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[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/NG2ue54.png]] They were all a little on edge. Lulu included, but she was trying not to feed the fear. It would only further unnerve the already jumpy remaining team members. She was still their leader for now, she had to stay strong.
Following Laris into the palace all of them were silent. It added to the eerie atmosphere, and the men huddled close to each other and her. It wasn enough that she was feeling a little bit crowded, but Lulu didn’t complain. They just needed the objects, then to make it back to camp. She finally broke the silence, though kept it to a whisper,”Downstairs or up?”
It wasn’t clear to her just how attached he needed to be to the objects they gathered. Would something from the seating area for tea, where things were displayed for guests, be enough? Or, as she was suspecting, did they need to be something more personal? Like the little treasures in his room that had survived so far. Having felt that wave of nostalgia, she felt oddly attached to them, and reluctant to have him part with them. She knew what they meant to him. But that was his decision to make, not hers. He knew best about magic, about how this might work, and about Faye and the threat she posed.
[center [b ~*~*~]]
Faye wasn’t taking the lead. He couldn’t be sure why, maybe she was watching their backs in case the other group caught onto them. Maybe the palace was different from how it had been in her time. Whatever the reason, he didn’t stop to consider or ask, he continued silently down passages, taking turns without hesitation to get them to the far entrance. It brought them nearer to the kitchen, places where servants worked cooking and cleaning. There was a doorway here, the door long gone, and Zain led them out of that and into a courtyard meant for work rather than relaxation. It was walled off to keep from being an eyesore to anyone in the gardens.
The gate was metal, rusted, and no doubt would make a terrible noise if opened. Zain only looked at it briefly before going to the far wall. It was taller than him, but with a little running start he scaled it without difficulty. Once he clambered to the top and sat perched securely he reached down a hand to help Faye up, if she wanted. From where he was sitting he could see where the camp was. They were nearly free and clear.
It wasn't long into their walk that the men from the team came to join them. In all honestly, their decision surprised Laris. Being a man of warm-nature, his first assumption and hope was that they felt it [i their] responsibility as well to see to their team sticking together and surviving until they were to leave. The bit of a shake in their statures left his idea with little proof, but he was thankful regardless. The smile that returned to Lulu as her comrades showed their loyalty and dedication to the team. Laris wasn't sure whether this group even knew each other before all of this, still seeming as strangers beyond their profession. Regardless, they certainly had a unique bond of sorts now to hold them close. Close enough to venture into the now "spooky" palace.
"It would be my pleasure to lead you all," some relief returning with more togetherness linking them in this time, he gave a polite bow to those lucky enough to still be alive tonight. "If any of you are ever at unease, please make no effort in hiding such." A glance met Lulu, including her in that request.
There was still something keeping the Mage on edge. He couldn't quite place the weary feeling he had, besides the obvious discomfort at the memory of Faye and what they'd just survived. All they had to do was get into the palace, find the twelve objects, pray his magic would work on command, and then set off to...Well, to wherever it is they came from.
Perhaps there were a few more things to consider, walking into a future of such unpredictability. For Laris, the moment he would leave here would be walking into a whole new world with no more knowledge than a babe. Maybe his worries weren't entirely unfounded as they marched in their small cluster to the main entrance, his eyes low as he lost himself in thought, attempting to set aside the nagging in his veins.
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/YPlWpfY.png]]
Zain was clearly a man of little words, but at the moment, that was exactly what they needed. A single-minded focus on getting out of the palace without letting Laris catch onto her presence still remaining, if he hadn't already. Her weakness may be serving them some luck, making her far less recognizable to any magic-sensing beacons like him. Actually, to consider it, what if his recent reawakening was also affecting his abilities? Perhaps that possibility was what would secure their getaway? She already had suspicions that, much like herself, that wasn't all he had to offer if intimidation had been key during the stand-off, but now she was almost certain.
Having to suppress her curiosities and quizzical nature, feeding into the adrenaline that she felt, so foreign to that chill blood of hers, they hurried in the opposite direction. Seeing as to how she didn't have to lead Zain along the way, she felt no hesitation in hurrying to the furthest exit she could consider. Even though this was once her palace, there was a dream-like difference to the interior and it's structure. Had even the palace changed? Would she really have to allow her pace to match Zain's so he could [i lead] them to the swiftest departure? If not for her need to recover, she'd teleport them at least to the campsite, but that level of magic would unquestionably leave her requiring more than just some food to keep her immortal body from the all-too mortal condition of exhaustion.
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/NG2ue54.png]] Help with the bottles was appreciated, and once the two of them had all of them between them it was time to go back into the palace. Approaching the palace now was so different from last time. Before she and Laris were there walking and talking, trying to figure out a little of an uncertain future. Now they were looking for pieces of the past in the hope that it might help them save a future being threatened.
They were nearly to the palace doors, and Lulu looked at Laris about to ask aloud how he was doing, when the three men hurried along behind them and caught up. “Wait up! We’re coming!”
Lulu turned to look at them, a little surprised. Last minute courage, or concern for her and Laris, or maybe even getting afraid of being left alone by the cars, she couldn’t say which had been the thing that made them rush to help. She gave them a smile anyway and handed them some of the bottles. There were no questions asked, their reasons could be their own,”Thanks. Let’s just stick together, alright?”
It was nice to have them here. Lulu gave Laris a smile,”We’ll follow you.”
[center [b ~*~*~]]
Zain wasn’t quite asleep, but he was relaxed until Faye stood. When she grabbed his arm he rose to his feet quickly. So they were leaving now? That was just fine by him, though he did pick up on her anxiety. Faye wanted to avoid a confrontation with the other mage. “Alright.”
It wasn’t time for words. The time was for action. Getting to the cars as quickly and quietly as possible. Zain actually knew the layout of the palace, roughly. He’d seen it in drawings and pictures. If they were coming in from camp, they’d come in through a particular entrance. That entrance ought to be avoided. There was a more roundabout way, and Zain headed for the door that would lead them down those passages. With his tall frame and broad shoulders, and the unsubtle metal arm, it didn’t look like he’d be very quiet, but his movements were nearly silent. Much as he’d like to taunt Lulu again, this wasn’t the time, but already he was wondering if there was something else he could do. If they got to the cars, surely there’d be some time for quick sabotage? It’d also serve the purpose of buying them more time before this little group could catch up.
He understood the men not wanting to go. Did it slightly disappoint him that they would voluntarily allow her to be sent off alone? Of course it did, but he empathized with their fear. Even if he were to tell them that Faye wouldn't be inside, that alone wouldn't be promise enough to make going inside more comforting. Especially not to people that have no connection with the palace itself. Even their wish to study it wasn't nearly strong enough to pull them in, unlike Lulu who cared enough about the place she wished to learn more about. That was what Laris reasoned she was going in for, at least.
With a nod, he smiled to them. "Thank you for even considering joining us. You are honorable men." The Mage attempted to reassure them. It must've been guilt inducing to reject assisting them.
Keeping next to Lulu, he waited for her organization of the various bottles of water, offering to carry some himself. "You needn't carry all that alone. Let me help." Open hands offered their assistance. It was their next step that brought them walking to the palace doors once again. At least this time, he knew to keep an eye open to danger, and hopefully, death wouldn't be the end result.
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/YPlWpfY.png]]
As Zain defended his conflict with the woman, Faye paid little attention. She gathered as much as needed: he wanted to defeat her, not win her. Well, not that she really cared either way. It brought nothing to her mission. Therefore, it was pointless to concern herself with. [i His] wants weren't of any worry to her...Should they be? Perhaps giving some attention to them might make his loyalty stronger to her. Typically, a beneficial relationship was stronger than one that only one side gained anything.
Did she really want to worry about what he desired, though?
Leaving it as something to concern herself with at another time, she began thrumming her nails against the arm of her throne. Time was going to pass slowly tonight. She would likely have the hours to spend counting all the stars visible from their hideaway before she would even move again...Or so she thought.
It wasn't until after Zain had already settled that Faye shot up out of her resting place, eyes wide with some surprise. Strangely enough, a smile threatened to quirk at her lips. Was she excited? No, this was different. Faye was worried, anxious...scared. The edge that suddenly came over her led her to taking no time in hurrying over to the man and grabbing onto his metal appendage.
"Apparently rest will have to wait. We have company incoming and we can't have that other Mage sensing my presence. We must make our departure [i before] morning." With that speedy explanation, she released him and took to grabbing her dress to keep it out of her way. The fabric folded in her lace covered fists, ready to hurry. "If you don't know how to be stealthy, I suggest you learn quickly. We're getting one of those [i cars] and we're doing it [i now.]"
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/YPlWpfY.png]]
As they strolled through the green of the garden, Laris took a moment to bask in what may be the last peaceful time he gets to rest in its sanctuary. [i I must wonder what my Queen would have chosen to do in this case..] he considered to himself. At least he wasn't alone in trying to figure this out, he thought as he cast his eyes to Lulu.
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/NG2ue54.png]] The grin and his explanation about the silly name was too much. A giggle bubbled up, and even when she stopped with her fingers over her mouth she was still smiling. He seemed so pleased with the name.
The palace would have things Laris remembered. A memory strong enough to survive the trip. Her smile faded, replaced with a more thoughtful expression. He’d be sending away things he remembered, likely things important to him. While Lulu seemed composed, the three men behind her were not so calm about the idea of venturing into any ruins right now. They were nervous, and relieved that Laris was excusing them from going in, but they all looked to Lulu anyway.
Lulu gave her team a smile. There were just so few of them left, they were afraid and naturally wanted to go home. No one was going to get any rest tonight. “You three stay and keep an eye on the camp. Load this last crate and get the car ready to go, we’ll leave as soon as possible. I’ll go with Laris. The two of us should be fine. We’ll try to be quick.”
Her plan was met with relief. They were afraid of the ruins. She didn’t blame them, Faye had nearly been able to kill them and had successfully killed half the team down below. Unlike her they hadn’t seen it, and they probably didn’t want to.
She might be a little tempted to stay too really, except Laris would need someone to help carry things, and this probably wasn’t going to be easy for him. She didn’t want to send him off alone into a palace full of memories. Lulu gathered up twelve empty bottles, clipping several to her belt while others had to be carried. She left her blanket on the crate and turned to Laris,”Ready.”
“Take care. We’ll wait for you.” Kevin wished them well while he helped fold the blanket to get the last things into the car.
[center [b ~*~*~]]
“Passion? Is that how it looks?” Zain snorted. He wasn’t the least bit attracted to her, but he [i did] want to prove something desperately. That he was better than her, her position as leader was a mistake. He’d had to congratulate her on being promoted over him, he wanted her to grovel at his feet. A passion of a kind, but not of love or even lust, but hatred and envy. He’d been stewing in the resentment for weeks silently. “I want to humiliate her, make her suffer. She should’ve stepped down when the idiots picked her. I’ll make her regret that.”
More than that now. Helping and serving under Faye he had even more power than her, the board, committees, or anyone else. Or he soon enough would once she succeeded. He wouldn’t just make her sorry she’d gleefully accepted the lead. “I’ll break her.”
Zain laid back on the floor, his flesh arm under his head, and looked up at the ceiling and lights. She was right, he needed to keep his strength up to be useful in her plans. “Then I’ll rest while I can. It’ll be a long drive tomorrow.”
"In which case, we will need many water bottles indeed. Alright, my first order of business will be to find objects to place my Nostalgic into." With a small grin, boyish in nature, he continued to her, "Nostalgic, like nostalgia and magic." Laris was never good at naming just about anything, [i ever.] Really, it was laughable, clever as he thought it was.
With a proper number given, it was time to narrow what to use. "Well.." a hand to his chin, he scanned the area around them for ideas. "Certain objects can hold magic better than others, but we should take every caution since it must travel and I have not done it before. I do not really feel comfortable with sending them off, but..."
His eyes leading the rest of them with his gaze, all were turned to the aged palace. Inside it would be the majority of the intense memories and emotions he could put to use, strange as the words may sound. The man didn't want to give up a fragment of dust to be sent off, away from this home. It was all a crucial part of the life that remained, in his eyes, but the possible fate of this world would rest on what they could do to convince their people. For such a thing, Laris would have to make some sacrifice, and at least these things he valued so highly would potentially make all the difference in this upcoming fight and the survival of their world.
It was worth it.
"We will need to venture inside the castle. There, we will find twelve things to hold this magic." For clarification, he turned to them, attention on the goal they had. "I say one more than necessary if such a situation were to arise in which it could be given to the highest leader possible. Save that extra for such an occasion," he told the rest of the men. "Now, I will not ask you return inside the palace if it brings you any fear, given what emerged not long ago from inside. With that in mind, we will need to venture in to find the twelve objects. We can either go now and leave Celigan with haste, or rest and take to our search in the morning. I will leave that decision to you all." With that said, he looked to Lulu to command her team.
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/YPlWpfY.png]]
Cars, eh? Was it some shortened version of the full name? Many elaborate titles came to mind, but having next to no knowledge of such technology, she didn't dare offer any of her assumptions. There was a different topic he brought to the table upon which she could voice her thoughts.
"Nothing suggests that man staying behind, unless he's a coward...That would be awfully disappointing." She lamented a moment with a pout. As much as the prospect of the world itself amused her, Faye couldn't help the desire to face a Mage of similar abilities. Hell, even if they didn't fight, she was curious enough about him to just want to study the subject. To dissect just what he could do, why he called himself a "royal mage," to find if there is a power even greater than her own...Chewing her lip in thought, she finally came back to reality. "If I know anything about that protective gall he showed to us earlier, I can place a bet that he won't turn an eye and remain in this empty memory of a kingdom, knowing a thriving world is at risk. He'll also likely see to the protection of those men and that girl you're so passionate about." Once again, Faye didn't understand the opposition between them, hence her strange wording on the matter. She knew he wanted to prove himself better than her in some way, but to Faye, it might as well have been the way male animals flaunted their abilities to the females, despite all the opposite gender did in comparison, for the sake of finding a mate. Maybe this was some weird modern way of attracting people? They didn't seem like they had any attraction towards each other, but times [i have] changed.
Morning...It gave the possibility of hours spent just waiting. She would grow bored easily, but Faye couldn't let her guard down. From here, she would have some warning if they approached. If she slept, their perch here could be dangerous. A danger she didn't have the energy to dish efforts out to.
"If we must wait here until morning, take this time to rest. I can't have my mortal hand growing weak without sleep." Eyes on the shattered windows as she crinkled the empty bag in her hands, she continued. "I will remain awake and watching. Be grateful; I'm likely the best protection one could ask for." The words fell out tiredly. Sarcastic and pompous as they may have been, she put little thought into them as they fell from her lips.
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/NG2ue54.png]] It was good to see him smile and get excited about solving the problem. Lulu nodded along, recalling that intense nostalgia and feeling of remembering something that wasn’t hers. Something like that would probably convince [i most] people. Not all of them maybe, but if enough of them were swayed by this then it might just work.
When he turned to her to ask, like she would know if his magic would work, Lulu couldn’t help but laugh. She covered her mouth with her hand and nodded,”I mean, you’d know about the magic part. As for convincing, it should convince enough of them. I hope. There’s a bunch of them. And they have people above them, actually. But if we can get the board to believe us, that’ll be an important first step. They do have a fair amount of power, all combined.”
Celigan was a monarchy. Power was more concentrated back then with fewer people than her own government. Lulu opened the crate with the water bottles. They hadn’t gotten to their spares yet, so there were still plenty there. She ran her hand on the edge of the crate, doing a little mental math. She looked back at Laris and nodded,“That’s more than enough for the board. The board reports to a committee, which is itself only part of the main governing council. There’s a head that’s one man who makes certain kinds of decisions. He might be the best person to convince, but actually getting to him is nearly impossible. We’ll have to rely on the boards influence. There are eleven members, counting the chairman.”
The rest of the team was watching them now. The car was loaded, and they wanted to know what to do now, but didn’t want to interrupt. Lulu looked at the three, then Laris,”What are you planning to put in the bottles?”
[center [b ~*~*~]]
So there were limits to her ability to teleport. It made sense, and Zain nodded. They were going to need another method of transportation. His head cocked to one side as she came to the realization about the vehicles.
”Cars.” Zain supplied with a nod,”No horses, they just run on batteries and fuel. We could swipe one from the camp. Not being noticed will be the hard part, but.”
With a scratch at the back of his head Zain continued slowly, thinking aloud,”Lulu’s probably going to high tail it outta here, tail between her legs. She’s scared. I give her ‘till morning at latest before she’s gone. Think the mage, Laris, will go with her?”
Sure, it would put them behind the others, but that was also exactly the one place they probably wouldn’t even think to look.
To be completely honest, he wasn't sure just what spell to use. Sure, he could put some lights inside and upon opening, they would be released, but that could be construed as fireflies. He could put a small storm inside, but what if their superiors assumed it was some kind of trick? Something that the team had put together that made them even more suspicious? It needed to be a magic that was undeniable in the origin, as well as startling enough to know what the men would be telling them was possible.
When Lulu returned with a water bottle, he gratefully took it and stared at the small shape. What could he put in here? Whatever it was, it needed to survive upon opening it, so a storm was out of the question or anything else that would disperse without a seal. A growth of some kind? That could also end in disaster if not directly managed by Laris, so that may be a poor choice.
Looking to Lulu, he saw the hope and wonder return to her eyes. Just as she had been since he first woke, she was curious and ready to learn. There was a wide expanse of knowledge in her, but also plenty of room to store a world of information, especially information that exceeded the barriers of her world. Perhaps...
"I have an idea." A smile returned to his face as he held up the bottle. "Do you recall the sensation you felt back in the palace? The strength behind it and the undeniable reality of what you saw before you? What if, somehow, I was able to manifest that power at will this time. What if, this time, I placed that nostalgia and intense memorial of emotions into this?" It was an exciting idea, but could he do it? Laris had never attempted to wield that as a spell before. "It should surely be possible. Perhaps I should imbue them into an object to seal inside of this..Lulu, would you say you have one trustworthy leader that all follow without question, or are there a number of them? If so, are there enough water bottles here to accommodate that number?"
As he spoke, he began to travel the campsite. "You see, to send a spell away from the creator isn't impossible, even if it isn't the type that lingers on a person or is enacted due to some criteria being met. The types of spells I have shown you like my lights and the storms I mentioned Faye created, for example. If the Mage accountable was not present, they would typically be unable to linger, but if they were to be sealed within a strong container of some form...I could strengthen the seal on these bottles after places an imbued object inside. Upon opening them, your leader, if not leaders, would need to immediately take hold of them to experience the effects, but the effects would still be active due to the seal. They would only last, at most, worth a single memory, if I am guessing correctly, but they should be convincing," now excited to be experiencing something new and a challenge even for himself that could possibly solve one of their serious problems, Laris looked back to her. "Right?"
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/YPlWpfY.png]]
She listened as he made suggestions, eyelids lazily low. There was no especially dramatic grin or evil light upon her features, Faye finding no reason to put on a show. She did, however, have to hide a cringe at Zain's remark on little, run down towns. After all, Faye didn't start her life as a Queen. Sure, she may have her chin well above all others, but there was still a part of her that was tied to those small, desolate lifestyles. With everything in her, she wanted to rip that part of herself to shreds. Yet somehow, her pride contradicted itself, finding a need to stand up for the ignored.
Noticing as he inspected his arm, she herself grew curious. She knew it was metal and that magic wasn't at work, so it had to be some advancement in mechanics, but what? For now, she would leave her questions be on that topic.
"Shummont..doesn't ring any bells." After nibbling at her food, she swallowed it back and sat further upright. "Typically, I would teleport wherever, but given our circumstances, I would just as well teleport us to the heart of a volcano as I would Shummont." That, and Faye wasn't an especially well traveled woman, believe it or not. Her entire life was spent in Celigan, from start to finish. She may seem otherworldly, but her charisma made up for her lack of actual worldly experience.
"We will need traditional means of travel. I could build, but the simplest method would be at least a partly built carriage, ah-" Her eyes looked out into the open before meeting Zain's once again. "Or whatever those vehicle like contraptions were back at your campsite. I don't believe I saw any horses..."
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/NG2ue54.png]] It wasn’t hard to see that Laris had reservations about her helping him. It was going to be dangerous, he was worried for her safety, people had already died. He still agreed, which made her feel a relief flooded with worry. It wasn’t like she wouldn’t worry if she went home and let Laris deal with this alone though. She would just sit there and wonder how he was doing, and what Zain and Faye were doing.
“I’ll try not to get in the way when it comes to fighting her.” Lulu knew she was no match for Faye in any sort of confrontation. Probably not even Zain. She could give information though, and that’s what she would do.
A sealed container? “That should be easy enough. We have plenty of water bottles.” In case any broke or cracked, they had spares. Lulu looked at the camp, which had so recently been a comfortable place to relax. Now she wanted to get out of here. It took her a moment to locate the crate that would have the water bottles, the missing tents briefly confusing her. She went there and opened it. It had spare supplies like water bottles, eating utensils, blankets, and other daily necessities.
With a curious look and her head cocked to one side she handed the water bottle over to Laris,”What sort spell are you thinking of?” Even the current situation couldn’t kill her curiosity. Lulu was interested in finding out more about Laris and magic.
[center [b ~*~*~]]
“Information. Well, it’s probably going to be biased no matter where you get it from. No way around that.” Zain decided to sit down on the ground not too far from the throne. He didn’t have anywhere to be, and these ruins he’d already seen in records. He didn’t feel any need to go exploring. How did she manage to look lady-like while eating with her hands? Zain couldn’t help but wonder a bit. Not all women managed to look regal eating, especially without a fork or spoon. Hell, sometimes with utensils it wasn’t a pretty sight. Faye looked relaxed, casual, not exactly pleased with the food, but not undignified.
Where to get Faye information, and a lot of it. That was what he needed to figure out. A museum? No, that would be all old news. A library might be a better place for more recent things. “Shummont has a big central library. Biggest I know of. It’s a big city, so the food’s better than some little run down town. Definitely better than this stuff.”
Zain flexed and examined his metal hand. It was always good to check it was in working order. Any delay in response or sticking of parts was best fixed early instead of waiting for a problem, and when out on a site like this junk had a way of gunking up things faster. It looked fine for now, but he’d want to give it a good cleaning and fine tuning when they got back in a city. “It’s not close though. What’s the plan for how to get there?”
He wasn’t sure if she’d be able to get them there if she didn’t know the place. Did magic work that way, or might she teleport them into a wall or something? With no experience in magic, he was left relying on her to explain it to him.
"I could potentially find a way to send them with some proof, but.." the idea of sending them [i all] home was better than getting them directly involved, Lulu included. Laris trusted that she was brave, strong willed, and not the type of woman for him to worry of her mental prowess. Nonetheless, she still didn't have to be put into danger. She could go back home with her team, warn others, feel safe...Her point was strong when she mentioned Zain, though. Whether he was her responsibility or not didn't matter as much as the knowledge that he was by Faye's side, helping her in this. Did Laris believe Zain could survive should Faye succeed?
No, he had no doubts the woman would murder anyone who knew more of her secrets than necessary. If he was going to be assisting her, he would likely find things out she wants kept hidden away from the world. But Lulu... Worried eyes took in her view, not wanting to resign her to this unavoidable battle, but also knowing he had every reason, similar to Faye, to keep her by him. She knew this world far more than he and no matter what happened, people would [i have] to get involved for him to learn. At least Lulu already had reason to join him.
As much as it pained the man to agree, he gave a nod. "You may not be much help in an actual fight with her, but you would be [i the] pinnacle factor in being able to rival her newfound knowledge. I do not want to put you in the way of harm, therefore I will do all I can to avoid such dangers, but I will not deny your place in this upcoming confrontation..." It was his responsibility to take on Faye not only as potentially the only one capable, but as the Royal Mage of Celigan. In that same right, Lulu felt responsible for her traitorous team member.
"We will save this world of yours from whatever it is she has plotted for it. Make no mistake, I [i will not] allow her to prevail." Looking to the rest of the crew, Laris questioned himself on just what he could do. "If I could use some sort of sealed container, then I could possibly send them off with a simple spell, but an undeniable one..possibly."
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/YPlWpfY.png]]
Well, he wasn't lying at least. With his hand in hers, Faye had no problem in deciphering the man's intent. Power, of course, laid there in his desires, but it didn't threaten. It would appear he was being candid about his thoughts, a concept quite unknown to her. Especially those following an "evil" force weren't known for their honesty. This brought some value to her modern servant.
"It will," she agreed before setting back again, releasing his hand. One leg crossed over the other, she returned to the food.
It wasn't good. She could stomach it, and oh, was her stomach happy to have [i something], so it wasn't awful. It was simply unrefined; something she could do very little about. One of her first orders of business would definitely be to find decent food. Hopefully not all of the meals of modern day were like this.
"Relax as you will, but I do require you decide an appropriate place to leave from here. Lodgings are of no worry to me, but a location which holds much information for me to learn from. Unbaised, if possible. Perhaps records of some sort..and decent food." She gave a squint to the meal in her hands as she continued to munch at it, unafraid of using her hands for such.
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/NG2ue54.png]] The truth about Faye was maybe not what she hoped, but it was what she expected. She had seen Faye use magic with her own eyes, impressive magic. No doubt she was capable of causing trouble on a scale Lulu could scarcely imagine. The comfort Laris offered was needed and appreciated. It soothed her worries a little to have the friendly gesture. As much as she was afraid of Faye, she believed Laris didn’t mean them any harm.
There was just the trouble of her superiors. Lulu knew she couldn’t trust them nearly as well. Laris could easily enough prove magic to them. The dead team members and Zain would be harder to make them believe. She watched him pace and tried to think through the problem herself. This was her world, she was more familiar with it than Laris. Of magic though, she would need his help. “Is there some way to give the team some proof of magic? Without you having to go personally. They might have a harder time convincing them of what happened, but it could keep you out of any danger of being held, at least for a while. Realistically, I’m guessing they’ll try to contain [i all] of us when we go to report and tell them the truth. They won’t hurt us, but they won’t let us go either, not until they think they know what’s happening and what [i they] want to do about it.”
What to do with her, though. She chewed on the inside of her lip and looked at the three men trying to work together to get a tent down off the top of an exceptionally overgrown shrub. “I have to get them back to their families. Or close enough I know they’ll make it the rest of the way. But then,” Lulu looked back at Laris. Was this selfish of her? “I want to help you. I know I won’t be much help against her, but I can help you avoid being found. Besides, Zain is my responsibility too.”
At that she had to look away toward the ground and off to the side. So many maybe’s, and just thinking about them all made her feel like she was drowning in the guilt. Maybe if she’d been a better leader, more attentive, then maybe Zain wouldn’t have done that, maybe she would have noticed something was wrong. Maybe Faye would still be asleep. Maybe those five would still be alive. “He’ll be helping her do the same thing.”
[center [b ~*~*~]]
Zain couldn’t help the little exhale of a chuckle that escaped when she corrected him, and allowed him whatever he chose to call her,”We are more lax with titles now. I’ll endeavor to find one that suits you, though it may be hard. No one is quite like you, My Queen.”
Flattery? Obviously, but while it may be laid on a little thick in good humor, it wasn’t entirely without sincerity. Despite her current, weakened state, Zain admired her power and ambition. Even now, simple magic was not beyond her, and with some wonder at the lights he put away his flashlight and handed her the opened packet. Sure enough she could heat it. He put the knife away as well.
The change in the way she spoke got his attention. A greater power to follow? He liked the way she put that, it summed things up nicely. But of course, simply taking his word for it was maybe a little much. She had an empire to conquer and build, and with him as her first follower she needed to have complete faith in him. He was also aware that in times past, a vow of some sort to a sovereign was a big deal. Naturally she would want one.
With a bow of his head he did as she instructed and put his left hand, dirty and calloused as it was, in her palm. He supposed washing might have been polite, but there was nowhere for that here. As for any worry, he didn’t have any that she would kill him right now. If she wanted to, there were other ways. Now, if he were somehow lying or being deceitful? She may then, and he suspected she would be able to sense it somehow with his hand, but Zain had no intention of betraying her trust. “Then a promise you’ll have. I, Zain Vonner, dedicate myself to you and your cause. I promise to follow your commands and whims, to serve you faithfully.”
He looked up at her with steady blue eyes and a little crooked smile,”It’s not terribly proper I’m afraid, but will it do?”
It was relieving to watch as Lulu led her team to collect their things. They would be going home, it seemed, meaning they would be safe. That also brought to mind where it is Faye may have gone. Would she remain in Celigan? If she was talking of the world, it was highly unlikely. Maybe they wouldn't have been more safe, if that was the case.
It wouldn't matter, honestly. Anywhere could've been a potential danger. It was best to let them feel a sense of security in going home over worrying them that even home may be risky.
He gave a light smile to the team as they worked, thankful they hadn't listened to the woman. She was clearly villainous, so in most cases it wouldn't have been a hard decision, but there was always a chance. Both she and Laris were unknown to them, making him potentially a danger as well. Perhaps it was thanks to Lulu leading them and her trust in him that they held no doubts in the man, but he still felt a pang of sadness towards those he knew wouldn't be standing next to these men, able to make that same decision for themselves. No matter what the reason was they were down there, he felt the deepest of guilt.
This may have been the first time the young woman openly showed fear in front of him. There was no doubt Faye had shaken her up. It was reasonable for anyone to grow weary in her presence. As she questioned the woman's very existence, he couldn't deny it and gave a sad nod. This wasn't without resting a warm, friendly hand on her shoulder. At the least, that may help to calm her.
"Yes, it was real. In the same way magic existed during my time, it did long before. However, I do recall stories of magic once not being acceptable. It is not hard to imagine, given the times she lived in were dark, gruesome ones..."
Before the narrative could grow deeper in morbidity, Laris stopped himself and returned to their current concerns. Proof; that was what she spoke of. Not only of magic, but their deceased...He wasn't sure just how much he could come up with to help. If he [i were] to return with them, would they do as Lulu had worried and keep him under some lock and key?
That couldn't happen. He needed to be free to handle this. It was likely that Laris was the only one capable, in this modern day, of stopping Faye; if even [i he] was. "I understand...Giving them proof of magic would not be arduous, though of the fallen comrades..." A heavy sigh escaped before he released her shoulder, raking his hand through his hair. "If you are right in the worries we spoke of before, returning would give Faye the time she needs to exact whatever her plan is unto the world. You would be correct to assume she is still very capable of such...But what do we do?"
The Mage began to pace, fingertips against one another as his hands sat in front of his humming lips. "I mustn't stay. It would be useless in bringing her potential terror to a close, but if I were to go back to your organization, I may fall into captivity. We need a way to avoid either case, yet still give your men the proof they need to return and the guarantees they need to bring peace of mind to your people before Faye can arrive, giving them the chance to prepare." It was the hardest his brain had pushed since awakening, a migraine beginning to form.
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/YPlWpfY.png]]
With Zain's assistance, she found her seat in a place most familiar. It may have changed over the years, be it in redesign or destruction, but the view of the room around them was all the same. Powerful as she may have felt, Celigan was not the kingdom she remembered, and even [i that] one held no value to her besides petty revenge.
The man certainly knew nothing of formalities, addressing her as "my lady." The honorifics must've been lost in this time, otherwise he wouldn't have been so causal. At the least, she couldn't fault him for the attempt. In fact, it amused her into a slight smirk. "That's [i your majesty], to you." After a pause, she relaxed back. "Though the ignorance is fresh, therefore I will allow whatever name you choose." It wasn't as though the name "Faye" was even her own to begin with, nor was she still the reigning ruler of Celigan. She had her plans, but the past was where she remained a Queen. In this time, there were surely other titles befitting of her coming conquer.
Seeing his fiddling with the small light source, she leaned back in the throne and gave a gentle wave of the hand. Emitting from her palm came many small, firefly-like lights that littered the space. "I may be weak, but magic simple as breathing won't exhaust me. Come here with that," she readjusted to sit properly, waving him over to her with the food. "I can warm this..meal." Was it even worth calling it that? What was that strange container it was in? Whatever the case may be, Faye held the strange bag in her hands and soon, a steam escaped from the tear.
Her eyes glided over the open hall before returning to Zain. [i So this is my only subject...Time has taken much from me, but I shall rebuild. If this is meant to be my start, then I must grant this a moment of consideration.]
"Zain Vonner," she dropped her formalities, speaking without fanciful words or drama. "You stood by as I corrupted the bodies of your comrades and willingly sabotaged the others. I find no distrust in those that understand when there is a greater power to follow," her eyes narrowed skeptically. "But I must demand some promise."
Holding out her hand, having set the bag aside her in the seat, she addressed him seriously. "Place your flesh hand in mine. As it remains there, you must confirm your dedication to my whims and command, following it without falter. To trust the unknown so quickly over the world that raised you..I must confirm your sincerity and honor in this."
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/NG2ue54.png]] The fact that Faye could just disappear like that with no trace, taking Zain with her, was astonishing to the whole little team. It was taking them a minute to wrap their heads around that, the reality of what had happened, and the apology. The others were a little wary, but not Lulu. She was worried, sad, but not afraid. Not afraid of Laris at least.
At his question Lulu put a hand to her mouth in a loose fist. The answer troubled her a little. She couldn’t be sure exactly what they would do. “We do need to let them know what happened. I’m not sure if they’ll believe me…”
“We’ll prove it when we get back! They’ll have to believe it when we show them!” Kevin looked more hopeful now at the thought of going home and getting out of here.
Lulu’s smile was forced and tired,”We’ll certainly try. How about you three try to get some of the supplies packed up? Just one car.”
Now they all fit in one. That fact hurt when she thought of it. She was obviously looking to keep them busy so she could talk to Laris. While Kevin wanted to linger, the other two ushered him to help load crates and salvage enough of the tent and sleeping supplies for them to make it back.
That left Lulu with Laris. She turned from watching the three survivors to find violet eyes and took a step closer,”I’m worried they won’t believe me without proof. No one really believes in magic. They’ll want to know how more than half the team isn’t coming back. They’ll spend time investigating, time I’m worried we may need to deal with [i her].”
Lulu rubbed her arms under the blanket, chilled at the thought,”It’s really her? That era of darkness was real? Do you think she could do something like that again?”
The idea of just leaving Laris to deal with Faye alone was unthinkable. She wouldn’t make the rest of her team stay, but she intended to help Laris. After they got what was left of the team safely home with their families.
[center [b ~*~*~]]
Nothing could have quite prepared Zain for the sensation of being teleported. He felt the need to stretch his shoulders a bit and roll his head. Strange, but amazing. It was dark, and Zain unclipped his flashlight from his belt after letting to food packets fall. The light made him sure of where they were. Only inside the palace. It also let him see how hard this all was on Faye. He only let the beam rest on the fresh drops of red for a moment.
At her coughing fit interrupting her grand introduction Zain gave a tight smile. “Come, sit. The food will be cold, but it will help you recover your strength, My Lady.”
She seemed to enjoy titles, so he decided to play along a little. He wasn’t sure exactly how to address her, but knew for someone like her it ought to be respectful. He led her toward the throne, careful to be sure she didn’t fall. “We’ll have a more suitable throne for you one day. For now, this will have to do. Is there anything else I can get you?”
Once she was seated, Zain would get her food and open the packet with the knife on his belt. It would be cold and even less tasty than usual, but he had no way of heating it. No way that wouldn’t draw the others to them.
People were dead, his home was ruin, an infamous, dark Mage had been awakened, and here Laris was unable to do anything about any of it. Any of the sadness he'd felt before, reminiscing about the past that for him, had only been before he slept, was replaced by a boiling under his skin. Anger didn't come easily to such a peaceable soul, but no one could deny the ferocity that grew behind eyes that stared at the place Faye once stood.
The remains of the team speaking in worry to Lulu was entirely glossed over in his head until she spoke directly to him, pulling him out of it.
Some gentleness returning to his face, he was thankful for the reminder. His worries needed to be with protecting them and deciding what to do from here, not about what he [i couldn't] do. The anger would have to simmer back.
Palms up and open, he held them out to the team in apology with his head bowed. "I am so, truly sorry that this has happened. I was not able to protect you all from the dangers that hid under my very nose, and for that, I apologize. But please," he raised his head to search the eyes of those around him, including Lulu. "Trust in me that I mean you no harm and hold no deceit. Yes, as she said, I contain more magic than I have exposed you all to, but with no evil intent in mind."
Slightly biting at his lip, he continued. "For now, we make sure we're all okay. We calm down, collect ourselves, and..perhaps we need to contact your superiors. Warn them of this?" With a look to Lulu, he asked, "Would that be appropriate? Or are you still worried they may respond poorly..?"
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/YPlWpfY.png]]
Faye made quick work of their transport. When casting was the only time even a powerful mage was vulnerable to attack, so despite her knowing Laris was unlikely to make a move, she didn't risk a mistake. The flashy gesture of transportation should be enough to intimidate. Although, it was also enough to make her feebleness worse. A sensation like folding in on herself, the typical side effects of displacement magic, were intense. No matter how prepared she was for it, it took her by surprise when they finally settled on stone floors and the iron taste she held in her mouth came out in a cough.
She didn't want to completely exhaust herself by taking them far from camp. Faye wasn't fully aware of the current outside world. Thus, if she wasn't careful, she could've thrown them somewhere she didn't know. It was best that they transported here, inside the palace walls. Far enough that Laris wouldn't be able to scout them out immediately, but close enough that she could get some warning in they came near and get them out after resting.
Faye could only hope Laris wouldn't send them searching immediately. That wish only deepened as drips of red tapped onto the cracked foundation. As weak as she felt and as much as her body ached, the Mage couldn't help a small, cynical laugh. With a small glance past Zain to the destroyed throne behind them, she thought to herself [i And here I am, offering my blood once again to this damned Kingdom...Not anymore.]
Holding onto her accompaniment, she gestured to the open hall before them. "Ah, welcome, Sir Vonner, to the heart of Celigan. Please, make yourself at h-" An arm reached up to cover her mouth as she continued coughing, luckily no blood coming up this time.
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/NG2ue54.png]] Zain didn’t seem very troubled by Laris questioning him about seeing the rest of the team killed. What did it matter, since he hadn’t been killed but chosen instead? It wasn’t like anyone could stop Faye, as far as Zain was concerned. Certainly not him. He even enjoyed the way Lulu was obviously uncomfortable under Faye’s scrutiny. She was trying not to make it obvious, but Lulu knew enough to be afraid of Faye and what she was capable of.
So that was her plan. The world, a fitting goal. Zain liked the sound of that. Her tug at his sleeve kept him from letting his mind wander too far into what having her rule the world might be like. That was right, first they needed to get out of here. She was doing well now, but she still hadn’t eaten. Unconcerned about being stopped, since the other men were too scared to touch him, he popped open the nearby food crate and grabbed several bags of meals. He made it quick, didn’t look hard at what he took, and returned to Faye’s side.
Lulu glared hard at Zain. Half the team dead and he was taking food. Zain noticed and gave her an icy smile, and a mock friendly wave. The fact that it irritated Lulu, her grip tightening on her blanket and expression getting even more serious, made Zain crack a smile.
When the rest of the team, the only three left, followed Laris’s gesture and joined them Lulu went to them and looked them over with the concern of a mother,”Are you alright? I’m glad you’re safe.”
All of them were terrified, but otherwise in good shape. Better than the others. At least all of them weren’t dead. Or traitors. Zain’s attention was fully on Faye while she took his arm and made some gestures. More magic. He remembered her saying transport wouldn’t be a problem. He waited and braced himself, and was ready in case this proved to exhaust her.
Lulu stepped closer to Laris, to stand closer to his side while the others kept behind them. Her goal was the [i world]? It sounded pretty bad, and like she was confident she had the power to do it. She’d earned the title Dark Goddess for a reason. “Laris, what are we going to do?”
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