[center [pic https://image.ibb.co/cXHyqy/staz01.png]]
[size12 [b Thirty minutes later.]]
[font "Minion Pro" [size12 Fire crackled and snapped all around Staz while he meditated, burning and swaying while streams of flame glided down the stable and errupted in a high blaze. Simultaniously, his hair danced around his face as he scanned the entirety of the camp. It wasn't a big camp at all, a few tents with beds, fire pits and what have you lined around a large black platform with strange markings carved into it. Benches around the platform and broken pillars scattered around the area. They were preparing for something which Staz could only assume would have to do with Aria and the blood moon. He had no time to waste - this plan had gone over in his head many times. All he could hope now was that it would work.
[b "Wha' the hells all that smoke done up there?!"]
The fireborns eyes shot open and he roared out in pain, screaming as loud and painfully as he could manage while the flames climbed up his torso, burning away his cloak and undershirt. After a while, he went silent and the stable doors swung open. Flame roared everywhere to the point where they couldn't so much as step into the place. The horses whinnied and screamed in their own sense but the flames were too high to tell if they were on fire or not. Staz layed still in the fire until he felt the cultist rush off to warn the others. [b "Tha damn horse hut burnin'! Tha boy dead! Tha prisoner boy dead!"] he yelled as he ran back down the hill to warn the others.
Of course, Staz was fire proof. He shifted the flames as he rushed to the edge of the stable, clearing a way to kick down the wall nearest to where Bela was stationed - which was a much easier task now that it had been soaked in flame. He lead the anxious horses out from the broken wall with much effort; Nearly losing Clef in the process. He barely tied the horses together before they bolted off in a scramble. The two horses bumped into eachother a few times before Bela took the lead. As he'd said before Bela knew the way. That path the two horses were stomping away at would lead them the rest of the way out of the forest. Staz could sense the air here was much thinner here compared to the depths of the forest, this settlement had to be near the edge of the forest, most likely by the very river they needed to cross to get to Aria's village. It was the Aussa River and it went through this forest, out the other side, then back west towards Gollymore.
They were almost there.
[size12 [b Nearly an hour later.]]
Nearly half of the cultists were sent out to collect as much water as they could from the river cutting into the forest to put out the fire. Typically it was against bloodborn culture to attempt manipulating water because it was such a pure liquid - but judging by the situation at hand it seemed necessary to bend the rules. With them gone, it would be easier to grab Aria and escape.
At this point, everyone was too on edge about the fire and the blood moon to be dwelling in any tents. Which made it all the easier to tell where Aria was. Her figure seemed to adjust and readjust every so often in discomfort. Only one of those hicks stood outside the tent in dedication to their task of keeping her from escaping. Staz stayed close to the side of the tent, peeking over to the front he did something he didn't really enjoy doing.. Staz killed her. With the simplest grip of his hand towards the bloodborn woman, Staz pulled the air from her lungs and watched as she helplessly grasped at ther throat. As she dropped to her knees. Watching while her eyes rolled back into her head and she collapsed in a heap. He really didn't like killing. Staz rushed passed the corpse and pulled back the enterance of the tent, his expression quickly turning horrified at the sight of Aria. They dressed her like a doll and painted terrors of blood all over her exposed skin. Staz wet his lips, swallowing hard he found himself unable to look at her directly. "We're leaving." He said, his bare stomach flexing as if to keep his stomach from turning anymore than it had been. He burned away his shirt and cloak in an attempt to make it truly look like he was on fire in the stable - it wasn't easy to make him cold anyway.
Hearing yelling in the distance, Staz didn't hesitate to grab the binds on her wrist and burn them away. It was a rushed, pulling motion that very well could have burned her in the process. He didn't have time to work around her small hands. They had to run before anyone noticed she was gone. Grabbing her freed wrist, Staz ran towards the horse made path in the woods. Pulling Aria along behind him.
The sinking feeling that Aria was getting only became worse when she saw the man’s bony mask. He was menacing, and the fact that he seemed to be the ringleader only added to that. The others moved around him like mere pawns. By the time he declared that she and Staz were to be separated, her fear was at its peak, not even the idea that he had some sort of plan for her couldn't make this situation any worse.
Despite all the incredibly concerning things this so called blood lord mentioned, the off-putting two-toned quality of his voice was by far the most unsettling thing. Almost as though he was possessed by the very night terrors he claimed to worship.
Unable to bear the sight of him any more, the Skyborn looked down to the littered ground. The fallen leaves and pine needles hid it perfectly. Her eyes stayed there, even as the cultist woman was taking her away. Her threat was needless. Aria knew there was no point in running, not as long as that creepy guy was still in sight. She could practically feel his eyes burrowing into her back.
There was no peace until they made it to the tent. Like the other buildings and fixtures she’d passed, it was in a clearing. The trees had been removed from this particular area to make way for the Oceanborn settlement. Because of this the moon was clearly visible above them. Its pale glow illuminated the world below, making everything shine, but the blonde wouldn’t look up at it directly. She didn’t want to know how little time she had left.
Inside the canvas walled building, there was very little to see and Saehara didn’t seem too interested in following her in. Instead she opted to stand at the entrance, making it clear she would stop Aria by any means necessary if she tried to pass.
The Oceanborn woman’s vigil was short-lived. No sooner than Aria heard footfall outside of the tent, did the other woman step out. Watching the open flap of canvas, she half expected to see the blood lord again, but it wasn’t him. It was another man, also wearing a mask, but it paled in comparison to the one their leader wore.
[b “I’m ‘ere to get you ready, it’s best ya cooperate, little Skyborn.”] He sounded tired as he spoke, but she couldn’t be sure that wasn’t just how his voice naturally sounded or not. [b “Put this on.”] Pulling a white fabric garment from atop his shoulder, he held it out to the woman.
[b “Excuse me?”] She blinked at him as though he had two heads. Aria wasn’t about to change in front of a stranger.
[b “It’s that or I can puddit on ya? Yer pick.’] That option sounded worse by far.
With a look of defeat, she walked over to the man and took what appeared to be a dress from his hand. [b “You better not look!”] She tried to sound threatening, but her voice shook the entire time.
Moving to the far end of the room, she turned her back and tried to ignore the fact that there was some lunatic stranger in the room as she stripped down to change. The pristine white garment was indeed a dress. It seemed to fit her perfectly, tight to every curve, but long and flowing at the same time. The hem came down to mid-calf and the sleeves partway down her forearms, the only part that wasn’t kept fairly modest was the chest. There it was way too revealing for her. Embarrassed, she didn’t want to turn around.
[b “Get over ‘ere already.”]
Putting on a pout, Aria listened to him, but she definitely wasn’t happy about it. In fact she was tempted to bring this place down, but she knew it wouldn’t work. Well, she might be able to cause a decent amount of destruction, but it would only be a matter of time before they held her down by the blood again. And it would probably anger them a fair deal. Something she didn’t need to do right this second.
Meeting the Oceanborn in the front half of the tent, she sighed. What more did he want? The answer would soon be apparent as he pulled out a container of sorts. Watching as he unscrewed the lid, it was full of a thick red liquid. He dipped his fingers in it and she began to pray it wasn’t what she thought it was. However these prayers were never to be answered. The man began smearing blood onto her exposed skin. It started at the chest where he drew out a circle lined with foreign sigils. The entire time Aria was as uncomfortable as can be. Not only did she not want to be painted in blood, she didn’t want him touching her. Anywhere! When he was finished the exposed canvas that was her bosom, he moved to her face. The marking continued in a methodic manner, and the pungent smell of iron filled her nose as he went. It felt like she was going to gag, but Aria held back.
Taking a step back when he was through, the man seemed to admire his handiwork. [b “Now ya just gotta wait fer the blood Lord to come ‘n get ya. Shouldn’t be too long now.”] He flashed a grotesque smile before exiting the room.
[center [pic https://image.ibb.co/cXHyqy/staz01.png]]
[font "Minion Pro" [size12 Oceanborn cultists were by far the most terrifying elementalists to exist. Worse than fire or any other harsh power - The cultists would cut themselves open and use their own blood and the blood of other creatures to control and abuse at their will. Not only that, but they could sway the blood in your living body and force you to move in ways you wish you hadn't.
Staz immediately felt it drag his arm away from Aria's stomach as they gathered around the house. Looking proud, as if they had outwitted them. It pissed Staz off. Once Aria was pulled from Clef they began tugging at his arm and his leg, to which he muttered about him being able to get down on his own. However they remained persistant which caused Staz to immediately thrust his foot up into the womans face, her head knocking back comically she stumbled into the others. That would be the only expression of movement he felt for a while. Immediately the sickening grip of his insides ensued - Squeezing and tugging at him in a way that made him groan and bare his teeth while he recoiled unnaturally. They didn't bother with proper human movements, in fact they treated Staz just about as well as they would a goat. He hit the ground on his side with a yelp, electricity dancing across his fingertips and up his arms in expression to his frustration. [b "What will we do with this one, Blood Lord?"] [i Blood Lord?] The man that seemed to be taking such a fascination in Aria finally looked up, his cloak hood slipping off his head. His face.. it didn't quite appear human. [b "Put him with the rest of the stock.. I have plans for this one."] Rather than a fleshy mask for a face, the man had what looked like an animals skull protruding out from the upper half of his face - his eyes a stunningly vibrant blue that just seemed to peer out through the sockets of the skull. He glanced back to Aria, his lips curling into an unsettling smile.
They tied Staz up and dragged him through the grass and dirt, all the while Staz contorted his body in any way possible to keep his eyes on Aria for as long as he possibly could - His gaze wide and explosive.
The two of them splitting up certainly wasn't part of his plan.
This [i Blood Lord] wasn't part of his plan.
But, now it had to be.
The wheels were turning once again, as Staz was dragged into what looked like an abandoned stable. They left him tied and alone in one of the wooden cubicles. [b "Be a good lil' Skyboy now -"]
[b "Ya lil' girlfriend?"]
"What's he doing with her."
[b "Blood moons nearly on us ya know - Our Lord loves ta give a pretty offerin'"]
The cultist trotted out from the stable, and Staz immediately glared at the ground. He needed to think, there was a way out of this. This was the safest bet. There was always a way out. There had to be. He glanced at the makeshift lock on the swinging door, the small square window just behind him near the roof of the stable. A little fire to burn the ropes and air to get him up to that window and he was home free. He could easily escape and none of those hick cultists would know it had happened. His skin began to warm up, steam rising from his wrists -
Then he stopped. His clenched fists went limp in the binds on his lap. He couldn't abandon her, not after asking that she trust him. Closing his eyes he attempted to reach out to that light in the back of his mind; Grasping for a peace of mind that would collect his thoughts and flood his veins with elemental energy.
Right now, this was all he could do.
[center [pic https://image.ibb.co/hiJppd/silver.png]]
[b "What a beautiful damsel."] The mans voice nearly sounded human, but there was something looming in the back of his throat, a deep and demonic sound that echoed his words in perfect harmony. [b "Do you know of the blood moon? It's said to bring horrible monsters from the depths of hell - a perfect time to offer the Dark One our gifts, wouldn't you agree?"] He leaned in closer, his eyes challenged the moon in the sky with their glowing vibrance. [b "We have little time I'm afraid... I must prepare for your ceremony..."] There was a chilling silence as he examined her, the blood grip still tight on her veins. [b "Saehara, please see the prize to her waiting room."] The control of blood was a strong and exact power. Only one in every ten Oceanborn can use it. For this man to have Aria in such a tight bind with only a glance - no gesture or concentration? It was clear that he was incredibly powerful.
A woman stumbled up behind Aria, binding her hands tightly behind her. [b "Don't make me use no blood touch on ya now."] She began leading Aria to an empty tent - all the while the edge of the moon began to trickle with red.
Just as she finished telling him what was going on, Aria felt the Fireborn’s grip tighten around her midsection. It brought them closer together once again. There was a bewildering sense of solace in it, a fleeting comfort as he explained something had happened to his horse. From there it was only more bad news. There was little chance of them making it out if they strayed from the course. She had a feeling she knew where Staz was going with this, but she hoped he might surprise her.
That was not the case. “ Aria,” His voice saying her name was like a spell, it drew her in. However the next bit made her stomach drop. “Can you trust me?” Nothing she wanted to hear followed after that either.
“We need to let them capture us. We keep on the path and let them take us. Trust me.”
The Skyborn woman turned back to actually look at the man. Her lips parted, as she was about to ask if he was out of his mind, but she stopped herself. Shutting her mouth, Aria stared into his eyes. He was serious. Shortly after that she became overly conscious that their faces were only inches apart. Quickly, she turned back forward. Gaze fell down to her trembling hands; she let out a shaky breath.
In some ways, his logic made sense. Thinking back to that smoldering mystery creature he’d dealt with, the idea of going up against normal human people didn’t seem too bad. But there was no telling just what they wanted. And that is what scared her the most, but her gut wanted to believe in him. Even if she really didn’t have any real basis for it.
[b “Fine.”] The single word was whispered under her breath.
Clef pressed on at the same steady speed he kept the entire time. His breathe coming out in consistent intervals. He was a good horse, one that didn’t spook for anything so she hoped nothing happened to him even if she and Staz ended up dead.
From there, Aria completely forwent using her sensing. It was more important to conserve energy. Not to mention she had a general idea of where they would cross paths if everyone stayed on course.
Having second thoughts about the plan, the woman murmured in a hushed tone. [b “I sure hope you are right about this.”]
It was barely another hundred yards before the cloaked figures came into view. The navy blue of the fabric didn’t do much to stand out against the muted colors of the forest. Clef tried his best to continue forward, right until one of the figures cut off his path. The large animal came to a screeching halt then began nervously stomping his feet while vocalizing his irritation at the Oceanborn.
Aria on the other hand kept silent, even as the circle tightened around them. The closer they got, the fewer people continued, as though it was some sort of sinister preconceived dance. And even though they moved sluggishly, it seemed like no time at all before the final four were right up on them.
Only a short while ago, it had been too cold for Aria’s liking, but now she was practically sweating. Though, it was more out of terror than temperature. Still she managed to keep decently composed. That was until the hooded man reached out and grabbed her. His large hand was ice on her wrist. He easily ripped her from her seat. On the other side of Clef someone else was pulling at Staz, though she was too distracted with her own predicament to see if it was working out for them.
Another chilling hand came up to touch her face. Fingertips trailing heavily over her temple and cheek, they stopped at her chin. He grabbed her jaw just hard enough to steer her face towards his. Now standing flat on the ground, Aria could barely make out the shadowed face beneath. His Brilliant blue eyes seemed to shine even in the dark. It was unsettling. Instinctually, she went to push him away, but before her hands could touch his chest, her arms stopped cold. Slowly, and without her control, her appendages pressed firmly to her sides. Trying to forcibly move them, her veins pressed uncomfortably on everything else as they stayed in place. It was no use.
[font "Minion Pro" [size12 [i Focus on the light in the back of your mind, you're skyborn so you should see the minds cloud] He wasn't sure what he saw anymore, when he focused on that light there was fire, lightning, sometimes it was just a glowing figure. He tried not to dwell too much on what the light was - and just focus on seeing it. [i Let your mind be at ease, just see that cloud and the sound of your own breathing. This is a place where you have complete control] He could faintly hear Aria's words - they came and went like sweet gusts of wind. "Alright." he mumbled in response, he was more focused on his own breathing - deep and slow, as he put as much effort into meditating as one could pushed into the back saddle of a horse. In and out, each inhale pushing his chest on her back, each exhale blowing her hair back from his nose.
[center [pic https://image.ibb.co/nB710J/chrome_2018_06_13_12_47_46.png]]
It was no use, you never realize how touch starved you are until you're in full contact with another person the way Staz was right now. He pushed aside some of her hair with his chin to rest on her shoulder so he could try peering blindly into the night; A failed attempt at trying to examine ahead of them. He could feel his element flowing back into him, but he wasn't going to waste it doing something as taxing as his wide ranged scouting trick - Aria would have to be their eyes for now. Lowering his arm over the left side of Clef, Staz emitted a handful of flame to examine the ground under the horses feet. Each hoof print left by Bela was off from the next, some too close and some too far apart - like she was scrambling nervously. Staz narrowed his gaze, peering up in surprise when the bird squacked obsessively.
Aria's voice made him sick to his stomach, so quiet and terrified. He wet his lips and tightened his arm around her waist. "They have Bela." he replied in her ear, this time sitting up from his slouch with a bit of effort so his weight wasn't pushing on her. "They've been leading us to their camp using her tracks. Any searching you've seen them doing was probably to be sure that we were on this path." That's why her tracks were so unnatural - she was scared.
Staz was a good few inches taller than Aria, he didn't notice until they had gotten this close and he was glancing at the top of her head. He was beginning to feel a strange protectiveness over the girl - which was very unlike Staz. [i How hard did I hit my bloody head back there?]
He was quiet for some time, his skin heating and cooling in an odd fashion as he grew more frustrated trying to figure out a plan. "If we leave the trail now.." he muttered thoughtfully - "Something worse will find us.. we're safer with the cultists on either side of us.. safer, safer.." he glanced into the night and at the birds overhead. "Aria, can you trust me?" he spoke clearly, but as soft as ever. Leaning back next to her face he continued to speak: "Right now the Oceanborn are keeping either side of us cleared of any creatures, if we stray from this path they made we will get lost and we will die you understand that don't you." It wasn't a question, she was trembling for the same reason he was chewing at the inside of his cheek.
They were going to get caught by the Oceanborn.
"We need to let them capture us. We keep on the path and let them take us. Trust me."
Mildly surprised when Staz began to stumble toward her, she wondered if she’d said too much. Coupled with the mumbling, Aria was sure she pissed him off. She recalled the people of Gollymore mentioning that he’d been a loose cannon. Debating on whether or not she should cut her losses and bolt, she lost that chance when he grabbed ahold of her leg, tearing it from its foothold.
“Obviously we keep moving. Stay quiet and follow Belas path."
That seemed like a relatively normal thing for him to say, but she still didn’t get why he was over here with her. What did he want? The question was quickly answered as he pulled himself atop of Clef. She blinked in confusion. Her body was pushed against the horn of the saddle. And while it was uncomfortable, she attempted to wiggle in a little closer so she didn’t have to be so flush against the Fireborn.
As soon as they were as content as they were going to be, Aria patted Clef’s neck to get him going. The Fireborn was right, Bela took right off, but she was going slower now that she was without rider. Perhaps she was concerned for Staz and didn’t want to get too far away, it balanced nicely with her want to be out of these haunting woods. This pace was more manageable.
Now knowing just where she needed to focus, the Skyborn only used her sensing ability intermittently. She needed to conserve energy and those strangers were definitely their biggest concern at the moment. Therefore they had her attention. And while they were terrifying, it was nice to have something to keep tabs on. It took away from everything else foreboding about this place.
Aria was still on edge, so when Staz reached out and touched her, she nearly jumped out of her skin. Her heart pounded violently, its beating filled her ears like a drum. What in the hell was he doing? She took in a deep breath, trying to calm herself back down.
When he commented that she should bear with it, his actions made more sense and she nodded. It wasn’t like she could push him away. He would fall off of Clef and wind up in worse condition. And he wasn’t much use to them beaten and exhausted. She would let him rest up.
Even before his words came, Aria felt the dark haired man's heated breath on the back of her neck. It sent a shiver down her spine and she was suddenly aware that she was more than just physically uncomfortable with what was happening. The Skyborn wasn’t used to having anyone hold her like this. Sure she hugged her dad, but it had been months since she’d even done that. Her face flushed and she was glad it was dark. It didn’t help that he chose right now to be kind of sweet. She hadn’t expected any sort of apology, especially after he warned her previously that she would be left behind.
[b “It’s Ok, I mean, not really, but it worked out this time… I think.”] The last clause was for the future. There was still a chance that they wouldn’t make it out alive. [b “I’ll fully forgive you when we get out of here.”] Her words were more optimistic than she felt, but with the mood being what it was Aria didn’t feel the need to be a huge downer.
There was silence after that, though she could still feel his breath, light and warm, through her hair. He sounded tired from the tone he used before. Aria wondered if she needed to worry about him falling asleep. With how close they were, she was sure she could catch him if he started to slip. But she hoped it wouldn’t come to that.
Judging off of how the distant cult members were moving, they still didn’t know where the travelers were. It felt like they were combing the trees in a sweeping movement. If they kept on that course, they would miss the pair altogether. Her lips curled up in relief, and some of the stress she’d been holding in her back and shoulders melted away. Relaxing, she sat back a little. Without her back ramrod straight, it pressed against Staz’s chest. But since he was already holding onto her, she thought it was probably all right. Plus it was cold here without the sun. His warmth was welcome, though she would keep that to herself.
The peace didn’t last long. Perched upon one of the braches ahead was one of the beady-eyed ravens. Aria didn’t see it till it was too late. The little monstrosity was cawing away before she had a chance to shred it with wind. Immediately she checked on the figures’ status. They’d already changed trajectory. One grouping turned to give direct chase while the other looked as though they were going to try and cut them off down the line. She leaned forward once again, the stiffness returning to her posture.
Aria spoke softly, voice trembling. [b “They’re onto us. At this rate we will run right into them. We need to change course.”] There was no way for her to know whether or not he would be able to sway Bela into doing that, but it was worth keeping the Fireborn updated.
[left [pic https://image.ibb.co/nw0exd/staz02.png]]
[font "Minion Pro" [size12 [center [i What happened?] He looked around while Aria argued at him with a sense of disconnection. The foul stench in the air and the corpse laying a few paces away from them.. Was that him? Despite the girl trying to talk some sense into his words, he just seemed to look around like he was missing something. As if he wasn't completely there. But that glare, it never left his face. Consider it a resting bitch face, Staz always had his brows pinned down in a way that suggested he was ready to be displeased with anything and anyone; Perhaps because so much of what he had seen in his life had been so displeasing.
He couldn't feel the air around him even when he tried to reach out. The last he could see was that group crouching over in the opposite side of the path. If they were cultists, there was no doubt them splitting off was an action to peruse them. Luckily they wouldn't be able to feel for them unless they were in water. He couldn't see them, but Aria could. She would be the only thing standing between them and an Oceanborn ambush. Stumbling towards the girls horse, Staz muttered something about Aria's leg and yanked it from the stirrup nearest to him. "Obviously we keep moving. Stay quiet and follow Belas path."
His voice didn't carry the same authoritative tone it had up until then. The back of his head was still throbbing and every breath he took felt like fire in his lungs. He was weary, as if something had used up all the elemental energy he had inside him. Glancing at the dead monster, he realized that may have genuinely been the case. Bela was speeding her way out of the forest, she knew the way out and without the map all they could do was follow her.
Staz stuck his leg into the stirrup he pulled Aria's foot from and hoisted himself up behind her, sliding into the curved back of the saddle in a way that pushed at Aria's rear. It was too close for his liking, but walking would only let the cultists catch up. "Bela sped out of here already, she knows where to go." he pointed at the trampled path of tall grass and dirt that the horse left deeper into the woods. Her tracks were obvious enough for them to follow at a good pace. But it would also be easy for anyone else to follow if they stumbled into this area. "We can't go back to the path, I'm not even sure we'd easily find it again. This is the only way to go."
Clef began after Bela's path and each thumping movement pushed his body closer against Aria's back. He began holding the back of the saddle, but his dizzy head and strained arms had him swaying to each side in a way that could make him fall. He really didn't want to, but this next action was something he needed to do: Staz reached his right hand under Aria's arm, hesitating only once he placed it on her side and slid his arm around her waist - his hand pressing against her stomach. It was a slow, uncertain movement until he grunted and pulled his left arm around her as well. "Bear with it." he wanted to demand it, but it came out in more of a hoarse whisper. With his head sideways, this close to her hair he could smell a surprisingly fresh scent. How did she smell this good when she's been traveling for so long? After his travels, Staz only ever smelled of cedar and dirt. The thick coating of nature soaked into him from years of being within it. Steam rose faintly off his face and he furrowed his brows.
"This was a bad idea." he admitted, speaking quietly at the back of her neck so nothing else would hear them. "Bela is fast and well directed. We never take pause passing through these woods no matter how many beasts are stalking us. I didn't take protecting you into consideration. I'm -- I usually travel alone. It was a stupid misjudgment..." closing his eyes he tried to recover a bit of his energy.
Completely caught up in her head Aria’s breathing quickened with Clef’s. What in the hell was that thing behind them? It was not sized or shaped to be anything she imagined would naturally occur in the world. There had to be something more going on and that terrified her deeply.
Her head snapped up when she heard her name. Staz was already so far ahead. When did that happen? Hands shaking, she leaned forward prompting for Clef to try and catch up.
“Get off the path!”
What? That was lunacy, but with how things were going, they needed something a little crazy to get them safely out of here. Judging by eye where Staz had left he path, Aria pulled hard on Clef’s reins on order to lead him from the narrow pathway. From there it was impossible to say which way he’d gone for certain. She tried to follow the occasional snapped twig and sign of hoof prints, but they were far and few between in this densely wooded mess.
Behind her, the phantom figure ran right passed where they’d left the trail. It didn’t last long though as turned shortly after, barreling through the foliage without slowing at all. Aria silently prayed that it wouldn’t turn back toward her. If she could get by without entering combat, she wouldn’t complain about anything ever again. Which was most definitely a lie, by in the moment if felt as though she might be able to do it.
Being alone, and knowing that the monster was no longer on her tail, the Skyborn slowed her stead. The nervous horse was hesitant to oblige, but eventually took to her command. His steady hoof beats became more careful. Meanwhile she altered her search for movement. Instead of a long strip behind them, it morphed into a circle of smaller radius. This way she would know if something came from any direction and she’d stand a better chance of finding Staz. That was if he hadn’t abandoned her.
Extra attentive to everything that was happening around her, it felt as though her ears twitched with each and every unexpected noise. The distance sound of the ravens and the near silent skittering of squirrels, each was suspect under her ear. In this situation her eyes didn’t offer much aid. They were unreliable. The shadows that bounced around easily twisted harmless images into monsters. And so she tried to keep her light eyes forward and let her ears and wind sensing do the majority of the work.
Like paper beating against the air, birds wings rang out again. This time closer than before. Before she knew it, a flash of red mingled with brown came at her. Aria shrieked, swiftly covering her mouth knowing the dangers of making too much noise. It had been a robin, and nothing more. Jittering atop of Clef, she tried to find where the small creature had come from, but no place in particular stuck out at her. She didn’t know where it went after narrowly missing her either.
In the distance, a flicker of light burst into life. The burning red of fire, it had to be Staz. She patted the horses side then turned him straight toward the glow. If he was stoking his powers there was a chance he’d need help. Rushing, but only at a pace that she considered safe, Aria prayed again that they would be all right.
As they drew closer, the light became brighter, but it wasn’t only the distance that made it so. The flames spread wildly and in front of them the silhouette of their manipulator. A sign that the Fireborn was still kicking even if there was trouble afoot. Just as she came into frame, the fire simmered down, but the smell of singed fur tinged the air. It was unpleasant, but not as unpleasant as the sight of the crisp creature falling to ash on the forest floor. She flinched.
Focus falling back to the man who was in the middle of a coughing fit, she wondered if that was normal for a Fireborn to be wheezing like that after using their powers? Who was she to say? And so just as she was about to ask if he was OK he beat her to the draw.
“That horse is too slow.”
Her lips fell into scowl. [b “He can’t help it.”] And what was he glaring at her about? It wasn’t like there was anything she could do about Clef being a carthorse. The real problem was that he had brought them into this godforsaken forest. [b “We need to get out of here, I’m sorry, but trying to cut through the woods was a stupid idea.”] Her complaint was quiet, albeit filled with bite. Even though they had been reunited, she was still scared.
Waiting for him to return to his ride, Aria threw out a large blast of energy to get a scope for what was out there before they went back to the formation they had before being separated. Far out, she noticed the figures that, unbeknownst to her, Staz had sensed earlier.
Head turning in their direction, she continued to keep her voice low. [b “There are people out there.”] The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end. There wasn’t a single good thing that that group could be up to in these woods. She desperately wanted to ignore them, but instead she closed her eyes and focused more readily on that area. [b “Twelve… no thirteen. They’ve got a child with them. The group is splitting in two.”] There would have been any number of reasons for that, but the one that came most readily to her was that they were going to try and surround her and Staz.
Panicking slightly, Aria took in deep breaths releasing them steadily in a timed manner. Pale blue eyes fluttered back open she looked to Staz. [b “What should we do?”] Of course the answer was get out, but her brain was too flustered to think up a coherent plan to accomplish that.
[left [pic https://image.ibb.co/nw0exd/staz02.png]]
[font "Minion Pro" [size12 [center [b “Ummm, something’s started on the path…”]]
Staz was about to ask for details - size and all that - until she spoke up again. Her expression as urgent as the words she rushed. Immediately the click of his tongue sent Bela into a full sprint as he leaned into her mane. The branches were scraping and whipping at him from every angle now as he didn't have the luxury to rip them away now, but Aria would be getting the worse of it. Any branches that hit him he was pulling back with his and Belas mass which caused them to whip more viciously at the girl behind him. What kind of creature was it? Bigger than a dog was all he could go off of and he didn't want to risk focusing behind him even for a second - unless they wanted to accidentally trample into something worse. No, for now he needed to keep his attention ahead of him, further now that they were moving much faster. Despite Bela doing all the leg work, Staz had beads of sweat trickling down his forehead. The action of focusing on the air so far ahead of him would be the same as trying to weave wind that wasn't close around you - it took a toll on him very quickly.
The gust of wind from behind him nearly shook him from his mare. He peered above Aria, the few birds that hadn't been destroyed by the wind were flying away lopsided and confused. [i Aki ravens..] he took pause, then whipped his head back forward. His expression only turned more sharp and urgent. As far as he could reach - figures in a group of ten.. maybe more. Walking off the path in the right side of the woods. He could feel the ripples as hey stopped now, and crouched down. Staz gulped. The space between Bela and Clef was already wide but it was only getting further as Staz's hands began heating up. "Aria!" he shouted, trying his best to pull harder on the reins. Bela loved to run and she would only get faster, it was hard to keep her steady let alone get her to slow down. Once he was sure he had her attention on him, he waved his arm wildly towards the thinning forest on the left of him. "Get off the path!" He bellowed, veering Bela into the tree's in an instant.
If the path was hard to get through - the unmarked points of the forest was much worse. There was room enough for the horse to continue rushing through - she was weaving expertly passed dips in the ground and leaping over fallen trees. However the branches reaching out were thicker, wider, and some sharper than what was dealt with on the path. Staz ducked his head under one especially sturdy branch - standing up in his stirrups to try and spot Aria. This was no good - he couldn't see her and if Bela kept up this pace he would lose the girl to the forest comple-
The heaviest thud slammed into his chest, knocking him off the speeding horse and onto his back in the tall grass. He wheezed, unable to catch his breath as his eyes - blurred and starry - darted around looking for the culprit. There was nothing but a wide branch extended across where he layed. His head was throbbing and he couldn't do anything except force the air to circulate through his lungs with deep and heavy breaths. His eye's rolled, not an annoyed reaction this time but from him attempting to stay concious. [i If she caught up now.. that horse might trample me..] he knew he had to get up - to find Aria, but he could feel his conciousness trickling away into the back of his head. His heated hands set fire to the grass, the smoke trickling into the air as a last ditch effort to make his presence known.
[i Just a quick nap..]
[i Creatures that hunt on the path wont chase in the wood..]
[i Just a moment.. until the ache is gone..]
[i Those figures.. those were cultists weren't they..]
[i they will skin her.. you too..]
[i they will see the smoke you [b dumb fuck]]
His eyes shot open and he pulled himself up into a crouch almost mechanically. Now the grass all around his body was set ablaze. Looking around at the flames, he licked his index fingers and held his hands up, the palms facing the ground. As his hands lowered so did the flame until there was nothing left but smoke rolling off the grass and himself. He pulled himself up with the help of the branch that had knocked him over, peering over it with two [b blazing crimson eyes]. He looked around slowly, as if taking in the area for the first time, then wet his lips. A beast, taller than himself, stomped slowly towards him. It almost could have been a moose, if they had extra eyes on their legs and multiple tails on their rears. The horns stayed true however, much unlike a moose, this creatures horns were stained with dry blood. It's eyes were a blue so piercing and sharp it was almost unsettling. It was clearly showing no caution or protection - it simply wanted to kill him. Staz smiled, a foregin curving of his lips that didn't suit his face. In fact this smile was nothing like a smirk or worn to prove that one isn't afraid. This smile was genuinely happy. "It's been so long since I set a monsters flesh ablaze!" he nearly laughed the words out, flames shooting up his arms as smoke rolled off out of every opening his face had.
The fight was disturbingly quick, fire entering through the monster's orifices and exploding out of it like a horror film. One the creature was dead - he heard the hooves of a horse thumping towards him urgently. He wiped the blood of his hands as best as he could and wrapped his arm around the branch blocking the path that knocked him earlier. That eery smile didn't leave his face until he closed his eyes and lowered his head. Hissing immediately ensued from Staz's mouth from the pain, and he coughed up smoke as if he had accidentally swallowed it. "Ar-" he barely managed to speak until he better cleared his throat. Looking up at the approaching horse through blurred multi-colored eyes - they focused and revealed Aria. He breathed out in relief, then glared up at the girl as he pushed off the branch to stand on his own.
"That horse is too slow."
Staz, that was easy enough to remember. Sure, it wasn’t a name she’d ever heard before, but that might have been what made it stand out to her. In a good way, that was.
Being familiar with the saying, Aria smiled warmly. [b “Yes, it does.”] The proverb was disappearing just like the Fireborn, so she was surprised to hear Staz say it. Then again, maybe she shouldn’t have been since he was the other half of the equation.
In regards to her question, it took a bit for him to answer. The Skyborn wondered if perhaps she was asking too much… But he eventually opened up about it. She nodded as she listened to the story. There were some pretty tricky bards out there, and Aria had heard more than a few stories about them pulling a fast ones on foolish travelers.
[b “Well, it seems like a pretty handy skill to have.”] Especially if he wasn’t keen on letting everyone know he was one of the last Fireborn left, if not the very last.
His horse kept a quick pace, but Clef was able to stay in tow with a little prompting. The animal really was made for stamina as opposed to speed, but he managed with minimal complaint. She wasn’t too worried, well until they turned off the main road. Sure this would be faster, but at what cost? This place looked dangerous. A sentiment that was confirmed when he commanded her to keep a look out. She was especially put out when he mentioned he had no qualms leaving her behind… perhaps she shouldn’t have told him where Aethim was so readily…
[b “Sure, I can do that.”] Her words came out slowly. Aria didn’t appreciate his demands, but it wasn’t like it would be particularly helpful for her to decline. It was her hide on the line here. At least he didn’t want to fight; she wasn’t sure how helpful she would be if it came to that.
The light just barely shined through the crowded foliage overhead. It made it difficult to make out much more than Staz and the thick trees and bushes flocking the not so often traveled dirt path. She was half sure they were going to die in here. But true to her word Aria kept a feel out behind them. When it came down to it, air was a liquid. As something moved in it, it left a wake. The woman, like many like her, was perfectly attuned to these waves. What she wasn’t used too was the density of the air here, but in this case that would play to their advantage.
They returned to silence, but now it was different, unnatural. It wasn’t just the lack of conversation but the distinct absence of other creature’s sounds as well. Even Clef who was fairly vocal kept to himself. Getting a better look at him, his ears were pointed stiffly forward. He was on the lookout as well.
With time Aria grew accustom to the dimness, but there still wasn’t a lot to see. A decaying tree here and there, moss lined boulders that hadn’t moved in eons, but nothing that meant them any harm. However, after they had been going for some time, they sharp caw of some sort of bird echoed through the forest. It wasn’t long after that she felt something shift behind them. Whatever it was, it was big and likely to be a problem if it chose to give pursuit. And wouldn’t you know, that was just their luck as the hulking creature started toward the road on all fours.
[b “Ummm, something’s started on the path…”] Aria was just about to mention that it didn’t seem to be in that big of a hurry, but before she could relay that information she jolted. The animal in question burst into a full sprint. [b “It’s moving fast!”] The four syllables jumbled together as they flew from her mouth.
Not waiting for Staz’s prompting, as she remembered his instructions to run, the bright-eyed woman gave her horse a kick. It was enough for the antsy animal to burst into a full gallop.
Speeding down the narrow path, the thicket lashed out. Thin branches whipping at her arms and face, leaving nicks and welts behind. It occurred to her that Staz might have been taking care of that up in the lead without her noticing, well before they were rushed. The genuinely kind act made he think he might not be as bad as she first pegged him, but there wasn’t time to thank him now.
Lost beneath the sound of beating hooves, the flapping of wings sounded at either side of the two-person caravan. It wasn’t until the birds began letting raspy caws, that Aria noticed they were being flanked by a small flock of large black birds. They did little more than keep pace with the travelers and continue their calling. Were they the ones who woke the creature behind them?
Frightened this might be the case; Aria threw her hands out to the sides. The push from her palms formed monstrous gales, much bigger than she intended. The wind tore through the foliage, enough to down several trees. As they came thundering to the ground, the echoing of splintering wood filled the forest. Needless to say, it was enough to drive the dark birds out of sight. She couldn’t say how long that would last, that was if the fowl managed to survive the gust.
Biting her lip, the Skyborn knew just how excessive that display was. It was embarrassing, but she was only able to dwell on it for a moment. [b “It’s closing the gap. I don’t think it will be long before this thing is on top of us!”]
[left [pic https://image.ibb.co/nw0exd/staz02.png]]
[font "Minion Pro" [size12 She finally pointed out the location of her village - and the sight of it gave only the slightest flicker in his multi-colored eyes. [i Oh.] He glared at the girl, half to check if she had noticed the change in his expression her doe eyes gave him pause. He wasn't sure he liked the way she looked at him. "Terrible spot to catch fire, air stokes the flame.." he muttered, an old saying often used when talking about the unspoken love between sky and fireborn. Not everyone believed in the old ways - especially now with all the fireborn gone. Staz was one of those people.
What was the point in pairing fire with wind when all wind does is provoke the flame? That was his way of seeing it.
Staz rolled up the map without so much as a glance, stuffing it back into the saddle bag he barely waited for the girl to mount her horse and headed immediately towards the same path he had entered through. He knew how to get there, and how to cut the travel time in half. Once they reached the main road Staz glanced left - towards Gollymore - then turned right and whistled Bela into a trot. However just as he was settling into the silence the skyborn piped up again, this time telling him her name.
"Staz" he replied slowly, glancing into the forest on their right every so often. She began speaking again - and Staz had half a mind to snap her into silence. However the question made him bite his lower lip, peering back into the forest with his back straight as an arrow. [i Idiot!] if he had just kept a tiny bit of control she would have been out of his hair. [i Even though I do need the money.. and I can get us there in a day.] He rolled his eyes at the trees and glanced back over at her.
What was he supposed to say? He didn't really enjoy explaining that he basically absorbed his dead brothers element when he vanished. That is grey eye flooded with red by the time he woke up in the morning. He hated explaining it - it was a curse stapled on his face. Sometimes his mother would caress his face as he was falling asleep.. slowly closing his skyborn eye as if trying to get one last glimpse at the son she lost..
He tried not to think about it.
"I traveled to Baelon with a bard- a gleeman I mean." Gleeman was a term rarely used by anyone but city folk. It took him long enough to remember to use the correct title since he would be living in the city. Hopefully this trip wouldn't strip him back to his farm talk. Clearing his throat he continued with the lie. "Even though he's soilborn.. he had all sorts of tricks to make it appear like he was controlling other elements. Used them to tell his stories. He taught me that one - wind is easy to fake since you can't see it. It's all about distraction." he took a slow breath, steam pushing out of his nostrils like an angry bull. "We're turning here." a narrow path - barely wide enough for Bela to stomp through - lead deeper into the west woods. "We'll make it in a day, sooner if your mountain steed can keep up with Bela." He knew well enough about skyborn horses. They adapted well to the mountains and gained a lot of stamina to climb longer without pause. Bela was more diverse, and after all his travel she could handle just about anything. But a fast trot was something Staz admired about her.
The path was harder and more covered than the one leading into the fireborn camp. The only time it was used was when traveling merchants and peddlers had well enough protection to enter through it. The only issue of this forest was its history. Creatures, spirits, and cultist Ocean born as well. To say it was cursed wasn't actually far from the truth; It's said that the cultists do horrible rituals - slaughtering or mutating the animals within it. Staz wasn't worried, with his double elements he rarely needed to worry about anything anymore. He just hoped the skyborn could hold her own if a fight took place. He peered back at her, only for a moment, then faced forward.
"We'll make it to -- to [i your village] by this time tomorrow if we don't run into any trouble. You don't want to sleep in these woods so we need to make it out before nightfall." Bela stepped up her pace, Staz didn't even need to coo her into it. She knew well enough. "Keep your eyes peeled, if we run into any danger we'll find a way around it. Fighting will only delay our exit."
"Watch our rear. Skyborn can feel figures shifting through the wind if they focus enough - within a certain distance right?" he didn't need to ask, he was already doing it, scanning the area in front of him with as much concentration as he could muster. "if its bigger than a dog let me know. I swear to god if anything sneaks up behind us I will let it take you and collect the reward from your counsel myself. Use your element." He pushed a bending branch forward as Bela lead him through it, ripping it off the tree with one firm tug so it wouldn't whip the skyborn - Aria when he released it.
It seemed to be taking him an awful long time to figure it out, but that was probably to her advantage. It meant he was considering coming with her, which was more than she could ask for at this point. Although, she did have a back up plan if he declined. Albeit not a very good one. It consisted of following him around in an obnoxious manner until he agreed. It wasn’t tactful and it would probably end with him chasing her away with fire, but that was really all she could think to do.
He was practically glaring down at her, and it made Aria feel incredibly small. Not to mention it was a touch awkward, despite her traveling around for the last several months, she still didn’t do too well with strangers. Fidgeting around some, she continued to wait for his answer.
Aria blinked, a little confused. Honestly, she hadn’t really been expecting a positive response. As she attempted to process the information, he returned to his horse and brought a map. The skyborn remained oblivious to both his insult and return until he quite literally hit her in the face with it. Snapping back to reality, she looked over the battered depiction of Osteria.
[b “It’s right here.”] Quickly she pointed to one of the tallest mountains amongst the range at the western boarder. Her village was only about half way up, but the altitude was nothing to sneeze at. They would probably have to makes stops on the way up to get him and his horse used to the thinner air.
The chain of peaks are what kept the arid heat of the desert out of their country. The summits split the climates. The western half being dry and hot, but the east a temperate forest. That was where Aethim was located, but with this drought Aria was worried that might change. Perhaps the desert biome would grow to include the entire range.
Having told him where they were going, they didn’t waste any time from there on. Aria returned to her horse and let the Fireborn take the lead. As that seemed to be how he wanted to do things. She didn’t really mind, as long as they made it to Aethim before it burned to the ground, she would be happy. Well, that is what she originally thought, but after long bout of silence, she realized that she had never actually introduced herself. She was running around with some guy and she didn’t even know his name.
[b “Ummm, this is kind of late, but my name is Aria.”] She couldn’t be certain that he cared in the slightest, but it would hopefully prompt him to give his name back so that she could refer to him by something other than Fireborn, or hey you. They had a long journey ahead of them and she didn’t want to spend the entirety of it in quiet. Especially if she was going to see if he knew anything about the rest of the Fireborn. But that was a conversation for another day, for now she would settle for seeing into how he had managed the wind trick from before.
[b “So, I’m curious. How did you push the air before? It was seamless, I wouldn’t have ever suspected you were actually Fireborn if it hadn’t been for all that steam.”] There were a few other things that tipped her off, but she didn’t need to go into that.
[left [pic https://image.ibb.co/cXHyqy/staz01.png]]
[font "Minion Pro" [size12 Naturally any small village at the end of Osteria wouldn't have a fortune to offer him. However by the sounds of it they could set him up and have him on his way to Baelon with enough gold in his pocket to get him there. Right now, [i not paltry] was all he really needed. He eyed the girl up and down, taking in each action and each slip of the tongue that might indicate she was lying. Judging by how she was dressed - her Village couldn't have been in poverty. They could afford to send her searching the globe for a fireborn even knowing it was probably a fools errand. That alone was enough of a luxury than most villages could manage. Staz was staring at her feet now, thoughtfully. [i and there is a councel. I can't tell for sure what this girl considers small or large in terms of reward, but I've only ever seen well off villages with a councel.]
Even ten gold pieces would be enough for him to survive - anything more than that would simply put more food in his and Bela's stomachs along the way. Fair but not a fortune.. what would she consider a fortune? enough for a king to be satisfied? He rolled his tongue along the inside of his cheeks, then wet his lips as he met her eyes again. "There's a lot to consider.." he muttered, maybe because he hadn't decided.
Maybe because it was amusing watching her shift under his gaze.
"Fine." He mounted Bela once again, pulling a tattered map from one of the saddle bags, he examined it and lowered it down to her eye level. "Where is your village? I don't trust your guide and I intend on getting us there as soon as possible." The map was worn down from its constant use. Staz had been traveling a long while after all. There were black marks and smudges across the names of certain cities and villages - a large circle around Valon and an arrow pointed to Baelon. Certain spots on the map had been burned through - small circles of burned paper indicated such. However the west seemed mostly clear of burn marks or smudges. The furthest thing west, far passed the forests far passed the rivers, was nothing but desert. There was rumor of a kingdom built around an oasis - but it was too far fetched to be a destination. As far as Staz was concerned anything west of Osteria wasn't worth his time.
North was his goal, that's where all the cities and Valon thrived. With higher mountains and rolling hills - he couldn't wait to be there. He glanced down at the girl and tapped her face with the map. "Where is it." he insisted, a harshness in his tone that never seemed to lessen.
There didn’t seem like a lot of hope with how things were going. However, there was a sudden change. Instead if the persistent disinterest and rejection, he was showing interest in her village. That was a start, even if it was small.
[b “Yes, we have a council”] It was an eclectic group of elders who were in charge almost everything to do with the town.
She listened intently as he asked about what he could receive in return for his venture and help. Aria wasn’t sure what they were offering would be enough to change his mind. Her head came up to look him in the eyes as he spoke his piece. His gaze was intense, more so than she was used to. Between that and his words it was clear lying wouldn’t bode well for her or her goals. Not that she had planned on using such a tactic in the first place.
Before Aria could fully process it, he had ahold of her and was pulling her up by the wrist. She followed him to her feet in a hurry; worried he’d pull her arm from its socket. In reality, he wasn’t pulling quite that hard, but in the moment it felt like it might happen. His hand was hot on her skin. Likely from the fire he’d conjured and extinguished only moments ago. He was making no further attempt to conceal his Fireborn nature. It was validating to know she’d not been wrong, but at the same time his fiery personality made her nervous.
[b “There is a reward.”] The village had pooled one together when they first sought aid from the ‘neighboring’ towns. A loosely used term, as her village was far removed from just about everything. And while they had come to lend a hand, the task proved too great for the small forces to overcome. The distance was a trial in and of itself. He wasn’t wrong to be at least a little concerned by that fact.
She paused a moment, knowing he wouldn’t like this next bit. Getting it out quick would be vital if she didn’t want him to refuse her immediately. [b “The payment isn’t paltry, but it isn’t a fortune either.”] It was somewhere in between, but she got the feeling the Fireborn wouldn’t be satisfied with the amount. [b “But the counsel will be willing offer you alternative compensation as well… If there is anything you need, I am sure we can find a way to assist you in whatever you are looking to do.”] There were all sorts of people in Aethim with all sorts of trades and skills. At least one of them should have something that would catch his interest if he came. It was not an empty promise despite how ambiguous it may have sounded.
The realization that these pursuits he mentioned might not exactly be noble flashed through her mind. [b “Well, I mean so long as it isn’t anything too… unreasonable.”] Aria was backpedaling, but she was careful to choose words that wouldn’t seem too accusatory or critical. She was still begging for his help after all. Flat out accusing him of being a thief wasn’t likely to get her anywhere good.
[center [pic https://image.ibb.co/cXHyqy/staz01.png]]
[font "Minion Pro" [size12 He peeked back, and the girl seemed to have lost interest. [i Typical skyborn. Never ready to commit. No wonder her Village is burning.] He adjusted himself on the horse and continued ahead. Staz didn't mean to release that warmth, the delicate streams of steam that trickled around the fireborn settlement as he left it - It was the memories.
[i It got cold during the winters in Osteria, but a fireborn village was always a welcomed escape from that. The ground, despite the snow surrounding the place, was patted down from hard use while fireborn danced in the warmth of the steamy air. A young Staz ran through crowd,tumbling into legs of the dancers as he hurried on without care. He was dressed head to toe in pale colors - Skyborn often expanded their attire from just blue and white. They also wore purples, pinks, yellows and greys - Only colors that wouldn't step on the toes of other elements - and always the softest shades imagineable. His eyes a solid white that nearly blended into the whites of his eyes if not for the patches and swirrels of grey peppering them like the steam he ran through. He crashed into a figure identical to his own, knocking the other to the ground and immediately rushing away as he yelled:
"You're it Dean!"]
The approaching hooves shook him from his thoughts, and he found himself gritting his teeth for more than just that. He whistled a sharp note and Bela began to speed up - But she was right on him.
[b “Please, I know you must have a reason for hiding being Fireborn, but hear me out.” ]
[b “My village is in danger. There are fires raging in the west. We’ve done all we can as ocean, soil, and skyborn. We need help, and you might be our last chance.”]
"That's not my problem!"
Her horse fell behind, and he was almost grateful for it, until he heard her drop off the mare. Was she going to stop him by force? Attack him? With another sharp whistle, Bela u-turned and bounded towards the girl. Flames cupped in his free hand as the other held the reins.
But she wasn't conjuring anything. She was just sat on the ground with her hands up in plea. Staz veered Bela so the mare wouldn't trample the Skyborn girl - stopping next to her as the flames in his hands died.
[center [b “Please.”]]
The unfortunate thing was after so many years alone he had a hard time developing any sympathy. Did she really expect him to drop what he was doing - abandon his plans to go put out some fires? He couldn't look at this as a benefit to him.
Until he did.
"Your Village, does it have a counsel?" This wandering Skyborn girl could be his chance of safer travel to Baelon - and with a fuller stomach as well. "Can you promise me right now that there will be generous payment when I save your homes from destruction?"
"My travels aren't cheap. I doubt your Village is around the corner I don't see smoke or flames around here. You expect me to come with you, to abandon my pursuits just to put out your fires?"
Staz dropped off Bela, crouching in front of the girl to meet her at eye level. His contrasting eyes burning into her like the fire he wields.
"If you lie to me Skyborn. If you promise me payment that your little village cannot muster - I will burn it down myself and without warning. So do not waste my time with lies."
He took her wrist and stood - pulling her up to her feet along with him. Staz had a habit of being too intense - sometimes needlessly. However he was already barely making it to Baelon alive. If he wasted time going to this girls Village without compensation there's a good chance he would die leaving.
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