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Saraya nodded quickly to the gesture. She didn't feel the need to waste any time. With the plan being articulated by Carrick, she felt a silent call of dedication fill her spirit.
With the task of dying the priestess' hair, she thought of young Lara and herself. If the plan was for them to escape the city as a pair, they had to think smart. She, after having the priestess situated, had went right to work with her task.
Throughout the night, she had used similar methods to contouring her face as she would when she had to spy on the enemy. With a touch of dye, she aged her hair to a pleasent grey, and added age to her once flawless face with simple earth and water along with dye to add contrast. She was sure not to alarm the Jai, for she read well of their attributes. One of their strengths were that they would protect what was necessary. The Priestess was tjr mission, and, being humble and also woman, knowing that she was thought of as meek and fragile, and maybe even unlikely to be stronger physically, she saw fit for Rhuarc and the men to focus on the Priestess, for she was top priority. After all, she knew how to use her feminine wiles to her advantage.
Saraya then looked to Lara. She sighed some. She may be a bit fussy, but she'll have to change her look. But, she decided to rest her arms and thoughts of the task at hand. She looked to Rhuarc, feeling a fair sense of security just watching him observing surroundings. It reminded her so much of Felliope, when they camped and were readying themselves to move camp at dawn. He usually took watch at night, and always stayed before the lips of her sleep tent.
Her memories pleasantly faded to the sight of Rhuarc. She sighed, seeing the faint fire colors peak over the horizen. Dawn approached. She fashioned her hair into a high ponytail, fairly braided and aged before tucking the braid just right. She let her hair fall astray here and there, and checked her look. The skin was flawless, even with the age to it. Her hair, though white, shown silver grey along the fullness, and she was satisfied. She then grabbed her weapons and stuffed them in a napsack before getting her cloak. She searched around some for an old sheet to drape over her form, to cover the odd clear colored tresses she worn with pride.
After which, she had gently awakened Lara. Lara, though fussy as she expected, yawned and finally attempted to listen. Saraya tried to explain her plan, though English was not easy. She pointed to her face, and then to the dye and earth she had applied. Though Lara fussed and twisted and protested, Saraya succeeded in applying the makeup and dye, before tossing her cloths.
While Lara was changing clothes, she excused herself, trying her hardest not to break the other's attention as she had gotten to the stable. A horse, a horse... She needed horses. She looked about each horse... Until one caught her eye... A white female horse hiding in the back of the stable. She sighed as she looked into the stable to her. She was young... Beautiful with white flowing mane, and even longer tail. Her hooves were covered with hair... But, she seemed worried.
Saraya had walked into the stable, the horse snorting, for she was nervous. Saraya steadied her hand as she looked to her. [I reuletia oprsnu...] [I you needn't fear me]
She steadily touched the steed's nose, the horse, somehow understanding what she had said. She smiled as she began hugging the snout. It was as though they had instantly connected... [I veltu kipru koori] [I ] she said and noticed something hiding. She saw a baby horse, only about two weeks old. She smiled. "Take... Her... With us" she whispered, the horse stomping her hoof in joy. The baby horse was just as white as her mother. She only had black fur over the hooves instead of white, which made her special. Saraya nodded to the horse, grabbing a blanket to put on her back.
As a custom of her home, she would never constrict a steed of the air it needed, so they only rode on the back with reigns and a blanket. Afterwhish, she grabbed another steed for Lara, who was young and vigilant.
Saraya hurried, looking to the horse and the horse neighed softly. Saraya nodded and hurried inside, urging Lara to make haste. The wagon and the men had already gone. She must keep to schedule, and take Lara along to the Pub to give the illusion of old mother and daughter.
The pub was silent as she had taken her fill. The bartender that greeted her when she entered, supplied her with Groot... She nodded in a thank you. She looked to Lara. "Must... Seem older with daughter... I must... Not speak" she tried to say as clearly as possible.
Once she was sure that Lara understood the plan, she waited until high noon, to finally put her plan into action.
She had gotten onto the steed, a rope wrapped delicately around the baby horse and his her weapons and Lara's staff underneath the blankets on the horse's back. They traveled, slowly yet surely to the gates, where the guards had halted them. "And what is your purpose?"
Lara played her role well, informing the guards that she was taking her dear mother to visit relatives that were staying near the city. As she explained, the other guards were inspecting the steeds, and then looked to the old lady that sat on the elegant horse. They saw a tired, elder woman under the cloak, and sighed as they looked to each other. Before they could say a word, however, bells rang of alert. Their post had been caught aflame.
With them abandoning their post, Saraya kept into action, using her strength to open the gate, and hurried the horses and Lara out safely before shutting the gates. With that, she jumped onto her steed, and "hyahh'd" the steed into a high sprint to a run.
In her mind, she celebrated temporarily of her plan. She, once they left the pub and was mere walk from the gate, had set aflame hay only yards away from the post. She used her talent of managing time to accomplish the post going up in flames before the guards noticed. With planning being completed swimmingly, she trotted once out of sight, and reunited with the others. She sighed as she demounted her steed and started wiping away the earth on her face, signing as she shed away the cloth covering her tresses. She stared at everyone and nodded, going back to her steed.Their next aim... Getting to the last Guardian... And exacting her revenge on the evil man she dared not see with her eyes.
Rhuarc listened to Carrick talk about his time before he was a smith, a time when he served a higher purpose as the guard of the Holy Sanctum. From the look on his face he was remembering the time with a mix of shame, regret and nostalgia, it must be difficult for the blacksmith to dedicate himself to a cause, have that torn away from him and be forced into submission and to work for those that took his Priestess away. Now after all these years later find out that she was alive and that he had a purpose again, it was a lot for any man to contemplate. Rhuarc wondered what his life would have been like if Elder Mandarb had never sent him to the central city, probably a simple life of wandering the deserts with caravans and surviving from one day to the next but most likely fighting the False King. With the women rejoining them, talk soon turned to how they would leave the Central City and make their way towards the last Guardian the suggestions of barrels was raised. Rhuarc was glad that he would not require to hide in one of those things, there was absolutely no way in Azeroth that either he or Ayab would ever fit. He was far more comfortable out in the open, weapons in hand. Carrick's concern surrounding the plan were well founded and apparently it mattered not as the wagon that the group wild be travelling with had a false bottom large enough for Aria to hide in.
The rest of the night passed far too slowly for the Jai's liking, Rhuarc was unable to let himself relax, instead waiting for the Mage or some soldiers to break down the door and drag them all before Shade-stealer in chains for harbouring the High Priestess before promptly removing their heads. He was a snake waiting to strike at prey that might never come, and did not make for a particularly good guest. It was Ayab that snapped him out of his trace, a few words were exchanged in the harsh sounding guttural tongue of the Jai people and the younger Jai was able to talk some sense into his friend. In the morning they were off on a dangerous journey, enjoy the peace they had now, it might never come again. While the women worked with Aria to apply the dyes to her hair and conceal her identity while Carrick and Balden worked on the meats for dinner. As soon as the women had finished their tasks Carrick announced that the meal was ready, despite only her hair changing colour Rhuarc hardly recognised the High Priestess, he was sure it would be a suitable disguise.The two Jai were hesitant at trying the meats that Carrick had acquired and roasted, cooked in the Caledon style they were far different than anything that Rhuarc or Ayab had eaten before. In the Wastelands food was scarce in the wilds, if you were lucky you might find some hardy desert goat wandering around but more often than not you ate what you were able to hunt or what rations you had packed from your last time in a city or with a caravan. Bread and a small drab of honey was what Rhuarc had been used to for the longest time, he had had some meat marinaded in Jai spices before he left Elder Mandarb, the feast that Carrick was putting on now was wonderful compared to what he had been surviving off lately.
As the others drifted slowly off to sleep Rhuarc and Ayab decided that a watch still needed to be kept, in reality it was just an old habit from the Wastelands, a Jai who didn't have a watch kept at night was a dead Jai, in truth neither warrior expected there to be an issue but that didn't mean that they weren't prepared for it. Ayab took an uneventful first watch and after several hours of nothing interesting woke his companion who also had an uneventful night, eventually watching the pink and orange hue of the rising sun light the smithy. Rhuarc thought he heard someone stirring amongst the women but his attention was immediately captured by the old grizzled smith rousing himself from his slumber, who in turn announced tot he women that they would be leaving imminently. With the wagon already prepared the night before there wasn't much left to ready other than the High Priestess being hidden away in the false wagon bottom while Carrick, Balden Rhuarc and Ayab left the Central City first while Lara and Saraya followed later. The streets of the City were busier than Rhuarc would have expected at this early hour, most were merchants setting up stalls for the long trading day ahead, or those just entering the city after travelling all night, some guards changing shift caught Rhuarc's eye but aside from a quick glance at the two large Jai they paid the group no heed. At the city gates several alert men stood guard, surveying the few that entered and the even fewer who left. They muttered amongst themselves too softly for Rhuarc to overhear when they saw the wagon approaching. Carrick took the lead, talking to the men,while the two Jai guards stayed silent, like any paid help would, two men looked around the wagon, searching its contents thoroughly. Rhuarc had to make a conscious decision to keep his hand off the handle of his belt knife, praying to Jaihash that Aria was not discovered. After what seemed like an eternity the group were let through and they were well and truly free from the Central City, the wagon rumbled along, Carrick and Balden riding while the Jai walked alongside, for a mile or two before finding a suitable place to stop and wait for Lara and Saraya to catch up. Soon they would head east into the Mountains and with Azeroths blessing towards the final guardian.
With the exit of the Mage, Carrick was able to slow the beating of his nervous heart. He tossed Balden the coin purse and looked to Rhuarc as he addressed him. Yes, it was fair to say Carrick owed them some form of explanation. “I was once a guard of the Holy Sanctum. A guard of the Priestess, I was young and devoted to my little priestess. The first day I met her, she was nothing more than a tiny tyke of five years and she came through the sanctum with arms full of freshly picked wildflowers. She gifted us all with one that day, and thanked us for our continued service. I was newly appointed, and at five she called me out as a new face and welcomed me personally. Five years old… and already such an adult,” he commented with an air of nostalgia. “But when the raids hit the following year… that little girl I had grown so attached to, who I had watched over and guarded, was whisked away while we fought off the hordes of greedy power hungry men. Some of us were captured when the Sanctum fell. I was among those captured, I was spared because I was young, impressionable and I had a trade skill they could use… I have been biding my time here in this forge ever since,” he confessed. “Usually they come to me with requests for weapons, sometimes small jobs delivering packages.. but this is the first time the Mage has come to my door asking me to kill someone. He knows she’s alive… and he knows she’ll find one of us from the old days…. He’s watching me, and you’re right –they’re not to be underestimated and the Priestess must be protected at all costs. Like you, Rhuarc, she’s a guardian too… the Host of Azeroth himself.” Those final words carried severity and weight. Azeroth had always marked his priestess… but he’d never housed himself within one before… not until Aria.
Balden was the one sent to retrieve the women from under the floor, and when he lifted the trap door he gifted them a friendly smile.
“It’s all clear!” He told them and helped them up one by one. Aria was the last to come out, and looked around to see the house had be lightly ransacked, and Saraya was quick at work with a plan involving wooden barrels. She suggested that the three of them hide within it, and while it might work to get them out… it wouldn’t provide a long term cover. Lara seemed to weigh the idea by climbing into a barrel as example. Aria lifted the lid back up and peeked inside where she hid.
“Boo,” She teased. Carrick was quick to calm Saraya with a heavy hand to her dainty shoulder.
“Peace dear Saraya. The barrels are a fine idea. They’ll make great cover for all of our gear, but I am a smith –they know what I carry –weapons, tools, armor. Everyone’s will be meshed together so none stick out, besides…” He smirked mischievously and walked towards the floor of his wagon. “You think you’re the first people I’ve smuggled out of this city?” Carrick was a man of many talents and tricks as he slid the wooden paneling of the wagon floor to display that I was a false wagon bed, and underneath was a padded enclave large enough for four people to lay down and hide under. “These soldiers are known to be real ass holes and tip over barrels of food stuffs, and other things. They care not of the work that went into it. Just that they are thorough in their search… I like your style of thinking though,” He told her with a hidden grin and they watched as a blushing Balden helped Lara out of the barrel.
“Once we are on the road we won’t need to hide,” Aria added as she reached in and touched the soft padding that lined the hidden compartment of the wagon.
“No we won’t, but you will need a disguise,” Carrick said pointing a finger at her. It was then made aware to Aria that Rhuarc and Ayab had brought with them dyes and clothing to help hide her when they had gone out to gather supplies. She grinned at the haul they brought back and looked it over. The colors would not last forever, but it would be enough to tint her hair darker, which was all they needed to keep her from drawing attention with her silver white hair. It was a dead giveaway to her Volshiv Heritage.
Aria enlisted Saraya's help in applying the dyes to her hair that night, while Carrick was busy at work roasting meats and cooking them a final meal before they left. He wanted to leave at sunrise, they were all in agreement of that. The sooner they left the better. Carrick made up sleeping arrangements for his guests, go so far as to relinquish his own large bed to allow the three women to sleep in, Balden slept in a small cot, while Carrick Rhuarc and Ayab slept on their own prospective pile of furs next to the hearth in the living room, closest to the door. This way if the Mage and his goons decided to surprise them in the night they would be the first line of defense, to allow the women to flee with the Priestess.
Morning came as it always did, with the cawing of a rooster, the pinkish glimmering hues of a rising sun, and the morning fog that seemed to linger over everything. Aria was the first one up, the moment the first ray of sunshine hit her body, her eyes snapped open and she looked beside her. On either side slept Saraya and Lara, the three of them nestled like life long sisters under the blankets. Aria noted how peaceful both of them looked, and then slid out the edge of the bed just as Carrick came knocking.
"Time to wake up, we need to eat and leave." He called through the door. His deep rustic voice waking the other two. Aria looked to them both -she even looked different with her charcoal grey hair and pale skin, it made her icy blue eyes that much more strange looking. Today was a big day, today was the day they would all be leaving. First things first. Carrick had to smuggle Aria out.
The plan was as follows:
Rhuarc, Ayab, Balden and Carrick would ride out with the carriage hiding Aria in the hidden bed, while Saraya and Lara left on their own. They had entered the city -they could just as easily leave it as their own little group. They planned to meet up and regroup once they were outside of the city and heading East towards to Volshi Mountains in search of their final Guardian.
And of course Carryck would be the one to voice his complaints out loud. It wasn't like she was trying to kill herself by fighting the Jai, if she did anything that would result in making or death to herself or anyone else then the priestess wouldn't allow it so the mission wouldn't fail. Talking about the priestess, she didn't think her idea was a bad one, on the other hand the priestess thought it was an acceptable idea. Se even saw the the thought process behind it.
Lara braced for the hit, but the actual hit was lacking both in strength and faith. It was like the Jai just hit her because circumstances caused him to do it but the Jai didn't have any faith because of the irritating, irradiating distrust between the two of them. She hit him back across in the same way he had slapped her. The would take awhile but she wanted to show this Jai the futility of distrust, the futility of keeping a past grudge which should just be let free and forgotten forever.
Before anything could happen Balden had run in almost breathless with a worried look on his face. This worry and fear wasn't unfounded as Balden had spotted the King's mage riding with a host of troops to this direction. It was an uncomfortable situation but Carrick had a plan, and it also seemed as if this wasn't the first time he had been 'visited' in this fashion.
The plan involved the three women being hid into a secret underground storage compartment, and the guys would be on top. Somewhat sexist but the plan did have a sound base to support it, the King's men wouldn't ask too many questions about three new males, three females would be extremely hard to explain to the nosy bastards.
No questions asked and only actions. The Jais opened up the entrance to the secret underground tunnel and the three women hurried down into the big empty room at the end of the tunnel. The entrance was closed and their were sounds of objects being placed on top of the entrance, all was dark and so far the only sound that could be heard was the faint breaths.
That was before what seemed as if a horde of horses stampeded through the house and abruptly stopped. The women who's name she hadn't learned at all started doing something but she didn't pay attention, she only closed her eyes and meditated. The guardian inhabiting her started to recoil in disgust from the foul presence up above, why did the presence seem so similar? Why did it remind both of them of someone from the past? It was someone from the past, three years from the past. The same person who had went out with intent to do harm and had killed her parents, it was him. But it wasn't the time to openly show the hatred or all this hard work would be for nothing, nothing at all.
Eventually the stampeding horses went away and all was silent until the entrance was opened back up. The rush of fresh air was refreshing but time was off the essence. Once all of them regrouped around the wagon the woman who's name she did not know started acting up, seemed there was another plan involving hiding.
It also involved barrels , hiding in the barrels to get past the city defenses. It would be a pain but it was necessary, so she took the initiative. Walking up to one of the barrels on the cart Lara hid her staff in the cart, jumped unto the cart and opened up one of the empty barrels. She then jumped in, took the lid, and then sealed herself within the woody confines of the barrel.
She did feel odd though, sitting there and reflecting. She felt like the seventh wheel, not exactly not needed but not exactly needed.
Saraya watched as the priestess left her to reassemble herself. She sighed as she stood, swiping away the hay from her clothing, and stretched. Aria was right after all, she mustn't let it cripple her sense of urgency. There was war amiss, and if she could be of any use, she had to go back into her previous state of mind... War is just, Aim is neigh.
As she doused the fire, there was a scent that made her hair stand on edge. The enemy was in the city! She must warn the priestess!
Before she could even get to the stable door, Rhuarc had opened the door, with eyes as serious as the storm that was approaching them... She knew then that he knew as well. All she could do was bow to the knowledge and made haste to the stable, where orders of haste were given to hide.
Rhuarc guided her to a hidden latch to a cellar, and without hesitation, her instinct told her to do what was necessary. She nodded to Rhuarc in a swift thank you, and decended into the dark surroundings. Saraya backed away as the young child and the Priestess took refuge, and waited as the latch door closed and carpeting covered it from sight. After a thud of a table sounded, silence impregnated the cellar. There, they waited.
The doors to the stable swung open in a thud, and with it, a foul stench that even she grimaced to. But, what made her halt all movement and a frozen expression of shock take her face... The voice that spoke.
The voice... it was dark, laced with intrigue and malice. A terrifying and traumatizing chuckle sounded lightly, yet her ears picked it up as if he were sitting just an arm's length from her. Compared with her memory, the voice she remembered had an life- shattering effect. This Demon 's voice was the same.
The spirit somehow broke through her shock, and urged her... [center [I Hear me! Focus, love]] it was an urgent whisper, spoken as an temperamental spirit that hurried across your senses, and speak within your ear with an attention grabbing echo. Saraya sharpened her breathing, and as the spirit spoke, she felt that sense of urgency creeping up from her spine. [Center [I Saraya... You must shroud their scent... his soldiers are coming...]]
Wait... [I SHROUD] their scent? Saraya gasped, looking up as his prediction was proven true... one soldier was heading this way, to their cellar, to their temporary sanctuary. Saraya placed her hands on the ground, hoping that she could succeed on detouring the enemy. [Center [I breathe, and relax... Imagine hugging them, comforting them as the loving martyr that you are... cover them with your love...]]
Saraya began thinking... The priestess would never allow me to do so... but, even she would want a comforting hand at times. She still suffers how all chosen leaders suffer... like she for her homeland. And what about the other?
The child was young, vibrant. When she was at that age, she had grace and beauty, with will, strength and stubbornness. She hoped that she would want her help... maybe then, she could...
A thud on the stairs sounded. The enemy was closer than she thought. [I Scon-ga] she cursed. As she shed away her sword and bow and arrows aside to keep the silence, she refocused, using her emotions to wrap around them as she placed her hands on the ground once more... But, it proved to be more complex. She tried, but it wouldn't stretch.
Though, as she exhaled slowly, that strong embrace she remembered wrapped around her again. Suddenly, she felt her heart warm, and with it, his face appeared. [I now, Saraya... Use it, now] she channeled her energy without question. She shrouded them in her tender love and care in her mind, and as she completed that, she looked up. The footfalls had halted near the table. She hoped that it worked... She continued to scan the ground above them, watching the ground as it squeaked and creaked. It halted for a moment... she heard the sadistic voice speak again. It grabbed his hounds and demanded their return. They retreated as the voice spoke once more, striking conversation with Carrick a about finding the priestess. This was one of their methods, to create cross agents to infiltrate, and kidnap or else price was on their head. Saraya slowly released the ground from it's purpose, and looked up as silence finally impregnated the forge.
The table was moved, then the carpet, letting in light finally. As the hidden door opened, and fresh air took the cellar, Saraya was frozen, sitting on the ground aside her weapons. Her mind was racing, so much in fact that she had almost forgotten that the door was open. She grabbed her weapons absent-mindedly before climbing out of the cellar. Saraya knew they would speak of a plan to leave without raising suspicion, but Saraya was plotting alone. The Mage, whom they spoke of as the leader of this brigade, was going to scout left and right for The Priestess, as a way to gain control of The Guardians. She knew that the spirits were a threat, but for them to scout Centeral City would mean that Malik was growing worried of his mistake. He claimed no Spirits, therefore his worst fear was being realized.
Suddenly, her stubbornness had claimed her well-being. She felt herself shift to a warrior that she had once took pride in being. Her mind narrowed to the point of strategy. Once before meeting them, Lara had been in a sewer, vast was it. It had been a passageway that they had entered, so that was not a suitable escape.
She then thought of the wagon... She smirked as she hurried to the Priestess' side. Grabbing her hand, she felt that she could build the courage to speak, and she did.
[I The wagon... If we use the wagon, we may still strike a chance in leaving safely together...]
She looked around for barrels, and began dragging at least five to the wagon. [I Strouga yemil tregul.] She realized that she was explaining too fast. She went to the Priestess with haste, taking her hand. [i The three of us will hide in the barrels. We put fruit within them, and I shall shroud our scent so not to raise suspicion. Our weapons should be placed in the other barrels filled with trout. i will shroud them, too. Any weapon that were made for trade should be displayed as a decoy. Make sure your scent, as well as Ayab, Rhuarc and the young Apprentice are the only scents on you weapons you've made for trade. They will be searching for unknown scents, so leave it to me to shroud our scents and keep from sight.] she looked towards everyone, hoping they understood her idea. If it could work, they would be able to make haste to find the last guardian without surprise. [I do you not think it is possible?] Her accent in English still sounded seductive, but she couldn't think of it. Time was of the essence. They must think fast and smart.
Rhuarc listened to Balden's words and he was satisfied with what he heard from the boy, he was young but had a good head on his shoulders. That would serve him well in the journey they were on. [b "I warn you, this will not be easy, it will be a long and hard trial. I will be a tough teacher, and I will expect the same commitment and effort as I would from any Jai student of the blade."] Rhuarc was bestowing on Balden a greater honour than the child would know, everyone knew the Jai were deeply protective of their culture and the secrets that they held yet here was Rhuarc willingly offering to part with the combat techniques that his people had used for as long as there had been Jai. The large Jai had come to respect Carrick in the short time that they had known each other for, he could see that the blacksmith was an honourable man, devoted to his cause and would willingly lay down his life for the Priestess. If Carrick trusted the boy then so did Rhuarc, the Jai normally had excellent instincts, they had kept him alive in the past and they had never let him down before.
The men had almost finished loading the wagon finishing up by putting a few large crates of weapons and armour in the wagon, courtesy of Carrick. Rhuarc and the Jai didn't use armour like the Caledon or the other Provinces, they fought in their own skin. It was true that not wearing armour was more dangerous, but the heavy steel that protected also slowed you down significantly. Many Jai today were alive because when they fought those in armour they could move quicker and land a killing blow before those who they were fighting knew what was happening, besides not wearing armour meant the opportunity to gain and show off scars collected in battle, there was honour in that. Strike hard and fast, like the snakes which were sacred to them. That was when Lara entered the room and Rhuarc tensed up, he had hoped that Ayab and Lara would move past their differences but it seemed like that was not going to happen just yet. Ayab stared her down as she asked him to strike her across the face, Rhuarc watched with interest as Aria told Carrick to be silent, this was for Ayab and Lara to deal with. A minute passed, and another, and another, and another and for the longest time it seemed like Ayab would disregard the High Priestess and refuse to strike her before he reluctantly lifted his left and and gave a halfhearted slap across her face. It was a weak slap by Ayab's standards, far weaker than his greeting to Rhuarc or Rhuarc's greeting to the Priestess. It was hard enough for her position as a Guardian but not an ounce of strength more, very clearly Lara did not have Ayab's respect yet. Rhuarc picked up on the intricacies of his veiled insult to the Fenlyk woman that the others might not notice, the Jai culture was still very foreign to them.
As Balden returned and informed them that a Mage was about to descend on them Rhuarc and Ayab's body language shifted in an instant, they both seemed ready to fight in an instant, their eyes alert, hands ready to draw weapons at a moment's notice. Carrick gave Ayab an instruction and the younger Jai followed it through, keeping one hand near his belt knife just in case he escorted the women into Carrick's house, under the table and into the secret room under the floor before returning just in time before the armed men entered the forge. Rhuarc stood leaning against the back wall, seemingly lazy and unconcerned at the new arrivals, in truth the way he was leaning was mostly to hide the heavy blade of black steel from the prying eyes of the Mage, he was sure the weapon would raise questions. Ayab was looking equally unconcerned, picking up the odd weapon and examining it before moving on to another, but the two Jai were listening intently at the exchange between the Mage and the blacksmith. As the Mage looked his way Rhuarc stared him in his black eyes a flutter of nervousness in his chest. The Jai had heard stories of Mages but had never encountered one personally, they were fearsome foes, in fact it was a Mage that was responsible for Elder Mandarb losing most of his left arm, it was one of the reasons that Mandarb was so resected amongst the Jai, he had managed to kill a Mage which is a task not often achieved. Rhaurc held his emotions in check as the Mage handed over what looked like a weighty coinpurse to the smith in exchange of information, the Jai wasn't sure how the encounter would end so he was analysing how best to dispatch the challenge in front of him. The soldiers would fall easily enough, they were simply men and would not be expecting the assault. His sword would be too large and unwieldy in such close quarters, better to use his knife or a few short spears quickly. The Mage would be a different challenge, and one that he didn't know what to do about, Rhuarc was sure that Ayab was also sizing up the possible adversaries.
Carrick seemed unperturbed at the ransack of the house despite the women hidden beneath and that was all that kept the two Jai in check, as the soldiers left the house one knocked into him and Rhuarc, who stood far larger than the soldier, looked down and gave a snarl at the idiot. If he could have gotten away with it he would have snapped the soldier's neck in an instant. The tense words with the mage continued for a moment before the assortment of the King's men left and all in the forge, even the Jai, exhaled a deep breath of relief. [b "That was too close. I would suggest leaving now but the abomination will surely be watching us. Leaving before morning will only raise suspicion. The Priestess must be kept safe at all costs. You did not tell us that you had dealings with the King's men, blacksmith. You ave some explaining to do."] Rhuarc was sure that the blacksmith was trustworthy but dealings with Shade-stealer's men could not be ignored, it was better to play it safe. The coin the Mage had given Carrick would serve them well on their quest, Rhuarc gave a chuckle in the irony that the money that was meant to ensure the death of the High Priestess would be used to keep her safe and bring the downfall of the False King Malik. [+red "That Mage will be troublesome, Malik and his abominations should not be underestimated. Have you had many dealings with it before?"] With the Mage taking an interest in Carrick it was becoming even more imperative for them to leave the Central City and find the last Guardian. Then the fight against Malik could truly begin.
So Rhuarc wished to help train Balden... Carrick agreed to think about it, in other words, he was going to ask if Balden wished to learn from them both. His answer had been one a true warrior would say: “I can never learn too much. I can only grow from what the Jai and you can teach me.” Such wise words for a boy so small, and he was small… they’d have to start force feeding him protein rich foods to get some muscle and weight on him. Carrick decided then, that he would cook up a large feast for them all. A Final meal of sorts, before they took off to the countryside and began their trek. Where they would be going, Carrick had no idea. He wondered if the Priestess had an idea. Not willing to bother her with questions and knowing she was with Saraya, he decided to enlist the help of Balden with supper by sending the boy with some coin to purchase hearty meats.
Meanwhile Aria held firmly to Saraya as she wept gently. She did her best to give the guardian a sense of comfort, to help ease the distress, but an unexpected symptom from her touch emerged and it was revealed with Saraya spoke again. Her Common Tongue was much improved. Fluent even. She claimed her own stubbornness killed her loved ones. Curious, Aria held Saraya out at arm’s length and looked her over.
“I do not understand, explain it to me,” Aria pleaded, and so Saraya spoke of her life, her quest for revenge, and her loss.
[i "it was my fault... I seek revenge for my family. To seek redemption for my stubbornness. The spirit speaks to me to say that it was not my fault. It is what keeps me going. If I find Malik, I will take my revenge, and live on as the spirit's vessel. If what he says is true, i may be able to love an guardian... I know not who... but, time will reveal"]
Love another guardian? Aria’s brows furrowed. The Word Guardian could be used loosely. A Guardian Host like herself, or a guardian there to protect them all… words were often coy and deceiving. She wondered how her Spirit would know such things, but she didn’t ask questions on it. Instead, she let Saraya finish her peace. She was not like most Caledon’s that Aria had met. They were generally rough –even the women. They were battle hungry clansmen who lived in revelry and told stories of the stars and the earth. Saraya was different… softer, gentler… but just as strong willed.
“Discon-ga...” Aria whispered with her, and for a quiet moment watched her move to self-comfort herself. This was all well and good, but time was of the essence and as much as Aria would have liked to mourn for her own losses, she could not, and Saraya could not cling to the past. “Now it is time to move on,” She said firmly but gently. “Learn from your past, but do not cling to it, or you will lose sight of what is ahead of you.” Aria sighed then and crossed her own arms looking about pensively. “You mentioned Caledon speaking with you, that you might find love with another guardian. I don’t suppose he spoke what type of love, or if he meant a Guardian host? They tend to refer to one another by name… how curious….” Her brow furrowed further and she gave Saraya a very pointed look. “If it is Romance you seek, I suggest setting it behind you for now, you still mourn for your loss and we have too many large fish to fry before all is said and done, and right now… we all need each other’s love and understanding,” Aria reached out with a smile, gifting Saraya a reassuring squeeze to her shoulder and turned, quietly slipping outside of the stable to give Saraya privacy.
Aria entered the forge just as Rhuarc and Ayab had returned with a mass of supplies. Carrick was busy with Rhuarc loading all the goods onto the covered wagon they would be using. They would be leaving in the morning, and Aria intended for them to start their way towards Volshi. The last guardian they needed to find was Volshiv, where better to start looking than in Volshi? She walked over to the wagon to watch the men and pulled her cloak around her shoulders, and kept her hood up. She couldn’t be too cautious here in the city.
“You seem to have thought of everything Rhuarc,” Aria said watching as Carrick raised a large sack of grain up and into the back corner of the wagon. There was plenty of food, medical supplies, cooking utensils, blankets… some of it Carrick had brought out from his house to load onto the wagon, including a large locked trunk filled with weapons and armor. “Thank you for going out and collecting all of our supplies,” She didn’t ask for any leftover coin, and instead opted to let Rhuarc keep the remaining coin. They all fell silent however as Lara came over to the four of them. Carrick and Rhuarc stood closest to the wagon. Ayab tossing supplies to Rhuarc who then tossed them up to Carrick who loaded the wagon meticulously. “Lara?” Aria questioned with a bit of nervousness. The girl was determined and marched straight over to Ayab removing her hood.
[i “Hit me,”] she commanded. Aria quirked a brow with an amused grin.
“Lara-“ Carrick tried, but Aria help up a hand to silence him.
“Peace, Carrick. She only wishes to display her own strength to the Jai.” Carrick glared, unhappy with it, but settled none the less and crossed his arms watching them both closely. “Go ahead Ayab, greet her and make amends. We cannot be successful if there is always to be bitterness betwixt you,” Aria advised.
Aria had given her blessing, and watched as Ayab struck Lara across the face, and she return the favor. With things shaky but on the mend, she was able to focus on other things.
“Priestess, I must implore you to go inside, none will see you there, you run the risk of being seen here in the forge. Go where it is safe,” Carrick said, acting the role of Guard as he had nearly 20 years ago. Aria frowned –not delighting in having to hide. This was her home… the Central City had been her home as far back as she could remember, for years she had missed running through the halls of the Sanctum, playing with other city children, or just delighting in the sounds of midday prayers and temple bells. She missed the city, but Carrick was right, she needed to hide. Balden came running into the forge then, looking winded and hugging a bundle of wrapped meats in his arms. “Balden, boy… what is it?” Carrick asked. Aria sensed fear and dread in him.
“You’ve seen something haven’t you?” Aria asked. Balden nodded his head, rushing towards her and stuffing the meats under one arm and all but pushing Aria towards the main house.
“You have to hide! You can’t be seen. He’s returned. Can’t let him find you again…” Aria frowned, and even Carrick jumped down from the wagon to calm Balden.
“Who’s here boy?”
“The Mage! The one who attacked our village and the Clans north of us in Caledon… all looking for Aria. He’s returned to the city. I saw him-“
“Did he see you?” Carrick demanded.
“No… I don’t think so, but we need to hide Aria just in case!” Carrick was forced to agree, and quickly grabbed Aria by the arm and steered her towards the house.
“Lara, come. Rhuarc find Saraya and bring her inside. I can explain your presence but not the women’s. Them I must hide, Ayab, please take them down to the cellar. Inside my home is the kitchen table, under that rug is the secret door. Lift that up, drop them in there, I must keep watch at the front of my forge. Balden, drop that food off on the counter and get back to work on that shoe. Look busy, boy!” He barked. Aria had grabbed Lara in the midst of Carrick barking orders and hurried over towards Ayab and the house. They found the trap door leading down to the cellar and as soon as Rhuarc brought Saraya to the cellar the door was closed, the rug replaced and the table reset, and all just in time before the forge door slammed open.
There were eight of them –armed guards and the one Mage. Balden and Carrick were quick at work tending to their own things. Balden hammering away at a horse shoe while Carrick continued to heat up the iron of what would be a sword.
“Wasn’t expecting the King’s men in my forge this evening,” Carrick said smoothly.
“We weren’t expecting to visit… but I just came from the Caledon and Fenlyk Border… had a nice chat with Father Rigby… you remember him… don’t you?” The Mage sneered showing off his pointed yellow and rotted teeth. Balden stopped his work and glanced around at the guards who moved about the forge like a group of children, unable to keep their grubby hands off of anything.
“How is it possible you spoke with Father Rigby… I thought he died in the fires your king set to the Temple…” The Mage never stopped his sadistic grin.
“Yes well… it seems he survived. Ran away like the coward he is… or rather… was. You see, King Malik doesn’t care much for traitors, he likes to see that they are disposed of…” The Mage’s voice trailed off as he caught Balden staring in horror, gripping his hammer tightly. “Who’s the boy?” He asked with a venomous hiss.
“Hired help, also brought on two Jai’s that entered the city yesterday. I thinking of traveling North to Caledon in the morning. Thought it wouldn’t hurt to hire an extra forge hand and some muscle for protection on the road….”
“Oh? What takes you to Caledon?”
“Trade obviously,” Carrick glared, caring less of the Mage’s tactics. Trying to get a rise out of him. “They pay good money for the swords and shields I make…” The Mage glared.
“So you admit to supplying the enemy with weapons-“
“No, I admit to being a man of trade. I don’t care what side you’re on… as long as you pay my price…” Carrick held his hand out then and the Mage gave a huff of disgust, and with a wave of his hand a coin purse appeared in Carrick’s hand. He felt the weight of it and smirked.
“A Lord of War… I can appreciate that. You deal in more than weapons… so give me your secrets…”
A Clash was heard from the house as the Mage’s men ransacked his home… this was not uncommon for Carrick, and he remained impassive by the fact the priestess and two guardians were holed up in his basement. “Don’t make too much of a mess… the Jais I hired don’t take kindly to your methods…” Carrick warned the guards in the house. They stilled their work of destruction and started back out the house reluctantly and back into the forge, one so foolish to forcefully knock Rhuarc in the shoulder while passing.
“They won’t break more of your things, now tell me what you know of Father Rigby.”
“He was the old man in charge of the High Priestesses education –rather like a surrogate guardian. I wasn’t a Temple Guard for long before King Malik. All I know is that when the raids hit, Father Rigby supposedly smuggled the wee Priestess out of the city –after that I don’t know what happened, where he went, what he did with the girl… none of it.”
“He took her… she’s alive… and I followed a trail that led me to the King’s road and back to the city. She’s here… I can smell her in the air…. She’s close…” The Mage crooned as he made his way leisurely through the forge. “There’s word that the Guardians are awakening… haven’t heard anything about that have you? I know you’ve got… friends in low places.” The Mage stopped and looked Rhuarc over suspiciously but did little else. Knowing better than to anger a Jai.
“This is the first I’m hearing it. Must have your work cut out for you... Can’t even find to catch a small woman,” Carrick smirked. Balden trembled with fear. Aria held Saraya and Lara close to her in the darkness listening to the faint voices above them and in the forge. The Mage growled with distain.
“A Shame you are leaving in the morning… I had a job in mind for you.”
“Oh? And what’s that?” Carrick asked, folding his massive arms across his chest and leaning against his work bench.
“I was going to pay you a King’s Ransom to hunt down the bitch and bring me her head,” The
Mage whipped around to face Carrick his robes fanning out around him.
“Are you so certain she’s in the city? Perhaps she’s close by where she can keep an eye on it and still get news quickly?” Carrick suggested. The Mage was perplexed –he had not thought of that.
“Go on your trip… and if you find her… you know what your King asks of you.” Carrick only nodded his head, but before the Mage could leave, Carrick whistled at him.
“Forgetting something? Your boys left damage to my home…” Carrick held his hand out once more and the Mage sneered.
“Find the Priestess and you can live like a king…” with that the door slammed shut and Balden collapsed to the floor, pale and shaky. Even Carrick slumped with his own nerves. The Gods must have been watching out, for that was the most civil meeting Carrick had ever had with the King’s Mage.
Carrick had stopped after entering the forge, and there was some sound of ruffling followed by Carrick telling Balden to get back to work. Work, three years of constant work to survive in all sorts of situations. Three years of prowling and trying to blend in as to not to be noticed by anyone else. Three years of carrying a feeling and thoughts which should have never had been formed in the first place. She had learned much in three years but other things had gone into disuse, like fishing.
Before going further with anything Carrick had sat down to her left which was followed by silence. Did he want something, or did he just sit down here for no reason?
He did want something, he was lecturing her. For her it was irritating to hear about all her faults but she knew it was necessary. This group had been formed by fate and in order for it to work they had to work together. It would be hard to gain the trust of the Jai, especially after the barn incident. She didn't know how to use this diplomacy effectively, walking around three years without being able to have debates with other people had had a serious impact on her debate skills. And when she had to use those skills in front of the Jai, they were threadbare.
Not starting fights with bigger men, really sexist and she felt angered at that. But on the other hand she didn't have much fighting experience fighting as the Jai had, for them it was a constant fight against something. She'd probably not stand a chance if she fought either one of the Jai right now. SHe did hear the small talk between Balden and Carrick and it somewhat lifted her spirits, to be more precise her feelings. The spirit inside of her hadn't been helpful so far.
She wanted to tear down the barriers of prejudice but if the other party didn't want to tear it down then it would never be teared down. Unfortuantely that would have to happen in a deadly situation, she would never be able to talk her way out of it with the Jai. They were not talkers, they were fighters. All this was bad, no unity and the group would fall apart.
Then the Jai entered the forge and had a talk with Carrick about getting supplies. She didn't turn around, better for the Jai not to notice her doing something that might add even more critizism. She did have an idea of following them but she decided not to, the Jai already thought bad of her and if they did catch her snooping around, they wouldn't think better of her.
After they had left Lara closed her eyes and felt for water in the room, which was one huge bucket of water that was used for dipping hot metal in to cool it off so it would solidify. The water wasn't smooth but was constantly vibrating and flowing somewhere, kind of like what she had been doing for the past three years. Closing her mind off to the outside world she concentrated on making the water still, the vibrations would not move it nor the air flow on the surface. It was hard and it didn't seem to be working. That was when the spirit finally said something, the voice felt like it was out of the depths. It would take practice to master this power but she was on the right way. The most Lara suceeded in doing was in calming the water down a bit.
And that was when the Jai had come back with a load of supplies. Carrick and Balden had left to help with getting the supplies onto the wagon. Lara was left alone in the forge, sitting some distance away from a hot fire. An idea suddenly came to her, an idea which the Fenlyck spirit liked not at all.
She stood up and walked over to the wagon to see the four men loading the wagon, the idea she had was strenghtened in carrying it out.m The spirit attempting to convince her not to do it but she was already moving.
Walking up to the cart she laid her staff on the cart and then walked to the Jai which was called Ayab. Unhooding herself, [+purple "Hit me."]
Saraya, after watching the young child depart, and Carrick follow, she slowly sat to the fire. The priestess then spoke to Rhuarc and Ayab of finding supplies so to depart accordingly to find the last guardian. All the while, all she could feel was a overwhelming feeling of fear. In her land, it was never acceptable to be weak.
Once the two comrades left the stable, there was a silence that grew quite contagious. Aria turned to her, and Saraya bowed quickly before adverting her eyes. Then... The Priestess spoke.
[I "For someone so young you have lost a great deal. Only three and twenty years… losing everything."] She cringed some, feeling a heavy burden in her words [i "Lara is younger still and will need us both to show her the way. I was always envious of women like you,”] As Aria blushed slightly and bowed her head to her, Saraya bowed lower, but kept her eyes adverted, so to keep from disrespecting her authority. Saraya was shocked that she admitted that she was envious of her, and didn't understand why. Why would someone as profound like her be envious of a stubborn Martyr that defied rule and order just to lose what she fought so passionately for? [I “Women who could marry and have children. Lead a normal life, fall in love… you’re aware that as High Priestess I cannot have such things. I am wife, mother, daughter & sister to all of Azera. I belong to the people. I belong to you, and Lara, and Rhuarc… and the final guardian when we find him."]
Saraya finally betrayed her order and looked to the Priestess. She felt a shocking sense of pity for her, but still couldn't bring herself to speak. [I " Saraya, I know you have suffered loss, you have been holding it in. It’s unhealthy, let it go, and let it out. None will judge you for the pain of your loss,” ]
Saraya 's lips parted slightly, readying herself to speak, when Aria tugged her into a hug... She gasped at this. A hug, from the High Priestess... As she did, Saraya heard the spirit whisper to her to hug her back... but Saraya was too shocked and terrified to do so.She slowly let her hands hug the fabric lightly, and felt a tingling sensation in her heart... Tears fell, but nothing came out but a shakey exhale. As tears fell onto her garments, she felt the power of the Priestess through her, and she froze. She heard her voice speak, but it wasn't her speaking. It was soft like a pleasent thought, and somewhat seductive to the drunken ear.
[I "Do... Do not cry for my loss, Priestess... I mourn my loss because it was my stubbornness that killed them."]
It was not her voice, but the voice that came out was soft, warm, and echoed. She shocked herself that her English had much improved, and by a simple touch of the Priestess.
[I "I seek revenge for my family... But, the fault was mine for not heeding warning and hiding. I feared losing him to the hands of Malik's troupes. I would not be able to live without at least attempting to save all that I fought so hard to claim."]
Her voice spoke fluently as she would in her mother tongue. She released her priestess and sought refuge in her own arms.
[I " i was once chosen to live the life of chastity because of the beauty I possessed. But, I chose to fight. Against many attacks of Malik's troupes, I fought side by side with men, defying law that women we're feeble creatures, and named a martyr for my bravery. Though, I've claimed that title, I still would not conform to the life of chastity. I had fallen in love with my General, and my general fell in love with me. We asked for marriage. It was accepted"]
She smiled to the memory.
[I "the day of the attack..."] her lips tighted. [I "... I feared letting him fight alone. I saved him, but... a cannon ball hit my steed, knocked me off. I saved my child, but Malik's troupes found me... hurt me... then to have Felliope die in my arms as I lost our son..."] tears welled up in her eyes as she relived her tragedy.
[I "it was my fault... I seek revenge for my family. To seek redemption for my stubbornness. The spirit speaks to me to say that it was not my fault. It is what keeps me going. If I find Malik, I will take my revenge, and live on as the spirit's vessel. If what he says is true, i may be able to love an guardian... I know not who... but, time will reveal"]
She sighed and looked to the priestess. [I "in these heartbreaking days of bloodshed and loss, since I have became a vessel for my protector, I have sometimes wished i had chosen the life of chastity... maybe I would not have this heaviness in my heart..."] Saraya nodded. [I but, the spirit chose me because of my pureness of heart and love I carried. So, I do not regret being who I am... Discon-ga]
Discon-ga... meaning 'Decision of Pure Heart'. Saraya then sighed as she curled up. Now, she was truly afraid. Against her better judgment, she revealed her weakness to the priestess. She only hoped that she could still be useful.. Suddenly, it felt as though two pairs of arms wrapped around her, both were familiar. One felt as warm and comforting as the day she had awakened as the guardian, the other... a soft, hypnotic and oh, too familiar strength in it's grip, but she fit into it just right.... a memory of laying in Felliope's arms came to mind. The both of them were trying to ease her from her fears.
She shut her eyes to the warmth and tears fell. [I Sron gima, Sron] I love you both... I love you
Rhuarc's patience was being tested by his longtime friend and travelling companion, clearly the issue between Ayab and the Wetlander Guardian Lara would not go away quickly, and nor should it in his view. [i Ahrak-Toh] was not some simple world view, it was at the heart of who the Jai were as a people. The Fenlyk had left others to fight and die while they cowered away. It was not honourable and it would take a great deal of time and effort for the Province to make up for their failings. Travelling with Lara would be difficult for Rhuarc and Ayab but it was necessary and perhaps it would be the beginning of the mending of that particular relationship. As Lara left the stable her staff whipped out and clipped Ayab on the heels, causing him to stumble. Rhuarc was in two minds, he admired the fight in the Fenlyk woman but her petty acts and childish behaviour did nothing to improve her standing in the Jai's view. She was still young by the standards of the other Provinces but not so with the Jai, there you grew up quick or you died, either by Malik's hand or by the harsh landscape. When Aria addressed his question he was pleasantly surprised by the answer he received, he had expected her to refuse claiming that she could not possibly learn the ways of any Province. While her answer did involve some degree of impartibility the end result was that the High Priestess would seek to learn and understand the ways of [i Ahrak-Toh]. [b "I thank you Priestess, you do more than you know. The other Provinces look down on us for being savages when they just don't understand."] Rhuarc returned the small bow of his head. [b "Having you understand the Jai will help the others to understand us in time. You honour us and perhaps help balance the world once more. You speak of our prejudice against the Fenlyk but we from the Wastelands live with far worse everyday from every Province. We are looked down upon and sneered at by almost everyone who is not Jai often openly to our faces and those who hide their sneers do so out of fear. I say this so you understand that we know more of prejudice than many others."]
[b "We shall see it done Priestess. Come Ayab."] Rhuarc took the coin gratefully from Aria before both Jai left the stable to find Carrick briefly before they could start gathering supplies properly. Carrick, Lara and the halfbreed Balden were in the smithy proper, with the boy working the forge. Rhuarc muttered a few quiet words to Ayab in their native tongue before entering to speak with Carrick, Ayab stood a few paces behind the larger Jai and stared at Lara with disdain, however, he did appear to be holding his tongue for now. Rhuarc told Carrick of his mission and recieved a list of names, some more coin and a medallion that would supposedly help them get all they would need to leave the Central City and start their journey. Rhuarc's view was naturally drawn to the flames of the forge and by extension the young boy working there. [b "How old are you boy?"] Rhuarc had managed to catch a few words of the conversation before he had entered the smithy and heard that Balden was to be trained in combat. As the boy answered his question, a wry smile broke upon the Jai's lips. The boy was fourteen and wasn't trained in combat? The notion seemed absurd to him. When a Jai child reached the age of ten they were sent off on a pilgrimage to the deep south of the Wastelands to an ancient temple to Jaihash and Ouk'nu in an act of devotion. The child had to hunt their food, find water and survive every peril that the Wastelands could throw at them in order to be proved worthy. To survive the journey honoured Jaihash and proved your strength, to be presented with a single knife of a foot of hardened, sharpened, tempered steel upon their return. Death during the journey was not seen as failure. It tok bravery and courage to attempt the journey and regardless the sacrifice was seen as an honour to Jaihash. This ancient practice was one of the reasons that the other Provinces looked at Jai as savage, they misunderstood the custom and saw it only as the ritualistic sacrifice of children. In light of this to hear that a man over the age of pilgrimage did not know how to fight or kill was slightly jarring. [b "Thank you for your aid Carrick, your devotion to the Priestess is most honourable. Forgive me but I overheard your intent to teach the young one to be your steward, to turn him into a true Holy Guard for the Priestess. If you wished I could help train the boy in the art of war. It is of course your decision, him being in your charge, I will respect your decision."]
Having gotten what he needed from the old blacksmith the Jai went into the crowded streets of the Central City to procure all that they would need for the journey ahead. True to the blacksmith's words most people that were on the list that Carrick had given them were happy to provide what was asked for once the medallion was shown, for free or only a few copper pieces. The hope that the High Priestess would help them was enough for most. [+red "I tell you Rhuarc, that Wetlander is as prickly as a Pypas plant. It was completely unreasonable for her to strike me, she was lucky I didn't retaliate..."] Ayab had been ranting about Lara and her lack of honour since they had left the smithy. It was amusing in a way, seeing Ayab so riled up was always entertaining but he had to be careful, she was still a Guardian after all, despite her Fenlyk nature she did still deserve a modicum of respect. [b "Your reactions were no better, yes her actions were unwarranted but she doesn't understand that what she says and does have concequences."] [+red "Well she should! When I was her age I had already been fighting Shade-stealer for three years. She is old enough to know better."] [b "Old enough by our standards. She is not Jai, they grow old slowly in the Wetlands."] The argument had been like that for a while, Ayab ranting and Rhuarc wearily defending the girl, but in truth Rhuarc agreed more with Ayab than his own words. She was old enough to know better, she might be barely an adult by Fenlyk standards but had any Jai her age acted in that manner they would have brought great shame to their name. You grew up quickly in the Wastelands or you did not grow up at all. [b "Silence your tongue, this shop looks promising."] The Jai had acquired all that they needed for the journey with the exception of a way to disguise Aria out of the city. This particular market stall looked to hold paints, dyes and other accessories for women. Unfortunately these dyes, powders and paints were not cheap and even with the medallion they would cost coin but if it was in order to save the Priestess any amount of coin would be worth it. Rhuarc had spent much of his life around trading caravans, he knew how to haggle and what was a fair price, the medallion gave them access to such materials but even friends to the Priestess' cause could not give such expensive materials away for free. Paints and dyes to change Aria's hair colour, powders to change complexion, a few trinkets thrown in for free to help in the deception still cost them several gold and silver pieces, far more than either Rhuarc or Ayab wished to pay but this was a necessity. With everything they needed in tow the two men walked through the city a few times, making sure that they weren't being followed and despite some looks from guards it appeared that they were in the clear. Returning to the stable with copious amounts of supplies, the Jai wasted no time in giving Aria her powders, dyes and paints so she could disguise herself and getting Carrick and Balden so the three men and the boy could load the wagon and make a quick getaway. Rhuarc idly wondered what the last Guardian would be like, soft and quiet like Saraya? Young and petulant like Lara? Perhaps battle worn and hardy like himself, Azeroth knew they could do with more soldiers, soon enough they would find out.
Rhuarc struck back with a great force in the Jai manner, it stung the skin of her cheek and it made her eyes water, but she blinked past it and grinned at him. She could taste the faint traces of blood in her mouth, but cared little for it as he promised to follow her if she was indeed the High Priestess. Oh she could assure him that she was, but there was no need for that –they either believed her or they didn’t. Rhuarc had a serious question though, and as he addressed her with the severity of his request Aria listened intently.
[b “I respect what you stand for but the Jai could only follow one who follows Ahrak-Toh. Forgive me for asking Priestess but would you be willing to learn our ways? It would be seen as a symbol of great respect for our ways if you would be willing to learn. You wouldn't need to adopt them in your everyday life but if you understood our ways it would mean a lot to us."] Aria contemplated her answer. She was not Jai, it was not within her to be like the Jai –she was first and foremost the High Priestess a servant of all the Provinces and all the people. She held neither province nor their beliefs above any of the others. She learned of them and studied their more basic beliefs, but she did not know the complexities only someone who grew up in that culture would know. Before she could speak, however, Ayab barked his anger towards Lara.
They seemed unable to get past their own issues, but Lara seemed to take the high road; remaining quiet and leaving the stables… at least it was the high road until she struck out at Ayab’s ankles with her staff and caused him to wobble on his feet.
“Let her go,” Aria suggested. “I shall speak to her later. Her attack was unnecessary, but neither were your words, neither of you have each other’s life story. Neither of you know one another –the anger is not needed or wanted at this time,” She told them.
[b "Peace, Ayab."] Rhuarc barked at his companion.
“I will go check on Lara,” Carrick said and with a gruff, tromped with his heavy feet out of the stable and back to the forge.
“Thank you Carrick,” Aria watched him leave before she looked over to Rhuarc. “I will do my best to learn your ways, I must have you understand that I have to respect every province and their culture. I cannot hold one above the other, but it would honor me if you would teach me the ways,” Aria informed him with a subtle bow of her head.
It took Aria a moment to realize it was only herself, Rhuarc and Ayab still in the stables, as Saraya had slipped away to self-comfort. Aria felt the mourning in Saraya’s heart, and her own cried out for her loss. All of them had lost a great deal because of Malik. By the Holy Wings of Azeroth, she would get them vengeance. Rhuarch’s last words caught Aria’s attention from the feeling of disquiet she was feeling from Saraya. He spoke of the last guardian, and how time was of the essence. No truer words had been spoken. Time [i was] of the essence and they had very little of it.
“You are right, my friend. We must begin our preparations to leave… and I cannot stay here. Every day I am here, is a day Malik could discover me and kill me where I stand. I will need your help gathering supplies. I cannot leave this stable. It will raise no suspicion if two Jai’s are in the city purchasing food and water and traveling gear. No one will question you, and Carrick will tell you where to go where you will not be discriminated. He had connections in this city with people of the old ways of Azeroth. Heed his advice, and be safe. I trust your judgement to ensure we will have all the supplies we will need when we leave. We will be a small troupe… and I need a disguise or I will have to be smuggled out, and I’d rather not go the way I came,” she said remembered the sludge and the filth she had to swim through just to get into the city.
Aria bid Rhuarc and Ayab luck on their mission to gather supplies and a wagon, she gave them all the coin she had and waited until they were gone before she turned around to confront Saraya. She watched the young woman for a moment and finally smiled.
“For someone so young you have lost a great deal. Only three and twenty years… losing everything. Lara is younger still and will need us both to show her the way. I was always envious of women like you,” Aria blushed slightly and bowed her head. Saraya was the closest to her age, and experienced enough to understand Aria, who at nearly 30 was considered an old maid. “Women who could marry and have children. Lead a normal life, fall in love… you’re aware that as High Priestess I cannot have such things. I am wife, mother, daughter & sister to all of Azera. I belong to the people. I belong to you, and Lara, and Rhuarc… and the final guardian when we find him. Saraya, I know you have suffered loss, you have been holding it in. It’s unhealthy, let it go, and let it out. None will judge you for the pain of your loss,” and with those words Aria pulled Saraya into her arms and held her tightly, allowing the woman to finally release all her pain and her tears.
Carrick entered his forge, Balden working the fires trying to prove his mettle. The boy was good, well trained, and had a wealth of potential. He was a faithful and loyal young man –Carrick would find a way to help the lad and find him a home, but at the current moment he wanted to check on the second youngest of the group: Lara. She was a tiny little thing, but boy was she spunky, brash and foolishly brave. It took all he had to stifle his grin and chuckle when she swatted her staff at Ayab. Yes, foolishly brave indeed. Ayab was at least three times her size and weight. She caught him looking at her, and he gave a wan smile to her and to Balden who slowed his work and looked at him curiously.
“Keep working that shoe, I will check your work soon enough, boy,” he told the lad and made his way over to Lara and sat down beside her. For a moment he was quiet and looked down at her hands clasped tightly around her staff. “You know... it is not wise to anger a Jai like that. It’s foolish… but I found it very brave of you.” He offered up a grin when she finally looked at him. “I don’t know your story, where you come from, how you got here, the things you’ve seen… but I know you’ve got pride. You’re in the Central City now, and soon you will be traveling with the equivalent of Holy Royalty. I intend to travel with you. You must learn tact, when to attack, when not to, when to speak and how to say it… Diplomacy. You are the youngest, so far of her guards, she will want to protect you most. Do not make the job more difficult by starting fights with bigger men,” he could see the anger rising in her from his inherently sexist comment, but he chuckled it off and raised a placating hand. “Once you’ve proven at least to me, that you can take down a man my size or larger –like the Jai… then I’ll know you are capable of holding your own, until then, I will guard your back just as I will guard the Priestess.”
“What about me?” Balden asked from his place.
“You boy, you’re my new steward. I will train you to be a true Guard for the Priestess... Both of you,” He said looking to them both. “I am getting old, and a man my age has limited time left in this world.” He gave Lara a pointed look. “We must learn to work together and past our differences. Do not think I will not speak with Ayab on the same things. He too will have to learn to look past his prejudice.”
“Because she’s Fenylk,” Balden said, more of a statement than a question.
“Yes,” Carrick said with a heavy sigh. “Malik’s reign has caused distrust among the people of the Four Provinces. Where once we all lived in harmony, we now hold caution with those different from us. The Volshiv have gone into hiding, the Fenlyk bowed to the tyrant, the Caledon rebel in small numbers but for the most part live in fear and stay far to the north, and the Jai wage war against Malik to this very day. There was once a time the Central City was a place of commerce and trade, of community and a symbol of unity among the four provinces. It belonged to no man and was governed by all, but was overseen by the High Priestess, the voice of Azeroth himself. When Malik came, he brought with him war, greed, sin, discord and distrust. The more you give into prejudice and anger… the more you allow Malik to win,” He warned, his tone grave.
It was then the two Jai entered the forge looking for Carrick with word of the Priestess’ orders. Find Supplies. Carrick knew of several places they could go and find all they would need for little to no coin. Those faithful would give freely for the Priestess. All Carrick would have to do would be to send them with his crest as a former member of the Holy Guard. He told them where to go, who to speak to, and gave them the crest he carried with him always. “Keep this hidden, speak only to those I have listed,” he warned them both. “Tell them I sent you on behalf of our Lady, and then show them the medallion. They will help you. I have a wagon and I have horses, we can use them for transport. Best of luck my friends,” He watched them go on their way, his eyes firmly on Ayab watching to see that he left without qualm, while keeping Lara behind him where she could not instigate his prejudice further.
After she had expressed herself Lara immediately knew she had gone too far with the snake comment, the rage had made her forget the Abdu'Jai lore. The Jai who seemed as if he were the follower of the other Jai had pulled out a knife and was about to attack her. She would have welcomed that because it would've been a good chance to show them what sort of fighter she was. Unfortunately the Jai in command of the little two man squad stopped the second Jai in his own language. After a bunch of back and forth arguing, the second Jai had angrily exclaimed, [+red "She has [i Toh]] before sheathing his knife, but Lara could still see the hand near the knife.
The next thing that happened, well it was a very fashionable way of greeting someone in Abdu'Jai. Walking up to someone and punching them and then they returning the favor happily. Lara had relaxed her stance somewhat but not fully, like the second Jai. After that the conversation became more civilized with the Jai commander trying to propose a deal basically, even though it might not seem as such to the priestess.
The other Jai just didn't know how to drop problems, unfortunately he was right and she knew he was right, but in circumstances like these forgiveness was needed. His words, [+red ""I don't care if you are a Guardian. You have [i Toh] towards us all. Do you think because your parents were killed that makes you special? You saw that and you ran. We who fight him see that everyday, and we still fight. That is the reality of the world. We fight, people we love die and we still fight. You ran. You have [i Toh]."] Internally it infuriated her but she could do nothing in face of the hard but true truth.
She had missed what had happened between the priestess and the other women because of her keeping her focus on the nomadic guy who just couldn't let things rest. The other women appeared from behind her and stood, but it was a position of neutrality. She needed a step back away from all this and calm herself down.
She walked towards the door of the stables, her staff in her left hand but showing no signs of malicious intent. Once she had walked past the Jai who had shown his rage by yelling at her she quickly, as a snake, whipped her staff at the heels to make the Jai fall back. She did not care what the Jai actually did, Lara just walked herself out of the stables and into the smithy.
There she sat down on one of the benches near the fire, put her hood back up, closed her eyes and began to think. She started humming a song, a song without words. It was always sung by two females and there were many songs praising all sorts of water. This one praised the calm and pristine lakes. The Fenlyck Guardian joined in as the second singer. It was a beautiful sounding duet inside her head, and the tattoo on her neck began to act up again. But unlike last time, this time it was a warm and pleasant feeling, one of warmth and safety and security.
Once she was done Lara noticed that Carryck had come in and was looking with what appeared to be slight concern. Lara quickly turned her head back towards the fire and knelt her head.
The young woman leaned her back against the wall, before seeing water flashed past her and out of the shock of it, her hands rose, and formed a incantation glyph that she once knew as a child. She did not know why she had done it. In all honesty, she thought she had embarrassed herself once again. But, when she opened her eyes, there was a gust of air that surrounded her form. She gasped some and sighed. [I Force field that is special...] the spirit said.
The vibrations of the air shook her. She slowly allowed the force field to subside before a pair of eyes was felt on her form. A shocked face appeared as quickly as the field dispersed, and saw that she was the Priestess. She bowed her head quickly in the knowing before raising her head, and what was seen was the young child face to face with her. [I "Malik took something very precious from you..."]
Though she wanted to jerk away, she didn't. She couldn't even bring herself to speak. The child scouted her eyes, then her form. Saraya said nothing, but allowed the child to do so, until...
As The Priestess' eyes neared her downfall, Saraya's memory of the war had resurfaced, and what she could remember was [b [i her husband's scream, his eyes wide with impenetrable fear... A cannon flying past her, and she screamed as she tried to race over to save him... An unexpecting cannon hitting her steed, then darkness... Smokey atmosphere, hearing her laboured breathing... the enemy's henchman approaching her, and worsened her condition with a simple act of step... his unforgettable laughter as his abuse worsened... then another calls for retreat... opening her eyes ever so slightly due to pain to see blood staining her once elegant white gown... then the sky... dark of the smoke that tainted the air... hearing a fighting grunt of pain... to a laboured scream into the dark atmosphere... to waking up, a puddle of blood in her gown, and her love limping to her for his final rest...]]
Tears fell when the child's gasp sounded. Saraya looked to where she was staring so shockingly to... Her belly, somewhat swollen from lack of rest and unattended care. She looked to the child in worry, but the child seemed to be fighting back tears of her own. [I "That which is most precious... that act can not be forgiven, if you can learn to work with us... you will have your vengeance and Justice will be served"]
Hearing the young Priestess mourn her loss made her feel tragicly insufficient. Her head turned away as the Priestess adverted her attention to Rhuarc. Tears freely raced down her cheeks, feeling the pain in her heart rise. The men standing around in the stable could now view her as a weakling because of her stubbornness. That was never her intention.
Quickly, she wiped away her tears, remaining silent as she cleared her sinuses silently.She stared before the young Priestess had smiled to her and Rhuarc. [I "I have been training my whole life to find you all, all that is left is the Volshiv guardian... we will not find them here. I can not force you to accept the truths I have told you all, and I can not force you to help me restore balance to Azera... but I can ask you to follow me, help me bring back the peace we knew as small children, ask you to help me restore the world our forefathers died trying to protect. I ask you to help me finish what they started... and to win our homes back."]
Win their homes back. She stared silently, the pain in her eyes and heart lingering from the thought. To be the one responsible for the return of her homeland was a prideful feeling, one she avoided too well.
Ayab, Rhuarc's partner in this voyage, seemed to have words to say to Lara, and upon speaking them, Rhuarc calmed him. Carrick stared at the quiet woman before the two, and then the young Priestess. Saraya made an effort to stand on her barefeet, and once she did, she could only walk past the group, to a wall of hay, where she hid for a time.
For the first time, she let the pain in her heart release. Tears, and cries of dispair filled the bails, trying not to cause alarm to the others. Her burden had always been her stubbornness. She hated that it costed her her family. There, she refused to release it to others, for it only shown weakness and frailty to others that were stronger. She had to be strong on this voyage, but the weakness in her wanted to be released now. So, she lain her head on one of the bails, tears flowing like the River Nine, and a spirit whispering in her ear with powerful softness.
Hearing Rhuarc speak of finding the last guardian, and Saraya sat up quickly, wiping away tears and stood. Her eyes still shown pain, but it couldn't be helped. She had held it in for over a fortnight and it was better to release now than during the voyage. She revealed herself from the bails, standing near the dim fire with Lara, but being sure not to offend anyone, she kept a respectable distance from everyone.
The atmosphere inside the stable had become more tense, that much was obvious. The Fenlyk guardian would cause Ayab and Rhuarc issues simply by being who she was, that was unavoidable. To be Jai was to follow [i Ahrak-Toh] and to have failed that system of honour and obligation was a serious transgression to the Jai. Lara defended herself and Rhuarc liked seeing that, it meant that she had passion and fight in her. She had an inner fire and Rhuarc didn't just like that, he respected it as well. There was a fine line between standing your ground, showing having an inner fire and insulting a Jai. Lara crossed that line with her comments surrounding the snakes. Serpents were sacred in the Wastelands, The Jai worshipped Jaihash and the great fire deity Ouk'nu. Her comments about sticking snakes in their arms like some sort of drug was blasphemous and just about as insulting as possible to any Jai. Both men were furious and Ayab went as far as to draw his belt knife and bare the foot of hard, tempered, sharpened steel towards the Fenlyk woman, he likely would have drawn blood if Rhuarc had not barked at him in the harsh guttural tongue of their homeland. Rhuarc was also furious at just how Lara was speaking, she had no respect and in his eyes was accumulating an even bigger debt of [i Toh] not only to the Provinces but to himself and Ayab. The discussion was quick and furious, harsh words being spoken by both Jai, but eventually Ayab sheathed his knife giving Lara a cold, hard stare of rage. [+red "She has [i Toh]"], was the only comment that Ayab made towards Lara, and while his belt knife had been sheathed his hand rested near the weapon, seemingly prepared to draw it in an instant.
[b "Apologies I meant no disrespect to you, Priestess."] Rhuarc didn't have any definitive proof that what Carrick said was true, that this really was the true High Priestess of Azeroth but she had a presence to her, her voice were weighted with authority and power. [b "You honour me, Priestess."] As she spoke Rhuarc felt warmth flood his body again, seemingly in response to her comment regarding him burning with the fire of his ancestors and of Jaihash himself. It was strange to hear the Great Serpent referred to as a pet, his people worshipped Ouk'nu but the way that Aria spoke held no disrespect. How could what she said be true, him a Guardian? It was almost too laughable to think about but it would make sense. Elder Mandarb had studied the Old Ways for his entire life, and he had sent them to this city now to find a way to defeat Shade-stealer and now they find the High Priestess of Azeroth, the one person in all the land who could put an end to Malik and now he was finding out he was supposedly a Guardian as well. It beggared belief. Not only that but it seemed like the Caledon girl that he had met outside the blacksmith's was also a Guardian as well as the Fenlyk girl, much as he disdained her.
The punch to his jaw was stronger than he would have expected from someone her size and while it wasn't the strongest that he had ever received it was a formidable effort. Rhuarc's head snapped back as Aria greeted him in the Jai custom and a smile broke upon his face, Ayab looked pleasantly surprised at the action as well. Rhuarc responded in kind, giving a hard slap across the High Priestess' face, almost as hard as he could, certainly hard enough to draw blood. This was one of the most respected figures in all of Azeroth, one that followers of the old ways should trust. He needed to show her his strength and the level of his respect for her. She was not commanding them, as was her right as High Priestess, she was asking for their trust, she was asking them to follow her. The Jai followed strength and valour and honour. If Aria could display those qualities then Rhuarc and Ayab would follow. [b "We follow [i Ahrak-Toh], we are loyal to the old ways and if you are the High Priestess we will follow. He will help you defeat Shade-stealer and restore balance to the Four Provinces."] Rhuarc thought about what he was committing to and he knew what he was in for, miles of endless travelling, well that was no issue for the Jai, he was a nomad after all. There would be risk and danger as well, fighting Malik and his forces, but he would likely have been fighting the False King back in the Wastelands as well. Travelling with the High Priestess and fighting for her seemed to be perfect for him, he was suited to the task but there was one issue that he could not get out of his mind.
[b "Priestess, there is one more thing that I wish to say. You know my people, we are proud in our ways. When others forgot, we remembered. We live our lives honourably, we live by [i Ahrak-Toh], as they should be..."] Rhuarc very obviously didn't look at Lara as he spoke [b "...I am sure you are an honourable woman. I respect what you stand for but the Jai could only follow one who follows [i Ahrak-Toh]. Forgive me for asking Priestess but would you be willing to learn our ways? It would be seen as a symbol of great respect for our ways if you would be willing to learn. You wouldn't need to adopt them in your everyday life but if you understood our ways it would mean a lot to us."] Rhuarc wasn't sure if he used the right words to convey his feelings, if the High Priestess wanted to take down Malik she would need more than just the Guardians, she would need an army. The Jai would be fierce fighters but they would only follow one who knew [iAhrak-Toh], if Aria did this she would get an army. Ayab meanwhile, was still not over Lara's disrespect [+red "I don't care if you are a Guardian. You have [i Toh] towards us all. Do you think because your parents were killed that makes you special? You saw that and you ran. We who fight him see that everyday, and we still fight. That is the reality of the world. We fight, people we love die and we still fight. You ran. You have [i Toh]."] [b "Peace, Ayab."] The larger Jai barked at his companion, he didn't like Lara but the Priestess wanted them to move on, maybe in time they could both do that. [b "If you say we still have one Guardian to find, let us find them now. We must not waste time, the longer we stay in the city, the greater the chance that Shade-stealer will find us. Let us leave and start his downfall."]
Aria sat in stony silence within the dimness of the stable. Light filtered in through small open windows, and cracks between the wooden boards that built the structure. She seemed to be watching the tiny motes of dust move through the air that sunlight streamed through, but upon closer inspection one would notice the vacant almost entranced expression on her face. Aria's mind was elsewhere. She sensed other guardians. Two more, and they were close. She felt the brands on her back like fire... they were burning and itching for her to move and find them. But a greater, stronger part within her forced her to stay still, to wait... for they would be coming to her. She searched the Knowing for names and like whispers on the wind she heard Rhuarc and Saraya. One Jai... one Caledon.
[i Patience.... patience... they near...]
The voice whispered through her mind, compelling her to stay seated and chuckling at her desire to rush out the stable and find them herself. She was forced to wait the better half of the day, and it wasn't until Carrick came to the stables doors did Aria finally blink out of her trance and looked at the doors.
"Carrick is here -he is not alone," Aria whispered to Lara. No sooner had the words left her lips did Carrick push the heavy doors open and allowed two large and intimidating men to enter the stable, along with a very small petite woman. Two Jais... one Caledon. Aria had not sensed the other Jai.
Aria rose to her feet and moved to greet them all, but the Jai who burned of Ok'nu's fire spoke, his tone condescending and clearly irritating to both Carrick and Lara who was quick to jump and defend herself. The moisture in the air seemed to vibrate as Lara called on her own strengths, but Aria could not let them fight -not here, and hopefully not ever. Lara was right to defend her own honor, but the Jai was justified in his thinking. Aria set a gentle hand to Lara's shoulder and gifted her a matronly smile.
"Peace and be still," She said looking towards the Jai, though she spoke to all. For as gentle and light as her voice was -it carried a great deal of weight a severity.
"This is no simple woman," Carrick warned Rhuarc. "This is the High Priestess of Azeroth. If anyone can help you -it's her, do not insult her again while you stand on my land," Carrick warned, but did not make any advancement of threat.
"Thank you Carrick, your devotion is admirable. What he says is true, I am the High Priestess, your chosen leader by the hand of Azeroth himself. You burn with the fire of your Jai Ancestors and that of Jaihash. I know what you're thinking: You worship Ok'nu... he was only a servant of Jaihash -a pet... you are the host of The Fire God. You are a guardian, as are you Saraya,"
Aria grinned at the way Saraya tried to hide her shock, but approached her cautiously -seeing and sensing fear and doubt among the group. "Malik took something very precious from you..." She breathed reaching out and collecting Saraya's chin in her hand. Her eyes traveled all over Saraya until it landed on her belly, still slightly swollen, but barren. Aria gasped as the knowing struck her. Her eyes welling with unshed tears. "That which is most precious... that act can not be forgiven, if you can learn to work with us... you will have your vengeance and Justice will be served." Aria's head whipped back around to look at Rhuarc and she eyed him with sternness and severity, knowing that to remain docile and gentle would get her no where with a race that glorified strength and valor. She flung out and punched him right in the jaw. She struck harder than she looked like she might, but having struck with all her might she bit back a whimper of pain in her knuckles, shaking out her hand. "I welcome you as a friend -your earlier comments are forgiven, but you must also learn to work with us. Lara is the guardian of Fenlyk, and you can not blame her for the choices of her society as a whole. Like you, she is only trying to survive in this world."
"How do you know they are Guardians?" Carrick finally asked. Aria just smiled at Saraya and Rhuarc.
"I have been training my whole life to find you all, all that is left is the Volshiv guardian... we will not find them here. I can not force you to accept the truths I have told you all, and I can not force you to help me restore balance to Azera... but I can ask you to follow me, help me bring back the peace we knew as small children, ask you to help me restore the world our forefathers died trying to protect. I ask you to help me finish what they started... and to win our homes back."
All posts are either in parody or to be taken as literature. This is a roleplay site. Sexual content is forbidden.