] Adimar offered, his own free hand stroking gently down Hermes’ front feathers.

Herme’s screeched suddenly heralding the arrival of Saraya and Carrick to the top deck. She was looking better and more refreshed. He’d had books sent to her room per her request, and while he had offered to help she was determined to do it on her own. He relented of course, but informed her his door was always open if she needed help or had a question. From the looks of things she and Carrick were going to squeeze some training in before they landed. Those two certainly were a pair.

Continued…
  *Adimar Aethon / darien / 115d 15h 44m 27s
Aria slept soundly that night. Comfortable in the knowledge she had a guard at her door who would be there in flash if she called for help. It worked as well as she’d hoped. Malik did not reach out to her in the night to torment her dreams or thoughts, and she was able to sleep the entire night peacefully. She did not wake again until the early light of dawn began to filter in through the porthole of her cabin. Sunrise from the clouds was destined to be a sight to behold, and Aria did not want to miss the chance to see it. She dressed quickly and brushed her hair out before stepping out into the hall and finding Max exactly as she had left him: sitting on his stool with a bored expression. She bid him good morning and informed him she was heading topside to catch the last bit of sunrise, and he rose to his feet following after.

The air was crisp and held a tang of salt. They were undoubtedly in Fenlyk now. Aria should have been nervous, frightful that they were soon to be knee deep in enemy territory, but all she could feel was a giddiness and anticipation. They were one step closer to getting Ayab the help he needed, being reunited with Balden, and to restoring another temple. To Aria this was potentially going to be her greatest challenge -a true test, and a turning point in the budding resistance against Malik. If she could only sway the people to rise up and fight back…

The sky was aglow with subtle hues of rising gold, and the fading hints of nighttime lavender. It was quiet, save for the wind in the sails and the cawing of birds beneath them. She walked towards the bow of the ship taking in the sight of the sun rising to greet them. It gave her a swell of hope. A new dawn with new possibilities. The Cabin Boy from earlier was hauling heavy rope across the deck to a crew member, going about their duties. Rhuarc stood before her, backlit by the dawn and turned to see who approached him. She greeted him with a warm smile and came to stand beside him and look out at the horizon. Max lingered behind, and seeing that Aria was safe in Rhurac’s company, turned to make his own leave to find some rest before they landed.

There was a comfortable silence between them until Rhuarc asked her about the view. She simply smiled in agreement before she spoke. [#FFC0CB “It’s gorgeous. I’ve never seen anything like it before,”] she admitted finally tearing her eyes away from the sunrise to look up at him. The golden light reflected off his dark skin in a way that almost made it glow, and for a moment she allowed herself to study his scars and tattoos. She didn’t get to study for very long, or very much before he asked if she was ready for what was to come. Her eyes found the Holy Sigil of Azera fresh over Rhuarc’s heart. How had she not noticed that before? When did he manage the time to get it done? His question caused her brows to furrow and she looked back out ahead of them and glanced below to see the land turn to wetlands with pockets of ground sturdy enough to support small villages, with plenty of rivers and streams snaking through the region. Finally she spoke after giving it some thought. [#FFC0CB “I don’t think it matters if I’m ready or not. I will do what I have to do, and by any means necessary. I know I want to liberate Fenlyk, if we can do this… the others will fall in line. It would restore hope throughout the four provinces that Malik can and will be defeated, and Malik will have to accept that I am coming for him.”]

She stood, arms crossed over her chest with a determined and focused expression -as if she could see the plan laid out in her mind.
[b ”You have changed since Kil'heed, you are stronger, more determined. It suits you Priestess.”] Aria’s expression softened and she looked back up at Rhuarc, humbled at his compliment. She quickly remembered strength was something the Jai revered. When Rhuarc had first met her, he had openly confessed his uncertainty in how a timid petite woman could possibly lead a revolt against Malik. It made her stomach flutter with a strange sensation and unbeknownst to her, her cheeks pink with a light blush. There was no denying she had changed, but in a way all of them had.

She was staring again, but she wasn’t that embarrassed by it this time. Instead she smiled at him with fondness and thanked him. [#FFC0CB “You’ve changed too,”] she suddenly said a grin playing at the edges of mouth. [#FFC0CB “You’re not all glares and long silences anymore. You’ve opened up and have shown a softer side the betrays your exterior.”] She openly studied the scar on Rhuarc’s face, a flicker of curiosity entered her eyes -wondering how he could have gotten such a scar. She still had a lot of questions about him. Perhaps most people looked at Rhuarc and saw a hulking monster of a man covered in tattoos, and riddled with scars. Some intentional, others a trophy from battle. She could confess to having been slightly afraid, and entirely intimidated at first meeting Rhuarc. Aria quickly learned differently, and had considered it a privilege to have earned Rhuarc’s friendship and see him open up. Not only to her, but to the others as well -especially Lara. The tension that had once been there in their early days was long gone, and it was the same with Ayab.

Aria wanted to ask Rhuarc about what he had said the other day. She wasn’t familiar with the word he had called her. Her knowledge of Jai Culture was still limited, and they hadn’t the time to really dig into those lessons with all that had been going on. Before she could ask, others began to join them up on deck. Lara was the first to join, looking tired, and Aria wondered if she wasn’t able to sleep peacefully last night. Rhuarc asked Lara if she was ready to return to her homeland, and Lara had to confess she wouldn’t be until Malik was gone. Aria reached out and put an arm around Lara’s shoulders, a motherly expression filling her face.
[#FFC0CB “It’s only a matter of time, Lara. We will see to it Malik is completely erased from these lands. Let’s go restore your temple,”] She said with a confident smile.

Continued...
  *Aria Tolshiv / darien / 112d 20h 51m 1s
[center [I [size25 ⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓]]]

The Mage hissed in his own personal despair. Saraya was just under his fingertips... Close enough to see the fear in her eyes. It gave him such a rush. Even her fear was too beautiful to pass up. Within his little orb he hid in his cloak, he tried to see the specimen guardian, to see that same gorgeous tortured look on her face. His desire for her became rapidly uncontainable, and he only begged in his mind another chance...

Until his master chimed his name.

The Mage stood and turned, hiding his face while the Dark Lord spoke. He could only breathe, but his fear for his own demise kept him silent, and breathing.

Malik began to circle him, as he described his failure with Giji. The Dark Lord was very displeased. Giji couldn't get any closer to Aria than could He, not with even a pathetic practice as possession. The Mage hissed at his failure, and bowed lower.

The reason why Malik didn't kill him, was because he left a scented trail, and knew where to plant the cabin boy. The Mage was relieved, but didn't let down his guard.

[B [center It seems since you killed the Caledonian Knight and claimed the life of his offspring, that you've been acting strange...]]

The Mage tensed. [b [I "My Lord, I haven't done anything to warrant death"]] he whispered quickly. Malik huffed as his nails raked his throne. [B [I "I did as commanded... I was to make them come out of hiding. Attacking a guardian was the best way"]]

Malik roared with displeasure. The Mage was only supposed to get them out of the shield, not attack the Caledonian. Why her? The Mage was prepared.

[b [I "She was the one who broke my ties with Giji... "]]

The Malik stayed silent, warranting him to explain further. [b [I "Her power level is beyond any I've sensed. She continues to become a problem and though she doesn't know how to use her powers, even in that she is dangerous. I felt it when she severed the ties with ease. "]]

The Dark Lord scoffed. She found him AFTER she was attacked, Malik corrected, and instilled fear into The Mage's form. Which meant the Prya ways was increasingly becoming a problem. With each moment, Malik was growing more and more agitated. If she gets any stronger...

Malik barked to The Mage to make his way to the cabin boy. The cabin boy was still closer to them than any of them, so send a message to try and get rid of Saraya. Aria was being protected by something stronger than even him... And he needed to stop it before Aria would be lost to him again. The Mage smirked. As he stalked away, he thought of her, and sent the message to the cabin boy. Another chance to get close to her...

He smirked as he walked on. He went into his chamber, looking at the corpse of her late husband, and a satchel on his belly, the infant child he squeezed from her womb. He took flesh and hair, mixing it into his concoction, and poured some into a gauntlet.

[b "Perfect... "] his evil voice whispered before letting a chuckle escape him.
--

Saraya had finally eaten her food, with the comfort of Carrick's company. He told her that she was going to be safe, that he appointed a guard for her. She nodded slowly, feeling the full extent of the matter. She did cause alot of panic. Ayab was still wounded, Balden was still missing, and Aria to had alot to learn, as did she, to claim their lands back. She didn't have to be there in the meeting to know what was spoken. Her connection with Carrick made everything clear. Fenlyk had twists and turns, and monsters. Though she was pregnant, she knew what she had to do... To let others fulfill their future, one must suffer alone at times.

She keep that thought in a little box in her head, and sighed as she looked to Carrick. [I "I'll... I'll be fine, just... Just have to keep myself from being in the way... That's all.. "]

She forced a smile before looking down to her lap. Carrick took away the tray and told her that the guard would be outside of needed. With the shut off the for, there was a lot going through her mind. Thoughts she never thought she had... Like Ayab... He had been injured this entire time she was going through her ails, and hadn't even tried to see him. She felt terrible that when she had got into that ship, that it was the only time she even said a thing to him and Rhuarc. Aria and Lara, Adimar... They have been growing in different directions. Saraya knew about from what her father could summize everything about it... But, there still wasn't a clue on how to defeat him. She had to do something... And it took a lot more courage to do it than it seemed.

Saraya sat up and sighed once more [I "Guard, find The Volshi Guardian. Tell him to bring the books of training arcane powers... "] she said before closing the door again. Now, it was up to her to protect her own. The guardian sighed as she took the time to bathe, and afterward, dressed and made herself presentable. She needed to put herself in her own circle, and try on her own to learn to control her arcane side and better hone her wind abilities...

The door was opened. The guard had spoken that Adimar was at her door. She nodded, signaling the guard to let him in. Adimar had came in with books under his arms, and curious why she asked for them. Her answer was simple

[I "The better to take control again. I need to learn how to control it... It's growing stronger, and so does my wind abilities... If it's possible, I can use what I did before we made it to Tanaka... I shrouded everyone's signature... To where The Mage's dogs couldn't find us... When we all met in Central City... "] she looked to Adimar. [I "If I can train myself, it's possible I can protect Aria... And maybe help Ayab with his wound... "]

Carefully, she chose her words. [I "I have to try... For the Guardians... For my son... "]

She made it a resolute dedication. She just had to try... If her vision in Kil'heed was true, than she had to play this smart, and be sure to cover all the stops. She could assist as intended, and keep her dark side under her sleeve... But, she can't do that if she doesn't explore and train it. She grabbed the books, thanking him for the help. Adimar insisted to help her, and she smiled. [I "Oh, I intend on you helping me. But, not now. Once your business has been finished, then you can help me"] she was not negotiating.

--

Spaning a fortnight in the skies, Saraya had been in either one or two places. She was either in the room, studying, practicing, or being spoiled by Carrick, or she would be above deck, sitting in the sun, occasionally speaking with her guard and the group... But, only briefly. Today, around mid morning, Saraya had eaten, practiced, and was basking in the sun again. At noon, she retired below deck and as usual, would create an herbal bath and soothe away the slight pain she hand in her fingers... And her side... She didn't understand why every time she practiced her arcane magic, that it seemed to hurt her. Hopefully, it didn't hurt the baby... For some reason, Caledon and her father hadn't spoken, as if dormant and silent within her.

She looked at her belly, a bit poked out from the water, andsmiled some as she began to rub... Aramis... Such a growing boy you're becoming... She wondered about his first steps, his first word... The first time he starts running, and riding steeds... She smiled to it. It gave her comfort as she heard the door open. Carrick had came in, wanting to check on her. She assured him that she was fine, that she was only tending to herself for the while, because everyone began to ask why she hadn't stayed with them longer.

She sighed. [I "Carrick, you are already torn in two. Aria and I shouldn't be fighting for you to fulfill duties you have already done and done well. I stay nearby and be her shield... You are her Captain. That comes before me and Aramis right now... "]

She was speaking the truth. Her being pregnant shouldn't be top priority. But, Carrick saw it another way. He vented about it, knowing that he did feel stretched... But he also said that there wasn't a chance that he wouldn't put her first either. Aria is in need to be protected. So did she. [b "Even with the spell protecting our boy... I must be a father, your man and a Captain."]

Saraya sighed to herself, understanding what he meant. Saraya can push herself aside because Aria was top priority, but it didn't mean that it would be a complete success. Even if she did it, Carrick would still be torn, because too much concentration on Aria, would leave her vulnerable to the Mage, and that, he won't let happen. Not to someone he loved.

Saraya tried getting out of the tub, but it deemed a little harder than she thought. Aramis was taking energy to lift now, and the bump in her belly was becoming embarrassing to her eyes. Again, Carrick corrected it. To him, she was beautiful, and he voiced how glad he was to have her as his wife... Wife... Saraya hugged him.

At that time, Carrick and Saraya had went above deck together, and as she took a seat, everyone's eyes were on her. The guard Carrick appointed stood behind her, and Carrick urged her to watch him train, to see how well the both of them had been training.

Saraya smirked some before trying to throw out little bursts of air, that formed into soft balls the size of apples, and he would cut them, one by one. They did once with his sword... One with the spirit's endowed powers... And the last was a mixture of the two. She was impressed. He was getting really strong. She kept playing along with him, when he threw air bubbles at her. She used her ability to dodge them without moving... Everyone stared, even the cabin boy. Some of her training had paid off
  Saraya air spirit / Bloody_Eve / 116d 9h 47m 22s
Lara sighed quietly. Adimar was wrong regarding the payment or test not mattering. Adimar himself had said that Ayab was one of their group, and that meant the payment or test should matter more. On the inside, Lara felt confident that Ayab would be able to get to the Medici before he strayed too far from his mortal coil; as to the payment or test, anything could happen after that.

Since Adimar was in his happy mentality, Lara decided that she would not kill his happiness. Every happy or otherwise good moment now would help them get through the dark times when the light of hope seemed most extinguished.

It did not cheer her up that they would be crossing into Fenlyck the very next day. She could sense that Adimar was attempting to cheer her up, but Adimar's effort was wasted in that regard. Instead, Lara felt her feelings more divided than before. She did not feel happy, nor were there any other positive feelings about being back in her homeland after not stepping foot there for three years. She felt dread of the unknown, she did not know how much Fenlyck had changed in the past three years. It could appear the same, or different, from the outside, but how would the cities themselves look?

Lara found herself crossing her arms together and rubbing her fingers nervously. She could not let herself breakdown again. Everyone was depending on each other for safety, and if she broke down she was liable to become a liability to the rest. That could not happen, especially not now as they were crossing into more dangerous territory.

She had heard Adimar's question, but had not answered right away as she got a grip on herself. Now that she could ponder on an answer to Adimar's question, Lara found the perfect solution. [+purple "I think we can do both at the same time."] She could tell her story of running away, while showing that very same story in a bowl of water; two birds with one stone.

Adimar led her out of the room. Along the way up to the deck, Lara requested Adimar to go to his room. Lara wanted to do it in the sanctum of Adimar's room.

Adimar agreed, but it did not feel as it was total agreement. If Adimar had his thoughts which he did not want to speak aloud, then that was his choice.

Walking into Adimar's room, Lara immediately noticed the difference between her room and his. Where her room was somewhat bare, Adimar's was mostly occupied. Lara knew that this was due to the fact that she had always traveled with only what she needed on the high road, and that habit had stuck with her all the way here.

Lara looked around the room, and found what she was looking for. On the table was a big, golden bowl which had water in it. That would work fine.

Lara walked up to the table, and sat down in one of the chairs. She motioned for Adimar to sit down across from her. Once he had sat down, [+purple "I will tell you my story, and will show you it in the water."]

Lara put her arms on the table, leaning on her elbows. She closed her eyes, and reached out for the water that was in front of her. She could feel the tug of the water in her mind as it lay still in the bowl. Just to get a feel for the water, Lara pushed it around experimentally. She could feel in her mind as the water moved around in the bowl, tugging here or there depending on how she willed the water to move.

Now, she was ready.

Lara made the water form a scene of a night on the shore of the beach. Individual starts twinkled, slowly brightening and then fading out. To the top right of the bowl, part of a full moon could be seen.

At this point, Lara realized that Adimar was seeing whatever she was seeing upside down. Lara forced the water to rotate the scene slowly by 180 degrees; now Adimar could look the right side up.

Slowly, the scene zoomed in on a figure kneeling on the shore of the beach. [+purple "I was sitting on the shore, looking up at the night sky and admiring its beauty. It was quiet, peaceful, as if nothing bad could happen."]

Next came the tricky bit of showing the fire that would be going on in the background. To show that, Lara pulled away the water from some parts to others, causing the color to lighten. Then she caused it to shift from left to right, as if a big fire was crackling behind. [+purple "I heard a fire. Not a little one, but quite a big one. Its crackling was intense, I could feel the heat from where I was sitting. I... I could also... I could also hear laughing and screaming... I jumped upwards, and ran towards the my house."]

The water showed the figure running towards the house, everything getting a lighter shade of blue as the scene got closer and closer to the house.

Then the figure stopped running, and the scene slowly around rotated from the front of the figure to show what the figure was seeing. The face of the figure, which was mortified and full of shock, was slowly replaced by a house which was ablaze. The fire had multiple shadows in it, each represented by a dark shade of blue.[+purple "Those figures,the most horrible looking creatures I ever saw. They were the ones who had tortured my parents, asking where I was. My parents... they never revealed where I was.... Those evil.... the... they beat my parents to near death, but my parents kept on not saying anything. For resisting, they were left in the house as those brutes set it on fire. That was when I saw him.."]

To the side of the house, appeared another figure. It was larger than the rest, and a sort of eeriness floated around the figure. THe figure's shades of colour kept on changing, always either going lighter or darker. [+purple "That was the first time when I saw him... I do not know who he was, but at the sight of him, I ran away."]

The scene again rotated around as Lara's figure turned around itself, and fled. The whole scene slowly faded out into a dark blue.

Lara opened her eyes back up. She felt wetness around her eyes, but not a single tear had yet to come streaming down. [+purple "From that moment, I wandered around the rest of the world. Always hiding, always in fear that at some moment I would be found and suffer the same cruel fate as my parents had. I found odd jobs to do so I could pay for food, clothes, water."]

Lara all of a sudden stood up, accidentally spilling the water from the bowl out onto the table and stormed out of Adimar's room. On her way out of the room, Lara slammed the door to Adimar's room as she began to run to her own room. She could feel as the tears began to slowly fall down her face. Her vision blurred a bit, but she eventually made it back to her room where she once again slammed the door and fell on her bed.

She lay there, sobbing into the pillow. It felt as if her heart was on the verge of tearing itself into bits and pieces. She felt ashamed for breaking down once again.

She could feel the spirit of Fenlyck swimming around in her thoughts, trying to help somehow. Unlike the other times where she had pushed the spirit away, Lara poured out all her emotions. The spirit of Fenlyck listened patiently, swimming through the turbulent current of outpouring emotions.

Eventually, Lara fell asleep. The spirit of Fenlyck slowly swam back to the depths from where it had risen, content that it had helped calm down Lara.

She awoke the next morning with a start. Lara rubbed her eyes, feeling the irritation from last night's crying. Walking over to her table where there was a bowl of water, LAra rubbed away this morning's fogginess and last night's break down forcefully. Feeling more awake and refreshed, Lara made her way up to the deck of the ship.

It seemed as if everyone was slowly gathering there. Rhaurc and Aria were already there, and one of the Holy Guard standing around. Lara walked up to them as others did as well.

Looking out on the land of Fenlyck, she heard Rhuarc ask a question. [+purple "Until this whole land is cleared of Malik's presence, I will not be ready to go back home."]
  Lara / NorthernWolves / 117d 17h 38m 57s
The large Jai Guardian had much on his mind, foremost amongst his thoughts was the looming journey into Fenlyk. The land was unfamiliar and dangerous, full of enemies and it seemed even the land itself was against them. They had two main goals, enter the Temple and Find the Medici. As much as Rhuarc wanted to believe that they could do both, he feared that Ayab was right, if Malik had spies and soldiers everywhere then they might not get a chance to accomplish both of their goals...at least not as one group. Together they were safe, they were strong but as small as the group was they were still a noticeable bunch. If they split off into two teams, one to go to Ayab and one to go to the Temple. It would be incredibly risky and it might be an unnecessary danger. Rhuarc would at least raise the idea with Aria, although he doubted that she would agree with his logic. She was smart but naive, especially when it came to her friends. Her trial had given her some steel in her soul but deep down Rhuarc wondered if she really had what it took to make the tough choices. If the group only had one chance to go to the Temple would she sacrifice that in order to save Ayab? Rhuarc knew what his answer would be, and he knew what Ayab's answer to be but that was different; they were Jai. Those not from the Wastelands were soft, it was a fact as much as that fire burned or that ice was cold.

Ayab limped over to his friend and placed a hand on his shoulder bidding him goodnight, the man looked weary and far moe tired than Rhuarc had ever seen him. Ayab was dying, of that there was no doubt and he was not sure how much longer his friend would survive, even in the short time that they had been on the airship the wound had gotten worse. Leaving the protection of Kil'heed while necessary was taking a deadly toll on Ayab. Rhuarc often thought about their encounter with the Fade, how the
monster wounded his friend and how he was going to kill the abomination but that raised an interesting question. How to do it? Rhuarc's blade had cut The Fade's skull in half and Adimar had unleashed the fury of his magic and yet none of it had mattered. Maybe the secret was in one of the books that Adimar seemed to be spending so much time with. He would ask the Volshi Guardian later. RHuarc walked around the deck, exchanging a few brief words with the crew and was assured by the Captain that their time on the ship was almost at an end; by morning they would be in Fenlyk. The Jai did a quick round of the ship, making sure that Corbin and Max were at their posts and even waiting a while by Luther's door, listening to ensure that the Watcher was indeed inside, once he had confirmed that he moved on. It was late, Carrick was with Saraya and Adimar and LAra had left his own cabin although the Jai did not feel like sleeping tonight. Instead he spent the night out on the deck with the captain and the rest of the crew, staring off into the distance, to the inevitable, to Fenlyk drawing ever closer.

The Fire of Jaihash inside of him kept Rhuarc warm throughout the cold night and he had to admit that the view of the rising sun was well worth staying up for, it was magnificent. In the distance he could vaguely see the seemingly endless expanse of water...it was magnificent and yet vaguely disconcerting at the same time. Rhuarc had killed over water far less than that, most Jai had so to see so much in the one place was hard to wrap his head around it. The fact of the matter was that they had left Volshi far behind them and entered the belly of the beast. Other than the Central City Fenlyk was where Malik had his strongest hold on the Four Provinces. It would be dangerous, but everyone had known that this journey would be hard before they set off. He heard a set of light footsteps approaching and turned to see Aria approaching the ship's deck, Max by her side, good, he would serve her well as her Sworn Shield. Carrick must still be with Saraya, that would be the only reason that the Priestess herself was not. [b "It's beautiful is it not Priestess?"] Rhuarc meant what he said, while he appreciated the danger that Fenlyk represented , he could not deny that the water was beautiful. In his experience the most dangerous and the most beautiful were often one and the same. [b "Are you ready for what comes next? For the next leg of our journey? You have changed since Kil'heed, you are stronger, more determined. It suits you Priestess."] Looking at the Priestess now Rhuarc could not help but notice the similarities between the Priestess and the Land of Fenlyk that they were entering. Both were beautiful, mysterious in their own ways and dangerous if taken lightly. Yes, Aria was an excellent [i da'thei] Rhuarc had chosen wisely.

Eventually one by one the other Guardians and members of the Holy Guard made their way onto the deck of the ship as it slowly started to descend, the next stage of their journey well and truly upon them. [b "Are you ready to go home Lara?"]
  Rhuarc / Kastanstyrax / 120d 3h 50m 57s
Aria did as requested, and sat by Saraya’s side all through the day. No doubt the stress of their situation, constant travel, looking over their shoulders, her duty as a guardian, the added hormones from her pregnancy, and the Mage’s threat were baring down on Saraya. It was all too obvious, and Aria worried what they would have to do if it kept getting worse. A part of her wondered if this was a ploy, an elaborate distraction put together to keep them focused on one enemy so the other could continue to grow more powerful in the background. She knew they couldn’t afford to be attacked from all sides.

She kept a lantern aflame beside the bed to keep them surrounded in a warm glow. It was one of the few things Luther had said to her that she’d taken to heart. Stay out of the shadows, The Fade could reach her in them. The absolute last thing Aria wanted was for the Fade to grab her while she was distracted. There was much she couldn’t afford to do, and it could be easily surmised into one simple statement: She couldn’t afford failure.

Carrick came by to visit and check on the sleeping Saraya, and in doing so Aria asked that he have some food sent down. It came with the cabin boy. He was around their age, good looking, and not Volshi. Aria stared at him uncertainly as he entered the room with a tray full of steaming soup, warm rolls, and a cut up apple.
“Food as you requested, your Holiness.” Aria nodded and motioned for him to come inside and set the food on the bedside table. She just wasn’t expecting for Saraya to suddenly fall into a fit. Was it a night terror? Was it something else? The Cabin Boy was smart enough to back off while Aria tried to calm Saraya and wake her.
[#ffc0cb “Saraya, Saraya?”] She called with hurried need. She needed for Saraya to wake up, because she was unknowingly spreading arcane power about. There was a darkness to it, and while a part of Aria told her not to get too close or touch it... it was coming from her friend and Aria wanted to wake her from whatever horror she was seeing. Wind had formed in the room, blowing things about, and Aria worried what would happen if it continued. She called for Saraya once more and reached out to touch her. [#ffc0cb “Saraya!”] She gasped at contact. Aria felt a flare of power flood her, and for a brief moment saw the sadistic grin of the Mage and heard Saraya’s shout for her child’s safety. Then it ended abruptly and Saraya shot up from the bed.

Aria tumbled back in the wake of the power coming to its breaking point before snapping and fading away. The cabin boy remained close to the door unwilling to move any closer. Aria managed to push her own hair from her face and righted the stool next to Saraya’s bed and helped her get comfortable once more as she asked if she’d done the damage to the room. Aria frowned, but gave a firm nod of her head. [#ffc0cb “I think it was a nightmare or something. It’s alright now,”] She said. [#ffc0cb “Let’s not worry about it right now. It was all just a bad dream,”] Aria tried, hoping she sounded sure of it herself, and walked over to take the tray of food before having the Cabin Boy leave. [#ffc0cb “Send Captain Carrick in.”] She ordered. He seemed eager to go, and did not linger longer than need be. She carried the food over to Saraya and set it down on her lap. [#ffc0cb “You need to eat first. I’m going to see if there isn’t a remedy to help you sleep better, but in the meantime I want you to gather your thoughts. I will be wanting the full truth from you soon. No more secrets,”] She warned.

Carrick arrived at the room then, having come from meeting with the other guards, and accompanying him was one of the new recruits. No doubt Saraya’s new guard. He was a promising young Volshi and one Carrick trusted well enough to look after Saraya so she was never alone.
[#20B2AA “I came as soon as I was called on. Has something happened?”] He asked. Aria frowned and glanced to Saraya.
[#ffc0cb “She had a bad dream...” ] Aria settled with. [#ffc0cb “It caused her powers to take form. She needs to eat. Make sure your woman eats it all,”] Aria ordered. Carrick could only grin and nodded his head watching as Aria turned to face Saraya giving her an almost motherly look. [#ffc0cb “I mean it. Eat it all, we will talk when you are feeling better,”] she said and leaned in to give Saraya one final hug and then left, leaving her in the care of her lover.

[b CARRICK] walked over to take up the space on the bed beside Saraya and draped an arm around her shoulders. His brow furrowed with concern for her. It had to be challenging enough to be a guardian, but to also be her father’s successor on top of that? It would have made a weaker person go insane. Tack on her pregnancy and it made for a near dangerous combination. He worried over her constantly and now that they had left the protection of Kil’heed, he feared both Aria and Saraya were more susceptible to attack.

He understood why Aria wanted to leave Kil’heed early. Time was precious, and in nine quick months a child would be born... if he could keep Saraya and his child alive long enough. If only there was a way he could protect Saraya from the Mage, and still do his duty. He knew it wouldn’t be easy -but he’d find a way.
[#20b2aa “Saraya,”] He cooed softly to her as he watched her munch on her food. [#20b2aa “You have me weighted with worry over you. I hope you realize, you are stronger than I think you give yourself credit for. I see it, and I know Aria sees it which is why she worries for you the way I do with this Mage and the baby....”]

He sighed heavily allowing his own concern and stress to show. He had his own worries and burdens to bear. [#20b2aa “I’m sorry... it’s not fair you should have to carry such a burden. That any of you have the burdens you do.”] He gave her a sympathetic look, and tried his best to give her a small semblance of a grin but failed. [#20b2aa “These are going to be trying times. Fenlyk will be incredibly dangerous. I want you to promise me you won’t go off on your own. Stay with your Guard.”] He motioned towards the closed door to their cabin and gave her a firm yet loving look. He cared about her -no, he loved her and he only wanted her health and happiness. [#20b2aa “His name is Corbin, and I trust him to keep you safe and adhere to his duty as a holy Guardsman. He’s already standing outside your door, and if you need anything he’ll be there to help you if I or one of the others cannot. Will you promise me you will not wander off, and will try to take care of yourself?”] He asked his gaze intense on her. He had to know he had some sort of promise with her. He was bonded with her, and could sense her intention, but all he really wanted from it was the ability to ward the Mage off on his own.

[b ADIMAR] waved to Rhuarc as he excused himself next from their quick but informative meeting. He could have looked around the cabin curiously, but it wasn’t like there was much to look at. There were some fletching materials on the ground -some of Ayab’s work no doubt, but not much else. Instead his gaze settled on Lara and listened to her talk about her homeland, that things had changed and Carrick was right. There was no temple... just an unground sanctum from the sounds of it. What he hadn’t known, was that she’d run away. Adimar was shocked by that news. What had caused Lara to run from home?

A question for another time, because she brought further information about the temple. No Watchers either. No one knew what happened to them, not even Lara it seemed, and the Medici was going to be a challenge too. It seemed she never stayed in one place for very long, and would require payment, at worst another test.
[#000080 “I’m sure no matter what test or payment she requires, it won’t matter. Ayab is one of us. Let’s just worry about her being able to heal him in the first place, and that he is not too far gone by the time we get there,”] he advised. That would have been the worst, to go all that way only to be told that Ayab was beyond help. He’d hate to see how Aria or even Rhuarc might react to that sort of news. [#000080 “Good news, is that it won’t be much longer. We should be crossing into the Fenlyk Province sometime in the early morning. When we wake up, We’ll be in Fenlyk!”] He grinned, hoping it might cheer Lara up. Did she need cheering up? Girls her age were supposed to be cheerful, weren’t they? Then again, Lara said she’d run away. It made him curious, but they couldn’t remain in Rhuarc’s cabin. He started towards the door to leave as well, and held the door open for Lara. [#000080 “So, shall we go do some training on your arcane skills before supper and bed, or do you want to tell me about why you ran away from home? I don’t think I’ve heard that story...”] he said leading her from the room and towards the top deck of the ship.

[b ARIA] returned to her room and sat down amidst the piles of books. It had been a relatively good day. She’d spent most of it topside out in the sun, and the alone time and freedom had been a nice reprieve. It was not permanent or forever, for as soon as she had relaxed in her room she heard heavy footfalls coming towards her room. No sooner had she looked up did she see Max position himself at her door, and sat down on a small stool. It looked like it was break under his large body, but he made not a sound and simply sat down and took up the watch. It made her feel a bit better at knowing Malik would be less inclined to haunt her if she had the comfort of a guard with her. Seeing him there she had an idea. The Rhuarc had turned her down, and even Carrick seemed hesitant, but perhaps Max would be different. She called to him from where she sat with her books and grinned when he turned to look inside her room.
“Yes Priestess?” He asked in his gruff voice.
[#ffc0cb “Would you teach me how to defend myself?”]
Max stared at her long and hard and for a moment Aria wondered if he’d agree to it, but instead she was more shocked to hear him say “You mean, you don’t already know how?” She felt her cheeks heat and shook her head. Should she have known how? “Someone in your position [i should] know how to defend themselves...” He sighed and shook his head before answering. “I will teach you. We’ll start tomorrow morning. Fenlyk will be dangerous, and I feel I would do you a disservice if I didn’t make sure you could at least hold your own until help arrived.” Aria smiled, that was all she was asking for. “You’re not wanting to learn this so you can fight like the others are you?” He suddenly asked and Aria shook her head.
[#ffc0cb “I don’t want to fight... but I have to. I have to strike Malik down, but I need to be able to live long enough to get to him.”]
“You will make it to Malik... The Gods command it.”
  *Aria Tolshiv / darien / 123d 22h 13m 0s
Her words turned the room as quiet as a crypt. Lara noticed Carrick's glance towards Rhuarc, obviously concerned that she had done something which she shouldn't have done. Carrick could stop worrying about whether she had indeed done or not done something 'illegal', for she was about to tell both Rhuarc and Carrick.

The door opened once more, and Lara recognized Adimar's voice. By his footsteps she could tell he was swaggering in, and by his voice she could tell that he was most likely smiling and completely oblivious to what had just occurred in this very room. Adimar was so oblivious, that he even joked about plots and shenanigans happening in this room; these two things were not a joke, that was exactly what had occurred and would continue in this room.

Adimar's voice changed, a concerned tone and most likely that smile was wiped off his face. Everyone here did not have the best experience with her 'shenanigans', but that was not the whole point. Oh heck to it, she had not even been involved in any sort of shenanigans at all. It had been a specific and legitimate businness, Rhuarc himself had asked and had even inserted the word "please" when asking her to go through Luther's possessions.

Carrick, he was somewhat afraid as he asked what she had done. He did have a fair reason to be worried due to past experiences, but he'd probably be even more worried when she told him that she'd rifled through one of the highly 'esteemed' Watcher's possessions.

There was no point in hiding it, no point in falsifying anything. To everyone inside the room, she told how she'd went into Luther's room and searched through his things. Carrick definitely was disapproving of what she had done, it was written across his face as clear as broad daylight. Adimar on the other hand, it was impossible to say what his stance on this issue was. Adimar had chuckled, but his face remained impassive.

Carrick had gone back to what were maps and started drawing on them, deep in contemplation. With those amount of marks, Lara stepped in a bit closer to see what Carrick was drawing with such deep thought. None of the marks made sense, but either Carrick was marking down safe ones or danger zones; most likely danger zones.

Carrick lifted himself away from the maps, and briefly stated his mind on the whole 'espionage on Luther' business. It seemed as if he did not actually mind it that much. All he wanted was to be kept in touch with any new findings that were made about Luther. There was no problem at all with that. Since Carrick was captain of the Holy Guard, and Luther a member of that guard, it was up to Carrick to make the final decision on Luther.

But then the talk turned to Fenlyck. Fenlyck's temple and the Medici. There were some things she knew naught about because many a thing could change within a three year time span. But, there were some things she did know that would aid them in Fenlyck.

But it would seem Lara would have to wait her turn to speak as Carrick and Adimar debated about the best way into the Fenlyck temple, the Medici, as well as surviving within Fenlyck.

Her homeland? Lara had completely forgot about that Fenlyck had been her homeland. The place where she had been born and raised for 16 years. It was, in a way, a sort of a shock. It was as if the past three years of her life had been one long denial of her homeland. One, long, denial....

Carrick left, excusing himself. Rhuarc followed shortly afterwards, also excusing himself. That left only her with Adimar, who had asked two questions and was expecting two answers.

[+purple "As to your question of what I think about my homeland"], Lara turned so that her left side was facing Adimar and she could stare out the window in the room, [+purple "Many things have happened since I last was in Fenlyck; that was three years ago when I ran away. But some things I know for certain. What Carrick said about the temple being sealed was true, we will have to use the underground passageways. Whether they still exist or not, I do not know. Another important thing about the temple, is that we will not receive the same help we received from the Volshi temple; no Watchers to help us out if we get stuck in a bad place. I cannot say for certain whether the Fenlyck Watchers are dead or have merely fled, but they are definitely not guarding the temple."]

A short pause as Lara sighed. [+purple "As to the Medici"], she shook her head from side-to-side, [+purple "That will be somewhat complicated. The Medici, she never stays in one place too long. Yes the Medici has a place where she resides, but that does not mean she stays there. Her healing powers, while incredible, for a wound like Ayab there will be something required in return. Either it will be some form of payment, or a difficult test."]
  Lara / NorthernWolves / 124d 13h 14m 56s
[center [I [size30 ❇❇♥❇❇]]]

She was shaken... Bad... Very bad...

Carrick was rocking her back and forth, using his presence and love to finally calm her from the state she was in. After placing her in bed, Carrick was faced with a choice, and it was the right one. Saraya parted her lips to stop him... But she shook her head in defeat, finally adhering to his pleas, and quietly shrunk her argument. He was right... It just wasn't her battle... And she would have them know without her there... She did hate that she was beginning to be a burden, though... Carrick was already torn in two... And now Adimar and even Aria was. She sighed as she heard the door open and close... Then, moment later, it opened again. She lifted her head to see that Aria had came in... Oh, Gods... Aria.

She didn't want her to see her in the shaken state she was in... Her eyes were glassy and her lips were a bit chapped. Her hair was a mess, and she hadn't eaten yet since being on the ship. There was a hand that grabbed hers, and Saraya looked to Aria as she began to speak.

[center [b
“You’re not alone, Saraya. We’re all here for you. Trust that we are stronger together than alone. I sensed the Mage’s presence, and Adimar is closer to finding out what it is the Mage plans to do. I’ve also told Carrick to appoint a guard to you. I will not hear argument either, it is my command, and my decision is final.”]]

Saraya sighed slowly, nodding as slow as she could. She looked to her and tried to look away. [I "I've already became a burden, Aria... I only wished to allow everyone time to focus on what mattered... You and this mission. My battles shouldn't be on the forefront at all times. Azera, your top priority... "]

Azera... She said Azera... Had her great grandparents gone through this? She had been so blind to everything around her... She then realized... She had almost forgotten that she had the power to manipulate the shadow. She was on the air, air moves all. She looked to Aria. [I "Do you mind sitting with me? On the bed, so I won't feel sickly"] she said as she sat up... Sitting up was becoming an obstacle... She should really eat.

[I "I have had a nightmare. I fell from the sky, torched with thunder and lightning... I had to have been in a battle only I could fight, because I was bruised and beaten and cut along my body... Carrick grabbed me before I could collapse.. Dragged me into the ship... Pain... It was all I could feel... Pain and fear. I find it hard to believe it is mere coincidence. This dream, it... Felt so real... "]

She looked to her. [I "Aria... I could smell Malik when I came in to talk to you. It was only a matter of time before The Mage would come... Just... "] she grabbed onto her own arms [I "He was going to... "] black smoke began to surround her, but she shook it away. Just in time, too... She felt her belly, grunting some at the bit of cramp she felt... It was beginning to swell. She looked to Aria and sighed [I "Appoint Carrick's most trusted Knight... If I am to be guarded, I only want who he trusts. "] she slowly slid back into the covers as Aria told her to rest... It was what she needed... Rest. She nodded and lain back into bed, and it didn't take her long to fall asleep.

The dream...

Saraya screamed at the sight. She hasn't realized the tumble had took a toll on her... But it wasn't her body she was concerned about... Aramis... Her son... In her mind she was screaming [I No! My son! Somebody save my son!]

Carrick had lifted her up to ease the pain. She screamed as she felt herself stretch in his hold before bundling in his arms. Blood was staining his attire and hers and everyone was beginning to panic. Ayab... Rhuarc... Lara... They all had fear in their eyes. Aria had tears in her eyes, but she followed. Carrick had set her down in a tub of sorts, surrounded with herbal water. Carrick tried to be calm, but when anyone tried to touch her, he would draw his dagger, his canines bearing together so tightly, as if fighting the desire to kill. Saraya could only cry. [I Please... My son... Someone..] Her voice was lodged in her throat... All she could see was a candle lit ceiling, and his face appeared... And a flashback appeared along with it... He had done this... He had dropped her from the sky...

She felt a wave of pain take her, and lifted her head in a scream so profound, everyone had finally panicked. Carrick hurried behind her and grabbed her... Asia knelt next to the tub and started adding her own herbs into the water. Rhuarc and Ayab has knelt, weapons ready, fighting back the urge to run out and find the culprit... Lara had heated up the water, hoping it would ease her pain... Saraya still saw him on the ceiling, an evil smile lurked above her in anticipation. Her lips trembled in growing fear, her eyes widening, and as her fear grew, the wind in the room began to pick up and swirl about, as if a tornado. Her arcane powers sheilded her, though everyone held on as tight as they could. But, the more she exerted her power, the more pain she felt with her baby. [I No... You won't take him! He's my son! MY SON!]

Saraya saw his clammy hand reach for her, to claim her and-

[I ...Sar...Araya...Saray...]

She sat up in a scream. She was breathing hard, grabbing the fabric of her gown, finally seeing the hand and who it was attached to had faded away. She dropped her head, and wheezed in air, feeling a tightness in her chest, as if a hand was on her heart. She finally coughed out that foulness before feeling a strong pull of fatigue...

A weak breath was pulled... She turned her head to see Aria... Her eyes wide in fear. Her eyes slowly scaled the room... Everything was in disarray... And when her eyes trailed the cabin boy... The cabin boy?

He stood, as if terrified... He was holding a plate of food... He was standing at the foot of the bed. She felt something from him. He was clever to hide it... But she still saw it... There was a good sense of fear on him.

She quickly righted herself...

[I "Oh... Um... Did I do something...? "] she looked back to Aria, looking very confused. Aria explained that the cabin boy was sent to give her food. He was reaching out to wake her... And something started happening... The room had gotten darker... And the wind had began picking up and she was screaming her name and grabbed her hand before she had abruptly awakened. Now, Saraya WAS confused. She had done this?

The cabin boy set the tray down and said something before hurrying out. Saraya watched him leave before looking to Aria. Wait, did he say [I "Your very pretty? "]

Aria helped her sit up before grabbing the knocked over stool. She say down and gave her her tray to eat. Now, she asked her for the entire truth, no lies. How could she tell her that? Where to start?
  Saraya air spirit / Bloody_Eve / 135d 22h 55m 4s
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