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After her question, there was a moment of silence between the two of them. Lara noticed Ayab looking at her, and this worried her. What was he thinking while looking her over? Was he judging her for being of Fenlyck descent? Despite this being a non-awkward situation, Lara thought of this as an awkward situation; there's a saying, a situation is never awkward unless one makes it so. Lara, she thought of it as an awkward situation, at least for her. She hoped that Ayab would stop judging based on her descent, and start judging her for her actions; Lara would understand why he'd dislike her for when the two of them had first met, she had insulted the Jai culture in front of both Ayab and Rhuarc.
But when he answered, Lara relaxed. With that tone of his voice, there was no doubt to that Ayab had dropped his grudges against her. It felt comforting that the wounds were improving, but the part about vile sorcery concerned Lara. During the trials, she had experienced strong magic, and that magic hadn't even been there to kill her, but just test her. If the same strong magic was used for evil purposes, then through what sort of pain was Ayab going through? She knew the Jai prided themselves in going through pain and saying naught about it to anyone else.
Even though Ayab decided to move on, Lara was still concerned. If the magic had come from the Fade and stayed, then would Ayab even survive? There was a way to heal Ayab, but it would all depend on how the Medici felt.
Lara stood for a bit, looking concernedly at Ayab for a few more seconds before replying. [+purple "I'd understand why Rhuarc wouldn't want to talk about the trials. Some part of the trials were very personal for us all, and even I'm not ready to talk about the trials. All I know, is that I emerged a somewhat different person than when I entered this place.
"] And then Lara remembered something that Ayab probably didn't know. [+purple "And Balden, he didn't enter with us, and then he left this safe place. Traveling all alone, when there's so many evil things still attempting to kill us."]
[center [I [size30 ❇❇♥❇❇]]]
[center [size25 [I Saraya!!! Saraya!!! Wake up, Saraya!!!]]]
The Spirit kept trying to wake her... But, his attempts fell on deaf ears. He could see her faded into shadows of her mind. Caledon tried to she'd some light, in hopes to waking her... No avail.
He felt that whatever that had unleashed in the Courtyard was the reason of why she survived... And why she wouldn't wake.
Saraya stared off into a vast white distance. She was in some kind of dreamscape, with hazy edges that suggested there was no end to what was before her.
A lone figure, lit from behind, approached out of the vapor. She sensed that it was male, whatever it was, and she didn't feel threatened. She felt as if she knew him.
[I "Spirit? "] she whispered, not sure of who she was seeing.
The spirit came into view, nodding his head slightly as he approached. [I Yes, My Love]
[I "Where am I? "]
The Spirit stared intently at her as he spoke [I You are in your subconscious. I brought you here to ensure your safety]
[I "My... Safety? "]
[I Giji had attacked you... But, something... Happened]
[I "What happened? "]
[I I cannot explain it... Whatever it was took root when you passed out. When Giji attempted to kill you, it surrounded you... A dark force so strong... Even I could not break through. It took over your consciousness and retaliated]
[I "Did I kill him? "]
[I No... But whatever that possessed you had beaten him within an inch of his life. The Watchers may have discovered his body dangling on Azera]
Saraya was confused. She didn't remember anything after bring attacked. She had to wake up.
[I "Wake me up, Spirit"]
[I I am afraid I will not do that. You have been attacked. There is a gaping wound on your side. If I were to wake you now, you will bleed to death]
[I "Where is Carrick? "]
[I He has found you. He is looking for a healer now. He's asked me to guard you]
[I "Guard me? Where is he now? "]
[I Love, calm down. He is coming.]
[I "And what of Giji? Is he in custody? "]
[I He is in the infirmary, under heavy guard. Word has gotten out of you and him. The Watchers wait for him to wake]
[I "Giji... "]
[I He was possessed...]
[I "By who? "]
[I Who would know how to possess a human, Saraya?]
Saraya thought a moment. She then growled some before speak that dreadful word [I "The Mage... "]
The Spirit closed the gap between them. He nodded to her before walking around her. [I You have let your anger fester for so long... It built up enough strength to unleash when you let it spill with fear. It is powerful, love, the power within you.]
[I "Spirit... "]
[I "Listen well, Saraya... You must learn to calm your anger... Or channel your anger. It feeds off of your emotions. Until we fully understand this, you must manage your temper"]
[center [size30 ❇❇♥❇❇]]
[center [pic http://media.giphy.com/media/ZzO5yWBOXnE5O/giphy.gif]]
Giji growled and hissed in pain from the punch mark on his cheek. The feeling of her in his fingers lingered for a moment, and then faded; a feeling of frustration had thoroughly washed over him. He was so close. He could’ve had her if it wasn’t for the sudden setback.
As he did, however, he felt a sudden feeling of remorse. He felt that he didn’t want to do this, like he felt before his mind went blank. He felt no honor in trying to harm a woman that, simply put, was only trying to save the people of Tanaka and made sure she made a mark in this world. He thought that, after what had been done, he would be forgiven for a mistake that wasn’t his to make. He thought that he could be forgiven by Saraya, for it was not his true actions that caused the war between the enemy and The Guardians. He even thought the fight would end if he would offer himself to save what little he salvaged from the attack in Caledon. But, alas, the one who controlled him didn’t seem to feel the same way, and he had no choice but to do what his master wanted.
His eyes scouted the shadows of the infirmary, looking for the one that set him up with the little visit. A few moments later, a figure appeared in the shadows. Giji turned his attention to him, sighing in frustration as he checked his cheek again. [b "Is it done?”] the shadow asked. Giji chuckled as he shook his hand in the air. “Not exactly, Mage” he said as he looked back into the darkness. The Mage revealed himself from the shadow, his face red with anger. [b “What happened?”] he asked as he drew closer to the defeated man. Giji cowered slightly, wanting The Mage to stay in his place. “Something... interfered” he said simply, looking up to The Mage's hornet yellow eyes. The shadowy projection of the enemy growled. [b "Damn you... You're insolence has awakened her true power.... "]
The Mage stared back into scarlet blue eyes, and they seemed very unpleasant. “Don’t look at me like that. You told me to threaten her. So, I threatened her. Happy?”
[b “I’m elated, but that still doesn’t excuse the fact that she is still alive. They must be on to us”]
“On to us? Don’t you mean ‘On to you’?” he asked as he straightened. “You’re mad because your master is demanding something to be done. They’ve done nothing—“
[b "I DEMAND TO HAVE MY PRIZE!”] he bellowed. Giji snapped in rebuttal. “Watch your tongue when you speak with me, Mage. You forget you've asked for me” he threatened. The Mage stood his ground, however, and closed the gap. [b “You think that you have a right to deface me?”]
“Apparently, The Guardians does. I was wrong to accept your deal. And, i refuse to fool myself again” he hissed.
The Mage stared at him for a moment. [b "You dare go back on our deal?”] he asked. Giji sneered.
“i now see your master deserves to be destroyed.” He growled. “You may do what you will, but i will no longer do your bidding”
The Mage watched as Giji stared at him with his piercing eyes. [b “I seem to recall that it was you who sought revenge for the lives lost by her hand. You wanted to teach her a lesson for taking everyone from their homes. It was you who called upon me to help with your task"] Giji shivered in regret from those words. “It was i who made the mistake, and i will gladly pay it for falling for your tricks. I will await my punishment by Saraya, and will gladly spill my blood as repentance" The Mage glared at the dishonored knight, and said: [b “I don’t care if you don’t trust me, Giji. After I’m through with The Priestess and the whore, I will take their corpses to my master and claim my reward of ultimate power!”]
Giji leaned away from The Mage, seeing something he knew he would see sooner or later. “You’re insane, Mage…” he hissed. The Mage chuckled. “And you are too rational, Giji. You will understand that once you make a deal with me, you will not falter”
Giji stared at the insane look on The Mage’s face. He growled some before looking ahead. “I will not follow your orders, Mage. Find another fool, for I will finally pick the side I choose”
[center [I --+--]]
The Watchers kept their eyes on the doors, seeing that this guard had been in his own room, in place of a holding cell. A yell sounded into the atmosphere, and The Watchers ran in to see Giji laying against the wall, and he looked as though in pain. They neared him to see burn marks on his wrists in the shape of a hand. Above them, there stood a name... [b SARAYA]
The Watchers stared as Giji stared back. "I am sorry... I made a deal with the enemy... And he has marked me to accomplish it... "
The Watchers looked amongst each other... "What are we to do with him? " Giji looked up to them. "Put me away... Be sure that I can not touch her or see her... I've made the terrible mistake in making this deal... I would rather die than go through with it... "
"What deal? "
Giji sighed as he looked to them. "... To make Saraya pay... For having tried to save us and lost lives. I was a fool to think that she hadn't tried... And selfishly made a deal to offer myself for her demise"
Ayab leaned against the staff he was using to walk and as Rhuarc went after Adimar Ayab stayed behind with the others, there was no way that he was going to climb the battlements with his leg. Lara spoke to him, enquiring about his injury and Ayab looked at her. It was true that they had not gotten off on the best of terms, she had insulted his culture greatly but it had come from a place of ignorance rather than an intentional desire to cause offence. Since then he had watched the young Fenlyk Guardian with interest assessing her actions and he had been pleased with what he had seen. She acted selflessly in Tanaka, defending Saraya from the assailant who tried to kill them, she protected her friend without thought for herself, it was a noble act, an honourable act and more importantly any Jai would have done the same. Lara had great spirit, there was no denying that and her heart was in the right place most of the time. Ayab's opinion of Lara had improved since Tanaka and on the journey to Kil'heed she had acted well, scouting ahead finding a place for the caravans to make camp, it was good, honest necessary work. While he still had resentments about Fenlyk's lack of a fight against Malik if they were starting to rise up against him now maybe they would start repaying their great debt of [i Toh] that Fenlyk owed to the land and as far as Ayab was concerned any differences between himself and Lara personally had long since been settled. [+red "Greetings Lara. It's getting better but I still have my struggles. Even now after all this time I still do not know what vile sorcery that weapon contained."] Ayab's eyes grew distant for a moment. [+red "I can still feel him, the Fade, I don't know where he is or anything like that but I can feel his taint on the world. He is a point of evil unlike any other...Enough about the past though, the Fade will be defeated eventually. What about yourself Lara, these trials you faced must have been tough, Rhuarc didn't tell me what he faced but I could tell it pushed him to his limit. I am glad that you emerged unscathed and that you passed your trials."]
Rhuarc towered over Adimar's father and he looked down on the man. This man's title and noble birth meant nothing to the Jai, if Adimar's father thought that his title would gain him favour or impress the Jai Guardian then he was greatly mistaken. Immediately Rhuarc knew that he did not like Valerius Aethon very much, he was a snide man, making a barbed comment to his son, it reeked of dishonour. What Lord Aethon had to say was interesting, he was willing to give up one of these magnificent airships in return for an audience with the Priestess and then to bring her to Aero City, it was unthinkable. Rhuarc agreed with Admiar wholeheartedly that the King of Volshi should have come to Aria, she was the High Priestess and no King, Queen, Clan Chief or any other leader had authority over her.The High Priestess could raise Kings and Queens with words and make nations tremble with a gesture and this man was attempting to bribe not only the High Priestess but her guardians with an airship. It was preposterous. What was worse was that Lord Aethon was trying to make out that Aria was not infact even the High Priestess. [b Watch your tongue."] Rhuarc would suffer no insult to Aria and his hand moved very noticeably towards the handle of his belt knife. [b "Why does your King need this verification? Is it not enough that we are here in Volshi's holy city, that the Guardians have rallied around this woman and gladly follow her, that the Watchers lend their aid? Is my word that she is the High priestess not good enough for you?"] Rhuarc deliberately made his voice as hard as steel and despite Jai'hash's fire flowing through him his eyes were cold and unflinching. As Adimar absolutely denied the possibility of Aria heading off to Aero City Rhuarc nodded and voiced his agreement. They simply didn't have time to waste on unimportant things like that when they still had three more Guardian temples to visit along with seeing the Medici in order to heal Ayab's wound.
Rhuarc listened to Adimar speak, after all he knew these people and how they thought far better than he ever would. The notion of politicians was alien to the Jai, their society was completely different to the Volshi and the Jai had no need for politicians so Rhuarc needed to heed Adimar's words. A wise General listened to those who knew more than they did. Rhuarc was uneasy about striking any sort of bargain behind Aria's back but he did recognise the necessity for having one of those airships, it certainly would make things easier. [b "I do trust you Adimar."] As Adimar reaffirmed to his father that Aria would not be travelling to Aero City Lord Aethon looked irritated but that was to be expected and Rhuarc chuckled at how he deftly manoeuvred his father into effectivly having to relinquish the airship or lose face in front of his son and the Priestess' General. That was when Lord Aethon turned towards Rhuarc. [i “I won’t agree without his word I will meet with the Priestess.”] Rhuarc thought about his answer carefully, he could not lie while within Kil'heed and after a moment he gave his answer. [b "Lord Aethon, I will speak to the High Priestess and suggest that you two meet but know this, it will be done on her terms. She is the one who will decide whether to meet, and she will determine when this meeting will take place, she will be the one to determine whether that other man who was with you may attend. This meeting will be a courtesy nothing more, she is the High Priestess and my word is all the Verification that you require and above all you will show her the respect she deserves. Any decisions that she reaches are final and beyond contestation. Do I make myself clear?"]
“I want to apologize to you,” Adimar’s father began, their steps slowly making progress up the Battlements. He didn’t believe the apology -there was too much of a bad history between them. “We’ve been here for a few weeks now, from what I’ve gathered, the people believe in you, the Guardians and this Priestess. What is she like?” Lord Aethon asked. They had finally reached the top, and Adimar was able to look down at the Golden Sea. It was rid of the fallen bodies, and there were scorched circles out past the gates from the fire balls, and what looked like mass graves where the Dragur had been burned into oblivion.
Adimar wondered of the quickest and best way to describe Aria. When he had another thought: Why satisfy his father? “You said you wanted to talk business, you want a meeting with the Priestess, then let’s talk.”
Lord Aethon smirked coyly and nodded in approval at his son. “If you haven’t noticed I brought two ships… two! See that one,” He pointed to the smaller of the two, “I brought that one for you,”
“For me?” Adimar asked with disbelief. He wasn’t buying it for a second. His father had never done something like this for him. Then again, why did Adimar have to think it was for him? Holding out hope maybe?
“It’s for you to use, to help you.” Adimar blinked and looked up shocked at the smaller ship and then back to his father. Suddenly Adimar was the one laughing, but it held no warmth or mirth. His laughter was only silenced by the call of Rhuarc greeting him.
Adimar turned to see that Rhuarc had scaled the battlements to join them. Lord Aethon masked his true impressions of the Jai coming towards them, but Adimar was there to greet him back in kind. He was relieved to see the man, two voices against his father would be more helpful.
[b "Who is this with you and what business does he have in Kil'heed and with one of the Guardians no less?”]
“It is my father, he’s come on behalf of the Volshiv Throne. Rhuarch, this is Lord Valerius Aethon. Hand to the King.”
Lord Aethon stepped forward then to greet Rhuarc. He did not extend his hand and instead maintained his distance and kept a cool countenance. Rhuarc introduced himself by his clan and his newly appointed status, General. Lord Aethon studied the massive Jai a moment longer as if sizing him up.
“General to the Priestess. What a prestigious Honor…” He gave his son a look of mocking. “You do not bear such a title, son. Perhaps you do not have the Priestess’ ear the way I thought you would.” Adimar was still looking at Rhuarc, maybe a bit disheartened he had not been chosen, and yet not particularly surprised that Aria had chosen Rhuarc for that honor.
Lord Aethon wasted no time in getting back to the conversation at hand, uncaring if Rhuarc joined them or not.
“As I was telling my son, I brought two Volshi Airships with me. One can easily become yours, under the condition that I get to meet this Priestess.” Adimar chuckled further, before he finally cleared his throat and just grinned as if proud of himself.
“So it is a bribe,” He stated. Lord Aethon, grit his teeth saving face in front of the Priestess’ General.
“I was hoping you would accept my [i gift] in exchange to help me meet with this Priestess so I might escort her to Aero City for Verification.” Adimar frowned at his father before glancing to Rhuarc. Adimar was not shocked by the request. Honestly, a part of him was expecting it.
“The King himself should have come here for that.” Adimar stated, and by the look of it, Rhuarc agreed.
Lord Aethon scoffed, “Come now, boy. Your uncle does not have the time to chase after every woman who says she’s the lost High Priestess.”
“What woman would be foolish enough to lie about that?”
Lord Aethon shrugged his shoulders, not giving it much thought.
“Attention? Why else would a [i woman] make such claims?” Adimar frowned at his father, and thusly called his bullshit.
“Claiming to be the priestess means knowing it makes you a target. Wherever you go in the four provinces, you won’t be safe. So is this a common problem, because I can’t recall another ever stepping forward?”
“I can not speak on the minds of women, but your Uncle was rather adamant I get the truth.” Adimar frowned, and looked back up at the airship. An Airship would be invaluable to their journey to the four provinces. It would help them avoid Malik’s forces, and could easily carry Ayab to Fenlyck to be healed. Still, there was no way Adimar was going to let Aria go to Aero City. He looked to Rhuarc for confirmation and spoke what they were both thinking.
“I can promise you right now; we refuse to allow Aria to go to Aero City.”
“Isn’t that her choice to make?” Lord Aethon challenged darkly.
“It is, but I will advise against it.”
“Then we do not have a deal,” Lord Aethon said plainly and without remorse. Adimar frowned and turned to Rhuarc. Where he stood Lord Aethon smirked deviously. “Go ahead and take a moment to speak, I can wait,” He murmured.
Adimar glared back at his father and stepped away with Rhuarc for a moment to converse. “As I’m sure you can tell, my father is very cunning. He’s a politician, take everything he says with a grain of salt. I do not doubt he would give us an airship in exchange for meeting the Priestess. Under no circumstances do we want her going to Aero City. We will not be able to protect her if she steps foot in Aero City.” Adimar curled a finger under his chin in thought. He knew these people and their politics best, now he needed to try and counter his father’s request. “We have to haggle with him. We needed one of those ships if we have any hope of reaching Caledon or any of the other Provinces unscathed. I need you to trust me, The Priestess might not be pleased that we made an arrangement behind her back, but this is a special situation…”
“Come to an agreement, gentlemen?” Lord Aethon asked from his place. Adimar looked from Rhuarc to his father and they both returned to the Volshiv Royal.
“We still stand by the fact that The High Priestess can not travel with you to Aero City,” Adimar stated firmly. “You are the Right hand to the King, you can verify her here.” Lord Aethon seemed displeased, but it was better than nothing. Sensing this Adimar pressed on, remaining firm in his amended deal. “We will inform The Priestess of your presence, and your request. We will tell her you have brought a gift of good faith,” Adimar gestured towards the second Airship, and Lord Aethon pursed his lips in irritation. “If she agrees to meet with you, you give her the ship, then you take yours and leave. If she refuses to meet with you, then I still recommend you leave the ship… you know… in Good Faith,” Adimar told him with a sly grin. Lord Aethon suddenly turned away from his son and stared Rhuarc down.
“I won’t agree without his word I [i will] meet with the Priestess.” Lord Aethon pointed towards Rhuarc in that moment. Knowing full well, that if this massive Jai was the Priestess’ General then he was the one who truly had her ear. “So what say you General?” Lord Aethon asked. “You have remained quiet. I apologize, my son and I have dominated the conversation.”
Carrick was escorted back into the Temple by the Watcher. They spoke little and unlike the last time Carrick passed through the Holy Sanctum, this time when he passed through a door he didn't find himself in a dark and spooky labyrinth. He was taken under the Holy Sanctum and into what looked like an Armory. Everything was covered in a thick layer of dust and heavy cobwebs. These items hadn’t been touched in centuries and yet looked pristine and perfect. All they needed was wiped down. Carrick recognized the armor as the Armor the first Holy Guards wore, all of them had been of the Ancient Race -the first ones. Carrick had only seen this armor in paintings and tapestries. The Watcher stood aside to let Carrick enter the Armory and look around.
The Armor was a dark metal, with gold filigree. The helmet carved out his face with a cowl of wings. He took his time finding the right armor that would fit him. He donned a chainmail tunic that fell to his thighs, bracers that with a good polish from a rag shined under the candle light. When he had finished selecting his armor and uniform, he clipped a cape of cream and sapphire with his Captain’s Lapel. After that he chose for himself a blade. He looked around the armory hoping to find something that tickled his fancy when he felt a pull in his heart. He turned to the back wall and hidden behind crates of leather boots and gauntlets laid a heavy broad sword on a long forgotten rack. Somehow the sword called to him and he walked over to pick it up. From where the Watcher stood he tensed.
“You pick that blade?” The Watcher asked. Carrick frowned as he held the blade aloft. It felt good in his hands, had a good weight, and somehow it felt correct. Carrick asked if he should choose another, but the Watcher simply shook their head. “That sword chose you.”
“That seems to make you uncomfortable,” Carrick noted by looking at the Watcher.
“That was the blade of Priestess Azera’s first Captain…"
"Who was that?"
The name hung heavy and dark in the air. Carrick looked over the blade once more, he thought he might sense some evil in the blade if it once belonged to none other than Malik, but he felt nothing, only correctness. It was a similar feeling to what Carrick felt when he held Saraya at night while she slept. He asked if the blade had a name, and came to learn it was once called The Harbinger of Justice. Carrick knew then the blade had chosen him, that this was not coincidence. The Blade wanted redemption just as badly as he did. Together they would find it. He still might not have understood it, but he accepted that Fate had put him on this path for a purpose. Whatever that purpose was, he hoped to fill it to the best of his ability.
“Only the blood of an Ancient could call that blade…” The Watcher informed Carrick as they walked back up the stairs towards the Sanctum. That was curious, Carrick looked to the Watcher and asked him how it was possible he could call a blade. He was Caldonian… for the most part, but was born and bred in Central City. “You must have an ancestor that can trace their blood line to an Ancient.” Carrick supposed that made enough sense. “You look good in the armor, by the way,” The Watcher complimented. Carrick gave his regards, and the moment he stepped into the Holy Sanctum he knew his duty. He needed to build a Holy Guard, ten people strong, but he knew it would take time. The best place for him to start looking was the barracks. First thing he wanted to do before going off was to see if Saraya had returned from her alone time.
Carrick reached their bedroom in good time and entered the room. He found it empty, but called for Saraya anyway. When he didn’t receive an answer he began to look about the room, that was when he spotted the trail of blood. It gave him a bad feeling. Frowning he followed it to the bathroom door, and called her name again as he gently pushed the door open.
“Saraya?” There was silence, he looked inside and saw her robes on the floor and her head tipped back in the bath. Raven locks spilled over the edge of the tub and to the floor. She looked sound asleep, but as he got closer to wake her up he saw that she was the one bleeding. Concern gripped Carrick, he saw that her old wound had opened fresh and new. He gripped her wrist to check for her pulse, and in feeling it he made quick work to pull Saraya out of the tub and laid her down on the floor. He had to close her wound quickly, but he was no healer and had no way to help her. “Caledon, Guard her…” He murmured and bolted from the room to find a Healer for Saraya.
As the two of them stepped into the outside world, Lara did a double take. Six months ago, there had not been any semblance of a city; now, what she saw in front of her could be called a city. People of all ages walking around, either occupied with continuing the construction of the city or with something else. The ingenuity and the willingness to not give up, even though all these people had to witness a destructive act, it was surprising.
Adimar waived to some of the people, and some of the people waived back with big, happy smiles. Lara stayed silent and unhooded, taking in sights to make up for the six months trapped in the trial. At one point, Adimar had asked directions to the barracks, and someone gave him the directions; probably wanted to see his men that he’d brought with him.
Coming up to a wall, Adimar looked up with surprise. Lara looked up and saw an enormous ship, so what was surprising here? Lara was confused for a moment, until she realized that she had overlooked an extremely crucial piece of information; the ship, or the two ships, were not floating in water. They were floating in the air!! The ships themselves weren’t the surprise, Lara had seen similar sized ships floating the seas around Fenlyck and protecting vessels from the deep sea monsters that prowled; it was that they somehow floated in the air. The ships also had this big fan on the front, probably a propeller if some sort, as well as these wings hanging off the sides. It was magnificent, and she had to agree with Adimar.
Until, until someone called out Adimar’s name. Lara looked down back onto the earth and searched for the owner of the voice. There were two people approaching, one person flanked a much more fancy looking person; they approached as if they knew Adimar, and Adimar knew them. Wait, if these were Royal Envoys from Volshi, and Adimar was Volshi, could it be..... Could it be that this was the king of Volshi??
Adimar knelt, and then quickly stood up. Did Adimar dislike this man, or was there something else that Lara had no ken about? They greeted each other as “father” and “son”, which kind of explained their standoff; not all father-son relationships went well. Adimar, prince of Volshi. The king of Volshi, Adimar’s dad and what appeared to be a not too good relationship with Adimar. Lara did not dare to interfere as she had no idea what was happening, or what would happen if she dared to interfere.
It appeared as if she did not even have to interfere as Adimar’s father asked who she was. She merely stood there in silence and surveyed the scene as Adimar gave the proper introductions. Although when Adimar’s father thought that the two of them had developed more than just friendship with each other; Adimar glared and responded in a curt and warning tone. Adimar’s father bowed and apologized, a gesture which Lara deeply appreciated.
And then Adimar’s father led Adimar away; Adimar was replaced with three other guys who were Adimar’s men. Lara had managed to learn their names on the trip to this place; Thad, Max, and Rupert. One of them, Max, had an extremely sarcastic voice as he said about Adimar’s father; so the father’s name was Lord Atheon. And then she was walking with them, and Rupert giving advice about Lord Atheon.
And then Thad asked the question about the trials, probably something that had been bothering them all for six months. At first, Lara attempted to look at Adimar and maybe listen to any snippets of conversation that floated through; no such possibility.
As Lara began to explain the beginnings of the trials, two very familiar people walked up; Rhuarc and Ayab. Ayab was walking along with the help of a good thick piece of stick, the Jai’s just never lay down did they?? It honestly was good to see that Ayab was doing well, despite the injury he recorded; Lara had no idea of what the actual wound was, but she could still have a feeling of compassion towards someone.
Rhuarc walked of towards Adimar and Atheon, leaving Lara with Max, Rupert, Thad, and Ayab. For Lara it felt awkward to be around Ayab. She had pissed him of when all of them had met, something to do with their Toh or something along those lines. She had not talked to Ayab since that moment, and felt unsure of how she stood in Ayab’s eyes. Did he still think of her the same way he had thought of her back when they had first met?
In a meek and somewhat weak voice, [+purple “Hoy Ayab, how’s the wound?”]
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It was a weary feeling... Being unable to sleep. Saraya had been quiet, pestering in her thoughts. The Spirit kept pleading, begging to speak with her. Her thoughts mellowed, however. The answers would be revealed to her soon enough... She would still achieve her goal.
Every head in the pub turned when she stepped in. She hesitated, surveying the dim atmosphere, the sun's glare illuminating her from behind, leaving her face cast in the shadow. Women hitched their breaths as they spared her a glance. Men strained for a better look. A stranger set his grog aside and stared. She slowly walked to the bar, her feet light in step was marking a sultry sway of hips wrapped with an elegant robe. She had plump, ripe legs up the kazoo, and when she propped her hands onto the table, her hair began to trickle down her shoulders.
Everyone was surprised that they realized that she was a Guardian. The stranger wondered this. From the looks of things, it seemed as though she was upset... So upset, that she hadn't noticed anyone staring. He thought Guardians were too into their goals to be amongst normal folk. But, here she was, with common folk, and ordering rum. A slightly lavender robe, comfy and shapely of her figure, had they stranger and every man wondering what exactly was underneath. A lure for trouble. But, even that elegance and that body didn't compare to her fair face. A classic, pure beauty, he thought.
She asked for a grog of rum, in a voice like rustling silk before speaking to the owner briefly, possibly asking about the business. The owner seemed bashful, and answered her question. She seemed to speak about payment, and the bartender denied. It seems that he considered it an honor that she was here, and said her presence was price enough. Before the stranger knew it, the bartender hurried away as she drank sparingly from her grog. Children spotted her and swooned from the outside, giggling and pointing at the beauty that sat in the pub. The woman stared back, and was brought to a soft smile. She waved, and all the children ran away in a flash. The bartender returned, confirming something and she nodded. He then brought a satchel with meat and bread within it, and fresh barrels of rum was brought in by his wife. The woman seemed flattered. She thanked them, but the were honored. She asked them to deliver the food to the gates of Volshi, it seemed, because the owner had asked his son to take the meat and bread there.
Then, after finishing her grog, she thanked the owner and departed with all eyes on her. The stranger had obliged to excuse himself, and follow her into a crowd of people. Her form was consumed by the people, young and old, and she could only greet with a smile. The stranger stared at her flowing raven hair. It was shining against the sun that shown through Kil'heed, and her fair skin glistened to the beauty of that gift. Children surrounded her and pulled on her robes, and she would follow to those in despair. There were some that lost their families, some husbands, mothers, wives, children... And the Goddess of a Guardian sympathized with them, saying her apologies and speaking unto them hope. The people had reassured her that she did all she could... They didn't blame her... Not like they should. The Guardian was the one that planned their "escape" from the enemy, only to cause death at the gates of Kil'heed. She did her job poorly in his opinion, but staring at her, he could only marvel at her face.
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Saraya finally had time to herself. She had been so involved with the people, that she had almost forgotten her personal affairs. At least she had gotten some things to eat for herself and Carrick, and had the opportunity to send her condolences for the people that had lost loved ones.
She walked into the Volshi Courtyard absentmindedly, thinking of the other temples and their possible trials. She looked up to a magnificent statue of Volshi, and then around to the captivating statues of the Guardians on each corner of the Courtyard. In the entrance, there sat The Jai Spirit. He was strong, with the stature much like Rhuarc... In fact, he looked almost like Rhuarc. He had a brave look on the eyes, and wore the amazing hide of his game. On the left, there was the Fenlyk Spirit. The Spirit looked mischievous, but had a good heart. She carried a staff, and a cloak that rested on her shoulders. Lara was more reserved. No wonder the Spirit chose her.
The Volshi spirit looked prideful sitting adjacent to The Jai Spirit. He wore garments only a prince would wear. His stature was orderly and disciplined, and nary a smile crept on his face. The Caledon Spirit... Saraya had walked to that statue with wonder and amazement. The Caledon Spirit watched over the Courtyard with warm eyes. His eyes were human, and he wore the robes that seemed similar to hers. His hands were clamped together, and it looked as though he was holding the hands of someone of that time... Maybe his Late Wife, Cantalia. In the middle, the Late Great Azera, was standing with pride, her hand extended to the heavens, her attire of a warrior, and her eyes with the fire that could shake the enemy.
Saraya looked upon the stature awhile more, looking in detail the amazing glare of the Priestess. Her soul was lit like fire, and a new strength consumed her... Then, a voice quickly interjected. [I Love, watch behind you!] It was urgent whisper, as if a panic.
She quickly turned her head to the entrance. An image stood there in shadow, and she quickly turned her body, and her eyes were quick on the target, yet afraid of the thing that was coming.
[I "Who are you? "]
The image stared at her, her form clear to him, but his wasn't clear to her. [I "Carrick? "] when she didn't get an answer, she grew all the more suspicious and afraid. A flash of the Knight came into view. Her vision... Everything seemed darker, the statues were unable to protect themselves.
[I "I do not know who you are... But, you should not be here. "]
The image slowly advanced towards her. She began to panic. She backed up, leaning against the Caledon statue. What was she to do? She slowly began to feel a tingling in her fingers. She extended her hand as air began to pick up. She felt the power from within her rise as she thought of knocking the stranger back... His face came into view, and she almost relaxed. [I "Giji? "]
But, the look on his face was perverted, like all common sense was swiped from his mind. He advanced towards her, and all she could spot was hatred and lust. Saraya looked to her right. If she ran, she could make it to the sanctuary of Volshi... She had to believe it. She used enough of her power to knock him back real quick, before running. [i "Stay away, Giji! You are not yourself! Stay away from me! "]
The man scampered to his feet and took off after her. Saraya ran out through the plain fields and the water fountain, and he was gaining. Saraya turned to her pursuer, using her power to push him away, this time, she sent him flying. She turned to run, but somehow, he blocked her exit. A clammy hand reached out and gripped her neck. A gasp escaped her as he slammed her against the rock. This Giji was not Giji!
A hiss escaped him as he closed the gap between them. Her breath hitched, trying to get his hands off of her. His face was inches from hers when she spat in his face. [I "Let me go! "] she grunted out. Giji was deaf to her struggling words. He threw her to the ground, her then trying to escape him. He pulled and ripped her robes, it slowly sliding off of her shoulder as she tried to scamper away. He tried to grab her again to pin her, and she felt a sharp pain in her belly. It felt like a shard of a sword cut into her, where her old wound was. She froze and collapsed. She was powerless... And the spirit began to scream. [I Saraya!! Saraya!!!!! SARAYA!!!!]
She had lost consciousness.
The Giji had chuckled in victory. He knelt to her form, and was ready to end her... But, something happened.
A force unknown began to surround her body. The knight stared down at her, and noticed her awakening... And when her eyes opened, he saw dilated eyes... Her eyes began to darken. He stood and backed up. Saraya looked to him and sat up, Giji trying to attack again. The force surrounding her wouldn't allow him to touch her again. The hand marks on her throat and rip of her clothes and even the open wound through her wasn't enough to stop her. She stood and extended a hand and pointed to him. [I "You... "]
Giji began to panic. He turned and ran. She reached out and in the air, clutched. This froze him. She didn't blink, nor emotion came nowhere on her face. The Spirit was trying his hardest to break her temporary coma, yet it seemed that it was strong for a first reaction.
She felt the spirit call to her, and she let out a call as she found a way to bind him. She chained him down to the stone, and growled as she approached. [I "I ought to let a boulder crush your body to a bloody pulp. But, you are a knight... I want you to suffer, Giji... I want you to suffer greatly"]
This wasn't her! The spirit had to break her out of it, fast! Watchers had came, seeing a bound man in the middle of the Courtyard, dangling from the hands of Azera. But, the Guardian? She was nowhere to be found... Only a blood trail.
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A blank expression was on her face as she forced her body to move forward. Her eyes were vacant of emotion, she felt that she was bleeding a little, but she didn't know she was making a trail with her blood. The spirit was trying his hardest for her to make it to the room at least. She needed attention. She needed Carrick... Where was he?
As soon as he guided her to the room door, she opened it, and her body took over. It trapsed its way into the room, shutting the door, creating a trail as she made it to the washroom, stripped down from her destroyed robes, climbed into the hot tub and surrendered there. There, her body gave out, and her consciousness was completely gone.
Rhuarc stayed with Ayab for a little longer, the two Jai talking about what might be happening back home and how the war was going. Rhuarc told Ayab what Ursula had said about Shade-stealer ramping up his assault on the Wastelands of the Adbhu'Jai and that the other nations were stirrings as rumours of the High Priestess and the Guardians of Azera surfaced everywhere. Ayab had heard all of this before of course but he enjoyed conversing in his native tongue and the tale itself was heartening. During Rhuarc's visit one of the physicians came to change Ayab's bandage over his Fade inflicted wound. Rhuarc watched on in horror as he saw what that abomination had done to his friend, the bandages themselves had rotten from being in contact with the evil wound, the spiderweb of rotting dark shadows from the gash itself looked angry and in some ways were as bad as the day that it had first happened. Rhuarc made a vow to himself in that moment, The Fade would pay for what he had done to Ayab and Rhuarc would make sure of it. After Ayab's bandages had been changed Rhuarc made the decision to return to the Fortress and Ayab was eager to be out of the infirmary and back with the group, something that Rhuarc could not deny.
The two Jai walked through the ancient city of Kil'heed now being rebuilt from the stone from the mountain that loomed over them. The looming mountain was not the only thing that dominated the sky around Kil'heed, Rhuarc noticed two great vessels seemingly moored in the air with thick ropes atop the battlements. It was an incredible sight and unlike anything that the Jai had ever seen before. This ship was far larger than anything the two Jai had ever seen in their lives, the boats that travelled on the River Nine were nothing compared to the great skyships that were moored by the battlements. [b "By the Gods...The world is much larger than it was before we left the Wastes isn't it?"] The question hung in the air unanswered as Ayab pondered the sam question. Not too long ago all there was only the Terracotta cities, the River Nine and a lot of sand...there was so much more now. From a distance he saw two unfamiliar figures flanked by Thad, Max and Rupert and in conversation with what looked like two of his fellow Guardians, Lara and Adimar...whatever was going on it looked important and maybe Rhuarc should involve himself, if he truly was the High Priestess' General then he was responsible for her armies and those skyships would be invaluable in war. It would be prudent to find out who they were and if they would support Aria against Malik, perhaps even securing a few of those ships for her cause. The small group moved along and Rhuarc followed with Ayab at his side, keeping up with him with his staff to help him walk, his friend was right, when they did leave Kil'heed Ayab would not slow the group with his injury. Rhuarc approached the soldiers and greeted them as friends. [b "Max, Thad, Rupert it is good to see you all. Who was that with Adimar just now?"] It was Thad that told him that the well dressed figure was Adimar's father and the representative of the King of Volshi...that was certainly interesting. If such a representative was here then Aria must be informed but she did need her rest and, no crown had authority over the High Priestess and Aria would see Adimar's father in her own time. Rhuarc would have his own business with the elder Aethon. Rhuarc followed them up the battlements while Ayab stayed with Lara and the other men, it was not that the Jai guardian distrusted Adimar but things were invariably more complicated once family got involved, Rhuarc had learned that for himself many years ago.
[b "Adimar, friend!"] Rhuarc called when he reached the top of the battlements and he was within earshot of the Vlshi Guardian. Rhuarc wondered how this Lord of Volshi would take to a Jai in his presence, most people of the other Provinces looked down on the Jai for being barbaric savages and uncultured. Would he realise that this seemingly barbaric person was another of the Guardians and the General to the High Priestess as well? If nothing else the large Jai would enjoy seeing how this other man reacted. Volshi, Caledonian and Fenlyk...all those wetlanders and their peculiar ways, the way one was a lord or a King based on nothing more than the chance of birth was preposterous. Only those fit ever led in the Wastelands, otherwise all would collapse. One should be followed because they had earned the right, shown themselves to be worthy. Aria may have been born the High Priestess but she had been chosen by the Gods and had more than once proved herself worthy of Rhuarc's devotion. [b "Who is this with you and what business does he have in Kil'heed and with one of the Guardians no less?"] Rhuarc wanted to know what kind of a man this person was and how he reacted to someone showing an insolence that he was likely not used to. Rhuarc did not trust Adimar's father, the Jai trusted no one until they had earned it, and he would not put ti past the man to manipulate his son into getting what he wanted. Besides if Rhuarc wanted those magnificent skyships for the Priestess' army or even just firmly secure Volshi as an ally this was the best place to start. [b "I am Rhuarc of the Farlan Jai. Guardian of Jai'hash and General to the High Priestess."]
Adimar was pleased to hear Lara agree to train under him and tour the city with him. He promised he would meet her outside promptly after he changed and bathed. He was feeling a bit stale after sleeping in cobwebs, that a bath sounded marvelous. Adimar had always been a man who liked to be kept clean, but that didn’t mean he minded getting his hands dirty. It was a welcomed reprieve, but he didn’t dawdle. He’d been gone from the world for too long and he was eager to go out and see what had transpired.
Adimar made his way outside the halls of the temple into the ruined city of Kil’heed, or it should have been ruined. When he emerged from the doors he was shocked to see so many Volshi people, women and men alike creating mortar and plaster from the very earth and limestone of the mountain that cradled them. They were rebuilding parts of the fallen and decayed city. News that the Guardians had passed their trials had spread through those who had pilgrimaged with them. He found Lara waiting for him and greeted her in kind, before waving a hand for him to escort her through the city.
“What luck we have an entire afternoon,” he commented waving to the people who were quick to wave and greet them both. As they crossed through the city he stopped to ask someone where he might find the barracks and he was directed to the front wall. The moment he looked that way he was shocked by what he saw. Rigged to one of the top most towers of the battlements was a sight Adimar had not seen since he’d been grounded in Tanaka.
It was a coveted Volshi Airship… not one, but two!
Its masts reached into the sky, and its sails gleamed bright as freshly fallen snow in the sun. He saw the base of the hull marked with ancient Volshi runes, to help it stay aloft in the sky. It floated gently in its moor and Adimar had to press a hand to his chest to contain the elation he felt at seeing a Volshi airship.
“Would you look at that!” Adimar said pointing to the sky for Lara to see. “Those are Volshi Airships, I’m surprised to see one here.” He looked to gage Lara’s reaction and explained to her that the runes made the ship fly, but it needed a power source. That power source was lightning they harvested from the clouds. “It’s a Royal Envoy,” he noticed. “I wonder who is here-“
“Adimar!” The elation was popped like a balloon at the sound of that voice. He turned quickly to see none other than his father, flanked by Karrot. The man was as tall as Adimar, built strongly like Adimar, stood militant, and dressed in fine royal regalia. It was akin to peering into Adimar’s future. The sides of his dark cropped mane were a silver grey. Further behind him were Adimar’s men, and they looked sour to have been stuck in the company of Volshi Royalty. Adimar wanted to smirk and mock them for being welcomed in his world for once.
“Father,” Adimar knelt before his father and quickly stood up.
“Son,” He greeted and quickly embraced Adimar. He stood there awkwardly and unsure if he should embrace back, even as he recognized his father was only making airs. As he stood in his father’s arms he glanced at Lara with an embarrassed look.
When Adimar did not respond, his father stepped back with a seemingly warm grin. It was his father who had sent him into the military, had called him a disgrace, and when Adimar had found a place for himself in their ranks, his father had been the one to demand he return. When Adimar had said no, his father saw to it that Adimar be grounded and placed on the front lines. Now what did the man want? He had to want something if he was being so civil.
“It has been a long time. Who is your lovely friend?” Lord Aethon questioned. Adimar was released by his father and motioned towards Lara.
“This is my friend Lara of Fenlyk.”
Lord Aethon have a nod of his head towards the young woman and maintained his grin.
“She’s a little young for you…” His father murmured, causing Adimar to glare.
“She is my newest and first student. She is also the Guardian of Fenlyk and deserving of your respect,” Adimar warned. His father looked contrite towards Lara and gave a subtle bow.
“My apologies, my Lady.” Lord Aethon turned back to his son and placed a hand on his back to lead him elsewhere. As Adimar was led away by his father an another man; Thad, Max and Rupert walked over towards Lara. It was Thad who spoke first with a friendly smile towards her.
“How lucky of you to meet Lord Aethon, Adimar’s father,” Max said, his sarcasm was obvious.
Rupert smirked and crossed his arms following the group and herding Lara with them. “Word to the wise, young Guardian. Stay clear of that man… he’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
“So we heard that you all were put through a set of tests. What was that like?” Thad asked curiously, the three men attempting conversation with the youngest Guardian while Lord Aethon commanded Adimar’s attention.
“You look well, we heard news of the Priestess’ arrival in Tanaka, and your pilgrimage here.” Adimar arched a brow, his father most certainly wanted something. Adimar put his guard up right then and there.
“So that’s why you’re here?”
“I’m here in your Uncle’s place to see the truth for myself, but we’ve been barred entrance by these people who call themselves the Watchers.”
“Nonsensical babble, the Watchers are myth -these are imposters, My Lord.” Karrot agreed ignorantly. Adimar frowned and glared at Karrot; his entire trial coming back in a rush to his mind. Yet Adimar found he was not frightened of this man… not anymore. He wasn’t afraid of his father either. He saw them for what they were: arrogant fools.
“You are wrong, Karrot. Do not let your pride blind you. This is the Ancient City of Kil’heed. Do you really think your title gives you authority here?” Adimar asked incredulously, yet mockingly.
“It damn well better! This is the Right hand to the King, and Crown Prince of Volshi!” Karrot snapped, attempting to keep their conversation quiet.
“You have no power here,” Adimar told them plainly. He was the Guardian of Volshi, and he knew these vultures well. They were here for a purpose and Adimar was going to figure out what that was.
Lord Aethon looked unconvinced, and Karrot most certainly wasn’t convinced of their status in Kil’heed. They demanded to be taken to the person in charge, but Adimar simply grinned. Karrot slowly paled as he realized Adimar might be in charge. Not that he was, but it would be fun to jerk their leg for a bit.
“I am the Guardian of Volshi. What do you want?”
“We came to see the woman who thinks she is the Priestess,” Karrot informed, speaking for Adimar’s father. Adimar started chuckling then, fully not surprised at his father’s or Karrot’s lack of faith.
“You will not disrespect the High Priestess in my presence,” He warned, stepping towards Karrot with the intent to frighten the man. It worked, he backed away startled with eyes wide.
Lord Aethon blanched at his son and tried to reach for him, but Adimar stepped back. He didn’t want the man to touch him.
“My son-“ Adimar raised his hand to silence his father.
“No, you don’t get to act like you care, and you,” he pointed to Karrot. “Do not open your mouth again in my presence, or I swear you will regret it.” Lord Aethon wanted to chuckle, but it only angered Adimar more.
“Do I amuse you?”
“Not at all, for once I’m taking you seriously. Alright then, let’s talk,” Lord Aethon said stepping towards Adimar and away from the entourage. “I want to speak with this Priestess, and do not confuse my lack of faith in her legitimacy to a lack of faith to the Gods. I have to cover my ass, as does your Uncle. Her being in our country is a dangerous thing… if she is what she says she is. The King has decreed she make her presence known to us and that she be verified. That is why I am here.”
“She’s not in a position to see anyone right now, and you don’t demand to see her. She demands to see you. Remember that,” Adimar warned pointing at his father. It seemed Lord Aethon was beginning to realize his son wasn’t playing around anymore.
“Walk with me, let’s talk business” Lord Aethon requested. Adimar had frowned at his father, but glanced past Karrot and his father’s shoulder to see Max, Thad and Rupert with Lara all grinning from ear to ear, pleased to see Adimar. Their reunion would have to wait. Adimar and his father strolled towards the Airships and began up the walls of the battlement. Adimar knew ‘let’s talk’ was code for making a political agreement, at least Lara had his men with her.
Carrick followed the others from Aria’s room and down the halls where Ursula showed them to a hallway of doors. He followed Saraya into her room and watched as she went through the room. Since there was no room for him, at least in this hallway, he would share with Saraya. Not that it mattered, they had been sharing a bed since that night in Tanaka. He could feel her disquiet, and her frustration. He was confused by her questions to Ursula earlier and hoped she might talk to him about it. Perhaps if she explained things to him, would open up to him more, he could help her. She’d helped him in many ways. The easiest way to describe what she had done for him was simple -she’d made him feel like a man again. Truth be told, he thanked the Gods most nights for blessing him with the honor of traveling with the Guardians. They had all given him a new will to live.
Carrick thought back to how he’d been back in Central City. He had been an aged man, disavowed, barely clinging to his will to keep living. The Priestess had been long gone, and it truly had seemed Malik would be there for good. He recalled the shock he felt at seeing a Volshi woman in his barn that day. She was frightened, but they had both quickly recognized the other, and he knew there was hope. The High Priestess had found him. The threads of fate had seen to that. Then he’d met Saraya, and everything else was history. He’d been in awe of her beauty, but her boldness and bravery had captured his heart. She was stubborn to a T, and while that had been grounds for plenty an argument it was usually rooted in a desire to do something for others. For that Carrick could never fault her.
She was outside when he heard her outburst towards their Guardian. He frowned, still wondering how he had been chosen to share this gift with her. He thought he should have been able to help her more, but seeing her turn and storm from the room he knew he was helpless to stop her, or to help her. Her inner demons and those from her past were her own to fight and to discover. After she had left he proceeded to bathe and redress. The whole time his mind began to process all that they’d been through and how he had been able to pass while Balden could not. He wondered where Balden had gone, and why he’d left. It was a depressing realization to know that the youngest of their group had run off. Carrick in a way felt guilty for not being there for the young lad. What made him so special he was able to enter the Volshiv Labyrinth?
Refreshed from the trials, Carrick decided to leave the Fortress to see the city and hopefully find Saraya in the process. He wanted to find Ayab as well and see if he was well. Carrick was certain the man would enjoy the company, and he was curious to see how his wound had faired. Carrick was stunned to find that the city had evolved in the past six months. They people had turned the ruins into a construction zone with efforts to restore the hold using the very limestone in the mountain. With it they could make mortar and plaster to repair the walls, while metal bars created the form. Carrick was impressed and pleased to see this. He knew it would bring a smile to The Priestess’ face.
Carrick had only managed to make it halfway down the massive steps of the Sanctum when a Watcher stopped him.
“You are Carrick of the Holy Guard, yes?” Carrick stopped to see the Watcher with their helmet visor pulled down. All the Watchers on guard stood that way in full regalia, glittering under the sun.
“Once upon a time,” Carrick answered turning to see what the Watcher had come to him for. It was the presentation of a small wooden case, that fit neatly in the palm of Carrick’s large hand. He frowned as he opened it, and was shocked by what he saw. A Gold Captain’s Lapel.
“The priestess has reinstated your status within the Guard, and made you-“
“Captain…” Carrick murmured and picked up the lapel. He looked it over.
“Yes, if you accept.” Carrick tilted the lapel at the right angle and the silver and gold points reflected the light. He felt humbled… and oddly conflicted, but there was no turning this offer down. This was what Carrick had always wanted -it had been his desire. Yet… these days.. he desired more…
Carrick knew his answer as he clutched the lapel tightly in his fist. “I do.”
The Watcher nodded with approval. “Then you already understand your duties.” Carrick frowned looking around for Saraya in the city, but could not find her in the throngs of people traversing the streets. “Come on, let’s put you in a Uniform befitting a Captain of the Holy Guard,” The watcher insisted. Carrick nodded and followed. Finding Saraya and meeting Ayab would have to wait.
Aria was pleased to hear Rhuarc agree. A part of her, small as it was, expected Rhuarc might wish time to think on her offer. He did not. Quick to agree, she heeded his words to understand his pride in honor and duty. There was no surprise to that, it caused her to grin at him, but his words of pledging his life to her as a person, and not the Priestess was shocking. Most of all it was humbling. She almost forgot to speak, but quickly reclaimed her composure and nodded her head.
“You’re too kind,” she managed in a soft voice, and watched as he rose to his feet. He offered her to get some rest and requested he take his leave. He no doubt wished to clean up and find Ayab. She didn't blame him, and for a moment she felt a spike a fear.
She did not want to be alone in this place. It was a fleeting weakness, for as soon as the thought emerged; she struck it down. “Yes, of course. Thank you, [i General]. Give my regards to Ayab? I hope to visit with him soon.” She said with a warm smile. He left promptly after that and Aria watched him leave. The room was quiet safe for the gentle chiming of the wind chimes that hung old and almost forgotten on the platform. The sun was still up, and by the looks of it, it was only shortly past mid-day. She heard a door open up from behind her and turned to see a female watcher approach her. She then showed Aria to the bath and left her to her privacy and thoughts.
There were so many thoughts to be had, and Aria remained in the tub until it had gone cold. When she emerged from her bath she found a pile of fabric on the bed. It was a dress made of heavy warm fabric to keep her warm. It was plain and unimpressive, obviously something that had belonged to someone else and given to her to use. Instead of dressing though, Aria pulled back the bedding and allowed herself to climb into the massive bed. For a while it seemed she could not find peace enough to fall asleep. She was nearing it when a knock rapt upon the door. Her eyes shot open in an instant, and cursed her bad luck.
“Enter,” She called to the door, and not a moment later it opened. Aria turned to sit up, bringing her bedsheets with her to cover her body and saw Ursula enter the room once again.
“I apologize, High Priestess. I did not realize you would be retiring so soon. I brought you some food to eat,” Ursula raised the tray she was carrying in one hand and closed the door behind her.
“I am famished, thank you,” Aria accepted the meal and watched Ursula carry it to her bedside. She was cautious of the woman now, and Ursula could see that.
“It’s some soup with bread and cuts of cheese. I hope this will suit you on such short notice.” Aria realized then, that this was a peace offering. She looked to Ursula and then to the food. As if knowing it was there her stomach suddenly growled. Defeated, Aria accepted the bowl of soup, tucking the sheets under her arms and sat up to eat it. Maybe with a full belly of food she might find rest.
Ursula lingered at the bedside, allowing Aria to take a few sips of her soup before she finally realized that Ursula had more to say. "Yes?“
"I came to bring you news, as well as food,” Ursula informed. Aria looked up from where she sipped at her spoon, the look enough for Ursula to continue. “A cadre of men showed up in Kil’heed three weeks ago claiming they come from Aero City on behalf of the Volshi King. They’ve been rather irritating, and came armed.”
"Have they threatened force?"
Ursula pursed her lips. "They were smart not too."
“Have they said what they want?” Aria asked.
“I’ve only spoken with a little man who demanded I inform you that the King has demanded your presence.”
Without batting an eyelash Aria took another sip of her soup. “It is a good thing I do not answer to Kings then,” She stated plainly. Ursula actually grinned and nodded in agreement. “We will have to discuss this with my General and Captain.”
“You have both?” Ursula asked curiously if not impressed to hear that.
“Yes, I appointed Rhuarc of Jai’hash to be my General. We are going to War, I will need one. I need to speak with Carrick, he was a member of the Holy Guard and he is all that is left. He will be my Captain. I know he will accept.”
“Very good. So you are working on establishing your cabinet?”
“Yes, I need to appoint those I trust, and I trust them,” Aria stated taking another sip of her soup.
“A wise leader surrounds themselves with wise advisors-“
“And heeds their words. Yes, Elder Rigby taught me that.” Aria took another sip of the soup. She'd be lying if she said it wasn't delicious.
"You're eyes are different," Ursula suddenly said, and Aria looked over to her and saw that the Watcher was studying her.
"They are determined, and without fear." That made Aria's brow furrow. Was Ursula trying to butter her up? Or was she being genuine? It was hard to tell.
"The only thing I need to fear is Malik," Aria stated firmly, she knew that to be true, anything else was trivial in comparison. Aria looked from her soup to Ursula and studied her for a moment. “I need you to do something for me…”
That something was to find a Captains lapel for Carrick, and to offer it to him. He would know what it meant. Ursula promised to deliver the offering as well as honoring Aria’s next request. “I want to go into the city and see the people. I want to thank them, and make my newest appointments public.” Ursula agreed, and assured Aria she would be getting no more knocks on her doors until after she had woken up. With that Aria was finally alone for good and looked out through the pillars to the outside, and quietly ate her soup before finally falling asleep.
It appeared, at least in this language, as if love could be used interchangeably between to love someone romantically, and the love that was caring love. In the Fenlyck language, there wasn’t one word which could be used interchangeably to mean both things; there was one word for these two separate types of “love”.
But as she thought back to that one moment by the lakeshore with Balden, Lara started to understand what exactly Balden had been feeling. Especially, that one remark concerning Adimar. Balden had been in love, with her. Yes he did care for her, but Lara now thought that Balden’s feeling had started to go a bit deeper than that. Was it possible that he had started to love her? Like in the romantic sense as Adimar had just explained? If it wasn’t for Balden’s comment, and in the somewhat jealous tone that Balden had said it in.....
Lara shrugged her shoulders and unbit her lip that she had been biting this whole time. She realized that Adimar had lain his hand on her shoulder, Lara reached up with her own hand and squeezed Adimar’s hand lightly while also looking up at him and smiling assuredly. [+purple “Thank you very much. I’ll try to learn as best I can.”]
After she had taken her hand off Adimar’s, Adimar proposed to take a walk through the city. After he had changed that is. Lara quickly agreed, she wanted to get out and walk about after being trapped in a limbo for six months.
As she waited, Lara took a much closer look at the staff that Balden had made for her. She traced the designs that had been carved into the metal, but it was as if they were merely an illusion. No matter where or how hard she pressed, she couldn’t feel any of the grooves. Lara gave an experimental spin, paying close attention to the designs. She spun it again, and the same thing happened. It was as if the fishes and the water came alive, with the fish appearing to swim through the water as the water appeared to go up and down. Balden had thought this through pretty well. Lara sighed heavily, it was sad that she couldn’t thank him in person. At least she had a reminder to remember him by.
Adimar had walked out, Lara joined him by his side as the two of them walked out to the city. [+purple “Adimar, how much do you know about the Medici?”] Lara knew somethings about the Medici, but she was curious as to what Adimar knew about it.
[center [I [size30 ❇❇♥❇❇]]]
Saraya was escorted to her room first. Carrick, despite everything had followed her. Ursula hadn't protested. Once inside, Carrick only watched as Saraya sunk into her own world.
She sighed as she looked ahead. Silence took her mind as the trees swayed in the gentle breeze. The quiet breeze greeted her cheeks before disappearing, saying it's goodbyes. The night peaked as the sun had set. She made her way to the balcony, avoiding conversation with anyone while she thought. The Watchers knew something... They had to.
Otherwise, Ursula wouldn't have been so quick to dismiss her.
Suddenly, her mind was clouded, and the spirit finally spoke.
[center [I Saraya?]]
She huffed to herself. [I My, my... You pick now to speak to me, Spirit?]
[center [I I am sorry, My love... I could not interfere with your trials]]
She growled, slightly frustrated. [I And when I had asked you questions...?]
[center [I I could not answer them...]]
She chuckled to herself, a dark chuckle as she cracked her knuckles one by one. [I it is funny how I am a Guardian and I cannot get a single question answered]
[center [I I am not allowed to interfere]]
This only frustrated her even more. She huffed as she clutched the balcony side, watching the moon rise.
[center [I Please, love, do not be upset...]]
[I "Why not, Spirit? Why can I not be upset? "] she blurted out. She didn't know she startled Carrick. [I "Why is it that I am out of this loop? I will have to wait until I go to the temples to find out... "] she sighed with frustration. [I "Ursula calls me the strongest out of the fellowship, but I am only angry-- "]
[center [I Saraya... Please]]
She huffed again, gripping the balcony tighter, beginning to dent it. She watched the horizon...
Hot tears fell as she watched it, trying with all her might to calm herself... When she couldn't, her head dropped as she buried her face into her hands... Everything was in riddles... Everything had to be figured out on her own... She collapsed to her knees, still burying her face into her hands, until she rolled over and buried her face into her knees, frustration and confusion flowing into the fabrics of her robes...
As the darkness surrounded her, an image came before her... A fire... With everyone sitting around it, laughing, conversing and enjoying people's company. She sat furthest, watching everyone converse around cooking bore. Aria seemed so happy, Rhuarc, Ayab... Lara came around too. Carrick was cutting the bits and pieces off of the slain beast roasting over the fire. Adimar was turning the cooked beast, laughing along with the rest... Except... Balden wasn't there... She remembered the Watcher say that he had left... Something had to be off for her to hear that he had gone... Hopefully she had the time to save him...
[I "Why are you showing me this? "] she asked the Spirit.
[center [I Don't be angry, Saraya...]]
Saraya looked ahead to the company. [I "Why? "]
[center [I Because they need you]]
She sneered. [I "They need me? They do not even notice me! Since I have taken it upon myself to save Tanaka for Aria's sake, I have felt nothing but contempt... And I still feel it, despite what you believe! The blood of the fallen are on my hands for my stubbornness!!! What can heal that?! "]
[center [I Saraya...]]
[I Leave me be, Spirit... Talk to Carrick... But leave me be right now...]
Abruptly, the illusion stopped. She stood from the balcony and silently stalked across the room, without hearing Carrick's pleas and questions. She needed to be alone. And as far as she was concerned, everyone had contempt for her because of her foolish stubbornness.
Her mind flew to Felliope. The attack at Tanaka... The face she saw... The Fade... That was not going to happen... When the time came that she had to prove her loyalty, she will... And she'll pay it... By sacrificing herself... If it meant her Priestess safety...
Her mind grew dark... She hadn't slept that night. Come dawn, she was a shadow of her once fair self...
Rhuarc listened to Aria's words as she spoke and he was glad that she was apologising in turn, she didn't need to do that and he had not expected her to react that way although perhaps he should have. As she extended his hands towards his own he took them without hesitation, she was still colder than she should be and Rhuarc extended Jai'hash's fire through himself into her body to warm her up, at least Aria should feel more comfortable now. Rhuarc could see the High Priestess steel herself and become far more determined and she once again extended a hand questioningly, Rhuarc stared into her eyes as he once again took it without hesitating. [i "Normally a Holy Guard would take the rank of General to the High Priestess, but this is not a normal situation. Rhuarc you have my respect, and my friendship. I do not ask lightly when I ask if you will be my General and teach me to protect myself, so we may both put our minds at ease.”] The Jai took in her words and thought about what they would mean, Aria trusted him that much was clear and she felt no ill will towards his shameful behaviour, he was grateful for her trust and he knew what his answer would be. [b "Ari...Priestess, I would be honoured to be your General although I do not think I need to teach you how to protect yourself, I have a feeling you know more about that than I give you credit for. If I am to be your General I feel that you should understand something. I pride myself on doing my duty, my duty to my people and my duty to Azera as a Guardian and also my duty to the High Priestess. I would gladly pledge my blade to any High Priestess that asked, but I pledge my very being to you Aria of House Tolshiv."] Jai custom forbade any Jai to lie on sacred ground and Rhuarc knew exactly the seriousness of what those words meant, to himself if no one else. His trial of Desire had shown him what he had expected, what he knew that he craved; bringing glory and honour to the Jai and being named Car'ai but what he had not anticipated was what happened after he had slain the False King Malik. Aria had placed the marriage wreath by his feet, he had not expected that to be part of his deepest desires yet he saw that as clear as day. Being the General of the High Priestess bound him tightly to Aria and while he was pleased about that for many reasons he was also apprehensive about it. [b "I'll let you get some rest now Priestess, with your leave?"] Rhuarc waited for Aria to dismiss him before leaving her room, he was going to see Ayab but he had one small thing to do first.
Rhuarc made his way out towards the streets of Kil'heed, where the people were out and about with their business. Ursula was right, the city had attracted more people in the last six months and while ideally he would prefer a Jai for what he had planned it was not completely necessary, in fact it might be even better if it wasn't. Rhuarc wandered the streets of the sacred city of Kil'heed taking in the sights, there were merchants around hawking their wares, children playing in the street and a few of Adimar's men standing guard by a gate, they gave Rhuarc a nod in greeting which he returned. Eventually Rhuarc found what he was looking for, an elderly Volshi man who had a small home that doubled as his place of work, Rhuarc saw examples of his work and after being satisfied with the quality of the pieces on display Rhuarc paid the elderly man for his work. Once the artist was finished with Rhuarc's commission, the Jai left the workshop with the sigil of the Holy Sanctum tattooed over his heart. Rhuarc felt that was a suitable way to reflect his new position as General of the High Priestess. All that remained now was for him to seek out Ayab, he was eager to see his friend and not ashamed to admit that he was equally as apprehensive to see what the Fade's whip had done to his friend.
If the wound required divine healing then it could not possibly be good. It took some time for the Jai to find his way to the infirmary where, sure enough, he found his longtime friend Ayab although not as Rhuarc had expected. With all the talk abut how bad Ayab's wound had been Rhuarc had expected his countryman to be lying in a bed but to the contrary Ayab was standing and drawing his bow to fire an arrow out of the window in an attempt to hit a knot in the bark of a tree, he loosed his arrow and narrowly missed. He adjusted his stance slightly and loosed again this time hitting his mark. He turned around to see who had entered and his face cracked a wide grin. [+red "Rhuarc! It has been a while, what happened? Where is everyone? Is everyone safe?"] Rhuarc embraced his friend and answered all of his questions as best that he could, he didn't tell Ayab what was in his visions, those were just for himself, but other than that he filled them in about everything that had gone on inside the Labyrinth. In turn Ayab told Rhuarc about his own experiences, how one of the Watchers had done something to slow the speed of whatever the Fade had done to him, he had had a fever for a few weeks earlier in the stay but once it had broken and he could recover his strength it was becoming easier to manage the wound. The bandages on his leg needed changing every week as the wound actually rotted the dressing away and that was causing no end of irritation to the physician here at the infirmary. Ayab required a staff to walk and while he was slowed he would not be a burden on the journey ahead, or so he claimed. The Jai's biggest irritation was that he had could not practice with his weapons while he was resting in bed with the wounds and even if he wanted to Jai custom for bid him from doing so anyway so Ayab had devised a clever way around that. He had whittled a number of arrows from wood around the city that would be useless in an actual battle and therefore could not be considered a weapon and allowing him to fire them from his bow without violating custom. Eventually the conversation turned to Balden's departure and Ayab grew sombre.
[+red "I saw him before he left, he came to see me. My leg was hurting badly that day, and he didn't stay for long anyway. He didn't answer when I asked where he was going but he seemed determined to go. I didn't try and stop him, not that I could if he wanted to anyway. I liked the boy, I was sad to see him go."] Rhuarc had known that Ayab had thought of Balden like a younger brother and had enjoyed the boy's company but Balden had made his choice and the one time blacksmith's apprentice needed to live with that now. [b "I know Ayab, I did too but he has chosen a different path, there is no point lamenting that which we can not change and we must move forward. Maybe our paths will meet once again."] The only problem was that Rhuarc was not actually sure whether he wanted that to happen or not.
Rhuarc followed Aria over to where she took a seat to hear him. Nothing was so important she couldn’t take a moment to listen to any of her Guardians. The bath wasn’t going anywhere, nor was the bed behind her, and she did not foresee this taking particularly long considering she knew Rhuarc to be a man of few words. So when he did speak, Aria had made certain to listen. He thanked her for taking the time to speak with him, but when he mentioned he had come to apologize, a warm smile began to fill her face. There was no hiding or stopping the grin while he tried to assure her she owed him no Toh. In fact, he tried to guilt himself, and when he fell to his knees before her she was suddenly startled by the humbling act. It dawned on her that both of them were guilty in their own ways.
He accepted punishment, but what would that solve? He had become aware of what he’d done, and as a Prideful Jai wasn’t having to absolve and apologize punishment enough? He explained himself in a way Aria was able to see his side and understand where he was coming from. She’d assumed as much, but she’d also known that when Rhuarc was ready he would come and talk to her. Here they were and she wanted to giggle at how similar they were both going to sound when she finished her peace.
[b "I never wish to put you in that position again Priestess.”] Aria studied his face for a long moment before she finally reached out and lifted his chin to face her. She saw the guilty expression he wore and maybe a glimmer of frustration with himself, but there was a hint of relief. She couldn’t fault him for any of it.
“Rhuarc of the Farlan Jai,” she chided capturing his attention and though she was tired, she was warmed and humbled by his words. “Do not fault yourself entirely in this. Perhaps we are even,” she told him gently taking away her hand from his face and folding them in her lap. “You were right to say I have Toh… I do. Perhaps not to you entirely, but to all of Azera. You taught me about Honor and Obligation. I have an obligation to uphold, to save and protect the people of this world, to usurp Malik, and to take my place where it rightfully belongs. If I do not do this, then who will? I can not abandon this world, and that day in Tanaka I did. I was selfish when I knew I should have gone back and decided to stay out. I was so desperate to feel… something… freedom?” She questioned, for she wasn’t quite sure what she’d wanted to feel that day. Her brow pinched together at the thought and she sighed. “I was never upset with you. I never expected an apology from you, and I was prideful enough to think I did not have to give you one, but I do, and I am also sorry.” She confessed looking to him. It was then she reached out to take his hands, so he might know the sincerity of her words. ‘I’m sorry I made all of you worry about me. I regret my selfish actions, my mistakes… unfortunately, I know I will make more poor choices. I am not perfect. I may be the High Priestess but I am still a flesh and blood woman,” She reminded Rhuarc. “We all make mistakes, but I never once feared that you would not be there to protect me,” She said with a prideful smile to him. She gave his hands a firm squeeze before releasing them and gave him a pointed look. “I will not punish you, I see no purpose in it. We both made mistakes, we have finally come together to speak about it, and we’ve settled the matter. For I do not wish to place you in that same position again either, so this leaves only one final matter,” she said facing him with a look of determination. "I think I have a solution to ensure my safety and set your mind at ease." When Rhuarc voiced his curiosity, she offered her hand for him to take, and if he took it, it would signify he was willing to hear her. “I will most certainly be put in more dangerous situations the closer we get to defeating Malik, and we both know you won’t always be there to protect me." She wanted to prepare him for a most possible outcome, and she did not want him to spend his life with guilt if she didn't make it. "Normally a Holy Guard would take the rank of General to the High Priestess, but this is not a normal situation. Rhuarc you have my respect, and my friendship. I do not ask lightly when I ask if you will be my General and teach me to protect myself, so we may both put our minds at ease.”
Adimar left the room sparing a single glance behind him to see Aria and Rhuarc finally speaking with one another. It was about damn time those two got over whatever issue they’d been dealing with since Tanaka. They were led down a completely different hallway. Adimar half expected for them to enter the same hall they'd left when they'd entered the room earlier, but the layout had changed. Ursula, varyis and Luther walked with them towards the next floor down and into an open hallway lined with a set of doors. Saraya and Carrick were shown their room first, and Ursula pointed to the other two doors along the same hallway.
“Guardians, your rooms are here, You have free reign of the entire hold,” She told them. Adimar nodded his head and started for the door furthest down the hall. He wanted to freshen up and eat before going off to find his men and see what they’d been up to in the six months of his absence. Adimar never made it to his door though as the voice of young Lara stopped him. She wanted his help in learning combat and how to speak with her spirit. He smiled at her and nodded his head.
“I’d be more than happy to help you, Lara. I’m flattered you’ve come to me for help.” He saw a bit of discomfort in her eyes though and it brought a concerned expression to his face. “Something else the matter?” He asked reaching out to take her shoulder in his hand.
[i “Out of curiosity, do you love me…??”]
Adimar’s face twisted into one of supreme confusion. “Define… love…” He began, “because if you mean love as in, I care about you and want you well, to see you succeed and grow -then yes, I love you. Now iff you mean romantically… like Carrick and Saraya…then no, I do not love you,” He told her gently. “What put this thought in your mind? I hope I did nothing to insinuate differently, and if I did, I am truly sorry,” he told her. In truth, Adimar was fond of Lara, he liked her spunk, her tenacity, her quick wit, and her ingenuity at learning her powers. “I look at you, the way I would look at a young cousin or a niece…. and now as an apprentice. I have faith in you, Lara. I think you have the potential for great power and to do great things, and I would be honored to help you reach that potential.”
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