"Well, alright..." Lucas said as he followed Zhala into the marshlands. Something just seemed...off about this place. There had always been a strange mist, but the one in this area was so much thicker and peculiar. The Drake knew that his trust for the girl was wavering again, but he held onto it for now.
Noticing Zhala's strange expression of anxiousness and desire, Lucas assumed that they were very close to wherever she wanted to go. "We must be nearing your desired destination, correct?" He asked as they continued to walk, Zhala picking up speed a bit.
Lyra shrugged. She pet her snox, and took out her sketchbook, searching for a backup creature unless something did attack. Her arm was no longer black, and she was no longer in pain. Of course, if you don't count not sleeping at all pain.
She hadn't been doing so well, her bags getting more and more noticeable. She commonly had nightmares, and her only answer would be "people are worse than demons". Sleeping potions only caused night terrors, which would make her cry when she woke up. All in all, she looked horrible, and her braid was getting messier and messier.
Zhala, though would never admit it, was grateful for Liana assisting her up the cliff. She didn't like heights, she liked the sea and open spaces, as was natural for a water witch. It had taken but a moment to find the talisman, she quickly said a cloaking spell to ward it, not wanting the others to get a feel for its power. Protecting the talisman more than herself.
The others had more energy as they made their way back to the marshlands, the rest had done them good. They were so close to the centre now and Zhala could feel the blisters on her feet and the fatigue setting in. She hadn't rested or slept for days now.
[b [i Gaia virtute concessionis ] ] She whispered as they entered the inner circle of the marshlands. They were here. The first step on their journey and she had made it successfully without anyone turning against her, without people asking personal questions about what she was doing and so far, Lyra hadn't touched her. Which was fantastic. She would probably have killed the girl for trying to read her emotions.
Stopping ahead of the group she looked out at the land before them, it was completely dead, there were no trees or animals and no spirits that would help her now. Turning she spoke to the group as they approached her. [b " This is the inner circle. It is home to ancient spirits who do not take well to newcomers. I'd like to go and speak to them before we all enter. Lucas, would you come with me? I will need protection and Lyra can stay to protect Liana and the Kitsune in case anything attacks?" ] Zhala kept her voice soft, trying to earn the trust of Lucas and Lyra who had obviously become suspicious due to her little detour.
Not waiting to hear the others reply, she gently grabbed Lucas' arm and started walking into the centre of the marshlands, holding the strange talisman in her hand. Her stomach flipped suddenly, she was so close now. So close to her goal and nothing could stop her.
"Lucas is right," said Liana, ignoring that the Kitsune had said anything, "we have to rely in each other if we're ever going to get it if this alive so if it's up the cliff for safety, it's up the cliff we go.
Zhala, I'll come with you for support. The rest of you be prepared in case Zhala falls." Zhala gave her an indignant look. " I'm not saying you will, I just know I won't. Plus you won't be able to get this talisman if you break your back."
And so they began to climb. The cliffside was filled with jutting rocks and hollow crevices, perfect for a quick ascent almost as if it had been designed that way. About half way up, Zhala pointed to a small patch of greenery about fifteen feet above, saying that was what they we're aiming for.
By the time they got there, Liana was acutely aware of how high they were. It wasn't that she was afraid of heights but they were so exposed to the elements and the wind was strengthening the further up they went that she couldn't help but be a little anxious.
Zhala was rummaging through the foliage, whispering incantations in a language Liana didn't recognize until she shouted "ah ha!" and held out what Liana assumed was the talisman. It was very small. A little wooden circle with carvings on it; not at all impressive and certainly not something Liana thought would be useful to them on their journey. Still, she figured, magic wasnt her area of expertise so perhaps she shouldn't be so quick to judge.
She and Zhala descended again, half as quick as going up. At the bottom, Liana flexed her fingers which felt like they were seizing in a claw.
"So, what's next?" Someone said, though Liana made no attention to who.
"To the Marshlands."
Adlee sat down a little confused as to why they were being so..... Trusting of him
Maybe they wanted something back? He enjoyed the brushing a little then took out a golden nugget he "found" in someone's home in case they needed payment
He did understand a little bit of English but, didn't speak it himself.
He found himself purring once again
"So what brings you here anyways?"
"I can climb, if need be." Lucas stated after taking a look at the cliff. "If we're ever going to complete this journey, we're all going to have to learn to gain some trust from each other. So...I trust that what you're doing is necessary for our cause, Zhala." He chuckled and looked around once again, eyeing his partners. The one thing Lucas despised was being deceived. If this girl was lying about anything she just said in any way...he'd probably lose most of the trust he even has. He sighed and turned back towards the cliff.
Lyra told Adlee to sit down with her, and finished introducing everyone. She went for Adlee's tail again, stroking it calmly. She noticed his messy hair. She had messy hair too, but that was more from lack of sleep. She took out a comb, and started brushing his hair. She was definitely not climbing with the state she was in. Her snox curled up next to her, still staring at Zhala.
Lyra looked at her. She wasn't very quick to trust her. "Go down first. We'll follow." The snox approved, eyeing Zhala aggressively. Lyra wasn't one to go into dangerous situations first, and her arm still had some black, though not as much as before. She knew she wasn't in the state to climb, for she had slowly been getting weaker from lack of sleep, but she wouldn't admit it. She simply sat down and looked at Zhala, almost emotionless.
Zhala knew the way to the center of the marshlands, she had her map and her locator spells. Zhala knew that their best shot at curing the sickness was to start at the marshlands. So when they broke clear of the forest after a full day of walking and emerged a the bottom of a very tall cliff, she realised the others would question where they were.
Suddenly stopping her stomping steps, still irritated at the new arrival, Lianas demanding behavior and Lucas and Lyras blossoming friendship she turned on her heels, she faced the group. [b "There are ancient protections surrounding the marshlands heart, I need to collect a talisman that is located on this cliff. It's the safest way in." ] She spoke her words carefully, ensuring that every word she spoke was the truth. [b "I understand that this was not part of the plan, but I've been talking to the spirits of the forest and they have advised me this is the best plan." ]
Looking each of the group over, except the fox child who she still ignored, she tried to judge how they were feeling. Confused, irritated and very tired. [b "You need to talk about this" ] It wasn't a question, it was a statement. She wouldn't blindly follow someone up the side of a cliff with no provisions or food or protection. Zhala turned away from the group and started walking towards the foot of the cliff. She reassuringly touched the enchanted stone in the pocket. She couldn't get it out again as Liana had seen her with it a few times. She didn't want to draw suspicion.
Liana was torn between following straight after Zhala, staying to get a feel for this new creature that, beyond all logic, Lyra seemed to want to adopt into their ragtag gang or just forgetting everyone else and going back to sleep. She was [I tired]; a girl needed to recuperate. It seemed, though, the time for resting had now pasted them.
"Zhala, wait a minute," called Liana. She couldn't see the witch in the darkness of the dying trees but she heard her footfalls come to a halt. Zhala didn't return. Liana imagined her stomping her feet and sulking like a small child, but at least she wasn't abandoning them, as much as she might want to.
Liana turned back to the others. "I take it our foxy friend is going to be joining us?" There was no point arguing about it; Lyra and Lucas had clearly already made up their minds on the subject. A great plan for a group who, if they wanted to stand any chance of survival, needed to remain inconspicuous.
"Great. That's settled so let's get moving."
They caught up with Zhala in just a few moments. She made a great show of looking incredibly bored with one hand to her hip and the other playing idly with a glowing crystal. The light it gave off was no where near enough to help them see so Liana couldn't possibly imagine what it was for. Not that she cared enough to ask.
Instead she said, "lead the way," and with that the team, kitsune and all, disappeared I to the darkness, awaiting their next peril.
Adlee calmed down. It was a while since he heard someone spoke his native language.
"W-who are you all? And sorry for attacking. I was startled from my tree I was sleeping in nearby.."
He was looking down at the ground fidgeting a little nervously. He was still ready to flee since he didn't fully trust them but, it calmed him to remember those nice nights hunting with his parents while talking about the best spots to catch food
Lucas set himself next to Lyra and the kitsune. "So...what are you telling it?" He looked at her, intrigued that she could speak the kitsune's language so seemingly fluent. "I'm still surprised to see one of them in this land." He chuckled and pulled a small piece of meat from a pouch, which had been preserved by salt. Lucas ripped a part of it off with his teeth and put the remainder back in the pouch as he ate. "Anyways...how are you feeling?" He asked Lyra. Afterwards, he suddenly began whispering. "Personally, I believe that we are the only two individuals here with any wits left in us." He sad as quietly as possible, making sure that not even the kitsune could hear.
Lyra sighed, and helped Adlee up. She kept introducing everyone in kitsunese, still stroking its tail. She had always loved fluffy things. She sighed. " [in kitsunese] I just wanted to help fix the world, and I ended up traveling with an antisocial healer, a smart Drake, and an asshole." She looked at Adlee, her eyes sparkling, "[in kitsunese] You should come along!" The snake nodded, no longer was its hood flared.
Lyra smiled at the snake. "Thank you." The snake slithered away, and a night-eye/snox emerged. It slithered next to Lyra, large enough to eat the young caller. Lyra calmly pet it.
Zhala stepped back slowly, it appeared as if she wouldn't be killing the creature today, but that didn't stop her knicking the skin on its neck with her knife slightly before walking away from the group to stand beside Liana.
[b "A magic talisman? Even if I did, would you want to know what they were saying?" ] Zhala rolled her eyes and pulled out her map again. If they wanted to reach their destination they would need to move quickly. She could feel a change in the wind meaning rain would be coming soon. The center of the marshlands had been untouched for years and she wasn't sure what they would find there but from their fight the previous day, they would need all the luck in the world if they had to defend themselves, and the didn't need a storm hindering them.
[b "I'm leaving. You can either come with me and carry on pretending you're all heroes saving the world, or you can stay here and play with your ... cat." ] She said, putting her map away. Zhala pulled out a small flask of water and took a sip. She lifted the bandages on her shoulder slightly and cringed at the sight of the raw skin, but the bleeding had stopped which was positive.
Turning her back to the group, she took a look at the position of the sun and then started heading off towards the center of the marshlands.
As soon as the Kitsune started purring, Liana had had enough. "That's fucked up," she said, stepping away. Even as she did so, the Kitsune made no start to move, in fact, it seemed quite content as Lyra continued to stroke it's tail.
She was whispering something to it in a language Liana didn't understand. Kitsune weren't native to the area and the only experience she had with the creatures was in passing. From what she was seeing at the moment, she was glad of the fact.
Zhala was still standing over it with her glittering knife but for some reason no one was paying her any attention, despite her clearly wanting blood. Liana couldn't blame her for being angry; it had been a long, tiring day with little positives to be found and now she was being attacked in the middle of a night by the worlds first purring fox.
"I don't suppose," Liana asked her, "you have a magical talisman that let's us understand what the hell they're saying?"
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