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Adimar watched and assisted Rhuarc in the interrogations and he was pleased with their new findings from the two they had captured. They confirmed they were sent by Malik, though neither of them actually saw or spoke to him, but rather a figure known as The Fade. Adimar had not heard that name before, and the Volshiv govt and Military prided itself recently on the amount of Intel they had on Malik, but this was news. All of them were targets it seemed, and that certainly changed things. They learned they were sent to spy on the Volshiv, and while they weren’t ordered to attack any of them, they had been given permission to attack if an opportunity presented itself. It had, and now they would pay the price.
[b "Kill them, place their heads on pikes and hang the bodies from the city walls as a warning. Let it be known that the Guardians and the High Priestess will not be threatened."] Rhuarc had said when it was all said and done. Adimar nodded, but an even better idea struck him.
“I like you’re thinking, By Volshiv law they should be beheaded for spying, but… perhaps in this case we can find an alternative. We’ll set them on a stake right at the border where we know Malik’s men like to sneak across. They shall be burned and left as vulture feed, a warning to any who enter this country who mean to do it or its inhabitants harm,” Adimar suggested. Having compromised, they both left the Jail and started towards the Infirmary to check on the others. Adimar answered Rhuarc’s questions about magic, and explained that he had been taught by an Arcane Master who served the Sky Lord, the ruler of Volshiv. He informed Rhuarc that all the guardians possed a basic power of their element, and he’d be more than willing to help Rhuarc learn to strengthen, what Adimar called, Arcane Muscles. The topic as they walked leisurely moved toward the steel staff Adimar carried and the blade that crested it. Adimar was delighted to inform Rhuarc that it was a family heirloom and made of Volshi Steel. Then he complimented Rhuarc on the color and shine of his own blade. Then men were clearly warriors, and perhaps even more shocking was how much they had in common. Adimar felt confident he had made at least one friend among the Guardians.
The infirmary was quiet when they made it there and they found a half asleep Carrick sitting up in his chair, head bowed and arms crossed. At the threshold, Adimar stayed back and watched the two men interact. The firm slap of flesh had Carrick startling awake and he looked up to see Rhuarc had arrived… covered in blood.
“Shit, brother… you look like hell,” Carrick teased. They both did, but on different levels. “Doc says Saraya will live, but he wants to keep her for observation, and as for Lara, she used too much power and is sleeping it off,” They chatted further and Carrick agreed with Rhuarc’s decision that all of them travel in pairs, and bid the man farewell. Adimar looked at Carrick and Carrick stared back. “Thanks for the help,” Carrick finally said. Adimar nodded his head and entered further to look over Lara.
“Thanks is not necessary. I’m glad to hear, the Lady Saraya will survive and recover… is she uhh…” Adimar looked her sleeping form over, appraisingly and smirked, “You know… taken?” Carrick’s jaw muscle ticked in irritation, but he shook his head.
“I know she was married, but he was killed,”
“Damn shame…” Adimar muttered. “Probably still pines for her lost love… I’d be willing to distract her if you know what I mean,” Adimar chuckled, but Carrick was having none of it and it caused Adimar’s laugh to die in his throat.
“She’s not a whore. You don’t get to make comments like that. I don’t care who or what you are, you won’t disrespect her, Lara, or the Priestess with your perverted comments. If you have no other reason to be here, you should leave,” Adimar was resigned to do as Carrick said until they heard a noise and saw that Lara was coming awake. Adimar lingered and made his way to her bedside and was there to smile at her when she came awake. “Baba Mouske,” he greeted in his language. “It means Little Mouse,” he told her, and ignoring the irritated scowl of Carrick’s. “I heard you awoke your Arcane magics, congratulations, your quick action helped save Lady Saraya,” he told her with a warm grin, and held out his hand to help her sit up.
“Trapped! I’m a prisoner in my own room!” She shouted loud enough to know that Ayab and Max would hear her through the door. She’d woken up at dawn wanting to leave the room, and even with sunshine they denied her. When breakfast had been brought to her along with a new outfit for her, Adimar’s man, Max tasted her food and drink before letting it be brought to her. It didn’t matter, she found she did not have the appetite to eat and instead spent the majority of her morning pacing circles in her room and constantly looking out her window. When Balden arrived with news, the door was kept open by Max and Ayab who refused to let even Balden be in a room alone with her.
“You’re not a Prisoner, Ms. Aria,” Balden tried to tell her.
“Well I certainly feel like one,” She grumbled. News of Saraya’s attack had left Aria slightly shaken, but she was more furious she could not go and see to either Saraya or Lara.
“You have to be protected, you’re the High Priestess, and you’re the only one who can rebuild all that Malik has destroyed. You’re the only one all the provinces will rally behind and follow,” Aria pouted as she stared out the window once more, her brow furrowed in thought. Damnit, but he was right.
“Without the Guardians we don’t stand a chance of accomplishing anything,” She grumbled darkly. Balden sat there with a small grin. He could see her frustration and her exhaustion evident in her body language, but there was strength as she held her head high and did her best to exude confidence and strength.
“And I don’t think the Guardians will be able to accomplish anything if something happens to you, they lose their leader. Everyone does. Ms. Aria, I know you don’t think it, but I think Azera will finally know Peace again once you take back the Septum.” Aria said nothing, Balden’s words echoed Carrick’s, but Carrick was a soldier and would follow her orders… Balden was not.
The door opened fully, but Aria didn’t bother to turn and see, figuring it was Ayab or Max, but Balden’s gasp and murmured curse had her turning around. What she saw made her eyes go wide like saucers and her jaw slacken.
“Rhuarc… you’re covered in blood!” She went to grab a damp cloth from the wash basin, but Rhuarc’s words stopped her. He’d been interrogating the attacker, it wasn't his blood. It gave Aria pause and she looked at him differently then she ever had before. From the looks of all the blood, it looked like he had beat the ever loving shit out of him instead. Malik was behind the attacks, but now there was a new figure to content with other than the Mage… someone called The Fade. It wasn't like they needed more on their plate, but at least the girls would be alright. At that both Aria and Balden let out sighs of relief. “Thank you, Rhuarc,” Aria breathed, relieved to know Saraya was not critical.
[b "I have suggested to Carrick that given the circumstances of the attack, Saraya being alone that none of us should be left on our own in the city, least of all you, Priestess."] Aria dropped her head then, hiding the frown on her face, the furrow of her brow in frustration. She was beginning to feel more and more helpless. She couldn't fight, which made her a liability... and it meant she was clearly to be restricted, but Rhuarc had a point. It was dangerous to walk alone, Spies could still be about, including the Fade, so in pairs they would travel from then on. Rhuarc mentioned Adimar and their staying in Tanaka, and as usual he was right. They couldn't stay, and they'd accomplish nothing from here. [b "Think on that..."] he had told her. Aria finally looked up at him and met his gaze.
"Your advice is always welcomed, Rhuarc, and I find that more often then naught, I am in agreement with you... You're right, I need to think about our next steps. Thank you for your council," Aria said and turned for the window to look out upon the lively city, and longing to be among the people.
[b "Balden, don't think that tonight's excitement excludes you from your swordsmanship lessons. Keep working. on them."] Balden had jumped at the sound of his name, not expecting Rhuarc to speak to him, but when he did Balden jumped to his feet.
"Yes Sir! If last night has taught me anything, it's that I need more practice," Balden said with a grin. Rhuarc seemed to appreciate Balden's excitement when it came to training, and took the moment to make his goodbye and excused himself from the room. Balden followed promptly after, and Aria was once again alone.
She remained at the window, unmoving as she watched the city and let her mind work out their situation. She might have had the look of cool contemplation upon her face, but inside she felt tormented and useless. She couldn't bring herself to smile, or even enjoy the view, nor the lovely dress she wore, the food she'd been given to eat, or the finery of her room. She did look the image of a princess, and the dress that had been given to her fit like a glove of sapphire fabric, but it was form fitting, and not the gossamer flowing silks she would be wearing if she was back in the septum. The dress was designed for warmth, and it served that purpose against the chilly wind that blew in through her window.
Aria would by lying if she said she wasn't lonely. For the whole of her life, she was basically prohibited from leaving Elder Rigby's sight, from socializing, from making friends... from being a child, from being a woman. Her position as High Priestess had enough restrictions as it was, Malik had stolen more than her Septum, he had stolen her childhood, and her home. Now he had sent someone to attack the first people in her life she felt she could call her friends, and Saraya was definitely one of them. She felt anger, she wanted revenge, she wanted to take back what was rightfully hers! She wanted to protect the Guardians, help them achieve their destinies. She knew her mind should have been on more pertinent things like what they would do next, where they would go, but her mind remained clouded. Aria knew first and foremost she had to gather a following, and not just the Volshiv. Then she was going to need an army to march on Central city and take it back. Perhaps Balden was right, perhaps she was the only one who could bring the Provinces together and take down Malik... then again... maybe she wasn't. She was doubting herself and her own abilities. It wasn't like she had asked to be the High Priestess, but here she was, and she would preform her role to the best of her abilities.
First things first, she was going outside, she would meet people... and no one was going to stop her. Not even Ayab. She opened to door and sure enough both Max and Ayab were still standing there. She tensed the slightest out of nervousness, but looked dead ahead and walked out of the room past them both. "I'm going for a walk... I refuse to stay locked up in that room on a day like today. If I hide I am only giving into Malik's games and I refuse to let him cajole any of us into fear,"
"Bravo, m'lady," Max murmured with a smirk while he chewed on a toothpic. "Then we will follow you," Max said with a bow of his head. "Where shall you like to go?"
"The Infirmary, I wish to see Saraya and Lara," ARia said confidently, hiding her insecurities deep within her. Max was the first to step away from the door and started down the hall. Aria looked to Ayab, with a silent plea to please follow her before turning and following Max.
Rhuarc searched the city with Adimar and his men, he was impressed at such a thorough job being done, no stone was left unturned and no establishment escaped the notice of those searching the city. It wasn't just soldiers searching the city either, once rumour spread the common folk wished to help in anyway they could and Rhuarc was not about to turn any away. After a while they had their success, a second suspect had been found but that was not the most interesting thing to happen during the search; Adimar revealed some of his powers as a guardian. Being able to see through the eyes of birds...incredible, although he had noticed some similarities with one of his own abilities on the rad traveling to Tanaka. Every night as he set up camp he let his mind wander and he could feel the presence of any serpents nearby. He couldn't see through their eyes as Adimar could with his ability but they did sometimes communicate with the Jai, not so much in words but base emotions and pictures, it had helped avoid a few minor bandit camps along the road but seeing what Adimar could do was something else entirely. Rhuarc was impressed and there could be absolutely no doubt, Adimar was the Volshiv Guardian. Adimar revealed that there was a third suspect waiting with means to make escape just outside the city gates and with a swift order men were dispatched to bring him in. [b "That is an impressive skill Adimar, you must be a powerful mage to be able to do such things. You are right we need answers and an interrogation is the perfect way to get them but i'll need a few things first..."]
Adimar led the way to the jail cells and one of his men picked up the things that Rhuarc had asked for soon enough the interrogation was ready to begin. The prison cells were small and cramped, just what this scum deserved, a wooden table had been moved in and on them rested the metal instruments that Rhuarc had requested. [b "You have answers that we want and one way or the other i will get them. Make no mistake about that."] Over the course of the next few hours Rhuarc asked his questions, aided by strategic cuts, removing fingers, flaying skin, pulling teeth and fingernails out also aiding his torture was the new additions of his own pyrokenisis and coupling the blades with searing heat made the torture even more effective. The questions were many: who do you work for? How many planned the attack? Where were they heading after the attack? Did they target Saraya specifically or would they target any guardian? Was the target even a guardian or was it the High Priestess? Some answers were obvious, this assailant worked for Malik but had no direct contact with "The True and Glorious King" as this lowlife claimed. They weren't receiving orders from the Mage either, apparently they were directly commanded by a figure known as "The Fade". Rhuarc let Adimar ask any questions he had and after the two men had tortured the second captive they had in order to corroborate their story Rhuarc saw no need to keep them alive. [b "Kill them, place their heads on pikes and hang the bodies from the city walls as a warning. Let it be known that the Guardians and the High Priestess will not be threatened."] As long as Rhuarc drew breath he would protect Aria and the other Guardians.
By the time that Rhuarc and Adimar left the cells, the Jai still covered in much of the assailants blood, the morning had well and truly begun, the sun rising in the sky steadily. The Jai's first point of call was to the Infirmary, the Volshiv Guardian led the way. [b "Aside from your Eagle's Eye, what else can you do Adimar? I'm afraid i'm not particularly versed in the Arcane."] The two men talked to pass the time on the way to the nfirmary, the two men it seemed had much in common, Adimar was a soldier as was Rhuarc and while the Volshiv didn't have a blade like the Jai Guardian it was still an impressive weapon. [b "That is some fine steel you have there, is there a tale to that blade? I know my own weapon has an interesting history, what I know of it at least."] Rhuarc spoke of the legend of the black steel and how there was supposedly a twin blade out in the world somewhere, Rhuarc would like to find it someday. Before he knew it he was standing in the infirmary with Lara, Saraya and Carrick. The Jai clasped Carrick's arm in greeting, [b "Ho Carrick. What has the physician said?"] Carrick relayed the information Rhuarc gave a silent nod, to his mind Saraya would be fine, it was in the hands of the Gods now surely they would not allow a Guardian of their own to fall in such a way and Lara was in no danger. [b In light of this attack none of us should go anywhere alone. It is too dangerous. There are enough of us to go in pairs plus Adimar's men as well. I will not allow this to happen again Carrick. Forgive me but I must leave you now, Aria should know of what I learned."]
The looks that the blood covered Rhuarc received walking through the corridors where the Guardians had their quarters ranged from disdain to fear only Ayab had a grin when he approached. [b "Saraya was injured but is being seen to for now, the assailants no longer live. How is the Priestess?"] [+red "Frustrated more than anything else, she actually tried commanding me to step aside, you should have seen her face when I told her that she had no power over me. She isn't a clan chief and I am not one of her precious Guardians. Only Balden was let inside and even then I watched him closely."] Rhuarc nodded in satisfaction, Ayab was loyal to a fault, if he was watching Balden it was not because he distrusted the boy but to make sure it actually was the blacksmith's apprentice, there were some peculiar magics out in the world. [b "I've spoken to Carrick and given the circumstances of the attack I don't think any of us should be alone, that is when we are vulnerable. Unless I am with her I want you to stick with the Priestess, she is too important to us. She needs to be protected."] Ayab looked at his friend sternly, looking as if he wanted to say something but instead nodded in agreement. Rhuarc moved past his friend and into the room with Aria and Balden. [b "Forgive my appearance I have just come from interrogating Saraya's assailant. He of course works for Shade-stealer but reports to something known as a Fade. Likely another one of the False King's abominations. For now both Saraya and Lara are resting but with time they should be alright."] Rhuarc glanced at Balden giving a sigh of relief at that news. A smile almost touched the large man's lips. [b "I have suggested to Carrick that given the circumstances of the attack, Saraya being alone that none of us should be left on our own in the city, least of all you, Priestess. There are likely still spies or potential assassins that evaded our search, possibly even the Fade itself. I won't risk any Guardian or yourself because we believe that we are strong enough on our own. We have the last Guardian now, once we have suitably rested we need to move again. We will not bring down the False King from Tanaka and in the end that is all that matters. Think on that Priestess if you would. Balden, don't think that tonight's excitement excludeds you from your swordsmanship lessons. Keep working. on them. If you'll excuse me I will take my leave now."]
Balden was woken up by the sounds and the toiling of the city's bell. He had jumped up, startled and disheveled from sleep. Were they under attack? He had no idea what was happening, he'd been so excited to sleep in a bed, he had passed out within moments of his head hitting the pillow. Curiously, he shuffled his feet across the room and poked his head out to find Ayab and another man standing at Aria's door. Confused, and with furrowed brow, he walked over with a large yawn and smacked his lips.
"Wassall the fuss?" He murmured sleepily. When the men explained to him that there had been an attack, Balden blanched fully awake. "Seriously?" he asked shocked. "We [i just] got here! How could they know we were here?" Neither Ayab or Max had an idea, but spies were everywhere. They let him pass into Aria's room, and after knocking he was relieved to find Aria answered it and was unscathed.
"Priestess!" he exclaimed, rushing in as Aria ushered him into her room.
"Balden! Thank goodness," she cupped his face in her hands and looked over his face with the concern an older sister might have, and quickly grabbed his shoulders. "I need you to do me a favor, I can't leave my room, but I want to know what is happening. We don't know much up here. All we know is that someone was attacked. Please go and find out what's happened and what is going on so we can have some idea."
"Right," Balden didn't bother to ask questions, besides; he wanted to know what was going on himself. Aria could not see to anyone, and her safest place was in a guarded room. In his opinion, between Ayab and the scarred face of Max he didn't think anyone would be dumb enough to try and take those two on by themselves. "I'll see what I can find, and then I'll be right back," He promised.
Balden left the room promptly to dress himself and go searching for information on what the Hell was going on. Dressed he stopped by Lara's door, intent to ask her if she wished to join him, but when he received no answer he felt a nervousness in his gut. Pushing open Lara's door, he found her room empty. Had she gone out to investigate as well? He decided to just go look, and perhaps he'd find her during his own investigation.
He found the entire city was awake and moving, though things looked like they had calmed down, and a group of soldiers were gearing up their horses to leave the city in search of what Balden learned was an accomplice of the attacker. Unable to find Rhuarc and join him with Adimar in the jail house, Balden was instructed where to find the infirmary and headed that way promptly. He had yet to see Lara as he asked around and spoke with Guards and soldiers. They weren't so willing to divulge information to him, but some of the villagers he passed were. Rumor had it that one of the Guardians had been attacked and another retaliated. Who was who, no one knew, but Balden knew he'd find answers in the Infirmary, what he saw was not what he was expecting.
Lara and Saraya were both laid out on beds, and while Lara looked like she was sleeping without a care in the world, Saraya was covered in blood and Carrick looked like he was about to suffer from a heart attack or bludgeon someone to death....
The Infirmary was on the second floor of the barracks. Thad led the way quickly, dodging rushing soldiers with ease as he carried Lara in his arms. Carrick kept his feet quick and could tell this Thad was a man used for agility and speed by Adimar. Following Thad and seeing how the entire city seemed to come alive from the attack, and how every soldier to villager was out looking for who attacked Saraya and the Guardians; led Carrick to finally believe they might actually be in a safe place. It was a small town and word spread like wildfire that the High Priestess of Azeroth had arrived, and to see the city come alive to catch the culprit, put a bit of faith in Carrick. It also proved to him that nowhere was actually safe for them, and they certainly were being watched and or followed.
They had just reached the hall to the Infirmary when Carrick heard the pitiful sound of Saraya’s voice. There was no denying the level of pain she felt. He heard it clear as day in her voice, and felt it in the way her body trembled slightly in his arms. Hearing his name compelled his arms to tighten the slightest and his steps slowed until they stopped. Ahead of him Thad marched right into the Infirmary. His voice echoed into the hall as he shouted orders, but Carrick heard not a word.
[i "... Carrick... Tell... Everyone that-”]
“Shh…” Carrick cooed, already knowing where she was going with this. “You’re going to be fine,” he told her. Her bleary, unfocused gazed seemed to almost look through him then at him. Carrick was concerned for her. Rhuarc might have stopped the bleeding outside... but what about inside?
[i “I am... Sorry... "] she passed out in his arms then and Carrick grit his teeth as he stared down at her. Mouth dry and his stomach weighted with worry he finished his path into the Infirmary.
Thad had already laid Lara down on a bed where a frazzled elderly man was knelt over her.
“Ask him,” Carrick heard Thad speak as he entered.
“Ask me what?” Carrick questioned, laying Saraya down on a bed.
“Lara, she has no wounds, but they said she used her powers,” Thad informed him. Carrick’s brow furrowed.
"Has she been using them for very long?" The physician asked.
“They’re all just now learning about their powers, I don’t think any of them knew what they were or were capable of until just recently.” The Physician seemed to understand and walked towards a cabinet where he returned with a cookie biscuit.
“I have seen Lord Adimar succumb to such things in the past,” Thad said with realization. “When we were younger and he discovered his own power he could rarely do even the simplest of magic. He said it was like a muscle, you had to work at it everyday to strengthen it… perhaps…”
“My thoughts exactly,” The physician murmured and set the cookie on the table beside Lara. “She will be fine… just needs some rest and this cookie when she wakes up. Magic is energy and she’s used all hers up. Nothing to fear with this one… but she,” His feeble bony hand pointed a finger towards Saraya, and he shuffled his feet over. “She looks injured and pale… covered in blood too…” Carrick didn’t step back from the bed, but remained close his hands curled tightly over the edge of the bed as he watched the old man like a hawk.
"She was attacked," Carrick explained as the physician looked over the scorched mark on Saraya and began to feel along her abdomen. He listened to her heart, checked her vitals and went to work patching up and cleaning Saraya up, the entire time Carrick stayed like a shadow hovering over her table.
When Balden entered the room, Carrick's head snapped up to pin the shocked boy with a look. "Balden, what are you doing here?" Balden tore his eyes away from Saraya's bloody dress to Carrick's face and stammered.
"o-oh... I... Lady Aria asked me to find out what is going on. I think not knowing anything has made her anxious." Carrick sighed heavily and ran a hand over his face with exhaustion. "So it was Saraya who was attacked..." he murmured more of a statement then a question. Carrick nodded his head and looked down at her forlornly.
"She's fine, resting, but the doc says she's just suffering from exhaustion. Nothing to fear there, boy," Carrick assured him. Balden nodded and moved to look down at Lara's still figure.
"Will Ms. Saraya be alright?"
"Only time will tell..." The Physician said as he finished apply a salve to Saraya's burns to help them heal and then began to wrap her torso up tightly in linen. Carrick helped to move Saraya into a sitting position while the Physician worked. "Multiple lacerations and stab wounds... at least the wound was cauterized and stopped the bleeding, but internally if there is damage there is nothing I can do. She felt fine to me, there's no swelling, but it's best if she stays here until I deem her ready to leave." Balden nodded at the Physician's words and looked again to Carrick as he laid Saraya back down gently.
"I will let The Priestess know," Balden assured them. Carrick gave a firm nod of his head.
"That's a good idea. Go, I will stay with them both." Balden hesitated, his gaze traveling to Lara. Carrick caught it and smirked. "Go, boy. She will be fine, just needs her rest." Balden nodded and left the room leaving Carrick alone with both, as the Physician had left with nothing more to do but lay back down in his own bed in a back room.
Carrick pulled up a seat beside Saraya's bed, but between both women. It was the wee hours of the morning, well past midnight, but still hours away from sunrise. His mind was clouded with thoughts about how they were so easily discovered. Who attacked Saraya and Lara? Was there a way to travel without being seen? He wasn't sure about a whole lot by the time the sun began to rise, and he trusted no one. No one but the Guardians and the High Priestess. He looked outside to greet the rising sun shade the sky in lavender and peach hues. "I vow to serve and protect the Guardians and their Priestess until my dying breath..." he growled, his heart boiling for Malik's blood. For none other could be behind this...
Although this time, she didn't completely fall asleep; she was still aware of everything that was unfolding around her and Saraya, but wasn't able to do much as for some reason her body didn't want to move. It felt weird sitting against the wall and being able to hear and see and feel, while her whole body felt numb and unresponsive. Rhuarc had arrived with Adimar and a group of guards, Ayab was most likely guarding Aria, Carrick soon arrived after Rhuarc had requested for his presence to be here. Since this all was happening off to her side, and she couldn't turn her head, all she heard were the conversations that were happening. One notable thing to hear was that Rhuarc had somehow healed Saraya so the wound wouldn't be fatal no more.
But she did feel afraid, if she couldn't do anything in this state she wouldn't be able to defend herself. It wasn't that she didn't trust those around her, it was just the hard habit of self-reliance instilled within her those three years of traveling around by herself.
And then she was suddenly lifted off the ground, and she could feel arms below her, as well as see a guard, the guard who was carrying her. Now she didn't know what felt more unnatural: knowing what was going on around while sitting and not being able to move, or being carried and feeling the air flow going around while still not being able to move. Either way, both were a novel experience. Just like it was a novel experience to be later down on a bed while the body felt numb and unresponsive. Ever since entering the city, it had been a series of novel and sometimes unfortunate events. And this series had only just started, and it would only get more crazy.
As she lay on the bed, she remembered something she'd need to do once she could move properly by herself; she wanted to talk to Adimar about two specific things, and in private if possible.
[center [i No... Spirit, tell me this is cruel magic from the False King... Tell me Malik had bewitched a stranger to look like him... Please, Spirit, speak with me... Tell me it was not him!]]
Her eyes scaled the blurred surroundings as she felt the warm liquid in her legs. She placed her hand along it, feeling a chill of shock still having it's grip on her. She felt betrayed by her senses. She felt the evil that her eyes had seen. Her body collapsed again as footfalls approached her, and was trying to end her there. But, all went black as she felt something lift her head to end her, and a sudden thud soon after. Her hand, though she was too weak to heal herself, held on to the gap, sending small pulses of cold to ease the pain... Until everything began to go black.
Commotion, it all disturbed her ears. She heard "Saraya has been attacked" and felt a pair of hands lift her and turn her to expose the wound. "I am sorry, Saraya... Will be Painful... " a searing pain touched her skin and she arched hard, letting out the true feeling of pain. Her hands gripped his wrist and the earth, the beauty bled tears before reaching her limit. When her skin suddenly began to feel ice cold, she arched and coughed up blood from her lungs and wheezed in air from where she could find it.
The pain in her stomach spread and her body's rebirth of ancient pain she felt once before resurfaced. The man's face... She remembered seeing his face... The works of Malik. She could've growled to the evil, but her body was still fresh in pain. She arched some before Rhuarc lifted her. She could feel his strength as he held her carefully. Orders were given, and she was handed to Carrick in a hurry. The pain in itself had been unbearable, but, her weak eyes saw a scared expression, hidden behind a face of rage.
Before his mind could clear, she used all the strength she had in her arm to reach for his neck. She grabbed the neck of the shirt he wore, and yanked him gently in worry. She was confused, in pain, and in his arms . She wanted to get up. She wanted to fight. She wanted to erase the abomination the evile Mage had done. Tears fell as she fought, but Carrick had forced her to ease. The Spirit within her prevented her from causing more pain, and she finally gave in to their pleas.
Carrick had began to move, going to the infirmary as soldiers ran up and down stairs to guard the rooms of the priestess. Lara had been escorted to the infirmary to rest. Saraya felt betrayed. She felt that the Mage will pay... And felt terrible to cause yet another ruckus because of the evil. Her head finally rested on him as she attempted to speak with the last of her strength
"... Carrick... " she forced out. Hearing his name slowed his stride to a halt, mere feet from the infirmary. Her lips trembled as she felt her consciousness fade. "Tell... Everyone that... I am... Sorry... " she said finally before all strength was exhausted, and she had passed out in his arms.
[I Spirit! This rage I feel from within my heart... This evil being I saw before me openly offended my mourn from within. I beg you, Spirit, I must kill him for the card he has drawn]
[b [I Peace, love. It cannot ease into battle with the wounds you possess. You have another matter that presented itself...]]
[I What other matter?]
[b [I Listen, Saraya...]]
Saraya nodded and allowed her sense of hearing to awaken, wondering... Why did the Spirit tell her to listen? What was she expected to find?
Adimar had never been a light sleeper, more often than naught he was up into the wee hours of morning before he’d steal maybe four hours of sleep, wake up and begin a new day. So when Thad knocked on his door that night, Adimar’s eyes shot open and not a moment later Thad entered the room with Rupert and Max. Their armor and weaponry clinking a little too loudly for his liking. Of course he’d make it to bed at a decent hour for once, only to be woken up for Gods only knew what.
“It better be good…” Adimar groaned from where he laid in his bed.
“My Lord,” Rupert stated as he too entered the room. “One of the Guardians has been attacked.” Adimar was up and out of his bed in the blink of an eye shoving his feet into boots. He wore naught but his trews and boots, grabbing his sword and started down the halls with his men tailing him.
The halls were alive with activity as security was amped up, and soldiers went rushing to lock down the city to ward any enemies from escaping the city. Adimar did not go down to the courtyard where they said the attack happened. Instead he made his way down the hallway where the Guardians and the Priestess were staying. He spotted Ayab with both axes drawn at the Priestess door. She stood within the doorframe, seeming to plead with the Jai to let her go and see to whoever was hurt.
“Priestess,” Adimar called catching her attention. She turned to look at him and his improper appearance and glared at him.
“Tell me what is happening,” she demanded.
“A Guardian has been attacked, do as Sir Ayab instructs you. The safest place is your room for now. Sir Ayab seems of good stock, he will protect you.” When Ayab confirmed it. Adimar nodded approvingly and clapped the man’s arm in passing. “You’re a good man, Ayab. Keep our Priestess safe!” He called as he continued on down the hall. “Max stay behind and help,”
“Aye m’Lord,” Max grumbled and turned to stand on the other side of the door with Ayab.
Only Rupert and Thad continued to follow Adimar down to the courtyard where the scene was. He saw Rhuarc kneeling over a fallen Saraya, and the little Fenlyk Guardian was down too. He watched as a group of five soldiers escorted a prisoner.
“Report!” He commanded. The nearest lieutenant turned and saluted Adimar before relaying the events that had transpired. Saraya had been attacked. “There are bound to be more spies in the city. Hunt them down and bring them to the jail for interrogations. I want to know who is behind all of this. GO!” He barked. The soldiers went running as orders were dished out to the officers to patrol the city and lock her down. “Master Rhuarc!” Adimar called making his way over as the massive Jai lifted the waifish woman up into his arms. “My men listen to you,” he smirked, impressed. “What more assistance can we give you?”
[b "Adimar I am grateful for the assistance your men have given us. I will interrogate Saraya's attacker myself, you are welcome to be there with me if you wish."]
“I’d like nothing better Master Rhuarc,” Adimar intoned and snapped a finger towards Lara. Thad was there to lift her up from the ground and carried her over.
“What the…” Carrick had come to join them and looked stunned between Saraya and Lara. “Rhuarc?” he asked confused, and bleary eyed. He’d only just fallen asleep to be woken right back up.
[b "It is good to see you friend, it seems that Shade-stealer attempted to dispose of a Guardian while he could. Luckily Lara was able to intervene in time.”]
“Saraya is wounded!” Carrick barked angrily.
[b “I have dealt with her wounds for now but we must monitor her for any other injuries that may present themselves.”]
“Agreed,” Adimar intoned. “Thad will show you the way to the Infirmary. Our Healers will look after them.”
[b “I want Guard at the doors of all the Guardians and at Balden at Carrick as well.”]
“Consider it done,” Adimar agreed.
[b “Ayab is Guarding the High Priestess' door as we speak. I do not think we can be too careful.”] Adimar nodded in agreement, liking this Rhuarc more and more.
“My thoughts exactly, I have one of my men standing watch with yours. She was demanding we allow her to leave so she could come here.”
“No,” Carrick growled. “This is the last place she needs to be right now.”
[b “Let her rest for now, there is nothing she can do. I'll let her see Saraya in the morning, they both need their rest, Lara as well."] Adimar and Carrick both agreed with Rhuarc’s words, and Thad carrying Lara offered to show the way to the Infirmary.
“I will take Saraya, Rhuarc, search the city with Adimar.” From there Carrick took Saraya from Rhuarc’s arms and stood there as both Adimar and Rhuarc took off taking a platoon of twenty men with them.
Adimar was ready to turn the city inside out to find the culprit of the attacks. They had one man in custody, but he was sure they’d find more rats lurking in the dark corners of Tanaka. They searched every pub, and inn, every brothel with nothing to show for it, it wasn’t until Adimar was showing Rhuarc to one of their watch towers that Adimar was called upon. A Second suspect had been caught trying to scale the walls of the city to make an escape. Adimar jumped at the chance.
“What wall was the trying to leave from?” he demanded the soldier.
“The southern wall, Lord Captain.” Adimar’s gaze narrowed.
“Fetch me my Hawk.”
“Aye Lord Captain!” He scurried off and Adimar watched the sky waiting for his Hawk to be released from its pen and out into the sky.
“Let’s find out where our man was running to…” Adimar murmured. The second the hawk cawed into the night sky, Adimar exhaled slowly and his eyes clouded over to a silver white. The hawk dove off towards the south and Adimar stood stone still.
“We call this his Eagle Eye…” Rupert told Rhuarc as they waited for Adimar to finish his searching. “He can possess the eyes of any bird and see through them. Generally he uses his own Hawk,” Rupert whispered, his eyes focused on Adimar.
“There is a third. Waiting for his brethren. Take a handful of men south towards the River wood. He is waiting with horses.”
“Aye,” Rupert turned abruptly and started off shouting a series of names, for men to follow him. Adimar blinked and his steely blue grey eyes turned clear once more and he looked back at Rhuarc.
“I say it’s never too early for an interrogation, shall we?” He asked as if he’d done nothing short of amazing and led the way to the holding cells.
Rhuarc was sleeping uneasily the feeling of the hooded figure's gaze left him feeling restless and sleep was hard to come by. Eventually Ayab shook him awake gently claiming it was time for them to relieve Carrick on Aria's door. The Jai suspected that Tanaka was a safe city, specially with all the Guardians inside an practically an army to defend them...that was until Rhuarc had glanced at the hooded figure. He berated himself silently, he was being foolish, jumping at shadows. It was unlikely that one of Malik's abominations was hiding in Volshiv but he would remain alert nonetheless and keep Aria safe. She was the High Priestess after all. [+red "Greetings Carrick, how goes the watch?"] Ayab engaged the grizzled blacksmith in smalltalk briefly before wishing the blacksmith a good night. Rhuarc was still in his own thoughts and barely said a word to Carrick, it was almost as if Rhuarc and Ayab's usual demeanours had been reversed. The large Jai didn't expect any trouble but they were alert all the same. Ayab made a few comments about home,wondering what was happening in the Wastelands and about Elder Mandarb and what the respected man was doing.
The expected quiet was shattered by the cacophany of running guards' footfalls as they darted past, Rhuarc grabbed one by the arm, [b "What is going on?"] The guard was surprised to be face to face with a man so large but an answer was given, "There is some kind of commotion outside, someone has been hurt, maybe a Guardian. That's all i know, sir." [b "Stay with the Priestess."] were the only words that Rhuarc had for Ayab and without a word of complaint the other Jai took out his two hand axes, and took up a defensive stance in front of the door. It would be a foolish man to trifle with Ayab tonight. Rhuarc sped off with the guards following them as they knew where they were going. It didn't take long to see hwt the commotion was about when the group of guards accompanied by Rhuarc arrived outside. Saraya was lying bloodied in a heap on the floor while a man standing over her with a blade was being confronted by Lara and what appeared to be...a serpent made from water? That was unexpected. It seemed that Lara was calling upon her power as a Guardian. The summoning of the serpent and the subsequent attack neutralised the threat to Saraya but in turn caused Lara to fall unconscious with exhaustion. [b "Get Adimar and Carrick. Do it now!"] Rhuarc's voice left no room for hesitation as several Volshiv guards left to follow his commands. Rhuarc bent over Saraya and examined the wound, he was no expert by any means but he had been fighting for most of his life and he knew how to deal with several injuries, luckily while the wound was bloody it didn't seem to be fatal, but it was serious, the wound in her belly needed closing and they didn't have time to wait for a doctor. Rhuarc pulled out his belt knife and calling upon his power as a Guardian started heating the metal of the blade until it was hot enough for his purposes. [b "I am sorry Saraya, this will be painful."] Rhuarc began the painful process of cauterising the stab wound in Saraya's belly, as soon as the heated metal touched her flesh the Caledon Guardian let out a shriek of pain that chilled the blood as pain wracked her body. Rhuarc needed to be careful not to hurt Saraya more badly than he had to, he had seen men do more harm than good trying to cauterise a wound before. In short bursts Rhuarc carefully and successfully cauterised the wound, it would be painful for a while and would leave a nasty scar but Saraya would live.
The remaining guards had clapped the assailant in irons and were dragging him to the closest dungeon where he would be imprisoned until further notice. Adimar arrived shortly after Rhuarc had finished dealing with Saraya's wound and began giving his other men orders to search the city for any other would be assassins. Rhuarc's mind automatically went to the hooded figure with the uneasy gaze that he had spotted earlier in the day but he kept that to himself. [b "Adimar I am grateful for the assistance your men have given us. I will interrogate Saraya's attacker myself, you are welcome to be there with me if you wish."] Adimar was a guardian and an attack on Saraya should be considered an attack on his life as well, they were all in this together. Carrick also joined the small group now, just as Rhuarc scooped up Saraya in his arms, [b "It is good to see you friend, it seems that Shade-stealer attempted to dispose of a Guardian while he could. Luckily Lara was able to intervene in time. I have dealt with her wounds for now but we must monitor her for any other injuries that may present themselves. I want Guard at the doors of all the Guardians and at Balden at Carrick as well. Ayab is Guarding the High Priestess' door as we speak. I do not think we can be too careful. Let her rest for now, there is nothing she can do. I'll let her see Saraya in the morning, they both need their rest, Lara as well."] Rhuarc knew that sleep would not come again to him that night so he did what he could practically, he helped search the city with the other Tanaka Guards, he patrolled the hallways where the Guardians had rooms, he spoke with Adimar and Ayab and consulted on the safety of all those he had travelled with over the past few weeks, he checked on both Lara and Saraya, both of whom had not woken up yet and of course his thoughts were consumed by the fear inducing gaze of the hooded figure.
Being punched in this manner for the first time in her life, she had no idea how being punched in the stomach felt, and since it was unexpected she couldn't prepare herself for it. She learned what it felt like the hard way, and that's the only way to learn what a punch to the stomach felt like. Not that these effects were side effects, but in a way they were; pain, having the air in the lungs punched out, collapsing to the ground, and losing focus of the immediate happenings of the outside. The events that unfolded after she had been punched in the stomach was not known to her at all; not out of not appreciating what the others were doing, but more from trying not to completely lose herself to getting punched in the stomach. All the commotion that had begun to happen after her short tussle with the guards; Saraya shooting her accurate arrows, and Rhuarc threatening Adimar with a sword. She did feel, hear, and see Saraya helping her back up and saying something, but those words were lost to a mind still reeling. Even after mostly everything had quieted down, Adimar first questioned and then disciplined the guardsmen, and even that prolonged the noisy chaos by just a tad bit.
But then it all sort of just calmed down and the chaos ebbed away, a sudden retreat which felt somewhat awkward in a way but at the same time needed. All of them needed rest from the long journey, and from what had just happened; chaos didn't help to do that, it did the very opposite.
They were all led to individual rooms; spacious, big beds with comfortable mattresses, and other furniture which currently wouldn't be needed for the time being. But before resting, there was going to be dinner. There was a choice to skip it, but on the other hand she was hungry; nothing like a good dinner to disappear the hungriness. She ate alright, but let everyone else do the talking. No one sent questions her way, or tried bringing her into the conversation, so so always a silent and something in the background. And after he dinner was finished, she swiped the knife she had been using so at least she had some weapon, until she could find a better one.
And after that came time to go to sleep, but sleep eluded her so she went quietly walking about as she was want to do; although this time not being caught by anyone like last time. Something was bothering her very much. Consider this, out of all four guardians and the countries they came from, only three of them were up in arms against the evil king. The country which wasn't up in arms was Fenlyck, and she was from there. But then taking into consideration what the spirit of Fenlyck had shown her, made for a confusing puzzle. At least for her.
All of a sudden, a cry pierced the now peaceful atmosphere, and there was a sound of many feet running to one particular spot. She paused, and heard a pair of feet running her way and away from wherever everyone was running to. Suspicion and then paranoia overcame her, she stepped into he shadows of the wall and waited. A cloaked figure, cloaked in a similar cloak with hoodie as her, was running down this hallway. Just as he was about to pass she tripped the cloaked figure, making whoever it was come crashing down to the ground. She drew out the dining knife she had stolen, go ahead and laugh, and leapt at the figure to stab him with it. But the figure was faster and knocked her aside into the wall, the dining knife slipping from her fingers. Recovering from that, what she saw next out fear into her bones.
And the random thought, [i Water].
The figure was a male, and he was holding a knife in his right hand, and he was looking in her direction with that look which suggested what he was about to do was not simply walk off and not kill the person who had just tripped him. [b Oh my, another one of you. I just put a sword in your friend's gut, but what to do? Perhaps a knife through the heart?] That put fear even deeper than her bones, but te thought about water kept coming up and around. It was like she could sense where the water was, a bit behind where Saraya had been run through with a sword, and there was a huge chunk of it in one place.
As she began concentrating on the water, the mark on her neck began to warm up, as if to help her with the water; she could begin to feel the power of the spirit begin to course through her, the mark warming up even more. The water began to churn and rise, at first slowly but slowly speeding up.
And then all the water formed into the form of a sea serpent, which began to move as if alive; slithering through the air as if it were the medium of water, floating behind but slowly moving forward where the group around Saraya had grouped up.
But the figure began to move closer, and the closer he moved to her, the more the sea serpent began to hiss and coil; as soon as the figure began to raise the knife, the sea serpent shot off as if fired from a bow.
As the hand grasping the knife reached its highest point, the hand stopped in midair and so did the knife with it. It went up even more, but before the figure could send the knife into the plunge most fatal, the sea serpent bashed into the figure with its mouth wide open to plunge its fangs into the arms of the figure, before beginning to coil itself around. Fenlyck sea serpents weren't deadly with their bite, they merely paralyzed the motor movements of the victims. But the long length enabled them to compress their prey into death.
But instead of killing the figure, merely knocked into a deep sleep. She herself felt tired and drained, and started to fall asleep right there and then.
The night had wore on, and Saraya had ate her fill. She sighed as Aria and the others had partook in the meal. Rhuarc... Perhaps she could ask him for aid. She looked left and right for any suspicious being. The stench, however, had not been detected. There wasn't a eye that could not peer at her, either. The porcelain doll had changed... Quite drastically in fact. She still looked like a porcelain doll, however, her stare was pure ice. No man sought to approach her... Except one
"Mi' Lady? I seek audience with you "
Saraya stared as he departed to the stairs. Hesitantly, she followed, her guard up and ready whenever there was an attack. As soon as they reached her room, she was appalled by his sudden looseness. "Mi' Lady, I am Felliope's trusted friend. He has sent me here to wait for you... "
Felliope? Saraya growled and grabbed him by the throat. "Do not taunt me with evil remarks! Felliope died as well as my son. He could not have possibly-"
"But he has, Mi' Lady. He had sent me here before the attack with the enemy. He had spoken that it was imperative that I seek out allies, in case our home lay in ruin"
"Caledon lays in ruin. You have done well, on Felliope's behalf" she said, releasing him. She turned to her door. "Now, leave me"
"Mi' lady, you must protect the priestess. Evil hides in the shadows... "
Saraya looked to him. "Evil? "
"The enemy's spies lurk here. Word had spread of her arrival. You must keep the priestess safe"
"I have smelled the foul stench of the enemy... I knew it was no flaw... " she turned, her body shifting into the shadow. "Do you know who is the general of the traitors? "
"Yes, mi' lady. He bears a scar on his right eye. He collects coin from his followers each week. The very same ones"
Saraya looked out of her window, and turned to him. "Thank you. Resume your duty and inform the priestess that I will be out... Do not alarm her of what I am doing. "
With that, she opened her door and hurried down the stairs. She heard the voice of Carrick not far from her trail, and the J'ai. She knew she had to keep them safe. She hurried to where none could catch a glimpse, and made haste into the dark streets, where she caught, identified, and followed the foul stench... Until it was a pub before her. She stared before looking about, seeing nothing of great purpose, until a seemingly homeless man sitting from there caught her eye. She slowly approached with caution , just to hear a eerie laughter from him. "Caledon Guardian... It is a pleasure to grace us with your beauty"
She stared at the homeless man before a few more men came through shadow with evil smiles and even more evil intent. The homeless man stood and unveiled his form, revealing a face... Her eyes widened in shock, she backed up as if she saw a demon. Her heart sunk. This could not be... "No... No... You can not be... "
"Why not give me a scream from that pretty throat of yours? "
She backed away at the same time, trying to gather herself, but the enemy grabbed her, and immediately after, a sharp pain and tearing flesh sounded before her scream came. "Now, now... Can you be joyous to see this face again? "
She couldn't speak. The man had already dug a sword into her gut. She couldn't breathe. She had to get back to the guardians. She had to protect the priestess... She heard him laugh, as tears fell. She was dropped and as she tried to get away, they all disappeared. She wheezed in air as she waited for them the stench to leave, and made an effort to make it back to the guards...
She dragged herself slowly, not caring of the pain. Her face kept the expression of shock as she did and she slowly made it to the guards, who finally spotted her and ran to her aid. "Guardian!! " one yelled. She tried to speak, and the guards alerted the others, making even the guardians run out to see what was wrong.
She was still trying to move, the sword still plunged in her gut, and she attempted to stand. "Saraya! " Felliope's friend yelled. She successfully stood after tryina few times, blood dripping down her legs and gown . She looked to the guardians as she grabbed the sword. "... I ...saw... Him... " she said, pulling at the sword. She chanted it as she pulled, eyes wide as if seen a demon, and when she finally got the sword from her, she collapsed to her knee, using the sword to keep her at least erect. "I... " her breaths were getting harder to take... She looked to her troupe, tears falling from those eyes. "I... I saw... I saw... "
Aria was thankful for Saraya’s loyalty and willingness to be her eyes and ears... perhaps soon, Aria would grant Saraya the honor of being her voice. This would mean that anyone who wished to speak with Aria would first have to speak with Saraya, or settle for speaking with Saraya if Aria could not be available, in some cases it would mean Saraya’s word was as good as Aria’s. It was not an honor Aria would give freely, but if Saraya or any of the others earned the role, she would bestow it on them. Traditionally a Septum Elder would speak for Aria, but there were no septum elders, and so Aria would have to build her own cabinet of advisors, and who better than those Azeroth surrounded her with? Aria gave a soft thank you to Saraya, hoping she might gleam how much Aria appreciated all she did for her, but they were approached by the final guardian. She would have liked to ask him questions, but the air was rent with the sound of a scuffle and before Aria had a moment to even react, the others had.
“Oh Lara….” She sighed already knowing exactly what had caused this: Lara’s persistent curiosity. Rhuarc yelled at Adimar to make his men stand down, but even Aria noticed that those who wore she same insignia as Adimar had moved in to simply disarm and not hurt. Adimar answered Rhuarc’s demand with a shrill whistle.
[b “HALT!”] His voice boomed. The men stopped instantly. “What is the meaning of this, soldier?” Adimar demanded approaching the soldier who hit Lara. The soldier eyed Saraya warily as he gingerly checked his wrist where Saraya’s arrow had nicked him.
“We found her snooping around the Governor’s office, she looked ready to steal one of the paintings,” Adimar arched a brow at Lara. She didn’t deny sneaking in but made it clear she wasn’t there to steal anything, and Adimar had to hide a smirk.
“So, you mean to tell me that a little girl managed to sneak past Tanaka guards unseen, into the barracks, and was only caught while admiring the artwork?”
“Y-yes sir.” The soldier answered.
“I should have you demoted for your negligence and stupidity. Get out of my sight,” Adimar snapped at the two guards. They bowed quickly and left, while the Governor and Commander ushered the guardians inside to show them to guest quarters in the Governor’s mansion. Adimar watched them leave to their rooms and his men flocked to stand behind him.
“Time for a new adventure,” Thad observed with a grin.
“Sure to be a good time,” added Rupert.
“Always wanted to see the rest of Azera…” piped in Max. Adimar glanced over his shoulder to his most trusted men and smirked.
“Adventure and good times we shall have men. You pledged yourself to me, which means you have pledged yourself to every guardian, and most importantly the High Priestess. You may not return home,” Adimar warned.
“So what are you trying to say? You don’t want us?” Thad teased. Adimar reached out and gripped his man’s shoulder.
“I would be honored if you all followed me,”
“Your will is done,” Thad stated and the three men saluted Adimar in unison. It filled Adimar with humility and pride. Humble that his men were so loyal, and prideful his men were bold and brave to venture with him.
Dinner had been a light affair with promises of a grand banquet the next night in their honor, but the hour had grown late and Aria knew her people wished to rest. Now if only she could find sleep herself. Her room was lovely, and the bed looked comfortable, but Aria found herself restless. She was back in her homeland… shouldn’t it feel like home? It didn’t though, and Aria could sit still no more. She donned a night robe to stay warm and opened the door to her room prepared to take a walk through the mansion and find a nice view of the landscape when a figure stopped her. He stood just outside her door well-armed and gave her a curious look as to why she was out of bed.
“Carrick? What are you doing outside my door?” Aria asked curiously to see the man standing there.
“What does it look like I’m doing?” He teased, causing Aria to smile bashfully. “Is there anything I can get for you Priestess?” He asked.
“No. I just… I can’t sleep,” Aria whispered, her eyes traveling down the dark hallway as if she might find something.
“Strange place?” Aria nodded her head.
“Yes,” she began as they both started walking down the hallway. “I’m afraid I’ve grown accustomed to sleeping beside someone I trust since I left Elder Rigby’s supervision.”
“Why not take up a bedmate?” he suggested “Saraya or Lara I’m certain would be more than willing to share a pillow with you.” Again Aria smiled.
“Yes I know, they’re both very kind, but I do not wish to impose on them with such a childish thing,”
“It is not childish when you are literally being hunted down,” Carrick warned. “Rhuarch, Ayab and myself argued for nearly half an hour as to who would be taking watch at your door tonight.”
“I think you may be the only man I know of who would tell a Jai what to do,” Aria teased. Carrick shrugged. He supposed she was right.
“It’s for their own protection too. Adimar offered his own men… but… as you can see…” Carrick motioned to himself, causing Aria to smile at him.
“Sir Carrick… Guardian of the Guardians,” She dubbed him. He scratched at his beard with a smirk, his eyes twinkling playfully in the dark.
“Mmm… Guardian of the Guardians… has a nice ring to it. Think we can make that official?” Aria did laugh then. It was the first time she had laughed around him, and he felt it might have been the first laugh for her in a very long time. It died with a sigh, but her smile remained. It was a truly beautiful sound and sight, and Carrick felt a sort of pride to know he’d done such a thing for her.
“Yes, my dear Carrick… I think we can.”
They walked in silence for a little while, Carrick walking along her side, allowing her to think her thoughts, and walk in safety. They came upon a breezeway between buildings. It was a crisp cold night and Aria stopped to take in the fresh breeze and looked out at the sleepy city.
“I know your secret Carrick,” Aria said, catching Carrick off guard. He tensed as he stood away from her like the sentinel he was.
“I have a lot of them… which one are you talking about?”
“Your feelings… your emotions. You’re very good at hiding them. Incredibly good at it,” Aria turned to face him then and stared him down. Carrick stared back. “I like to imagine… that if the Holy Temple had never been taken over, that you would still have been a close friend. Perhaps my personal guard.” Carrick bowed his head in humility.
“It would have been an honor,”
“It is an honor you have, Carrick,” Aria informed him with no room for argument. Carrick stared at her, slightly shocked. He had no idea she thought so highly of him. “You helped us without question, sacrificed your home and the life you had made and left all of it behind to help us.”
“I did it for Azera,” Carrick whispered softly. Aria smiled at him.
“I know you did, it is because your heart is so open and willing I can read it so easily… I’ve seen the way you look at her. When you think no one is looking,” She smirked and turned to begin walking along the breezeway in a lazy manner.
“It’s hard not to notice her….” Carrick breathed following behind, not bothering to deny it. Aria nodded again in understanding. Their group had spent close to two months of traveling to reach Tanaka and had grown close in the time. He saw Lara as a spirited little sister. Her antics prone to getting her in trouble, which made him protective of her, but he also realized Lara could handle herself. Balden was similar, he had formed a bond with the boy, much in the way he knew Rhuarc had. Speaking of Rhuarc, Carrick never would have believed in a million years he’d be calling a Jai one of his best friends. He trusted the man like a brother, and enjoyed their sparring sessions together. Ayab had become a fast friend too, prone to dry humor, and insightful comments. As for Saraya…. Words couldn’t properly express what she had done to him without her ever knowing. Her mere presence caused peace and disquiet all at once. He kept his distance with her to a point he was almost certain she thought he hated her, or at least didn’t care either way if she was or wasn’t around.
“I know. She is lovely-“
“And tenacious, smart, brave, graceful, kind and caring. If you know my emotions then you know why I keep them quiet. She’s been through enough, and we are at the brink of war. I won’t cloud her mind with my emotions.” Carrick was firm in his words, such a typical man, but at least he was a stalwart man.
“Your emotions are no less valid than any other. I don’t bring this up so you’ll speak with her. I bring this up because I don’t want it to cloud you from the objective… whether any of you want to believe it or not… I am not as important as you all think I am.” Carrick frowned. He wasn’t following. The High Priestess was the most important Holy Figure in all of Azera! “Azera needs her guardians –not her priestess. If something happens, you save the Guardians Carrick, let me make my own sacrifices. Yes?” She asked.
“No my lady-“ he tried, but she turned on him with a sharp look.
“Yes,” she snapped giving him a dark and serious look. “My task is completed. I have brought them together. I have set them on their path. I have no cosmic power, no ability to fight, nothing to truly contribute-“
“No, Priestess, that-“
“Is the truth.” She cut him off again and moved to approach him. “I appreciate your loyalty Carrick, but if you find yourself stuck between choosing my safety or that of one of the Guardians. You will pick the guardian and you will save the guardian. Am I clear?” Carrick grit his teeth, but slowly lowered to a knee before Aria and placed a fist over his heart. He didn’t like it, but he had taken a vow in his youth to uphold the will of the Priestess and the Holy Temple.
“As you wish, Priestess,” He murmured with a furrowed brow.
“Rise, you are my friend, you need not bow to me. All I needed was your assurance. I am prepared for what may very well be my fate.” Carrick studied Aria’s face as he rose to his feet and saw a sort of sad solemn acceptance on her features as she looked out at the city. There was a wistfulness in her eyes and he found himself pitying her and her lonely existence. He remained quietly standing off to the side while Aria took in the view of the city below. The night sky was alive with thousands of stars, and the occasional meteor flashing by, but it didn’t hold his attention. He glanced back the way they had come towards the guests rooms. He wanted Aria back in her room, but he could see Aria was wide awake and something else was pressing on her mind and it had nothing to do with the object of his desires, upholding her command of him, or what they would do now that they had all the Guardians. Carrick knew she was doubting herself, and that a part of her was lost. She was the Priestess, but who was she as a woman. He might be tempted to blame Rhuarc for that, his teachings to Aria had left her to spend hours pondering her existence, and to soul search. He could see her asking herself who she truly was, or was she only the Priestess. Was there a woman under the holy veil? A soul? An individual wishing to live their own life? Did she see herself as a person, or as someone owned by the people? She lived a life… but it could never be a life of her choosing. One of the first things Carrick had noticed of Aria was she had asked the Guardians to follow her. She didn’t throw their fate, or destiny around as a reason to why they should follow her… she simply asked them to choose, and had promised not to hold it against them if they refused. Trapped… it became very clear to Carrick that Aria did not want her Guardians to feel trapped by the chains of Fate. He knew what it was she was accepting too… the very real possibility she would be killed ensuring the Guardians were successful. Carrick knew then, he would do the same. If it came down to it, he would sacrifice himself for all of them.
“I think I’m ready to return to bed now…” Aria murmured softly. Carrick could only nod his head and escort her back to bed. He stared at her door after she had shut it and he turned to pace the hall. He passed by all of their doors but stopped when he saw the one at the end open up. Was it really 2 am? Was the watch already changing over? After his conversation with Aria, Carrick realized he would be hard pressed to sleep himself, and instead reached over to shake the Jai’s hand that came to take the second watch.
“I hope you don’t mind if I sit a while with you. My mind races, and I know sleep will elude me for some time.” When asked why Carrick sighed. “Our Priestess is troubled. I can see the doubt in her face… something wars within her, and she worries for her guardians the way a mother worries over her children.” Carrick turned to face his company then and continued to whisper. “I have a feeling we are going to be in Tanaka for at least the week… best to keep our eyes open for any of Malik’s men…”
The journey to the Volshiv border was an uneventful one and for that Rhuarc was grateful. During the days they would ride hard and fast for the border with little reason to stop and at night Rhuarc and Carrick would train Balden in the way of the blade. The boy continued to improve with the intense training but most curiously was the other connections with his God that Rhuarc experienced. Snakes were sacred in the Wastelands and as he grew used to being Jaihash's guardian host he realised that he had other abilities. At night before the large Jai went to sleep he could often feel that there were serpents nearby and as he expanded his mind he realised that he could communicate with them as well. This was incredibly useful for travelling around as these serpents often warned of any errant patrols from the False King's troops that were nearby. Soon enough The ragtag group of guardians and allies finally reached the Volshiv border and the city of Tanka.
Immediately Rhuarc realised that this city didn't see a lot of travelors, it was painfully obvious that this place was for Volshiv only as their group, and in particular Rhuarc and Ayab drew several concerned and fascinated stares from the locals. As Carrick talked with the local officials, as usual, Ayab and Rhuarc studied the men, their weapons and the best way to combat them, that was their duty with the group they were warriors first and they would protect those they could. The Priestess was taken away with Saraya and Rhuarc was tense. [b "I don't like this Carrick. One of us should be with her, she is too important. Everything rests on her."] The Adbhu'Jai Guardian was worried about Aria, this might be her homeland but by her own admission she knew very little about it. Any foreign land was dangerous and one as secretive as Volshiv should be treated with caution. His borderline paranoia wasn't helped when a well armoured individual started approaching them, Ayab's fingers momentarily moved toward the hand axes he carried at his belt. A wry smile cracked Rhuarc's lips. The individual introduced himself as Adimar and to the surprise of all claimed to be the last guardian, the one they had all be searching for, the last piece of the puzzle they needed before they could truly start their crusade to bring down the False King and earn their freedom.
[b "That waif is plenty mighty in her own right, you would be a fool to believe otherwise."] The Jai spoke plainly and true. Almost as quickly as he came into the scene he left again, in the same direction that Aria and Saraya had gone. [+red "I hope he is the last guardian, I like him."] The sentiment from Ayab surprised Rhuarc, Ayab was slow to trust and to have one over the quick tempered companion was no mean feat. Ayab was usually a pretty good judge of character and what was more, Rhuarc agreed.
Lara attempted to slip away unnoticed towarss the building that Aria, Saraya the Volshiv officials and most recently Adimar had ventured into, Rhuarc was pleased to see this, he wanted as many Guardians as possible with the High Priestess and in his mind it was a safe judgement to make. Lara may be young but she was more than capable. Rhuarc made the conscious decision to let her go. Waiting for the others return, Rhuarc instead turned his attention to those in the surrounding streets, the officials had brought them into a more secluded area but it still had a fine view of the ordinary citizens going about their regular business, blissfully unaware that the High Priestess and quite possibly all of the Guardians were in their city. One figure in particular caught his eye, a short figure, with a jet black cloak and hood raised to obscure the features hidden beneath. Rhuarc couldn't see the face but he was sure that the man was staring at him and that made him feel...scared. Rhuarc had faced battle and the threat of death for almost his whiole life, when he set off with Aria he had made his peace with the fact he might not survive but this gaze was different. It made him want to run, to drop his weapons and cower away. As the large Jai took a step forward and blinked as he opened his eyes once more the figure was nowhere in sight and relief flooded Rhuarc while at the same time trepidation entered his mind. No mortal should be able to disappear or move that fast. Rhuarc suddenly wasn't so sure about the supposed security of Volshiv.
That was when everything charged, guards came out with Lara in their grasp and and gave her a mighty blow. Rhuarc and Ayab swung into action as Saraya loosed an arrow from her blow that hit one guard in the shoulder, Ayab also had his bow out, arrow nocked and trained on the guard Saraya had not hit while Rhuarc had drawn the large, heavy blade of black steel. As he held that ancient, holy relic of power and pain he called on Jaihash's power within him and the blade already deadly as it was burst into flames as the God of Fire's power was called on by Rhuarc. No one would harm a guardian while he was here, no one. [b "Call off your men Adimar or the wrath of the gods shall be thrust upon you."] In the end the situation diffused as quickly as it had begun with both Adimar and Aria smoothing over the issues, Rhuarc honestly hadn't meant to act so forcefully but the image of that small figure in the black hood still played on his mind. Adimar and the other officials of Tanaka led them to rooms where they could rest for the night, these rooms were splendid and grand, fitting of their station as Guardians...and far more than Rhuarc or Ayab had ever been subjected to. The Jai had spent most of their lives out in the world, wandering and sleeping under the stars only seeking simple lodgings in a city when called for. The affluence of show made the Jai men slightly nervous. Before Rhuarc was able to go to sleep he was once again visited bythe unsettling visage of that figure in the black hood, one thing was sure Rhuarc would turn this city upside down if he had to in order to find this figure if he had to.
Saraya, after Aria had given the plan and location, she nodded in respect. "As you wish, Priestess" They stepped forward, walking on with her steeds.
The city of Tanaka. This city had been thought of as legend, but woe and behold it is, the righteous city. Saraya stared at a distance before regaining her composure. It seemed that these guards were doubled in security
The guard ordered the Priestess to show herself, and Saraya felt that it was disrespectful, but a hand had calmed her just enough. When they knew it was she, they all doubled over in embarrassment. Rhuarc had a chuckling look on his face as Saraya smirked. Walking in, the people had a face of surprise that outsiders came in... Then, the guard ordered Aria to meet the head of the guards alone... When she denied and asked for one other to follow, she turned to Saraya. Saraya was momentarily surprised, but it rubbed off quickly as she squeezed through. Lustful grunts and peering eyes looked upon her, but she forced herself to calm as she followed Aria
The guards we're following Aria and Saraya, both because she claimed to be The Priestess, the other, a woman far too beautiful to ignore was walking alongside her. The aura about them was already that of Central City. She sighed to herself as she walked into the office, and the guard there was skeptical... Until Aria asked Saraya to unbutton the dress. She did so, revealing the markings that took up her back and then, was ordered to close it again. Saraya stared at him, smelling nothing but the foulness that lingered about the building. No, he wasn't one of them, but it did raise suspicion. If she smelled spies before coming in, was it plausible that there was some of Malik's informers were still here, waiting for her to arrive?
Saraya hurried her down the stairs, but not before Aria stopped her... Apparently, she had the same objections to the situation as she. After Aria's suspicion coming to light, Saraya nodded and said "As you wish"
Going back to the group, there was a guard that seemed to stare at Aria and she with deep thought. The guard stared at her excessively... Perhaps, he had never thought that she would be a guardian. Her eyes peirced his being, and he could tell she was no mere woman. Carrick was right... She was not to be trifled with.
Suddenly, a commotion had grabbed her attention, and before any of the other guardians could move, and saw that Lara was getting herself into quite a tussle. It was impressive, using a heavy weapon as a propeller, but when the shielded guard hit her in the stomach, she took her bow and arrow out while advancing, letting loose an arrow to disengage his hand from his weapon. The attention then directed to her, her loading up another arrow and aimed it to another who sought to subdue her. The guard was hit in the shoulder as she slowly advanced to Lara, using her body as a shield and arrow ready. Adimar, the baffled guard watched as the guards absentmindedly attacked, and she let the arrow off, trapping one guard where he stood. She then revealed her sword, blocking a slow blow from a long sword. She used a pulse of her power to knock him back, then looked to Aria, who seemed to be just as baffled. Saraya thought it was enough, and halted all guards with a shield, and looked to Lara. "You must not cause trouble, guardian... "She began as she helped her up "... I understand curiosity, but this will not be good as first encounters"
After Adimar grabbed ahold of his guards, they were escorted to rooms to rest for the night. She sighed as she did her duty of cleaning and such... But a voice froze her. [I My love...]
She turned from where she stood to be in darkness and saw the spirit stand in stance as if to dance. Saraya bowed to him as he stared and smiled upon her. [I I have a gift for you... A well earned gift that will be sure to aid you with your suspicion...]
His hands had opened before him, and there, two jewels as red as the blood of Malik were within them. [I This will help you control your power...even aid you in the matter of appearance if you seek necessary camoflauge. It will also aid you when it comes to darkness and no wind. They will be of great use for a guardian such as you...]
The jewels found their way to her right arm, levitating at first before finding a place on her skin, and there, a transformation had become light. Her hair darkened except for the tips of her hair, her blue eyes shifted to an icy white, and markings appeared on her right side, coming from the very jewels given as a gift. Once the transformation was completed, the last large jewel had connected to her temple. At that point, she arched with the complete transformation. She felt a great power surge and combine within her being.
The Jewels of Ro-Tec An... The jewels once thought that never existed. They were forged by the demon of Secru and given power by the Elder Witches of the Mountain. The jewels were The Caledon's prized jewels, which he kept on his sword. After his disappearance, they sword they had found had no jewels on them. Now, they were on her right arm, displayed proudly on her flawless skin. She then looked into the mirror. She saw a warrior stand and stare back at her. A call to dinner had sounded outside of her room and she nodded to herself. [I A just and promising gift, My lord] she thought as she picked up the kimono she wore and headed down to the mess hall to meet the others.
And the next day she had waken up, somewhat sore shoulder and a feeling of something on it. After getting through all the drowsiness and afterthoughts on what the Fenlyck spirit showed her, there was indeed something on her shoulder and running down her arm. It seemed someone had put cleaned out the wound and covered it with a bandage when she had been seeing the visions shown by the spirit. She didn't take it off as the bandage still had a job to do, as long as he wound didn't become infected under the bandage then everything would be ok.
Other than that, it was back to traveling. Another mundane day of traveling, followed by another mundane day of traveling. Their caravan was making to some city within the Volshiv borders, to what city she didn't know, but as long as it was a safe place to rest she wouldn't mind. Both of these days the group had been pushing to the city as fast as possible, especially after the mage's attack on them. Within Volshiv they'd be much more safe than outside the borders, and the last guardian was a Volshiv. What better way than find the last guardian than by searching within Volshiv? There was no other way except that way, and the rest of the group did also want the safety offered by staying within a Volshiv city.
The day was bright as no clouds blocked the sun from shining in its beauty, and it was warm. But there was the winds which carried a bone deep chilling, as if it were some sort of foreboding omen which would actually happen in the future. And as usual she was sitting on her horse as they plodded forward and sat within her own mind, thinking about what she had seen, past and present and somewhat of the future. One question kept returning, around and around and around, who was the mysterious fellow who seemed to be leading this underground movement? Whoever it was, he had known her parents pretty well, but even the Fenlyck spirit knew not who he was, nor did it come back from the depths it had sunk back to after showing her those sights. The Fenlyck spirit acted weird, always surfacing and talking before sinking back into the depths, only to rise and sink again. It was somewhat frustrated, but then again not everything worked out right away.
And it happened towards the evening, actually nearing the city. Of course having to go the long trek upwards was tiresome for everybody, no one really liked going uphill for extended periods of times. But if that's what they had to do, then that would what they would do to accomplish the goal of getting to the city. But at least there was a view to distract from the long trek uphill, and it was beautiful. She had never seen a sight such as this, in truth she hadn't seen many a sight while on the run, either because she hadn't run into sights or had been paying attention on surviving out in the world. It was big, really big, and really open as well. It stretched out really far, except where the mountains were. But those sights were lost as they entered the city.
The sun had set by the time that had happened, but the city was lit up despite that there was no sun to light the city. They had proceeded some distance before being stopped by a duo of guards, evidently they thought that there was something off and odd about their group. Considering that all of them were from different places in one place together, and in a place which was militarized, not a surprise. Carrick began to talk to the guards while the priestess hid herself on the cart, and the rest of the group hung back as well. But that didn't help as the other guard ordered the priestess to remove her hood, and after the priestess had done that, the guards turned awfully quiet. And after the priestess has asked to talk to their superiors, the guards came to a decision and now they had to follow that duo of guards.
And they followed them until coming to some sort of building, a closer relook revealed it were holding cells for criminals. The torch light glinted off the metal bars, but it was steadily getting colder and colder. The duo guards had left, leaving their little group out in the cold. The two guards soon returned with three others; one was dressed up in an elaborate fine dress, the other two were dressed up in fine looking armor. The fine dressed man asked a question directed towards Carrick but the priestess stepped forward and began answering the fine dressed man's questions. And then the fine dressed man asked her to come in, while at the same time preventing the rest of them from coming in, very suspicious. The priestess took Saraya and the rest of them were now left to stand out here partially surrounded by guards.
She wanted to give everyone a slip and go and see what the two were up to with the fine dressed man, but with the guards and their attention on them, it wasn't going to be easy. But then someone else came out, and the focus of everyone slightly switched, and once this other began talking everyone else's focus shifted entirely. She took this opportune chance and gave everyone there the slip, sticking to the shadows where the torchlight did not reach, and went towards the inside of the building. All the doors were guarded, but the windows were not guarded, but none of the windows seemed right.
In the shadows she walked around some more, listening and watching very carefully, much better than standing out in the cold and doing nothing. Approaching one of the windows she heard voices, and one of them sounded very familiar. The window was somewhat above the ground, but it was easy for her to climb that distance. The room was lit, and se could see the backs of the priestess and Saraya, before Saraya opened the clothes on the back of the priestess. What she saw was awe-inspiring; a dragon with glinting eyes, something with antlers, some sort of fish, a hawk, and a serpent. Even though tattoos they were, their appearance was very realistic. And after that show, everyone in the room left.
Some curiosity had crept into her head, and she decided to take a look around the room. She carefully clambered over the window ledge, and quietly slid into the room. It looked big, and it looked like whoever owned it had some but f wealth to spend. The desk was some fancy design, as well as the rest of the furniture. There were paintings hanging on the wall, but one of them which was partially obscured by the shadows. Even up close it was hard to discern what it was, and because she was so focused on the painting she didn't hear the two pairs of footsteps behind her which then stopped right behind her. [b "A sneak in the"], hearing that much she began to flee but a hand covered in metal grabbed her and stopped her. [b "We'll see what the governor has to say to this."]
The two guards marched her, one in front and the other one close behind, a sandwich. Both of them were equipped with an wooden staff on which one of the ends was one big piece of sharpened metal. If only she could somehow get ahold of it, she could somewhat use it as a staff, but it was currently impossible to do that in between these two guards. Thy eventually came out, and in front of them were everyone else, although their little trio was still unnoticed. Some commotion was going on out there, and the two guards surrounding here were waiting till it had completely quoted down.
Once it had completely quieted down, the guards began moving, but then the guard behind her was falling as she had quickly darted aside and had tripped him. While the guard was falling down she relieved him of his weapon, it was heavy, especially where the metal was. She stuck the metal part into the ground, and swung the rest of the staff at the guard in front of her. But he parried that with practiced ease while yelling of a very loud expletive of some sort. The guard withdrew his own weapon to prepare his own attack, but she followed up with another attack which the guard again easily parried again. She was going to go for another attack when a mailed fist swiftly punched her in the stomach, all the air went out and she doubled over face first into the ground.
The House of Aethon was one of the thirteen Nobel Houses in Volshiv, all governed by the High Lord of Volshiv. Adimar was of the House of Aethon. It was a home nestled on a floating land mass high up in the clouds, where a sprawling city surrounded it. Of the bluffs of their island were docks for the many Air ships that traveled between the Sky Lands. It was a well kept secret, the way they lived, their magic and their technology. Adimar was not at home on their floating island, surrounded by the city and the many familiar faces he had grown up with. These days he was a Captain in the Volshiv Army. He commanded his own platoon of soldiers. They had patrolled their boarders, fighting several times with pitiful attempts on Mailk's part to breech the Volshiv Boarder. At 32 Adimar had fought and killed on and off a battlefield, had bedded many a beautiful woman, and had earned himself the respect and ear of the Political. He was also the Guardian for Volshi. This was no secret, those who knew him knew who and what he was, and those who had heard rumors, could only believe in those things.
He was currently holed up in the city of Tanaka awaiting orders for their next boarder patrol. He and his five men liked to spend their evening on the barracks drinking, smoking cigars and playing cards around a fire. They laughed easily, brutally teased on another, and on occasion a fist would be thrown but within moments things would be settled. Adimar was seated outside enjoying the crisp nighttime air, and the warmth of a nearby fire when one of his men seemed preoccupied by something.
"What is it you see Rupert?" Adimar questioned.
"Those pretty little fillies,"
"Pretty?" Adimar asked with a quirk of his brow and turned in his seat to see a small caravan being led towards the Main Hall by two city guards. "Very pretty..." Adimar grinned seeing the three women in the group. One of them was noticeably young, just a teenager as she rode a horse beside an equally young man. Two Jai traveled with them, and an older man with flaming red hair and beard. There was also the woman who sat on the wagon beside him -clearly Volshiv, and finally an exotic Caldonian. "Out of towners..." Adimar murmured.
His steel blue eyes were calculating on the group as the City Governor came out followed by their commander and lef-tenant. Adimar wished he was closer, so he could hear what was being said. Whatever it was, had the Governor and the two men behind him tense with shock, and murmurs began to make their way to Adimar. Thad, another of his men leaned over. "They say that is [i The] Aria Tolshiv. It's who she's claiming to be..." Adimar tensed and watched the young woman step down from the wagon with the red haired man's help and started towards the Governor to speak with them, even turning to call over the Caldonian to follow her.
"You jest... Malik killed her during the Raids of Central city..."
"That was only rumor. No body was ever found." Another of Adimar's men whispered throwing a card at Rupert.
"Hush you idiots," Adimar demanded, he was busy watching the remainder of the group. How they interacted. He noticed right off the bat that the large red head walked straight to the younger two of their group and had them dismount their horses, and they congregated at their wagon. One Jai stood alone... Adimar was just impressed to see one Jai, let alone two. Were they the cause for his restlessness?He knew his calling was coming, his own tattoo had begun to write just an hour ago. It was slightly uncomfortable as he couldn't reach it under his thick leather jerkin to scratch at it, but he knew those who had just arrived had something to do with it. If she was in fact Aria Tolshiv, that meant she was the High Priestess of Azeroth...
He stood up suddenly, his steel grey eyes hard on the group, and he began to advance. His pitch black hair, swished subtly against his back, it was long and he kept it pulled back with a silver cuff. He noticed that his approach had set the one Jai on edge. Adimar smirked, seeing how he wished to draw his blade, but Adimar stopped far enough away that it helped better the tension and caught the eye of the red haired man.
"Ayab.. peace, my friend..." He advised and walked over to join him, along with the other Jai. The Red head placed a heavy but comforting hand to the Jai, Ayab's shoulder and stared Adimar down. They weren't too much different in age. Adimar would have guessed he was just a couple years younger than the man. The three of them stood protectively like a barrier between Adimar and the two teens. "I am Carrick, these are my friends. Is there something we can do for you?"
"Ah, Carrick. I am Adimar of the House Aethon. A pleasure to meet you all," he said, his voice smooth but hard to read. All of him was hard to read, but there was a dark glint in his eyes. It was always there. Adimar was always find trouble, or making it for himself. "Tell me, is what I'm hearing my men whisper true? Do you walk with the Priestess of Azeroth?" Adimar smirked then. "Peace," he called, slightly amused by how they reacted to his question. "The Priestess is safest here, in this country, and in this city. If she is what she claims to be, every man and woman here would lay down their life for her. Including myself."
"How kind of you," Carrick stated, crossing his arms.
"You see, I've been waiting for her to return since she was taken from her family. I have been training for the day she calls me to arms."
"You think she will call on you? Why you?" Carrick asked. Adimar smirked once more.
"Why I am like you my friend, a guardian-" Carrick burst into laughter at that. Adimar was stunned, no one had ever laughed at him like that. "Are you not the Caledonian Guardian?"
"No, boy. Caledon may be where my family hails, but I am Central City born and bred... no, the Caledonian Guardian is with the Priestess,"
"You mean that tiny little waif of a creature is the Guardian for Caledon the Mighty?!" Adimar demanded to know. Carrick crossed his arms, it was the trio's turn to look smug at the arrogant Volshiv.
"That would be correct. Now I'll believe you're the Volshiv Guardian when the priestess returns and confirms it."Adimar growled, not caring for the man Carrick or his attitude.
"I will wait here for her return."
"No, she will seek you out. You don't trust outsiders... neither do we," Carrick warned. Adimar had to relent, in the man's position he'd be just as hyper protective of the priestess as well.
He didn't have to wait long as not to shortly after, the Governor emerged with the Commander and Lef-tenant with the Priestess and her Guardian in tow. They walked closely together, whispering softly and Adimar turned his eyes on them, causing Aria to stop short, and her eyes widen at him. Without word he bowed his head and fell to a knee before her. His hand fisted over his heart. His action caused the others present in the barracks to do the same.
ARia stood beside Saraya, holding her hand tightly as nervous tremors ran through her. She didn't understand why they all bowed to her, or how they all knew her name. It was disconcerting, but with Saraya's strength Aria was able to make her way towards the group and stared Adimar down.
"You... you found us. We've been looking for you," Adimar lifted his head and peered up at Aria, and gave her a handsome smile.
"My lady, I have prepared my whole life for this."
The sun was warm and bright, but the winds carried a chill. Aria hadn’t been able to answer Rhuarc’s question about the Volshi. She explained to him that shortly after she was born she was taken from her mother’s breast and placed into the care of the Septum Elders and from there she was raised within the halls of the Holy Temple. The very building Malik had taken and twisted into his own personal palace. After his invasion of the Central City, she was raised on the Caledon and Fenlyk boarder by Elder Rigby. She felt strange, returning to the land of her forefathers and yet she knew nothing of their culture. All she knew was she looked like a typical Volshi, pale features, willowy and lithe, blue grey eyes and blonde hair so pale it was almost white. No one knew anything about the Volshi –they were an incredibly reclusive race. One did hear rumors though, and it was rumored they lived predominantly on floating masses of earth that hovered above the cliffs of Volshiv, hidden in the clouds, and the only way to travel between them was with flying ships. Of course that was silly, no such thing existed, but Aria was curious to know if it was in fact true.
They were a day’s ride out of Tanaka a thriving city just inside the Volshiv boarder. When they had crossed the boarder there was no check point –nothing. All that stood to mark the change of countries was a stone formation weathered and disfigured, covered in moss and aged from time. It towered high above them, the structure having a twin on the opposite side of the road, like two large sentinels. Balden had been in awe of them, and for Aria, the moment they crossed she had felt a sense of knowing. The final guardian wasn’t far, it was a man, and he was on a path set to cross theirs. Carrick and Rhuarc had seemed to grow closer, and had created a sort of comradery between them. They spoke often, and for this Aria was grateful –they were her two most trusted advisors, and to know that they were creating their own friendship had helped ease her mind. Carrick had spoken with Rhuarc on the threats Malik possessed aside from his Mage. Of course they were nothing more than rumor. Carrick had more interaction with the Mage then he did with the king, but Carrick had lived under the reign of King Malik and knew more than the rest of them. It was supposedly rumored he kept a menagerie of creatures, that he also had a Necromancer on his payroll with a legion of undead Dragur, and a Dark Elf from across the Red Sea. With such creatures in his pocket it was no wonder he had overtaken the Central City and had forced the surrounding Provinces to bow to him. The only thing Carrick knew for certain was of an old Seer who Malik had captured and forced the old woman to foresee events so he could plan accordingly for the best possible outcome for himself. No wonder Malik always seemed to be one step ahead of them. She must not be able to see everything or Malik would have known to look, or maybe she wasn’t always truthful with him. Who knew, all Aria knew was that Carrick said the worst of it was, was the rumor of a dragon he kept under the Septum, chained and tortured with the hopes it would attack with blind rage on anyone it saw. The poor creature.
Rumor and speculation were all they had to go off of, and Aria felt bad she did not have more to offer to her Guardians. Defending themselves against a legion of undead, dark elves and dragons? Those creatures did not live here... they came from over the Red Sea... did Malik come from there as well? Had the creatures of magic and myth finally come back only to destroy humans? Aria couldn't be sure, but the one thing she did know was that everyone was eager to reach Tanaka so they could find an inn, rest and eat home cooked food. Aria didn't blame them, she was looking forward to it as well. She knew they would find the last Guardian in Tanaka, they just had to make it there.
Tanaka came in their sights near the evening, the uphill trek was tiresome for all of them and the horses, but the scenery had been lovely, if not a bit vast. It was wide open spaces as far as the eye could see, until they crested the first hill and saw the fog of the towering narrow mountains that rose up into the clouds and disappeared. The glittering lights of Tanaka greeted them, and guided them along the plateau. It was picturesque with it's wood and whitewashed cottages cobblestone paths, and the myriad of colorful prayer flags that criss-crossed the streets like stitching. Lanterns dotted the sidewalks illuminating the streets. Shop windows were still open, proving that Tanaka was a thriving metropolis that was up and moving at all hours of the day and night.
It was already sundown when they entered the town, but the first thing Aria noticed were all the faces. Everyone was fair featured, tall, and sporting either pale blonde hair or pitch black. Volshi Soldiers marched the streets, making it very clear, very quickly that not only was Tanaka a city, but it was a Militia base. Seeing them enter the city, two City Guards stopped them and held out their hands. Their faces obscured by their helmet visors, but their uniforms made of sturdy black leather, and elegantly etched steel armor. They each carried sturdy looking pikes, their black robes billowing in the gentle wind that seemed to breeze through the lands at a constant. Everyone here was Volshi... and their group was clearly not all of the same race. This the guards noticed right off the bat and for that alone, stopped them. Some might call it racism... others caution. It couldn't be held against them, these were clearly the men who protected the front lines and boarder of Volshiv. Aria dipped her head to hide her face, while beside her on the wagon Carrick did the talking -as usual.
"Evening Officers," Carrick greeted.
"Not everyday we see travelers here, especially those who come from so far away.." One of the men said and glanced to them all, from Rhuarc and Ayab, to Sarya and Lara.
"We have business in Tanaka," Carrick began.
"What sort of business?" they demanded, one of the guards walked over towards the wagon on the side where Aria sat beside Carrick.
"I'm afraid I can't divulge that," Carrick informed them looking contrite.
"You, remove your hood," The second guard ordered. Aria frowned, but knew she had no choice but to obey and slowly lowered her hood.
The two guards tensed, and shared a look with one another at the sight of Aria. After their weeks of traveling, the dyes that Saraya had put into her hair to get her out of the city, had faded out leaving her hair that buttery blonde once more.
"I am the reason for their business... please, is there a place more private and secure we may speak?" She asked "I'd like to talk to your superior," Aria requested. The guards, were not stupid... they were piecing together what they could with what they observed. She traveled with a diverse group, raging in gender, age and ethnicity.
"Follow us," The first grunted and the group was led through the city towards a barracks and smithing structure just on the outskirts of the city to the north.
Black smoke plumed from the forge, while the grounds were generally quiet. City guards patrolled the area, while soldiers sat around open fires laughing and drinking or playing cards. They were initially taken to what looked like a holding area for criminals. The ground was packed and dark, turned over and the grass killed by foot traffic, wagons and horses. They were instructed to wait outside the building as the torch lights glowed, and the air grew colder, now that the sun was gone. Looking around Aria spotted the iron cell doors, and was shocked to find them empty. Crime must not have been much of an issue in the city. Believable, as the entire city was mostly a Militia installation. Carrick brought the attention to Aria and Rhuarc as they waited, that the soldiers had gone quiet and were watching them. He hoped it was a simple curiosity, and not hostility as it was very apparent the Volshi did not accommodate guests very often.
They didn't have time to ponder, as the two guards returned flanking three other men. The man who walked in the center was not dressed in armor, but an expensive robe, with a crest hanging from his neck. The two other's were trussed up in finer armor and gear than the city Guards or the Soldiers. The introduced themselves, Tanaka's Governor, A Volshiv Commander and left-tenant.
"Visitors," The Governor began. "We do not see your kind often. The Guards say you were wanting to speak to us?" The Governor looked at Carrick as if expecting him to be the leader of the group, but he stepped back and looked to Aria. Aria stepped forward and nodded her head.
"That is correct. My name is Aria Tolshiv," A hushed murmur fell over the soldiers and the guards, the Mayor looked stunned as did the Commander and Left-tenant.
"You mean, you're [i The] Aria Tolshiv?" The Commander asked.
"Yes?" Aria answered nervously.
"Quickly, child... come inside," Aria made to move, but the guards stopped anyone else from following her. Nervous, to see guards and soldiers blocking her from her group Aria reached towards the Commander.
"No, please. They travel with me. These are my companions."
"I am sorry, but they cannot follow."
"Not even one?" The Commander looked reluctant but gave a nod of his head and allowed Aria to chose one to follow her.
"Saraya," Aria called. The Volshi watched the lovely Caldonian cross through their body wall and towards Aria. "Carrick, Rhuarc you know what to do," She told them. Carrick gave a nod of his head and turned around towards the rest of the group, telling them to sit tight while they waited. Carrick and Rhuarc fully aware they would protect Lara and Balden along with their goods.
Aria and Saraya were led inside the fort and right into a large Mess hall, which they passed through towards a set of doors that led to a hallway full of doors. Aria had chosen to bring along Saraya from a tactical point. With Saraya appearances were deceiving, and for as beautiful as she was, they had learned she was just as lethal. Her appearance alone was far less intimidating than Carrick or Rhuarc, and certainly less than Ayab's. Saraya also had a way with words that Aria felt might be useful if she needed help negotiating with the City Officials as to who they were and what they were doing in Volshiv. They were led into an officer's office, where they were asked to take a seat. The commander sat across from them at his desk and eyeballed both of them suspiciously.
"You travel with an odd group," he observed.
"I travel with those Azeroth has placed in my path," Aria returned confidently. "You seem to know who I am, this makes me curious, and cautious."
"Every Man, woman and child in Volshiv knows the name Aria of the House of Tolshiv." Well that was unsettling. "Chosen at birth to be the High Priestess. Are you truly her?" He asked. Aria glanced over at Saraya who seemed to assure her that what they both knew had to be done... be done.
"Have others tried to deceive you?" Aria asked, and it was the left-tenant who answered.
"Yes, hoping to travel past Tanaka and into Volshiv territories. If they are a mere explorer, we send them back. When we discover they are a spy, we kill them." Aria didn't doubt that for a second, and with a sigh stood up and turned her back on the men.
"Saraya, if you'd please," She asked, and allowed the woman to unbutton the back of her dress and show the men in the room the markings on her back. Saraya would be the only one in their group privy to what the mark actually looked like. It was a totem at the base of her neck and down her spine. The head of a black dragon crested her nape, it's fearsome Magenta eyes seeming to glow even on her skin, beneath it and within the dragon was the large antlers and face of a caribou for Caledon, a swirling Koi for Fenlyk, a Hawk for Volshiv, and finally a coiled serpent for Abhu'Jai. Rune text rained down along the sides of the totem. The mark was not simply a mark, but a work of art that had grown with Aria for all her days, the colors vibrant and pure, and covering the whole of her back. The men were in awe as Saraya closed the buttons back up for Aria.
"It really is you..." The governor breathed in awe. Aria did not respond, just stared the commander down.
"So those you travel with..." the commander began, but Aria cut in.
"Are The Guardians of Azera. We have come to Volshiv in hopes of refuge and to find our final Guardian."
"Refuge you may have!" The Governor exclaimed with great joy. "I shall allow you rooms in my own homestead, Priestess," he bowed.
"Your hospitality is a reprieve. Thank you," aria said and looked towards the other two men. "Is there anything else I can do for you?"
"Yes," The Commander interjected. "You can maintain your low profile. We are harsh on spies, but they are everywhere, and while we are confident there are none in the city, I can not promise it either. You are of the House of Tolshiv, and you are our Priestess. You honor us with your trust, and we hope to serve you well."
"Thank you..." Aria muttered and turned with Saraya as they were escorted back outside to their group. Walking the halls together Aria looked over sideways at Saraya. "Do you think they can be trusted?" she asked, even if it was a little late to be asking such a question. "I want you to be my eyes and ears of the city. The Governor was right," She continued to whisper. "I must remain hidden, low profile. I rely on Carrick and Rhuarc for matters of battle and tactics, but you I will rely on to find answers. I want to gleam a feel for this city and its people, you are good with socializing, and speak easily with others. Do this for me, let me know if they are loyal to the old ways... and why the House of Tolshiv seems to be so significant. Can you do this for me, Saraya?"
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