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Walking back up, she heard running footsteps behind her. Those running footsteps were faster than her own footsteps, but Lara did not feel afraid. She knew, by the sound, to whom those pair of feet belonged to - Balden.
Balden caught up to her, but not out of breath. It would appear these six months had given him more endurance. Just another change that had occurred within this time period away from each other. But that was not really important. What was important was that their feelings for each other had not been snuffed out by time, the flames constantly being fueled by the desire to see the other once more.
Upon reaching the entrance of her tent, Lara turned around to face Balden. She looked him up and down, blushing once again as flashes of happiness, love, peacefulness, and warmthness popped in and out of her mind and body. She leaned in towards Balden and Balden leaned in towards her, the two of them sharing a goodnight kiss.
Setting aside the staff, Lara tucked herself into the knapsack. Laying on her back, she stared up into the darkness of her tent. She layed her hands on her stomach, locking them together as she ran through what had just happened in her head. It was a happy memory, and a first for her. Lara smiled with closed eyes completely relaxing.
And that was how she fell asleep, replaying the memory of her with Balden down in the caves.
Lara awoke with a start, her eyes flicking open. She had managed to flip over onto her side, her arms cradling her head. She felt someone lightly shaking her, someone was trying to wake her up.
Uttering a light groan, Lara flipped onto her back. So it was Adimar who had woken her up.
Lara nodded her head noncommittally, letting Adimar know that she had heard where everybody else would be.
She tried to fall back asleep, but Lara found herself to be slowly waking up.
Letting untucked herself, rotating herself so she was perpindicularto her knapsack. Carefully moving her legs into a crisscross position, Lara stood up. Maybe she should have stretched first, as her muscles quietly protested against this action.
To quiet her muscles down, Lara stretched. She went from the head, all the way down to her toes. Now the muscles weren't complaining.
Picking up her staff, her stomach now complained by giving off a slight rumble. But it was proper to wash up before eating, and thanks to Balden Lara knew where she could find a pool of water.
Kneeling on both her knees, Lara scooped some water into her hands. The water felt cold, but Lara was used to cold water. It wasn't as if she hadn't lived 16 years in Fenlyck on the edge of the ocean.
Lara splashed her face with the water in her hands. The cold water did cause Lara to jerk a bit as the cold water hit her face. Leaning forward, Lara rubbed her eyes as the rest of the water flowed down her face, before falling down back into the pool. Lara repeated this two more times, and felt much more awake by the end of it.
Looking back down at the water, an idea popped into her mind. She closed her eyes, and concentrated on the water in front of her. Once again, she could feel the water as if she were touching it with her own hands. But she felt something else, a new feeling. It felt like a connection...
[i [+purple Is that you I am feeling?]]
[i [+blue Yes]]
[i [+purple It feels very familiar...]]
[i [+blue Remember the one time you used your powers in a panic?]]
[i [+purple When I was confronted by the knife wielder?]]
[i [+blue Yes]]
Lara thought back to that moment, trying to remember what had happened.
And then it hit her. This was not a new feeling she had felt just now, for she had felt it then.
[i [+purple If I understand this correctly, the reason I did not feel it before was because I was not concentrating?]]
[i [+blue You understand correctly.]]
[i [+purple But it's better to always concentrate then to lash out in panick?]]
[i [+blue Yes. That is where practice comes in. There's a reason for not lashing out; you can't control the outcome. That one time you were lucky, but might not be so the next time. These powers you must always use consiouscly. At first it will be tiring, both physically and mentally as you think through your every action. But after awhile, it will feel much more natural.]]
Lara mentally nodded, without actually nodding her head.
She once again focused on the water. She thought of some of the water rising and forming into a sphere. She could feel that tug in her mind as some of the water rose, and formed into a sphere.
Lara opened her eyes, and there was a sphere of floating water, calmly floating without any disturbances playing across the surface.
[i [+blue That's it]]
The spirit had startled her, and the sphere of water fell with a splash. Lara chuckled, somehow finding it funny.
[i [+purple Once again?]]
Lara felt the reassuring nod in her head.
Closing her eyes once again, Lara projected the image of a sphere of floating water in her head. Once again she felt the tug in her mind as water rose up and formed a sphere.
Keeping her concentration, Lara stood up. The sphere of water kept floating right above the surface of the water. Extending her hand, Lara moved the sphere of water onto her hand without letting the water deform into a puddle.
It felt weird, knowing that she was touching water which was forcefully shaped into an unnatural for water shape. But she had done it, causing Lara to smile.
And now she decided to have a bit of more fun. Lara decided she'd walk up, trying to keep the water in its sphere shape as long as possible.
[i [+purple I'm doing it!!]]
[i [+blue Just keep concentrating. And remember, just do this everyday. You don't have to do much, it's just remembering to do it everyday.]]
But the spirit's voice did not fade away as it usually had done, it ended abruptly.
Lara looked around, wondering at this change. This abrupt change in concentration caused the sphere of water to fall out of her hand and land with a splash against the floor.
And then the smell came along. It smelled pleasant, as if there was food. Well, there was food, and she had walked into where everyone was having breakfast.
But no one at the table was eating, they were instead standing in complete silence. They were all looking at something. Lara looked behind her, thinking that maybe it was someone behind her. But there was no one there. If there was no one behind her, then that left only one person at whom all these people were looking at.
That realization came as a slightly unpleasant jolt. Everyone's eyes were on her. Lara did not feel comfortable, she was used to hide in the shadows, not to be out in the open for everyone to see.
She turned her head downwards, and walked forwards. She could feel as if everyone's eyes were scrutinizing her. Lara breathed in and out, trying not to let the building up panic feeling take hold of her.
Lara dared to glance up. Out of everyone to look out, she spotted Rhuarc first. Seeing Rhuarc gave her an idea.
She walked up, coming to a stop in front of Rhuarc. She kneeled on one knee, looking up at Rhuarc. [+purple "Will you forgive my people?"]
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Every time the nurse touched her, it felt as if knives were being stuck into her skin... She was growing more and more comforted by the darkness, and the light would slightly irritate her eyes. She would grip Carrick's hand tightly, to bear the pain until she found some relief. She could breathe better, and the twinge was gone. She lain there, falling asleep once more for a few moments before awakening again. This time, Aria had come
By the time she was approached, Saraya was sitting up, leaning against stone and taking deep breaths. Aria asked what had happened, and Saraya, trying to speak let out a grunt... But no words came. Carrick placed a hand on her belly before speaking. [b [I "She used up her energy sheilding us back there... She used up so much, she had to used arcane powers to keep it going when the enemy was close "]] he explained, looking up to her. [b [I "This is the first time I saw her upchuck blood. Morning sickness is one thing... But blood? "]]
Saraya tried to protest, but Carrick shook his head. [B [I "Saraya is fighting... Harder than anyone I've ever known. She is hurting, because she doesn't want to admit she needs help... It might be because she sees herself as a burden because she's carrying our child, but... "]]
Saraya didn't have a chance to speak. Father Penzone, a Priest of Fenlyk, had came in, but he had most certainly started chastising Carrick for conceiving a child with her. Before she could speak, Aria had spoken for them, defending them and demanded that he stuck to his duty he was called for. After checking her vitals and taking some of her blood, he moved way, allowing the Midewife of Fenlyk to arrive.
At that time, Aria had sadly told her that she couldn't stay to see her well... That she had to take Carrick so to fulfill his duties as her Holy Guard. She smiled and nodded, squeezing her hand in recognition and understanding before Aria placed a kiss on her brow. After she turned to leave, Carrick promised the same before kissing her and she had done the same, squeezing his hand. The Midwife quickly brushed Carrick to leave with reassurance after her quick chastising, and Saraya grew nervous. [I "Be careful... Both of you... For me... "] she said between deep breaths. Carrick looked to Aria before nodding, and the both of them had departed, leaving her in the hands of the Midwife.
The midwife had smiled kindly to her before kneeling next to her. [B "The Guardian of Caledon, laying upon the cot, heavy with life... I never thought I'd see the like"] she began. Saraya stared at the woman as she started rubbing her belly. Saraya winced, taking deep breaths as she watched. The Midwife looked to her, seeing that Saraya wasn't really into talking at the moment. [B "Not a big talker? "]
Saraya looked to her. [I "I've... Nothing to speak about"] she said. The Midwife had propped her legs up and checked the baby. Saraya felt very uncomfortable during that time, and The Midwife knew it. [B "It would go a little better if you talked... It'll ease your distress. "] she encouraged. Saraya gasped and panted, looking up. [I "What? "] she asked.
The Midwife began talking, but Saraya could only think, with the peak of her mind, about her son. A thought of ravenous beasts that resembled the man and the child she lost haunted her, but she always kept it inside, knowing that her heart was finally reconciling about that tragedy. Her year of Mourn had long since been done, but... Her year had been with someone who took his place, and not by force. So as she gripped the sheets, bearing down the pain as she could only submit a word to her lips [I "Carrick"]
The words of the Midwife stopped when she noticed Saraya had relaxed... But, she was a bit too relaxed. She hurried to her side, and noticed that she was sweating beads, and her breathing was short, labored, and she took a damp towel and dabbed her face. Saraya's eyes opened slowly before they trailed to the Midwife.
With a smile, The midwife had cleaned her brow as Saraya stilled to the relief. She could breathe, and her discomfort had slowly began to fade. [B "There you are, Guardian... "] she said sweetly, patting her head as she finally came around. The Midwife then stood, stating that she would return with food suitable for her. There, Saraya lain, recoving in patience.
Soon enough, she heard her name... She looked to her left hand side to see a familiar face... [I "Ayab? "]
It was a challenge, but she lofted her heavy body to see him, and was relieved to see him still going strong. She looked St the wound, and fought back any words to say. The Medici must be found!
[U "Are you alright? "]
Saraya looked up to him and nodded. [I "Yes... Just... "] she looked down. She couldn't bring herself to tell him that she had coughed up blood since the hideout, and as if reading her face, Ayab knew something was wrong.
[U "What's going on? "]
Saraya looked up to him. [I "I don't know... "]
Confused with her answer, he began trying to reach her. [U "Why are you here? "]
Saraya stared at Ayab, grabbing his hand. [I "I had coughed up blood... Carrick was worried... "] she said quickly. Saraya grunted some as she sat up, holding her belly. She sighed as she rubbed her swelling belly, and looked to Ayab. [I "I feel much better, however. And I'm sure the nurses won't let me leave the infirmary until Aria returns, and perhaps Carrick had appointed Corbin to watch me again."]
So far, Corbin had been long silent on the voyage. Mainly, because he had to be her eyes, as a request from Saraya. So, only she could trust Corbin.
Saraya looked to Ayab. [I "Enough about me... How are you faring? I know your strong enough to hold on until the Medici arrives"]
Rhuarc waited to see how his words would be received by Aria, he had done all that he could, he had told her how he felt and there was nothing else for it. He could see her cheeks flush with colour, what could that mean...was it from embarrassment or from similar feelings? The Jai Guardian had expected Aria to go away and take some time to contemplate and think on what Rhuarc had said but to his delight she responded to her words. Rhuarc had not truly expected Aria to reciprocate his feelings, she was the High Priestess after all and he knew her position and responsibility meant to her. He also knew that romance was frowned upon if not outright forbidden by the Holy Sanctum. Rhuarc knew that he would always believe and trust in Aria, and he wanted to let her know that what she was feeling was natural. [b "I would stand alone against a thousand of Malik's men and feel nothing but telling you what I feel just a moment ago...that was terrifying. Fear is good, it lets you know that care, that the outcome matters."] Rhuarc listened as the High Priestess told Rhuarc about her trial in Kil'heed, he had never told anyone else about his own trials, they seemed far too personal, they cut to the deepest parts of his soul, they exposed his wants, his fears, everything that made Rhuarc who he was. He assumed it was the same with Aria so her telling him this...he could understand what telling him must mean to her.
Rhuarc took a finger and wiped away the tear from Aria's face. [b "If knowing you is what leads to my death then it will have been worth it. If Mlik even thinks about using me against you then he regret it."] It was then that Aria spoke words that although they hurt to admit Rhuarc knew that they were true; It was simply too dangerous for the world to know how they felt about one another. There was a part of Rhurac that wanted to argue that they were already targets and that nothing would change that but the added risk was unnecessary. Aria took one of Rhaurc's hands, rough and calloused from years of working with the sword and planted a light kiss across his knuckles. In that moment Rhuarc knew that the slight, delicate woman in front of him could ask anything of him and he would go tho the ends of the earth to make it happen. Her parting gift was a kiss so wonderful it flooded his body with warmth. Rhuarc had felt fire inside of himself ever since he discovered that he was a Guardian in Central City but this was different, and if anything it made the fires of Jai'hash seem like a mere ember. She was everything and yet for the safety of them both Rhuarc would show the world nothing. That was simply the way things had to be. As the two broke apart, Rhuarc's eyes lingered on the vision of beauty in front of him before allowing her to leave his tent and get some rest. [b "Goodnight Priestess."]
Rhuarc awoke to find himself extremely well rested despite the early hour and as he left his tent he was greeted by Adimar and the rather worrying sight of Saraya cradled in Carrick's arms as he sprinted towards the infirmary, Rhuarc was just about to follow when he saw Aria and heard her comments about the need for greater control. Rhuarc knew that he was almost entirely ignorant about matters of the arcane, his own experiences were limited and he trusted both Adimar and Aria's judgments about such things. Rhuarc had to fight to keep himself from smiling as he saw the Priestess and remembered the time he had spent with her the night before. The Jai Guardian did see a possible upside about Saraya's condition, one that he left unspoken...if the Medici was summoned by dire need the plight of a Guardian was far more likely to bring the mysterious healer to them than the need of a common soldier like Ayab. Saraya's need might just save Ayab's life but Aria was right, without Saraya they could not defeat Malik and restore balance and peace to the land. Rhuarc graciously accepted Adimar's offer of breakfast and while he did not join in the womanising of the Volshi men, it raised a smile to his face, the men deserved some fun, they wouldn't have much to laugh about in the future. The war would be well and truly upon them sooner rather than later.
[b "Lady Stanos, you honour us with your presence. Where I come from any sleep that you awake from can be counted as good."] Rhuarc gave a quizzical look at Adimar's statement that he hadn't slept with a hand on his blade, Rhuarc had and he likely always would. One could never be too careful, in the Wastes such behaviour was likely to get you killed. As the conversation moved onwards Rhaurc stayed silent for the most part and let Adimar do the talking, it was far more his strength than Rhuarc's. Admiar was royalty, he was eloquent and far better at conversing with and charming Lady Stanos than Rhuarc would ever be. The news about the Medici was not entirely unexpected so while it was disappointing it was not completely disheartening. It was the news that Rhuarc and Adimar would not be able to accompany her to the Temple in Astoria that Rhuarc truly resented, that would be the perfect time for an ambush with the Guardians divided but there was no point in resenting that which could not be changed. While Aria was at the Temple Rhuarc and Adimar would have to stoke the flames of rebellion in Fenlyk and weaken Malik's power in the Province. Lady Stanos' request for Aria to perform some kind of ceremony seemed innocent enough although Rhuarc did wonder what this could be, however, he was sure that Lady Stanos was a friend and would not willingly put the High Priestess in compromising position and he knew that Aria would love meeting the refugees. Any interaction with the common people would please her to no end. It would make her happy so Rhuarc was powerless to refuse.
Visions of darkness and evil raced through Ayab's mind, each one more vile and horrific than the last until he awoke in a cold sweat in the infirmary. He wished that he could say that this was the first time that he had seen these visions but that was not true, he had spent many nights in Kil'heed sleepless because he feared to go to bed and see what new horrors awaited him in these nightmares. The Fade really was a monstrous creature, killing him was one thing but to force him to waste away slowly, poisoning his body and his mind was torture. In the beginning the pain had been unbearable but the slow numbing of his leg and the spreading rot was far worse than any amount of pain, Ayab knew he was dying and didn't have long to live, and he knew that if the Fade could do this to him then he could do it to the other Guardians as well. He looked around the infirmary, he thought that he had been alone when they first brought him in but there was some sort of commotion happening nearby, bodies were bustling about and the Temple Masters were obviously working hard as well. Ayab understood immediately once he saw who they were caring for. Saraya. They worked for a good few hours before the Temple Master seemed satisfied, Carrick and Aria stayed as long as they could but the nature of their lives meant that they had places to be and matters to see to, soon enough it was just Ayab and Saraya alone in the infirmary. [+red "Saraya, are you alright? What is going on? Why are you here?"]
Carrick hovered over Saraya, holding her hand, and smoothing her hair back with the other. Anything to keep her comfortable while a healer hurried forward to help. He had called out for a healer the moment he’d found the infirmary. The healer worked to find the cause of Saraya’s illness, and what could possibly be causing the blood in her morning sickness. The woman was clearly uncertain, though determined to find the cause.
“She needs a midwife,” The healer scorned Carrick. He frowned, but was caught off guard by Aria’s voice behind him.
[#DB7093 “Then I suggest we find the Guardian of Caledon a midwife.”] The healer gasped at the sight of Aria, but quickly bowed her head and hurried off, in the meantime another stepped forward. Father Penzone. He walked into the room and made a straight path to Saraya.
“The Guardian of Caledon you say?” He looked her over, taking her wrist and checking her pulse, while glancing at Carrick, knowingly. “You must be the father, I take it?” He asked. Carrick looked from Saraya to the Priest and nodded his head. Aria informed the priest he was her captain of The Holy Guard, and that seemed to displease him. “A member of the Holy Guard knows he or she shall bear no children, and take no spouse…” The Priest reminded Carrick. He shared a look with Aria, who had so far been turning a blind eye to that rule -just for him. Aria stepped forward to stand on the opposite side of Saraya’s gurney and looked Father Penzone in the eye.
[#DB7093 “In a pre-Malik world those rules would have applied, My Elder. This is not that world, and I am working with what I have and with those I trust. Now can you tell us what is wrong with The Caledon Guardian or not?”] Aria demanded, defending both Carrick and Saraya in that moment. Her eyes were challenging, and Carrick was proud of her in that moment for standing up for herself, and them.
Father Penzone was unable to find the cause of Saraya’s discomfort, but he had gathered her vitals, a sample of her blood, and as he wrapped up, the Midwife finally arrived. With the Midwife there Aria felt it was best that Carrick leave with her, and Carrick agreed. Father Penzone was watching him, and they knew he was not the only Cleric of Azeroth who was finding sanctuary here. If they banded together under the slightest inkling Carrick could not do his job, they would have the power to pressure Aria into relieving him of his post. He watched as Aria held Saraya’s hand close to her heart, her other hand soothing Saraya’s hair back.
[#DB7093 “I cannot stay, my friend,”] Aria whispered sadly. [#DB7093 “I must leave and tend to other matters, and I must take Carrick with me. You are in great care with the midwife, keep Ayab company? I will come and see you as soon as I can.”] Aria promised and leaned down to press a soothing kiss to Saraya’s brow. A trickle of her own energy and power seeping into Saraya to help alleviate some of her pain.
It was Carrick’s turn to say his goodbye, and it seemed the Midwife wanted him to leave anyway, as she was preparing a curtain around Saraya’s gurney to provide privacy. He looked down at her and could see her pain and fear. He was afraid too. Afraid for her, and their child. He reached out and placed his hand over her stomach feeling for his child, and looking in her eyes. [#000080 “I will be back as soon as I am done attending to The Priestess’ duties. Be strong, and let them help you,”] he leaned forward and kissed her, and looked back at the waiting Midwife.
“Go, men always hover, always worry too much! I’ve delivered hundreds of babes, Sir knight. You can’t make a pregnant woman travel as you all have. It’s not good, but not to worry, I’ll have her right as rain in no time.” The Midwife promised. Carrick was hesitant, but he nodded and eventually let go of Saraya’s hand to follow Aria into the dimly lit tunnels. In the infirmary, the midwife drew the curtain’s closed and smiled Kindly to Saraya. “Alright, dear. Let’s see how you’re babe is fairing. Just relax…” The midwife was gentle and far more knowledgeable about Saraya’s pregnancy conditions, and did everything she could to help Saraya relax, and to find the cause of her discomfort.
Carrick and Aria were greeted by one of the Guards who brought Carrick his gear. He was already dressed, so Aria helped him make quick work of getting ready so they would not be late to breakfast. She went to hand him the sword leaning against the stone wall, but the moment she touched it, she was captured by an rush of sights sounds and smells. A scream wailed in the distance amid the flashing visions of fire, darkness, and blood. She could feel Malik’s presence wrapping around her like a hungry desire. She instantly dropped it to the ground with a clatter.
[#000080 “Priestess? Aria, are you alright?”] Aria was clearly shaken and looked to Carrick as she caught her breath. She was fine, she assured him, and let him pick it up off the ground and attach it to his hip. There was nothing more he could say to try and understand what she’d seen or felt, so he let it go and followed her to the Main Cavern to meet with the Resistance Council and eat breakfast. Today was going to be a long day…
That morning after Adimar woke up, he was one of the first to rise along with Rhuarc and the other guards. The drama started earlier than usual as he watched Carrick suddenly rush Saraya away with concern, and frowned. It must have been her pregnancy. Looking over at Rhuarc he studied the man for a moment before speaking. [#20B2AA “No mortal cast can handle that much power without consequence,”] Adimar commented and glanced to the space between himself and Rhuarc to find Aria had risen from bed as well. She was dressed in common fenlyk robes, she might have blended in if it wasn’t for her frizzy silver white hair and odd lavender eyes. A look of concern painted her pale face as well, her eyes rapt on the retreating form of Carrick and Saraya.
[#DB7093 “She needs better control, or she may find the need to sacrifice one over the other. Too much power corrupts the soul.”]
Adimar nearly blanched at that statement and looked to Aria in disbelief. [#20B2AA “Are you honestly suggesting that if this power flux doesn’t kill her then she’ll turn on us?”] Aria frowned, but by the tense frame of her jaw, Adimar knew he’d struck some sort of nerve.
[#DB7093 “Malik once served as Captain of the Holy Guard. He was loyal to Azera, a man of honor and justice. He came into great power and in his pursuits became the very thing he had sought to destroy. That power he claimed? It came from Saraya’s father. I’m not sure on how the timelines work, but I assume he is like the Ancients… ageless. So yes, I do have that fear. I trust her, but I fear for her as well. I fear for her soul, her livelihood, and her child. I want Saraya to overcome it all, but you are right. Power like hers, like mine? It does not come without consequence. If Saraya gets much worse… Finding the Medici will be more important than ever before. We can’t defeat Malik incomplete.”] It was an ominous warning, and one no one had ever said out loud before, and it was the truth.
It was then Aria looked between the two of them and made her leave to follow Carrick and Saraya, Luther and another Guard quickly on her heels to follow and keep her safe. Adimar looked over at Rhuarc and suggested getting something to eat, because who knew what else might happen that day. First he wanted to check on Lara and see if she was awake. He found her curled up in her knapsack sleeping sweetly. He knelt beside her giving her a little shake, just enough to wake her and let her know where everyone would be.
[#20b2aa “We’re all going to breakfast, join us when you’re ready.”] He told her softly, and left her to go back to sleep if that was her desire. If she didn’t join them for breakfast he’d bring her a little something to eat. From there he turned from the camp and headed towards the Main Cave where the smells of food was coming from. On the way they ran into Max who accompanied them to the long tables and several eager young women. Adimar could only grin, he was rather in the mood for a nice distraction…
“Come, join me and breakfast, men. I see plenty of eager fillies curious to know more about us [i exotic] men,” Max rubbed an elbow in Adimar’s side and winked at Rhuarc. Adimar grinned at the sight of the collective of women who welcomed Max. He was more than eager to join his brother in arms, but he also noticed a collective of figures -the ones who had greeted them last night. Seeing Guardians had arrived to Breakfast, Lady Stanos stood up from her seat and waved a hand for Adimar and Rhuarc to sit with them. Not wishing to be rude, Adimar made his way to the top long table and made his greetings.
“Morning Master Volshi, Master Jai’Hash I hope you both slept well, we hope to move you to better quarters today if it’s any consolation?”
Adimar spared a quick glance back at Max, who didn’t seem to mind being left alone , and took one of the seats near Lady Stanos.
[#20B2AA “I may have been raised a Prince, but I am also a soldier. I can sleep anywhere,”]
Lady Stanos smirked at him, “You didn’t answer my question.”
[#20B2AA “I slept well, thank you. Knowing I didn’t have to sleep with my hands on a blade made for a much needed deep sleep. I drooled and everything, I’ll have you know.”] Lady Stanos chuckled warmly at that, and credited Adimar with being a flirt. He in turn informed her she was very perceptive. He liked Lady Stanos, and felt she was a much needed ally in the fight against Malik. She turned to Rhuarc then and inquired how he slept, pleased to know he also slept fine.
“I was hoping the Priestess would be joining us for breakfast,” Lady Stanos commented when a plate was provided to Adimar filled with native fenlyk foods, and Aria had yet to arrive. He was wondering when it would come to this, people like Aria were always highly sought after. Everyone wanted a moment of her time. Adimar supposed if he was to be traveling with Aria in a sense he would have to represent her. Adimar knew this was normally a task for Saraya who generally accompanied Aria or tended to matters that required her to speak on Aria’s behalf, but she was unwell and Adimar would have to do.
[#20B2AA “The Priestess will be late, one of our group is pregnant, and it has not been a kind pregnancy on her body. The Priestess went to ensure that Lady Saraya would be alright. Speaking of healers, we have heard of the Medici, do you know where we might find this renowned healer?”] Lady Stanos’ expression fell, and she set her fork down to lean in and informed Adimar of what she knew.
“I’m sorry to hear about your companion’s difficult pregnancy, and the wound of your friend,” she said looking to Rhuarc, “but no one has seen the Medici in months. She was last seen leaving a southern fishing village that was being regularly pillaged by Malik’s men. We have heard no word from her, no news. We only hope she is still well and safe wherever she may be, and that when the time is necessary she will show herself. ”
Adimar felt a bit of his bubble burst, to learn that the Medici was missing. Great, Thad and Rupert were sure to return empty handed now. If the Medici was missing with no real clue to their whereabouts, how on earth would his men find her? Then again Rupert could find anything or anyone, the man had a way about those things, and it was entirely a mystery to Adimar how he completed his near impossible tasks. Maybe he could keep hoping his men returned with the Medici. Adimar dug into his food, starved from the traveling, and glad to be stationary for a while. There was one issue he knew needed addressing and he’d rather get it out of the way for Aria sooner than later.
[#20b2aa “We were hoping for better news than that, but thank you for your honesty. I do have one other thing I want to ask you. I like to get business out of the way first, and then enjoy good conversation. The Priestess will want to make a trip to the Temple in Astoria. She will want to see if for herself. Can you help arrange such a trip?”] Lady Stanos was a smart woman, and she knew already who Aria’s General was, and since her Captain was not present in the conversation, she looked to Rhuarc to see if he approved before giving her answer.
“There are tunnels that lead back to the temple and the pools. They are hidden, and have been impossible to locate since they sealed themselves. However, we might be able to smuggle a few of you in. We do have a method of getting into Astoria, however… neither of you will be able to go. The priestess will have to be disguised to look Fenlyk, and I would of course send her with my best agents. Exotic travelers will only draw attention, this would have to be a covert mission in broad daylight. It’s risky.”
[#20b2aa “The Priestess is aware of the risks, and it's not really a request. She must visit all the temples with her Guardians to restore them, and unlock her own powers. We will also need access to all of your intelligence information you have available, and our Captain will want to recruit new members to the Holy Guard. Only the best of your best will do.”] So far Adimar thought he was doing good in Saraya's place.
“Of course,” Lady Stanos conceded agreeing to provide them with any assistance they needed.
“I must request an exchange, however. I will of course provide you with assistance to anything you desire or need. All I ask, is that you convince the Priestess to preform a public Ceremony, and perhaps meet with some of our refugees?” Adimar smiled already knowing the answer as he shared a look with Rhuarc.
[#20b2aa “I can confidently say, the Priestess will easily agree to those terms.”] It was then Lady Stanos spotted another she'd been most anxious to meet. Lara had come to join for breakfast, and the entire hall grew quiet. Adimar watched in awe as the people gave Lara the respect and reverence a Guardian deserved. Showing that the Fenlyk still held true to the old ways. Many stood and bowed as Lara entered the hall and even Lady Stanos had stood up eager to finally get to speak with the incarnate of their deity. Lady Stanos fell into a deep bow.
"Lady Fenlyk, we are honored to have you. Please, come eat?"
Across the camp, a set of eyes watched the priestess closely as she left her General’s tent for her own. Must have been business as usual. Everyone had bedded down, but the Fenlyk Guardian had yet to return. She’d wandered off with the Fade’s puppet, and Rhys had a rather good idea what those two might be up to. Two teens with raging hormones alone? Rhys didn’t think there was much to read into that. He anticipated she would not be returning. So he waited until those around him were dreaming. It was incredibly late when he heard Lara returning, Balden had accompanied her back to the area, and he listened closely as Balden shared a goodnight kiss with Lara and promised to see her in the morning.
Rhys waited until he was sure Lara had fallen asleep, Balden's footsteps were long gone, and the guards now seeing that all the Guardians were returned relaxed themselves. Rhys slipped away from his knapsack on the edge of their camp, prepared to claim the need to relieve himself if questioned. He wasn't, even the guards exhausted from travel were asleep. Feeling confident, Rhys made his way through the tunnels. He moved silently in the shadows until he found his way back to the entrance they had arrived in. From there he slipped out unseen, and noted that they did not keep a guard at watch near this hidden entrance. They would come to regret that.
The insects were loud, and the wind a constant force pushing against him. The sound of surf could be heard in the distance, but it was to a dense collection of shadow under a gathering of trees. He stood in the thick of it and reached out with his own magic. He'd come face to face with one of the Fade's puppets, no doubt the Fade was nearby. Finally he felt the presence of his comrade. The Fade’s grotesque lack of a face rose from the blackness to greet him, after hearing his call. Rhys gave a respectful nod of his head in greeting to the Fade. Unlike Egos, Rhys knew enough about the magic that had born the Fade, he wasn't dumb enough to challenge or upset the Shadow. Besides, being on the Fade's good side, kept him on Malik's good side.
[#8B008B “The priestess has landed in Fenlyk, and she’s with the resistance. I will attempt to sabotage any attacks and will bring you information as it comes to me. By the way, I met your puppet today. It impressive, he doesn’t even realize he’s being manipulated by you…”] Rhys smirked to the Fade, and finally reached out, his hand glowing purple. He was feeling for any corpses in the wetlands. To his delight he sensed plenty, maybe a hundred? Definitely no more than that. [#8B008B “There’s enough dead here, I can create an attack, hopefully draw the priestess out. Or use it as a diversion for you to make your move. The attack in Kil’heed failed, but there are no watchers to foil our plans here. You let me know when you’re ready, but first I need to gain more information about the Resistance and let me break this group apart a little bit. They’re a tightly knit group… they’ll be easier to take down if we divide and conquer.”]
Aria was certain this was the first time she’d ever been rendered speechless. She stared at Rhuarc captivated by his impassioned words. She didn’t think she’d ever heard him speak with such emotion. It wasn’t what she was expecting to hear either. She anticipated Da’Thei to mean: Chosen, perhaps even prophet… but Rhuarc’s declaration of love was not at all what she expected. Though it was entirely welcomed, and delighted in. She wanted to hide her face, knowing she was blushing by the way her cheeks heated and felt mildly embarrassed over it. However, she managed to keep her eyes locked with his, and absorbed every word.
[b “The fact of the matter is that my heart is yours, and shall always be. Aria, you will help these people because you have to. You will help these people because that was what you were born to do.”]
She was certain no one would ever have that sort of faith in her the way Rhuarc did. She was also certain she shouldn’t like the sound of her name being said by him as much as she did. To her, it seemed the invisible wall between Priestess and Guardian was lowered when he said her name. The closest expression she could use to describe her feeling was hopefulness. He had told her to do whatever she chose in regards to his words, and no matter what he’d respect her choice. A small part of her urged her to put distance between them, to stay focused on the upcoming war, and not allow herself to let her guard down over an infatuation. Hearing him confess his own feelings had Aria reevaluating her own. It was easier to dismiss such emotions when you believed them to be one sided, and easier still when someone managed to make you second guess them. Now her own emotions were trickling out from the bottle she had trapped them in deep in her heart.
She knew she could not stay quiet for much longer or run the risk of wounding Rhuarc’s heart. She finally reached out and took his hand, but locked her eyes with his, knowing she would never lie to him either. She had to tell him.
[#DB7093 “I hope you always have that much faith in me. You are constantly full of surprises and wisdom, and I’ve already learned so much from you. I had no idea you felt this way, and I would be a liar if I said I did not have similar feelings for you.”] she couldn’t stop the blush even if she wanted to, but the expression was warm and pretty on her as she eyed Rhuarc. [#DB7093 "You have been a constant source of support, advice, and strength to me. I admire you greatly for the man you are, and I adore your soul. I’ve never had feelings like these before. They confuse me, and at times they frighten me. I…”] She looked down at his hands and frowned, recalling her violent trial in Kil’heed, and it brought all of the fear and guilt back to the forefront. A Rouge tear began to form in her eyes. She swallowed tensely before continuing to speak [#DB7093 “I must warn you. During my trials, I was trapped in a never ending loop of madness and horror by Malik. I thought it would never end…”] she shook her head, still haunted by it all, but carried on. [#DB7093 “At one time, he had you strung up on a post, and before he killed you, he -it made me listen to the sounds of you screaming in pain and calling for me. I had to watch you die…”] She sniffled, hating that memory above all others. The deaths of the guardians. [#DB7093 “Sitting with you now, I wonder if Kil’heed knew my own feelings before I did. The vision taunted me, it knew you were special to me… and I kept losing you, Rhuarc. I don’t want that to happen to you. I can’t let Malik use you against me- not like that. I want to protect you too, and I know my feelings for you could be dangerous, especially if anyone ever knew. I don’t know if it’s even wise to search our feelings deeper, let alone act on them. Though I want to.”] she smiled sadly at him. [#DB7093 “You and I both know how dangerous it could be for either of us, the group and all of Azeroth if it was known there was more than a friendly bond between us. These are dangerous times, and we do not have the power to protect ourselves. For your own safety I must ask that you take care to keep these feelings secret. No one must know. We have to be careful not to act on them… or be caught if we do.”] She gave his hand one final squeeze and a shy smile before she pressed a kiss to his knuckles. [#DB7093 “Know you are always in my thoughts, and if the world was different… I wouldn’t be leaving your tent this night. I’d spend all my nights with you, but I desire your safety more. So I will leave you with my own words of adoration, and your thoughts on them, as well as a token to our secret.”] she leaned in and in a show of boldness for her feelings; she pressed the softest of kisses to his lips. She lingered only a moment, feeling her heart hammer and the air grow heavy, while her cheeks burned with a blush. It was one sweet lingering kiss between two people who understood the consequences of what could happen if it was learned Aria had such a potent weakness. She broke the kiss, wanting more than ever before to kiss him further and feel his warmth; but she managed to find the will power and pulled away to make her exit. At the entrance, she made a show of opening it up and turning back towards him. [#DB7093 “Goodnight, General. Sleep well.”]
While she had been walking up to Balden, Lara had taken a short peek at Aerik's face. Aerik was smirking. Not only that, but he was also looking at Balden while smirking. Being curious, Lara had looked at Balden's face from the side and had seen a look of dread upon his face. A dreaded look which became more pronounced when he turned his head to the side.
Did Balden think that Arik was trying to steal her? Well then, Balden wouldn't have to worry about it "none at all". Lara would not let herself be stolen, either physically or spiritually. She had managed it to make all the way back to her homeland somehow, and that meant she'd be able to continue on forwards.
Lara relaxed upon seeing Balden smile and look like a mischievous little child. Not in the bad way, oh no no no. He was not actually planning to do something mischevious, he was merely fulfilling her request of finding a private spot to have a tête-à-tête, catch-up time.
She felt her face flush just a bit as Balden gently grabbed her hand. It felt comforting to have his warm hand wrapped around her own, slightly cold hand.
Lara followed Balden, her quiet footsteps nonexistent in the wake of Balden's louder footsteps. She followed him, continuing to be led by her hand. But Lara did not mind, for Balden was neither crushing her hand nor leading her too fast. She wanted to look at his face, maybe even hug him.
But for now, all she could do was look at his back and imagine doing those things.
Eventually, the small passageways ended. Instead of more unending passages, there came a humongous opening. It was another cavern, but much more beautiful. Lara was stunned by how all the various colours, ivory, red, gold, and slate, how they all glimmered. She had never seen such an array of colours in a natural state, her heart raced as she took in this rich sight with her eyes.
Along with the site, came the steady plopping of water. Water slowly rolled down the stalactites, beading on the very tip of it before falling ever so slowly. Lara watched a few in mid-flight, before they disappeared into the small puddle beneath all those stalactites.
Who knew that home could have so much beauty underneath it?
Balden had led her to the very edge of the shallow pool. Its surface was smooth, as smooth as a mirror. That was until the next 'plop' made the surface go all "wibbly wobbly" for a short time, before the surface of the water reset and the unending cycle could continue.
Lara turned to face Balden when he began to speak. It was less out of respect, but more out of longing for Balden. Even though she knew that she'd only stay in the Resistance hideout for a short time, six months of her life had been slept away during the Volshi trials. Those six months she could have spent getting closer to Balden.
As Balden continued on with his narrative, small tears began to form near her eyes. Those were not tears of sadness, oh no they were not. For once, those tears were of joy. For once, despite all the chaos and madness and the unknown that had surrounded all of them, Lara felt safe, in a controlled place, and with someone whom she was only beginning to love.
Lara was slightly confused as to what Balden meant by, "I can't wait another moment to.." It did stop her tears from actually falling as she glanced at Balden, waiting for him to do whatever he had been so itching to do.
He leaned in, and kissed her,
It was a kiss.
His warm lips, pressing gently against her somewhat cold face.
She couldn't remember the last time she had kissed.
Lara became stuck in the moment. She had not expected the kiss whatsoever. She stood there, as if she had been frozen, so many thoughts ricocheting off the inside of her brain.
Lara opened her lips to say something, but then closed them just as fast as she had opened them. She daintily put her right hand over the spot where Balden had kissed her. The warmth from Balden's lips, the warmth was still there.
She had seen Balden lean in and kiss her, she had felt his lips press against her smooth, cold skin, and she had felt the warmth left by Balden's lips. But her mind was slow to come to the acceptance that she had been kissed.
At first, Lara had been surprised and somewhat shocked. Next had come confusion and a slight underwhelmed feeling.
But then Lara relaxed. She felt her face warming up, her entire face flushed a deep red colour as a small smile bloomed into a big, joyous smile. Her quiet chuckle grew into a loud, ecstatic laugh. She had grown up, but at this exact moment she felt like a young kid who had just discovered what love was.
Lara hugged Balden, holding him tight against her as she kissed him back. It was a long and deep kiss, pouring in 6 months of time that had gone by without the two of them seeing.
She stopped the kiss, her smile turning into a mischievous grin. As if she had been making her first kiss while trying to hide it away from her parents. She looked Balden in the eyes, promtly closing her eyes as her face flushed an ever deeper shade of red than before.
After she had managed to calm herself down, Lara sat down, pulling Balden down gently with her. [+purple "Well, where to start?"]
That was merely a rhetorical question, which Lara never answered. But she did answer one very important question. What had happened to her and everyone else in this six month span.
Lara begun with their entrance into the trials, describing in detail everything that had happened.
The first trial, one hellish puzzle bent on grinding her, Saraya, and Carrick into dust if Saraya had not found the pattern, thereby saving all of them in the process. All the crazy lunges that had occured while attempting to outrun the grinding walls, right on everyone's heels.
The second trial. She, Carrick, and Saraya had managed to reunite with Rhuarc and Adimar before losing each other in the green, murky fog. Lara described how she had seen that night on which she had run away. She described in detail how bright the fire had burned, devouring the house all the way to its foundation. Lara also described the living/dead scene she had experienced with the realistic illusion of her parents.
And finally the third trial. Oh how that 'home' smell had smelled, the salty sea air and the smell of a woodfire going before she had fallen unconscious. Lara explained that all of them had been dreaming, but the dreaming had been so realistic that each of them had been a participant in their own dream. She described her dream, how it had shown her her alternate life, a life where no one had tried killing her parents in cold-blood. Gesturing with her hands, she tried to show how she had escaped the dream, and the first true talk she had had with her spirit.
Lara glossed over everything else. There wasn't much to explain after all of them had reunited with Aria, except that one small bit about Adimar's father. She had to explain where the airship had come from.
After she had finished telling the story, there was silence. Lara dipped her right hand into the cold, refreshing water, slowly waving it about in the water.
She then looked up. [+purple "But I don't understand, why couldn't you follow us?"]
Lara could see that Balden was somewhat reluctant to explain that. And when he did start to explain, it sounded as if he was somewhat embarrassed by it. After he had answered, Lara did not press for any further information. She only nodded her head, before looking back at the water.
With a heavy sigh, she turned to face Balden again. [+purple "This as a nice meetup. Six months in the making, but now we're here. Anyways... I need some rest."] Lara leaned in close, and pressed a kiss against Balden's lips, tarrying there awhile before pulling back.
She stood up, and walked back up.
As she walked back up, she felt something slightly digging into her lower left ribs. Lara pulled out a pouch, but it wasn't just any pouch. It was the pouch into which she had dropped the ring she had found in Luther's room. Lara quickly stuffed the pouch back inside her cloak. That reminded her of something else she needed to do.
Lara went in search of Adimar, wherever he was, to get this ring business cleared up as soon as possible.
[center [I [size25 ⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓⛓]]]
It was as though the pieces were slowly coming together. Saraya had been wondering why... Why was it that she was tamed by an unborn child, which was done by her father's hand? Fatigue and exhaustion crept up... And while she slept, Carrick had came in, with food and rubbed her arm softly to wake her. She turned to him, letting him speak his concerns. [B ". “I brought food just in case you were up for something to ease your stomach..."] Saraya smiled a bit before grabbing the bread, breaking a pieces of and slowly began to eat, not too much, but enough. While she did, he continued to remove his armor as he spoke. [b "You did a brave thing today, and I know it cost a lot of your energy. You don’t have as much now that you’re pregnant. Protect the group, but don’t kill yourself over it. It’s okay to ask for help sometimes. We still have a long uphill battle to win, and I don’t know how life would be if I ever lost you,”]
One of his concerns was his need to get her to an infirmary in the morning. She didn't argue.
As she are, all she could think of was Lara now. Pieces of the puzzle wouldn't fit to her. Luther being here, of all people had her on edge, but this cabin boy... He shocked her a bit even risking his early life to explore plateaus that needn't be explored... That alone was sending alarms. Everyone was preoccupied, even she. She even hoped Ayab was alright.
She saw that he had removed his armor and had slid into the blankets with her, showering her with kisses and gentle embrace, and she blushed some. [I "You know this is how our child was concieved, Carrick"] she joked softly. Carrick smiled and nodded. [B "I suppose it is... But, regardless, I still wouldn't have it another way"] Saraya began yawning. Carrick took the bread from her fingers. [B "Eat in the morning... Don't deprive yourself of sleep... "] in fact, he gently took her in his arms, craddled her to him. Saraya felt warm, safe... And he even began singing a song she was familiar with... It brought so much joy and sorrow, she couldn't hold back any tears... [I "Home... "] she whispered, appreciating the song and who sang it before drifting to sleep.
[center [I The Dream]]
Carrick's singing had kept her sense of hearing preoccupied, even while sleeping. She difted in the darkness, unafraid, until she felt a surface. She sighed as she began walking forward, towards a slight brightness. There, Caledon and Sayan were standing, waiting on her. She was led through the threshold, and to a peaceful field of time and space... Her time and space.
As she marveled, the two stood behind her as kings. There, before them, was a Queen and she was not afraid. [I "I need answers, Father... Caledon..."]
Caledon turned to her father. [b [u "She must be speaking about Fenlyk, Sayan"]]
Saraya turned to the two of them. [I "Part of it is Fenlyk... Moreso... It is about Luther, Lara, and my Carrick"]
[I [u "Carrick? It is this serious, my daughter? "]] Sayan asked. Saraya nodded. [I "I fear... That The Mage has a plan... Some way to harm him through me... Through our child... "] she held her belly, feeling the warmth of Carrick's existing embrace. She looked up to the two as they exchanged glances.
[I "Father... Great Grandfather... I need your help... I have finally tasted fear... Not just of my own safety, but Carrick's. I fear that... "]
[b [u "Saraya, don't say a word... We will not allow that to happen"]]
[I "My visions haven't failed me yet, Caledon, whose to say that my last vision I had on the ship will come true... "]
A growl escaped Sayan's lips. [I [u "I will not allow you to get hurt! Not you, my Son- in- law, or my grandson. "]]
Saraya closed her eyes, weathering the storm. Once Sayan was calm again, Saraya sighed. [I "The Mage is using Felliope's body... Bewtiching a corpse and using his memory to attack me. My unborn is in his clutches, being transformed into a heinous beast, bloodthirsty and wanting... I can hear it... As if linked to his aura, I could see what he is doing... And... "]
Sayan and Caledon helped her kneel and sit onto the grassy plain... [I "... Home isn't far from Fenlyk... Without a doubt, they will charge towards Caledon after defeating this abomination and finally realizing the story here... And there... "]
She turned away, shaking in fear. [I "... There, The Mage and his abominations will be waiting... "]
Sayan watched his daughter before hugging her. [I [u "... There, I will be waiting to stop them. "]]
[B [u "As will I"]] Caledon added. Saraya stared. [I "I am not too sure, but Adimar has been trying to help, too... I believe he's found a potion to protect me, so I will thank him for the two of you... "]
Sayan and Caledon nodded. Sayan sighed before clearing his throat. [I [u "Now, about Luther and Lara"]]
Caledon stared. [B [u "What's the matter, child? What concerns you about Lara? "]]
[I "... I feel that there is something wrong... There's a cabin boy that seems to have been swooning her, but since Balden returned... "]
[B [u "... The cabin boy? That does sound odd that a young child like him decided to follow into such a dangerous place... "]]
Sayan looked to Saraya. [I [u "... And Luther? What is your concern with him? "]]
Saraya looked to him. [I "He has been acting strange... And the longer we stay in Fenlyk, the more restless he becomes"]
Sayan nodded. [I [u "Let him be... Soon enough, they will see the truth for themselves"]]
Saraya didn't push the issue. Instead she nodded before Sayan lain her head on his lap and Caledon sat in her line of sight. [I [u "Rest, my child... "]]
[I "What about my arcane powers? And it's ties to my baby?"]
[I [u "I will tell you when your well rested. For now, sleep, be content in Carrick's arms, and when you wake, do what he needs of you, especially the infirmary"]]
Saraya chuckled softly as she closed her eyes, Sayan running his hand on her cheek.
[Center [I Awakened...]]
Saraya had awakened with a twinge... She could smell Carrick's apex, still, but it was soft and comforting. She groaned some, feeling a bit groggy... Then dizzy... She hurried out of Carrick's arms, alarming him to awaken as she turned away and heaved. Carrick sat up quickly to see what was wrong, noticing she was trying to use the sand underneath to cover it. It wasn't effective, he spotted dark droplets from her lips. [b "Saraya! "] he exclaimed.
Saraya was unable to speak, she collapsed onto their cot, and Carrick quickly collected her into his arms in a frenzy. He hurried out of the tent and towards the infirmary, hurrying past welcoming faces and Guardians alike, with a fearful look on his face. Rhuarc and Adimar had yelled their greetings to him, but after seeing how much of a panic he was in with Saraya in his arms, Adimar was compelled to run after them. Aria had just came from her tent to see Carrick in the distance, unable to decipher the situation.
When Carrick had gotten to the infirmary, he hurried her into one of the cots before yelling for someone to help. Saraya was breathing erratically, like she was fighting to take her next breath. And Carrick was terrified that something happened to her.
When one came, Carrick explained that she had heaved out blood, and they went to touch her, but as soon as the nurse tried to rub her belly, Saraya screamed, and like a chain reaction, her hand gripped the girl's throat. [I "DONT TOUCH ME! "]
Carrick grabbed her wrist. [B "Calm, love, it's a nurse! She wants to help!]
Saraya stared at the blurry figure before noticing that she was a nurse. Her dropped her hand before she let her body crumble to the cot. Carrick saw the shaken nurse start to work on her, and looked around, hoping the others weren't around.
As Adimar recounted his encounter with the Seer, it was concerning to say the least. Rhuarc had little knowledge of the arcane as his own experience had been limited to anything Adimar had told him or what he had figured out about his own abilities through experimentation, if Vega could co-opt one of Adimar's spells and use it to find him could Malik find Aria that way. The False King was a powerful Wizard in his own right, who knew what other spells Malik or Vega could subvert. [b "She could gain any number of things from lying, she is an agent of Malik's as far as we know. We have to treat her with suspicion. What if going to the Medici is the key to the Priestess' victory over Malik? What if going to the Medici is the only way that Fenlyk can be won? There is too much uncertainty. Even so, I think you did the right thing. If there is even the slightest chance that Vega's warning is true then we must treat it as so."] The warning about evil incarnate hunting Aria, darkness itself trying to get close to her seemed fairly obvious to Rhuarc. The Fade was an evil beast its wound on Ayab was evidence enough of that and it used darkness tot ravel, it had even warned them outside Kil'heed that t would never stop hunting the Priestess. If Rhuarc had to guess then he would stake his sword that the darkness hunting Aria was the Fade. The warning about the friendly face was far harder to pinpoint and far more concerning...
[b "I would agree, it seems logical that the Priestess must pass some sort of test, although it seems that we need not take it with her this time. I am glad you told me all of this Adimar, never be afraid to bring something like this to me. Protecting her to ensure that Malik can be beaten is more important than anything else. Anything. I won't lie to her but she doesn't necessarily need to know everything."] If the situation changed and Rhuarc decided that Aria would be safer or better served by knowing this then he would reevaluate the situation, until then what Aria didn't know couldn't hurt her. Just as they finished talking Carrick entered with some food, Rhuarc accepted gladly and took a few bites of some bread and meat he nodded in agreement to Adiamr's comment. [b " It is nothing that you need concern yourself with. We are merely talking about the Priestess' safety and what Fenlyk might have in store for her. For the moment she is safe, relax, rest and spend time with Saraya, she needs you more than anyone else right now. Thank you for the meal Carrick, it was most generous."]
Rhuarc left Adimar's tent and returned to his own, it was late and he had just finished meditating and was preparing to rest for the night when the entrance to his tent rustled opened, with one hand on his belt knife he turned and saw that it was Aria who had entered, it was a pleasant surprise. [b "Priestess, you are always welcome, regardless of the hour."] Aria spoke about Ayab, and about the Temple Master that ran the infirmary, he sounded like a good and honest man and his presence could only be a boon to everyone here. [b "I'm sure Ayab appreciates the effort you are making. You are fighting for him as he would for you, it is all that he could ask for."] If the Medici only appeared when they were needed most then a worrying thought, what if the Medici would only reveal themselves if Aria herself was injured or perhaps a guardian. Ayab was a friend and a companion of the High Priestess but he wasn't necessary to take down Malik, he was merely a soldier, easily replaced. If true need was the only thing to draw the Medici out then Ayab's need might not be enough. It was then that the conversation turned to something of a more private nature between the two figures. [b "Priestess, the stall of your lessons in the Old Ways is my fault. I let my pride and selfishness get in the way of your education, the fault lies with me. I would be more than happy to continue your lessons when you have the chance."] Rhuarc hated hearing Aria feel so lost and useless in her purpose, how she might insult others through ignorance, how she had little control of my powers but she said something that Rhuarc could not let stand.
[i "Sometimes I fear I’m a poor excuse for a priestess."] [b "Banish such thoughts from your mind. You can not afford the luxury of doubt like the rest of us. Sometimes I think you focus too much on the title rather than the woman who bears it. Malik has a title and it may give him claim to the throne of Azeroth, but men don't follow titles, they follow courage. Now the people know you. Noble, and common, they respect you. And if you would just lead them to freedom, they'd follow you. As I do."] Rhuarc spoke with as much passion as he could, the fire of Jai'hash heating his words. He wanted her to see that he followed her not because of what she was but because of who she was. She was Aria of House Tolshiv. [i "I can’t even figure out what Da’thei means.”] Perhaps it was time for Rhuarc to explain what [i Da'thei] meant. [b "Forgive me, sometimes I forget how much that you don't know, and not just you personally, anyone not from the Wastes. [i Da'thei] has no true translation in the Common tongue but I suppose the closest would be close to Ever Heart."] Rhuarc stared into Aria's captivating violet eyes as he explained. [b "It is a pledge, mostly to myself, a declaration of the strength of my feelings for you...for my love. Do with that what you will. Reject my love, ignore it, return it. The choice is yours and yours alone. Whatever you decide, I will respect and you by no means need to make a decision now. The fact of the matter is that my heart is yours, and shall always be."] Rhuarc paused for a moment hopefully giving Aria time to collect her thoughts, he wasn't sure what he thought she assumed [i Da'thei] meant but he was sure she would not be expecting that. [b "Aria, you will help these people because you have to. You will help these people because that was what you were born to do."] Rhuarc used the Priestess' name instead of her title for only the second or third time since meeting her, he hoped it would reinforce his earlier point about people following courage instead of titles but also, hopefully she would see that he saw her as so much more than just the High Priestess.
Aria relaxed in the pristine water as best she could. It wasn’t exactly easy considering she was trapped underground, Ayab was not doing well and Saraya was looking weak. She was also alone for the most part, which made her an easy target for Malik to sneak up on her. She knew Max stood just out of view to allow her privacy, but maintain her protection. She only had one visitor while she cleaned herself up, and it was a young woman who brought Aria a set of robes and sandals to wear. It was getting late, so Aria finished bathing quickly and stepped into the silken toga of dark marine and gold fastenings. She then draped a mint green robe over her marine toga, and stepped into the sandals. She let her hair dry on its own in the humid climate making it frizz out, but Aria wasn’t overly concerned with appearances. The past few days had been a whirlwind of travels and planning, but Aria was more concerned with something else. Her own group and their well being. She would meet with Lady Stanos soon enough, but for now rest and recuperation was most important. On her way she passed by a number of people milling about in the tunnels, most heading for bed.
She made her way with Max to the infirmary. It was quiet and dark and Aria could tell Ayab was already asleep. At least the cot he laid in looked comfortable. She saw there was a cup beside his cot, but it was empty of water, and she promptly refilled it incase he woke up in the middle of the night thirsty. She then saw to it he was tucked in comfortably, and as she smoothed the blanket out, her hand stopped over his heart and she frowned watching him sleep.
[#DB7093 “Please, if you can hear me Gods of Azeroth… protect my friend. Protect all of them. I have been blessed to have them, but I don’t know if I can bare to lose any of them. They… they’re all I have.”] Aria whispered looking up at the cave ceiling, but a old raspy voice interrupted her prayer and her thoughts.
“It sounds to me that you are burdened with conflict, child,” Aria turned and saw an elderly man dressed in grey robes. Even Max had tensed nearly drawing his sword, but it was only a Temple Master and apparently the healer. “I’m sorry to have startled you, Priestess,” He bowed to her respectfully, and approached. “The Gods can always hear you, you are their most precious child, but not even you are exempt from the experiences of loss or sacrifice. If anything you are intimately familiar with it.” Aria frowned. The old man was right, she was familiar with loss and sacrifice, and she knew she’d have more to experience before Malik was usurped. “Your friend is not doing well, something very dark and very evil has touched him. I do not think he is long for this world,” Aria grit her teeth angrily at that and looked back at Ayab. He wouldn’t have gotten hurt if she hadn’t of wandered off. “I see you carry blame. The fault is not yours-“
[#DB7093 “You don’t know that,”] Aria snapped, but her anger was rooted in fear. She felt a hand settle on her shoulder and she saw that the Temple Master had come to stand beside her and gently began to lead her from the infirmary, less she wake Ayab up by accident.
“I know a guilty face when I see one, but I see he is also Jai. He is a warrior, and any warrior understands the risks of traveling with someone like you. Is that not true Master Guard?” Max gave a gruff nod of his head when Aria looked at him expectantly, and the Master smiled at her leading her back through the tunnels and towards her camp. “See? It is a risk they take knowingly, because you represent something bigger. You are the herald of a new era, and you can not usher this new world without help, without loss, and without sacrifice. This is something you must accept.” Aria looked to the Temple Master and finally asked him his name. “I am Master Penzone, a humble servant of Azera -of you High Priestess.”
Aria studied him closer and decided she might like this Master Penzone. Even at his age, his hair was full and long, as was his beard. He had warm eyes, and wrinkled tan skin, and he was a temple Master, but before Aria could ask more questions he stopped, hands folded inside the sleeves of his robes. He had showed her kindness and wisdom, something Aria needed, but even he knew she needed sleep and bade her goodnight. “I am sure I will be seeing more of you. I promise you, your friend is in good hands. We have very fine healers, and will make him most comfortable.”
[#DB7093 “What my friend needs is the Medici. Do you know where I can find them?”] Master Penzone shook his head sadly. Saying he only knew that the Medici traveled Fenlyk, but had not been seen by the resistance, yet always seemed to arrive when needed. Aria supposed that for now it would have to do. As if he knew better than she, she suddenly yawned, and Max ushered her back towards camp with the others.
Luther was still sitting at Aria’s tent, and when she was handed over from one guard to the next, Max made his leave for bed. Camp was quiet, and even with her exhaustion Aria knew sleep would be elusive. Luther had risen to let her in her tent, but she wasn’t ready for that, instead she went towards Rhuarc’s tent, hopeful he hadn’t fallen asleep yet. She had questions for him, and she wanted to let him know she’d seen to Ayab. Besides she was stuck underground, with the only light protecting her coming from a small fire and bioluminescent plant life, who was to say the Fade couldn’t follow her here? Was being here putting the rest of the resistance at risk? Those thoughts were bound to keep her awake for most of the night. She knocked softly on the wooden post that held the tent up and waited for permission to enter. For a moment she almost hesitated… she’d never gone into a man’s tent before, and Luther was watching her curiously and she could feel his disapproval. Good thing she didn’t care much what Luther thought, and proceeded to enter Rhuarc’s tent and apologize for her late night visit.
[#DB7093 “I’m sorry for my late visit, but I promise to be quick. I know you probably want to rest, but I wanted to speak with you, to let you know I went and saw Ayab. There was a Temple Master who is helping in the infirmary. I haven’t seen a temple master since my guardian was… well… murdered.”] A look of sadness crossed her face. She’d never forget the image of those curling tendrils of smoke rising from the cabin she had called home for several years. She moved past it though and went to take a seat on the packed earth across from Rhuarc. [#DB7093 “I asked if they might know where I can find the Medici. I’m sorry to report, but I’m not having much luck in locating them. Though, I was told that the Medici always manages to arrive when needed most… so I’m holding onto hope. Hopefully The Medici finds us, or Adimar’s men find them first and bring them here. I’m not going to stop asking around though; I just wanted you to know I made sure he’s cared for and comfortable -as comfortable as he can be.”] The worry for Ayab was legitimate, since not even an amputation was an option. Aria’s greatest fear was what would happen to him if that darkness reached his heart.
[#DB7093 “There was something else I wanted to talk with you about, but it is more personal, and can wait till morning if you’d prefer.”] He didn’t seem to mind it so she continued. [#DB7093 “Before we left Kil’heed you called me something. I don’t know what it means, you haven’t taught it to me yet, and there weren’t enough context clues for me to figure it out. I’m also a bit sad we haven’t had the time to continue my cultural lessons. I know there hasn’t been much time to teach me, but I’ll need all the lessons I can get before we visit the Temple of Jai’hash. It’s expected that the priestess understands and knows all aspects of the old ways and traditions of the Four Provinces, and no province upholds the old ways more than Abdhu’Jai. They have always remained faithful, and I would hate to insult them with my ignorance. Sometimes I fear I’m a poor excuse for a priestess. I have no control over my powers, or to what extent I can use them. I don’t know the things I should know… I can’t even figure out what Da’thei means.”] He might have said she was stronger and more sure... but Aria wasn't really feeling that way. Determined? Yes. Confident? Not so much. She couldn't help but look down to her hands folded in her lap and feeling wholly inadequate. [#DB7093 "How can I possibly help these people?"] she murmured sadly.
Carrick, like the others, helped unpack and get things set up. He mostly focused on setting up Saraya and his tent, while two other guards prepared Aria’s tent. He was worried, Saraya did not look well and he was half tempted to take her to the infirmary as well, but she was adamant that she was and would be alright. So he let it go. He went with Max to escort Aria to the underground reservoir of water that was used for bathing. Thankfully as it was late at night, the underground pond was clear of anyone else. He stood with Max for a moment until he was certain that Aria was safe, and Max told him he could handle it. Carrick decided he needed to find Saraya some food and water, in the hopes she would eat something and start to feel better.
The tunnels were filled with refugees, but when he stopped a group of older women asking where he might find some food for one of the Guardians, he was delighted to find they were all kind. They voiced their excitement to learn that The Priestess had finally arrived with the Guardians, and quickly showed him the way, speaking all along the way and asking him who he was, what he did, what it was like serving the Priestess. They asked him about the other Guardians and he candidly told them the basics of the guardians without giving away too much information. He gave names, where they came from and what Province they guarded. They were most interested in Lara, which wasn’t surprising as she was their Guardian. They asked what she was like and Carrick could only tell them that she was unlike most teenagers. She was tenacious, bullheaded, smart, a skilled warrior, and mature for her age. Then they asked if all the Holy Guardsmen were as handsome as he. That had coaxed a hearty laugh from him, b ut he had no way of answering as he was a man and had never thought of it, so he simply shrugged and told them they would have to be the judge.
Before the group of elder women left him at the great hall where food was distributed, they asked him to send their wishes to the Priestess for good health and victory. He promised he would relay their message and thanked them for their help. Able to gather some food not only for Saraya, but the others, he made his way back to the groups camp. He found it fully set up with the other guards bunking down for the evening until they started rotating their shifts for the watch outside Aria’s tent. He was glad to see them getting rest, except for Luther who had taken up the first watch outside of Aria’s empty tent. Saraya didn’t trust Luther, she’d made that clear back in Kil’heed, but Carrick had no reason to distrust him even after Lara went rummaging through his room. He felt guilty for not telling the man that it had happened, but he respected Rhuarc’s desire to keep Aria safe -it was something both men shared, so it was beyond Carrick why they couldn’t get along. Before returning to the tent he shared with Saraya he stopped by Luther and handed him a cut roll with meat and cheese on it as well as a bit of fruit to eat.
[#000080 “Here, it’s not much, but it’s what the kitchens could spare until breakfast tomorrow.”] Luther looked up from where he was sliding a whetstone across his blade. He grinned at the food and accepted it without complaint, just a simple thank you. [#000080 “Where is everyone else?”] Carrick asked. Luther looked around their camp and then to Carrick informing him that Lara had gone off with Balden, Aria had not returned yet with Max, the other guards were sleeping, the cabin boy had wandered off as well, and that both Adimar and Rhuarc were in Adimar’s tent. Now that Carrick found odd, especially when Luther mentioned that whatever they went to discuss looked important and secretive. Carrick thanked Luther and left him to enter Adimar’s tent.
Just as Luther said, Adimar and Rhuarc seemed engaged in a riveting conversation, and it was something that was clearly meant to stay private. Carrick hoped that if what they discussed had anything to do with Aria they’d tell him, but instead he was greeted with silence. He held up the rolled napkins of food and offered them to both men.
[#000080 “Went and grabbed some food for us. Should tie us over until a full breakfast. I know Lady Stanos mentioned wanting to speak with you all over a meal, but we’re all half starved and I’m assuming from the late hour that we won’t sit down with her until tomorrow at the earliest.”] Adimar finally adorned his trademark smile, and quickly reach forward for the small meal giving his thanks in the process. [#000080 “You both seem involved with something,”] Carrick observed. Adimar just grinned as he took a bite of a mango.
[#20b2aa “Oh you know, just the usual. The Priestess is being hunted, how best to stop it, what more we can do, what’s our plan now that we’re here, etcetera and so.”] he shrugged nonchalantly. Carrick then asked if Admiar had any luck locating where the Mage was hiding, and much to his dismay, Adimar had been unsuccessful, but if it changed he promised that Carrick would be first on his list to notify. Satisfied, Carrick bid them goodnight and left to find Saraya.
She hadn’t move from where he left her and he smiled softly to see her tucked under the blankets. He wouldn’t be surprised if she turned the food away, but he hoped she might at least try to eat it, and if not eat it later when she was feeling up to it. He sat down beside her, reaching out with a gentle hand to coax her to roll over and face him. He gifted her a loving smile and set the food down beside the cot. [#000080 “I brought food just in case you were up for something to ease your stomach. You did a brave thing today, and I know it cost a lot of your energy. You don’t have as much now that you’re pregnant. Protect the group, but don’t kill yourself over it. It’s okay to ask for help sometimes. We still have a long uphill battle to win, and I don’t know how life would be if I ever lost you,”] he whispered and leaned over to plant a kiss to her temple, and warned her that if she wasn’t feeling better by morning he’d be taking her to a healer, which probably wasn’t a bad idea regardless. It would be nice to know for certain that Saraya was coming along well and that the baby was healthy. He could only hope they might find a midwife among the other refugees.
He let her eat while he removed his armor and prepared to bed down for the night with Saraya. Everyone was tired after the long flight from Kil’heed into Fenlyk, and hungry after an entire day tense and stressed they would be discovered. The Watch was taken care of, Aria was well protected, and he kept his sword close on the off chance he needed it in a pinch. Free of his armor and gear, Carrick laid down on the stacked bed furs and brought Saraya into his arms so he could hold her through the night and bring her comfort. He could feel her body slowly relaxing, and sometime in their quiet moment he began to sing an old Caledon folksong to Saraya. The song of the Stag and the Dove, one every Caldonian knew by heart. It was a story of love and loss, but also acceptance and peace. The gentle tune helping to carry them to a relaxed and comfortable state, but for Carrick, it brought him great joy to sing not only for Saraya but to their unborn child as well.
Adimar watched as Aria left to find the underground bathing pools to clean up before she met with Lady Stanos. Rhuarc was just as quick to approach Adimar and suggest he explain further about the seer, and to tell him everything. Adimar was prepared to do so, and he quickly looked around seeing that Saraya had not gone with Aria and was laying down with Carrick tending to her. Lara and Balden snuck off to catch up, and the Cabin boy was unpacking some of the gear they brought and seemed otherwise preoccupied with his tasks. Adimar admired that the young man was brave enough to tag along, and had such a hearty work ethic. Yet since Vega’s warning… Adimar trusted no one outside of the group and his men. He didn’t even trust Balden.
Being relatively alone, he still preferred the privacy of his tent and ushered Rhuarc inside. Saraya wasn’t doing well since they landed, and Carrick was busy helping to make her comfortable as well as the baby. They certainly didn’t need the added stress, and it would be for the better if it stayed between himself and Rhuarc… at least for now.
[#20B2AA “It’s even hard for me to understand. I was in my room on the ship, studying my arcane books, and attempting to locate where the Mage was hiding. I thought if I could find him, we could better attack, and kill two birds with one stone. Remove one of Malik’s men, and protect Saraya from further attack. Unfortunately, my spell didn’t work, I didn’t find him… but someone else found me: Vega. I don’t know how she did it, but she came with a warning. I don’t know to believe her, but she has nothing to gain from lying.”] Adimar said feeling a bit put off and guilty that he had to keep this from Aria. [#20B2AA “It was Vega who said I couldn’t mention this to The Priestess. I was told that she cannot go in search of the Medici. She’s needed here. Vega warned that if The Priestess went in search of the Medici, Fenlyk would be lost forever. Others could go in search, but not her. That’s why I sent Thad and Rupert off. I want Ayab healed as well, we all do, but something is hunting her along side Malik. Vega called it evil incarnate, a darkness that’s trying to get close to her. I don’t know exactly what it is, but I was also warned not to trust a friendly face. I didn’t get more than that before our connection was lost, and she was gone.”]
Adimar told Rhuarc everything he knew, in hushed voices so their words stayed between them. He didn’t like the last bit, it was too vague, and so far every face they’d seen since entering the tunnels had been friendly. Adimar didn’t like the uncertainty, but it was out of his control. Aria had no idea just how much danger she was in, and honestly… Adimar wasn’t certain at what level either. Only that there seemed to be forces conspiring from all sides. Even now, Adimar wasn’t completely calm with Aria being out of sight, with or without Max. Thankfully, Fenlyk didn’t seem hell bent on making them prove their worth the way Kil’heed demanded of them. Still, Adimar was vaguely aware that Aria would have to do something while in Fenlyk. He just wasn’t certain what it was she had to do. [#20B2AA “I assume there is a task Aria is needed to complete while here, which is why Vega was adamant she not stray. I’m sorry to tell you this, and more sorry that I’m asking you to keep it from her. I don’t like it either, but if means protecting her, and ensuring that we can take down Malik… I don’t see an alternative.”] Adimar admitted begrudgingly. Keeping secrets didn’t sit well with him, and he had a feeling Rhuarc would feel the same. Aria trusted both of them explicitly, if she found out they were hiding warnings and information there was no telling how she might react to a betrayal. Especially a betrayal that would force her hand to choose between a friend, or her fate.
Lady Stanos was pleased, which meant Balden was pleased. He had told them time and time again that he knew the Priestess, and assured them that one day soon she’d arrive in Fenlyk. They had been more inclined to believe him than the resistance cell outside of Central City, though they still had their doubts. Now those doubts were extinguished, and Balden felt pride in knowing he was the one who delivered her safe to the Resistance. Balden was also realizing how long it had been since he’d seen Lara, and how much he’d missed her. She, like him, had grown over the past six months. Her hair was longer, she looked more and more like a woman and less like a girl. Even he was starting to look more like a man and less like a boy. It would be interesting to see how much their personalities had changed if they changed at all. If anything, Balden was more confident and sure of himself.
He went with the group to help them unpack, but his eyes trailed off to the new face of the cabin boy. Who was he? What was he doing with the group? How long had Lara known him? Why did he have a strange sense of familiarity with him? For a moment the two of them locked eyes, and while the cabin boy smirked, Balden felt a strange sickness settle in his stomach. He had to look away, it was more uncomfortable than the death glares he was getting from Rhuarc. Thankfully he felt Lara at his side and whispering in his ear. It coaxed a warm and mischievous grin to cross his face. He quickly took her hand and led her away saying, [#A52A2A “I know the perfect place, follow me.”]
He led her down a series of tunnels until they had all but left the general population of the underground dwellings. The next cavern he took her into was massive, but uninhabitable. Stalactites and stalagmites in bright colors of pure ivory, red, gold, and slate wove through the minerals, and glittered with moisture. The drip, drip, drip of water into a shallow pool kept a steady beat in the hollow space. It was dimly illuminated by the bioluminescent plankton in the water, making it glow with a strange green and blue color. Regardless, the space was lovely, quiet, and most of all private. They wouldn’t be bothered here. He grinned at her leading her over to the edge of the shallow pool of water, and feeling confident that if ever he had a chance -now was it.
[#A52A2A “I found this little spot after my first month of being here. The caves are easy to get lost in, but you’ll learn them soon enough. I’m still adjusting to the fact that you’re here. I… I missed you,”] he confessed as he came to sit down on a rock with her beside the glowing pool of water. He didn’t let go of her hand even as she sat down beside him. [#A52A2A “And I’m sorry I left you behind, but I couldn’t sit still and do nothing. I wanted to make sure the way was ready for you all,”] he shifted his seating on the rock to face Lara and took both her hands in his. He liked holding her hands, and it made him smile warmly at her with deep affection. [#A52A2A “I can’t wait for you to tell me what happened after you went into the Sanctum, what it was like, and how you got Aria back. I waited weeks for you to return, to know that you were alright, but when you didn’t come out… I knew it was time for me to make my own move. I didn’t want to leave you, but… I felt I had my own part to play, and knew that as long as I remained loyal, and kept my faith, I’d be reunited with you one day. I’m so glad it was sooner than I was anticipating… which is why… I don’t think I can wait another moment to…”] His voice trailed off, his heart pounding, and his eyes took in the sight of her. He’d always remember how the glow from the water illuminated her face, and glittered off her red hair. He licked his lips nervously and before he lost the gumption, leaned in and kissed Lara: His first kiss.
A warm feeling bloomed from her heart to the rest of her body upon seeing Balden once again. He had safely returned, and successfully had made Malik's men get extremely lost.
No matter how long Lara would have liked to stand there and gaze upon Balden, time was still of the essence. Even though that patrol of Malik's men had been confounded beyond measure, that did not mean that they would not seek reinforcements. Every second their group did not spent moving meant another second in which Malik's men would reacquire them.
As Balden introduced his companions, Lara took a look back at the rest of the group. Everyone seemed relieved, but Lara noticed that look in Rhuarc's eyes which she knew all too well from personal experience; that glowering, distrustful look. She would need to talk to Rhuarc about Balden, see what was bothering him and perhaps calm down the flames which had been kindled inside him.
Balden had suggested splitting the group in two, rushing all the female members to the Fenlyck hideout on horses. Even though it made some sense, as it was harder to spot a smaller group, Lara liked this idea not at all. Her thoughts were echoed by the Priestess, who expressed those thoughts aloud. Their group had experienced many things together, from the good, to the bad, and all the way down to the ugly. These experiences were what bonded them, a bond that could not easily be broken. It felt as if she were part of a family once more. A family always on the run from one dangerous event to the next, from the frying pan and into the fire, but a family nonetheless.
Balden, evident by the frown on his face, had not anticipated this at all nor did he like that they would be going with a different idea. Unfortunately for Balden, Lara felt sorry for him, it would be hard to argue when the entire group wanted to run as a group.
It's like water in way. When water moves, no matter how small or big it is, all of the water moves at the same time. Never does one part of water move without moving another part. Unless there was magic involved, but magic was a factor that could be added or removed at any time.
Balden offered her to ride with him, that still boyish smile on his face. Lara accepted, but she did notice the somewhat sour look on Aerik's face. Lara found this somewhat uncomfortable, as she had told him quite explicitly that she and Balden had feelings for each other.
Aerik's face quickly changed to a smiling expression, and he even offered an apology via that "you should go with your friend". But even this felt unnatural, as if it were forced.
Anyways, there was no room for neither more talking or thinking.
Lara felt herself being pulled up by Balden, she helped him with her pulling up so he didn't accidentally break his back.
After she had been comfortably sat down in front of Balden, she wrapped her arms around the horses neck.
And like that, they were away while the rest of the group ran. Lara wanted to talk to Balden very badly, but a conversation on top of a moving horse wouldn't be very effective. Especially when one considers that her back was towards Balden's face, meaning whatever she said would be lost.
Instead, Lara dozed lightly. She had done this many times on her lonely wanderings, and this time it was even easier as she didn't have to worry about controlling a horse.
What awoke her from her snoozing was the loud and piercing sound of a conch horn being blown. Even though one conch horn would never produce the same exact sound of another conch horn, it still reminded her of all the festivals and fun times with her parents she had had. Or at least those that she could still remember.
Shortly after the conch horn had blown, Lara both noticed and felt how everything became darker and slightly more colder. A quiet boom echoed as the entrance was shut, slightly startling her.
But Lara could hear the water dripping down the stone, reaching out she could feel the vast amounts of water. Were they under a lake, or did some large source of water flow through the cave?
That question, for now, would remain unanswered as all of them walked towards the glim but piercing lights further in the dark.
Lara kept looking around, being ready in case something nasty unexpectedly jumped out at them. Maybe it was nonsensical, but that did not change the fact that any safe place had to contain something dangerous; each garden had its own snake.
They eventually came down to a large cavern. It was truly breathtaking. The light and shadow difference, especially up higher, made the cavern seem bigger than it actually was.
And there were noises, noises of living people which bounced around and echoed against the stone walls. It was heartening to hear it, for it meant that there were Fenlyckians living out of Malik's rule.
Balden welcomed them to the Fenlyck Resistance, as many Fenlcyks looked upon their group which had just come in.
Lara graciously accepted Balden's help in helping her dismount, as she looked back at her people. Her people... It was hard to think about it that way. For the past three years, she had not been back to the place of her birth, nor had ever bumped into another Fenlyckian. But they were still her people. It did not matter the time nor distance, she represented them and a chosen of the Fenlyck spirit, something which she'd carry with pride and honour.
Ayab was led off to the infirmary to have his leg looked at.
An older woman surrounded by another group of people, all wearing the tradition Fenlyck garb. The older woman's garb, a plum colored toga and a peach/gold robe, indicated that she had some sort of authority. While the clothes indicated authority, the voice spoke it. The older woman questioned Balden about what he had brought in.
When Balden had responded who he had brought back, the old woman burst into happiness. The curious thing to note here was that Lady Stanos, the old woman, had not for a moment question Aria's validity of who she was. Lara was not complaining at all however, if it meant avoiding what had happened back in Volshi then she was totally for it.
Lady Stanos asked about the rest, and Aria politely introduced eachand everyone of them to Lady Stanos. Lady Stanos offered a polite bow to all of them, but to Lara she also offered a show of awe. Lara just stood there, shocked a bit at this sudden awe towards her. And again, comparing her looks to the painting of Fenlyck. Lara truly wondered whether her looks were similar to how Fenlyck had appeared on the painting.
A question for the Fenlyck spirit, but now was not the time for such a question.
Now was the time to rest and relax as much as they could before going on forth and overcoming new challenges.
After they were shown the new quarters they'd be living in, they could finally rest. Lara walked up to Balden, and leaned towards his ear. Whispering, [+purple "Want to find a quiet place and catch up?"]
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