The land of Valcrest, its cities, history, as well as the Wolfpack and its rules, are my own creation and are not to be used without my consent. (As well as any of my characters).
This RP is, as of this moment, full and no longer accepting.
Blackbird26 – Your friendly GM. ^_^
[The White Shadows]
I was told as a child that the Land of Valcrest was blessed by the Gods with its beauty and magic. Now, I’m no longer certain of such fact. Centuries of war have ripped the beauty of this Land, now only a shadow of its former glory remains, kept alive by old tales and legends. The magic now is simply viewed as a tool to be used by one side or another as an advantage in battle. No one speaks of blessings nowadays… I wonder what the Gods would have to say about that.
I’m no longer a child now, and I can go as far as to say I was never truly innocent, growing up where I did. I know for a fact that Blackhurst was a city of Enlightened. The scholars who once lived there only sought knowledge on their own origins, they never thought their actions would cause the Land to self-destruct; they simply wanted to understand where they came from. It was an innocent quest for knowledge that led us here. They found what they were looking for... And were killed for their knowledge.
Surely, those people were being naïve. They should have kept quiet as to what they were doing, they should have kept what they discovered a secret. If they had, none of this would have happened. I assume, no living person outside of my clan knows how exactly this war has started. Dani Rivers was the last outsider to hear the story. I violated the laws of this clan by telling her, we are sworn to secrecy, for obvious reasons. When the Enlightened started being killed I thought it might have some relation to that particular piece of history, so I thought I should tell her… I’m still not convinced that it was an unrelated incident, in spite of having no actual facts to back up those suspicions. Something about the whole thing resembles something I’ve read somewhere; however, I can’t quite remember what. I have read a lot of things in the past couple of decades.
I always tell my apprentices this:
The term “Enlightened” today is associated with a magical ability an individual possesses. It once meant being knowledgeable, wise. That is why we study. Being born with a specific ability doesn’t mean being born fully capable of mastering that ability. We are all born capable of great things, not all of us are capable of achieving that greatness, or even fully understand what greatness means. To most, greatness still means power. To most, power still means force.
Sounds very preachy, I know. I thought so too when I arrived in this place. The angry, impulsive child I was back then found it easier to simply curse the world for being as it is. Many similar children have arrived since then, now more than ever; orphaned, homeless and lost children. Filled with rage, void of any type of understanding; the perfect tools for any heartless egomaniac to use with the purpose of fulfilling its own delusions of grandeur. Some have been twisted to such purposes. I have even heard rumors of cults and sects being raised far in the south.
For me, it was difficult to accept the change I was being asked to make in my ways. It took me time to finally listen to what I was being told. My enlightenment was not the curse I believed it to be; the real curse was my lack of willingness to develop it. Fear, perhaps.
What does this have to do with anything? Well… Everything is relevant when it comes to this Land. Everything is connected in a way or another. Every action causes a reaction, if not now, in the future. The past is never truly dead… It sleeps, soundly, until one day it begins to stir in its sleep and causes the ground to shake, sometimes even crumble beneath our feet.
And so we fall; only time will tell when we will finally ever hit the bottom. That is… If there is even a bottom to hit after all.
Helena Turner – Leader of the White Shadows
A diary page left behind dated ten years ago. That was all Lena Turner left of herself for the ones who had followed her for 25 years.
A new dawn came for the White Shadows and many others followed. Now, three years later, they are barely starting to return to the ruins of Blackhurst where they once built their homes. One foot there, another one in the desert ruins of Brightvale. The healers were finally closer to what they once were, thanks to the endless efforts of Lena’s young daughter. However, their numbers are now severely reduced, and the unbreakable faith that once drove them to die for their beliefs was, in the very least, shaken. Many healers deserted, a great number of them left Valcrest for good after having seeing the war reach the only safe place left. It was undeniable that those people were not prepared for such a thing. For those who stayed, however, there was still the never-ending and exhausting task of providing help to those who needed it.
Legends tell that the Goddess called Heart was one the most rebellious of the 14 children of the Gods that fathered Valcrest. Impulsive and irrational, some would say. Her passion for the mortal beings only matched by her anger towards Mother and Father for forcing her to leave them and the forest where she and her twin made their home. She revolted and chose a mortal man to father her children, encouraging her siblings to do the same so that, this way, they would never truly leave Valcrest. Unlike her brothers and sisters, Heart became attached to her children and so, she used her powers to summons the packs of wolves that lived in the snow covered lands to the north into the forest as her final gift to the children of the forest, explaining to them that the wolves were always true to their hearts and loyal to their family and so, as long as they remained together, they would always be protected. She warned them that they would always be stronger as long as they were able to remain as one.
Heart’s twin brother, Mind, on the other hand, was not one to grow attachments to any mortal creature. He left his children in Valcrest for the sake of maintaining balance in the world, for without reason there could be no order. He used his sister’s gift to pass his teachings to his sons and daughters, telling them to always remember that the wolves always maintained a hierarchy and every member of the pack played his part for no task was unimportant. The leader should always be the wisest, strongest and most respected amongst the members; otherwise he would be challenged and cast aside.
And so, when Heart and Mind left Valcrest, they left behind their clan, today known as The Wolfpack.
This legend has been told to children of the Wolfpack as a bedtime story for generations. It was Crystal’s favorite as a child and it was also Dani’s favorite way to remind her of her responsibilities. Ever since she was little she would hear her mother say that the Pack had two leaders to represent the Twins, because if only one person ruled the clan alone, there could never be balance, and without it the clan would fall.
Now, however, Crystal Rivers stood in a very difficult position. Exiled to the desert for the past three years, she had her hands tied as her clan fell to pieces. The Wolfpack was no more. What was left was barely recognizable as the proud assassin clan that it once was. The people who once lived there still lived there, for the most part, but the clan was no more: that was how she saw it.
The betrayal had been painful. Not only the assassination attempt that left her very close to death, but the attacks on her parents’ honor after everything they had done for the clan.
The few people who had followed Crys into the desert didn’t complain about the new life, in fact, most of them seemed to think that it was far better than what they had three years ago. Life in the desert was less conflicted, and they mostly enjoyed the company of the mercenary clan that had taken them in, as well as few remaining healers.
Even so, Crys couldn’t seem to get over the fact that the Wolfpack had fallen apart under her command and, of the few choices she was left with, she was still tempted to try and salvage the past somehow, knowing very well that there was probably nothing left to save by now.
Once upon a time, the Wolfpack stood tall, proud, and untouchable. Those days ended with the appearance of a group of men and women called the Wolf Hunters. Those people, who called themselves victims of the assassins, terrorized the clan for generations. Killing, without mercy, anyone that stood between them and their targets, they posed a severe threat to the Pack’s survival.
In one night, one damned night, the Hunters attacked the camp. In one blow they took out all the recruits, most of the instructors, and of the leader’s family… Only one survived. That night came to be remembered as the Red Night and, until this day, it remains as the biggest massacre to ever occur within the Pack’s territory.
In the morning that followed such massacre, a young Dani Rivers, shortly after burying her parents and twelve year old sister, along with great part of the clan, announced that she would declare war on the Wolf Hunters and that she would not rest until every live lost that night was avenged.
Two long years and many lives later, the Wolfpack celebrated their victory over the Wolf Hunters. The clan was rebuilt and thrived for over 20 years after that under Dani’s command.
The above story was the official tale that had been told to every new arrival and to all the children born in the clan ever since that fated night. Sean Fletcher had grown up believing it, and so did his brothers and sister, and everyone else in the clan.
However, that story was a lie.
Dani won the respect of her clan by winning a war that she fought out of guilt, not revenge. The truth, the actual truth, was that Dani had lied to her mother, to her clan, and brought a Wolf Hunter into their camp. Along with him, death followed. The Hunters raise hell to avenge the death of the boy named Sebastian, however… He was never dead to begin with, he was alive and well living amongst the assassins.
Now, almost thirty years later, after the truth has been exposed, the Pack tries to rid itself from its past and change under a new leadership. The situation of the assassins had improved, but the clan as a whole suffered a severe blow by having the most important part of their history exposed as a lie. Those who remained under the new leadership are struggling to stay together, even with all that has improved. The truth is: the Pack is yet to find its place in the world again.
Three years have passed since Shadows of The Past. The several factions, as well as the cities, have cleaned up the debris left by the final battles/parties/storms, and attempted to move on with their lives in the best way they could. Some of them now find themselves struggling to simply leave the past behind, others attempting to build a new future from scratch. Others are finding that things can in fact get worse than they have ever been before. Some are even catching a small glimpse of light in the end of a long period of uncertainty.
The fighting amongst the factions seems to have cooled off for the first time in a long while. In spite of the of the peaceful that it gives to the Land at first glance, some wonder if this is really peace, or if war is simply evolving into a much more silent killer.
Which is the actual truth, or if the truth is something else entirely, beyond what simple mortal minds can grasp… That, only time will tell.
Official story of Valcrest:
The land of Valcrest originally consisted of five great cities and some smaller villages. It has a vast forest and one great river that run from one side of the land to the other. The first two cities to be created there were Blackpond and Newhaven. These two cities exist ever since there is a record of human life in Valcrest and they co-existed in harmony for many centuries until the other cities were built and the land started to expand. Several power struggles started to shake the peaceful existence of the two cities, after many years of minor disputes, the two cities finally declared war. Out of the three other cities, the city of Elffort took the side of Blackpond and the city of Brightvale took the side of Newhaven.
The fifth city, Blackhurst, decided to remain neutral. Ironically it was the first to be attacked.
After the great war that raged for many years across the land of Valcrest, out of the five cities that existed there, only two remained. Originally in opposite sides of a dispute that has been long forgotten, the cities of Blackpond and Newhaven continue to fight each other until this day.
1. Valcrest: The land of Valcrest was once rich and full of life. Now its territory is only a shadow of what it once was. Most of the population is now concentrated around the forest, the two remaining cities and the plains and the desert. The mountains to the south and the ruined town of Effort remain unpopulated until this day, only visited by those who leave the land through that path, which are a rare few, since the easiest way out of Valcrest is through the north.
a) The Woods (Center of the land): The great forest is the center of Valcrest and, at present time, the most populated area. Deep inside of the forest, lies the territory of the assassin clan; the Wolfpack. The small mercenary groups that could once be found there have now disappeared, fled from the Pack’s sudden urge to take over the territory of the forest. The open trails that cross the forest and lead to the nearby cities are mostly respected and watched from a distance by the assassins, but straying from them may cause anyone, even the most experienced tracker, to become lost. Wandering into the wrong territory unannounced is something that can get any person killed fast.
Several small streams can be found amongst the trees, but only one bigger lake is present, in the outskirts of the Wolfpack territory, making it off limits to any human outsider that walks that forest.
Wildlife is abundant as well as other sources of food. Mostly wild boar, rabbit, and deer can be found easily for hunting purposes. No one has actually been attacked by predators larger than a snake in these woods, but it is told that wolves live there as well, and in quiet nights their howling can be heard in any point of the forest. Adjacent to the forest and at a distance sometimes considered uncomfortable, are the two remaining cities of Valcrest. No more than a day on foot can get a traveler from one city to another and from any one of them to the depths of the forest.
b) The Plains (West): This territory now is far less inhabited than it once was. However where the ruins of Blackhurst now lie, the healers once made their home. It has been three years since the army of Blackpond chased the White Shadows away from their home, and only now they are starting to come back. The still fertile soil, once used to grow healing herbs, flowers and spices are now void. One or two food crops are currently planted there, mainly for the purpose of keeping the few healers that have returned fed.
The healers once received supplies from the two cities; however, after fleeing to the desert, the healers have cut their ties with all factions involved in the war, and accept the same amount of aid as they provide: None. They help those who reach their camp and advice anyone who is in need of help controlling their enlightened ability, but now the once open territory of the White Shadows is only available to a chosen few, and members of the Crimson Shadows have been placed at their gates to make sure of it.
A long, long, time ago in this territory, the great city of Blackhurst once stood proud and tall. The city looked like one ever growing village, the houses and shops mixed together and scattered within its stone walls, The ruler’s home only recognizable for being larger and more isolated. The army mostly consisted of archers that guarded the walls and could shower attackers with arrows at miles away… Once past them though, the city was defenseless. Most people who lived on the inside of the city walls were scholars, medics and teachers, peaceful and educated people. Outside the walls smaller villages formed as ramifications of the larger city area, those villages were composed mostly of hunters and craftsmen, as well as their families. When Blackhurst suffered its defeat in battle the villages stood and their inhabitants refused to leave. As consequence, many massacres occurred in that area. It is rumored that most of the population of the city consisted of Enlightened and that was the actual reason behind the furious attacks on the city and its population. Both sides carried too much fear of what would happen should Blackhurst choose to get involved in the dispute. Those, however, are only rumors. The true motives behind the destruction of Blackhurst are, until this day, unknown.
c) The Desert (South): To the South of the forest lays a small wasteland where the merchant city of Brightvale once stood. The people who once occupied the city of Brightvale were experienced horsemen and sturdy travelers. Some were known to brag about traveling to the furthest lands known to men in order to acquire their goods, and therefore had seen it all. The Completely deserted once the city was destroyed, the area was rarely visited and only inhabited by a few bandits and runaways that preyed on any unsuspecting and bold adventurers that crossed the territory. Most people saw no point on going through these parts unless the person was leaving Valcrest forever or in need of hiding, however a few years following the abandonment of Brightvale, the mercenary group known as the Crimson Shadows claimed the territory of Brightvale as rightfully theirs. From then on, they made sure no travelers were harm unless they posed a threat to the clan, many times they escorted travelers through the desert and to the mountains, for a small fee, of course.
The mercenary group consists of descendants of the people of Brightvale and Effort; brave warriors as well as a friendly and talkative bunch, the Crimson will extend their welcome to anyone who is in need of shelter, for a night or longer, as long as the traveler is smart enough not to abuse their good will.
Currently the ruins of Brightvale have become a refuge to great part of the White Shadows as well as a, small, exiled group of assassins. Protected and assisted by the Crimson, by the order of their leader.
d) The Mountains (Further South): Beyond the desert, snowcapped mountains determine the limits of the Land. Protected by the stone walls of the mountains, the brave men and women of Effort once lived. The people that once lived there were known as proud warriors and horsemen. They were also known for their mining skills and for fabricating the first explosives seen in Valcrest. They were not the most educated people in the land, but were honorable and proud men and women. A population made extinct when they marched into war beside Blackpond and went into direct confrontation with the nearby city of Brightvale. Having their supplies cut short and their territory being the constant target of attacks… Effort also came to an end. The mines and homes left abandoned until this day.
2. The city of Blackpond (North end of the forest): The city of Blackpond is one of the most ancient and traditional cities to ever exist in Valcrest, its creation only preceded by that of Newhaven. The war with the neighboring city has left its marks on the proud kingdom, but through everything and anything; it has survived.
King Rory had ruled Blackpond for many decades. He was loved and respected within the city walls, as well as Commander Hastings. For the most part, the mass of Blackpond’s population, even though struggling against poor living conditions, had faith in their leader and were proud of their city’s warrior spirit. The city had its problems, it was clear, but what they lacked in wealth or beauty they made up for in spirit. A city filled with warriors and survivors, admired even by its enemies for never allowing itself to break or bend.
However, sorrow filled the city when word spread of the events that occurred in the castle. The news of their King being murdered would by his most trusted officer, along with the news of Hastings’ death spread quickly, first throughout the castle, then across the city streets. Not long after, it became known that Rory had a son.
Under the new leadership, Blackpond seems to have gradually lost the little order it had left when it came to its living conditions, and in the short period of three years, it has slipped into complete and total chaos. Crime rules the street and no punishments are given to those who rape, murder, steal, and vandalize as they please. It’s every man for himself and women and children are safer (in theory) locked on the inside of the house. Even then, when the people of Blackpond leave their homes, there’s no guarantee they will be back unscathed.
These days, anyone who wanders into the, once mighty, city of Blackpond can immediately see that something is very wrong with the city, however, those who are wise enough to know their place would never dare say it; and those who aren’t are usually never seen or heard of again.
3. The City of Newhaven (East end of the forest): Newhaven is nowhere near its former glory, but it’s slowly getting there. With the announcement that those responsible for the killing of their king, and the news of a new heir to take the throne, great part of the rage and fear that once roamed the city streets has subsided. In three years, the people of Newhaven are finally beginning to see a light in the end of a four year struggle to regain its former balance. However, Newhaven is far from being free of problems.
Even with the efforts of the City Guards and Knights combined, the rate of smaller crimes has gone up considerably due to the number of citizens to lose their homes, families, or businesses during the several attacks the city has endured. Small gangs of thieves have begun to form on the less privileged areas of the city, making it now impossible for people to walk the streets unarmed as they once used to. Some businesses are being closed as others are reopening. The economy in Newhaven is not at its possible worst, but it’s fragile. The city funds are growing slim, and there has been talk amongst the city council (and rumors amongst the population) of increasing taxes. Still, even if still shaky, order seems to have slowly been restored to city, especially since Blackpond seems to have lost its interest in attacking Newhaven, ever since the death of their most beloved ruler.
4. Assassin’s Camp (Within the forest): Between the grounds of the two cities, deep inside the forest, lies a clan of assassins, they name themselves the “ Wolfpack”, or simply the Pack” and they have prospered for years eliminating targets on both sides of the feud. The camp consists of one huge clearing surrounded by woods and several hidden paths that lead across them. Inside the clearing there are several cabins made of logs, and also a few tents. One big, more secluded cabin is the home of leaders. In the very center of the camp there is one big camp fire which is lit every night.
In the last three years the Pack has suffered with internal disputes after their leader was thought to be dead and then was discovered to be alive. However, the young woman was unfit to fight properly to maintain the leadership of the clan, and was forced to flee to the desert. A few actives followed after their former leader that night as well. Ever since, many others have considered abandoning the clan as well. The Wolfpack is actually in a better place than it was three years ago, however their place in the world in uncertain and the tense relations between the clan and its former members, as well as the Crimson Shadows, has made living a little bit more difficult; to say the very least.
1- Read these rules, read and post on the OOC before submitting a character. I will view your profile and look at your other RPs when you apply, it's there to be read, am I right? I also reserve myself the right to request a writing sample before approving your character (in case I found none on your profile).
2 – No God-modding , autohitting, or any other of those annoying habits that make people call you a douche and complain to me. You may autohit NPCs unless I state otherwise, but killing someone else’s character without consent, or attempting to do so will get you a nice boot print in the ass, be warned.
3 - Battles between PCs must be discussed through PMs beforehand and have a conclusion both players agree to. Keep in mind Enlightenments contain side effects, and do NOT, under any circumstance, start a pissing match on the OOC. There is going to be plenty of fights to go around, don’t expect to win them all!
4 – There is no posting minimum or limit in this RP. As long as you give your fellow players enough to work with and a little bit extra just for fun, that’s great. We love reading as much as we love to write, don’t be afraid to be creative.
5 - I’m fine with romance, but don’t expect things to stop so that you can concentrate on your love life. It just doesn’t work that way. No need to tell you people to keep it clean, but… I will anyway: Keep it clean!
6 – Try to post at least every 3 days, unless you are waiting on a reply. If you can’t, let us know. If you have to drop, let us know and write your character of, or ask if someone wants to adopt it. ABANDON your character if you’re dropping out.
7 – Don’t make more characters than you can handle.
8 – Feel free to spend time in the OOC lounge and share a laugh or two with us. ;)
9 – This RP is mostly character driven so feel very welcome to bring your own ideas to the table.
10 – There shall be no divine interventions unless if relevant to the plot. Which means that: if it must be done, it will be done by me or a fellow co-GM. The Twins are not playable characters in this RP and the Myth of Creation is just that: a myth. There is no proof to verify that there are actually Gods. It is a blind faith.
11 – I will NOT tolerate disrespect, whining, trolling, or arguing on my thread. Do NOT PM me about another player unless said player is violating the rules and I missed it. I have no interest in gossip and I’m not a babysitter. If you have problems with another player, work it out with them.
I’m a friendly person and whatever assistance you need I’m here. However, I’m also GM of this RP. Being so, it’s my duty to enforce these rules. And I will enforce these rules. So if it comes necessary for characters, or posts, being edited I will take no whining about it.
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These poor, unfortunate souls were once a part of this great world, but have been abandoned. Why don't you consider viewing their profiles and making a decision on whether or not you can roleplay them accurately?
[Blackbird26] A brotherhood of people who aim to cleanse the land from enlightenment.
[Blackbird26] Mercenary group that resides in the Brightvale ruins in the desert.
The White Shadows
[Blackbird26] Group of Healers the resides in the ruins of the citiy of Blackhurst in the Plains.
He walked down the streets, pulling his read cloak close around his body, moving quickly toward the stables where Demono was waiting. He and his black riders would be going out hunting. He owed them that much after that disappointing failure. They had gotten blood though and had suffered as well. He wasn’t used to losing his prey at all and it hit him hard to know that one, he couldn’t kill Phantom, and two, that he now had to protect her. He shook his head and placed his hand on his sword, feeling the deep stirring in his chest. He could already tell that she was going to get him into so much trouble, draw more attention to himself. Unless she ended up getting herself killed. At the thought he nearly laughed but he only managed a smirk as the stable boy ran off toward the stall and came back out leading Demono, who was shinning and rearing up. He really was a beautiful beast, tall and heavily muscled. His coat was a light grey and it looked as if someone had cast snowflakes down across his neck and down to his flanks. His black mane and tail were neatly brushed to the point where it shone black as a raven’s wing. The deep brown eyes had some sense of understanding in them and Kirsten felt his stomach twist with love for this creature.
The boy lost hold of the reins as the horse bolted forward, not stopping as Kirsten grabbed onto his saddle, pulling himself up and onto Demono’s broad back. He tore through the crowds, his black riders appearing out of the alleys and riding close behind him as people dove out of the way to avoid being trampled. Sparks flew from the hoses hooves and their nostrils were flared wide, their eyes were wild. He knew they were making quite an impression, his black riders on black mounts with the red rider on a speckled mount; only offering themselves up for gossip and fear. Kirsten’s eyes grew lighter at the feel of the horse under him, the way people moved to escape his beast, nothing could bother him. However he found that he was wrong. Riding through the market, he saw the black cloak of Phantom, and his eyes flashed as she saw her talking with a strange man. He thought about slowing but his mount wouldn’t have it and instead neighed and bucked slightly. Kirsten scolded him by yanking sharply on the reins and then urging him forward, Demono agreeing and picking up his pace. Kirsten and his men thundered out of the gate into the plains. He stood in his saddle and looked back, already his group flowing out into the backwards V formation they had practiced and worked on for so long to perfect. His men cheered and hollered behind him, giddy to ride and be out of the city. He smiled at their joy, moving like a black shadow across the land with the horses’ hooves sounding like thunder. Kirsten pushed Demono until the horse’s breath could be heard over the wind, his dappled coat shinning with sweat, the wild ride reckless and dangerous. He was about to signal to return when a scream caught his attention. His head turned and he slowed Demono, the horse carefully shifting form a gallop into the choppy trot and then stopping. His night hunters, the Balkan, as he liked to think of them, all came to a halt on either side of him, forming out a long line of riders and impatient horses. His gloved hand gently stroked the specked neck soothingly as Demono shifted and pranced, tossing his head up and down in a nodding fashion.
“What do you think boys,” he asked as several of his riders had to turn their horses in tight circles to keep them from bolting toward the scream. Kirsten smirked as his riders drew their swords, the blades coloured black as night. He drew his own, raising it above his head as Demono rose up on his back feet, screaming a challenge out before pushing forward, galloping down toward the poor creature that was being tormented. He leaned low over his horses neck, the beasts belly low to the ground as it pushed its speed to the limit. The black hair whipped against his face and human and horse seemed to blend together, becoming one creature as they rode into battle.
It didn’t take long to slay the group of bandits that were raiding a merchant and toying with his daughter. Their bodies lay were they were slain, blood pooling on the red stained earth, already saturated from the blood of the animals they had massacred before the Balkan could arrive. His men were settled and sedated, blood flecks across the bit of skin they showed and their horses coming to a rest under them as they cleaned their swords. Kirsten smiled, his black eyes shining brightly. The merchant and girl were cowering away, Kirsten and a couple of his men having used their illusion enlightenments to mask themselves. He laughed and spurred Demono, his dappled coat stained from the blood of the man who lay beheaded under his belly, toward the city gates again. The horse reared, his eyes appearing red as a cloud of steam rose from his nostrils, screaming a challenge to the world. Kirsten shook his head and with a quick motion sent his men galloping away, leaving the merchant and his daughter wondering what hell they had just been saved from and the fresh hell they had entered.
He and his men re-entered the city, passing unchallenged through the gates and up through the streets. Newhaven was such an interesting place, too bad it wasn’t home like Blackpond was. He smiled and slipped into the first alley, his men dispersing. He brought Demono to the stables he had previously found, his eyes cold and hard as the boy took the horse and began to sponge away the blood stains on the horse’s coat. Now that he knew his men were just as bloodthirsty as he was, which none at the moment were, he decided to find Phantom; Twins forbid the trouble she could have already gotten herself into. He whistled, loud and sharp and his call was answered as a hawk drifted down onto his outstretched arm. He absently ran his ringers over the ruffled feathers, ignoring all the looks he got from the people. He tapped the hawk lovingly on his chin and nodded, watching with envy as Kie took to the skies, circling above the city in search of the girl. His black boots hit the stone as he walked calmly through the crowd, snickering at the people’s fears. He hadn’t gone far though when Kie came flying back, a piece of black ribbon clutched in his talons.
Great, he thought, Now I have to become the hero.
Ess had to give Mageria props for not exploding into a violent, messy rage and cut down that Warlord. She didn’t feel she could of kept her composer so well in tact. Ess wasn’t just impressed, but she couldn’t put her finger on what she was feeling. Tala had obviously trusted this woman, and Tala didn’t trust anyone. Even though Ess didn’t always take her wolf’s ‘advice’, she knew to trust her gut. She looked from Mageria to Luckas as she passed and spoke, “I’ll deal with you later, Luckas.”
Quirking a brow, she brushed a black loc of hair from her eyes, keeping her composure so not to let her ‘Mirage’ fail her in a room full of people. Out of her peripheral vision, she noted Tala following Mageria almost out the exit. Ess made a clicking sound using her tongue against her teeth to get the wolf’s attention back to her side. Turning her head towards Luckas she leaned into him, whispering in his ear..”What was that about eh? You date her sister or something?” Ess smiled, the expression forming into one of Luckas’ snickers. She absently wiped at her nose, a small drop of blood appearing on the back of her hand.
Luckas was not expecting what he saw as he led Ess into the meeting room. He didn't make a sound or took another step into the room, he lingered near the doorway, arms crossed over his chest as the man called by the others 'Warlord' made his accusations. He was lying through his teeth, Luke could tell and so he couldn't get his eyes off the man, a reddish glow sparkling behind the black. He wondered what the man wanted to gain from this and felt a sick and familiar urge to rip the truth out of him slowly and painfully. Only when Mageria walked past and said she'd deal with him, he remembered that Ess was still mirroring his image.
He turned as Ess asked what it was about. Luckas looked one more time towards the 'Warlord and the other Council members, memorizing their faces as they began to deliberate, before pulling Ess by the hand and out of the room so they could talk freely. "There's nothing left to see here." He stated. "We wanna be near the Black Guard right now. That's where stuff's gonna happen." He said absently, releasing her hand quickly as he already had managed to lead her out to the hall. After they had walked far enough from the room Luke spoke again. "And that back there was..." He chuckled. "We can say she had one bad date with my brother. My twin brother." Luke said, looking Ess up and down and snickering, "Matt was an evil monster, even for my standards, and when he attacked someone he would leave nothing of that person intact. Captain survived though. When we first met she thought I was a hallucination. It was hilarious. More than that: My gift has no effect on her. She's the reason I'm here; it's fascinating." He stated, with a slight nod, randomly leading Ess through the halls.
Essence let herself be led by Luke, out the room into the hall, noting a familiar, predatory desire in his black orbs. She hadn’t cringed or shook with anger when he touched her hand, like she would by another without an invitation. It had felt...oddly what normal she imagined would feel like. Keeping her gaze upon him as he spoke, she felt Tala keeping pace by her side, nose low to the ground as if she was following Mageria’s scent. Ess didn’t know what she was getting herself into, but she couldn’t deny her curiosity for the danger she tasted in the air.
“What’s going to happen, Luckas?”
Keeping in pace with Luke, Ess heard the clammer of heavy footsteps moving back towards the Council Chambers, the hallway growing empty. A ping of pain awkwardly hit her stomach at the thought of more than one of Luckas running amuck, when she had intended her ‘Illusion’ for another purpose. She could not even begin to understand what Mageria must have went through, as Luke explained the quick version of his late brother. Ess was worried slightly that she had made a bad impression, unintentionally to the Captain, but kept her equanimity, smiling softly.
“Makes sense now...Luckas, watch my back a minute...make sure no one is looking.” She whispered, sliding against a cold wall, she began shaking her head, tossing her black hair about, until red curls replaced those locs, falling loose around her shoulders. Her form was back to it’s normal height and hour glass shape, filling out her tunic and cotton pants. Looking up into Luckas’ coal like stare, she felt like she was falling, a quick dizzy spell passing over her in seconds. She stood slowly, nodding to continue onward, not noticing another drop of blood falling from her lip.
“So...When do we get to play?”
Luckas' eyes narrowed slightly as Ess asked when they would get to play, he was thinking of ways to get Xypher. He felt so strongly about the whole thing, for some reason, that a part of his mind was unable to focus on anything else other than the urge to get to the man alone and make him swallow his words. Still, he went back to the first question the woman asked. He absently retrieved one hand into the sleeve of his shirt and used it to wipe a drop of blood from her face, before turning and continuing to walk as he answered. "I'm not sure what will happen, but... Without being here for longer than a couple of days I know for a fact that if those noble idiots want to disband the Black Knights, or worse, get the Captain arrested for whatever she did, or they claim she did, those guys won't take kindly to it. I only know one of the Knights personally, although he wasn't a Knight when I met him, and if the others are anything like him, they won't take kindly to it either. Something is definitely going to happen when they find out what was said in that room." He concluded.
Turning a corner Luke walked in silence for a couple more steps before expressing what was going through his mind. "That Warlord person... Xypher, I think his name was... I want him." He stated, his voice coming out in an angry growl as his eyes lit up in a red light. "I need to get him alone." Turning his eyes back to normal and heaving a sigh he added, in a tone similar to one of a bored infant. "He'll probably be stuck in that stupid meeting for a while though." He said giving a light shrug. "I wonder what'll happen to the kids..." He mumbled, suddenly remembering that Lily had told him Mageria got in trouble for bringing the kids to that castle, he imagined the Council had been the one to give her trouble, based on how she'd spoke of them in the infirmary. "They better not toss them in the orphanage." He muttered under his breath, stuffing both hands in his pockets as he walked. "I hated that place."
Ess watched Luckas curiously as he approached, wiping at her face with his sleeve. Quirking a brow, she kept her reaction to herself, not sure what that small guesture was about, focusing on Luke as he answered her questions. Ess was debating the possible outcomes Luke voiced about the Captain, remembering the times she had to take dark matters into her own hands; when she had to make quick decisions for her or another’s survival. It brought a light of understanding to her, one she could relate to with Mageria as she realized they shared similiar morals.
“I hope she did kill Morgan..” Ess muttered, an intrigued glow escaping her eyes as she passed a wink in Luke’s direction. “I remember hearing about that man...he deserved worse, so if my assistance is required, I’ll gladly offer it when all hell breaks loose...I mean...what else am I going to do?”
Ess slid her hand across Luke’s shoulder, as if she meant to comfort his anger, although her words only proved to be encouraging. “I could...get this Xypher alone....so we can play. Maybe you can share a secret or two with me?” Ess couldn’t hold back the wide grin that spread across her lips. “Of course...if you don’t want my help...” She trailed off teasingly, her mind a bit excited at the thought. Never has she attempted something that was so far from a personal level, where she could make some kind of difference for another, and not need anything back. The feeling felt warm inside her chest, and she wondered if that meant she was sick or crazy. Mostly because the idea of participating in torture didn’t repulse her, only made her heart beat quicken, adding pink color to her snow white cheeks.
With a shrug she added, “I grew up in a whore house...somehow I doubt either one is better than the other....” Ess’s eyes narrowed into thin slits at the thought of more innocents crossing over down that path only to never return. She hoped that wasn’t the children’s destiny. Maybe Mageria would take the kids somewhere safe, or even with her. Who knew what trials lay before them all.
"She did it." Luke replied. He wasn't absolutely sure of it, but he could pretty much feel it was true. "I don't know anything about the man, but I'm sure he deserved it somehow. " He added, absently. He knew that it was unlikely for Mageria to kill a person over nothing, so if she killed the man, he probably had it coming to him somehow.
Luckas had to control a small wince as he felt a hand on his shoulder. Physical contact was something that actually bothered him if it came unexpectedly, he wasn't sure why, but it always had. Like many other things, he had learned to hide that fact and mask his reactions. The gesture was something that was usually accompanied by calming words, however, Ess' words caused a bit of surprise on Luke. He turned to look at her and found a wide grin spread across her features; she wasn't bluffing. He usually worked alone, and he didn't share his toys with absolutely anyone, but again he saw something incredibly familiar in her eyes and he wanted to see how far she would go. "If you can get him alone... We can play then." He said, opening a grin of his own. "And what secrets do you mean?" He asked tilting his head to one side curiously.
"I know that." He stated absently as she mentioned the whore house. "No, the orphanage wasn't that much better. Older kids..." He shrugged. "My enlightenment... I've had it since I was little... It's unusual, but that's what helped me stay in one piece. It looks better today than it was back then, but still... I doubt Captain will let them just dump those kids there like trash, but then... I'm sure the Queen remembers well the time she spent there." Luckas stated, with an amused smile. He remembered Ella from the orphanage; the girl with the curse. He recognized her the one time he saw her in the dungeons in Blackpond, although he had no clue who she was at the time. Funny that she'd end up taking the throne, out of all people.
Ess bounced a bit happily, in her step as Luke said, "If you can get him alone... We can play then." She wasn’t sure if she would be allowed to help, as he seemed like one who enjoyed that ‘personal time’ with his victims. Ess understood how pain could be taken in as pleasure, but she never was able to take her time as it had always been rushed..pure instinct. Looking forward to her chance, she casually brushed off Luke’s question of what secrets he held.
“Like you said,” She whispered alluringly, “That is for you to know and me to find out..if I am patient enough to hold out for those answers..” Ess tightened her belt, adjusting her blades at her hips... “I can be ..VERY patient.” Essence felt Luke’s eyes upon her still and kept smiling, a tiny dimple appearing at her left cheek. She couldn’t place the look precisely, but knew there was something hidden, something worth sticking around for. If he was anything like her at all, she knew there was something more than he let on, and she appreciated the bits of information he shared here and there. Ess wondered if she was being tested, not quite judged but slowly evaluated if she was worth the young man’s time.
Tala gave a light growl at her side, which only made Ess giggle. Anyone with a brain saw how Tala did not trust Luke, and Ess wasn’t sure she did either, but she had to trust her gut. Pursing her lips she quickly made a light noise from the intake of air, catching the wolf’s attention as they paused just down a bit from their destination, Guards standing at alert around the corner.
“Ella...” She muttered to herself lost in thought.
Luckas nodded as he had almost led them down the wrong path, as his attention was caught by the conversation, taking a turn to get them back on track. He hadn't exactly taken the shortest path, that was true, he wanted the time. As Ess told him she would be patient in finding out the answers she wanted, he couldn't help but laugh at that. He'd surely give her a challenge if that was the case. After all, he had never willingly given away any secrets, and he didn't plan on starting anytime soon.
He chuckled more as he heard the wolf growl at him, a smart animal it was. "She knows." He stated absently, snickering away at his own thoughts. "You should follow her advice." He told Ess, with a little smirk. "I'm just a terrible influence." He said with a shrug, as they walked past a few doors and entered a common room where Black Knights and the Guard would hang around when off duty. There were a few people there, but they paid them no mind. All they'd have to was hang around and wait for the news to spread. He gave Ess a curious look and question. "So... How are you planning on getting him alone, exactly?" Luke asked, raising an eyebrow in a fake severe expression. He couldn’t hold it for long though and broke into a wicked smile, anxious to get to play again. It had been quite a while since last time.
By the time everybody was in the room, there was no need to ask for silence. Mageria stood in front of them and prepared to do one of the hardest things that she had ever done.
“This morning, the Council received information from an outside source, naming me as the murderer of former Captain of the Black Knights, Captain Stephen Morgan.” There was a stirring, but they settled down quickly. “Because of this, the Council will most likely vote to disband the Black Knights and by extension, the Black Guard.” At that most of the men leapt to their feet, shouting angrily. Mageria let it go for a moment, before holding out her hands, mutely asking for silence. Once the turmoil died down, she continued. “I’ve spoken to the Queen. She regrets that she will not be able go against their recommendations at this time.” There was absolute madness this time, people jumping to their feet, half of them with eyes glowing angrily.
“SILENCE!” Mageria stared at them all, her force of will such that they were instantly quite. She was breathing hard, trembling just a little. Cutting out her own heart would have been easier. There was absolute quite, before one man towards the back.
“Captain? Ain’t you going to do anything?”
Mageria took a deep breath. “I could fight this. I could pull every dirty trick in the book to try and stall the inevitable, but it’s only going to end one way. The Council has hated me for a long time, and they will do anything to get rid of me.”
“Well we can take care of them first,” came from someone to the side. Mageria shook her head. “No. Not that I wouldn’t love to take care of them myself, but we’re not going to go down that route.” She fought the urge to look down and instead faced them squarely. “And the reason is, I was the one who killed Stephen Morgan.” Absolute silence. “I had my reasons; he was a monster, who killed indiscriminately, who sent his people to their deaths for no reason, who killed women and children simply because they got in the way.” She swallowed hard. “But the truth of the matter is I couldn’t prove any of that and, in the heat of the moment, it simply came down to the fact that I couldn’t let him kill a woman and her child in front of me.” It was starting to get hard to breathe. “There’s no proof of this either way, beyond talking to the woman herself and I have no reasonable idea of where she is. You have to make up your own mind, whether or not you believe me.” She rubbed her temple with one hand.
“Either way, the end of the matter is, we as a force are no longer going to exist. We may have as long as a week to clear out, but things are going to get very uncomfortable very quickly. There are those of you with families. You need to think of them, what they need before anything else. In fact, your best bet would be” she paused a moment. “In order to have the best hope of staying here in Newhaven and keeping some kind of place such as what you have would be to renounce all association with my forces immediately.”
By this time there the reactions of the crowd were muted at best, the men and women simply looking around at each other and shifting uncomfortably. Finally one woman stood up and said quietly. “Captain . . . with all due respect. I think that we need to talk this out between ourselves for a while.” Mageria bit her lip and nodded, turning away and walking out the door, feeling more alone in that moment than she ever had before. Making her way down to her room, she pushed the door closed and slid down it, the echoing silence ringing loudly in her ears.
Funny, the thought idly ran through her mind. I’d have thought that the end of everything that I’ve worked for would have made a louder noise.
Bran and Sophie looked at each other as the Captain made her way out of the room. She looked . . . broken. People were already getting up and gathering in groups, arguing about what they were going to do next.
“You heard the Captain, we ain’t going to have a job come next week!”
“Come off it, you know that she’d never a done it if she had the choice!”
“How many of us would be alive right now if not for her?”
“And they’re just going to kick her out? We should take care of it ourselves!”
“What are we going to do next?”
“Hire as mercenaries? What, you think the Crimson’s will let us in?”
The arguments went on for a good long while before someone stood up and whistle for attention. It was one of the newer recruits, from a farm family outside the walls of Newhaven. He had a small smile on his face, one that caught the attention of everyone looking at him.
“Ya’lls. I got an idea.”
With a bored shrug, Ess glanced from Tala to Luke shaking her head at his observation as he stated, ' "I'm just a terrible influence.”’
“I am my own influence, therefore I come to my own conclusions.” With a sweet, honest smile Ess shifted her stare from Luke’s; the blackness seemed to go on forever into the depths of his soul, she knew whatever he was keeping inside was hidden in that abyss. “You may believe that I am acting foolish Luckas, but as much as my conscious here ..” Ess paused, rubbing Tala along her shoulder blades. “..tries to warn me otherwise...I am not afraid of you. Quite the opposite, actually. And I don’t mean to sound full of myself, or threatening. ...I just can’t put my finger on it..”
A subtle giggle escaped her lips, as she mouthed silently, ‘You should know’ to his question of how she planned on assisting him in his ‘playtime.’ Ess would do just about anything she needed to, to get what she wanted. Her head snapped up at attention as the room began to fill with men and women, shortly thereafter Mageria began addressing all of the current situation. Ess kept silent as the Captain admitted to killing the late Captain Morgan, just nodding in approval. Lightly she crossed her arms across her waist, her fingers tapping against the hilts of her sword and dagger. Bunching her brows together she took in the chatter, men and women arguing. Some wanting to fight, others wanting to know what was to become of themselves. The selfless individuals who spoke up, were the ones Ess agreed with. There should be a way to take care of the problem. Of course, Ess was never one for politics, as she was either driven by logic or instinct. On occasion those two would work together, but most of the time she was shoving forward based on emotion only. As Mageria left the room for her people to discuss the situation, Ess sighed, keeping Luke in the corner of her eye.
Luckas was leaning up against a wall, arms crossed over his chest absently looking around the room as he chuckled. "I never said you should be afraid of me, in the sense of me hurting you, although in a way you probably should. I said that I'm a terrible influence. And what do you mean with 'quite the opposite'?" He asked curiously, not being able to identify what was quite the opposite of being afraid of someone. As Mageria entered the room, however his eyes and his attention were completely devoted to her, not for what she was saying, but for what was behind it. The Black Knights were no more; the most powerful force known to Valcrest, disbanded over simple bureaucracy. Was it true that everything was just that fragile? He wondered what would be necessary to break down the Newhaven Council completely? Were they any less fragile? Probably not, but he was going to find that out soon enough.
As Mageria left and the men and women of the Guard were left to discuss their options, Luckas broke out of his thoughts. He didn't know what they were going to do, but he knew what he was going to do about this.
"I need to ask Captain a question." He stated simply, turning to look at Ess. "You know, before we think about playing."
Ess’s smile dissipated to a lack of expression, as she shook her head not agreeing with Luke’s words, ' "I never said you should be afraid of me, in the sense of me hurting you, although in a way you probably should. I said that I'm a terrible influence.” ’ She had explained what she could at the moment, and didn’t feel this was the time to debate. When he questioned Ess, wanting to know what she meant about ‘quite the opposite’ she hid her amusement that it was not clear and simply stated with a distracted yawn, “I’m the one haunting you, remember? Who knows how I will feel tomorrow...maybe I’ll kill you then..” She winked.
Essence stretched her arms, nodding in agreement. “I need to speak with Mageria as well..course if you would rather go alone..I can wait.” She said, not wanting to be disrespectful. Ess was, after all technically the stranger around here, and Luckas and Mageria had some sort of history..even if it wasn’t all pleasant and she wasn’t sure if her, the outsider would be welcomed. Naturally, Ess didn’t let on her concern and simply waited for the response.
Luckas laughed a bit loudly, which momentarily caught the attention of a few people, however they were too concerned to care about who he was and soon went back to what they were doing. "You'll kill me?" He sighed once the laughter subsided. "Well, suppose there are worse ways to die than by the hands of a pretty lady." He stated with a little shrug.
"I don't mind if you tag along, it's not like we share intimate secrets or anything, but... You might want to sneak a little peek at what those guys are up to, might lead to something fun. You can do that if you want, I'm not a jealous person." He snickered. "Well, maybe I am a little bit sometimes." He stated with a small wink.
Ess simply smiled, holding back a laugh of her own, still not understanding why this man’s laugh was so contagious. Tala wagged her tail a bit, as if she was interested in the prospect of Ess killing Luckas, she nuzzled Ess’s hand lovingly. As she soothingly ran her fingers along Tala’s ear, Ess made her way for the door, nodding for Luke to lead the way.
“Aww...you think I’m pretty?” There were mixed feelings with her words, the tone honestly surprised yet the words seemed mocking. The intention was not meant to be rude, but Ess didn’t hear that compliment when she was in her normal form...at least not for a long time.
“Don’t tempt me Luckas, I may want to see what kind of man you are when you become Jealous. I bet it’s deliciously down right scary.” Ess tossed her curls aside from her face, the glow of her violet gaze dimmed back to her normal deep shade. “Besides, the Captain and I are always in the middle of a discussion and she suddenly has to go attend to business..and...” Ess smirked, a little snort escaping her at the irony... “...each time she leaves...you show up. So there are some things that are still up in the air.”
"I have eyes, don't I?" Luke responded, a very discrete tone of pink showing on his face as he hadn't realized he'd paid the woman a compliment in the middle of all his talking. As they walked through the door and out to the hall, however, it was already gone. He snickered slightly. "Now I'm curious as to how you suppose you could make me jealous." He stated tilting his head a bit in thought. He grinned. "You wouldn't be disappointed though."
He chuckled. "Well, while I tend to want to follow the Captain around all the time, funny enough, I wasn't even doing that when we ran into each other.I didn't even see it was the Captain you were talking to either. When you said 'Guard Captain' I didn't think you meant the Black Guard." He stated with a small shrug, walking down a corridor, he stopped in front of Mageria's bedroom door, and knocked on it as gently as he could. Not saying anything and just waiting to see if she'd open the door. He suspected that if he called she wouldn't open the door for him.
Mageria hadn't managed to get up by the time that there was a knock on the door. She considered ignoring it, but her sense of duty was too strong. Even though they didn't identify themselves, it could have been one of her people, which meant that she had to answer. Her room was still dark, no one had been by to light a candle and she hadn't had the will to do so. She had instead been sitting there staring; feeling a small burning flame in her chest. Somehow, she was going to keep her people together, those that choose to follow her. She wouldn't turn away from them, no matter who had turned away from her.
She would protect the people of Newhaven, the ones that she had truly given her oath to. It wasn't the Council that she was sworn to; it was the men, women and children that she was bound to protect. The whole reason that her world was crumbling around her was because she had believed that seven years ago; it was just as true today.
Somehow, she would find a way.
Taking a deep breath, she slowly pushed herself up and pulled open the door, blinking a bit at the sudden light. Her eyes quickly flicked between Luckas and Ess, standing there together. A slight smile quirked the side of her face as a ember of fire could be seen in her eyes. The two of them, together. That could lead to some interesting times. Silently, she stepped back, opening the door to invite them in.
Tala bursted forward in a flash of energy, happy to see Mageria again. “Blasted wolf..” Ess muttered almost falling over as Tala jumped around happily, licking at Mageria’s hand. Leaving the wolf with the Captain, Ess noticed how dark the room was and shuffled her way inside, finding the closest set of candles to light, as Luke and her entered the room. A few heart beats passed, the room slowly filling with light while Ess found a lonely chair off against a wall. Casually she sat, leaning back against the wall, balancing on the back two legs. She kept silent, looking from Mageria to Luckas, absently cracking her knuckles.
Luckas didn't make himself as comfortable in the room as he usually would pretty much anywhere, rather he just walked in and leaned against the wall nearest to the doorway. For a second or two watching Tala before he opened a grin and put his attention on Mageria. "You know, not to seem arrogant or anything, but you should've accepted my offer. People just underestimate the value of mind control nowadays apparently." He said with a small shrug. "Suppose I should apologize for the..." His eyes glanced over to where Ess was sitting and he chuckled. "It was supposed to be funny, but the timing was just terrible, it seems."
Crossing his arms over his chest, Luckas attempted to hold back the manic grin that would give away what was on his mind as he addressed the question he wanted to ask at this time, however, the red glow in his eyes showed his intentions rather clearly. "The reason I'm here now though... You told me not to do anything you would have to deal with, so I've taken my time to come here and ask: If I do something now, would you still have to deal with it?"
Mageria knelt down, petting Tala and ruffling her fur. Leaning back against the wall, she slid down and crossed her legs, jerking her head back as the wolf attempted to climb into her lap. "Settle down," she ordered gently and Tala obeyed, laying down and looking up at her in mute appeals for more scratches. Mageria obliged, working her fingers through the fur around her ears.
It took her a moment to respond to Luckas. "Honestly, at the moment? It depends on who you were going after." There was another long moment of silence. "I have a reasonable idea of why most of the Councillors want to get rid of me. Things I've done or seen . . . I've made some enemies over time. But Xypher? What in the Gods names has happened that he is so desperate to get rid of me that he'd do all that? It could be any number of things, all of which could be a disaster for the people I'm supposed to be protecting."
Mageria absently kept petting Tala, the movement soothing. She looked up at Luckas with a gentle angry smile on her face, a look in her eye that almost matched that in his. "So the question is, if you were to do something to a certain someone . . . would I care?"
Ess tilted her head, letting her curls drape over half of her face, listening to both Mageria and Luckas her eyes flarred briefly in a vibrant purple before fading again. She could feel the
woman’s pain, hearing it in her words. Keeping quiet for the most part, she whispered under her breath, thinking out loud, “Maybe...it doesn’t have to do with you...maybe you are just a pawn...someone in the way..” Ess cleared her throat, giving a small smirk as she pondered which dress would be appropriate for her little venture later, shifting her eyes back over to Luckas.
Luckas snickered softly at the response. "This Xypher person..." His eyes lit up a bright red just to mention the man's name. "I know his type well. One of those people who are content with what they have until they see an opportunity to get a little more, and then a little more than that... They're parasites, leeches, scum." He said, barely containing a growl behind his words. "If you want a more specific reason, however, that can be arranged." He stated, a childish smile breaking through his anger at the thought of being useful. "To make it simple, yes. The question is, if I was to have my fun with a certain person, or his associated people, would that be a problem?" He asked, his eyes turning back to their usual black as he smiled down at the woman. "I'd hate it if my playtime somehow ruined our friendship, Captain. Especially since I still haven't got the answers I need." His smile turning a little more wicked as he added. "However, that's a conversation to be had at another time."
Mageria sighed, not stopping in her absent petting motions. She never really thought she'd be petting a wolf, but there was something about it, as if she could recognize a kindred spirit. And it was calming, which was something she really needed at the moment. Leaning her head back, she thought for a long moment, studying Luckas through half lidded eyes. Finally she came to a decision.
"I took an oath to protect the people of Newhaven, Luckas. Through whatever means necessary." A brief, hard smile crossed her face. "Just because they're trying to kick me out doesn't mean that I'm going to abandon my oath in turn. Xypher . . . just placed himself between me and those that I'm supposed to protect. And he was so desperate to do so that he stabbed himself in the leg to try and sell the idea."
She stilled, somehow giving the impression of a hunter, waiting for the correct moment to strike. "I need to know why. And I need to know how many people are involved. And I don't have the time or resources to do it in my traditionally non-traditional methods." Mageria looked Luckas directly in the eye, knowing that she should never be considering such a thing, but not caring at this point. And. . . she acknowledged that there was a part of her that really wanted some revenge. "So go have your fun with the Warlord Xypher, Luckas. Let me know what you find out." A chilling smile crossed her face. "Just be sure you clean up after yourself."
Essence rocked forward onto all four legs of the chair, standing quick with a graceful flare, approaching both the Captain and Luckas. “Glad to have your blessing M’am...because this is where I come in...” A mischievous smirk crossed her lips, as she bit down on her tongue to contain her excitement. “Course...if you didn’t mind, I would need you to keep an eye on Tala for me...she can’t follow.” Tala gave a curious bark, tilting her head up at Essence that caused her to laugh. “Ok..well you can watch the Captain here for me, eh?” She corrected to the wolf. Sometimes she didn’t know if her furry friend was really a person, and it often made her wonder with her excess amounts of intelligence that only continued to surprise Ess.
“I was starting to think I had bad timing, with everything that has happened. I was trying to find a way for myself to be...useful to you. Perhaps then you’d want to keep me around.” Ess’ smile dwindled a bit as she stared into Mageria’s eyes, her own twinkling as she stated flatly, almost without emotion. “I would of done the same thing Captain.” Her tone grew cold with an almost creepy like edge, “I’ve done worse to less deserving...MEN.”
Essence cracked her back, stretching her neck to loosen up some. She had errands to run, things to do to prepare, as she didn’t have everything she required. “Does anyone know...” She looked from Luke to Mageria, “What kinda gal he fancies? Blond...? Brunette?” With each word, Ess’s hair changed from one color to the next, falling back to her default red, the length and curls never faltering.
The soft 'thud' of Ess' chair hitting the ground was what kept Luckas' mind in the room, as he was already thinking of things he'd finally get to do again, a delighted grin plastered on his face. It was like a five year old itch desperately needing to be scratched. No... It was more than a itch: It was a hunger, or sorts. The predator inside had been successfully bound five years ago when the White Shadows took him in, but now those quiet days were over... And everywhere he looked there was prey, one more delicious than the other, it had been a struggle to keep control of his urges. This would be the most wonderful release, he needed it, and he was given more than enough consent and encouragement to do it. He was almost sorry to had promised Ess he'd let her join him, but he did, and so he would stay true to his word. He was also a bit curious to see what she'd do, he couldn't deny.
He waited patiently for Ess to finish talking so he could answer Mageria. "Have you or your men ever learned of the Dark Mirror's, far more charming and talented, brother before, Captain? I always clean up after myself very neatly, don't worry." He then turned to Ess and grinned. "Who's to be sure he fancies women? I mean, a lot of men would much rather my boyish charms." He said with a slightly flirtatious wink. He wouldn't deny he had lured a couple of victims that way, probably saved a few kids from a very traumatic experience. Not to mention those were excellent kills, those men had more ghosts than a haunted house. After let his thoughts wander for a while, he changed the subject to the other question in his mind.
"Say, Captain... I'm wondering... They wouldn't have the guts to throw those kids in the orphanage would they? I mean, Lily and the others?" He asked, his tone a slightly softer one. "Because if they would, tell me whose mind I need to make up to avoid that."
Mageria looked back at Ess. "I honestly have no idea what 'type' Xypher would fancy. Probably your best bet would be someone not that noticeable, but who can give him what he wants. Maybe somebody who has more information that he can use against me? I think he'd pay more attention to that." She waited a moment. "I'd be glad to have Tala along, though. A reason to hold my temper." She thought for a moment more, looking between the two others. "Please, just don't do something that will cause you too much pain. I'd hate to see two hurt yourselves because of me."
Mageria looked over at Luckas, raising one eyebrow. "Honestly, do you think I'd let them do anything to the children? If they try . . . well. If they try, they'll find out just how much I learned from the dear departed Captain Morgan." She looked down at Tala and scratched her behind the ears. "One of the 'gifts' your brother left me with. I know exactly what I'm capable of . . . and I'm willing to do it, if the need arises."
Ess nodded a bit, her mind wondering. She couldn’t take on the form of someone familiar, without research and practice to make the ‘Mirage’ believable, so she would go with something to satisfy the man’s urges. Playfully she tapped Luckas on the arm at his smart ass comment. “You just want me to mirror you again, is that it?” She teased, turning her head her eyes still trailing him from a sideway glance, giving her a mysterious persona.
“If you really don’t mind Tala,” Ess stated to the Captain, “ I’ll go over a few things with you before I leave. She really is a smart girl..” Ess dragged her nails lightly underneath Tala’s chin, causing her leg to kick happily. “Yes you are..” She whispered to the wolf.
Ess couldn’t hold back a giggle at Mageria’s words of what she would be capable of, if pushed so far. “Something tells me I don’t want to ever cross you.” One of these days, Ess was going to sit down and have a few drinks with the Captain where they could swap stories and pick one another’s brain. She felt there was at least a few things she could learn from the woman, even though it appeared they were not far in age from each other.
Essence stepped back towards the door, looking from one to the next with an almost impatient smile. “So..where do we go from here?”
Luckas nodded quietly and firmly as Mageria stated she wouldn't allow anything to happen to the kids. He didn't usually take people's word on things, but for some reason he couldn't bring himself to doubt her, not even in thought. He discarded the matter as if it was settled that the children would be perfectly safe. When she mentioned his brother had shown her exactly what she was capable of, an odd expression crossed his features and he mumbled under his breath. "That must be a very comforting thing to know."
Once Ess asked what they would do next, he leaned closer to her and whispered playfully, going back on the conversation a bit. "I'm not exactly my type either, but that's a conversation for another time." Raising his voice to a more audible level, he answered the question. "Well... We need to do a little digging and find out what to dress you up as; servants are wonderful means to get this sort of information. We also need a nice quiet spot to lure him into, but I think I know just the one. Then... We do what good predators do: We stalk our prey until he's nice and vulnerable." He stated. "Unless you rather go about it in some other fashion, I'm not picky." He shrugged. "You said you had to talk to Captain about some thing yourself, no? If that's still the case I'll wait out in the hall while you do that." He had some things he needed to tell Ess if she was going to help him with this, and he'd rather not discuss them with anyone else. Meanwhile, he'd take some time to think. Giving Mageria a slight bow, he walked past Ess through the bedroom door and out to the hallway, closing the door after himself and leaning against the opposite wall to wait.
Mageria watched Luckas leave the room before quietly clearing her throat and looking up at Ess. "If you were planning on 'mirroring' Luckas again in the near future; I'd appreciate it if you didn't do that around me. I may have learned some things from his brother, but it was . . ." a dark shadow flickered across her eyes. "Not something I'd care to remember. Ever. Also, I did kill his brother, and it's taken me a couple of years to get past the instinctive urge to stab Luckas whenever I see him. So, not the best idea to startle me with that."
She rubbed Tala's ears once again, snorting at the look the wolf gave her. "So what was it you needed to tell me?"
Essence sighed as Luckas left, turning back towards the Captain, the smile on her face fading at Mageria’s words. “I was actually trying to get a rise out him, believe it or not....and I did in a way. I learned more afterwards, please accept my apologies.” Ess spoke humbly, changing the subject to Tala as she went over some basic commands to use, if ever Mageria needed to, explaining some things that were quite obvious; like the wolf’s uncanny urge to protect and how she obviously agreed with the Captain on some opinions of Luckas. “Feel free to test her...dislike for Luckas if ever you wish for amusement...or whatever.” Ess only half heartedly joked, hoping to crack a smile on the Captain’s troubled face.
“Before I go, my only other concern was that we never seem to finish speaking, you and I. I was just curious if there was anything you’d be willing to teach me...” Ess paused, lowering her voice as she continued. “Or if you felt I was worth the work.” Briefly describing how she grew up, kidnaped and sold into a brothel at seven, Ess nodded before turning towards the door, motioning for Tala to stay. “I would like to see some things change in this world, therefore if you need more of my help..I will gladly be here.” Ess smiled sweetly, ear to ear. “In the mean time...you have Tala there...who seems to like you tremendously. Take care of each other while I’m gone.” The wolf motioned to move but remained where she lye, a small whine escaping her throat.
“I will be back...so don’t think you can keep her forever.”
Mageria spoke quickly and quietly before Ess could get out the door. "I have a great deal I think that I could teach you, and perhaps some things that you could teach me." She looked down and took a deep breath. "Honestly, I was wondering if you'd want to have anything to do with me after everything you've found out. Reason or not, I did commit treason. And associating with me is not going to lead to glory and riches any time soon. But if you want to continue; there are any number of things that I believe you could help me with."
“I will be back...so don’t think you can keep her forever.”
Mageria cocked one eyebrow at Tala as Ess went out the door. "Which one of us was she talking to?"
“What was I thinking? I was thinking that someone has to stand up to her! Someone has to stop her and if you won’t, fine: I’ll do it, because, guess what: I’m not afraid of her!” Doni shouted out in anger.
“Did you? Did you stop her? No! You got yourself humiliated in front of the entire clan, and guess what: Ears don’t grow back, you moron!” Sean yelled back.
Donovan stood up, now glaring at his brother. “Someone needs to stand up to her, Sean. And if you’re too afraid to face her, how do you expect the clan to follow you? I hear what’s being whispered around camp… They think you’re weak! Honestly, I’m starting to agree with them!”
That was one step too far, and Doni knew it even before Sean’s fist struck his face. The punch was forceful enough to push the boy onto the round wooden table; that miraculously remained intact even after suffering the impact of Doni’s body colliding with it, causing a loud and painful sound. Donovan slid onto the floor, momentarily stunned by the pain and the shock, tears beginning to fill his eyes, even though he would never allow them to drop.
Sean waited a couple of moments, calming himself down and allowing Donovan to slowly recover from the blow, before he crouched down and muttered to his brother. “You’re not a child anymore, Don. It’s about time you start taking the consequences for the things you say and do. This time I tolerated Crystal’s presence here on your behalf, I obeyed the demands of those traitors to spare your life. However it was the last time I allowed anyone to give me orders in this camp. So you better think twice before acting this way again, because if you do, you’ll be on your own.” He warned. “I won’t endanger this clan again on account of your stupidity. Do you understand me?”
Donovan answered with a low growl, instead of words. His ribs were aching badly from falling against the table and he was so angry that he feared any more words would make Sean jump at his throat. Finally Sean repeated the question and he managed to mumble: “Yes, Alpha.”
“Good.” Sean stated. “If you want to be respected, Don, if you want to be seen as a man… Own up to the choices you make, and accept the consequences. Don’t hide behind the fact that you’re my brother, because you know what? You may always be my brother, but I might not always be Alpha.” Then he sighed heavily and offered the boy a hand to help him up.
Donovan ignored Sean’s offered hand and slowly got on his feet by himself. “Can I go?” He mumbled, looking at his feet.
“Yes. Go get some rest.” Sean answered, moving to his chair as his brother left the Cabin without another word. He sighed heavily running a hand over his eyes, feeling as tired as he had ever felt in his life. Things didn’t get any better when a group of Wolves entered the Cabin seconds after Doni walked out. The Instructors, most experienced Actives, as well as Franklin and Adria had entered the office and stood around him, closing the door of the Cabin without a word to their Alpha.
Sean stood from his seat and gave the men and woman a nod as if indicating they were free to speak their minds, it was Adria who spoke as Sean sat in his chair once more.
“Alpha, two days have passed and no sign of Dante anywhere. We have no choice but to consider him a traitor to this clan.” The woman stated. “Being so, it is required that you choose another Second as soon as possible. If, Twins forbid, something happens to you there will be no one in charge of the clan. We cannot allow that.” The woman stated. “There is also the matter of the new recruit…”
As Adria said that, Franklin interrupted. “The girl has been here for half a day, we cannot possibly expect her to know who the traitors to this clan are.”
“What are you talking about?” Sean asked, speaking for the first time since they entered.
“She engaged in conversation with Allison Blake, as she held Donovan hostage.” Adria stated, shooting her brother a glare for interrupting. “She also fled the encampment soon after.”
Franklin took the word back from Adria. “The Instructors also need to know who will be taking charge of her training.” He stated, giving Sean a look that expressed he was extremely displeased with the idea of any of those men alone with the kid.
Sean picked up the thought behind the man’s glare and opened a small grin. “You’re all fighting over who gets the kid already? Why am I not surprised?” He asked, running his stare through the line of Instructors one by one, making one or two of them shift uncomfortably. “I thought it was clear enough that I’ll be taking charge of her training myself, must I spell everything out for you people?” He shook his head slightly. “As for her transgressions… I’ll see to it personally. Be sure they won’t go unpunished.”
Sean sighed, leaning back in his seat and staring at the ceiling at the Cabin for a moment or two. “As for choosing another Second…” He started, still looking up. “I’ll have to think about it for a bit. We’ve been through enough Seconds as is, apparently when Evin can’t make them go away, Crys does the job. So I suppose I’ll have to find someone who can survive them both.” He stated, in a slightly bitter tone. “…If such a person actually exists.”
One of the Actives suddenly took a step forward and stammered a question: “W-what… What did she want after all?”
Sean looked at the man for a little while then answered. “She wanted to know if we have plans to attack the healers; which we don’t.” Sean stated.
“It was a rather long conversation…” One other Active started, but silenced as Sean’s eye locked on him.
“We have a personal history, Crys and I, many things were said, but they do not concern you in the least.” He replied, a bit coldly, ending the subject. Still he asked: “Any more questions?”
The Wolves nodded, quietly, at Sean’s offer to ask more questions and Adria opened the door to leave. Franklin made sure to stay behind as if he guessed what Sean’s words would be and he wanted to be the one to hear them.
“Bring me the kid.”
Ari slowly stood as the hand moved away from her shoulder, turning to face her intruder. He was taller than she was, older, maybe in his early twenties. He was pressingly close, too close for her comfort and she blinked up at him, tossing her hair out of her eyes.
“I’m sorry m’lady,” he said stepping back respectfully. His green-gold eyes shone with laughter though his face remained a complete mask, as he bowed towards her. His eyes didn’t leave hers and his auburn hair fell over one eye, giving him a wild secretive look. She shrugged her shoulders, feeling her breath catch and walked past him, back to where she had left her quiver lying. He followed her back, his eyes running over her body as she turned, raised her bow and loosed another arrow. Ari smiled as her eyes slightly glowed, using her enlightenment for just a moment to listen closer. She heard the air scream as the arrow cut through it followed quickly by the whomp of her arrow as it embedded its head into the target, right in the centre again. She slowly lowered her bow, turning to look at the Wolf that was busy starring at the target.
“What is your name,” she asked, watching as he blinked, but didn’t take his eyes off of the target.
“Alex,” he smiled, still not taking his eyes off the arrow, striding forward and retrieving it for her, “You really are an excellent shot,” he paused, waiting for her to give her name.
“Ari,” she smirked taking the arrow from his outstretched hand and watching as his eyes darkened.
“The girl who spoke to the traitor,” he asked carefully stepping back as she strung her bow yet again. Ari released the arrow and it flew wide, implanting its self into a tree. She ran forward and grabbed it, swearing as it broke before slowly wandering back to Alex.
“Yes I admit, I spoke to her. Funny thing too, I ran into Crys,” she smirked as he glared at her, “I will not apologize for probably saving Donavan’s life. I did what I saw necessary and then happened to go out,” she examined the broken shaft, “I ran into her. She is really frightening and I must say she scares me.”
“You know if this reaches Sean you will die,” he said taking the arrow shaft from her and studying it himself, “You can salvage it.”
Ari smiled at him and he smiled back carefully. She nodded and took it back, placing it carefully into her quiver shrugging slightly, “I do not fear death.”
Alex shook his head, laughing lightly at how calm this girl was. His eyes travelled up the hill to a lone Wolf who was slowly making his way down toward them. He glanced nervously at Ari as she shot again, this time quicker but her accuracy off by a tiny bit. She didn’t seem to notice the other wolf prowling forward and Alex ran up the hill to meet him.
Ari watched mildly amused as Stranger and Alex met face to face, Alex seemed to be talking swiftly to him. Shaking his head as Stranger responded and stepped past him. The red hair flashed and he motioned for her to run. Ari saw Stranger reaching for his sword, Alex for the dagger at his hip. She fled; bolting into the trees and grabbing her bow and quiver. Ari had no idea where she was going and she ran around trees and slapped branches out of her face, their rough bark slicing open her cheeks and neck as she ran. She paused in a clearing, her heart racing and her chest heaving. He would hunt her down, but he wouldn’t know where to start. She collapsed into the centre of the clearing, taking a moment to cry and curl close into the trunk of the tallest tree. She found some peace, knowing that he wasn’t Enlightened and Sean would not be able to find her out here. What she feared were the other wolves. She shook her head, wiping away the tears and the powder along with it, revealing the whorish marks on her face. She cursed lightly and sighed. She needed to do something and so she did, weaving a target out of fallen branches and then shooting arrow after arrow into it, tears blurring her vision. She felt safe.
Sean thought he couldn't possibly be more frustrated, but as it turns out... He was wrong. After what was soon to be a fight was split up and brought to his attention. He sent Alex off, promising he'd deal with the man later. Probably he'd just give him a suspension, there was no need to go further than that. After Alex left he stood with Franklin as the man frowned deeply behind the other man's back. "Let it go, old man." Sean told him, knowing well that Franklin didn't take kindly to people getting in his way. "Which way did she go, did you see?"
Franklin pointed Sean in one direction, but he said he wasn't completely sure. Fine. He'd hunt her down if she wanted it that way. He'd much rather do this away from camp either way. "Can't believe I'm back to tracking down recruits, what am I a damn babysitter?" He muttered under his breath, pulling one of the two axes he carried at his waist to cut through the thick of woods and make his path shorter. It wasn't as hard to find the girl as he thought it would be. Not for a trained assassin. She didn't seem to be trying to hide her tracks. Footprints and blood were left behind on the wet earth and tree branches; apparently she ran, but Sean wasn't in a hurry, his eyes scanning his surroundings for more traces at every step he took.
She didn't look where she was going as she ran, it seemed, but Sean recognized the path. He knew those woods back and forth, every stash ever hidden by a traveler, every rock, every tree. Reaching a clearing he could hear the sound of arrows hitting wood. He stopped, putting the axe away at his belt, before walking closer. As he entered the clearing he spotted the girl, amusement crossing his face as he noticed she had sliced her hair short. Walking a bit closer and leaning against a tree he let his voice break through the silence. "So... Covering your tracks: There's something else we need to work on." He stated, a slightly severe tone in his voice. "You are aware that fleeing can be viewed as admission of guilt, right?" He asked her, raising an eyebrow.
Ari wasn’t surprised that he had found her; probably one of his pet magicians had told him where to find her. She snorted in laughter, quiet enough so that he wouldn’t be able to hear it. She tossed her hair so that it fell over the markings and her eyes burned silver. She could tell he was just slightly annoyed and she carefully thought about her options.
“So you decided to show up,” she said not bothering to turn and face Sean as she loosed another arrow, hitting her makeshift target in the centre, splicing another arrow in half. She walked forward and retrieved her arrows sharply, “If I was running for my life I need not cover my tracks, only out run my opponent. As for fleeing, I prefer to think of it as an escape from you.”
Ari passed him leaning against the tree, standing as far away from the target as possible without a tree in her way. She raised her bow again, prepared to shoot, her eyes narrowing before sighing and unstringing it, deciding she couldn’t and wouldn’t dare ignore or irritate Sean more than necessary. Better to be humble and beg for forgiveness.
“And why is the Alpha,” she growled lightly, “Out in the woods chasing down a recruit like me? Has some news reached your ears about how Ari Lupir dared to speak to Allison? Well I have, I admit.”
Ari dipped her head slightly, not daring to mention Crys and how she stumbled into her. If he knew about that then he would bring it up; but the lack of knowledge as of this point, Ari figured, was bettering her chance of survival. She kept her eyes on the ground, taking a submissive stance and waiting patiently for his punishment.
"What's the point of running fast if you leave a trail? Unless you can run forever, kid, it's useless. Besides, you never know who'll find your tracks. Sometimes the person you're running from is actually the least of your problems." He said absently. "And why would you need to escape me? Do you not love me anymore?" He asked, although in a sarcastic tone, as she walked past him. He waited for her to shoot, but she didn't, which caused him to raise an eyebrow slightly, wondering why she hesitated. As she asked if he'd heard of her talk with Allison and if that was the reason he was there, his expression shut. Of course it was, but for some reason he felt the urge to put off that conversation and be an Instructor first, now that she had brought it up though, he'd have to talk about it.
He sighed looking at her as she stared at the ground. "Yes, I've heard." He answered, walking up to her and pulling her chin up in the same way he had done when she first arrived, his eyes scanning her face he noticed markings he hadn't noticed before, mostly covered by hair, but slightly visible; he'd seen markings like those before, but aside from a momentary frown, he ignored them completely and went on speaking. "What did I tell you, kid? Wolves only bow in respect, and even so, we don't keep our heads down for long. Now..." He paused slightly before reaching the question he wanted to ask, sincerely dreading what the answer might be. "If you have any news I haven't heard yet, now is the time to tell me. Because, trust me, I will hear them eventually." He stated, lowering his hand which, he had just realized, was still touching her face. His eyes, however, kept locked on hers, serious and cold as he asked. "Is there anything else I should know?"
She flinched, not ready for the soft tone in his voice and her green eyes caught his brown ones. That and his words stung her.
Do you not love me anymore?
Ari hoped that he didn’t know what she felt for him and she blushed faintly. Nevertheless, she kept her chin high, her heart pounding in her chest.
“Swear to me that you will not judge me on what I am about to tell you,” her eyes grew pained and she continued after he nodded, “I ran into Crys.” She stepped back away from him and shook her head sadly, already seeing the mistrust growing in his eyes. “We talked for but a moment, I swear I didn’t know who she was until she told me. And I am willing to swear on anything that I did not give her my loyalties or anything. Sean, “she pleaded, “My loyalties lie with you and the Pack. What I did with Allison was to help keep Donovan safe, I couldn’t stand to see him hurt and then when I realized what I had done I fled into the forest and ran into Crys. I didn’t know who she was until she told me and then I grew curious, and when she mentioned you well I guess you could say I grew defensive.”
She backed away from him, stepping back quickly as he felt his anger gathering like a storm around him. Her eyes were moist and threatened to form tears but she held them back, only fearing his response. Her memories kicked in, and she quickly shook her head, wanting to stay focused but she couldn’t help as she whispered, “I fear neither death nor pain.”
Sean was angry as hell. He was angry for every reason one could possibly imagine, and even a few others he couldn't quite understand completely. The fact that he was so angry in itself was what stopped him from immediately lashing out at this girl, for nothing other than speaking to someone she randomly ran into in the woods. That considering she was telling the truth, however, Sean would like to believe that she could make up a better lie. Finally, he sat down under the shade of a tree and decided that best way to go around his feelings was to avoid the subject of Crys for just a little bit more. "I didn't fully explain our laws to you when you arrived." He stated, after a long silence. "It was late, I was rather tired and I foolishly assumed they were simple enough that you wouldn't break them before I got around to it." He scratched his head absently and continued. "There are four basic laws in this clan. Not even my orders should ever go above these laws, and they are in fact pretty simple: Never leave a companion behind; never harm or kill another member of the clan, unless in case of self-defense; Never kill another person unless when ordered by the leader, or in case of self-defense; Never reveal information concerning the any member of the clan, yourself included, or the clan's laws and traditions." Sean listed, counting on his fingers the fours laws of the clan. "Breaking any of the laws may result in an accusation of Treason. Treason may be punished by death, at the leader's discretion." He sighed. "Execution is our more severed punishment, but first comes suspension, second comes expulsion, only in cases when a member knowingly endangers the safety of the clan or openly turns against the Pack, do we execute. Do you see that when you revealed information on yourself to Allison you broke one of those four rules? Do you realize that any information, no matter how insignificant, can and will give them advantage over us? It is a serious infraction." He told her, with a frown. "As for Donovan... He'll have to answer for his actions too. He made us vulnerable by going after Crys and getting himself captured."
Once he was finished with the explanation, he moved on. "You are in this clan as a recruit, still. You have no say in absolutely anything that is decided here and, as far as hierarchy goes, you are less than nothing. It is important that you understand this because, as I said in our first conversation, your Instructor is the one who decides when and if you'll ever be more than that and since you have no say... Your Instructor is also the person whose job is to protect you and speak in your behalf when you do something as stupid as converse with a traitor in the middle of camp. That makes the decision of training you personally a huge hassle for me, reason why the Alpha shouldn't take recruits. Anything you do wrong makes me look bad, because or they'll say I'm punishing you too harshly, which makes me a bad guy, or they say I'm punishing you too lightly, which means I'm playing favorites." He pulled a knife, from seemingly out of nowhere, and began swirling it around between his fingers, obviously trying to decide which path he'd rather take. After a moment or two he asked. "So... What did you make of her? Crys." He asked, his voice filled with contempt as he spoke the woman's name, but still curious for the answer.
Ari was completely speechless. She stood there her eyes flicking nervously to her quiver and then back to his face. For a moment she watched the knife, deciding that he’d toss it faster then she could change or defend and her shoulders fell.
“She is beautiful, and has a good mind,” she paused for a moment, thinking, “I don’t trust her.”
She shrugged leaving it at that and tossed her hair out of her face. She couldn’t help as she thought of her friend who knew everything about a person just by looking at them and how silly the rule was to not reveal anything about yourself. If they wanted to use her against the clan they would be out of luck. She was a nobody and had no say so why on earth would they even consider it. Her eyes darkened as she thought about the shifting thing, but she hadn’t told them much and that would be fine. Her eyes flickered from his face to the knife he was playing with and then back to her quiver. She held her tongue and kept quiet, not wanting to push him over the edge.
"That's true." Sean mumbled in response, a half smile breaking through the anger. "She is beautiful." He stated, watching the girl's eyes as they moved from the knife he was playing with to her quiver, to his face, and then back... He chuckled then, it was inevitable. "Are you wondering if I can throw this knife before you have a chance to defend yourself?" He grinned. "Suppose you concluded that I can, but then, do you think I would?" He asked her, raising an eyebrow. "Can you trust me just enough to believe I won't immediately kill you, not even for this?" He said, putting the knife away, not showing where he had hidden it in his person. "My Second in command is missing. Crys came down here, while I was absent and the clan was under his command, spoke to the man for about five minutes and he vanished into thin air. Which is too bad, because now he's considered a traitor and if he is ever found and captured, I'll be forced to kill him. I honestly hope they don't find him.” He said absently. “That woman can know everything that goes on inside a person in a matter of seconds, did you know? Not inside your mind, kid, but far deeper than that, more private than that. And that’s how dangerous she can be and that's why you should worry." He explained. "Don't ever, ever, stand in her way if you can avoid it." His tone was slightly concerned for a second, but he quickly changed the subject and amusement took its place. "And what the hell did you to your hair?" He asked.
She smiled, her cheeks reddening. “I don’t know what to think about you,” she said walking away and grabbing her quiver, “As for Crys, I’m not worried. Before you call me a fool, I am sure that she has no reason to harm me.”
She turned toward him, standing tall and proud in front of him, demanding some respect. Her eyes were bright and lively, shinning with some hidden emotion.
“Not yet anyways,” she laughed and ran her fingers through her short hair, “As for this I decided it was better to not have long hair when training with the Alpha. Apparently he is willing to take advantage of anything that will help him win the fight. And according to her it’s a great opportunity to be picked by you to train with you. ”
She bowed mockingly, a smile spreading across her face, “It is an honour.”
Ari shook her head, her stomach twisting as she lied, but keeping her face straight. She restrung her bow again taking aim at the target. The arrow make a cracking noise as it sank deep into the wood and she smiled at him gently.
“You always are right,” she laughed lightly jogging forward to snatch up the black arrow, “So how are you going to test my skills at running? Shall I make a run for it and see how long it takes the great Alpha to find me? I am guessing from the look on your face when you first found me, that you think it will be no problem to do it again.”
"Well, that makes two of us, kid."He replied, as she said she didn't know what to think of him. Nodding, as she said Crys had no reason to harm her, he gave a light shrug. "You're probably right. At least for now, but you never know who will have a reason to hurt you in the future." He said, jumping to his feet in a heartbeat when she stood in front of him, making sure to stand taller, and chuckled. "Are you suggesting I cheat, Miss I'm-not-afraid-to-fight-dirty? Don't think it'd be any different with any other Instructor, if anything I took it easy on you. Had anyone else been in that training field you would have been stomped for not getting up immediately." He wasn't kidding, but he couldn't get rid of the amusement in his tone. "And I don't know what words Crys used exactly, but I'm pretty sure that's not what she meant by them." He stated simply.
He leaned back against the tree casually watching her string the bow and shoot. "If you run around aimlessly and leave the same amount of tracks behind, yes, absolutely." Sean replied. "I do think that you can do a better job of it, if you want though. Or at least, I hope so. If it's easy it isn't fun, now is it?" He asked, raising an eyebrow. "Although I guarantee that I'd eventually find you, even if you can outrun me by miles. The great Alpha is an assassin after all, and he has spent most of his life hunting people down." He tilted his head to one side and grinned. "Do you want to bet I can find you again?"
“I’ll bet you anything that you won’t be able to,” she snickered, her eyes brightening at the challenge. She took a step forward, resting her hand on his chest gently and smiled up at him. “Let the games begin.”
With that she left her bow on the ground, sprinting off into the trees, not caring how much noise she made at the moment. When she was sure she had gotten a head start she circled back, making sure to step lightly yet quickly, avoiding the trees and shifting playfully into a small sparrow. She chirped and flew up into a tree, perching on a branch and waiting for Sean to show his face.
Sean withheld a small wince as the kid laid a hand on his chest, absently wondering why the hell she kept touching him all the time. He promptly pushed the thought aside however when she quickly ran off into the woods.
Sean immediately left after the girl not bothering to try and match her speed, rather following her footprints and the sounds of her running. As the sounds stopped, so did he. Moving slowly, following the marks of footsteps on the ground until they disappeared as well. The only trace left was a pile of clothing, left where he imagined she had used her ability. No paw prints visible, Sean opened a little smirk. "Who's cheating now?" He mumbled, although he didn't seem upset in the slightest, simply amused. Scanning the ground, his eyes caught a small feather that was way too clean to have been there long and he crouched to pick it up. Examining it, he quickly identified it as being that of a sparrow. "Humph." He mumbled to himself, standing up and scanning the trees around him, thinking that it would be nearly impossible to find the girl that way. "Flying is just not fair you know." He stated aloud, hoping she'd make a sound so he'd know in which direction to look at least
Ari had nearly died when she had seen him see her clothes and she had quickly shifted from a bird to a panther in a matter of moments. With a small growl she pounced form her spot in the tree, landing onto Sean’s back and knocking him to the ground. She barked in cat laughter, keeping her claws in so she didn’t hurt him. Before he could react though, she snatched up her clothes in her cat jaws, springing away yet again, her body growing slowly freezing into that form for all eternally. When she was sure he was out of sight she shifted, screaming at the horrible pain before gingerly pulling back on her clothes and leaning against a tree, her body shaking horribly. She was frightened, and her eyes stared wide at the trees in front of her, pressing her body as close as she could to the other tree. She forgot about Sean, her eyes and thoughts fixed straight ahead.
Sean didn't even see it coming. Next thing he knew he had been knocked down by what felt like a very big cat. Aside from his pride, he was unscathed. A mix of annoyance and amusement could be seen in his features as he caught a glimpse of the large feline running off with the clothes he had found. He snorted softly, thinking that he should have picked them up when he had the chance.
He was standing and brushing himself off, not in any hurry to run off after the recruit, when he heard the girl scream. That got him in a hurry and he ran, stopping to a full halt the moment he spotted her, leaned back against a tree, shaking from head to toe, eyes wide as if in a panic. Heaving a small sigh he walked up to her and placed in her line of sight, staring into her eyes as if he hoped that'd would give him an answer without him having to ask. As it didn't, he went ahead and asked the question."Hey... Are you alright?" He didn't have to be enlightened and he didn't have to be a genius to know that shape-shifting was a painful thing, but that didn't quite explain why she suddenly seemed so afraid.
Ari trembled, a long red line scathing up her arm from where she had touched the tree that had caused her to shift back so violently. Her heart broke at what she saw, sickness gathering in her stomach. She flinched back as Sean passed in front of her and she couldn’t help the tears that fell from her cheeks. She needed to show him, words wouldn’t, couldn't, explain this and she feared that if she opened her mouth, only the sobs she was holding back would escape.
The silver vanished from her eyes and she grabbed his hand leading him forward into the horror she had seen. The second she hit the clearing she stumbled back, leaning against him gently as her eyes took in all the dead animals hanging from the trees, their innards hanging from the branches. She turned into him, hiding against his chest, hit hard by what she saw. Deer, wolf, lynx, bear, birds; any animal that she had crossed in the woods was there in mass hanging in the killing field. The main tree was decorated richly with blood and intestines, spiraling up with the head of a wolf mounted at the very top. She shook her head sadly stepping back from Sean feeling him tense, she couldn’t tell if it was because she was so close or because of what was behind her.
“Who,” she choked out, her eyes angry and pained, her blood burned and she was dying to sink her teeth into whoever could have done this.
Sean let the girl lead him by the hand, at first not understanding what was going on. Soon though, he froze where he stood as his eyes caught the sight. Not once before had ever seen anything like that, not even coming from the most psychotic of hunters that ever crossed those woods. "... The hell?" He muttered, his eyes still lost in the mess of blood and intestines; wandering through the clearing until they locked on the wolf head. His fists clenched at the sight of it and he felt a wave of anger go through him immediately. He didn't care for animals personally to the point of going around threatening hunters for setting traps, as a few Alphas before him had done, but the wolves in that forest were believed to have been brought to Valcrest by Heart herself to protect her children once she let for the Afterlife, they were sacred as far as the Pack was concerned and hunting them was never permitted as long as the clan existed. It was one of many unspoken laws of the forest. This amount of unnecessary killing was something he couldn't get past all on its own, but he wolves... The wolf head was a direct offense to him, to his clan and to their Goddess of worship. He would and couldn't let it go unpunished.
All that rage building at the young Alpha's chest, however, didn't show in his face or in his tone as he spoke. "I don't know who, but I intend to find out." He said, calmly, putting one arm around her shoulders and pulling her away from the clearing, if not for any other reason, because he couldn't stand to look at it anymore. "We should go back, I'll have someone build a pyre." he stated, a frown crossing his expression. If the person, or people, who did that had stuck around there would be nothing left of them by now. The clan wouldn't take this kindly either, he just knew it; the Pack would be doing some serious hunting today.
Ari let him lead her away, happy to get out the sharp smell of blood and death haunting her. She nimbly avoided the trees that were ashen coloured with small spines. She didn’t know their name but she knew their effect on her enlightenment. She wouldn’t be able to shift anywhere near them and it had deeply shaken her to see all the dead animals around, everything she could become inside a grove of the trees in which she couldn’t shift. It was a personal attack on her, but who? She shook her head and sharply turned to face Sean.
“Whatever you plan on doing, I am coming to help,” she said sharply, anger slashing through her voice. She was glad that it did so Sean couldn’t hear the fear and the tone she always got when she was hiding something. Her face might have betrayed the fact that she was hiding something. She turned and began to head back to the clearing where she had left her bow before turning and ripping a long stretch of cloth from her shirt. Ingoing the curious look from Sean she tried it to one of the spiny trees, kissing the cloth gently. Ari sniffled and glanced at Sean.
“About how far are we from the camp,” she asked, itching to shift and run back to grab her bow and then back into the camp, still as an animal. If it would take a long time she would offer to shift into a horse or something and carry him into the camp after picking up her bow. If it wasn’t far she would stay here, lament for her fallen kin and then go hunting by herself, no one would escape her claws. She cocked her head, shaking slightly as her eyes burned brilliant silver, her hand reaching out to steady herself. Sean was close enough that if she shifted now he could get hurt, and she didn't want that; the thought of him hurt because of her kept her in control, but very very loose control.
Sean was silent for a very long time of walking and what, if anything, was said and done didn't really sink in completely, although it was heard and seen. He was going over what had just happened and as he reached a conclusion he heaved a sigh and mumbled. "We're not far." In response to her question, he had stopped walking however. "Ari..." He called, a very serious tone in his voice. "Don't think I'm stupid enough to assume this is a coincidence." Sean stated absently, looking at her sideways, and hiding his hands in his pockets. "While what was done back there is very personal to the Pack, it's obviously far more personal to you. And while I know for a fact you're hiding something, I'm not going to ask you any questions. I'm just repeating what I already told you, to make sure you understand: You are part of a family now, and that means that if you're missing we'll find you, if you have a problem we'll help and if you get yourself killed we'll avenge you... Whether you like it or not; it's not negotiable." He sighed and continued to walk. "Just try to remember that should you get in trouble."
A few steps up the trail he added. "I won, by the way."
She kept quiet and her heart hammered in her chest. Family. That was something she never thought she’d ever hear again and coming from him it felt like someone had just tucked her in and kissed her good night, something she’d never had. She couldn’t tell if his last words were offering her to tell her secrete or if he just felt like he needed to say it because he did care. The thought made her breath catch in her throat and she smiled slightly.
“Did not,” she laughed lightly, glad that their conversation was turning to try and be lighter, “If I remember I got distracted. But if you want to say you win then so be it,” she gently nudged him, causing Sean to take a step to balance himself. “So then, what is it that I owe you?”
The silver in her eyes hadn’t settled and she was still trying to stay in control. For a moment her mind flickered to some great injustice and she looked up at him nervously, he still had yet to punish her for her foolish behavior. She smiled, wondering if he even remembered.
Sean chuckled as she nudged him. "Well... That's too bad, but I did find you. If I had bet that you couldn't pounce on me from behind, then you would have won. Although, next time you leave clothes behind trying to escape me I will have to set them on fire." He informed, opening a slight grin. "You said you'd bet anything, right? I'll let you know when I think of something then."
They were considerably close to camp when all of a sudden Franklin was walking over in their direction. "What do you think you're doing?" He asked, looking at Sean with a slightly severe expression. "You can't be away from camp for so long when you don't have a Second!" He scolded.
Sean scratched his head absently and sighed, heavily annoyed. "Yes, I know... A Second." He paused for a moment and patted the older man on the arm playfully. "Congratulations, then, Frank. You're my new Second."
"You can't be serious." Franklin frowned as Sean walked past him.
"Sure I am. I thought Avius would be the one to take care of Bana, but... Crys got to him somehow. You won't have that problem, I know that much. I think it's important to up the challenge, Evin will get bored otherwise." He said playfully. When he noticed Franklin's severe look, however, Sean laughed. "Oh, come on... You know me since forever, I trust you. And I know Adria wants the spot, but I sure as hell ain't going to let her have it."
Franklin sighed heavily. "Until you find someone else. Got it? I ain't going to be stuck running this pack of fools while you're out in the woods..."
Sean gave the man a frown. "We were training." He stated, his smile shut as he glared at the man. At this point Franklin's eyes sparkled blue as Sean stared onto them, when they stopped glowing Franklin shot a glance to Ari and muttered. "I'll see what I can do." With that said the man wandered off in the direction the two of them had come from.
As he continued to walk, Sean rubbed his temples with a groan, he absolutely hated telepathy. "Franklin will be leading a search group in a couple of hours. I convinced him to let you tag along with them, if you want. Until then, they will be lighting a pyre in that clearing and... Taking care of the remains..." He said, trying to be careful in his words. "Meanwhile, I have to go be the Alpha. You can go anywhere you like, Ari, but... Keep your head down while in camp, and if anyone asks you're suspended. Got it?" He asked, with a half-smile. Not like Crys had never let one of her recruits off the hook once or twice.
“Like I said, and you can probably see that I don’t have much to offer. As for the clothing,” she smirked, “burn it all you want. Do you have to go?” she asked gently, her face falling slightly, finding that she wanted to spend time with him. As he looked her over carefully she blushed. She nodded and smiled slipping in a gentle touch on his arm before running off after Franklin.
“Franklin! You must be extremely careful out there. Whoever did this is after me,” she whispered gently, quietly so Sean couldn’t hear.
Sean didn’t answer the question as to whether he really had to go; he just went on walking until he reached the Leader’s Cabin. He barely walked in when someone walked in behind him.
“You punched Doni in the face?!” Katelyn angered voice sounded in the room. “What the hell is your problem?!”
Sean didn’t answer at first; he was unlocking the door to his bedroom. Once the room was open he kicked off his boots and went inside barefoot, looking for another pair under the bed. “He got off easy, Kate.” He stated simply, slipping on the boots and tying them as tightly as possible. “He could have himself, and other, killed because of what he did. Don’t expect me to apologize for that.”
“Why is there blood on your boots?” She asked him, raising an eyebrow. “Don’t tell me you killed your recruit and buried her in the woods…”
“Shut up.” Sean muttered. “Do you actually think I’d do that?” He asked, looking up at her.
“Of course not… I was joking. Seriously though: Whose blood is it?”
“It’s better if you just don’t know, alright?” He told her, standing up and grabbing the dirty boots before walking past her and out of the Cabin.
Katie followed him all the way to the lake and stood watching with a concerned look as her brother pulled a piece of cloth and dipped it in the cold water in an attempt to wipe the blood off the boots. “You should throw them out, they’re getting old anyway.”
“It’s my favorite pair.” Sean muttered. “Lionel gave them to me.”
“That’s why you should throw them out.” She replied. “He’s gone, you can’t take that back, and if you want Doni to forget, if you don’t want him to turn out like you… Then you have to help him.”
Sean sighed, sitting down on the ground and giving up on the blood stains. “What do you mean with ‘like me’, exactly?” He asked her.
“I mean exactly how he acted today. That’s what I mean.” She said, crouching in front of him to get in his line of sight. “You told me yesterday that it was too late for you, but it’s not late for him. Not yet. So you better apologize to him before this gets out of hand.”
“I’ll think about it.” He replied, not really wanting to admit defeat. “He started it though.”
Katie chuckled. “Well you’re going to finish it, or I’ll push you in the lake.”
“You mean you’ll try to push me in the lake.” He corrected. “And I’ll put it on my ‘to-do’ list.” He told her, with a playful grin.
“Oh, while adding things to the list…” Katie said, standing up. “Amalia knows what you did, and she’s not happy.”
“Oh, bother…” Sean muttered. “Who the hell told her?”
“I told her. What if they actually ask you to produce your witness?”
“They won’t want to draw attention to the fact that the information came from us.” Sean replied. “Suppose I’ll have to deal with that now too.”
“She promised he would never tell anyone, and she trusted the information to be safe with us.” Katie stated. “I would be upset if I was her.”
“I would have kept my mouth shut in the first place if I was her.” Sean stated. “It’s not my fault if she was stupid enough to trust Dani in the first place.”
She reached the Black’s common rooms after only a minute or two, sticking her head in and breathlessly asking the nearest soldier where the Captain could be found.
“Down in her room, Sham. But you need to know . . .”
“Later!” She cut him off harshly, sprinting down the hall and pounding on the door with one fist.
She was leaning on it for balance, so she nearly fell forward when the Captain yanked it open.
“Cap’n! Why . . .” Sham decided not to ask why Mageria had a wolf following at her heels and instead pushed inside and closed the door firmly. Panting, she leaned against it, trying to catch her breath.
“Sham? What in the name of the Twins?” Mageria pulled her over to the table and made her sit down. “What’s going on? Where is Jake?”
Sham slowed her breathing and grabbed a nearby hunk of bread and cheese; apparently the Captain’s lunch. Hungrily, she tore into it, not even bothering to use utensils.
“Jake was captured, he’s somewhere in the Blackpond Castle. It was his plan, somehow. He managed to get a message out, with help. The soldiers are alive and in the Castle somewhere. Dom is also there, along with the woman in the Red Cloak. And something else he said to tell you, and you alone; he saw the item that Lena told you about.”
Mageria had been listening distantly, as if she had a great deal on her mind, but at that last she snapped to attention, reaching out with one hand to grab Sham’s wrist with an iron grip. A frightening light burned in her eyes. “Tell me everything.” Sham gulped, stammering for a moment before she started reciting details one at a time.
The Black Guard were still going over the details of their plans when Mageria stuck her head in the room, looking around until she found Philp standing in the back. With a quick order she drug him out and down the hall. Bran watched them go, then turned to Sham. “Well, watcha think?” Sham looked confused. “About what?” Bran sighed and took a step back, not wanting to be within reach when she found out. “The Council is disbanding the Black Knights and Guards; and kicking Mageria out of the Castle and probably Newhaven.”
Sham froze, a deadly light that had nothing to do with Enlightenment in her eyes. “What?”
Mageria pulled Philp after her, ignoring his questions about Tala trotting after them. “I need you to get a message to the Healers for me.” She looked at him gravely, conveying the magnitude of what she needed. “I know that I don’t have the right to order you around, or at least I won’t for much longer. But I need this to happen Philp. Please.”
He nodded, taking a deep breath. “Aye Cap’n. I’ll see it there.”
Mageria nodded and turned away to write out a letter quickly, scrawling the words in her haste. If there was anybody that needed to be warned, it was the White Shadows.
I don’t know how much you know about the events of four years ago, but due to current events I’m afraid I must be vague. This concerns a man known by many names but I believe you knew him as Perry. He had an item in his possession that made him very dangerous, especially those who might be sheltered in your camp; one that your mother asked me to be on the look out for. This item has recently been seen in the Blackpond Castle.
Things here have recently become complicated, but I promise I will do what I can.
They had managed to pry the weapons from Sham’s grip and get her promise to not kill anybody by the time they saw Philp running past the door, pulling off his tunic as he headed out to the battlements; a sealed message tube in one hand. A moment later they all could see the giant hawk that was one of his other forms flying past the walls, headed directly West.
Agony would it just let go? To burden it’s weight is too much, and the deep grows ever steadily gaining power with each passing second. All is threatened to be encased in black, and the misery just won’t leave everything alone. The suffering slow, the pain methodical and slower, crawling over every inch of nerve. Building up through the bone and muscle, tissues unseen and hurt unknown surfacing up rising through. Please gods make it stop!
Nyx set her hook on the table beside her, both arms up to her elbows were soaked in crimson. Idly she wiped sweat from her brow, taking up a glass of water to help nourish her thirst. Quietly she faced her array of tools examining each with careless but playful thoughts. Deciding with some weight to what instrument she should try next. After all not everything was necessarily effective. Morrigan’s skin at least on the surface felt nothing, she had to dig to make her technique work. At the same time Nyx had to be careful, what made this craft worthwhile was only damaging the surface. It was well that she possessed a master’s knowledge on the subject, lest she loose her captive before the fun was over.
“Morrigan sweety you are absolutely positively a mess. The good news is you’re almost done, I’m getting weary of our exploring. So did you have anything you wanted to share with me before then?”
Two lights danced in weary eyes, their luminescence nearly snuffed out, drowned in blood, but somehow alive. Meekly her body obeyed, she rose to match Nyx’s gaze. Struggling to part her lips, the fluids having dried over them, nearly sealing them shut. Yet with some determination the skin cracked and ripped and her mouth opened, a weak sound ebbing from a parched throat. Nyx frowned, taking up her Kriss and examining its length to ensure its sharpness.
“You’ll have to speak up sweety I didn’t hear you.”
Morrigan’s whole body shuttered uncontrollably somehow blood still dripped from her destroyed frame. She was unquestionably dead but somehow moved. Red was the only shade of color, in many dark hues, and even black dried to her skin. There were butchered beasts that looked more wholesome then the martyr chained to the post.
She swallowed hard, and fought with this action alone for a good minute before she attempted speech once more. Meekly tipping her eyes to match her mother. She screamed out, the pent up anger and hurt erupting from within spilling out from her.
Nyx glanced about puzzled by the alarmed way her child screamed the name of well… no one. With a peek over her shoulder she confirmed her subordinates were still there, and there appeared to be no Mageria here. Was this the desperation of a person at their wits end? Was she yelling madness now that it was all over. Nyx didn’t much care either way, her kris was ready and there was no use in prolonging the curtains anymore.
She approached and kissed Morrigan passionately on the forehead. Perhaps her motherly instinct was buried beneath all the exteriors of ill doing, maybe she pitied her victims, or perhaps it signified something far more sinister then anyone could guess, but kiss her she did. Though there was something amiss, Morrigan was watching her eyes burning deep. Nyx studied the flecks of yellow and brown, searching for something that reflected in her daughter’s vision. Why was she so calm? No, this look wasn’t release, something different.
Nyx’s eyes widened in terror, she couldn’t breath and try as she might the hand with her kris refused to budge. Fingers tightened around the whole of her throat, her weapon removed from her clutching hand. Morrigan’s eyes, they held satisfaction! Nyx was uplifted the air refusing to enter her lungs as she struggled in the grips of power.
Slowly she watched the world change, each step heavy but determined as she was afloat a sea of conflict. Fighting to escape the clasp, to draw breath into her lungs, but succeeding in neither. Then like a horrible nightmare Nyx saw the coals of her furnace. The heated poker tossed aside by an arm somehow free. Closer she inched to the heat, the fire licking at her face the coals like the outstretched hands of some inferno. Demons danced in her vision and she would have screamed if possible.
Grim pushed her skull against the cinders, cleansing the wicked with fire. An act both terrible and destructive, his own heart flinching as he performed. Grim could feel the monster in him laugh and squeal with delight. Gentle, guilty, remorseful Pondus, murderer? Perhaps so, but through his action he would save many more.
Eventually Nyx stopped squirming and it was well, the Blade’s fingers were burnt and seared enough and he was afraid of catching the blaze. He pulled away nursing his hand but watching to see his deed complete, to make sure Nyx was dead and gone. Jass nearby watched without care, unmoving and derelict to any feeling. Grim pitied him, but there were more important things at stake here.
Grim tore the chain asunder, pulling the witch’s devices from her flesh and freeing his compatriot. Cradling her in his arms, kneeling brazenly as he did. Feeling her throat and wrists for vitals. Determined to see her well being but always afraid. Knowing well the storm just beyond his thoughts, the lightning that threatened to crash down upon him. To shock him to the reality of things, but he tried anyway.
“H… How does it look?”
Grim swallowed hard, repressing the well of emotion. “Y-you look good. Little banged up but none the worse.”
“… You’re a terrible liar… “
“Well a bit rough around the edges, but don’t you fret I’m going to get you home and we’re going to patch you up rig-”
Morrigan’s hand meekly clutched Grim’s shoulders. The blood starting to soak its way through his clothing. The lights of her eyes dimming nearly gone out.
“It’s.. its okay Warlord… you’re safe… that’s all that mattered..”
“… The pain is all… all that is real.. And I’m tired now Warlord… “
“That’s not true!”
“..W-what do you want… from me Warlord?”
Grim lowered the emeralds of his gaze, it was such an unusual question. It proposed so much with so little, and it even tainted any answer given in way. The quizzical nature of so much but with a stigma of need or want. What could he answer that was right? What would he be willing to give now for the sake of another life, another love?
Morrigan shivered slightly but her grip tensed some. She wasn’t sure what Grim meant but it was heartening to hear it at least. Her mind was wracked with agony, and it distanced her senses which were already numb. Yet she looked to her savior, warm tears streaming down washing the blood on her cheeks. Pale golden lights that danced with so many wonders such an endless expanse of emotion. A small touch of kindness in a world of cruelty. Unwarranted, and undeserving, perhaps they weren’t so different after all.
Grim pulled her up, holding her pressed against his chest. She felt as if nothing in his arms, but he wasn’t about to give in. The Salamander was more then just a warrior, in fact it was the furthest from him. The ways of war were a fleeting thought more often then not. Grim was a man of passion, and hatred roiled into the same body. Always wanting one thing, but forced to endure another escaping neither in the depths of his soul.
“Stay with me Morrigan…”
Ari tagged along, running after the new Second, Stranger, erm Franklin. She was happy for him though it seemed that he was completely against it. He was walking around the camp, motioning to people and they nodded, their smiles fading off their face and also glowering at her. She blushed, staying close to the large man before he neared Alex. There he stopped turning to Ari.
“Go to your cabin,” he said gently, looking at Alex and watching as he nodded. Ari shook her head opening her mouth to speak. Franklin turned and gave Ari a stern look turning to point in the direction of her cabin. “You will return to your cabin and stay there until I come and get you,” he growled, seeing all the Wolves around staring angrily at her. With a huff Ari turned and walked back to her cabin, sticking her tongue out at Franklin slyly. He smiled slightly and shook his head, that girl had a lot of guts. She ducked her head and walked like a shadow through the camp, avoiding the people as best as possible. Some of them were shifting to face her as she walked by, the conversations taking place around her coming to a complete halt. She flinched as a tough looking man with scars running down his arms, drew his dagger, stepping toward her. Before he could actually get near her, Alex stepped between them, grabbing her arm and pushing her roughly forward. He continued this until she was safely at her sleeping place, the door shut and locked behind them.
“They’re going to kill me,” she whispered, looking up at Alex with just a hint of fear on her face. He shook his head gently and smiled at her.
“That would be foolish; one, because you are the Alpha’s recruit and two, it goes against Pack law,” he gently took her hand in his own, grinning mischievously. “You needn’t worry about them; I’m here to protect you.”
Ari couldn’t help the laugh that came up from nowhere. Alex’s eyes flashed and for a moment he looked hurt before plastering on his smile. She blushed as she realized he was being serious and she bowed her head in an apology before looking up into his green-gold eyes with a smile.
“Thank you,” she whispered, “But will you be so kind to escort me to Doni? I owe him an apology and I would rather get that over with.”
Ari could hear the sharp breath he took, the mistrust in his eyes as he looked at her and then back out toward the other wolves. She couldn’t tell if it was suspicion of of her or of the other wolves. There was a battle inside of him and to make it easier she smiled at him, giving her features an alluring look. He shook his head and smiled back, not being able to resist and he opened the window facing the woods. He motioned for her to follow and she did, both of them slipping out of the window and into the woods, Ari grabbing her wolf dagger as she snuck out.
“We’ll stick to the woods, hopefully avoiding Sean and the others,” he whispered, a childish grin spreading over his face.
“Sean won’t hurt me,” she whispered lightly smiling back. Alex’s charming attitude really was hard to resist and she frowned as he shook his head, “Not you. Me. I nearly got in a fight with Franklin to give you a head start.”
Ari’s eyes narrowed and the corners of her mouth pulled down at the corners. She didn’t like the idea and Alex smiled slightly and touched her shoulder, “Hey, I’ll probably just be suspended at the worst and sent off with a slap to the wrist at best. Besides, I’m a good kid to have around in a fight.”
He smirked and looked at her motioning her to follow him through the trees. Alex ran, stopping only to look and see if she was still close behind. He was taking her the long way around, someplace where the Wolves would not dream to look for her or even be out patrolling this aria. When he was sure that she could keep up he ran, not stopping until they neared a different cabin. There he stopped, not even winded. He only had to wait a moment until Ari caught up, her breath short and her eyes glaring ever so slightly. It took everything he had not to laugh.
“Apparently Sean has not begun testing your endurance,” he snickered as she punched him in the shoulder.
“The only thing we’ve done is test my ability to hide and to spar,” she panted doubling over to catch her breath. Alex shook his head and grinned.
“Well, I’ll help you in your free time work on everything I know of. Just so you can catch Sean off guard,” he said with a small smile reaching out to straighten her back up, “Stay upright, it opens your lungs and will help you catch your breath quicker. There,” he said as Ari stood to her full height, her breath already calming. “Ready,” he asked as soon as she appeared back to normal and had stopped clutching her side. Ari nodded and began to walk out alone. He pulled her back, waiting until a group of men had passed by melding into them with Ari. He had taken a firm but gentle grip on her arm and now pulled her forward, not bothering to knock as he opened the door and pulled her through.
“Donovan,” he called, seeing the boy sitting on his bed, a glare passing over his face as he saw who his visitors were. Ari grimaced when she saw the hatred on Donovan’s face, pulling her arm out of Alex’s grip roughly and taking one step forward.
“Donovan,” she said gently, rolling his name around in her mouth so it came out slowly and apologetic sounding, “I came to apologise for what I said back there with Allison. It was wrong of me to speak to you like that.” She nodded her head slightly, acknowledging that he was much higher than she was. When he made no response she shrugged, walking briskly out the door without a backwards glance. Alex watched curiously as she left, nodding his head to Donovan before leaving with Ari. He shook his head gently and took hold of her arm again, steering her toward the woods when Franklin came by and called for them.
“Don’t take it personally,” he whispered into her ear gently, “his pride has been hurt and he’d much rather take it out on you.”
She nodded as Franklin saw her, a group of Wolves following him closely. If he was angry for finding them out and about he hid it well. As he approached and walked past, Franklin nodded to Alex and Alex gave an impish grin, his face hiding something as both he and Ari fell instep behind the group. He kept his hand on her arm until they were well out into the woods, letting her go only after they were out of sight. They walked in silence, as did the group, some of the Wolves glancing back at her and Alex. It was hard not to keep her face turned to the ground as their inquiring stares and glares penetrated her. It wasn’t until a little later that one of them stepped up to Franklin, whispering quietly to him. He stopped and shook his head roaring in laughter, his massive frame turning to look at the small group.
“Ari’s been suspended but she found this hell hole and Sean and I, thought it necessary to have her tag along. If any of you have a problem with it,” he said, all humour falling from his face and his hand reaching for the hilt of his sword, “You can take it up with the Alpha when we get back. For now, you’re with me.”
Nobody dare challenge him and they fell quiet as Franklin walked over to Ari, his eyes smouldering blue.
“Ok Ari,” he whispered, keeping his voice low, “Only you know where this thing is. Lead us there.”
Ari knew very well that Franklin knew where it was, based on the look on his face and when she took a tentative step forward his hand swept behind her back pushing her to the front of the group. She glared at him and quickly walked forward, hating the eyes trained on her back. Eventually she relaxed and even found herself enjoying leading. She moved with purpose and both Franklin and Alex, at the back of the pack, smiled at each other.
“Did I say I was sorry yet,” Alex murmured as the rest of the pack began breaking into small conversations.
“Not yet, but I’ll accept it,” Franklin said with a nod, pointing up at the woman leading them, “Know who she is? Seems to me that the frightened little kid has gone.”
Alex laughed and watched Ari’s hips sway as she walked, quickening her pace as they neared the grove.
“She has grown since you brought her here,” he sighed, looking away at the woods as he noticed Franklin staring at him, “But she still has a long way to go.”
“True,” Franklin shrugged, “But I’m glad she has a hunter like you, hey tiger?”
Alex nudged Franklin as he made a little grr noise and laughed with him. He was right; he did have some feeling for the recruit though he swore to deny it to whom ever asked. Franklin left him, joining Ari at the front of the pack, keeping a stern and commanding posture but even without using his enlightenment Alex could tell that he was grinning at the girl. They began to talk, whispering to each other and laughing which startled many of the Wolves from their conversations. Alex merely smiled; it was good that Franklin was drawing so much attention to her, pushing her into the group.
Franklin stopped right at the grove. He nodded to the Wolves and they fanned out, searching for clues. His massive build turned to look at Ari and Alex, his face pulled into a frown.
“You two stay close and holler if you hear, see or find anything,” he ordered, waiting until they both nodded and then ambled off, his sharp eyes searching the grounds for anything. Ari looked at Alex, shrugging him off and running out into the woods. Alex followed her closely; staying on her heals as she skipped around trees until she came to a willow, its branches so long that the tips dragged along the ground. She parted the branches, stepping through until she could reach the mossy bark, touching it, and gently pulling a piece of it off. She placed it into her pocket and blushed as Alex cocked his head his brow rising in question.
“It’ll make the shift easier for me,” she smiled, “That and enable me to keep it for longer.”
Alex cocked his head, listening closely to her and he stepped forward, taking the bark from her pocket. She looked like she was ready to protest and he gently shook his head, hearing another Wolf walk by. When he was sure he had passed Alex looked for his dagger, frowning as he saw that he didn’t have it on him. He saw Ari had hers, and he knew that she wouldn’t give it up easily. He wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her close to him. Ari was shocked into stillness, her eyes widening. He smirked and looked down at her, grabbing her dagger from her hip and pulling back away.
“You can stop freaking out,” he laughed and quickly and skilfully carved a small wolf from the piece of bark, taking a strip of his shirt and using it as a string to tie loosely around her neck so the small pendent fell between her breasts, hidden away. “There,” he said, smiling as she admired his handiwork. Ari thanked him gently, her heart still racing from their contact, she didn’t notice as he slipped a tiny bit of bark into his pocket. She walked out of the tree, her eyes bursting in a flash of silver as she caught the scent of something strange. She walked carefully forward, her dagger left in Alex’s hands. She knew that he would follow her but she broke into a run, moving lightly across the ground.
It didn’t take long for her to stumble in upon a small camp, she held her side, whimpering slightly as her side cramped and her breast heaved. Her eyes searched the clearing, instinctively moving toward the fire pit and crouching to look down at the ashes. She snarled as she realized that they were still hot and she stood, looking around and her hand reaching back for her dagger. She didn’t see the man as he swung down from a nearby tree. She blacked out; burned into her mind’s eye were a pair of brown eyes.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Alex had caught up enough to see the riders leave, Ari pressed into the chest of one of them. If he hadn’t seen the way her head lolled or her bound hands he would have marched straight back, denouncing Ari for a traitor. This, he thought, was much much worse. He needed to get back, and fast. He held the dagger in his teeth, screaming as his body began to shift. He lay on the ground panting, steam rising from his red coat as his white tipped nose sniffed the air. Alex stumbled forward, not entirely used to his form, the large antlers on his head making him run forward with his head bowed, staggering and struggling to keep his head up. He shook his head, deciding that maybe a human form would be faster than a deer and he shifted back, groaning and pitying Ari for what the price of her enlightenment was. One could only imagine the unbearable pain. He stood; grabbing the clothes he had taken off earlier and pulled them on, rolling his joints and flexing his muscles. He grabbed the wolf dagger he had dropped, sheathing it at his hip before turning and running back to Franklin and the other Wolves. He was not worried, well a little. Ari was under his watch thanks to Franklin and he hoped that Franklin would let him off for now. Alex could already tell that he would be furious and then worried, maybe it was better to face Sean. He bolted through the Wolves wandering around, stopping only to quickly tell them about the camp and pointing them in the right direction and asking for Franklin. He smiled at the young boy who pointed him in the right direction and then took off, nearly running into the big man as he emerged from the trees, seeing the furious and frightened look on Alex’s face.
“Ari,” he asked his jaw tightening with anger.
“Taken,” Alex panted, pointing over his shoulder, “She ran off and I couldn’t keep up. They left on horseback.”
Franklin nodded, already heading in the direction that he had pointed, drawing his sword and his eyes flashing bright blue. Alex ran back to the pack territory and dashed up towards the Alpha’s home, his eyes burning with anger. He ran through the door and cursed, already being able to tell that he wasn’t there. He began to pace angrily, trying to figure out where he would go or be. He shook his head, of course the lake, why hadn’t he gone there first. He turned, already running out the door and down toward the lake, every moment counted.
Sean had been going over things he needed to say and do in the next few hours and the things that happened in the past few hours as well. He had people to apologize to, apparently. He had also been called weak twice by two people who he didn't trust, but somehow believed. He wondered what Lena had meant when she said something was going to happen... That was worrying him to no end; Lena never gave anyone warning unless it was very serious.
Suddenly he heard rushed footsteps towards his. He immediately stood and retrieve the weapons he had idly laid on the earth next to him, attaching them to his belt where they belonged, moments before Alex stepped into the clearing. He knew he had been out with Franklin and by the man's face something had gone terribly wrong.
"What happened? Where are the others?" Sean asked immediately before the man even spoke a word. He had a sick feeling beginning to stir in the back of his chest, sincerely hoping no one had died this time.
Alex stared at the leader, his eyes narrowing. He dipped his head, tossing the hair out of his eyes.
“Ari’s gone,” he whispered gently, his eyes narrowing as he saw the doubt cross Sean’s face, “She was taken.”
Sean's eyes narrowed as he heard Alex's words. What, if anything, he was feeling about the news didn't really show on his face, only the rage he would normally feel to have one of their own taken away; and that wasn't little. Remaining calm on the outside, however, he stared the other assassin in the eyes as he asked for more information. "Did you see them? How many? Which way they were headed? What they were dressed like?" He asked, the tone in his voice cold and steady even though his fists we clenched at his sides.
“Only their backs, they were wearing colours of some Lord, that much was obvious. Six or seven, they were riding when I reached them heading toward Blackpond but I’m not entirely sure. Alpha,” he said, his eyes narrowing, “What would they want with her?”
Sean was quiet for a long time. While it seemed he had been frozen, or in a shock, he was actually conversing with Franklin, deciding which of the two would head out to Blackpond and which would stay behind in charge of the camp. Franklin won the argument by reminding Sean that if anything happened he could send a message to camp a lot faster than any messenger would.
Finally the Alpha had to give into the logic of his Second and conform with staying behind and waiting for news. After all, the camp couldn't be left without a leader. Finally he paid attention to Alex's question. "Depends. The kid seems to have some secrets of her own... Hopefully they got her for that. If they have a grudge against us, however... Well, they think recruits are easier to break." Sean replied. "Frank will be leading people to Blackpond, no more than five, we don't want to draw attention to ourselves. If you want in on that, go find him." Sean told the man. Franklin's orders were simple ones: Find the bastards and make them squeal until they give up the kid or her whereabouts. Kill them once they do. No mercy.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
[Blackpond-A short ride and a little time later]
Her white dress billowed around her legs, making the colorless threads shooting through the black marble stand out. Her blonde hair fell around her shoulders, arranged so that it covered her breasts. Her eyes were closed. The low lighting in the room made the blood dripping from her fingers appear like black water, falling like diamonds from the tips. The cut right under her arm released the precious tears, the horrible jagged thing attesting to the pain she had endured. Her hands hug over the edge of the marble, her pale skin being mirrored by the puddle of blood shining on the cold grey stone. Her chest rose and fell with invisible breaths and a single tear shimmered on her cheek.
The barred door creaked open as her captors entered. Ari kept her eyes closed, her heart beat as slow as her almost nonexistent breath. They walked over to her, their eyes glimmering black as they used their ability to keep her body bound tightly to the cold marble, slipping back to allow another to enter. Finally the last person entered decorated richly in a cloak of deep purple, a signature of royalty. He brushed the silver grey hair back from his icy blue eyes, looking over her body with a nod of approval. His healers had done well, not a scar remained except for the slice under her arm, right near the large artery running along the length of it. He remembered with sick pleasure how she had wept as the steal had cut through her, burning with the special powder that his assistant had given him. She hadn’t told them anything, holding true to her stupid Pack laws. This time though, she would talk. His eyes grew hard and angry; he had a bone to pick with the Pack, something that demanded justice.
He rolled up his sleeves, nodding to the two men who had faded into the back of the room. They stepped forward, their eyes becoming normal colors and they began to arrange her in a position to better the pain that would be coming. Her eyes flashed open and she attacked, throwing her fist out to catch one of the extras under his jaw and sending him reeling back. Her blood spattered the wall as she moved, quickly making the two binders useless on the floor. Their blood flowed from their lips and nose, their eyes closed in unconsciousness. She turned to her captor, his eyes narrowing.
“What do you want from me,” she growled her body tensing. He stepped to the door, pressing his back against it and signaling the man behind him. She received no answer, only the icy stare of the man who she didn’t recognize, had no knowledge of.
“Sleep,” came the soft voice of a different man, stepping form the shadows, his cloak as red as blood. As she started to fall, he swept forward, catching her in his arms and laying her gently on the table. He arranged her as best he could, clapping her hands in the chains that hung from the table. He pulled his mind from her’s, letting her thought and mind take control of her body and it didn’t take long for her to wake. Her eyes fluttered open and her face remained a mask as she looked up into his face, if she recognized him, she didn’t show it.
“Thank you Kirsten,” the old man said, steeping forward and kicking the two men that lay on the dirty floor. “So, Wolf….”
“I’m not a Wolf,” she snapped taking her eyes off of Kirsten’s. She heard the slap as her head snapped wildly to the left before she felt the singing pain across her cheek. She had bit her lip, splitting it and already blood was oozing forth from the bite. She ran her tongue over the cut, tasting the salty blood and growling. Kirsten began to get anxious, his hand gently caressing her cheek which still stung like fire from the abuse it had just received. Ari could tell that it wasn’t Kirsten who had slapped her but the man who was pulling his sleeve back up over his elbow. Her eyes flickered and hatred burned in her soul, making her stronger. She wouldn’t tell them anything, nothing about herself or the Pack. They were her family and she would remain bound to those laws even till her dying breath had escaped her lips. Her family had once betrayed her; she would not follow in their footsteps. She would remain strong for Franklin, for Alex and….and Sean. Her heart lurched in her chest and she knew now was the time to finally admit to herself that she felt something more than kinship with him, yes, she would stay strong to protect those she loved. Her eyes flashed silver and then faded, her jaw squaring and becoming tighter as she locked it, thinking only of her familiars.
“Come now,” he said gently, laughter glimmering in his eyes, “You just have to lead us right to them in their woods and you’ll be free.”
Ari could hear the lie and his voice and apparently so could Kirsten. He shifted uncomfortably, his eyes narrowing into slits. She was just a little surprised to see him there, but he had predicted that he would find her again in a time when she desperately needed him. She nearly laughed but she managed a smirk that he saw and returned; the corner of his mouth pulling up and his black eyes shining. She opened her mouth to say something, whisper it so low that only he would be able to hear but as she opened her mouth to speak there was the sharp pain of skin ripping and the horrible smell of flesh burning. Words turned into screams as the pain finally hit her, her body withering as it tried to escape whatever was doing this to her.
“Talk,” the Lord purred, pushing the heated blade further up into her skin, his eyes narrowing as the only thing that came forth from her was tears, but they didn’t fall. “Very well, you will talk before this is over.”
He pushed the blade up to its hilt, twisting it violently inside of her as she arched her back, keeping her jaw locked but screaming none-the-less. She didn’t tell nor say anything but kept her mouth void of words as they continued to torture her; steal cutting and burning, fire pushed inside of her and white hot iron all took a shot to loosen her tongue but nothing but her screams filled the chamber.
Kirsten had no part in this. His eyes were darker than usual and it took everything he had to keep from using his power on the Lord. Normally his blood lust would be sedated by these stupid things but not with her. Ari, the girl who had no fear. It was hard to believe that she had ended up here in a dark cell where a man was taking great care with brands and knives and needles to push her into to spilling everything she knew. He shook his head sadly, his heart pitying her pain. He wished he had brought Alecto, he was Kirsten’s second and he was able to create a net in the mind that could hold back the pain, releasing only little amounts at a time. What was really amazing about Alecto was that he could transfer pain as well, siphon it off of one person and distribute it to another. If he was here, Ari wouldn’t have to endure this alone. He could tell that the Lord was getting frustrated with no answers and the state that her body was in. Too much and he could kill her and so far it looked like that was exactly what he was going to do. Kirsten hated this man. To torture a girl who obviously was telling the truth when she said she wasn’t a Wolf made no sense. He gently stroked her cheek, brushing a strand of hair that was clinging to her sweaty face. He tried to tell her that he was going to get her out, to save her but his ability wasn’t mind speaking, it was only finding fear and even now in this dark hour she had none.
The Lord backed away, his eyes hard and soot and sweat dripping down his royal face. The girls dress was now tie-dyed with her blood and her breasts heaved as tears ran down her cheeks, leaving two clear trails down her dirty face. He had enough and quickly left, not summoning the healers. Better to let her die because she obviously knew nothing. This was the moment Kirsten had been waiting for.
It was not his job to come like a dog to his clients; he was a thing to fear not to be summoned like a mongrel pup. He had been sitting at the tavern in New Haven when one of his riders burst in telling him that the lord who had wanted Phantom’s heart now needed his help, extracting information. Of course he had quickly mounted up on Demono and rode him until in a hard gallop until the horse was shaking under him. Luckily that had happened after he had reached Blackpond and when he was lead to the chamber his heart had nearly given out at the sight of her. He was a free man and this was wrong. Kirsten didn’t care what he was getting paid to do this, it just wasn’t right. He quickly and deftly began to work on the shackles, pulling them off of her wrists and pulling her into him. She was light and unconscious; her head tilting back to expose her throat. Kirsten froze, his eyes attracted to the sight of her flesh and the slight throb of blood just under the skin. He shook his head rapidly; the hunger in his face disappearing as his eyes burned red and he created an allusion. Her identical image was portrayed on the table and satisfied with his work he exited the cell. Her blood was soaking through to his body and the smell made him run. He wasn’t running in fear, he was like Ari who had no fear, but instead form his hunter instincts. He passed by several people, not one of them seeing the girl tucked to his chest. He knew that it was stupid to be moving her, she needed healing first but here she would find no healing without pain following quickly. He rushed out of the doors and into the courtyard, whistling for Demono who had recovered and bolted quickly towards him.
He lashed the girl to the saddle, her limp body conforming to the horses.
“Take her far; take her to Newhaven with all your speed. Don’t stop until you find the others, they will know what to do,” he whispered to the horse raising his hand to slap Demomo’s rump. He almost didn’t notice that she had woken and was looking at him.
“Thank you,” she whispered, reaching out to gently take his hand, “Kirsten.”
He smiled glad to know that she did remember him and then he watched as his beautiful beast screamed and tucked his head to his chest, pushing forward and galloping away from the house. Maybe hope did exist and here it was, running away because he set it free. He smiled and wished her luck and speed before turning and walking back into the keep, careful to make it look like he had been there the whole time.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
[Newhaven-a while later]
Ari woke to the warmth of a fire her eyes opening and closing, blinking rapidly as they adjusted to the light. She was surprised to see that there were several men, all dressed in black waiting around for her to wake. When one of them finally noticed her watching them he walked gently over to her, crouching by the bedside. His dark brown eyes stared gently into her face and she felt suddenly very calm. He was obviously an Empath, there was no doubt in her mind but he also had the rare ability to control the emotions around him. She looked around the room, catching the glimpses of several of the others, all of them watching her carefully.
“Where am I,” she whispered in a cracked voice, her throat unbelievably dry. The man standing in front of her turned and took something from his hip pouring a bit of the liquid down her throat as his hand gently cupped the back of her head, lifting it up. She drank sipping gingerly at the water until her throat protested and she coughed.
“Kirsten sent you to us. Based on your wounds I would say you suffered greatly,” he smiled gently, “according to Demono, Kirsten’s orders were to heal you and help you in any way we can.”
“Beast speaking? Empathy?” Ari shook her head in wonder, “It seems as if Kirsten’s band has grown.”
The man smiled gently, reaching out to take her hand and pull her to her feet. She staggered forward and he had to catch her as he legs nearly gave out. She whimpered and sat back on the bed, the pain slowly being sapped away. She couldn’t take it, the scars that covered her skin made her remember the pain she had suffered and she noticed how one of the men flinched, but it wasn’t the Empath. She shifted, her body twisting easily into the shape of a wolf, the pendent in the shape of a wolf hanging from her neck. She shifted back right after, pulling the covers tightly around her body before the men had a chance to look. They blushed, most of them turning as the Empath rummaged around in a small bag. He pulled out black clothing, handing it too her and turning as she pulled them on.
“I need to get a message out,” she said quickly looking at all of them, hoping that one would have some sort of Telepathy. She could see the look on the man’s face as he looked over his shoulder before looking back to her.
“I’m guessing, Ari,” he said gently, “That you would need a Telepath. Unfortunately, in our last battle he was seriously injured and is resting now. The only Telepath we have that is healthy can only read, not send messages.” Seeing the downtrodden look on her face he pulled her chin up, taping the tip of her nose playfully. “Don’t worry, Sean can wait. And it appears that our Telepath is awake and would like to talk to you.”
She stood to her feet realizing that the two telepaths must have been inside her head and the thought made her a bit uncomfortable. The Empath felt her nervous energy and sent soothing notions toward her, “You can call me Erin.”
Ari nodded, following the Empath out of the room, a light headed blonde following her closely. His breath tickled her ear as he leaned forward and whispered, “Do not be frightened, I will get you to a healthy Telepath sooner than you think.” She cocked her head slightly, listening closely to his soothing voice before he leaned back in and whispered one thing so low she almost missed it. Alecto.
Ari had to answer all the questions from the Telepath a frail old man who looked like he could break at any moment and after he had passed out from the large wound on his side she had enquired why he was part of the group. Erin had explained that his frailness was the effect of his Enlightenment and that with time he would become the man that was sought for and that the ladies fell over. Ari laughed lightly, startled as Alecto had suddenly taken her hand and proposed that she, Erin and himself should head down to a tavern for a drink. Erin had agreed along with many other of the men and she soon found herself swept out into the streets in the middle of a rowdy group of boys, all chatting about different things and causing a commotion when there were no people around. She noticed that when a person was sensed or appeared, the group fell quiet and their light happy air became darker, threatening. Alecto and Erin stuck by her side, guiding her to a tavern and slipping inside. They pulled her to the furthest corner as the rest of the men sat lazily around, leaning back in their chairs as they received their drink, looking completely at ease but she saw how their eyes scanned the people, looking for any threats. She sipped on her drink as Alecto stood guiding a very young boy toward the table.
“This is Chalen,” he said, nodding to Erin as he saw the puzzlement cross his face, “Kirsten has been watching him and he is a very strong Telepath. Tell her what she needs.”
The boy’s eyes studied her, lingering on her breasts and she blushed self consciously. Shrugging, he sat down next to her, laying his hand on her arm and starring into her eyes.
“I need you to picture the people as best you can, don’t leave out any details now,” he said gently nodding as an image of a redheaded man appeared in his head as well as hers, “Very good. Now, focus on the message and I’ll be your vessel, your thoughts will travel through me and to him. I warn you it will only appear as images, dreams to him but if you were to give a place then I am sure he would go there. Try.”
Ari pictured Kirsten, the horse, the torture and finally the city of Newhaven, her eyes locked onto the boys as a wicked smile spread across his face and noting how Erin and Alecto had both glanced at each other, their brows knitting together in confusion and worry. At last the boy moved away flexing his shoulders as a wave of drowsiness swept over her and she sank against the Empath, her eyes fighting to stay open.
“What,” she whispered gently before falling still, held in the arms of Erin as the boy snickered and walked away.
“In the mean time Luckas, should we go over a strategy? Back up plans?.....” Ess winked.. “I also have...insurance for this kind of task...”
"Lady, you shouldn't tease a man like that, especially not one who can use mind control on you." Luke snickered. "I might give that impression sometimes, but I'm no kid." He warned. "If I wasn't such a gentleman you'd be in so much trouble right now."
His tone made clear he was joking, but maybe he wasn't entirely. Luckas sometimes found himself saying things to Ess he wasn't even sure were serious or all in good fun. He still hadn't completely shaken off the odd feeling he got from her presence, and he wasn't sure if the fact that she was so determined to figure him out was comforting or annoying. He wasn't sure if he wanted her around or if he wanted her gone... If liked her better as a friend or as prey. She was tempting, that was a fact, but he'd never had a friend before.
Finally, he got to the subject at hand. "I'd love to know what you mean by insurance and we should talk some things through, yes, but first I need you to listen, and this is important: I can get too carried away with this. I mean, I might actually break the guy's mind beyond recognition before we even have the information Captain wants. So, while I'll be trying my very best to keep it to a minimum, at least until we get something out of him, I might not be able to. Now, this is the important part: If my eyes are bright red, no matter what happens, do not touch me. Not even if the guy breaks out of my hold and runs a blade clean through my chest: unless you see black, stay the hell away. Are we clear?" He asked, looking the woman right in the eyes. He really didn't want to hurt her. At least not until he chose to do it.
Essence couldn’t hold back her laughter, her head falling back almost limp as her eyes rolled up in her eyelids. “I...don’t believe I would ever hit on a child, my dear Luckas...nor do I fear you would be forced to resort to mind control...”She trailed off batting her eyes, her lips pursing as she made a soft kiss like gesture into the air in his direction. A momentary slip of her composure, she used that gesture to attempt to keep his attention away from how her eyes softened a moment, a wave of mixed emotions slamming her hard before she took back control of the subtle change. She had given something away and it made her nervous at the very idea of her emotions going past the pleasantries of normal business. Never, had Ess given herself the opportunity to consider anything else beyond how she would aquire her next bit of coin. She always felt that path would make her weak, vulnerable and she refused to let herself fall apart, losing herself like she had once before. Never did she wish to relive that moment. A painful memory flashed through her mind, quickly disappearing:
[13 years ago]
“Please don’t let it be him...”Ess prayed frantically to herself. Her violet orbs fell upon the names, her brows narrowing in anger as she screamed out in defiance at the stones. Falling to her knees, her fists began pounding against the earth, finding their way to the tombstone. With several cracks she had broken her hand, yet she ignored the physical pain as it was nothing compared to the realization of her loss. Ess disappeared in her blind rage, cursing the Twins, herself, and even her friend. Her wails of despair echoed into the city, carried off by the storm in a haunting mockery of her pain. She had met her breaking point that she had tried so hard to keep away from; she had fallen off her precipice disappearing into the abyss of sorrow.
With a soft sigh she brushed the feelings aside as if they never prodded her mind.
Clearing her throat, her painted smile faded as she focused on Luckas. Nodding at the appropriate times she knew he was correct in warning her about his gift, that she needed to be mindful of her casual demeanor and not touch him. The way he stared into her, gave her a spine shivering tingle that fluttered throughout her entire body. It was not a bad feeling, only the nervousness came back, this time she kept it well hidden. He was strange, Luckas. She saw something inside he was battling with, but couldn’t decipher it just yet. He was letting her accompany him on something most private, giving fair warning to protect herself while he had expressed conflicting concerns between his dark side and something else. The general concern for some random children who mainly meant nothing to him personally and then to shift into plans of torture and demise of foes...It reminded her, of well, herself. Sometimes feeling like she was split down the middle, and she knew Luckas had no idea how deep the split actually went inside Essence, even if he did take a peek into her soul.
Finally she spoke, “So...no skin on skin then?” The smile creeped back into view. “I get it Luckas. Only....does this mean I can’t lasso you with a rope to move you?” Ess was curious if he only meant direct contact, or if random objects acted like a conduit between him and another and would not save one from his fury.
Luckas watched Ess carefully. There was definitely something about her; something special, and he couldn't quite tell how exactly it affected him, but he couldn't deny it did. It was odd, being affected by someone, he couldn't remember the last time that happened, that if it ever actually did. Lena was someone he feared and respected, and someone he could learn a lot from, Captain was someone that simply fascinated him for what she had managed to live through, in a few moments he'd even thought he felt admiration for her, but either way he didn't have interest in them personally. They weren't people he would ever let this close, not matter how close Lena had gotten, it was never as close as this... And maybe it was way too close for both their sake. "Absolutely no skin on skin." He stated. "You could try and lasso me, tie me up, wear gloves, whatever else, but odds are I'll fight you. I wouldn't take that chance if I were you; I'll be blind, def and void of any reason, and the slightest touch is all it takes" He warned. Then he relaxed a bit and shrugged slightly, adding: "There is also the possibility that I'll pass out afterwards, but I think I can trust you not to take advantage of me, right?" He asked raising an eyebrow and giving her a fake suspecting glance, before turning it into a wicked grin. "Because I'd much rather be awake for that." He said, winking playfully as he began walking.
"There's this tower I like to hide in and no one usually goes there, so that is a good place to lure him into, it's secluded enough; I'll show you where it is. Unless you'd rather lead him out of the Castle, but that might be a little harder to pull off, I mean... You may be a talented actress, as I'm sure you are, but the guy probably won't be that stupid."
Essence walked beside Luckas, holding back a fit of giggles at his comment of tying him up. She decided to leave that one alone. A sweet, calm like smile remained on her lips, her eyes flickered in a subtle glow with her emotions as Luckas mentioned him trusting her. She remembered their first meeting..well second meeting, almost like a battle of wits discussing man’s flaws and how trust was one of those things that was fragile and could be shattered easily. Ess agreed with much he had said, and couldn’t ignore the fact that he was giving her a shot in the dark. He most likely was similar to her, in that she built a wall around herself to prevent any permanent damage from seeping in, if that trust was broken.
“I think I’d rather you be awake for that as well...so no passing out. I’d take that as a personal insult.” She teased. Quirking an eyebrow, she scrunched up her nose , still smiling as she answered his offer of trust in her own way, “I’ll mind the red eyes Luckas, but I don’t leave people behind.”
Rolling her eyes, Ess muttered under her breath, “What is it with boys and their forts?” Then again, as she thought about it, she was like the cool girl allowed into the “Boy’s Only” Club. A bit louder she asked, “Let me guess Luckas, this tower of yours is scattered with human skulls?” With a chuckle she turned to face him, “Stupid people are not a challenge, so I hope he’s got more brains than a rock.” Ess began thinking of how she would lure the Warlord to this said tower, and depending on what information Luke and her found out, depended on her main strategy.
“Generally speaking hun, I see this going into the direction of me leading the Warlord to you...maybe having a bit of fun myself...and incapacitating him..at least temporarily so you can have your fun, without worrying about a sword through the chest.” Ess would show Luckas what she meant later in association with her back up plan and “Insurance Policy.”
Ess rolled her shoulders, as if they were sore. “In the mean time..I need to relax if I am to have enough strength to play...which means for me...to go visit the tavern for a drink. You are welcome to join.” She stated to Luckas, reaching by her hip she retrieved a single gold coin which she tossed lightly in his direction. “You can buy me a drink.” She slowly winked.
Luckas sighed softly when she said she didn't leave people behind; that was cute, but it just gave him something to worry about. He didn't say anything more though, the last thing he needed right now was to admit that he worried; that would be a whole other concern all in itself and he wanted a clear mind. Going back to the teasing was the best way he found to keep that out of his head. "Well, whenever you want to take advantage of me I'll be wide awake, believe me."
When she asked if the tower had human skulls in it, Luke laughed out again. "What? No, silly woman." He choked on laughter. "First: I don't play with dead stuff. Second: It's just a bell tower, nothing much." He said with a shrug. "And how do you plan to incapacitate him? I need him awake and sober for this, so no drugs." He told her. "Even if they ware off quick, they might cause some side-effects with my enlightenment."
Catching the gold coin in the air, Luke quickly slipped into his pocket with an amused grin. "Tell you what, pretty lady... Assuming you now know how the get out of the castle by yourself, why don't you go ahead and I'll meet you there in a few minutes? I have a little ritual of my own I'd like get done before we have our fun." That said, he began to walk towards the 'noble area' of the castle, waving playfully over his shoulder. "Don't have too much fun without me."
Ess shrugged and added, “What if he is awake and sober...but can’t move?” She was thinking to herself about the many different...toys and products she acquired over the years to satisfy such a purpose. Raising her left hand up a bit she spoke softly, “I promise..on pain of death...not to ruin your fun Luckas, or interfere...” Her smile faded into her serious persona, nodding as she did understand his complexities of his enlightenment, at least from what he mentioned. She was exceptionally excited to see exactly what he was capable of, since she honestly couldn’t remember everything from their first encounter, but she was still left impressed.
Again, he complimented her oh so subtly, her expression questioning yet she kept her lips silent.
Rolling her eyes slightly she sighed, “Ok, but don’t take too long. I’ll keep a seat warm for you.” Placing a kiss on her hand she blew it towards him as she spun around back the way they had come, remembering an exit they had passed that would lead her back towards the gate. “I can’t make you any promises that I’ll behave while you’re away.”
Essence made her way to the Inn fairly quickly, sitting at an empty table by the door. Nodding to the woman behind the bar, she held up two fingers, hinting that she wanted a double. The woman nodded, knowing Ess’s usual choice of hard alcohol. As the glass was set down before her she quickly downed the liquid, letting the burning sensation coat he stomach before motioning for another. Sipping the second drink, she handed the woman a few coins, leaning back in her chair, heels upon the table. Half the day was just about over and so much had already happened. Tossing around some ideas in her mind, she contemplated what she would see from Luckas and what she would reveal to him in turn. In a half smile, she sipped her drink again, violet eyes fluttering about the room from patron to patron. As she lost herself deep in thought, she began to remember one of the first times she had engaged in such a pre-meditated action...
[NewHaven about 10 years ago...]
Essence sauntered forward, heels clicking against the stone floor of the courtyard, as her hips swayed side to side in a hypnotizing desire. Dressed from head to toe in a dark, red-like purple satin, the cloth hugging her curves, dragging along the floor, was sleeveless. Her thick curls fell messy and loose down past her shoulders, encasing her soft pale skin from the night’s chill. Carrying no visible weapons, her fingers fiddled with a small pouch that hung from her left hip. Two curious rings decorated her left and right middle fingers. One was simple, a plain silver band with a curious hook like claw that extended across her palm towards he wrist; the other was a white gold, topped with a metallic purple sapphire. Ess had applied only a hint of color to her lips and eyes, earthy tones that embellished her violet gaze and drew attention away from her tattoo like scar beneath her left eye. Breath taking was an understatement, yet she wasn’t completely conspicuous, managing to blend with the crowd to attract only the occasional stare which could of been credited to her perfume. The scent was enticingly sweet; a mix of lavender, honey, and vanilla.
The night was alive with entertainment, music and plenty of drink. Torch light surrounded the main gathering in a particular circle, the shadows dancing across her face. Ess looked around, looking up at the castle from afar, absently wondering about what it looked like inside. Everything seemed to slow down as her eyes locked upon her target, she temporarily fell deaf as she honed onto Devon Fields, pushing out the tired music that haunted her ears. Devon was tall, blond, green eyed son of a noble whose charms got him almost anything or anyone and his peers simply turned a blind eye. ‘Weak and pathetic,’ Ess thought to herself with an attractive smile. She would not approach him directly, but found her harmless lurking would eventually draw his attention as she mingled with the men and women of the party, calling herself Talena Lumin.
For a moment, she felt she was being watched and when she glanced around with a nieve expression, Devon and her locked eyes for a second before she turned away with a slight yawn. Turning slowly she disappeared into a circle of men and women, temporarily losing Devon’s gaze. Keeping her attention on him, she saw how he looked away only to double take her figure , his eyes flashing quickly from person to person as he tried to pick her out of the party. It worked out wonderfully when the crowd parted around her, displayed perfectly for the noble, wine glass in hand. Pretending to not notice him as she finished off her drink, she didn’t have to fake her bored expression as he dropped his current conversation to approach her.
The next few moments were typical; they introduced themselves, Devon giving the facade of knowing ‘Talena’s’ family because she played herself off as a cousin of a noble family and Talena, in turn, indulging the man to a dance. Her violet orbs kept to their dim contrast, her mind void of any emotion as she inspected the weasel and his obvious fake persona. Smiling sweetly as he boasted and lied about his adventures and conquests, she was light on her feet as she was twirled left then right, heels seeming to not touch the ground. Politely she kept her attention on him, all the while the wheels inside her brain twisted and turned remembering the rumors, only to see for herself what darkness he left upon the women from her side of town. Ess was getting better and better at discovering the demons hidden away inside the souls of men, and it wasn’t hard at all to see the familiar sick glimmer in his green eyes as he complimented her again and again.
“You honor me, M’lord.” She whispered softly, her gaze luring him closer to her as the dance completed.
“May I get you another drink, M’lady Lumin?” Devon bowed politely giving a devilish smile.
Ess nodded knowingly as he went to retrieve them both another glass of wine. Quickly she thought about how to switch the glasses, remembering how the noble drugged each girl before he had his way with them, never much for the fight as he seemed to like to take his time with his docile playmates.
When Devon had returned, she automatically reached for the furthest glass from herself, knowing he would pull away. Ironically he was taken back a bit, the glass slipping for the stone floor with a small shatter.
“Oh, I am terribly sorry M’Lord. That was my fault.” She apologized, taking the glass presented to her. “Let me grab another for you.” With another sweet smile she carried her glass with her as she pretended to sip it, leaving a noticeable lip smear to show she had held onto her own drink as she retrieved another for him. With her back to him, she poured the wine into another glass, walking back pretending to finish off the entire contents in one breath. Stumbling a bit she handed Devon the drink.
“Perhaps, I have had too much tonight. Would you escort a Lady back to her home?” Ess willed her cheeks to glow with a pink tone, giving the illusion she had indeed over-indulged that night. Devon smiled, quirking a brow at how she inhaled the drink and nodded as he repeated her action in response. “What kind of gentleman would I be if I refused?”
Stabbing Westward-Darkest Days
Once they made their way away from the crowd, Ess stumbled a bit more, her hand touching her head as if she was dizzy. “Devon...I feel....sick...” She lied, her legs giving out from under her, yet she never hit the cold ground. Devon had caught her as she ‘faded from consciousness’ and without a word he lifted her into his arms, turning into another direction of his home.
Ess remained limp, listening to the sounds around her, feeling Devon’s body tense and his heart race in excitement. She almost thought she heard him laugh to himself, but she was never sure. Before she knew it, they had entered a room somewhere, and she was carelessly tossed onto the soft surface of a bed. Essence noted the sound of Devon unbuckling his belt, letting clothing fall to the floor, soon after he gripped her ankles, dragging her forward, her legs falling like a rag doll on either side of his hips. She let her mind drift as his rough fingers slid over her skin, tugging at the lace of her gown here and there, fumbling with the hooks of her corset. Keeping her composure and illusion that she was passed out, she simply waited.
Ess was happy that the drug had managed to kick in before Devon defiled her. Peeking with one eye, she saw his body grow limp and with a confused grunt he slid off her onto the floor. Slowly she lifted her head questioningly, opening both eyes as she wondered if he would move. Minutes went by before finally standing quickly, she dressed herself. With much effort she managed to yank the naked man onto the bed, using the sheets from the bed to tie him down. She wasn’t sure how long he would be out for, but she sat in a nearby chair to watch.
An hour passed before the man stirred, Ess’s eyes snapping to attention she rocked forward to stand over Devon, her curls teasingly tickling his bare chest. A wild glow in her stare emanated from her form, a devious smile curling her lips while her fingers playfully trailed along his chest and along his inner thighs. “Wakey wakey..” She sang, placing a kiss on his cheek.
As he opened his blurry eyes, his confusion was great causing her to giggle quietly. He moved to speak but was cut off as she backhanded him hard across the face, the jewel of her ring imprinting along his cheekbone. Now he was awake, twitching about as he attempted to break loose. Eyes wide, he glared at Ess, “Tricky Bitch you-” She cut him off again, shaking her head disapprovingly to keep silent as she slapped him harder this time across the other cheek, her ring slicing a superficial cut down across his lip.
“I’m sorry...you were saying?” She muttered mockingly before stuffing a rag into his mouth. “What? I can’t hear you?” Crawling over Devon’s nakedness she straddled his hips still fully clothed herself, her fingers inattentively playing with the ring on her right hand. With a twist she turned the claw like point around as if it was an additional fingernail. “You almost made it too easy, sugar..Tell me...do you like how this feels..” She teased as she grinded herself into his hips, her tiny silver claw finding its way towards his chest, she slowly pressed and dragged it across both pecks simultaneously. The blood trickled down onto the bed as he thrashed, attempting to knock Ess off of him, yet she tightened her thighs, bucking wildly as if she were riding a stallion yet to be broken.
With his muffled screams she wanted to take her time, but knew she had to get to the point before someone heard him. When she looked into his eyes, she only saw memories of her own defilement and torture. Her vision taken over by one memory in particular…
BlackPond over 15 years ago...
Tye was revealed Ess's gift after his nightly visit with her. He was almost as bad as Jasper with his repeated abuse, so as much as Ess tried to hide her fear, it manifested in her Enlightenment. He was startled into thinking she was a boy as she took the shape and form of her lost, older brother. He liked the idea at first and tried his damndest to teach her to use that gift at will for his own pleasures. When she refused, he made a deep, vertical cut underneath her left eye.
She fought through the pain as she whispered, “I know you didn't mean it.” Smiling sweetly as blood poured down her cheek, she reached between his legs with one hand, the other reaching for his short sword left lazily on the floor. She leaned in slowly to kiss Tye deeply and as he bit her lip, she thrusted the blade between his ribs, twisting hard.
"You like boys so much...", she teased, "…I thought you wanted to know how it felt to be stuck like a pig!"
As soon as she retracted the blade, Tye's personal guards came rushing in and knocked a hilt of a sword into her head and all went black. When she had awoken, she was lying naked in a dark, cold room. Heavy breathy creeping from each corner as rough hands grabbed her and spat in her ear, "" “This will take the fight out of you....""” Repeatedly beaten, raped, they had cut her so bad she would never know the joys of being a mother…
She started with his face, leaving raw gashes that would normally heal into an ugly scar but she didn’t plan on letting him live that long. They seemed fitting to match the damage he had done to the other women, almost ritualistic. Putting much emphasis on the sharp tool, letting it linger before the man’s eyes, she gradually inserted the blade into his ear canal, causing his eyes to roll up into his head. Grabbing a pillow she shoved it over his face trying to silence his screams. Only when they softened did she pull the pillow back. Sliding her body down along his, she began jabbing her toy along his stomach, similar to the way a fork cut into an under easy egg, slowly a thick substance leaked out from the many holes. By the time she reached between his legs, the man was in tears, blood raining down onto the bed. Pausing a moment, she reached for the ring on her left hand, giving a twirl of the jewel, it opened, revealing a curious black liquid. Dipping the end of her claw into the muck, she closed back up the ring, watching as the goo coated the silver tool.
“This, won’t hurt much...” She frowned, a bit disappointed at that aspect as she impaled his male organ with the weapon, knowing the poison would soon numb him completely. Devon’s body lurched forward, only to be knocked back from the restraints, he spat the rag partially out in his despair, only to have it shoved deeper into his throat.
“It’s almost over, fortunately for you darlin’.” Essence growled as she crawled off the man, using the loose sheets from his restraints to wipe at the blood along her arms and chest. In the time it took her to gather herself, blowing out some candles to darken the room, the last thing she saw was his naked skin turning black as his wails softened. She knew the pain was going away as the skin darkened quickly. She took one last candle and brought it over to the man, gently lifting his head to look down at himself.
“Do you see Devon? It’s going to fall off before the toxin reaches your heart...” She stated happily, slightly lying but it still got the rise out of him she wanted. He was indeed weaker now, but he had head butted her in the forehead as she spoke. With a curse, she put out the candle on his nipple, digging the hot wax into his flesh.
In the darkness she laughed, muttering incoherent rants about the women he had tortured and raped. She remembered as many names as she could before she spat on him, leaving for the door. Ess knew he would be dead within the hour, with or without help. With a sigh she peeked out the door and slipped away into the night.
Crys had made it to Newhaven in a decent amount of time. She didn’t rush to the city as if she could stop anything, because she couldn’t, but she had increased her pace after she had finished speaking to Ari. She hadn’t been as far as one of the cities in almost three full years, but she had heard enough from the other assassins to know the shape of things around them both.
As she entered the Inn a bell rand above the door, announcing another customer had walked through it. A few people were inside, she could sense them, and hear their voices, but no one she knew; and definitely none of them were Wolves. There was no one behind the bar at the moment, but that was good in a way; it gave her a quiet moment to look around, so to speak.
She might have looked a bit odd to whoever bothered to watch her movements as she paced slowly silently counting steps between tables and running her hand through the length of the counter, amused to find that, at least to her, the place looked exactly the same as it once was. She had to appreciate Sean’s attitude on that, at least. It almost brought back memories, even though the wooden surface of the counter was smooth and lacked the several knife wounds and scorch marks the previous one had, and the floor boards didn’t make the familiar screech in response to her footsteps. The whole place was squeaky clean and impeccable in a way it had never been before. Almost familiar, but… Not quite. As if someone had taken an item of sentimental value and replaced it with another exactly like it; the same, but not quite.
As she finally settled down in a stool by the counter she heard a female voice speak quickly as Sheila wandered in from the backroom. “You’re not welcome here.”
“I thought this was a neutral zone.” Crys replied, unfazed by the woman’s attitude; she was expecting that.
“It’s not neutral for you, but since you’re here I can take the opportunity to personally tell you to go straight to hell and rot there.” The woman replied.
“I’ll be sure to head that way after we talk.” Crys replied, with a little laugh, turning as the woman walked past her to serve a customer at a table. “Sheeeila… I’m not leaving…” She snickered. “It’s just easier if you tell me what I want to know.”
“I’m not telling you anything. Just crawl back to whatever rock you’ve been hiding under...” She then proceeded to mutter something under her breath, it was barely audible, but enough for Crys to get.
“Whether I do or not leave him alone is none of your concern.” She replied, an angered expression forming on her face. “He is a grown man, in case you’re not aware.”
“Oh, I’m aware.” Sheila snickered, again walking past her.
Crys now realized there was someone else by the counter, just a couple of steps away and stopped to hear the sound of one single gold coin dropping on the counter. She didn’t hear what the customer had ordered, but she heard Sheila’s response. “That’s not enough, pretty boy.”
The young male replied by snickering softly. “Yes, it is… Take it.” He didn’t raise his voice above a whisper, but even though his tone was gentle, something about it caused a chill to run down Crys’ spine.
“Huh, it is enough.” Sheila agreed suddenly, causing Crys to turn, now knowing that something was off.
“No, it’s not.” She stated, dropping another coin on the table. “This should do it, however.” She stated, turning towards the young man. “What did you do to her?”
“You?” He mumbled absently, sounding a bit shocked before chuckling slightly. “Pardon me Miss…? I’m with a friend, and suppose I was trying to impress her. I only have this one coin, however, and so I made use of my gift. I honestly didn’t think the Pack would miss one lousy coin all that much. I much appreciate your gesture. I will repay you one day.”
Crys frowned slightly, wondering if she knew this person, he seemed so startled to see her there for whatever reason. Still, he didn’t lie when he said he meant to impress his friend, he was actually keeping his voice down enough not to be heard from where Crys could tell the only other female customer was. “Rivers…” She started simply, since she felt it was fine to give him at least that. “… Crystal Rivers. And you, Mister…?” She trailed off leaving room for his name, same as he had done for her, and then moved on. “It’s clear that you like this woman enough to steal from people who can easily kill you for it… Who am I to stand in your way, right?”
“… Just Luckas...” He said. “And, who knows? I might just have a death wish or something.”
Crys chuckled. “Alright, Luckas… Believe what you will. It was nice meeting you.”
He retrieved the drinks from the counter and began to walk away without saying much more, however she caught a whisper as he walked away.
“It was nice meeting you in person, Crys.” He whispered.
Crys tilted her head slightly, wondering what the hell that meant, however she simply let the strange man go and turned her attention back to the matter at hand. “So, where were we?” She asked Sheila, with a fake smile.
She remembered when Sheila showed up in the Pack. Jake had run into her in Blackpond and helped her out of some trouble… He sent her to the camp with a letter to the leaders saying that he thought she would be a perfect recruiter; and so she was. However, the woman had never liked her for her own reasons, and after a few occasions in which she had demonstrated her dislike very clearly, the feeling became mutual.
“I said go to hell.” The woman repeated. Although this time she stopped across the counter from Crys. “Would you like a drink, since you’re here?”
“I’d love a drink, I just don’t trust you not to poison it.” Crys replied. “I don’t have all the time in the world, Sheila. I need to know when you last saw Jacob, and where I can find him.”
“Of course you do.” The woman said. “When it’s convenient, right?”
Crys stood up, her seemingly endless patience was beginning to wear out and she leaned forward on the wooden counter, her face closer to the woman. “Enough with the innuendos already… Just tell me what it is you think I did wrong this time so we can move on with our very separate lives.” She muttered.
“Honestly Crys, to sum it all up: I think you would have done us all a huge favor if you had just decided to stay dead. Especially Jake, the poor guy really deserves a break.”
That was it. It wasn’t completely Sheila’s fault, but the woman should have known that when someone crawls in the dirt for hours trying to catch the next breath, spends days just trying to keep her heart from failing, and consequently loses everything, all within a month, ‘you should have stayed dead’ is just not something you say without causing something to snap. And something snapped inside of Crys so painfully that she didn’t think twice to plant her foot on the stool she had been sitting on moments earlier and push herself up and across the counter, pulling one of her Sai and launching herself at the woman, aiming a stab at her face.
Sheila only had time to grab a metal tray to defend herself with, the Sai dagger collided with it forcefully; once, twice, three times before the impact knocked the woman over to the ground. With very little room to move behind the counter, Sheila planted both her feet against the metal tray to push Crys away, pulling out a short sword that was sheathed at her waist as she jumped to her feet. “I believe I hit a nerve.” The woman stated, slightly pleased with the fact that she had managed to get through Crys’ calm exterior.
Crys was knocked back a few steps, but kept her balance enough to not fall back. At this point the rage had subsided, but it didn’t mean she was going to sheathe her weapon and walk away. Not without answers, and she didn’t have time to waste. Gripping the metal tray with her free hand like a shield, she advanced towards the woman, letting her attack. Crys camly dodged the first blow, blocked the second blow with the metal tray and the third with the Sai, trapping the blade of the sword between the blade and one of the metal prongs of the weapon, pulling it down and out of the way. She then slammed the metal tray against the woman’s face, momentarily stunning her and causing her to loosen the grip on the sword, which was then knocked out of her hand.
It could have ended there, except Crys still wanted her questions answered and, admittedly, she wanted Sheila to suffer a little. The woman’s hand placed on the counter as she tried to catch her balance had provided the perfect opportunity, and Crys pulled her second Sai and stabbed right through it, pinning the woman’s hand to the wooden surface.
Sheila let out an ear-piercing scream at the pain caused by the blade. “You… Psychotic… Bitch…” She muttered, as Crys held the tip of the other blade pressed against her skin at a very dangerous spot below her eye.
Crys sighed releasing the Sai that was jammed through the woman’s hand and pinned to the wooden counter and reached under the counter, feeling around the space where a few bottles and other ingredients were kept until she found a lemon. “I’m sorry Sheila, but really… I have somewhere else I need to be and you’re just not being helpful.” She stated, speaking softly and squeezing the lemon slightly in her hand.
Sheila tried to slowly reach for the Sai, to release her hand, but the hand holding the blade to her face stiffened only slightly and she reconsidered. “I’m going to get you for this one day… I swear I will!” She muttered.
“Fine, as you wish. Until then, you’ll answer my questions and tell me ANYTHING else that might be useful to me. You have ten seconds to start talking.” She told the woman, pressing the lemon against the blade of the Sai that was pinning her hand, threatening to slice it open and let the acidic juice flow onto her wounded hand. “Ten… Nine…”
“You’re bluff-“The woman didn’t finish the sentence, Crys had sliced the lemon open and the liquid had run down the blade of the dagger, causing her to scream in agony. “On the Twins… I’ll kill you…” She muttered.
“I don’t bluff: Now talk.” Crys stated, threatening to squeezing more juice out of the fruit.
“Jake was here, the day before the Festival. He told me to inform Sean that he was with the Black Knights and something else about a woman from Blackpond meeting with the Queen and mentioning the Pack. Three of our people walked in not soon after and confronted Jake, that’s when this woman came inside to help him. They didn’t seem to know each other well, but he was friendly with her; they casually mentioned the fact that she had followed him and mentioned ‘the others’ at one point of the conversation, so I assume she was one of the Blacks, or a part of the Guard. They knocked our guys down, and I didn’t catch much more of their conversation since I went to the back, but there was this other man here and by the time I came back there were other people on the floor and Jake and his friend were leaving. I haven’t seen him since, so… Well… A little while ago he mentioned going to Blackpond; he seemed to feel strongly about the situation there for some reason. If he’s not with the Blacks I assume that’s where he’ll be.” The woman informed. “That’s all I know.”
Crys sighed softly, placing the split lemon on the counter and lowering the Sai that was pressed to Sheila’s face. The tip of the weapon hadn’t even left a mark on the woman’s skin; despite the steadiness of the wielding hand, the touch of the blade had been gentle enough to leave it intact. Sheathing the dagger, Crys picked a cloth and a bottle of rum. “This will sting, but don’t move or you might make it worse.” She informed, soaking the cloth and wrapping it around the blade, using it to press Sheila’s hand against the surface of the counter as she gripped the Sai by the hilt and yanked it out with one steady pull. As she sheathed the bloody weapon, she kept pressing the wounded hand against the counter. Sheila’s breathing was unsteady from the pain, but she didn’t as much as move a muscle. Crys took the time to take the woman’s hand and wrap the rum-soaked cloth around it, binding it tightly, before leaving the establishment without another word exchanged; the bottle of rum still in her hands.
Luckas spent a good few minutes 'interviewing' the servants who cleaned the dirt in Xypher's chamber, cooked his meals, and overheard his conversations. He was very disappointed; the man was as boring as one can be. It seemed the old man only had one woman in his life, and that was his dead wife. They couldn't get him that way, but Luke had an idea of what might work. It would probably be the most entertaining part of the whole thing. Xypher wouldn't make a good kill for him, but in a way that was good; if they had to end him nicely and quickly he wouldn't be at a loss.
Walking out of the castle and onto the courtyard, Luckas shivered, realizing he hadn't been outside since the previous day; he'd forgotten how cold it usually was this time of year, but he simply brushed it off, putting two hands in his pockets and forgetting the cold after only a few steps.
There were several Inns in the city and Luke hadn't asked Ess which one she would be going to, which was dumb, but he was lucky to find her in the first place he looked. He waved the gold coin she had tossed at him earlier and headed straight for the counter before even walking over. The barmaid wasn't there yet, so he leaned casually against the counter of the bar, waiting.
Someone walked in a minute or two after Luke, but he didn't turn to look. Whoever it was didn't seem to acknowledge him either, better this way. The newly arrived customer was a redheaded woman and an odd one as it seemed. She seemed to be walking aimlessly through the entire place mumbling something under her breath. That went on for a little while, until she settled down in a stool by the counter, sitting with her right elbow leaned on the counter and her back was turned to him. The barmaid came from the backroom of the bar and said something to the woman about her not being welcome, and they exchanged words here and there. Luckas was getting the odd sensation of knowing that redhead from some place and it just made his stomach twist painfully; how many of those was he going to get?
Finally the barmaid addressed him. "What are you having, hun?"
"Two of what the pretty lady over there is having."He said, discretely indicating Ess with a nod and dropping the gold coin on the counter, fully aware of the fact that it wasn't enough.
"That’s not enough, pretty boy." The barmaid told him, crossing her arms over her chest.
Luke leaned forward, whispering softly. "Yes, it is... Take it.
"Huh, it is enough" She replied, beginning to pour the drinks.
"No, it’s not." The redhead spoke suddenly, dropping another coin on the table. She had turned to face Luke and now he knew where he had seen her before. "This should do it, however." She continued, facing him and asking in a severe tone: "What did you do to her?"
"You..." Luke mumbled, a little shocked that he'd just stumble into her this way. It felt like seeing someone come to life out of a dream. It was odd and amusing. Quickly he came up with an explanation for what he was doing, taking the chance to maybe introduce himself. "Pardon me Miss…? I’m with a friend, and suppose I was trying to impress her. I only have this one coin, however, and so I made use of my gift. I honestly didn’t think the Pack would miss one lousy coin all that much. I much appreciate your gesture. I will repay you one day."
She was suspicious of him for his shock in seeing her, probably wondering, like he had, if they knew each other. Apparently she brushed it off, because she replied giving just the opening he needed. "Rivers…" She started simply, but Luke already knew that. "… Crystal Rivers. And you, Mister…?" She gave him room to introduce himself, perfect. "It’s clear that you like this woman enough to steal from people who can easily kill you for it… Who am I to stand in your way, right?"
Luke flinched slightly at the last words she spoke, but just brushed it aside as her having bought into his talk, playing with it instead of showing it had bothered him slightly. " ...Just Luckas...” He said. “And, who knows? I might just have a death wish or something.”
She chuckled as if she didn't believe him. “Alright, Luckas… Believe what you will. It was nice meeting you."
Luke didn't respond this time, he simply took the drinks from the counter and walked to join Ess at the table, a slight frown crossing his features as he whispered to himself. "It was nice meeting you in person, Crys." He would have to tell Jakey about this, he was sure the man would be delighted to know Luke had met his 'better half'.
With this thought still in mind, as Luke sat down across from Ess sliding one drink across the table to her, he had a strange grin on his face; the one reserved for annoying good old Jakey. This would be good...
Snapping out of it, he shook his head slightly and spoke. "So, did you have time to misbehave or was I quick enough?" He played. "Xypher. Well... The man is practically an eunuch." He stated, still shooting glances towards the counter. "Captain was right, someone familiar he would want to converse with might be our best bet. Say, do you think you've spent enough time with her? I think he'd believe that she wants to face her accuser." Luke suggested.
Essence finished off her drink, a curious smile leaving her lips as the memory faded. The bell rang in the door a few times here and there but she kept her eyes down most of the time, until she noted Luckas entering, passing her with a smile he headed straight for the bar. She nodded and winked, thinking to herself how that boy looked like he should eat something; that they both should most likely if they were to have their strength up for later.
As she waited, a moment later another patron entered the Inn. Ess didn’t pay much attention until she noted out of the corner of her eye how the woman walked about curiously, as if she were memorizing where things were. Ess quirked a brow, not quite understanding at first why the woman lacked direct focus on her surroundings and then it clicked. There was much overcompensation with the red-head’s sense of touch while she seemed to pause and listen to her surroundings. ‘Must be something off with her vision.’ She thought to herself, unsure exactly.
Ess retracted her gaze, reaching for her wrist she retrieved one of her small daggers, twirling it between her fingers. Slipping her hand along the smooth surface of the table, Ess dragged the tip of the blade deeply through the edge as she carved her name into the wood. She looked up as Luckas sat across from her, sliding her drink within her grasp.
“What’s that look for?” She inquired, watching Luckas closely, half hearing the red head and the woman behind the bar arguing softly in the background. ‘“Go to hell...”’...Was mostly what she got out of the conversation as she focused on Luckas.
“Ah...I managed to keep to myself...decided that I didn’t want you to miss out.” Ess shrugged casually, her tone was careless remaining upbeat. As Luckas spoke about Xypher she sighed, “Ok so you were productive, good to see. I impersonated Mageria while we sparred before you and I ran into each other in the practice grounds, so I know it’s feasible.” Ess paused, leaning in closer towards Luckas, she slid her arm across the table, hiding the blade beneath her sleeve. “I can mimic the Captain, but I would need some practice to impersonate her voice...then there’s the blue eyes I can’t do..” Raising her glass she sipped her drink, her cheeks giving a gentle red glow as the heat of the liquor spread across her face. Some people found drinking was over all bad for the blood, but in Ess’ case, while it thinned out her blood, it held back any potential bleeds since it promoted better circulation for her.
“Luckas...” Her eyes brightened with an idea. “You have many memories of the captain I’m sure...are you able to...pass those on to me? It would make the process quicker, to know more of her speech patterns and how she tal-” Ess was interrupted by a sudden commotion of metal against metal, snapping her attention away from Luckas towards the women at the bar. Apparently they were not on very good terms and seemed to be battling it out on the bar counter itself, amidst curses and threats. An amused grin took over her expression, her teeth peeking through as she watched the women argue; about what she wasn’t sure. Ess glanced over at Luke as she drank heavily from her glass, giving a curious almost questioning look. “Is that your fault or something?” She joked.
"Whatever do you mean?" Luke asked with a mischievous grin as Ess asked about the look in his eyes. With a small chuckle, he added: "One secret at a time. I'd hate to see you lose interest in me."
In the back he could hear the barmaid and Crys talking, but he really paid them no mind, keeping his focus on Ess as she mentioned the difficulties in passing off as Mageria. Luke listened intently, leaning back in his chair and absently thinking of the best ways to get around those details. When she suddenly asked if he could pass his memories onto her he sat up straight. he never tried that before, he wondered if he could though... His memory manipulation skills were similar to Lena's, so it was likely. He only had two full conversations with Mageria though, one of them happened three years ago when she thought he was a vision.
As he heard the sounds of metal clashing he jumped to his feet to get a better look at what was going on at the bar as he replied. "Oh, I wish." He snickered, when Ess asked if he had anything to do with that. However he continued on with their conversation as if there had been no interruption. "In theory, I could, but we've only actually had two full conversations in three years. Although, I'm not sure the one when she thought I was a ghost counts as a full conversation. If it helps... We can try..." He laughed out, as a high-pitched scream echoed through the room. "Assassins are so incredibly fun." He said absently as the barmaid stood with her hand impaled and pinned to the counter by a Sai dagger, its twin touching her face menacingly. Turning his attention back to Ess, rising his voice slightly as the woman screamed again, he continued. "We can try that, but we'd need a more private place..." He stopped talking as the screaming stopped. "... Because neither of us will be able to see a thing of our surroundings while we do it." The sounds of the bell above the door announced that Crys was leaving the Inn.
Luckas sat back down and finally reached for his glass, drinking from it and leaving it half-empty, or have-full maybe, depending on one's opinion. He glanced towards the door and an amused grin appeared in his face. "Do you know who that was, by any chance?" He asked Ess, with a snicker that said he had incredibly good gossip to share.
Ess smiled, thinking how ironic it was that he commented on her losing interest in him. “Hmm, good to know I still have yours.” She couldn’t remember how long it had been since she spent so much time with a man, noting that half the day was already gone and she still had her clothes on. It was quite a different experience, the nervousness creeping back inside her stomach, lingering with a dull pain. The change was exciting but it was something she was not very familiar with, and she knew that the fault could only be credited to herself.
“Well..” Her voice grew louder over the women’s curses and screams as she watched the one with the Sai dagger release lemon juice upon the other woman’s wound. “Us redheads can get away with just about anything.” She smiled up at Luckas as she answered his notion to go somewhere private. “I was wondering how long it was going to take you to suggest that.” Leaning back in her chair she downed the rest of her drink, relaxing.
“Seriously though...”She looked over Luckas with a perplexed gaze. “When was the last time you ate boy? Come on...I’ll heat you up something at my house and we can see if my idea works. There’s much to prepare for.”
She shook her head curiously. “Am I suppose to know who that was? I’ve never seen her before. Course I usually don’t talk to women..” Ess chuckled. “Too complicated, and always fighting over a man in one way or another.”
Luke raised an eyebrow when Ess asked when was the last time he ate. It was just so unexpectedly thoughtful. "I... Uh... Yesterday." He admitted, scratching the back of his head. "In my defense, you distracted me." He added, crossing his arms over his chest and tilting his head. "And... Boy?" He asked. "Haven't we had this conversation already?" He asked with a grin, emptying his glass and taking a few glances around before saying. "That blind redhead who left just now... Was the leader of the Wolfpack until three years ago. Word out there, officially, is that she was killed by the current Alpha. She hasn't been seen anywhere in three years." He shrugged. "Makes me wonder why she's here, now of all times."
Standing up, he added. "I wouldn't advise you to fight her over any man." He nodded towards the woman behind the counter. "Something tells me that was friendly conversation." He shrugged lightly. "Not that you would have to fight her over me... There's plenty to go around." He told her playfully, snickering softly as he stomach emitted a rather loud growl. "And thanks for reminding me I'm hungry." He laughed. "Can we go? I might bite you otherwise."
“We did everything we could.”
The words meant nothing to the Warlord. The healers of Newhaven had helped as best they knew how, and even with Grim’s insight and information they had just managed to patch up Morrigan. She was asleep now, lost in the vividness of another world entirely. She looked peaceful in a way, the most serene Grim had ever seen her. All wrapped up and sutured like a living doll, but alive and somehow sleeping. Gingerly he took her hand, brushing aside stray hair from her face. The worry and concern could hardly mask itself from his features. Yet he stood alone over her bed, a phantom of the past. The midwives and healers watched from the other side of the room, whispering omens to another. None dared approach the man who rose back from the grave.
“… This is all my fault.’
The last words he managed before he forced himself from the medical ward. Sending ahead a servant he had a bath drawn for him, and was sure to see to his privacy. He wouldn’t risk anyone meeting him before he cleaned up a bit. He knew it wouldn’t take long before word reached Mageria, even if he succeeded to scare the nurses into silence. Threatening them with the wrath of their gods should they tell. A cheeky solution, but one that worked given his situation.
The water did little to ease the tension in his body. Though he could feel himself sink deeper into the warmth, his mind raced. Grim was utterly alone adrift his sea of dilemmas and the horrors that waited for him, gave the Salamander no time for rest. He feared to close his eyes, to witness what would emerge from the chasm of his thoughts. He was exhausted, weary and beaten. More a shell then a man these days, there was no comfort to cling to. Grim had only the courage he could muster to stand between him and the trials ahead.
The war host was destroyed, its members dead and gone. Alex was missing somewhere in the city, and Morrigan lay fighting for her life. There was no doubt that Mageria was just as hurt, and Newhaven as a whole felt almost paranoid if not dissonant. Worse still, Grim could feel the stirrings of the beast within. He took some solace, knowing that it would be a few hours still before the magic in his veins became as potent as it was before.
Grim was the most dangerous in all the land. Having killed hundreds in his short time, the number being more an estimation then an exaggeration. There were no dirtier hands in this world, no shoulders with a heavier burden. The Blade knew, he was beyond forgiveness, that no one and nothing could pardon him of his sin. Some days he managed to live with this knowledge, but of late it was getting too cumbersome. Privately, perhaps morbidly he wondered just how much more he could take.
When the water grew cold, the knight pulled himself from the tub. Promptly he dressed in some clean clothes left for him. Bandaging his right hand carefully, the burns were of little consequence but he preferred no one to take notice just yet.
Carefully he crept along the halls of Newhaven Castle. Familiar with its walls even after three years time, vigilant in his cautiousness, listening for voices that he may know. There was something they had that belonged to Grim. Truth be told he couldn’t imagine anyone else with it right now.
The Black Knight’s personal armory; Mageria hadn’t changed much, and had placed his prize within its walls. It was unfortunate that these days it required Black Guard to keep its doors safe. It was a bit of a surprise to Grim to see two of them standing watch over the door. One could imagine the fear and surprise that gripped them when the rumored ghost appeared before them.
“Alright lads, now you have something of mine. Are you going to let me in, or fetch what I need? Rather, are we going to do this the hard way?”
The Guard responded with the slide of their weapons into a ready position. Their feet spread out and their arms clinched, muscle coiled tightly ready to strike. Grim despite himself smiled.
The first guardsmen was caught between the massive Grim and the door in the blink of an eye. The sword was pinned above him and a great knee colliding into his abdomen forced the wind from his lungs. Another strike to his gut and the first of the Black Guard had collapsed helplessly to the floor. The second had reacted too late and his swipe bounced from the surface of the door. For a man to be the size Grim was, he moved with the speed and dexterity of a dancer half of his mass. The still conscious guard was pressed against the wall, the hilt of his partner’s sword crashing over his helmet with such force that they lost all control and blacked out instantly.
With a lofty sigh Grim pushed open wide the doors to the armory. It was well kept and organized, but his goal was easy to spot. The Giant’s Knife rested upon a pedestal and lovingly kept so it seemed. The plaque mounted into its top spoke of a brave man who had fallen protecting the world he so loved. A moment of bittersweet irony, but the Blade could appreciate their thoughts. Hesitance stilled his hands, though the weapon lay unprotected before him. The hewn memory was correct, a good man had died holding that sword. Grim hardly considered himself worthy, and in the quiet still of the armory he questioned his integrity. There was no more reason to believe he could wield the weapon the way Cole had.
Perhaps not, but this was his to carry. The sword that felled the lives of the guilty and the innocent alike. No, he would never give it up again. He reached to its hilt, the grip of the tool all too familiar in the curve of his hand. Slowly he eased it from the pegs that held it in place, and raised the Giant’s Knife high above him. It felt like it belonged.
Kirsten was very proud that he had gotten Ari out. She would be healed by now, he thought, leaning against the wall of the throne room where the Lord was ranting, throwing around things. He was unable to figure out how this girl had gotten out and Kirsten was very amused. He stayed mostly in the shadow, his back pressed against the cold grey stones that gave the room a strong and commanding sort of feel. Kirsten had watched with black eyes, his hair masking over them, giving him a wild untamable look, as servants and others were brought into the room to be questioned and a couple had even ended up dead. He was dosing off as a sharp voice cut through the silence he had been enjoying.
“Kirsten! How could this happen? I want you to find her, bring her back alive but barely. I won’t rest until I have that horse thieving Wolf back in my control. This time I will kill her,” he snarled and looked to where Kirsten had been. Instead Kirsten now stood behind him, his sword causally drawn as he leaned on it.
“Would you have me give up the hunt for Lady Phantom, milord,” he asked his voice dark and dangerous.
“Can’t you hunt both,” the Lord demanded, turning to face Kirsten with a little shudder, “You will hunt both. In the meantime, I’ll send out my men to the woods, see if they can catch another and if not they’ll be watching for her. That and I’ll send a small group to Newhaven to do some spying. You will leave now and find her,” he growled and his icy eyes narrowed as Kirsten made no move to leave. Instead Kirsten felt rage boiling up inside of him but he kept it buried down. He snatched his sword and sheathed it with a loud hissing noise and with unnecessary force.
“I would remind you,” he growled, his voice even darker, “That I cannot be ordered around. It would be wise to remember it.”
“You will obey,” the lord hissed, his eyes narrowing, “If you want her to live.”
“How dare you,” Kirsten growled, drawing his dagger and pressing it against the lord’s throat.
“I would advise against killing me. She’ll be dead before you can get to her,” he said a wicked smile spreading across his face. Kirsten frowned and reliantly moved away as the Lord smiled at him. “Here are your orders, disobey any part and the gies will destroy her. Go find this Wolf. Extract all that she knows. Kill her. Don’t tell anybody about this that would do something about it. Now go.”
His eyes flashed and he stormed out, his leather boots hitting the ground and causing the sound to echo around the room. He pushed open the doors, smirking as they hit the walls on either side and even more as the servants that he passed scattered to the sides of the hallways when he stalked past them. Their fear made him stronger and as entered out into the sunlight without batting an eye, he laughed manically. He turned and walked briskly toward the stables, his cloak blowing back behind him as he picked out his second horse, a large black Friesian. The beautiful horse tossed his head, his long fetlock tossing up and over his eyes. Kirsten smiled lightly, running his hand along the length of the thick muscular neck and moving down to his back. Kirsten had to jump slightly to mount up, the horse was so large. He turned the huge beast out of Blackpond, riding quickly toward the forest. He needed to find the Wolves, tell them what he could before it was too late.
He quickly thought about how he could get around the last order “don’t tell anyone who would do something about it” and his mind clicked. If he could convince himself that the leader wouldn’t do anything about it, then she would be safe. He never understood why he had continued to stick with She, he guessed because it made his girl seem less human, it allowed him to distance himself from her in case anything did happen. That is what he feared, losing her because he couldn’t or wouldn’t kill anyone. He ducked under a large branch, already breaking into the woods. He needed to convince himself that Sean, that was his name that Ari had screamed, didn’t care about the girl and hopefully Sean wouldn’t care. He slowed his mount from a bouncy trot to a slow walk, riding straight forward on a small path that would lead him within sight of the Wolves and hopefully his red cape would make him stand out more.
"There's a rider heading this way." One of the scouts had informed Sean. Sean wondered if this was one of the men that had taken the recruit, and if he was, he couldn't understand why the man would be heading into their territory so recklessly. Either way, he was personally greeting this stranger, placing himself on his path on the trail, other assassins hiding amongst the nearby trees, silent and out of sight.
Nothing identified Sean as Alpha, and an outsider wouldn't know his face, therefore he acted as a scout would, calling out as the man's horse approached. "Halt! You are trespassing on the territory of the Wolfpack."
Kirsten slowed his mount and pulled the war horse to a stop, the beast tossing it’s head. He pulled the hood back from his face and glared at Sean. His eyes flashed red and he smirked lightly.
“You are Sean, yes? Good. I come with news of Ari,” he said without waiting for an answer, dismounting and leaving his sword attached to the saddle of his horse. He didn’t explain how he knew that his name was Sean and he was able to convince himself that this man didn’t care. He hoped that he would keep the façade of a cold hard leader.
Sean flinched only slightly in response to the man's behaviour, he caught a flash of red in his eyes and knew immediately that he was Enlightened, fact which was confirmed when the man mentioned his name without it being given to him. He said he had news from Ari, and he seemed agitated, in a hurry, which meant he cared for her safety somehow. That, or he was a very gifted actor, and Sean wasn't going to risk showing just how badly he wanted the information. "Ari? That kid? We had her for less than a day, I was convinced she left us. What news do you say you have?" He asked, raising an eyebrow in and expression of curiosity and slight disbelief.
“She’s in danger. You have to get to Newhaven as fast as possible. Keep her hidden, even from me,” he said in a hurry, already a bit of dread rising within him. “I’ve been ordered to kill her on sight, and I’m afraid that I cannot disobey this order, even if I want to. Newhaven, as fast as possible.”
He turned and mounted back up, looking down at the man who Ari had feelings for. He cocked his head, riding forward just a little bit and leaning in his saddle to whisper, “She only thought of you.”
With that he spurred away, knowing well enough that his Enlightenment was working and he was gone from their visions before their sight. He pressed the war horse into a reckless gallop, already running for Newhaven.
Mageria was still firmly shut up in her room. She wasn’t hiding, she wasn’t the type. But when Matthew had gone to talk to her, she was distant and distracted, worried about something aside from everything else that was going on. She wouldn’t talk about it, but something big was going on.
Mageria stood alone . . . well almost alone in her room. Her table had been cleared off and the map she had of the Blackpond Castle was spread out in front of her. Over in front of the fireplace, Tala was curled up, basking comfortably in the warmth. Mageria stood absolutely still, fighting down the volcanic emotions that raged inside her. Never had she thought that being exposed as a traitor and loosing everything that she had worked for in the past seven years would be pushed aside. But there was something more important now. The last time this dagger had shown up, it had caused mass chaos and destruction. That was at the hands of someone who knew what they were doing, knew what it was that they had. She wasn’t sure whether or not the idea of it in the hands of someone who might not know what they had was better or worse.
Still, she’d have to plan for the worse case scenario. That the person who had the dagger knew what it was and knew how to use it. She glanced over at the book at the end of the table, the one that the Wolf had left behind three years ago. She’d read it cover to cover several times and she’d be going over it again; hopefully it held something that would be useful.
Mageria reached out to trace a path on the map in front of her, startled to see that her hand was shaking. Frowning, she clenched it momentarily, shaking it in the effort to relax. Taking a deep breath, she pushed her emotions down further, fighting for a clear head. She had to focus right now. She could feel later.
As Crystal walked out of the Inn she felt her right shoulder aching from impact; the outburst of anger had made her ignore the fact that forcefully trying to stab through a metal surface was extremely stupid. Rubbing the aching shoulder, she also realized she still had a bottle of rum in her hands… Well, that could actually be useful.
The streets were strangely calm and silent aside from the noises from Inns and other establishments. That was always a somewhat quiet part of town, as long as Crys could remember, but for some reason it seemed far more silent in this particular moment. Crys’ steps made her think of the last time she had sneaked in to the Newhaven Castle; when Ali was being held in the dungeons. That was the occasion in which she was given the path she was about to follow right now, it led her somewhat close the Black Knights’ quarters, and somewhat close was close enough to find a familiar person.
As she made her way through the same narrow passages she had walked last time, she held the rum bottle firmly in one hand, on the other a small token hidden within a clenched fist. In her mind, whispers of words spoken a very long time ago, by different voices…
"They are good people... The Knights...”
“…they're not very different from us."
“I have come here alone and without the consent of my superiors in hopes to find a way through our aggressions. To end this foolish war altogether if possible. A great place to start would be to have our people stop their feud. To bring peace between Newhaven and the Wolfpack if possible.”
“I know it’s completely inadequate. But I finally was able to get the whole story put together. And all I can say is . . . I’m sorry. I wish that my part in all of this had played out differently. I thought I was doing the right thing.”
She gripped the little token a little tighter as she walked, feeling something stir inside; not sure if the memories had caused the feelings or if it was just the opposite.
It had taken Crys a lot of will power to not draw her weapons at Sean inside that cabin the moment she realized what he had done. It seemed like somehow everyone who had ever cared to keep Valcrest in some sort of order or balance somehow got the worse of it. First the Pack, then the White Shadows, now the Black Knights… It had made her very angry, but she suddenly realized that she wasn’t just angry for herself anymore; her hands were shaky and there were tears rolling down her face, she wasn’t sure exactly if out of anger or grief as they were so mixed together it was hard to make it out… All of that came wrapped up in a sensation of worry and fear as if someone was holding something heavy over her head...
A rather loud ‘thud’ broke Crys out of her thoughts. The bottle she was holding had slipped out of her hands. The glass didn’t break, but the bottle had hit the ground and rolled away rather loudly, and now she realized that she was no longer in the service tunnels. She was so taken in by the sudden wave of emotions that she didn’t realize she was walking out in the open. Her body tensed only slightly as she heard the rolling bottle being stopped by what sounded like a boot. One hand still gripping the little token and the other discretely moving near the, still blood stained, Sai.
Bran had been walking out of the common room with his assignment when he happened to notice a rather pretty young woman coming out of the service tunnels, a rum bottle held in one hand. She might have been taking a few drinks of it already, because she was staggering a bit and weaving, tears running down her face. She stumbled, the bottle falling from her hands and rolling towards him. He stopped it with one foot, reaching down and picking it up with a sigh. The news of what the Captain had done years ago . . . hadn’t exactly surprised him. She had always done what was necessary to protect those that she felt needed it and she very rarely regretted it. She drove herself to the brink of collapse in order to keep her men safe, they had all seen it before and sometimes they had to protect her from herself in order to keep her around.
The thought of the Captain being cast out the way she was . . . that left everybody wanting blood in return. She had forbidden it, pointing out that the Council was the ones who were throwing her out, the people of Newhaven were the ones that they were still sworn to protect. So they had been coming up with ideas about how to do so, ideas that the Captain might not agree with, but she wasn’t going to have much of a choice.
“Any other time, I’d welcome the arrival of a pretty lady with a bottle walking around here. But this is a bad time and we’re really not welcoming strangers right now.” He held out the bottle with one hand, other hand wrapped around the hilt of one of his knives. His voice and eyes hardened and his tone became crisp when he noticed just how well armed the young woman was. “In fact if you were to linger in the slightest, I’d think you were here to take care of a problem before it became widely known; so I’d really say that you should just turn around and go before anyone else notices your here. Which would be about a moment and a half from right now.” He took a step back, the grip on the bottle changing to that of a weapon as his suspicions mounted by the moment.
The voice that came to Crystal's ears was that of a man. The moment he mentioned it was a bad time to be there, she understood he was with the Guard. As his tone changed she figured he had probably noticed the Sai and the Katana she was carrying, if he was good he would notice one or two of her hidden knives as well. "I understand this is a difficult time, that is why am here. However, my motives are far more friendly than you think." She stated, her tone and posture relaxing once the shock began to subside, the shaking no longer present. "I would appreciated it if you didn't break that bottle now... It's really good stuff." She said, opening her empty hand and slowly extending her arm so it was far from the dagger at her waist. "Now, friend, I will show you two things, and then I will say why I've come, if you still want me to leave then I will turn around... Should take about half a moment." She stated, simply.
That said, she raised her closed hand and opened it with the palm facing up; showing the small token she had been safely hiding inside. "That's one..." Next, she reached with for her collar with her free hand and pulled on a silver chain that was hanging around her neck. Two rings were hanging from that chain, one was Jake's, the other was her own. She sorted out which was which and pulled on her ring, extending it in such a way that the symbol of an Alpha engraved on its inside was visible even in the distance they were at. "That's two. Now, I've come to speak to your Captain, hoping I'm still correct in saying that she is your Captain." Crys stated, absently tucking the silver chain back into her shirt as if she was afraid to leave it exposed to too long. "As I said, if you won't let me... I'll turn around and you can just tell her I was here."
“Now, I've come to speak to your Captain, hoping I'm still correct in saying that she is your Captain."
Bran felt an immediate sense of outrage. The Captain . . . she was the Captain, always would be. He wasn’t one of them that the Captain had pulled out of horrible circumstances, but she had given him a purpose that he never known. He would keep following her, until something drastic . . . something more drastic would happen to change his mind about her.
Frankly, Bran was dubious about the ring, if the woman had shown it to him from the beginning, he would have tossed her out without a second thought. What on earth would the Alpha of the Wolfpack want with the Captain, certainly nothing good. But the other token. He’d only seen one once before, when he was sworn in. It was an agent’s token, one of only two currently out of Guard’s hands. And it certainly would have been like the Captain to have a contact with the Wolfpack . . . although come to think of it, she might be the one that had been thrown out when there was a power struggle. He wasn’t completely sure what had happened, but he was pretty sure that the current Alpha was a man. On the other hand, if this woman wanted to get back into the Pack, what better way than to take out the leader of the Black Knights? Normally such a token meant that the person was taken straight to the Captain without question, but in times such as these . . .
Whistling sharply, Bran summoned several of the other Guard. “Keep her here,” he told them, pointing at the woman. “Captain needs to hear about her.”
Walking down to the Captain’s door, he rapped on it sharply. Bran uncomfortably cleared his throat when the Captain opened the door, pushing it outwards until she could see him. It was clear that things were starting to wear on her, her eyes were shadowed heavily and her shoulders were a bit slumped.
“Captain . . . there’s a woman here who says she needs to see you.” He spoke softly, only a little above a whisper to keep it between the two of them. “She had a token but . . .” he trailed off uncomfortably as she raised one eyebrow, leaning around the door to take a look. A shadow of a smile crossed her face and she shook her head.
“At ease everybody. She’s welcome here.”
All around Crystal the Guard relaxed, going back to their duties and plans, while Mageria held the door open for Crys. Bran returned the bottle to her as she went by, shrugging slightly at the look the Captain gave him.
Mageria headed back towards the table in the center of the room, nearly tripping over Tala as she pushed by in an effort to see the new arrival. “Easy now. Just a friend.” Tala whined, but settled down looking alertly between the two of them. Mageria sighed.
“Sorry about that. Things are a bit unsettled right now. Although I guess you’ve figured out by now. Honestly, I’m not the best person for an empath to be around right now.”
Crys smiled gently at the Guard as she retrieved the bottle from him on her way past him. She could tell he was a good man, and a loyal one at that, as many of the others were as well. She didn't say anything to him, however, she simply smiled.
As she went in the room and closed the door behind her, she sensed the presence of a wolf in the room and her expression changed to a slightly childish one. "Aaaw, you have a wolf, now?" she asked, immediately going over to Tala and allowing the wolf to sniff her out all she liked, before finally scratching behind the animal's ears. "I love wolves..." She chuckled. As she addressed Mageria's comments though, her tone turned more serious. "I don't blame them for being cautious right now, you have very loyal people in your Guard, Mageria. They know how far you'd go for them, and they know how far they would follow you. I'm sure not many Captains in the history of Valcrest would be able to say that. And no, you're not the best person for an empath to be around right now, that's true." She agreed, pacing around until she found a chair and taking a seat. "If I lived by that logic however, I'd have to become a hermit and that just sounds awfully boring." Then she waved the bottle of rum. "I thought we could both use something better than tea this time: Courtesy of the Wolfpack." She stated with a light grin.
Crys went quiet for a little while after that, absently rubbing at her sore shoulder, before speaking again with the reason why she was there. "I had a bit of a run-in with Sean and he told me what he had done... Well, more like he bragged about it..." She sighed. "Anyway, I guess I needed to stop by and say that the offer I made three years ago still stands." She smiled. "Suppose it was a bit of walk just to say this, but you showed my clan respect and mercy when you had absolutely no obligation to do so, and you were also extremely kind to me in a moment when I had been literally knocked to the ground, and I never forget these things, because I don't see them too often. So if there's anything you need help with at any given time, anything at all, I put myself and my people at your disposal." She stated, absently playing with the chain around her neck.
Mageria cracked a small smile at the sight of the deadly assassin loving on the wolf, giving ear scritches and everything. Just that sight was enough to let her forget for half a moment what was going on, something that she was intensely grateful for.
“The wolf doesn’t belong to me actually. She’s just watching me for a friend of hers.” The logic of that might have been a bit backwards, but it fit somehow, especially the look Tala shot her when they both moved away to sit at the table. The wolf followed them both, settling under the table and planting her chin on Mageria’s boot.
“And I know my people are loyal. That’s the problem, honestly. They’d follow me so blindly that I could lead them into a fire and they’d be sure I had a plan to get them out safe and sound on the other side. So what now? In a situation like this, they need to be thinking of themselves and their families. And I’m afraid that they won’t” She sighed and grabbed a couple of glasses, setting them on the table and pouring a decent amount of the rum into each. “Thanks for this, by the way.”
“I appreciate the offer, I really do, Crystal. But what the hell can be done at this point?” She grimaced and knocked back half of what was in her glass, cradling the rest between her fingers. “I could have fought it, the proof that was there was barely enough to cause trouble, especially given the reputation of the Black Knights to begin with. But I made a lot of enemies over the years, people who liked the old way of things. And the truth of the matter is . . .” Her gaze grew distant for a moment, remembering the moment that she’d killed Captain Stephen Morgan. “I’d do it again and dance on the bastards grave.” She sipped her drink, thinking of her options. “I don’t regret anything about that day. But in one fell swoop, Sean managed to destroy any credibility I might have had here in Newhaven. Seven years of work, blood and sweat, up in flames. He had the luck of the Twins, that letter managed to find it’s way to one of the people who apparently has held a grudge against me for quite a while, and now he has all the ammunition that he needs. But the news is out and there’s no calling it back. By nightfall tonight, it will be all over Newhaven, and I’m afraid that a great many doors are going to be closed to me and mine from now on.” Mageria took another swig of her drink, feeling the burn as it went down. “I could wish that your mother hadn’t kept such complete records. But if all had gone as it should have, it would have been safe.” Reaching forward, she poured herself another drink. “So what the hell do I do now?” she whispered half to herself. She was starting to add depression to the brew of emotions fighting for control, although that might have been the amount of rum that she’d just drunk in only a few minutes. She had to admit that she was rapidly heading towards tipsy, a state that she allowed herself only rarely and around people she absolutely trusted.
Mageria had leaned back in her chair, moodily sipping her rum when a sudden though occurred to her. “Crystal . . . you were there for the start of the problems we had four years ago, right? The incident that set off the trouble between the Pack and Newhaven?” She glanced over at the book on the table, hoping that she was remembering things right. If she had someone else here that knew the dangers of what was going on right now in Blackpond; that would be invaluable. On the other hand, telling this young woman that the reason that they had this information was because Jake had gone and gotten himself captured might not go over so well. But that was a risk that she’d have to take.
“Because hard as it is to believe, this isn’t the worst thing I have to deal with right now.”
Crys was quietly drinking while letting Mageria talk. The wolf's presence in the room gave her something less... Intense, she could focus on so she didn't have to worry about her gift at the moment and, admittedly, alcohol helped as well, but Crys was careful to drink it slowly. When Mageria asked what she would do now, Crys felt that she should speak her mind, even if the question wasn't necessarily meant to be answered. "I understand what you're going through. You feel responsible for those guys, you still care about them and the people you're sworn to protect, and you don't know how or if you'll be able to protect them now. A great part of you hopes that your men will avoid being associated with you in any way, because you don't want to drag them along when you have no idea what you're going to do next and you feel like you can't properly look out for them, and at the same time you want them to follow you anyway because if you're not the Captain then who are you?" She sighed, emptying and refilling her glass again. "If the Blacks are in fact as similar to the Pack as I was told... At some point in the future you'll look back and realize that no matter how different things are, they never truly changed." She said, holding the glass in her hands, but not drinking any more quite yet.
An eyebrow raised slightly and a frown formed on Crys' expression at the mention of the events that occurred four years ago. That followed by the warning that she was yet to hear the worse of it caused a chill to run down her spine. Her eyes sparkled a bright green color as she scanned the whole place for familiar people and, while she did find a few... Jake wasn't in the Castle. "Jake is in Blackpond isn't he?" She asked, sipping from the glass and going silent for a little while more before heaving a little sigh as she asked. "Did he find the damn object?"
Mageria smiled. “The Blacks are just like the Pack? Who told you . . . never mind. Jake, wasn’t it?” She felt better, knowing that Crystal really did know what she had gone through; and wasn’t trying to give her useless advice. She took a deep breath.
“Yes, Jake is in Blackpond. He apparently had the brilliant idea to get captured to find out if there are any Newhaven soldiers still there . . . anyways, afterwards he managed to get a message out. Not much, just that he had seen the object that Lena had warned me about. That object, is the only thing that fits that description. Which means that somebody in Blackpond has it.” She rubbed her temple, considered another drink and decided against it.
“I already sent a message to the White Shadows, hopefully it will get there in time. I thought that they needed to know, being as close as they are to Blackpond to begin with. And all those people who might not be able to defend themselves . . . the thought is enough to give you nightmares.” Mageria slouched in her chair, considering everything. “I suppose we’re going to have to do something about that, no?”
She was quiet for a long moment, hesitating over what was on her mind.
“Crystal . . . . what were their names?” She rubbed her forehead before drumming her fingers on the table. “Did they find a home, with the Pack?” She’d never known; but the woman’s face had stuck in her mind for almost seven years now. She didn’t hate the woman for telling her secrets, but it would be nice to have a name to go with the face that had haunted her for so long.
Mageria shrugged. “Jake wasn’t so much sloppy, as desperate. He apparently had to pass the message through a telepath he met down in the dungeons, so he had to be cryptic. Which also means that there is a damn good chance that the person passed on the message to somebody who works for Blackpond. And yes, some of the Newhaven soldiers are still alive as well. Which means that either way, I’m going to be going to get them back. We just have to trust that they’re all strong enough to survive what’s going to happen next.” She sighed, reaching down to rub Tala between the ears. The idea that this dagger . . . which had already caused so much chaos in Valcrest still being out where it could do more harm. That went against everything she believed in. “So any plan that you’ve got cooking already; I hope you’ll include me. Otherwise we’ll end up getting in each other’s way.”
“Well, if I’m going to be calling you Crys, you can call my Ria. Ev; Evin was the only one to ever call me that, and he was a friend from a much different time in my life. But if someone walks all the way to the city to bring you a bottle of rum, they must be a good friend.” She stared at the wall for a long moment. “I do understand about your mother; I really do. Something similar happens with my Guard, because of the backgrounds that some of them come from. We have to know if they have something that would come back to haunt us later. And I don’t blame Amalia, I really don’t. She did what she had to in order to survive. It’s just . . .” she shrugged. “Damn poor timing. And someday, I’d like to talk to her. Just one of those things.”
There was a sudden knock at the door. One of the Guard poked her head in, eyes a bit wild and face pale. “Um, Captain? There’s . . . there’s a problem. It appears that um, Grim Pondus is in the armory.” Mageria felt a deep flare of anger. “Grim Pondus is dead,” she said flatly. “He died in my arms three days ago.” The Guard looked even more upset. “Yes Sir, I know, but he’s still in the armory. Apparently, he came for his sword.” Mageria swore and pushed away from the table, glass still in hand. “I’m sorry Crys, this is something I have to take care of.” She stalked out into the hall and looked down the ways toward the armory, wanting to get this over and done with. Behind her, Tala jumped up and followed her out, head up as she tagged along at her heels.
“What the hell . . .” She felt a deep sense of shock as a ghost walked out into view. The Guard between him and her all drew their weapons, going into ready stances; which was a good idea given that she could see two people picking themselves up off the floor already. Presumably Grim(?) had been instant about entering the room.
Mageria slowly walked forward to stand in front of him, face pale. Slowly, she shook her head, tears suddenly welling up and falling unheeded down her face.
“You’re not Grim. Grim is dead, for three days now.” Her voice started rising, face going even paler and there was a ringing in her ears. “I held him as he died, I lit the fire at his funeral.” Beside her Tala started to growl, deep in her throat; head down and ears back. Dimly Mageria realize that she was going into shock, possibly on the way to fainting. She couldn’t do that, not here and not now; so she clenched her hands, fingernails digging into the flesh of her right hand. Taking a deep breath, she fought for strength, knuckles whiting as she tried to hold on. But she’d forgotten about the glass that she still held in her other hand. With a sharp crack it shattered, cutting deeply into her flesh. Mageria swore, dropping the shards to see scarlet blood running freely down her fingers to land in a brilliant puddle on the floor.
Blood. So much blood.
Two bodies lay crumbled not far from one another.
Her friend lay in a pool of his own blood, a gaping hole through his stomach and an eerily peaceful smile on his face; scarcely breathing.
Blood, everywhere. She was kneeling in Grim’s blood, her cloths soaked in it. It covered the ground, was splashed on the nearby plants, spattered on his face and bubbled at the corner of his lip. All of it from him.
“You came- back for me.. I-I somehow knew you would…I’m afraid it’s- … I got in over my head Th- this time...”
Mageria started panting, shaking from head to toe as she fought to stay upright; tried to resist the black tide that swept over her in an effort to drag her down. She was the Captain, she had to stay in control.
“.. I-I’ve seen.. The Black Sea… and I’ve- spo- spoken with the Moon. I must go now.. But- will wait for you..
M-mm… My dear sister… I love you too.”
Mageria shook her head. “Grim is dead. Grim is . . . dead.”
Before her upon a burial pyre, lay the rows of the dead; the Salamanders that Grim had worked so hard to build for years.
And Grim himself.
Stepping forward, she bent and held the torch to the oil soaked kindling stacked around the bier, watching as it caught with a crackle and leapt to fulfill it’s purpose.
So sing together one and all,
And raise a glass of wine,
Here's hoping we will meet again,
Along the road of time.
For from endings come beginnings,
From the old shall come the new,
With hopes for tomorrow,
We'll see our parting through.
Together they watched as the flames died, leaving naught but ash behind. The snow continued to fall, blanketing everything in a falsely comforting sense of serenity. Even though there was nothing left for her, Mageria couldn’t bring herself to leave; it felt that if she just waited long enough, the moment would shatter and she would wake up and find it had all been a bad dream. Just a moment more . . . If she just waited one more moment. . . . . From behind her a harsh wind blew up, whipping the mingled ash and snow up and away into the sky, leaving only the memories carried by the living to mark their passing. Mageria drew a breath and bowed to the inevitable. This moment wasn’t going to go away, no matter how hard she prayed. Grim was gone and there was nothing that she could do to bring him back. At least the cold that had seeped into her very core would make it easier to do her job; so long as she didn’t feel, she couldn’t hurt.
Mageria felt like she was coming apart, cracking right down the middle. She couldn’t breathe and the room whirled around her in dizzying circles. She forced herself to look up, focusing on the man standing in front of her. Tala still stood at her side, hackles raised as she reacted to the stress that she was going through. Mageria swallowed hard, still swaying like a tree in the wind. “Grim . . . is . . . dead.” She said it with all the belief that she could muster, turning away to walk back to her room. But suddenly the blackness that had been hovering at the edges of her sight crashed down on her, taking the world away and leaving her to fall limply to the ground.
“You’re not Grim-”
The words were a venomous dagger. The raw shock of seeing Mageria in such disarray spread poison through his heart. He was standing there bewildered and silenced by the intensity of her pain. She had suffered, and his very presence tore open every wound anew, breaking his beloved captain once more. The knight just looked to his feet as would a scolded child, his fists clenching in the moment of helpless tension.
What had the knight expected? Knowing vaguely what happened in his absence he was aware that no warm reunions were going to take place. Yet he couldn’t help but feel sad, wishing that this could have unfolded another way. That his return marked more then just all the broken feelings that surrounded him. Seeing what it did to Mageria, feeling her wrath, her vexed state, and watching her as she fell. Was it worth the grief of so many to spare the life of one?
She soon blacked out and fell into the arms of her many guard. Grim moved his hand outstretched in concern, but he retracted dejectedly. The Black Guard held their weapons aloft, and the wolf growled at his gesture. None of them could possibly understand.
“Guard, take this ghost into custody. We’ll sort it out from there.”
Many bold men and women moved forward, yet Grim found his hand reached to his sheath. Perhaps it was the frustration of everything happening, maybe he desired to create conflict in spite. No matter the reason though, he pulled the Giant’s Knife from his back and readied himself.
“Take me if you can….”
The first spear was deflected with ease and slid over the top of the Giant’s Knife, rewarding the guardsmen with a blow to the face. The first fell but plenty replaced him, spears and swords and maces that reached for the Warlord. The Black Guard had never truly experienced being Grim’s opponent, but the history books would say that it was truly an impossible task. Even in such a small space and almost unarmed he held his ground. When one got close they were pushed and forced aside, many were caught with the flat side of the Giant’s Knife. An experience akin to being hammered with a large metal paddle.
Those of the Black Guard with any sense of training soon felt the difference in skill coming face to face with the Raging Demon. Even utilizing some of Mageria’s favorite stances or the classic forms they made no progress. Men and women were tossed and bruised, if not slammed about viciously. Of course the Warlord had no desire to kill them, and he was careful in his swings. Yet if either side wanted to win out they would have to up the ante.
A strike from a stray spear, the slice across an unguarded shoulder. Grim leapt back part in fear, the rest in despair. What was he thinking? He should have just surrendered and faced the prosecution of any that would dare pin him with a crime. After all he was Grim, and this sword was indeed him. Now though, now it was too late.
“No, No! What have you done!”
The Blade kneeled, placing his hand over his shoulder. From his lips he prayed, mercy for those who meant no harm, strength to those that could stop him. He pleaded that their souls be spared, that their memory be honored.
A horrible bestial scream erupted from his throat with fervor. The Black Guard were taken aback, and eased up on their position. Many picked themselves from the floor rearming themselves once more. Watching warily the thing at the other end of their walkway.
From the crowd split away a guard, bravely they rushed up to the shaking Grim. Mistaking control for pain, the brave lad rested a hand on his shoulder. True concern in his voice.
“H-hey, you okay?”
The last words the fool ever spoke. Grim’s hand shot out and found its way around his neck. Slowly he stood up his eyes burning with a fiery crimson light. Teeth gnashing in anticipation, and joy that his prey would run up to him. The poor fellow was lifted high overhead the life being chocked out of him.
In a few minutes the guardsmen was a shade of purple and struggled wildly in his massive paws. He watched the uneasy Black Guard through those tinted eyes. Licking over his lips in anticipation.
“Ready to meet the Twins!?”
The shadows lay still in the valley as figures moved around, made noises and ate what they had left from what they’ve found last night. Many of them thought they didn’t deserve the life they were living and were always quick to judge, always greedy beyond comprehension and stole what they had not yet earned. Others in the slum had faced the fact that there was no way out of this poor way of living - These men and women had become wise and could have had a fair chance at life, would they’ve tried.
However, of all the people moving around in the slums of Newhaven there was one in particular who had a plan. It was not as simple as getting out of the slums or making a living for himself. No, this man, this beggar had something much bigger planned out for Valcrest as whole land. Although these plans had yet to be shared with the people involved in it, they would very much become a reality as long as this beggar were breathing.
After a short nap, the man rose from the small place he had made for himself and moved out into the streets of Newhaven. In the poor area the streets were very much empty of any descent people and you could get robbed at blank point anytime of the time. However, as the beggar walked through the streets, most of shady figures avoided him and those who had the guts to throw a gaze at him quickly moved into the shadows between the broken houses that littered this area of Newhaven.
One might ask why people were avoiding the beggar and there was a simple explanation to it; The man in question showed on the first day he was sighted here that he was not to be disturbed nor messed with when he beat the crap out of one of the more stronger and violent people in the area. Ever since that, people had been avoiding him at all cost when he decided to take a stroll through the streets until he reached the better part of Newhaven.
After a short walk, the beggar found his way into the streets filled with the more ‘fine’ people of Newhaven. Of course, they despised him as much as he tried to tolerate their behavior against him. Lucky enough, he had been able to control his anger through all of this and he hoped that he would soon be able to drop this charade and move back to his plan. However, he couldn’t do anything as long as he was kept in the dark on what was going on in not only Newhaven, but also on other places around Valcrest.
Although most people avoided him in this area too, it was not of the same reasons as the ones back in the more shady places. However, all of the sudden a person bumped into him and as he looked back to see how it was, he saw a glimpse of the person under the hood. He quickly followed her through the crowd of people and it didn’t take long until they were facing each other in a valley to the side of the street.
”What do you have to report?” The beggar whispered as his eyes locked themselves on the short girl before him.
”Lena is back from the dead and Sean seems have to acquired a new recruit for himself. Have you heard anything from the others?” The girl asked and slowly looked around to make sure no one was eavesdropping on them.
”Yes, I just recently received news from both of them. Crystal and Allison were recently getting in trouble with Sean and the Wolfpack. However, I’ve seen both Evin and Crystal entering Newhaven some time ago. I think Evin has left now, but I’m sure crystal is still here.” The beggar spoke with some amusement to his voice before turning serious again, ”Lena is back? Did she say where she was heading next?”
”To Newhaven.” The girl replied shortly, but firm.
”Then the time for us to proceed has come. I will send Ezio’s hawks back to Ace and Barca with the news of Lena’s arrival. You and I will start things before they arrive.” The man explained as he took the leather bag that the girl known as Akida was carrying. It didn’t take long until he was equipped with all of his old equipment again. As he stepped out from the shadows of the valley he was no longer a beggar but Theron Lockwood, the Master Assassin of Terra.
”Let us move to the castle.” He ordered as they began to make their way through the crowd.
”Why the castle?”
”because there’s a commotion over at the castle over what the Black Knight Captain might have done or not done. It hasn’t been so interesting, but still worth checking into. And to answer your question; If I know Lena right, she will at least try to seek out Crystal and that girl has a gift to be in the midst of trouble all of the time. Thus, we go to the castle.” Theron ended the conversation and for the rest of the small trip over to the castle, they both remained quiet.
The Wolfpack’s Camp
”That bitch!” The man dragging on a cart through the rough roads in the forest muttered to himself under his breath. ”She thought she could fool me, fool Sean and fool everyone! I’ll show her. I’ll be the one fooling her.” He kept on telling himself the same things as he continued to drag on the cart behind him. Two mangled bodies lay broken in the cart, they’re wounds was days old. Both of them were of course dead and the reason why the man found himself dragging them in a cart, was almost beyond his own comprehension. However, he would be breaking a couple of more rules by leaving them out in the forest to rot by themselves.
”Never leave someone behind; Bring them back, no matter they’re dead or not.” He kept telling himself each time he was about to give up and just leave the cart there on the road. Soon enough there was no road, but instead a lot of terrain that really pulled on the man’s powers. Although he thought he would have to walk for another couple of hours, he soon found himself upon a familiar sight; The Wolfpack encampment. He felt relief shiver through his body as he whistle for actives to come and help him, but no one answered his call.
”Strange.”, he thought to himself as he whistled again. This time his call for assistance was answered, but not in the way he had believed; He was quickly surrounded by actives who trained their bows and arrows at him from all directions should he try something. The man was shocked to say the least and soon one of the instructors approached him from behind the wall of actives.
”What is the meaning of this?! Put down your bows immediately, least you want to lose your hands!” The man named Avius, known as the Second-in command of the Wolfpack, ordered with mixed feelings of raged and confusion.
”You have no authority here anymore, traitor.” The Instructor almost hissed, but kept his posture nonetheless.
”Traitor? TRAITOR!?” Avius almost lost it but he did his best to return to a calm stance again. ”I want to speak with your leader.” He asked with clenched teeth.
In the shadows anything can happen. People can scream and not be heard, they can die and none would care and they could kill and not be punished; It was a beautiful and fragile thing really. The shadows could cause so much harm and havoc at the same time as it could help and heal someone in pain. It was both a friend as well as an enemy.
However, in this case, it was tool used by a sole creature that crept amongst it in Newhaven. No one had yet to realize that another blood bath was soon to come, whether it be inside the city limits or outside of it and it would be cause by this very creature in Newhaven. It longed for blood and destruction, but more than anything, it longed for a special persons death; it wanted the life of Mageria, Captain of the Black Knights of Newhaven. She was its price and the only living person who had ever fought the beast and survived the encounter, but only through sheer luck.
In the last few days, the beast has been gathering its strength while sharpening its skills by killing off individuals here and there without causing too much commotion about it but a small guard report from time to time. It was pathetic for a proud beast such as it, but it had to be done to prepare it for the battle with Mageria. The next time it would loom over her broken body, it would not let Daniel stop it from slaying her. Not again.
The time for revenge will soon be at hand.
Phantom sighed and tucked away her flute, smiling softly. She leapt from roof to roof, singing softly to herself before making a wild and reckless jump for a roof that seemed too far away. She rolled onto it, hitting the top heavily and laying there for a moment, laughing until she realized that she was not alone. It was one of Kirsten’s hunters and he drew his dagger. Phantom balked at the sight, knowing that they could still yet kill her. She ran from the roof, jumping down into the alley and landing lithely on her feet, regretting it the moment she hit the earth. Her body screamed in pain and she forced herself forward, running back out into the crowd and right into a man.
The average man in Newhaven usually carried enough money on their person to buy three loaves of bread; the average woman about two and a half. Multiply that by twenty and you could buy yourself enough bread to eat for over a month. On the other hand, someone could buy something nice, like a fancy jacket or a even a fairly pretty dress. Wyatt wouldn't want any of those. He was after things far more specific then the money he'd pocket off the unsuspecting crowds. Yes, he was after money, but he was after far more than that. Something everyone wanted even if they didn't think about it. Something everyone needed.
As he was pocketing an unsuspected woman of her belongings, another woman, from out of nowhere crashed into him, toppling him into the ground. "Watch it miss, or I'll cut you." He snarled as he frantically collected the money he had stolen off the ground. "You mind helping me out. I feel as if you owe me one."
Phantom blushed as she again mumbled an apology, used to the threats by now and pulled her hood back up over her face, hiding the long silver hair.
“You could try to cut me,” she whispered, reaching down to snatch the last remaining coins, toying with them in her hands before carefully handing them to the man, “But I suggest you don’t. As for owing you, it depends on what you seek thief.”
She had said it so quietly that only the thief could have heard her, her hand gently reaching for the dagger she had attached to her hip. Her different coloured eyes stared out at this strange man, her lips pulling back into a smirk. She was going to help him out, just because she had been a thief once upon a time, but she swore never to go back. If he was searching for a partner he would be out of luck, gold or other riches she didn’t have. As far as she knew she didn’t have anything to offer, except her enlightenment which she could use to help hide him from the guards or distract people with.
She smiled at him, a winning smile, tossing her bangs out of her eyes and shifting into a more relaxed position. She wasn’t afraid of him, not in the least. She was sure that if she needed to she could beat him in any battle, except for hand to hand; she was trained by a knight for awhile. Phantom kept the innocent look on her face, her eyes brightening with the hint of an adventure.
Wyatt was really getting annoyed by this girl. She seemed to be in her early twenties and she was trying her best to act threatening while still being kind. People who couldn't go right out and prove how threatening they really were usually weren't that threatening at all. If he was to judge, she lacked experience as well. Someone who can't run properly through a crowd without running right into someone wouldn't be able to fight in that sort of situation, especially if she was concerned about the people around her's safety, which, judging by her kindness, she would. It would only take a couple of well placed strikes with a dagger to put her in a position where she would either have to take a hit, or risk hurting a civilian in the process.
"I'd say you just owe me a little help young Missy. In general, people help out a man that they just toppled over. Obviously you have no real sense of courtesy or you'd realize that." His eyebrows dipped and he scrunched up his nose. "You know, if you want to act threatening, it is easier if you run your mouth a bit more. If you’re too concerned about hurting the person's feelings than you shouldn't be uttering threats miss. Just yesterday I had an assassin threaten to kill me if I even tried to steal any of his goods. What are you compared to an assassin." He chuckled under his breath as he picked up the last few coins.
She liked him. Why she didn’t know except for the fact that he was straight forward and direct. Phantom grinned and nearly laughed.
“Phantom, not missy if you don’t mind. Again I am sorry for knocking you over and offer my help,” she smiled, “And as for running my mouth, I prefer to not display my skills through words but rather through actions. Lucky for you there are guards wandering around here or I would have cut out your tongue for your rudeness.”
She tossed her head slightly, gripping more firmly on her dagger, she was sure she could match him. The question was, what he was willing to try or do in front of all these people.
Wyatt really hated it when people thought of themselves as better than someone else, especially when they had a snide way of saying it. This Phantom girl talked action and how they spoke louder than words, but it was a whole other thing to actually follow through with the actions that one believed they would do. Phantom, for example believed that she would cut his tongue out. "Words are the gateway in which one sees how much one will really act and your words say nothing but 'pathetic' to me. You really think you are superior to a man you never really met. You haven't said it, but you sure seem to be implying it. So why not cut this inferior man's tongue out? Of course, what would the guards think of that? And I'm almost certain you had been running for a reason, so do you really want to draw attention to yourself?" He then stuck out his tongue, offering it for the taking.
She shook her head and stepped away.
“You have things to hide as well do I and everyone else in this city,” she sighed, casting a nervous glace at the soldiers marching past, “What do I owe you?”
"Yes, I have several things that I need to hide at any given moment." He grinned. "Odds are I won’t cut you because I don't need the attention either, but provoke me and I'll do it. But you, my friend, miss Ghost," he said mockingly, "were running with reason. Based on actions alone, it appears that you have far more to hide than I do. Maybe I'll start calling out your name and see what types of people start paying attention to me. Then I can figure out who you were running from."
The soldiers that had earlier passed by passed again. It wasn't a good sign at all. They had reason to be suspicious of him, but maybe they were eying the girl instead.
"Well Ghost, you really don't owe me anything now that you sorta helped me with the mess you made, but if you really feel that obliged to continue to help you could follow me and discuss what type of help you have in mind."
Phantom nodded, walking briskly after him. “Shout out my name and I guarantee that you will get more attention then you bargained for. If you fear death I suggest you don’t sir, the people I’m running from won’t hesitate to cut you as well.” She looked around at the roof tops, “What does a thief like you need help with?”
"If Lady Death wishes to take me with her, then it is my time, but those who kill me will be judged for what they did to me in the end. I may fear Death, yes, but there are far worse things to fear Miss Ghost." He continued to walk down a large, crowded street, pocketing while he moved along. Slowly the street narrowed, and became less crowded. The street vendors were further apart from each other until eventually there was only a few people here and there walking through a more relaxed part of the city.
Soon enough Ghost stopped to lean against a wall to ask him the question that seemed to be burning in her mind through the long walk. "Well as a thief I need no help at all. I prefer to work alone, but as a human it'd be nice to have some company from time to time. I could use a drink and I definitely have the money to pay for one. Do you wish to join me?"
Phantom thought about it and nodded, stepping up in front of him and laying her hand on his chest.
“I would love to keep you company,” she looked up into his eyes, “But try something…”
She backed away, waiting for him to lead her to the place he had in mind, her threat empty as she walked after him, her hips swaying lightly as she kept pace with him.
Someone who would follow a random thief into a secluded part of town was either an idiot or a fool. There had only been five other times that people had followed him blindly and none of them had such a sway in their walk that showed as much confidence as Ghost did. The times that people had followed them, they had been looking for answers or ways to get into the underground and most of them left with far less than they wished, both in knowledge and in flesh. Back when the Shadow Hunter was running ramped, he thought it would be fun to cut off an assassins ring finger. Wyatt thought of it as a gift more than anything. The assassin could tell all of his buddies that he had tangled with the Shadow Hunter and lived instead of telling an embarrassing story of how a thief had outwitted him.
"So here we are. It's not the best bar in town, but they have some of the best vodka this side of town. Go in, take a look. I'll be in in a second."
Her eyes narrowed and she placed her hand on her dagger, pulling the whistle from around her neck and blew a haunting melody, the call answered by the shriek of a hawk that spiralled down and landed on her outstretched arm. She knew that following him was dangerous, but she had lived as a thief to and with Kirsten’s hawk she felt safer. Her eyes locked on to the man, reading his face for any sign of betrayal and with a small growl her eyes changed colour.
“Do I have your word that you are not going to trick me,” her fingers of her free hand played along the hilt of her dagger as a large group of people she had “envisioned” walked past, laughing and chatting. She didn’t fear him, but common sense screamed at her to tread carefully, her hand reaching out to touch the door.
"As a thief, I don't make promises as I'm afraid I might not keep them." He smiled. "Now how long are we going to play this game of creating images from thin air? As a person whose profession it is to people watch, I know probably every face of Newhaven and where they would be at any given time. Most people in Newhaven don't go to this district until later at night after a hard day's work. Now are you going to go into the bar because you can always just leave as well."
She smiled and bowed her head opening the door and stepping inside, Kie having taken back to the air. Her eyes took in everything about the room, taking careful note of everything in the room. She turned to look at the thief outside.
The Ghost girl walked into the bar and quickly after, Wyatt smelt a wall of smoke flow towards him. "A new lady friend I see." The man with his cigarette said waving at one of the small windows of the bar. Wyatt looked back to see what he was waving at, only to see Ghost feeding her curiosity. "I never pictured you as being one to take a woman out to a bar. It's too fancy for you."
"Shut up Alexander! You know nothing about women. I know what you've had to deal with for the past three years! That woman's crazy." Wyatt replied. "At least from what I've heard."
"There are a lot crazier people than she... Do you have the money."
"Yes actually. More than I expected actually. Maybe I could save some for me and my lady friend?" He nudged Alexander's shoulder, barely moving the man who seemed like a brick wall. He smiled and laughed a bit until the joke quickly died and he became a lot more serious.
"Sure. I don't have what you need yet, but I'll get to that soon as I possibly can."
"You better Alexander, or I might have to do things to you that would make you cringe."
"You're all talk. I've seen things in my life that have caused others to kill themselves in their tents, Wyatt. You can test me, but I don't think anything you could do could make me cringe. Nice try bud." Alexander said and walked off towards the more crowded streets of Newhaven.
Wyatt walked into the bar with a big smile across his face as if he had just met a life-long friend. That was completely untrue as he had only known Alexander for about two years and had only actually met the man a handful of times all together in those two years.
He looked around the bar until he found the spot that Ghost had decided to sit. "So, what do you think of the place?"
Phantom looked around the bar, the people laughing and the sharp smell of drink and smoke clinging to everything around her. She coughed and smiled at the thief, having picked a table near the back. She kept her hood up and her eyes flickered from his face to those around her, moving along; the whores laughing along with the men who they were throwing themselves at while there were others hiding in corners, lips locked together. She shook her head laughing lightly and taking a drink from the flask that the barmaid had brought her. Surprisingly this place reminded her much of her tavern back in Blackpond, the smell, the laughter, the pressing of the air. She blinked as she realized that the thief had finally made it to her. The men that already begun to advance towards her dispersed back into the crowd as he sat down, backing away as they saw that she was already his. It wasn’t difficult to hear him and his question really got her to think.
“Honestly, it screams typical bar but it has this charming quality because of the lights and the smoke, almost making it alluring,” seeing the look on his face she blushed, and gently removed her hood, brushing the silver stands away to frame her face, “I like it.”
Wyatt nodded in agreement. "I like it too, but it could use some entertainment; you know, maybe a singer or someone who can play some instrument. My only real complaint. Well that and it can get a little too crowded later at night. You know what I'm saying?" He sat down and waved his hand in the air to signal the bartender. When the bartender looked over at him, he put down the glass he had been cleaning and put his middle and index fingers up as a sort of signal. Wyatt nodded and the bartender went back to cleaning his glass.
"The other thing I like about it is that there is a small restaurant beside this joint." He lifted his nose and his nostrils flared up. "Mmmm! Smells like sweet potatoes. I wonder what they are making there. Oh yes, in case I forgot. My name's Wyatt!"
Beside him, he heard glass hit the table. He looked over at his drink. He nodded again at the bar tender who served him his drink and the bartender smiled and walked off. "Good staff too."
“Wyatt,” she murmured, testing the name and then smiling at him, “It’s amazing how pleasant you can be when you’re not being rude.”
She tipped her glass back, shivering as the vodka burned down her throat and she shook her head, laughing lightly. Her eyes sparkled and she casually sniffed the air, closing her eyes as she smelt the sugary smell of sweet potatoes. She opened her eyes and smiled at him.
“It smells amazing,” she whispered and beamed at him. She didn’t notice the group of men watching her from the corner, envy in their eyes.
Wyatt followed Ghost's eyes to a group of men who in turn had their gazes set on her. A few more drinks from those men and things would get out of hand. Nothing that he couldn't handle with a few smooth gestures. After he slipped them the bird (slang for the middle finger) and the men awkwardly tried to reply to it in their drunken stupor, Wyatt turned back around. He took a sip of his drink and swallowed it with ease, unlike Ghost who, if he was to judge, probably couldn't hold down too much. "I try to keep my profession and my personal life separate just like any businessman. You see, I need to keep an image up so people don't mess with me. My personal self on the other hand is a nice man. Sometimes the two get connected. I guess you could call me bipolar, but I personally like to call it biwinning. Do you drink often?"
Phantom smiled and shook her head.
“No not really,” she paused seeming to think about something before continuing, “Not much, I prefer to have a head clear in case of an emergency. Drink can make a person do something they never would.”
She looked over at the bar tender and motioned for another, taking it gently from him as he winked and wandered back to clean the glasses. She took another sip, this time the fire of the drink not burning. She hadn’t had a single drink since, well, she was with her rowdy group of bandits. She had gotten so drunk they had to carry her home. The memory made her laugh quietly to herself and she gingerly took another sip. She casually watched the comings and goings of other people, having nothing really to say. After a moments silence she focused back onto Wyatt.
“I assume you drink when you can,” she said lightly, “Tell me more about yourself.”
The demand came out more of a question and she found that she really was interested to hear his story. She blinked and looked down at her drink thinking that the alcohol was getting to her already and she took another sip before looking at him.
“Funny you should ask me about myself. I don't typically tell people this." That was a lie. "I actually work for a man in the castle. I'm a personal servant to the city's warlord. He advises the Queen on a whole lot of war related things. Nothing all that interesting. Doesn't pay that well so I spend the time that I'm not working for the warlord, I work as a thief. Helps to give me a lot more spending money than usual. I'm sure someone like you doesn't understand fully." He took another sip of his drink.
He preferred to drink things that were diluted by something. Wyatt found it funny to see her drinking the vodka strait, or at least that is how it appeared. Maybe she was trying to make herself look tougher or she was trying to fit in with Wyatt who was letting out a tough exterior to her. Wasn't working out as well as she was expecting it to be. Wyatt didn't care why she was doing it though. He would stick to his mixed drink.
Phantom nodded, closing her eyes and pushing the glass away from her as she gently shook her head. Two small shots of the drink was all that she needed and this last little bit she didn’t much care for. She liked it, the tingling of the drink and the fire that burned in her belly. She was very, very glad that she had mixed the drink, more water than vodka. She wasn’t about to get drunk in front of a tricky thief who she didn’t know all too well. She didn’t care what the hell he thought either, if anything she could always rely on Kirsten to kill him if it came to that. She smirked and her eyes wandered over to the window her body starting as she realized that she had been gone far too long and surely Bran and Sophie had noticed that her enlightenment had failed and the bed she had been in was now empty. She glanced back at Wyatt and back to the window. Her eyes narrowed and she hastily reached for her hood, pulling it back up over her hair and pulling the bandana that lay across her neck up, covering everything but her eyes. She smiled at Wyatt, knowing that he couldn’t see what her face looked like under the cloth.
“I’m sorry, but I really must be getting back,” she whispered, glancing out the window and cursing herself for blatantly ignoring how long she had been gone. “Forgive me?”
Wyatt rose from his seat as Ghost began to leave. "Until we meet again Miss Ghost... and trust me, I'll assure we meet again." He smiled and showed her off with a friendly wave.
Phantom left quickly, walking briskly down the street, keeping her head low. She stuck mostly to the alleyways that wound through Newhaven like tiny veins. She smiled lightly, wondering how Wyatt would be able to tell they would meet. She laughed lightly, from threats to an untrusting companionship, she loved people like that. She didn’t notice as Kie circled down, flying past her before rising back up into the musty air of the city. Phantom smiled one of her rare, true smiles, her eyes tracking the magnificent bird. She paused, leaning against a wall as people moved around her, all too busy to look up and enjoy the beauty of life. Sadly she thought to herself how the people never were able to focus on the now part of life. Phantom figured that one could argue that they opt not to live in the present but rather in the past and speculate over the future because the present scares them. After all it made since, sometimes things happened in the present that even she tried to overlook or ignore because she don’t want the event to be happening. After a few moments of watching the bird she came to the conclusion that the people of Blackpond and Newhaven were all in a sense of denial. She shook her head sadly and continued onwards turning down a tiny lane of houses, nearly screaming as a man dressed in black stepped in front of her. She gulped and managed only a whimper as she saw that it wasn’t one of the Black Guard but instead one of the Night Hunters, and he still hadn’t made a single move towards her.
“It’s alright,” the Hunter whispered, beckoning her forward, deeper into the alley. She immediately moved forward, her body seeming to disobey everything she was telling it to do. “Phantom,” the man said pulling back his hood and she nearly fell into his arms. It was the face of her brother’s best friend, Lichen. He had the special enlightenment of coercion and she carefully pulled back her own hood and lowered her mask as well.
“Lichen,” she whispered, reaching out to touch his face gently as if she couldn’t believe that he was alive and standing right in front of her.
“How’s my girl,” he teased, his lips curving to smirk as she gently punched him in the arm, “No seriously how are you?”
“Fine,” she said annoyed that he still considered their one night stand something that connected them, “Kirsten hasn’t called off the hunt?”
Lichen shook his head sadly his eyes reflecting the pain he had suffered from the bonding and having to be torn away from her.
“From you yes. We hunt another, a girl named Ari,” he shrugged slightly smiling wickedly at the doubtful look on her face, “No it’s not for fun either. Apparently she is a Wolf and our Lord wants answers.”
Phantom nodded slowly, glad for her own safety that she wasn’t on the hit list as of now but, instead this poor girl Ari had taken her place. Based on what Lichen’s face had shown, she would be an easy hunt, obviously a stand out in a crowd, if not in her looks then she didn’t know the way of the city. Phantom suddenly felt a deep sense of pity for the girl and she was determined to find her as soon as she was done here. Kirsten couldn’t ever know it was her who helped; her mind had a natural block on it. She was amused by the notion that any telepath would not be able to receive anything, information or messages unless she willed it. She owed that to her father.
Phantom looked lovingly at the man who stood in front of her, his fingers gently running down the feathers of the arrow on his strung bow. He needed to get back to the hunt and she could tell that he was fighting very hard to ignore the call and stay with her. She stood on her tip toes and stole a kiss from him, smiling as his eyes widened with moderate shock.
“You have to go, I can see it,” she stepped back giving him room to run.
“Don’t do anything stupid Spirit, for my sake.”
She nodded, placing her hands behind her back and crossing her fingers, something she and Lichen would do if they made a promise and yet intended to break it. He nodded and gently caressed the side of her face, tilting her chin up as if to kiss her. Phantom saw what he was doing and pulled away, laughing lightly.
“Not a chance,” he muttered, tapping her gently on the tip of her nose before running off, leaving her pressed against the wall for a moment. She shrugged and remasked herself turning to wander out of the little alleyway and out into the bigger one, her eyes catching a glimpse of Lichen reaching the rooftops and heading toward a specific direction. She casually began to wander that way; it just happened to be in the direction she needed to go anyways, perhaps Lichen would lead her right to the girl. She smiled lightly, picking up her pace and whistling to herself when no one was around. Poor little thing, she sighed, all alone in the city with nowhere to hide and the Hunt on her. She shook her head: that was just cruel. AS she walked her mind wandered to Sophie and Bran, her heart stopping for a beat as it hit her just how much trouble she would be in. She hurried along, visually marking which direction Lichen had gone before sprinting past people to get to the Black Guard. The least she could do was give them a friendly message before going off on a little hunt of her own. She smiled, that is what she was going to do. Aid and return the favor given to her. Phantom ran past buildings, determined to reach the Guard and the girl in time.
Day had given them something that allowed them to be able to do more work, but doing more work wasn’t always as fun as it was intended to be. Night had given them a time to sleep; a break from the day, but the darkness allowed for people to commit crimes easier than during the day. Fire gave humans a way to keep warm, but if one was to get too close to a flame they could burn themselves or worse. Water gave humans something to parch their thirst, but one could die from drowning in it. Earth gave humans a good and sturdy building material, but if it was to fall over, one who get seriously hurt. Wind gave humans something to chill them down, but it is possible to be too cold. Despite the official story telling that Life was selfish and didn’t give the humans a gift, he in fact did. He gave people the gift of enlightenment, but people used it as tools of war. Death gave people away to escape the world and its pain, but the fear of escape could be unbearable to some. Time and space gave only concepts which were useful, but nothing more than just ideas. War gave humans a way to protect themselves, but it could be used just as effectively to attack people as well. Peace gave humans an idea of when weapons were to be used, but sometimes the knowledge would get in the way of reason and people would hesitate before using their weapons which could result in death.
They all gave important things to the humans in Valcrest, but they were also a curse.
Ella was in her room and thinking about the gifts that the people in Valcrest were given. She thought how so many of the gifts were things that people would complain about or taken for granted. All the while she looked at her scarred hand. The soft skin, the one that she had worked so hard to rid of the calluses from working with Evin for that year was scared with this mark. It was the first time that she had a chance to look at the mark. It seemed like a symbol for something. It looked like a capital ‘H’ with two diagonal lines in the middle instead of a single horizontal line like a regular ‘H’ would have. Something seemed odd about the way it had scarred however. It was perfect indents with perfect lines. Everything was too perfect about it to be a scar, and the weirder part was it never really scabbed up all that much. It seemed to get more into the perfect lines of a scar on her hand. If someone was to notice it, it would look like it had been painted on. She moved her gaze from her hand and around her room to where a guard was standing at her door. She sighed for her lack of privacy which slowly fading with every passing day.
She moved her hand across the armrest of her chair and onto her chair side table which held a small book on in, loosely banded by two strings on either side. Opening it revealed several pages of differing handwritten ledgers that only the privileged could look at: Ella. Actually, it was a book containing secrets about Kings and Queens of the past. Not only were there writings from Newhaven, but also one’s from Blackpond and even an entry—the first, from Effort. It wasn’t anything that would answer any questions though. It explained what the King had eaten for breakfast the morning he wrote it. It also had an explanation about a few mining tricks of the trade. Fun in theory, but not very viable for practice in the day and age she was at. In the earliest of the pages without any writing, there was a writing utensil. She grabbed it off the page and put the tip to the table.
“I understand the laws of this book and I further understand that I can only make one entry in my lifetime. This book will be passed onto the King of a city or faction of my choosing. This makes me come into question, is the Wolfpack’s Alpha a King? Who really cares? If I break a rule for sending it to him then so be it. Odds are by the time anyone else who would care gets to reading this, I’ll be long gone. Dead, if you wish to have me put it to you bluntly. So you can quit being a bitch while you’re reading this and deal with the fact that I’ve broken some sort of sacred law. Like I give a shit what you think. It seems odd talking to someone who isn’t even alive, so I’m going to stop now. I only have two pages to write what I want to write.
I believe that there are more important things that I could write about in the future of my rein, but I feel like this is the only way I can vent my frustrations. Seems silly really, like I’m an angsty teenager or something ridiculous like that. The events in the past few days have been ridiculous. A lady from Blackpond coming to my door and giving me a letter telling me something about a debt that the Wolfpack has for an assassination attempt on Crystal River’s life. They also gave us an offer. It was an officer to do the same thing that they did for Sean, Alpha of the Wolfpack. I don’t even know what I’d do with it. I think they expect me to use it someone in Newhaven that I don’t like, but can I also use it on someone I don’t like in Blackpond?
The next important thing I want to talk about is the disbanding of the Black Knights. As I write this, the Black Knights are falling apart. With news of the Captain of the Black knights killing the Captain before. I tried to explain to the council that the whole purpose of the Black Knights is to do dirty work Newhaven and how killing a superior officer was no surprise, but Xypher, the warlord and the man who pointed made the accusation explained that a power struggle, even in the Black Knights is not a good thing and sadly, I had to agree with him. It made me understand why the warlord himself was so adamant about bringing this issue to light.
I got my way with allowing them time to get out of the castle, but I already know that there are warrants being made out for the arrest of Mageria and maybe even the rest of the Black Knights. There is only one Black Knight that I know will not be in the same trouble as most. The only ones who actually know his identity are the White Knights and the Black Knights. I do fear that the Blackpond woman will know of his true identity now however. It was a mistake to send him to Blackpond. I told him to bring someone, but he has too much pride. Who can I trust?
After reading a lot of different entries that have been written and how much work has been done to make a good last impression with their words. They create such elaborate weave of words. It just makes me dizzy. I’m going to save whoever is reading this the pleasure of reading a beautiful work of poetry and instead leave you with these less than flattering words: Newhaven is a lot shittier that what any history book will tell you about this era. The most recent of Sieges did a number on us and I don’t know how long it will truly take to recover. I hope that things turn out better in the future, with or without Newhaven in the picture.
-Ella Page Of Newhaven”
After finishing with a date: “Winter, 2555” in the top corner. Historians believed that they chose the date because 2555 years ago is the date that they believe the first human had enlightenment. Why they didn’t just stick to the very beginning of Valcrest’s existence 4000ish years ago she wouldn’t understand.
Ella twisted herself in her chair to grab her cloak which was resting on the back of the chair. She opened it up to easily wrap it around her and walked towards the door where her guard was standing guard. She almost felt just as bad for the man she’d never met as she did for herself. He had to just stand at a door as long as she stayed in there or until is shift was up, which wouldn’t be for another couple of hours. It must have been a boring job.
“I’d like to go out to the courtyard for some fresh air.”
The guard looked at her for a second. The life in his eyes seemed to be somewhere else, far away, but he was looking at him. He then shook his head a few times and everything was there. “Sorry my Queen, what was that?”
“Oh, right! Yes, let’s go. Do you have everything you want?”
“Yes, let’s go.”
The two left the room together and no matter what, this guard was not going to let them out of his sight. It was so frustrating. She was a dog stuck on a leash, only going as far as was allowed of her so that the soldier could protect her. She need to break the chained leashed that held her back from just the smallest bits of freedom.
When they made it close to the courtyard, she reached into her pockets and quickly shot them out again, then started patting around the pockets to make it appear as if she was reassuring herself that what was supposed to be in her pockets wasn’t there.
“Oh no! It seems I’ve forgotten the book I’d been writing in. That’s what I wanted to do with my time outside.”
“Well let’s go back and get it then my Queen.”
“You don’t expect me to go all the way back, do you? You must be kidding yourself if you expect the queen of Newhaven to go all that way to get it.” She sounded like a bitch, but it would be worth it in a moment. “If you want to keep this position protecting the queen, which I’m sure pays very well, then I’ll expect you to go back up to my room and retrieve my book for me. Do I make myself clear?”
The conflict in the poor man’s eyes was obvious. To leave the queen could get him into trouble, but not following Ella’s orders could get him fired. “I’ll be right back my Queen.” The soldier ran back down the hall. This would allow Ella to finally get some privacy, and possibly into some trouble. In the five minutes it took the soldier to realise that the book wasn’t in Ella’s room, Ella was in the downtown area of Newhaven.
The day seemed to have been going by really terribly for the Wolfpack and Vorso knew he had a part in it. When he and his team had tried to break into the camp, it seemed that the security was too strong to get past anything. Things changed however when they were on another round, searching for a weakness in the defence. Hanging from a tree was a large grouping of animals. Every animal that could be found in a forest was there, except for a few very dangerous animals, which even the smartest of people wouldn’t dare try to kill. One of those animals that were missing was a wolf. The Vorso believed that it wasn’t intended to attract assassins. Maybe someone in specific, but defiantly not for assassins. If the Wolfpack had seen a wolf, they would immediately lower their defences in a frantic search for these people. It would cause emotion that wouldn’t make them think clearly. Sean was such a fool.
It would be a while until someone had actually found the display and by that time they had already made it into the camp. They would witness the recklessness of a new recruit and a feeble Alpha who couldn’t deal with all the problems that were caused around him.
It was finally the time that they were to reveal themselves. Sean was sitting alone at the secluded lake in the territory.
“What should we do Vorso? Are we killing him?” Dax, the water creator asked.
“If we were going to kill him, he would have been dead a few hours ago. We’re here to talk.” He paused, looking down at the lake. It was beginning to freeze around the edges, but wasn’t completely frozen. “If he is a good assassin he will already know we’re here. The four of you spread out a bit just as precaution. Hayden and Winfield keep close… just in case.”
The four following Vorso spread out, not caring if Sean noticed them. He would already know what was going on, but it would be stupid if Sean decided to attack first, so there was really no worry. When the four were in their positions, Vorso spoke out.
“Imagine the Wolfpack losing another leader Sean? That would be the fourth in a very short period of time. Don’t do anything stupid and then we will leave peacefully soon enough. Now you’ve never met me, so I don’t expect you to know who I am. I’d like to keep it that way. The only thing you need to know is that the Shadow’s Conflict is here for payment.”
Ess pushed back her chair, making her way for the door. “You are younger than me...although a man..you’re still a boy.” With a laugh she added, “Don’t take offense..just accept it Luckas.” She knew age didn’t mean much, as it was one’s mentality that mattered, but she thought it was funny how she may have slightly touched on one of Luckas’ nerves. Ess fished out a few more coins, feeling a tad bit bad for the bar tender’s current state, leaving her a hefty tip.
“Huh??” Ess stared at Luckas long and hard..”Really...THAT was..” She looked almost offended as she eyed Luckas. “Why the Hell, would I challenge HER?” Ess didn’t understand what Luckas was getting at as she opened the door and exited, only a few more minutes towards her home. Ess only had ever heard rumors and rumors..well...never did one justice. With a sigh she whispered, “I guess anything is possible, except me sharing...” She smiled half heartedly, playfully giving Luckas a shove. “You definitely don’t want to see me jealous either..”
As they approached her home, a simple cottage size building with one large room, Ess noticed a note on the door. Snatching it down, she didn’t even bother to read it as she crumpled it up knowing who it was from. After unlocking the door, she quickly threw a few logs onto the dying fire to add some light to the room, as she kept the curtains closed on her windows. She paused, as if debating what to do with the note before she tossed it into the fire. Unhooking her belt, she lazily draped it along her bed, her fingers slipping beneath her Tunic to retrieve her leather journal. Her eyes froze over a simple, old looking Teddy Bear dressed as a knight that guarded her pillows only to snap out of her trance, she grabbed the Bear and placed both the stuffed memory and journal on an empty shelf.
Ess sighed, mostly silent as she lit more candles and began retrieving clean bowls from a cabinet. Wandering back over to the fire, she hung a tiny caldron over the flames as they grew, it containing a stew she had made the day before consisting of assorted meat and veggies from the market. Unwrapping a small cloth, she revealed half a loaf of bread she cut in halves for herself and Luckas, placing the pieces beside their bowls on her mini table beside the fireplace. As the fire roared, many of the shadows dissipated revealing entire walls covered in Ess’s drawings; wolves, dragons, self portraits of her different selves (including her true form), Tala, what appeared to be a family portrait of her father and brother, and a smaller picture of a young boy simply labeled ‘Blue Eyes.’ All of them were drawn in ink, with exceptional details, only the eyes had color which added to the illusion that they seemed to follow her where ever she went.
“Sit Luckas, relax..stay a while.” Ess smirked, pointing towards a ceramic bowl and pitcher of water before a grand mirror that reached towards the ceiling. “Go wash up first..it’s my silly pet peeve, people who eat with dirty hands.” With a shrug she gave the stew a stir before wandering over to a large white tapestry extending from floor to ceiling; painted with what looked like a dying Oak tree. She carried a candle over to it and stepped behind to change. Ess didn’t care that Luckas was in the room, or that he probably saw her hourglass silhouette shadowed behind the cloth as she threw on a simple red cotton gown, stretchy and comfortable. Ess appeared from behind the cloth holding the candle in one hand and a set of men’s clothes in her other hand. The shirt and pants were a plain black, the material loose and soft. Quirking a brow she wondered out loud, “You think these would fit you? I made them some time ago but they won’t fit me...you can have them if you want.” Essence didn't need them and she didn't want Luckas to think she was being charitable, so not to cause offense or wound his pride.
"So, what you're saying is that I'm a man-child, is that it?" Luckas asked, slightly amused. He didn't quite get why Ess seemed somewhat offended by his comments. He was just playing, and his tone showed it clearly, but he brushed it off as she shoved him saying that he wouldn't want to see her jealous. "Oh, I don't see why I would ever see that." He said innocently, with a small chuckle.
As they arrived at her house, Luke was quiet for quite some time; his eyes registering things such as the note at the door, later tossed into the fire unread; the teddy bear on the bed and the journal that were put away together in a shelf. He took his time looking over all the drawings on the walls, the one of the boy caught his eye and he couldn't seem to look away from it... It was familiar somehow, but maybe he'd seen it in her memories at some point. Looking away from the drawing he finally broke his silence as he walked to wash up as she asked.
"Your drawings are impressive, you know." He stated, washing his hands and face and frowning slightly at how pale his face looked in the mirror. He didn't turn to where the woman was changing, however he took a very discrete glance in her direction, which was followed by a little smirk. He only turned to face her when she asked him the clothes would fit. He stared long and hard at the clothing, half wondering if they did fit, half wondering if he should take them. The infirmary had been the only occasion in which he accepted anything from another person, but he was naked then.
The clothes Mageria had given him were a little long on the arms and legs, but they did fit just fine and, aside from the little blood stain in one of the sleeves, they were new. Luke never carried anything, he was used to taking what he needed in the moment he needed it, in any way he needed to. Be it food, clothes, money... It didn't matter. "They might, yeah." He answered simply, still unable to actually say he'd take them. Finally he spread his arms and looked down at his clothing before looking back to Ess. "Why, do I not look handsome in these? I thought they were quite stylish." He joked, then he waved the blood stained sleeve. "Although the shirt might be permanently ruined."
" “Your drawings are impressive, you know."
Ess smiled, her cheeks flushing softly with color at the compliment, almost forgetting the drawings were even there. Feeling a bit embarrassed she answered slowly, “Thank you Luckas...uh..just something I do to pass the time...sometimes I fear I may forget what I cherish most..or what they look like.” She glanced along the drawings of her family and her childhood friend with an accomplished nod, unrolling the shirt and pants to see how they sized up to Luckas.
“They seem alright...and definitely warmer than what you have on.” Ess stepped back draping the set onto the bed. “They are there if you would like them.” She added a wink, “I will admit Luckas, you are handsome..but don’t tell anyone I caved...you know how rumors are.” She looked over the blood stain on his sleeve and only answered his comment on how the shirt may be ruined, with a questioning gaze. Was he hurt? She didn’t want to pry, so she simply turned back towards the fire, serving the re-heated stew into the bowls. Absently she went to get Tala’s dish on the floor, pausing abruptly with a small laugh, forgetting that her furry friend was not around. She felt almost naked and alone without her faithful companion and had to remind herself that she indeed was neither of those things.
Ess seated herself at the table only after she quickly washed her hands, motioning for Luckas to join her, not waiting for him to sit himself before she began nibbling on the bread, dipping it into the stew. After a few moments in silence, both of them munching away at their meal, Ess paused to pour them both a glass of water. “So, you said in theory, my idea should work. Is it going to be painful? What do you want me to do? The memories transferred, if it works, will emotions be included?” Ess let the flow of questions escape her, her words almost colliding together. She shook her head at herself, thinking her current action reminded her of her childhood friend, how he would always ask a lot of questions all at once, before taking a breath. Essence hadn’t realized until now that, that had rubbed off on her.
"...sometimes I fear I may forget what I cherish most..or what they look like."
Luckas flinched slightly at that sentence, shooting another glance around the drawings on the walls as if he now saw them as extra people in the room. It made him nervous for inexplicable reasons and he didn't speak for a long while, still giving the walls discrete glances as he sat at the table and started digging into the food. The silence gave him time to think of how much he was trusting Ess, and how much that could cost him... He also wondered what she would think of him if he told her... Who he was, what he knew he was... Could she ever understand...
He broke out of his thoughts at the sudden wave of questions. "It won't be painful, all you have to do is relax and maintain eye contact. No emotions are involved aside from whatever feelings you have at the moment." He answered, in one breath, just the same way she had asked. Then he stared at her for a little while before asking something out of the blue. "How did you get that?" He asked, tracing his finger along his own eye as if drawing her scar on his face.
Essence steadied herself at Luckas’ question, her fingers swiping the last bit of bread around the bowl to pick up the remanence of stew as her chewing slowed dramatically. She wouldn’t raise her gaze up to meet his as he stared at her. Not knowing how to respond exactly even though this wasn’t the first time she was asked that question, Ess simply painted a smile on her face, pushing herself to her feet, evading the question. “Would you like more to eat, Luckas?” Ess abruptly turned towards the fire, the flames reflecting in her violet orbs as her smile faded. She didn’t know how much Luckas had absorbed of her soul, but she had assumed he knew about certain demons that remained buried beneath her surface, including how she obtained her scar. Crossing her arms, her hands clasped her elbows tightly as if she were shivering from a chill, remembering with a sigh that she had told him to ask her questions instead of invading her personal space and he was remaining true to her request.
“...I acquired many scars with this one around the same time...” Ess began hesitantly. With a shrug, she kept her back towards Luckas as she continued. “...I had my revenge...many of those responsible for my pain..are no longer in this world..” Clearing her throat she glanced over her shoulder at Luckas, “It’s a pathetic story..I’m sure it would just bore you.” Even though she was trying to avoid the answer to Luckas’ question still, she wouldn’t lie to him and she knew if he pursued the knowledge, she may just re-tell one of the many tragedies of her life. Ess suddenly felt mentally weak for even considering such a tale to someone she barely knew...but then again she hadn’t felt such an odd connection with anyone in quite some time, and it scared her tremendously.
Luke had been leaning forward on the table, but immediately pulled back when Ess avoided his question and stood up from her seat, leaning back as far as he could. He was used to hitting people’s weak spots, but he usually did it willingly. He didn’t think this would be such a delicate subject; he simply wanted to use the example to get a point across. Her reaction, however, proved that his question was much more important than he thought it was.
Not really knowing what to do, he absently chewed on the last piece of his bread until there was nothing left, listening to the little Ess was willing to tell, and seeing how difficult it seemed for her to tell him that much. Looking at her in that particular moment made him wonder what memories truly were; blessings or curses. Suppose it depended on what memories one kept, but either way they all posed as weaknesses in a way or two.
Slowly, Luckas pushed his chair back and got on his feet. Walking over to where Ess was standing, he stood as close to her as he thought he could without being intrusive and reached out as if he was going to grab her shoulders, but stopped himself half way through the gesture and lowered his hands, letting them rest at his sides. “You don’t have to tell me any more, if you don’t want to.” He whispered. “Just answer me this: If you could forget all those terrible things that happened in the past. If you could erase those memories, and still be you, but not knowing what made you this way… Would you want that? Do you think it would be better?” This he hoped she would answer. It wasn't just important... It was everything.
Looking up from the flames, Ess inhaled deeply as she turned to face Luckas. Something natural, that had been lost emerged from inside herself, dropping all facades Ess let her walls fall in that moment. She took a tiny step forward so that they were just far enough to not be touching, but the heat of her skin emanated from her entire being, radiating like the fire behind her. Gently she looked up into his dark eyes in a peaceful, thoughtful manner.
“You want to know, if I would willingly erase my past?....To avoid pain and still be who I am? That isn’t possible, Luckas because I would be someone else entirely.” Ess eyes flickered and glowed with her heightened emotion, brushing a loose curl from out her gaze. “We define ourselves by our pain and triumphs. How do we learn and better ourselves if not from those memories? We can’t always choose what happens to us, but we can choose how we continue on in our lives, what to do with the cards we have been dealt.” She paused, taking in a breath, her eyes gazing back and forth from his own, down towards his mouth as she watched his expression, looking to understand where these questions came from.
“I would rather feel pain, than be empty. Sometimes we need to act irrational, to be sane in the long run. I choose, to be a stronger person. I chose to suffer for a time, because I thought it was my punishment for my failures. I am beginning to understand differently now, but I would not be standing before you now without going through what I did. I understand that there may be some memories I have wished to do without, but in the end, what’s the point? We might as well just light a fire and burn in our emptiness.....ring out...give up.” Ess closed her eyes a moment, inhaling through her nose before opening those beautiful eyes back up at Luckas, shaking her head. “I admit, I was weak once. That I am still lost in some ways. I know what it’s like to be a slave and have no free will, so I appreciate my life now and my ability to choose, even if they are not always the right choices.”
Essence didn’t realize how her hand reached up to touch Luckas’ cheek as she whispered, “Life doesn’t always make sense and is never easy, but the journey is just as important as reaching the end, Luckas. How would you realize what you love and hate?....How would you make sense of all the chaos that is in this world?...I’ll tell you what still hurts just as much as knowing I can never be a mother.....” Ess retracted her hand, her warm, soft skin brushing down Luckas’ chin. “It’s losing loved ones. But I would rather have known them, than never met them. Even if they disappoint or hurt me...because Luckas...because they have helped shape me into the person I am today...” Ess pointed knowingly where the picture of the blue eyed boy hung on the wall.... “That boy...that child....showed me many things..had more knowledge and wisdom at that age than I did...He taught me that I am beautiful...that I do matter...That I should stand up for myself and defend my life. That if you really do love someone, you trust and support them, even if you don’t always agree with their actions...that we can forgive...”
With a shaky laugh, her eyes glimmered with tears she never let skim the surface of her skin. She caught herself in her rant, a bit surprised she unraveled like a ball of twine, her skin blushing a deep red as she kept her gaze upon Luckas. “I’m sorry...guess I went off the deep end a second there...Not what you expected huh?” A shy smile curled her lips, her mind wondering if she had said too much.
Luckas stood facing Ess hearing her words intently, as if in a trance. Although his body was as still as he could be, his mind was racing furiously underneath his cold exterior, something inside his chest was aching painfully for reasons that, once again, he was unable to understand. She had said what he expected her to say; what he wanted her to say, what he needed someone to say... It was validation in a way... Purpose... Meaning... Maybe those thing existed after all. Maybe this was someone he could share his secrets with one day... One day, maybe soon, but not today...
Opening a rather faint smile he moved back to his chair and sat, leaning back on the chair and looking up at the woman before speaking. "Let's say then, hypothetically that you had this one terrible event happen in your past... Something so horrible that merely scratching the surface of that memory brings more pain than any normal person could possibly handle without giving up their sanity... Knowing the nature of those memories, knowing the little you know about what they could do to you... Would you still want to remember? Would it be worth it? He asked. "If you had been who you are your whole life without knowing, if you were aware that once that door opened it could never be closed again... Would you want to know then? Isn't ignorance bliss in this case?" His tone was one of someone presenting a simple logic problem, but something in Luckas' eyes gave away the fact that it wasn't such a simple question to him.
Essence smirked at the word as she breathed, “Hypothetically hmm...?” Her brows narrowed a bit as she studied Luckas, understanding there was something deeper he was hinting at, but what she couldn’t decide. He had stood before her and actually listened to what she had to say. Not many ever cared to do that, even if there was a personal reason behind it. She didn’t understand why it mattered what she thought as he continued at her with more questions, studying her in return.
“It’s only human to be hesitant or frightened of pain..emotional, physical, or both. Is it easier to live a lie? To deny oneself? Yes. Everyone has experienced such opportunities to avoid or escape pain, and it’s natural to do so. Yet, one can never really escape the past and it will catch up. Does one choose the path of insanity and despair, strength and prosperity, or perhaps one discovers insanity only to recover. Whatever is devastating enough to tear through a person, once that gauntlet is passed, the release is euphoric.” The glow from her eyes brightened as she bit down on her bottom lip at a thought, snickering to herself. Clearing her throat she seemed to float across the floor, seating herself back across from Luckas. “I think the journey would be most devastating, this extreme pain. If it is something to even consider, then it is worth it. Opening new doors has only proved beneficial in the long run....just have to find a way over the bottomless pits.” She started to laugh, “You know...the ones with the soul devouring demons with scary sharp teeth..” She stood abruptly, making her way over to the leather journal she had placed on the far shelf. Quickly ruffling through some pages, she paused at an eerie drawing, her laughter slowing. Looking up she turned the journal about to display her version of a demon.: A small, lanky, yellow slit-eyed creature with dagger like teeth. The skin was almost transparent hinting that whatever was inside this thing burned with a hideous fury. “I’m not religious at all, by the way, but this is what I think of when I am battling my demons. I believe we all have them inside us...sometimes they win battles..however small...But when we win battles...they are forever life altering.” She paused again before finishing, “If you give a meaning, a reason, or find that purpose in something else that makes the pain worth it...then to hell with Ignorance..”
Erin and the boys had taken Ari back to the Dark house, the place they always stayed in Newhaven whenever Kirsten’s or their prey had fled Blackpond and instead sought safety in Newhaven. They were safe from the questioning stares of the townspeople and the ruffians that roamed the city here, no one knew about it and they always kept it low profile. It was stupid of them to have brought her out so soon. Erin glanced over at Alecto and glared slightly. He knew this would happen; the kid always liked others suffering and he had obviously dug too deep to reach that pain. Erin shivered, knowing perfectly well that she had suffered again and the person who was on the receiving end had suffered just as she had and had probably fallen unconscious. Alecto’s eyes flashed and he reached out to gently touch her face, caressing it and moving so that Erin was forced to move out of the way. Erin growled slightly, not taking kindly to being shoved aside by someone who was lower in rank then he was. Alecto smirked, seeing the look of fury on Erin’s face before turning his attention back on Ari. His fingers brushed over her lips and he leaned over her, kissing her eyelids. Erin rolled his eyes, it wasn’t going to wake her any sooner, kisses or not. His mind was quickly changed as her eyes fluttered open and her lips pulled into a soft smile before her eyes focused and her face fell. Alecto shifted so his back was facing Erin who now was glaring daggers down at Alecto’s back. If looks could kill Alecto would have been long dead. Erin pushed Alecto away slightly before kneeling gently in front of Ari as she sat up, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.
“Good morning princess,” he whispered, her flinch wiping the teasing smile from his face. He looked back at Alecto whose face remained a complete mask as he watched them.
“What happened,” she whispered, her pale arms spreading out in a stretch as her lips formed an O as she yawned.
“You were able to get a message to your lover,” Alecto purred, stepping forward to stand beside Erin, “They were riding for Blackpond when you were able to reach them.”
His brows knitted together as his eyes flashed dangerously. Ari’s eyes mirrored his, widening as a memory hit her.
I, no Alex, was riding fast toward Blackpond when I, we, felt her, Ari inside. Nothing but images. Blackpond, torture, a strange man, red cape, pain, unbearable pain. Newhaven, safe. Collect. Darkness.
“Alecto,” Erin asked gently, touching the very unusual empath on the shoulder gently. Aleco broke his gaze away from Ari and she was released, her body slumping as the telepath lot the connection through Alecto. Erin took Alecto by the arm and steered him out the door, closing it gently behind the man’s back. He then turned back to Ari, his face apologetic.
“Forgive him, he and the boy share a very special connection. As for your friends, it would be safe to assume that they are already riding here as fast as their mounts can carry them. We have archers and thieves stationed on the rooftops keeping an eye out for the red head and the large man. Once we are sure they are the ones you seek, we will escort you to a safe location,” he nodded, the whole plan playing out before his eyes perfectly and without a hitch. He smiled sadly as she beamed, clearly pleased by this plan and the idea of being safely into the arms of those who obviously cared for her. His mind wandered as she leapt to her feet, bustling around the room and making her face look presentable, washing it and then quickly running her fingers through her long hair. He stood as she frowned, looking at the golden strands that fell to her waist.
“I’ll have to cut it again,” she said absentmindedly, noting the curious look on Erin’s face, “When I shift, everything changes, I’ll never be able to scar permanently or keep my hair really short. Every change I slowly make my way back to what I looked like before I became an outlaw.”
She watched Erin’s face carefully, her eyes catching the slight twitch of the corner of his mouth, the smile that could be there hidden carefully. She shrugged and began to furiously comb through her hair, pausing only when Erin took her hands in his and lead her back to the bed, sitting behind her and taking it upon himself to get the wild snarls from the tresses. Ari closed her eyes, finding that she enjoyed the feeling of her hair being played with by someone else and she sighed as he began to braid it. Erin was fascinated by this woman, or was it girl? She had the bouncy energy of someone young and aloof but she held so much potential once she had mellowed out. He let out a little sigh, wondering what it would have been like to have a family and a life were killing wasn’t done for fun. If only the victims of their raids and kills had known that the men who were doing this were not heartless but instead yearning. Of course they were bound to Kirsten and maintained their image of terror and pain by wearing all black, and only speaking when Kirsten wasn’t around. Some of the men had even forgotten how to speak because their mouths had been closed for too long. He looked down at the hair he was playing with and the girl sitting in front of him, her sweetness and innocence drowning those around her. He snickered at the thought of her joining the Night Hunters; this sweet little thing who probably couldn’t lift a sword, much less know how to defend against one. Still, the thought of a woman in the group was very tempting. He let the idea drop, making a note to mention it to Kirsten the moment he got back.
“So,” she said, shifting slightly. Erin could tell that the silence was getting to her even if it was just a few moments worth. “How did you become a Night Hunter? How does Kirsten bind you?”
Erin was moderately surprised that she had bothered to ask, but he was taken more off guard when she mentioned Night Hunter and Kirsten. She must have known Kirsten from some time ago, it wouldn’t have surprised him in the least that she had met him some time or another. It was the fact that Kirsten had told her so much about his group that caused worry. Erin frowned and cocked his head slightly, his fingers still moving gently through her hair as he pulled it into a braid. Was there a good way to respond to this? Maybe. But it went against everything that he had been taught by Kirsten and the others. However, when he opened his mouth to speak, the door flew open and Alecto stood there, his eyes wide with excitement.
“They’ve been spotted,” Erin said flatly, looking at the blonde haired boy that stood trembling in the doorway. Alecto shook his head and glanced at Ari, then back at Erin.
“We have to get her out of here,” he said quickly, watching as Erin’s face transformed into a mask of dread. “Neway, the telepath, he got a message from Kirsten. Only it wasn’t Kirsten. He’s coming with orders to kill her.”
Erin quickly finished braiding, the reality of the situation hitting him. Kirsten’s hunter side had been released and now it was set on death. Already he could feel the stirrings of the Blood Lust rising in him and he hurriedly tied off her hair and pulled her to her feet. If she was frightened she didn’t show it. His eyes brightened for a moment and doubt crossed his face as he realized that she actually wasn’t afraid. He shook his head slightly, his enlightenment fading as he chose not to use it. Alecto stood by the door, a dagger in hand along with a shorter black coloured bow. Ari gently reached up to caress his face, her eyes locking onto his.
“Don’t be afraid,” she pulled him forward, grabbing the bow and dagger from Alecto as he turned and ran ahead of them. Erin knew that soon all of the Night Hunters would be waiting for her to walk past. They’d have to hurry, already Kirsten’s hunt and lust was becoming theirs. There was a noise from behind him and he spun, just missing a blow to the side by a younger Hunter. He snarled and pinned the Hunter to the wall, starring deep into the kid’s eyes. It was Catlen. The young beast speaker was fighting to get lose, his eyes blazing with fury. Erin gently sent calming vibes to the boy, smiling encouragingly as the struggle stopped. When he was sure that the message had been received not to start hunting yet he turned to see Ari and Alecto tangling with four other Hunters. Erin ran forward, barking out orders and they retreated. It was handy to be second in a situation like this and he was suddenly very grateful that Alecto had the capability to restrain himself as well. The three companions continued down the hall, the other Hunters, again completely dressed in black from head to toe with only their eyes showing lined the hallways, their hands on their daggers. Erin was slowly tiring, and his head hurt from having to control so many people’s emotions and he knew as his mind grew weaker, the more open it would be for the Hunt.
Alecto now lead, Ari pressed close against him so that nothing would go wrong. Behind Ari Erin stumbled and finally stopped, his own hand reaching for his dagger. Both Ari and Alecto turned, their eyes widening as the men moved away from the walls and came to stand behind Erin.
“Run,” Alecto called, grabbing her arm and pulling her forward. The men behind her, now lead by Erin, sprinted after them. They had fallen for the hunger. Alecto was able to get her to the door before it consumed him too and Ari nearly missed the slash of the black dagger across her tender throat. The Night Hunters could see the throb of her jugular just right under her white skin, the rise and fall of her chest and smell the sudden flash of her terror. Erin stepped forward, reaching out to snatch her by the arm. She turned, her hair hitting him across the face and she ducked her shoulder and slammed herself into Alecto who had begun to move forward. She winced as she crashed into his ribcage, the sound of the air escaping him in a low growl as his body slammed against the wall. Without a moment’s hesitation she lifted her elbow, listening as it slammed into Erin’s chin with a snap and he went reeling backwards, his jaw locked. She grabbed the door and threw it open, kicking out at the Hunter that had grabbed her by her long hair and tried to drag her back. She felt nothing as he collapsed to the ground his body withering as the pain hit him. She saw the flash of colour in their eyes and she bolted away, right before the pain hit her and she stumbled, leaning heavily against the alley wall as her body convulsed. It was over in a few moments but she stay there for a moment, panting. Her green eyes swirled with silver, her hand reaching up to clutch the small wolf pendent still hanging between her breasts. She shivered and jogged forward, making sure to tread carefully so that there would be no trace of her steps later.
She was alone. Really and truly now. Kirsten and the Night Hunters would find her no doubt and soon in a city like this. She didn’t have any experience in the city really and it took everything she had not to run for the city gates. She looked up at the darkening sky and frowned as she slipped into the mass of people on the next street. She shivered, feeling venerable as she wandered through he streets before breaking away. She could see some of Kirsten’s men wandering around and she slipped into the nearest alley, her heart racing. She abandoned the bow, seeing how it was no use to her without the arrows that were still on Alecto’s back. Her brown knitted together and the corners of her mouth pulled down as her hand ran absently over the hilt of the black dagger that she had on her. She looked up between the buildings and angrily brushed away a tear that had fallen to a rest on her cheek. She took a shuddering breath before continuing forward, her heart beating furiously against her chest as if it wanted to flee. She kept her head held high and she continued forward, treading lightly and sticking mainly to the shadows. It wasn’t long until she saw Erin, walking slowly down the alley, tracking her and with a worried look she skipped down another road, nearly dyeing of fright as she saw another of Kirsten’s Night Hunters coming up that road. She dove toward the nearest door, her body slamming violently up against it as she slid into its shadow. Her heart raced as the Hunter ran past her up to Erin, his body close enough she could have reached out and touched him, obviously to consumed with some other news to notice her.
“Hum…” Luckas chuckled looking at the drawing. “I always imagined these demons to be more… Human-like. You know, like darker and creepier versions of our selves with red eyes and manic smiles on their faces… Oh, wait…” He said, breaking into laughter.
Even though he joked, Luke had paid close attention to what Ess was saying, it made a lot of sense. After all, some things are just worth the risk. He tilted his head and smiled rather cheerfully. “I hope you remember what you just told me. It might save your life some day.” He sighed and mumbled under his breath. “Hell, it might even save mine.”
Ess’ head snapped up listening past Luckas’ voice to catch the familiar shuffle of boots and clammer of armor, her fingers releasing her journal to the wooden floor. Her attention turned towards her front door as if hypnotized, raising a hand towards Luckas to be still immediately going for her sword and dagger that was still on her bed. As she withdrew both her weapons a curious sliding thud echoed off her door, causing Ess to curse quietly to herself as she was expecting something quite different from what she found as she peeked out from one of her curtains. Men dressed all in black, similar to those she encountered that morning with their leader and his hawk. Kirsten was the man’s name, if she remembered correctly. He indeed had left a curious impression on her, one that she was not willing to trust. Ess had no idea who was at her door, for she could not see into the shadow and she hoped she wasn’t running into the man again, but at least this time she wasn’t alone.
Ess licked the tips of her fingers, squeezing the life out of the candles by the windows before she whipped open the door, ready to strike at whatever threat was before her. Instead, she found a woman falling onto her back as she was using the door for support. Ess violet orbs widened, her gaze shifting furiously between the men in the street and the girl at her feet and in a matter of two seconds she made her decision. Biting down on her dagger, she freed up her left hand, taking a rough hold of the girl’s arm only to drag her further inside before closing the door quickly however gently behind them, locking it tight. Was this the woman Kirsten was searching for earlier? The description didn’t match up, but who knew if this woman was enlightened and to what end. Peeking back out the curtain, Ess was trying to determine if she was seen in her haste.
“This day just gets better and better...eh Luckas?” She whispered over her shoulder as she proceeded to quickly explain to Luke about her morning hunt and the company she encountered. Switching her gaze towards the girl, Ess’ brows met as she spoke, “So...who the hell are you and what kind of mess did I just get myself into?” Her tone was serious but slightly amused, remaining on the softer side so not to be heard from outside.
Luckas remained seated for a little bit, but the moment Ess moved towards the door he picked up the journal she had dropped. Considering the option of skimming through it, but discarding it quickly, he placed the book carefully on the shelf where it had been safely kept moments earlier. He stood back while Ess opened the door to reveal this blond girl that had been leaning against it. He wandered to the window and peeked outside to see the black riders that were wandering up and down the streets.
Watching curiously as Ess pulled the girl in and closed the door behind her, and raising an eyebrow to Ess’ explanation of her morning encounter, Luckas wondered how this would get in the way of what they were planning to do. Ess asked the girl who she was and what kind of mess was she in, but she didn’t reply quite as quickly as Luckas would like.
Moving closer to the new arrival, Luckas looked down at her, as she hadn’t even gotten off the floor, and spoke without any hint of emotion or interest in his voice. For now this person was simply a distraction from what he wanted to do, and to him that could mean extra fun or something he needed to get out of the way. “Stand up straight.” He ordered, patiently waiting for her to stand and enjoying the expression on her face as she realized she had no choice but to obey. “Look at me.”
The moment his eyes caught hers they lit up, shifting from their deep black to a bright green as he went through her memories. The scenes flashed and passed by: The forest… A dungeon… Torture… Riding to Newhaven… Everything in the past day was reviewed in excruciatingly vivid details, after which he simply pulled his gaze from her and returned to his seat.
“Ari Lupir, Wolpack recruit, shifter, but only takes animal forms, if I’ve seen correctly. She was taken from the forest, to Blackpond, tortured, brought here to those guys out there, healed, and now they are ordered to hunt her down and kill her.” Luckas informed. Then he turned to Ari and snickered. “You know, for someone who claims to trust no one you trust shady characters rather easily. Just saying.” He then gave a light shrug and turned to Ess. “Help her, toss her out… Whatever you like... I’m good either way.”
Turning to Ari, his eyes flashed red and he smiled. “I sincerely hope your Alpha comes for you though. I’d just love the opportunity to pick his brain on a few matters.”
She growled, shaking her head to remove the images from her head, everything, every moment she had relived even if she wished she hadn’t. Obviously it was his enlightenment that gifted him the ability to do this and she hated him the moment it all clicked. She looked up at the girl, her eyes hard as she withdrew her emotions form view. She hated being controlled by others besides herself and to make herself feel wild she slowly let her enlightenment take control, the silver in her eyes slowly coming through.
“Don’t you dare talk about him, she snarled as she took a step forward. She couldn’t help it, that struck a nerve and she became extremely defensive. She shook her head trying to regain control and resisting the sudden urge to shift into a bear and with one deft swipe, take off his jaw. What he had pointed out about the trusting thing, well.....she was just very glad that he hadn’t dug deeper to see the reason why she “trusted” like she did. When she was sure she wasn’t going to flip and tear someone to bits she opened her eyes which she realized had been closed.
“True and not,” she said in a monotone voice, “Trust me. And what right do you have to push yourself into my memories?”
She couldn’t help the tiny growl that rose from her throat as her eyes narrowed. She glanced over the frail, skinny boy and then dismissed him as unimportant, instead turning her attention to the girl. She could smell the wolf that clung to her, its sweet smell permeating every inch of the room.
“What he said is only somewhat true, but to spare you the details I will just tell you this,” she said dipping her head momentarily, “Kirsten’s men, the Night Hunters did save me from my pervious fate and now instead of one Lord, I have to deal with a small army of professional killers. So, I thank you for dragging me into your home but I would hate to intrude on you and your lover here.“
Ess absently twirled her blades, her wrists stretching to their familiar weight as she quirked a brow at Luckas. “Wolf Pack? As in...the Alpha who supposedly killed the girl we saw at the Inn?” Shaking her head to herself she sighed, not liking how political all this drama appeared to be. A crooked smile curled Ess’ lips as Ari began scolding Luckas for his mental intrusion. With a laugh Ess leaned into Ari, the points of her blades threatening to pierce her chest, “Don’t mind Luckas...it’s just something he does. It ticked me off too, but there’s no stopping him really....But you don’t seem to be a direct threat, right?” Ess nodded retracting her blades, turning about to peek back out the window as she asked Ari, “Why would they save you and then try to kill you? Is it some kind of sick fetish?” Ess began giggling at the last comment as Ari stated, “...I would hate to intrude on you and your lover here.”
Ess thought to herself about what to do with this woman, as Luckas seemed to not care either way. As always her conversations seem to get interrupted, by no real fault of anyones, but it was getting tiresome, and they need to work on their plan sooner than later. “We weren’t enthralled in the heat of passion or anything, if that’s what your worried about Ari..besides..I haven’t decided if I would charge him or not for it.” Glancing over her shoulder she playfully winked at Luckas only to add, “The name’s Essence by the way....” Crossing her arms Ess leaned back against the wall beside the door... “So, Ari... What do you plan on doing now?”
Luckas seemed incredibly amused by Ari’s rage. “Well, if you don’t like the conclusions I’ve drawn from twenty four hours of memories… I can simply dig a little deeper.” He said in a low growl, his eyes flashing green again, but only for a split second. “And excuse my manners, but people lie and I truly trust no one. I have no time to waste with whatever bullshit story you were planning to come up with while lying on the floor.” He smirked slightly. “And don’t bother trying to shift and bite my head off. I can control you even if you do and you really wouldn’t want to push me into it.”
He then turned to Ess and answered her question, the growl returning to his tone. “The Alpha; as in the one who sent our dear friend Xypher a letter this morning.” He informed. “This…” He smirked slightly, glancing towards Ari and imitating Sean’s tone as he spoke. “… Kid, is the Alpha’s recruit. I just happen to think it would be delightful if he came by so I could discuss said letter with him face to face.”
“We weren’t enthralled in the heat of passion or anything, if that’s what your worried about Ari..besides..I haven’t decided if I would charge him or not for it.”
Luckas laughed lightly at the words. “Hey, speak for yourself.” He played. “And please give me notice if you plan on charging me coin, so I have time to steal it.” He asked her, a little devious grin spreading across his features. “Although, if I recall correctly, I already paid you coin about five years ago…” He stated, tilting his head to the side and looking up at her with the corner of his eyes. He was pretty sure Ess wasn’t going to just throw Ari out without any help so he’d have to help her as well if he wanted to go back to what they were planning. “How small of an army is this and what kind of enlightenments do they have?” Luke asked, turning to face Ari again, his tone a little less aggressive this time.
Ari flinched, her eyes narrowing with the sudden doings of the Alpha that she had no idea about. It hurt just a little to know that he had opened up but had kept many many other things hidden. She couldn’t blame him, she was just a recruit. She frowned, realizing that acting out in anger probably wasn’t the best option. She wouldn’t let the boy dig at her, not anymore. Sean may have been her weak point but she needed to get over it. Ari smirked, her cheeks flushing as they flirted. She coughed and shifted quietly.
“I wasn’t bullshitting my way through this,” she murmured, “Only trying to figure out what the hell had just happened.” She looked up at Essence and then back at Lukas. “As for how many, you cannot ask me that. If I could answer that, I would. As for enlightenments, there are many: Beast speaking, telepathy, and there are empaths. There is also a pain blocker; I don’t know what you’d call it. There were probably more, I wasn’t there for long.
Then, then there is Kirsten. He...he can go into your mind, find your biggest fear and then bring it to life through illusion,” she paused, her eyes locking onto Luckas, you didn’t have to read her mind to know that she was comparing the two and was shocked.
Ess sighed, giving obvious annoyance at the idea of the Alpha causing Mageria this trouble, that Luckas and herself had to sort through. “Leave her be Luckas, she obviously is oblivious to what the Alpha has been up to, you can see it in her eyes. I think she’s just lost a little, maybe?....I know how that is.” Ess’ violet gaze flickered in a soft glow as she inspected Ari closely, right down to her pores and the blond variations in her hair. “Hm...telepaths..”Ess spat, not excited about the idea. “Is there even a way to block that? Like visualizing a stone wall or something..or perhaps...someone else’s memories?”
Tilting her head to the side, she pivoted away from the door as she looked at Luckas curiously. “My my, aren’t we in a rush to get me alone again, eh?” Ess did have some questions she wanted to ask Luckas, but certainly not in front of Ari, but that could wait. Ess could tell Luckas was a bit restless and she figured he knew her well enough to not turn down someone in need. She would try to keep out of the technicalities, the only thing she personally knew was that this Alpha had done Mageria wrong and so many others would suffer at his selfishness.
“I don’t feel like waiting around for someone to break down my door...should there be a distraction?...Maybe a bait n switch?” A wicked smile crossed her face, looking back over at Ari. She wondered if she could pull off Ari’s mirror image, giving Luckas a distraction to toy with..while Ms. Ari made her escape... “Ari? You can change into...any beast?”
Luckas listened in silence as Ari listed a few enlightenments. Telepaths couldn’t harm Luckas, he was resistant to most forms of telepathy, but they could probably resist him as well, which was troublesome. He usually made empaths nervous… Like poor Alistair, the healer couldn’t stand to be around him for more than five minutes… When she started talking about Kirsten, however, Luke’s eyes examined her closely and he leaned forward, oh so slightly, in his seat. Still, he remained silent.
He looked at Ess pretending to be offended. “Hey, I’m a telepath!” He exclaimed, putting on a pouty face. “That hurts my feelings, Ess, I thought we were friends…” He started, but broke into laughter a few moments later, not being able to hold up the act any longer as he explained. “There are a few techniques and tricks to shield your mind from telepathy, but it takes a lot more time to learn than what we have.” He told her. “Another time, maybe, I can teach you.” He grinned at her, noticing her expression as she looked at Ari, he knew what she was thinking. He wasn’t all too pleased with the thought of those guys going after Ess thinking she was their target, besides, it was unlikely that they could keep them fooled long enough for Ari to get out of the city safely. He didn’t have a better idea though. “What kind of distraction do you mean?” He asked. “The ‘sir can you help me find my puppy?’ kind or the ‘by the twins everything’s on fire!’ kind?” He asked. “I can do either. I like the second one better though.”
Ari looked nervously from each of them, her eyes flashing slightly.
“Any animal,” she said in answer to Ess, her body shivering, “except for birds for a long period, I can’t stand the feathers.” She gave a small smile and then as a thought hit her, her smile broadened. “I would say we don’t need a distraction, besides it won’t work the Telepaths will be everywhere digging. If you want to help me escape out of the city, hear me out.” She paused, thinking quickly and nodding as it came to her. “You have a wolf Ess yes? I can smell her everywhere. I can do wolf very, very well. If we can find a way to give me a description or image of her, I might be able to mimic her coloring. Luckas? Is your enlightenment only limited to searching and coercion or can you put up a front on someone’s mind? Like a shield around mine so that they don’t know I’m actually a human.” She nodded slightly, if he could that would work wonders and if not she would have to be extremely careful. “If you could spare the time Essence.... you could take me to the nearest city gates or someplace where if I were to become human again I would blend.”
She paused, closing her eyes and envisioning it out like a dream. When she reopened them she slowly shook her head, “Damn it.” She didn’t wait for the knock to change into something small, a small ragged looking cat. She had kept her mouth shut, letting loose only a small whimper as she changed, just as the knock sounded. She yowled, flicking her tail and ears towards the clothes on the floor. Her tabby form scampered past Luckas and into the shadows, slipping though them and under the bed where she let her mind settle, thinking only cat thoughts as she waited for Erin to disappear.
Ess’ brows came together again, her nose bunching up in a look that questioned Luckas and his playful pouting at her words against telepaths. “Oh ha ha, You know ONE telepath is enough for me...especially at once..” She snickered, thinking to herself that Luckas had called her a friend. Even if it was in a playful ruse, he still said it, similar to how he absently kept calling her 'pretty lady.’ Just little things to hint to Ess that he was trying, maybe wanting to trust her. Maybe even enough to explain why he would offer her defensive tips against enlightenments like his.
Straightening her body she wandered over to her bed, kneeling down beside the headboard to remove a curious box from somewhere she purposely avoided to reveal. Lounging lazily along her bed she began sifting through the box, pulling out tiny viles in all assorted colors. “A color for every purpose...for every mood...” She muttered to herself, thinking which mixture she would play with today. Glancing at Luckas from out the corner of her eye, a loc of hair playfully dangling in front of her glow she thought about his desire to cause chaos for a distraction. “How bout lighting someone on fire?” With a wicked smile she laughed, not giving away whether she was joking or not.
Ess picked out two viles, one purple and one black, tucking the rest back inside the box. She turned over onto her back, arms outstretched in front of her towards the ceiling as she looked between the two, weighing out in her mind which one she would prefer. As she listened to Ari’s suggestion, she motioned, still holding the viles, over to the wall where Tala’s picture hung. “My wolf...who is currently MIA, that’s what she looks like...”She paused with a sweet smile curling her lips.
A knock on the door and the sudden transformation of Ari into a kitty cat did not seem to phase Essence as she rose from the bed, snickering at the cat as it disappeared into the shadows. “Interesting..” She whispered only to turn towards the door snapping loudly with a strange accent, “PISS OFF!” Ess slid the viles down her dress, snuggling them between her breasts before her form melted away; her burgundy curls straightening and darkening to deep brown, her skin glowing with a tan sun-kissed radiance, and her lips and nose were a size smaller than her norm with a higher cheekbone definition. Ess smiled to herself, clearing her mind as she looked at Luckas with a fake innocence.
Luke shook his head in disappointment when Ari said they wouldn’t need a distraction. It seemed like he really wouldn’t be having any fun with this. “I can’t shield another person’s mind. That’s not how my enlightenment works, neither is it exactly the way you said it is.” He stated in a slightly annoyed tone as if he was trying to discuss philosophy with an infant. “One thing I can do, if you grant me access, is project your memories and maybe your thoughts onto others. That way if a telepath was to search for you, he won’t be able to know your exact location, your mind would literally be all over the place. Do you understand?” He asked. “I would have to be close to you to do that, however and wouldn’t be able to keep it up for too long; an hour, at most. I’m not risking my life for anyone, especially the Alpha’s pet project.” He muttered, narrowing his eyes slightly, but relaxing a little bit soon after and turning to Ess with a little grin. “Oh, I don’t plan on sharing you with any other telepaths… They better stay out of my territory.” He stated, his tone not making clear if he was joking.
“Oooh, can I?” He asked, hopefully when Ess asked about lighting someone on fire. Aside from that he kept quiet in his seat, resisting the urge to kick the Ari-cat as it made its way past him, settling for kicking the girl’s clothing underneath the bed instead. Maintaining his relaxed posture as Ess replied to the knock on the door by telling whoever it was to piss off, he remained seated and silent, honestly starting to get bored of this whole thing.
Erin didn’t need to open the door to know that Ari wasn’t in there and he shrugged turning to the group of men behind him. It wasn’t his job to deal with women who were pissy and he nodded sharply, making sure they dispersed before calling out an apology and ambling off. His head hurt and he shook his head gently, this was wrong.
Ari ambled out, after she was sure he was gone before jumping up, looking at the picture. She began to arch up, her body shifting into an exact replica of Tala except for her eyes and she dove under the bed, emerging with the black clothing in her jaws as she looked pleadingly towards Ess, then back at Luckas with a tiny growl. She didn’t want to drag them further into this and she pawed at the door, whimpering slightly. She could smell that she wasn’t wanted here and she’d rather take that chance of running to her death then staying here with these two together. Ari liked Ess, she was willing to help but the boy...Not a chance. She growled and furiously began to claw at the door. Her mind screaming to be let out.
Once Ess was sure the person at the door had left, with an odd apology, she relaxed a bit, still in her Miraged form. Essence’s mind raveled in Luckas’ responses to her and Ari’s. Thoughts raced to possible conclusions in several directions, only to rest into a calming almost meditative state. Luke acted as if he cared for no one but himself, and perhaps most of the time he did. He maybe wasn’t too fond of Ari because of the Alpha of the Wolfpack (which he stated), but she didn’t quite believe him when he said he wouldn’t risk his life for anyone. Perhaps that was still to be foreseen. She liked the idea of Luke not sharing her with the enemy, even if he seemed unsure of her at times, he hinted at his greed in his escapades and may just resort to hoarding whatever plans he had for Ess to himself. Ess kept an emotionless smile, lost in herself momentarily, the painted facade giving no hint to her soul except an eerie sense to those who didn’t know any better. Giggling at Luke’s obvious interest in lighting someone on fire, Ess just nestled that bit deep into her memory for another time.
Snapping her attention to Ari, Ess smiled a bit impressed. Kneeling down she extended her hand, almost forgetting it was Ari and not Tala and couldn’t help herself as she gave Ari some scratches between the ears. “So pretty...” Slinking across the floor, Ess opened one of the many floorboards, taking out a familiar pouch full of coin. She winked at Luckas wondering if he would recognize it as she tucked it into the pocket of Ari’s clothes that she held in her mouth before explaining the quickest way out of the city. Standing with a gentle smile, she turned for the door, unlocking it slowly as she peeked outside not seeing a single man in black around. Before she opened the door wide for the ‘wolf’ to escape she whispered softly, “Good luck young lady, hopefully we meet again and hopefully not on conflicting sides.”
“NO!!!!!” Mageria had come to after only a moment, but she remained dizzy for several more. So she missed the chance to stop what could only be a disaster, even as she had to watch it happen before her eyes. Someone had taken the chance to wrap a scarf around her hand in an effort to staunch the blood, but as soon as the impostor had started fighting they had pulled her back towards her room. Gagging slightly, she pushed herself up, Tala whimpering and licking her anxiously. It was only when the man pretending to be Grim had been injured, falling to the ground and screaming that she shot to her feet. That scream . . . she had heard it before. And she’d seen what Grim looked like when he was trying to fight off his Enlightenment. Somehow, someway, that really was him kneeling there, fighting for his very soul.
She knew exactly what was going to happen next.
“Tala, guard.” she snapped at the wolf, pointing back towards her room and Crys. The wolf would do her no good, and Crys with her empathy might be in more danger than anyone else.
Pushing forward, the pump of adrenaline steadying her in a way that nothing else could, Mageria could see Grim holding one of the Guard over his head, staring at the rest with red tinted eyes. Before, the crush of grief had felled her. Now her rage at the stupid idiot making her think that he had gotten himself killed flooded through her, giving her strength. With a lightening fast move, she grabbed a knife from a nearby Guard, throwing it so that it impacted hilt first with Grim’s wrist, causing him to drop the man.
“Everybody . . . back off.”
“I said back off. Give me room.”
Mageria stepped forwards, raising her hands into a ready stance. Her right balled itself into a fist, the left still seeped blood, running scarlet threads down her arm. It was just her and him for now.
“All right War . . . lets dance.”
The captured guardsmen looked desperately with pleading eyes into the depths of madness and rage. There was no pity there, only unrelenting hate. Eyes that burned with avenging fires, that hazed through all other thoughts arriving to the same want, to destroy. To snuff the life from anything within his grasp. It wouldn’t be much longer, the beast knew this. The guard began to stop shaking his eyes rolling into the back of his head.
From nowhere the handle of a knife struck against his hold, and in his surprise he dropped the would be first victim. The ends of his fingers stung from the projectile, awakening the monster to its surroundings.
Eagerly it turned to face its adversary, no longer interested in the man gasping for breath at its feet. Instead stood before the Raging Demon was the deadliest Black Knight of them all… Mageria. The beast murmured with delight, a real opponent for a true killer. Slowly the massive behemoth sauntered before her. Overshadowing the lithe women, snarling and growling just under its breath. Eyes ablaze with red light boring against the icy blues that belonged to his challenger.
They were a contrast, stark warms against pale colds. The Warlord, and the Captain, the unrelenting strength against the unwavering will. The most dangerous, against the most lethal. Perhaps deep down, they always knew this day would come, when their alliances would be cast to the wind. Leaving only their animal souls to duel in the primordial arena.
A moment of still, tension building upon itself neither sure who would take the first move. Yet of course War was the first to attack. Caring nothing for finesse it fought like a caged creature set loose, howling with inhuman cries. It charged for Mageria, having left its sword behind, and attempted to overtake her with its sheer size and power, bull-rushing toward her with its right shoulder.
Behind her, the Guard faded away in to the doorways, reluctantly obeying her order and giving her what room they could to let her maneuver. She would need every inch of it. While she had the skill to take down Grim, it would be infinitely harder to do so without significantly injuring him. She knew deep down, if necessary, she would hurt him, and that when he returned to himself he would want it that way. And honestly, she really wanted this fight. After everything she had been through, everything that she had felt when he . . . when whoever it had been had died n her arms, she had raged over the fact that he was gone, anger and grief so mixed up that she couldn’t have separated them if she wanted to.
Cooly, she waited until Grim was almost onto her before jumping to the right and grabbing his shoulder, pushing and twisting so that he lost his balance and slammed to the floor. He was going so fast that he had no chance of stopping before she moved. She actually felt the floor shake when he hit and she quickly backed up to give herself more room. But Grim was faster than she had planned for and he rolled to his feet and lunged again, catching her around the waist. They both slammed to the floor, Grim using his sheer size and weight to crush her to the floor. With a snarl, he started to squeeze, Mageria gasping for air as his arms tightened. Writhing desperately, she felt her left arm come free, the blood actually making it easier to break loose. That gave her enough room to get her other arm loose and she slammed her fingers into either side of his neck, seeking out the spots that would cut off blood flow to his brain. It was a desperate race, seeing which of them would collapse first. Mageria’s ribs creaked under the strain, and black spots formed in front of her eyes, before Grim’s grip loosened slightly. Planting one hand on his face, she pushed him to the side enough that she could stand back up. When he looked back up at her, Mageria could see that the glow hadn’t dimmed in the slightest. Coughing, Mageria readied herself again, knowing that she was the only one that didn’t want to harm the other.
Time immortal the ancient tale, the brave knight that stood in the adversity of a dragon. Mageria loomed just beneath the shadow of the monstrous War. The archaic stories coming to life in the lustrous halls of Newhaven. One monster against one woman, to save her land she had to win this fight. There was no one else better suited to the task. A battle to the death…
Mageria slipped into a different stance, spreading her feet wide and loosening the tension in her shoulders. Resting her good hand at her waist, with the other leading forward ready to intercept anything Grim could manage. There it was, from the fires of nightmares it rose up like some demon from the infernal. It’s eyes burned red with hate, it’s jaws wide and salivating with its own hunger. Each were woven into this tapestry, of man and monsters.
War lurched forward it’s great hand clawing for Mageria’s determined face. Of course he fell right into her trap. The bloodied fingers slipped just beneath the brute’s elbow, and her unwounded arm shot out, taking him at the abdomen. In the split of a brief second, Mageria used the momentum of her opponent and lobbed him overhead. The mass of muscle and angst went careening overtop and flipped onto his back sliding away from its target. The fluidity of the actions stacked against another and cascaded down like a waterfall.
Mageria hopped onto War while he slid, her fingers working against the same veins along his neck. If she could get the man to black out, she could indeed win this battle. Yet whatever magic pumped into his bloodstream it proved problematic. It was either ineffective or particularly resilient, both outcomes being of no help to the Black Knight Captain.
The two ended up colliding against the armory’s broad doorway. War, now oriented again, redoubled his efforts to grasp Mageria. She was fast, and thank the twins for it, she slipped just underneath clasping fingertips. Keeping her forearms up and blocking against the berserker’s reach, holding back his clutch with her own cunning.
They had managed to their feet in the cat and mouse game. One arm came overhead and Mageria blocked, another from the side that her bandaged limb managed to keep from her. For a second they were locked in this stalemate. She looked to her enemy and compatriot, smirking coolly, which quickly turned to exasperation. War’s forehead slammed down two, three times catching his captain unprepared. Mageria staggered her mind blank from the sheer power of the blow. She toppled backwards, falling onto her haunches clumsily.
Planting his palms over the top of her head, Grim uprooted her from the spot she fell to. Holding her coyly like some child’s plaything. If the relentless beast had any sort of sense it would have taken the opportunity to finish her off quickly if possible. Yet that simply wasn’t its way, it loved the battle, the boiling in its blood. It wanted more…
“Face me! Little PATHETIC worm!”
With it’s parting shot he lobbed Mageria back down the corridor. To his surprise she sprang back up as though untouched. Ready for anything he could possibly unleash upon her at this point. Each it seemed was still sizing up the true limitations of the other. Yet both sides knew, the gloves would have to come off. The real battle had only begun.
“Is that all you’ve got?” Mageria panted as she wiped a trickle of blood from her nose. Time had not softened his head at all and caught in the grip of his magic, he had no fear of injuring himself in a fight. She raised her hands again and grinned a bit manicly. “Take your best shot, old friend.”
Grim growled in response and set himself again, charging towards her with all the grace of a runaway wagon. Mageria was a bit tired of treating him gently, so this time she ran forwards as well; at the last second leaping up the wall beside her and using it to get some height. Teeth clenched, her leg lashed out in a precisely aimed kick, catching Grim directly behind the ear. Dazed, he fell to the floor; eyes rolling back in his head.
Mageria hit the ground at almost the same time, landing in a crouch with one hand bracing in front. Slowly, she pushed back up; waiting for Grim’s next move. Luckily, the berserker magic didn’t allow for the use of many tactics, she knew he would be up and after her as soon as possible.
With a growl, Grim planted first one hand then the other on the floor; pushing up to face her with an expression of blood rage on his face. Teeth bared, it was clear that he was absolutely fixated on her now. Good.
She waited till he had his weight planted firmly on his hands; then ran forward and tried a repeat of her earlier move, winding back for another kick. But she had forgotten how fast Grim was in his altered state, he reached out and grabbed her leg, fingers digging in deep and used it to fling her down the hall again. Pulling in her elbows, Mageria rolled; once again using the momentum to get back to her feet. She was just barely in time, Grim was headed towards her like an unstoppable avalanche. Mageria felt a moment of panic, there was nothing but a stone wall behind her.
“Sorry about this, Grim.” He was headed towards her, head down and one shoulder forwards; once again she waited for a moment and then ran forwards. But this time she wasn’t striking, instead she planted her good hand on his shoulder and leapt . . . flipping up and over him to land balanced on both feet. There was a resounding thud as Grim ran full tilt into the wall and she spun around to see what would happen next. She had either knocked him out . . . or made him angrier.
The quiet it was such a welcomed friend in the midst of their battle. For a moment all was still, and only the soft hush of Mageria’s breath emanated through the broken halls of Newhaven. Somewhere far off several whispered voices and prying eyes were waiting in anticipation. Was it over now?
Grim’s massive body slid against the walls, bits of stone and debris fell loose from the impact. Covering the Warlord with a dust and shuddering beneath his collision. Still he slumped against the surface before the unthinkable happened.
The Berserker’s hands moved pressing against the wall, lifting without hitch or even strain, the beast survived the impact. The enemy rose from where he fell rolling his shoulders thoughtlessly, his muscles shifting as though nothing had even happened.
The red glowed hot, and from the creature one could finally feel the aura of his magic. A wicked unwavering feeling that washed over his presence, pushing against any that drew near. Most would buckle under the weight of fear, most would flee in a panic. War was growing in both power and strength. Keen eyes could see the muscle constricting in on itself, sinew and tissues that both expanded and firmed in the same instance. The unholy power of the rage coursing through his veins. This was Grim’s Enlightenment, his curse. The child of the gods, their ultimate killing machine.
Mageria steeled herself against the pressure that clung to the air. There would be no backing down now, and she didn’t care how dangerous Grim became. She would not bow to him, she would not fail, this was hers to contend with. There could only be one victor.
Of course the clever captain was running out of options. She knew that a straight confrontation wouldn’t succeed. Fighting War directly was just the fast track to a gruesome death. She had to shut him down, there was just no other option. Waiting for the inevitable charge she raced through her mind, looking for something that she could levee against Grim.
From the opposite the rush came, shoulder low feet stomping as it ran. Faster this time, the renewed vigor broadening his already impressive capabilities. Soon Mageria was forced to act, having come to nothing conclusive just yet. Before she was ran through her feet found itself planting against the far wall. Her speed and dexterity bounding her upside once again and plunging overtop Grim.
With her hands outstretched she latched about his neck and locked herself against him. Using gravity and the momentum of her fall to pull his weight backwards. Her legs swung to help reaffirm the force, but to her surprise it wasn’t enough. The berserker didn’t fall, it jerked and wobbled but it didn’t lose its footing. She had to work fast in that case, holding with one arm her free one hammered at the brute’s neck.
Still no results, but she had to bail. Grim was placing his back to the wall, and the obvious counter to her piggybacking was soon to follow. By the time his back hit the stone, however, Mageria had slung about and hopped off, delivering a parting blow before setting some distance between them. This contest could go on forever. She couldn’t allow it though, the longer they fought the less her odds of winning were becoming. Something needed to happen, and do so quickly.
She had an idea, and when Grim charged this time she went to hop around him. She cursed and damned her luck aloud when she felt the berserker’s mass against her legs. The thing had hopped as well, anticipating her escape. She was caught, but she had no option this time, she had to fight. When the two landed she backed up lashing out with a few quick strikes before attempting to back away.
It was too late though, he was upon her, and as fast as Mageria was she too had her limitations. A swipe from his massive paws landed her on her backside, and in her vision she was cast into the shadow of doom. The dragon stooping over her, a fist upraised, the other pinning her to the floor. She spat in defiance, welcoming his strikes, challenging him though she knew what was coming.
The first blow fell across her face, and by the Twins it hurt! It fell as lightning, unmerciful, and as violent as it could manage. The next to the stomach, and her poor body lurched when struck, she managed to keep from screaming out by biting her lip. She would never give it the pleasure of hearing her pain. Her thoughts were too disconnected from the punches, try as she might to formulate a plan the next hit would arrive and her mind would dissolve into instinct. She could even feel her arm involuntarily reach up to try and block the next hit. It was to no avail, the Berserker was methodical, one after the other, forcing her down into dregs of agony.
She didn’t even realize the onslaught had stopped till the air was struggling to fill her lungs. Grim had her uplifted by the throat. Examining its work with a sort of sadistic glee. It was over, and it knew it. All that remained was to get what fun he could now.
“You owe me a scream worm…”
She didn’t offer the thing a response, instead she was sizing Grim up. He drew her close, the orbs burning with their crimson hue, the evil magic that expelled through its eyes. Still Mageria showed her courage, she did not falter. Even when she could feel the disturbingly slow graze of his tongue sloping along her scar, it would have done anything to drive terror into her heart.
Their proximity was all she needed, her knee pulled and careened into Grim’s sternum. Connected at a point where the ribcage and stomach met, knocking the wind from the creature instantly. A strike next to impossible when Grim had both his arms before him. The next shot went to the back of his head, and she was dropped instantly. With his lungs emptied and his brain begging for oxygen, the beast staggered dizzied and in pain. The Enlightenment acted up, but Grim wasn’t able to respond.
Mageria despite herself smiled, spitting the foul taste of blood from her mouth. It had underestimated her, and now regretted it. Indeed this battle was drawing to a close.
She had reached the point of no return. She had to take Grim down; as quickly as possible. Mageria was starting to falter, she didn’t have many reserves left. Her eye was starting to swell shut, something trickling down the side of her face. Years of dirty fighting meant that she hadn’t taken internal damage when he hit her stomach; but just barely. She had to fight to draw a full breath; listing a bit to the side with her left arm pressed to the side.
“Sorry . . . . about this,” she muttered under her breath. Fate had left her no choice.
Mageria took a quick step that brought her to Grim’s side. Balancing on one foot, she brought the other around in a brutal kick that connected precisely with the back of his knee. This brought her massive opponent down to one knee; still slightly staggered from her earlier blows. Drawing on the last of her strength she moved smoothly, almost dancing as she delivered her final strikes. With an almost delicate touch, she formed her hands into blades, seeking out and striking the nerve clusters needed to render him helpless. First his right arm went numb, then the left. At that Grim surged back to his feet and lashed out with one leg. Mageria ducked it barely, grabbing his ankle as it went by and twisting it as hard as she could. Grim roared in anger as he flipped around in mid air; before landing face down on the floor. With a scream of her own, she landed on his back, one fist upraised. Praying silently that she wouldn’t harm him permanently, she brought it down on the precise spot she was aiming for, slamming the back of his head so hard that when the blow caused him to smack his forehead on the floor the sound echoed throughout the corridor.
Unbelievably, Grim was still moving. Mageria could feel that the end was near. If she let him get up again, she wouldn’t be able to keep him from killing her. And that would kill him; when he came back to himself.
A strangled sound burst from her throat; she couldn’t have told if it was a sob or a scream. Raising her hands, she clenched them together, hammering them down on her friend. Once more. Twice more. Would he never stop moving? With an effort that wrenched her entire body, she brought her clenched fists down one last time, slamming them unmercifully into the body of her friend.
Finally he was still; finally it was over. Coughing, Mageria staggered backwards, falling hard against the wall and slowly sliding down it. Raising a shaking hand, she wiped at the blood flowing down the side of her face, gasping for breath. With eyes that tried to cross, she looked at her Guard as they slowly came forwards, looking at the two of them with awe and fear in their eyes. She coughed as one of them helped her to her feet, leaning on the man harder than she wanted to.
“You know . . . I feel better.”
“Sure you do, Captain.”
She snorted at that, but it was the truth. Finally she’d had the chance to strike out with all the rage that was in her soul, now she felt calmer and a bit at peace.
Matthew grunted and started leading her down the hall where she could get patched up.
Behind them some of the others were picking up Grim, after binding his arms and legs as a precaution. Those that had been with her from the beginning knew what was going on, they brought him along as well. From behind her Tala darted out, winding anxiously around her legs before settling to follow at her heels. Reaching down, Mageria gently scratched between her ears before leaning just slightly to the side, spitting out a mouthful of blood.
The plains outside the city were a queit place, most of the time, anyway. Between the towns, where the wind was able to pick up some good speed and whistle through the high prairie grasses. It was a wonderful sound. One that Isyer enjoyed when he got a chance to travel through the plains. He pushed his lips together, whistling to match the pitch of the singing grass as the horse plodded along slowly. It wasn't a far ride to get to Newhaven, so there was really no need to push the horse at all. A leisurely pace along the trails made for a nice relaxing day. he was just glad that the two guards had given up pursuit from the last town he was in. The only two guards the town seemed to have and they had trailed him for a good long while before getting tired and returning to their home. So now, Isyer would let the horse rest and walk along as it please. He took a second to reach up, rubbing the horse on the neck gently to praise it for it's fast feet. The horse grunted slightly, still not sure what to think of this new owner.
Isyer raised himself back upright, reaching down to the coin pouch that was tied to his belt, smiling a little as he opened it once more. It had been a pretty nice bit. Surprising that the stables in that town didn't safe away their money more frequently. There had been a nice little stash of coin inside the small lock box, not that it would be able to lock anymore. His finger sifted through the coins, getting a rough count of how much he had at the moment. Enough to last a week or so in the city and get himself a new outfit as well. A few of his shirts were starting to get a little more weathered than he liked, so it would be time to donate them to the "less fortunate" and replace them with new ones.
Isyer nodded a little, closing the bag as he looked up once more, the horse finally cresting out of the small valley the road had been winding down for a short ways. Once again, the sight of the Newhaven loomed into view. it was still a good distance out. A few hours ride yet if he picked up the pace a bit. But even from the distance, the city looked huge. A vast and strangely inviting place. At least for the likes of him. There were probably a great many ways to get yourself dead in the city as well. But at least the number of people there supported the idea of a longer stay. With that many people crammed into one plae, it would be a lot easier to remain anonymous than in any of the other cities. So that made the place all the more welcoming.
Isyer snapped back to his current location as a swift movement caught his attention. The horse snorted, starting a bit as two large shapes emerged from the towering prairie grass, coming in from either side of the trail to block the horse's path. They were two men, both armed with crossbows, and both looking a little worse for ware. They still wore smiles on their faces, their crooked teeth peering out from between their parted lips. The shorter one of the two, the blonde one, spoke first," You there. Get off the horse." Isyer looked them over for another long second before bowing his head silently and dismounting from the horse. He took the reigns in his left hand as he walked to the front of the beast, looking at the two men," And what is it that you two might want on this fine day." Isyer's tone was low and cold, his low pitched voice rolling from the back of his throat as he spoke slowly. The blad, taller man spoke next," We'll need that coin purse o' yours. And any other valuables you got." Isyer shook his head slowly," You're robbing me? Really? How rude..." He sighed a second, reaching down to the coin pouch and opening it," I'll tell you what," he lifted two small gold coins with ribbed edges from inside the pouch, placing them in his palm and holding it open for both men to see," I'll give you each a gold coin, for the effort you put into this, and you can walk away from this whole thing without a second thought. That's my only offer." The men both looked at each other for a second before they laughed openly, sure that the man must be joking. After a second they stopped, gathering their composure once more," No deal, you stupid sod. We'll take it all, then." Both the men made to raise their crossbows to their shoulders, but the act was never finished.
In an instant, Isyer's eyes blazed a brilliant flash of blue, the flash of light flooding the area in front of him for a fraction of a second. But that fraction was all that was needed. In the blink of an eye, both the gold pieces seemed to vanish from his hand in two gold colored streaks, followed by a crisp, vicious snap-crack as both the pieces tore through their air with their speed. In that fraction, the air behind the two men was filled with a pink mist, the ground splashed with the two men's blood as one gold piece for each of them burst through their throats and out the back of their necks, leaving an entry wound of a nice coin-slot shape, but tearing out most of the insides of their neck and fragmenting their spines on the way out a grievous, gaping exit wound. The two men slumped to the ground in heaps, dead before they realized what had happened. The horse bucked back, trying to get away from the strange sight and sound, but Isyer held the mare fast by the reigns. he sighed once more, shaking his head," Such a waist. That's two days of room and board just lost to the plains." He turned, soothing the horse for a moment before remounting into the saddle and continuing on his journey once more, looking down to the two dead bodies as the horse walked past them. Isyer took a second to rub his temple for a moment, trying to ebb of the faint, shallow throbbing in his head. He knew it would go away before too long, though, so it wasn't a bother. he'd been through much worse before.
Besides the rough start and the brief disturbance in the middle, the trip to the city was fairly enjoyable. And hell, even ridding the world of two full fledged morons was something he could call a good days work. So he wasn't upset with having to do it. he did hate the fact that he hadn't relieved their corpses of their crossbow bolts. Still, they weren't that expensive and he still had a good stock of them. So he wasn't too upset. Isyer made a quick nod to the guards that were watching the gate as he took his horse through the massive gateway into the cities interior. As soon as he rode through the gate, it was like a wall of sound hit him. Thankfully his little headache had gone from him long ago, so he wasn't bothered by the noise that now surrounded him. He continued on through the streets, looking over all the people and smiling. His eyes carefully picked through the people as they milled about, picking out the people who would be holding the most gold at any time. It wasn't always easy to tell. Some people dressed down to help dissuade attention. Others were dressed in their finery, but had not a coin on them. It wasn't as if he could really do anything about it yet. He was on horseback after all. He was just glad that people were moving out of his way for him. People looked up to see an incredibly well dressed man on an elegant horse ad figured him to be of wealth and nobility. So they gave him a good berth to move the horse through. He smiled to them, nodding appreciatively here and there. A quick stop and an conversation with a local man and his wife told Isyer where the best stables were at ad he quickly made his way there. And then, after paying for a few days up front and a good tip, Isyer found out all the important locations in the city of good, and ill, repute. With that, Isyer made his way out into the streets once again. It was time to get better acquainted with this city.
Crys didn't exactly understand what was being said. Pondus was very much alive, she could sense his presence in the castle clearly, at the same time both Mageria and the guard she was speaking to were sure that it couldn't be so.
Mageria had left the room for a while when Crys decided to go check out what was happening, still a bit puzzled by the little she heard. However, before she took a step out of the room, before she even reached the doorway, she froze where she stood. Crys was feeling something stir dangerously in the back of her chest, something she hadn’t felt in so long; something she had never felt with such intensity before. The moment she recognized the blood chilling scream that echoed through the halls, she knew what was going to happen… She instinctively locked the door shut as the overwhelming rage shattered through her every defense, pierced through her very soul; and she screamed as well, at the top of her lungs, the little left of her mind cursing the Twins one by one, to the very last… “War.” She groaned under her breath, falling to her knees in uncontrollable shivers, her eyes burning the brightest green they ever had. If there was a hell, to Crys, this was it.
. . . .
Strong arms held her down, but the young girl fought, she screamed, and kicked, and clawed, but it was no use. He wouldn’t let her go; he wouldn’t let her fall, a constant whisper in her ears beginning to break through. “Calm yourself… Calm yourself… Calm yourself…”
Eventually she stopped fighting; there was no other choice either way. She was very quiet, very silent, for a while. “Was someone hurt this time?” She mumbled.
“Not this time.” He answered, the tight hold changing into a soft embrace. “Breathe it out.”
“D-dad… I can’t… Live… With this…” Crys managed, letting out shaky breath.
“Yes you can. Every gift given by the Twins takes a toll out of us, but not one of them is more than what we can handle… Not even this. You just need to remember not to be afraid, that no matter what happens you can never lose yourself… You will always be here, and you are stronger.”
. . . .
“I’m still here…. I’m still here…. I’m still here…” The shaky ramblings escaped Crys’ lips in whispers as she hopelessly tried to maintain some sort of notion of who she was, of her own self... It seemed that if she as much as attempted a deeper breath it would be more than she could take. She tried to find something else, someone else that she could focus on, but it was to no use; it didn’t matter who else was out there, the rage was enough to bury them all. Her mind slipping away to the darkest of her being, her own thoughts betraying her as she tried not to give in… The memories feeding the sickness… She just wasn’t strong enough.
. . . .
It was Evin’s voice that brought to Crys’ attention what anyone with eyes would be able to tell immediately; the identity of the body lying on the floor of the Blackpond Inn. She never forgot that sound; the sound of her father’s name spoken as that of a dead man for the very first time; that, and the warmth… As she knelt down, the blood was so warm. When she touched her father’s face his skin was still so warm, his eyes were open… How long ago had he died? How many minutes too late was she? For how long had he bled on that dirty floor? Such a pitiful way to go… He deserved so much better than to end this way, killed by the hands of a coward.
. . . .
“I never knew the Shadow personally, like Evin, but if I could I would shake his hand for that.”
Crys found herself on her hands and knees now, her hands balled up in clenched fists, Sean’s voice was still ringing in her ears and she couldn’t, for the life of her, make it go away. She could hear nothing else now but his voice and her heart pounding against her chest, violently.
“One little cut… And back to hell.”
The shivers were now gone, Crys took one long and shaky breath as she planted her palms on the ground and pushed herself up. On her knees, still, she planted the sole of her right boot on the floor and pushed herself up once more, firmly planting her left foot as well. Standing very still for a moment, Crys clenched both her fists tightly; so tightly her nails broke through the soft skin of her palms and her knuckles were as white as they could, before she extended her fingers again, a strange grin plastered on her face, eyes closed although the green light of her, so called, gift was still visible underneath. Her mind now void of anything but those tormenting whispers of the past. Crys had finally stopped fighting, and allowed herself to sink into those feelings. It was something similar to drowning; that quiet moment when you realize you just can’t make it and stop fighting. You let the water take you where it wants… You surrender completely to it… and then slowly you fade into nothing. Crys was now in that moment.
Still facing the door, Crys turned around, facing the insides of the room, and slowly paced: One step, two steps, the voices still whispering, three steps, they just wouldn’t go away, another step… She stopped, abruptly, as something grazed her arm.
The poor chair never stood a chance, the moment Crys felt the touch on her forearm she turned and faced it. Gripping it tightly she lifted the piece of furniture over her head and then brought it down violently against the ground, using her boots to stomp it repeatedly, smirking slightly at the sounds and feels of the wood cracking beneath her feet; a sick twisted pleasure coming from the idea of it being Sean’s bones breaking under her force, begging for mercy only to be denied, tears in his eyes, face in the dirt, breathing in the scent of his own blood… Just like she had… Just like her…
. . . .
A hand slammed down against a wooden table and Sean’s voice sounded loudly in her ears. “How can she let him live?! After all he’s done!”
Crys sighed, not raising her eyes from her cup of tea, and not minding the fact that everyone in the cafeteria was now staring at the two. “I’m not the Alpha, Sean, yelling at me won’t make a difference, and I dare to go yell at my mother right now.” She took another sip. “She decided, the word of the Alpha is law.”
“She will listen to you, if you just…”
“I won’t say what you want me to say.” Crys replied in a firm tone. “I’m sorry, but I can’t.”
“The Shadow killed your father, correct? It’s all over camp that he did it. And you miss your father, don’t you?” He asked.
“Yes.” She muttered.
“You miss him so much it’s like you can’t breathe, right? Like someone has a tight grip on your chest and the air just won’t get through… And if you had this man in front of you, this man who took the breath right out of your lungs and left you suffocating, would you bear to hear him breathe? Wouldn’t you want to squeeze the air out of his lungs? Wouldn’t you want to have him beg for mercy just so you could deny him? Wouldn’t you?” He growled at her. “Well, you will have your chance, when will I have mine?”
It was a split second, maybe less, Crys pulled out her Sai and stabbed the wooden table, in between Sean’s fingers. She finally raised her eyes to face him, a bright green light emanating from her usually dead gaze. “We will kill the Shadow, because he is a menace. This is not, it is NOT, revenge.” She stated. “If I have to stay as far away from the man while the others do the killing; so be it. He took my air, but my soul remains intact.”
. . . .
Crys came back to her senses to the sound of shredding fabrics. Much like when she dropped the liquor bottle, she had stepped out of her mind and was now returning to find that her body had moved without her; Screaming and groaning, one of her blades now at hand, she was shredding through something that felt like a thick item of clothing, furiously as if it had committed the highest level of offense. From that she found pillows, sheets, curtains, and anything else she could easily sink the blade into, tearing it all to shreds. Unleashing a hell that had been kept inside for way too long, the outside feelings clung to her own and mixed into a sickening rage that clawed on her insides, screamed to be let out and the more she complied the more it roared.
. . . .
“Now listen to me: You can survive this, all you have to do is fight.”
“Don’t fight it. It’ll all be over soon.”
“I think you would have done us all a huge favor if you had just decided to stay dead.
“You… Psychotic… Bitch.”
. . . .
Crys groaned, in pain, as she felt her face against the floor. She didn’t recall drinking all that much, even if she had she wasn’t alone at the time, so… Why was she on the ground? Painfully trying to move, she pressed her palms against the floor to try and push her body up, but let out a whimper and a curse under her breath as her right shoulder gave out under her weight. It was aching before, but now it seemed like it was a little bit dislocated. How did she hurt herself this way? Heaving a sigh, she rolled to her left, over her good shoulder, so she could lie on her back and push herself up. She sat up at first, trying to remember what had happened, when she rested her hand on the floor and felt a broken piece of wood next to her, the memories came back slowly; starting with what she recognized as Grim Pondus’ voice screaming, and after that, only moments of things being attacked and destroyed by her hands, feet, blades, and whatever else she could use. “Shit, what have I done?” She muttered, jumping to her feet and immediately tripping over what was once a piece of a desk. Slowly and carefully, Crys paced around the room to find that she had destroyed Mageria’s room almost completely: Chairs had been shattered and tossed on the fireplace, sheets pillows drapes, had been slashed… Reaching for the right side of her belt she missed one of Sai. Carefully searching for the weapon she found it jammed into the headboard of the bed. After pulling it out with her left hand, being careful not to add any more strain on her wounded shoulder, Crys sat down on the shredded bed, only to have collapse under her weight. “Perfect… Just… Perfect!” She muttered out, bringing her knees closer to herself and hugging them as tightly as she could; the shoulder wasn’t the only part of her body aching, she felt like she had repeatedly slammed herself against a wall, which she probably did, and she had cuts on her hands and arms. As she pointed that out to herself, she vaguely remembered using what she could only imagine was Mageria’s helm to smash the windows, she had dropped the helm; hopefully it didn’t hit anyone below…
Reaching for her face she checked herself for nicks and scratches and as her fingers felt near her left eye she noticed that there was a shard of glass lodged in its socket. “Beautiful… I’ll need help with getting this out.” She groaned. “What else?” She mumbled, standing up and patting herself with her left hand to make sure she had all of her belongings with her, she froze suddenly when she discovered that her flute wasn’t where it should be. “No. No, no, no, no…” She ran her fingers through her hair, trying to remember pulling it out of its casing. “Twins help me, no!” She whined, remembering that she had taken it out in effort to control herself, but had failed to do so… The wooden flute she loved so dearly had been carelessly tossed aside into the lit fireplace.
Crys’ left eyes stung as she began to tear up over the loss of the instrument, it had seen her through so much, it was almost like losing a piece of herself. She didn’t actually cry over it, however, she took a deep breath and concentrated through the anger and shame she felt for losing control and pinpointed the people she knew in the Castle… Both Mageria and Grim were alive, the man was no longer under the effect of his enlightenment obviously. The White Knight Captain was in the Castle somewhere, he didn’t seem all too happy… She couldn’t blame him… Ella… Crys frowned… Where was Ella? “The hell…?” She shook her head, wondering if maybe her senses were off after everything she had gone through. As she did so, her eye stung a bit more. “Time to find a medic…” She mumbled to herself.
“Well, this will be fun…” She stated. Beginning to make her way to the door, she stepped on something, and it rolled from underneath her foot, causing her land painfully on her backside. “Son of a bitch!” She exclaimed, searching around the floor carefully to find that the rolling object was in fact the bottle of rum she had brought; intact and capped. Crys shook the bottle and chuckled realizing there was still a bit of alcohol inside. She thought even Evin would agree if there was ever a moment to drink this was it. Standing up again, she removed the cap from the bottle with her teeth and took a good drink of it as she found the door. “Hey, Ria, guess what? I redecorated your room while you were out fighting your presumed-to-be-dead berserker friend… Hope you don’t mind.” She muttered under her breath. “Yup, this will truly be a delightful conversation.”
“She only thought of you.”
That strange man’s whispers seemed to echo inside Sean’s mind and he couldn’t, for the life of him, get rid of the words… Less than a day… that… Kid, had been with them for less than a full day, where had that come from? What the hell did it mean? and people who had been there longer would have spoken by now… Hell, he would have spoken by now. So what if she did speak? She didn’t know anything important. It didn’t matter either way. Sean was sworn by the laws of the clan to at least search for his recruit, and that’s what he would do now, after he found her he would think of what, if any, measures he would have to take to protect the clan from whoever had taken her.
Sean snapped out of his thoughts as he realized there was movement around him, but didn’t move or react until he heard a voice; he had been expecting this visit for a while now, since he heard of the mysterious woman who had gone speak to the Queen.
“Imagine the Wolfpack losing another leader Sean? That would be the fourth in a very short period of time. Don’t do anything stupid and then we will leave peacefully soon enough. Now you’ve never met me, so I don’t expect you to know who I am. I’d like to keep it that way. The only thing you need to know is that the Shadow’s Conflict is here for payment.”
Sean had been staring idly at the icy water, and remained that way even as his 'visitor' spoke, not moving a muscle and not at all startled by the sudden presence. He knew that this individual wasn't alone, but he really didn't care about that. "Death is the worse you have to offer me as a threat, friend? I sincerely doubt the Pack will mourn me when they can easily run back to Crystal." At this point he raised his eyes to the man and added. "I am expecting a messenger to return and I will be leaving the moment he does, whether you're done talking or not, so if you are here to name your price, do it quickly. Until someone does kill me, I still have more important things to do."
Vorso smirked. Sean seemed so sure that he knew about everything that was happening. He thought that he could read the minds of the Shadows Conflict, like he knew what they wanted. "How what the Conflict's best interests are? Maybe it is in our best interests to have Crystal come back to the Wolfpack. Doesn't it seem coincidental that Crystal is still living, that we didn't go straight for the vital part of her body where you would still get a chance to talk to her, but she would still die moments after? Doesn't it also seem odd that the Crimson Shadows walked right into her body and saved her?"
He walked down the slightly sloped ground towards the lake and Sean at the bottom. "You know that there is a part of the abdomen just below the stomach that can leave a wound which is several times more survivable than just a few centimeters above or below it? Funny that she was stabbed there. She still could have bleed out, but what makes it even more funny is that, again, those Crimson fools were just an hour away from her body when everything went down. So you can try to stop me with silly threats about Crystal."
He picked a rock up off the ground and through it into the icy water breaking a small hole in it. "Now, how bout a leader for a leader? Ella Page."
Sean ignored most of what the man said... None of it mattered now either way. "I was simply stating facts and I know my anatomy, thank you very much." He stated coldly. "I hardly care enough to threaten you people." When the man spoke the name of his target Sean frowned slightly. "Little Ella?" He asked, not really noticing how he had just addressed the Queen of Newhaven. Truth of the matter was, the image Sean had of her was still of the silly little recruit who had followed him to Blackpond to seal the deal that started this whole mess. He never had a thing against her then, neither did he have something against her now. He proceeded to chuckle softly. "She's not enough of a leader to be traded for Crys, but if that's what you want... "I will stab her and leave her an hour away from someone who can help." He smiled. "It's only fair."
He then dipped his hand in the icy water, breaking through a thin layer of ice as he spoke. "I know one of your people was in Newhaven recently... Were you there to ask them for my head, or did you have something else in mind for them?" Sean asked. "I'm pretty sure you people don't really need my help to kill anyone. So there must be something in it for you to have one of my assassins take down a city ruler, yet again, because there’s certainly nothing in it for us. Say, mate... What other threats can you offer me aside from Death, should I refuse to do this?"
There was silence for a few moments while Vorso thought about where he could move the conversation from there. Typically he liked to lead conversations and was interested when Sean tried to gain the edge and dictate the direction for him. "I've heard of a man named Evin who has killed several of your Second in Commands... word gets around." He nudged Sean's shoulder and laughed. "Wouldn't it be fun if he could join forces with us to take down the Wolfpack? I don't know your position with Newhaven and their Black Knights right now, but we could also join forces with them if necessary. The Wolfpack could be buried in a moment. Who knows, Crystal might even want to join in on the fun! So you could accept the offer or the entire Wolfpack could be at risk. Men, women and Children."
"Life is a gamble, isn't it mate? Nothing lasts forever." He replied simply. "Let's look at those odds, then, just for the hell of it: Evin might actually be stupid, or spiteful, enough... I give you that. The Black Knights, as they are or what's left of them now, would not go for the women and children bit, maybe if Newhaven starts them again from scratch, but to rebuild what they are probably destroying as we speak will take at least a few years, and Crystal? Forget it. She would never hurt the precious clan. Not even now after all this time." Sean sighed, removing his hand from the ice and rubbing it against his face. "Assuming the White Knights would be stupid to put their armies into this, which I doubt, you'd have them. Fine, I give you that. You'd have Newhaven and Evin... Yes, that might be quite easy for you. Which still begs the question: If you can wipe my entire clan so easily, what do you need me for? Why is it that the Wolfpack killing Ella seems far more important than he death in itself?" He glanced towards the man and chuckled again. "See, what you're doing is asking me to choose between the possibility of Newhaven coming after us, with your people and Evin, and the certainty that they will come for us if word gets around that we assassinated their Queen. It seems to me I'm screwed either way, and if that's the case... Why do it your way? That's the answer I'm looking for here, understand?"
"You could do it your own way and we can kill the Queen ourselves yes, but we did have a deal Sean. We put our asses on the line to try to kill the leader of the Wolfpack and would have succeeded if we didn't think that you, being as arrogant as you are would have wanted her alive long enough to talk to-- Sorry for making the assumption. Sadly, you decided not to finish the job anyways." Vorso finally moved in front of Sean and wiped away a fake tear mockingly. He then sat in front of Sean with his legs crossed like a kid. "So there are assassins that I can assure you have a target on our backs because you couldn't finish the job. We only expect you to do just as much for us, Sean. A leader for a leader."
Sean stared at the assassin with an annoyed expression... It was hardly a fair trade the way he saw it, but he did give his word after all. "Fine... I'll take care of it." He stated. "A dead is a deal."
As he said that a Wolf entered the clearing, a young boy who still wasn't very sure of himself, his hands a little shaky as he wondered if he was interrupting something important. Sean didn't bother to wait for the boy to stammer out words, he didn't want the outsider to hear anything anyway. "Do you have what I need?"
"Yes, but..." The young man tried to reply, but went silent at one gesture of his leader.
"Wait for me there." Sean ordered him.
The boy left in hurry, not wanting to be in the presence of that strange visitor anymore, and not wanting to know what his business was with the Alpha. Sean stood up immediately and picked up a travel bag that had been absently lying in the dirt next to him. "Like i said, I have my own affairs to tend to. I only need to know how much time I have to get this done."
Vorso opened his mouth to answer the question, but from out of the forest, one of his assassins spoke over him. "What don't you want us to know Sean?" Bevel, the final assassin in Vorso's group walked up to the two having the conversation.
Vorso didn't even give Sean a chance to come back with a witty remark. Vorso's eyes blinked a shiny neon green. He uncrossed his legs and kicked Bevel's leg out a little further, only just barely making Bevel sway off balance. Before Bevel got a chance to get his footing again, Vorso kicked his leg again, forcing Bevel's legs to cross and begin to tip over. Vorso grabbed the falling legs and spun the poor Bevel, forcing him to hit the ground hard on the stomach. With Bevel's crossed legs still being held by the ankles, Vorso stood up and placed his foot gently on the boy's crotch.
"Now B, you know not to ask questions where they shouldn't be asked. Respect that the Alpha of the Wolfpack needs to keep secrets, even from us." He pressed a little harder on Bevel's crotch and then let him go. Bevel scrambled back to his position and kept quite.
"Sorry about that. Now I'll give you as much time as you need. I don't expect an assassination attempt should take any longer to plan than a week, but we won’t come after you if you need the time. When you are ready, please contact the king and he'll inform you. Bringing a weak assassin as a messenger would be a bad idea. There are people in that castle who would kill the assassin for no reason at all. Maybe bring a few assassins. I'll let you get to work now. Hope that recruit doesn't give you too much trouble."
It only took seconds for them to get out of Sean's sight completely and another minute or so to get out of the camp completely unseen. When they were a far enough distance away, they slowed down to a walk. Bevel walked beside Vorso who was leading the group. "Do you think he believed it?" Bevel asked.
"I don't see why he wouldn't." He flashed his eyes the neon green again and laughed. They continued on their way to Blackpond.
Sean waited for the assassins to leave before he threw the travel bag over his shoulders and moved through the path that led to the little stables the assassins kept. There were no horses usually kept there, they were for visitors to use, or once they used to be. This time, however, there should be a couple of horses there. Sean had to call in a favor he’d much rather not have to collect, but desperate times called for things like this. As he reached the stables however, he immediately realized what the poor messenger was trying to tell him. He hadn’t brought only the horses, but their owner as well. Sean sighed heavily, why didn’t he know this would happen? Looking up at the woman absently mounted on a horse of a light golden color, he shook his head in annoyance. “Are you crazy to come here, Princess?”
Indrani chuckled. “You said you needed my fastest horses, and it was life or death. Well, you can’t expect me to give up my babies to some random Puppy you send to my doorstep.” She shook her head mockingly. “No, no, no… Alpha; it just doesn’t work that way with me. Where the horses go, I go.”
Sean scratched the back of his head and sighed, examining Indrani with his eyes from head to toe. “For this, it might be good to have you anyway… Could have gotten yourself an extra horse if I asked for two.”
“Do you think they grow in trees, Sean?” She raised an eyebrow. “Even if they did they’re rather scarce in the desert, you know?”
“Where’s Mirage?” He asked, noticing that Indrani’s mare was not one of the horses she brought.
“Dastan borrowed her, he went to the plains.” She said, quickly cutting Sean off before he could speak. “If you really need my help: Don’t dare ask me any questions.”
“Fine.” He muttered, turning to the messenger. “Go get Donovan, tell him we’re ready to leave.”
“Doni, huh?” Which one of the handsome Fletcher boys is riding with me, then?” She asked, giving Sean a little wink.
“I’m riding with you.” He said, approaching the horse. “What are their names?”
“Well, this is Sandy, the brown one is Rocky.” She replied, nodding towards the dark brown horse beside hers.
“Sandy and… Rocky?” Sean asked, holding back laughter. “Really?”
“Shut up, Dastan named them. He was trying to be funny.” She answered, rolling her eyes in annoyance. “What are we doing, exactly?”
“We’re on a search and rescue mission, Princess: Ari.” He stated, as Donovan arrived, looking from Indrani to Sean in confusion. Sean simply nodded as if to tell him not to ask. “Take the brown horse.” He ordered simply.
Donovan nodded in agreement and mounted, still looking confused, as Indrani shook her head at Sean, not understanding what he had just told her. “What… What are you talking about? Ari? Why?” She mumbled, honestly shocked.
Sean mounted the golden horse behind her and whispered to her. “You gave her the safe word, are you saying you didn’t send her here?”
“No! I gave her the safe word in case she got in trouble… Are you actually telling me that you took her in as a recruit?” She asked, making the horse move slowly through one of the paths that went around the encampment and not through it.
“Yes.” He said, with a light shrug. “The kid is talented, she just doesn’t seem to know the meaning of ‘team work’ quite yet. Ran ahead of her group, got caught by some people who probably have a grudge against us… So, we’re going to Newhaven to find her.” He explained.
“I know she’s talented, I wanted her to stay with us, but she couldn’t trust Dastan.” Indrani said, shrugging lightly. “I hope you are treating her fair, I would hate to have to kick your ass on her behalf.”
Sean chuckled. “I’ll treat her fair when she becomes good enough to kick my ass herself. That’s how it works around here.” He told her. “Should I remind you?”
“You’re the Alpha.” Indrani replied simply.
“Yes I am, Commander, and don’t you dare forget it.”
The stable hand that he had spoken too said that one of the places he would want to stay away from was The Inn. The boy didn’t know if it had any regular name. People apparently just called it The Inn. The boy said that rumors were rampant across the city that it was a place where sordid affairs were planned and carried out from. The boy had said that anyone who knows what is good for them steers clear of the place as often as possible. So this information made The Inn a natural first choice for Isyer. He readjusted his saddlebags, where were thrown over his shoulder at the moment, and continued down the streets, working to avoid the largest mud holes as he followed the directions he’d been given from a local man, who had stared in disbelief for a second when someone had asked how to get to the place. But the man had stuttered off some quick directions on how to get to the place and isyer had ventured off. After a nice long, round about walk that had seen him lost along the path many different times, Isyer finally founds the place. He thought it funny as he stopped and looked over the place. it didn't look very imposing. But the foot traffic through the door was pretty light, even for a rainy night like this. So a lot of the people did seem to steer clear of the place. "Welp.... This must be it." He grinned wickedly for a second as he stepped in through the main entry into the establishment.
Isyer lets his eyes wader over the interior of the establishment as he pushed the door closed behind him. The inside of the place didn't even look imposing. At least not to him anyway. Sure, some of the people sitting inside looked dirty, angry, violent, or criminally insane, but those people were the best ones to talk to. Always entertaining. Isyer didn't even bother to stare back at the people who were eyeing him as he walked in and over toward the counter. They mattered very little, really. So they thought him odd. Most people did. If not for seeing a "Wealthy Noble" in this place, then for his fucked up eyes. They seemed to unnerve people at times. But that was one of the best things about them.
Isyer grinned as he walked past the smattering of tables that littered the main floor, heading back toward the bar. He smiled to the woman running the place, not too proud to take a second to look her up and down. She was, after all, very attractive and seemed to be more than willing to use that fact for her own gains. There were a few marks on the woman's skin, though. Tell tails signs that she had been through a tussle lately. It didn't really detract from her looks, though. Just made her seem a little more "rough and tumble", which was an trail not lost upon Isyer. The man chuckled slightly, his charming smile waxing to a devilish grin as he leaned against the bar, winking playfully to the lady," I don't suppose I could get something good to eat and a good glass of top shelf brandy, could I?" Sheila looked him over for a second, the faintest sign of a smirk on the corner of her lip," Well, I guess that depends on if you ask the right way." Isyer shook his head slowly, mentally chastising himself for playing this game, but still grinning," Is that so? Well, Beautiful Innkeeper, could you find it in your heart to get me something to eat and drink? I tip incredibly well, however you like to be tipped." Gave her one more sly wink, taking a second to sit down on one of the bar stools. Sheila smiled a little wider," Well, if you put it that way, I think we can work something out." And with that, she set off to get what Isyer had ordered. Isyer sighed slightly, the smile vanishing from his face as soon as the Innkeeper wasn't in front of him anymore. He turned around on the stool, looking over the other patrons once more, eyeing them all carefully once more, looking for displayed, as well as possible hidden weapons on the figures. If what he had heard about this place was true, he'd have to keep his eyes open. Hell, he didn't even trust Sheila, actually. But at least this place was more interesting then any "law abiding" establishments. Absent mindedly, Isyers hand reach down to his belt pouch, drawing out a few of the small steel balls into his hand and rolling them around through his palm. It was a subconscious action for him that he didn't even realize he was doing as e sat there, looking at all the people, making sure to make eye contact with the people glancing toward him periodically. This place could be a lot of fun...
Outside of Blackpond- Eleven Years ago
Phantom had been eight or nine and her beautiful silver hair flashed in the sunlight. She was running through a field of grain, the golden strands rising up from the earth waving as her head turned to look back, her lips parting as she giggled. Her eyes were watching a boy running along behind her, his short black hair flopping with every step he took. His lips were pulled into a grin, giving his expression a childish look. She ran for the house in the distance, the sound of the grain stalks breaking as she bolted through them. Her childish giggle worked its way up from her stomach, bursting forth in a bubble of laughter as her brother leapt forward, pulling her to the ground. They rolled through the dirt and grass, breaking the stalks of the unfortunate grain that happened to be in tumbling range. She had bit him and he had punched her, their squeals rising up into the crisp air. Phantom was able to escape from her older brother as she kicked him in the side, standing and bolting for the house. Phantom knew he could take care of himself and that kick had knocked the wind out of him so she had a good head start as he tried to recover. She laughed as she touched the house, pausing to catch her own breath before walking into the only home she had even known. She froze in the doorway, her much much older brother sparing with her father. She watched in amazement as they picked up chairs, tables, chests, anything they could reach and threw it at each other all the while trying to get a good swipe in at each other. His blonde hair and freckled face was flushed from the heat of battle and Phantom cheered as the main table was flipped over and the plates on it shattered along the ground, the tiny crackly pieces scattering as they were stomped on and kicked around. Her older brother had caught up to her and they both stood wide eyed as they watched the fight, both of them bursting into merriment whenever their brother got in a good hit. Jake turned to smile at them, relaxing his grip on the sword he was playing with and both of them gasped as their father took advantage of that moment to knock the boy to his knees and pointing his sword down to the ground, a winning smile spreading across his face. Phantom rushed forward to tackle Jake to the ground, squealing with laughter as they tumbled into a cabinet, knocking it to the ground as his strong arms picked her up and swung her around the room before placing her back down and looking around the room with a frown. The place was a mess, broken furniture and plates, feathers drifting around in the air. Phantom dove behind her brother as her mother walked in, dropping the basket she had been carrying and setting off to scolding both her father and older, older brother. Phantom snickered until they had tried to blame it on her, her eyes widening with disbelief then smiling as the only received a sharp retort from mother. Phantom loved this woman with dark brown hair and soft eyes that were normally always stuck in a permanent smile even if her lips said otherwise. She ran forward to wrap her arms around the legs of her mother, sticking her tongue out at Jake as they were scolded and she was petted. Mother sent them off with a sharp word, watching the rest of the day as they both stooped over the house, cleaning it from top to bottom before she told them that their sparring would have to be done someplace else and both were locked outside for the remainder of the evening.
Phantom smirked as she remembered brawling with her brother, oh how much fun it had been to beat him up and then watch him get yelled at by her mother for the huge mess. She smiled slightly and continued forward, humming softly to herself, thinking nothing of the table. She turned the corner and stopped, broken furniture was everywhere, splinters of it littered the floor and her eyes widened slightly. Something had definitely happened here. She continued down the hall, the Black Guards that were picking up the wood pausing to look at her before returning to their work. She hadn’t gotten very far when a very large man approached her; his had resting on his sword. She could tell from his face that something was troubling him and she would not get a friendly reception from him. She quickly judged his size and immediately came to the conclusion that it would be better just to listen and talk her way out, no threats.
“Why the hell didn’t anybody tell me it was visitor’s day,” he growled, coming to a stop in front of her, “So do you want and escort to your room m’lady, maybe a tour first or perhaps I could send someone to entertain you?”
It was clear he was mocking her and Phantom felt her anger blaze as she closed her eyes for a brief moment to regain control. She pulled back her hood and let her bandana fall down across her neck. She carefully read his face, not a flash of reorganization changing his demanding features into softer ones. She sighed, and met his eyes.
“I seek council with my companions, Bran and Sophie; perhaps you know where I could find them?” She could see the doubt flicker across his face and his hand tightened on his sword. He obviously didn’t trust her and she smiled sweetly. “Please.”
“They’re busy,” he snapped glaring slightly, “But don’t worry, I’m sure Bran will come find you later tonight.”
“It would be wise,” she started and then took a deep breath, “Could you just send someone to tell them that Phantom is here, please?” She nearly lost it when he laughed, bending slightly to look her in the eye, making her feel like a little kid all over again.
“We don’t run a messenger service here girl, the place for that is that way,” he snickered, pointing back the way she had came, “Like I said, if your important to him, he’ll find you later.” He pulled away as she stepped back, her eyes scanning the people running by, looking for a familiar face. Suddenly she saw one; it was a boy erm… man. She whispered lightly, her eyes flashing with a sudden burst of color and the boy that had been running came to a skidding halt. His eyes widened and he turned his head to look at her. Phantom let the image go, sighing as the boy came over and hardly noticing as the man in front of her still mocking her.
“Kale,” the boy said, touching the man’s arm gently and smiling at her, “Why have you blocked Phantom from entering? She’s a friend after all. Come on.”
Phantom smiled softly, the man being one of the people in that morning’s fight. He led her past the dark eyed man, Kale, and into the fray pulling her to a stop as soon as they were out of view.
“Thanks,” she said lightly her smile reaching her eyes, “I don’t know what would have happened if I had stood there much longer.”
“It’s alright,” he shrugged, “I’m pretty sure Bran and Sophie would have been upset if I had just kept walking when their…..friend was arguing with one of the most bull headed men on this entire complex. But you want to stay with them for as long as you’re here. Something’s have happened and this isn’t a good place for a stranger to be right now.” Looking around, he gently grasped her arm and pulled her along, finally coming to the start of a long hallway filled with small rooms. “Bran is the fourth door on the left, Sophie is the fifth. Make sure you get one of them to escort you out.”
He smiled and gently patted her back and then left, running off to whatever he had been doing before. She normally hated having that face that most people could remember, but just this once, she was glad she had it. She moved quickly, avoiding a couple of people carrying trunks from here to there, before reaching the correct doors and peeking around the jamb. Bran was pulling clothes out of a small closet and tossing them to Sophie, who was rapidly folding them on the bed and putting them in a trunk. They both looked up when Phantom stood in the door, Bran smiling automatically and Sophie pushing her hair out of her eyes before getting up to hug her.
“Phantom, where have you been?” Sophie sounded stressed and distracted. “We looked for you after the fight and you just disappeared. And then everything else . . . I’m just glad you’re ok.” She sat back down and started packing again, using the clothes to pad a couple of bottle that Bran pulled off the shelf and handed to her.
“I wandered off,” she lied, glancing nervously at the trunk, “You’re all leaving.” She said it in a straightforward, direct tone, a bit of pity and fear coming though her voice. She leaned against the doorframe, her head resting against it as she gently closed her eyes. She took a deep breath, the sounds of things being thrown around and into the trunk screaming abandonment. “What happened?”
They both looked at each other, Sophie biting her lip as she obviously tried to figure out what to say. "Well, it's complicated . . ."
"No, it's not." Bran's voice was final.
"Yes, well; she doesn't know what's involved." Sophie argued.
"So tell her. You want Phantom to hear the lies that they're going to spread?" Bran didn't look up from the shelf he was emptying. Sophie sighed, shoulders slumping before she straightened up.
"It has to do with Captain Mageria. Seven years or so ago, she was second to Captain Morgan. He was an evil piece of shit, one thing led to another, and she killed him. Today, the Council found out and even though it was the right thing to do, they're calling it treason. And because Captain handpicked everybody in the Guard, they're throwing the lot of us out. Some of us are going to hide out in Newhaven, the rest have a place that they're going to go to."
Bran snorted from where he was checking behind his desk. "Captain told us that if we wanted to stay all we'd have to do is cut ties and renounce her. For a good leader, she can be remarkably stupid sometimes."
Sophie glared at him and took up the story. "Bran and I volunteered to stay in Newhaven for a while; we were hoping to be able to find you and make sure that those idiots didn't find you again." She looked worried. "You haven't seen them again, have you? You were poisoned just last night; you shouldn't be alone right now."
Bran was checking under the bed, pulling out boxes. From his general location came a loud noise that could either have been a sneeze or something that sounded like "Mother Hen!" Without changing expression, Sophie firmly stamped on his leg.
"Ow!" There was a thunk as Bran hit his head. "I'm worried about Phantom too, you know." He crawled out. "How about it, love? Want to come hang out in our secret club house?"
Phantom smiled slightly. They could have been brother-sister, just in the way they acted but that is what made them close. Renouncing someone you trusted and took you in was a hard thing to do, that much she knew. She hadn’t met their leader but they obviously loved her in a way, that much was shown through their loyalty. She smirked when Bran called her love, shrugging her shoulders before answering all the questions.
“I have seen them....and others but it’s not important,” she shrugged and walked into the room, grabbing a shirt and handing it to Sophie, “I’d love to come so long as I don’t burden you. But there’s something I have to do first....It has to do with the Night Hunters.”
Sophie frowned, a line appearing between her eyebrows. "How did you know that he wouldn't kill you the moment he looked at you?" Bran rolled his eyes.
"Obviously she had a reason, or she wouldn't have gone, Mother Hen." Sophie smacked him on the shoulder without even looking.
"That doesn't mean it's a good idea for her to go alone this time, idiot." Sophie glared at him, then looked worriedly over at Phantom. "No offense, but they did get you pretty good last time. I don't think you should be going to find this new person without backup. I mean, how do you know it isn't a trick of some kind?"
Phantom shrugged lightly, her lips parting as she whispered something so lightly she knew both Sophie and Bran didn’t know what she was saying and her hand reached up to gently touch a small pendent she wore around her neck. Her face lifted towards them again and she looked from one to the other.
“If you want to come you may,” she said gently, “but I have to go help, she and I....I can’t explain it but I feel like I need to protect her just this once.”
The two looked at each other and shrugged. "Well, we're about done packing. Just a few more things and we can put it with the rest and go." Sophie spoke first. "We'd just have to tell Michael that we have something to finish and he'll understand." Bran nodded and added his own thoughts. "Whatever else, if there's an organized group of that kind in Newhaven right now; we'd be told to keep an eye out for them. So really, we're anticipating our orders." Sophie rolled her eyes, but didn't dispute him. She just shoved the last of Bran's things into his trunk and slammed the top closed.
"That's it, Peacock." She tossed a travel bag at him. "We're ready to go whenever." She smirked at Bran. "I'm already packed up."
“Is there anything I can help with,” she asked lightly, smiling at them and glancing down the hallway. Every moment was a second that she was letting Kirsten’s men get closer to the girl something she couldn’t let happen. Her mind wandered to Lichen for a moment until Bran spoke and she snapped her attention back to her companions.
The two looked at each other and shrugged, standing up and heading out the door.
"We're ready to go, so if Sophie wouldn't mind talking to Michael . . ." Sophie rolled her eyes again but just grabbed her bag from a pile outside her door and headed off towards a knot of other people.
"If your girl is in trouble, we should go find her quickly. Sophie's better at selling the higher ups on ideas." It actually only took a few minutes for her to return, slinging a bag over the heavy coat that she was wearing, whip still slung at her waist.
"They'll take our stuff to the warehouse; we can meet up with them when we can." She adjusted her things just a bit. "Feels strange to be in civilian gear again." She smiled and waved down the hall. "Shall we go?”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The clouds above had darkened with the threat of rain or snow, it didn't really matter and the dirt from the street gave the stone a layer of dust that if inhaled caused one to sneeze. People flittered from one place to another oblivious to the thieves and crooks what walked among them, unable to tell the innocent from the guilty. The great city, no matter how beautiful it looked up front was indeed much darker than one would expect. The air was thick and dry and the light was hard to come by in this side of Newhaven. Ari had been wandering the streets as a wolf, her delicate ears catching the hushed whispers of the people who were lucky enough to catch sight of her as she passed by in the alleys. The black clothes she held in her mouth were heavy with the small bag of coin that the girl, Essence, had given her before she had run. She made a mental note to pay back the favor whenever they crossed paths again. Her ears swiveled forward and she realized that a wolf wandering the streets would draw more unwanted attention than a girl. She gave a low growl, already cursing herself for not thinking of it sooner. She slipped into the thin alley that Phantom had stood in earlier and her nose twitched gently at the sweet smell that the girl had left. She scanned the area, her eyes flashing as her nose and ears told her that there was no one nearby and she shifted quietly. She pulled on her clothes, the black standing out and she leaned against the alleyway wall, sliding down it as she despaired. They would never come, no help for the little or the meek. Only the strong survived in this world. It was a sad thought and she closed her eyes gently, figuring any moment now Kirsten’s men would come. She couldn’t hide she could only run and she didn’t like that option, no she was a fighter, a murderer.
Four years ago
Running though the woods, the trees and bushes snagging at her shirt and leggings, breath light as her small body was able to slither and wiggle through the tight spaces. She was running from her father. He was drunk again, that rage and anger consuming him, making him slaughter her love. She had been threatened as well, abandoned after her curse had taken over and now she was fleeing from the one thing that she loved. Or did she? Tears were claimed from her face as she scrambled down a small ravine. Her heart pounded against her chest and her body shook with fear as she found herself cornered in the small rocky ravine, a place only she knew well. She turned, hearing the hot heavy curses from her father, his husky demanding voice screaming her name, pleading for her yet cursing her all the same. She saw him before he saw her, his black hair oily and his green eyes sparking with the fire that said everything. His pale face was burned and his thin white lips pulled into a sneer as he saw her back pressed against a rock.
“I taught you how to fight, not to run,” he spat, his small eyes narrowing as he stumbled forward, a flask still gripped tightly in his hand.
“Papa,” she cried her voice breaking as he seized her by the arm and pulled her into him. His sweat made her nose burn and the pungent smell of the dirk on his breath made her shrink back as his hands fumbled at the laces of her shirt. He grabbed her, biting into her neck with a grunt as tears ran down her face only to die upon her lips that were spread wide as she screamed. There was a sharp pain, and then darkness.
When she opened her eyes her father lay dead beside her, his throat torn from him and her lips bloodied. Her shaking body quickly pushed herself away from the dead man, the horrible pain he had suffered still etched onto his dying face. Her fingers gently reached out, shaking slightly as she touched his neck, his blood sticking to her fingers as she withdrew them. Gently, cautiously she put them to her lips, her head snapping up as she tasted it, sweet and salty blood, the life force of all living things. Her eyes burned with a golden color and her human self was replaced by her beast; the great white wolf throwing back its head to send its victory to the heavens.
Ari shuddered at the memory, her face turning to look up into the sky as her stomach rumbled. Today she could still taste the blood of her father and she hated herself for having taken his life. But even his death wasn’t as haunting as her mothers. That was something she would never, ever forget.
She wanted revenge. It burned in the forefront of her mind like a flame ready to consume everything the moment it was released. It was ready to burst forth like the water from the mountains to the north and crash against all those who had done her wrong. Her mother, the little whore who had watched countless times as father abused her, now…now she would meet the same fate. Ari walked forward into the camp that her mother and father had set up. Her ears lay flat against her scalp as she prowled forward, her mind red with one thought, death. She saw the woman she had known as her mother burning clothing, her clothing. She couldn’t help it as the sweet scent of her clothes, toys, weapons all reached her and a savage growl ripped up her throat. The woman with the red hair turned, her eyes widening with mild shock. No hesitation, no warning, her strong legs pushed her off of the ground and pushed the woman down along the ground, their bodies skidding forward.
“Please Alou,” she whispered, her brown eyes wide with fear and the trembles of the woman giving her the power to hold her steady, “You don’t want to do this.”
Ari hesitated, her jaws suspended in the women’s face, her hot breath stroking over it as she panted. She just now realized that it wasn’t her mother who shook but her, the anger forming itself into tremors that pushed through her paws and into her mother like waves. Slowly, Ari became aware that her mother did not deserve to die. Her father, yes, he deserved what he got, but an unarmed woman was different. Slowly she moved away, letting her mother up and walking slowly away, she would be done with it.
“Come here you stupid mutt,” her mother called the sweet pleading tone replaced by the growl and snappy tone Ari had known all so well. Mistake, not knowing the extent of Ari’s thoughts as a creature, soon the woman lay dead as well, her face shredded and unrecognizable.
That day had made her stronger, better. She wasn’t Alou the child anymore…but Ari, the free spirit. She smiled, waiting for her murder to catch up with her and claim her for her parents. Murderess, her heart screamed but she paid no attention to it, seeing an easy way to run forever without having to worry. Ari closed her eyes with a tiny sigh.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Alex woke slowly, his own body still numb from that pain that he had shared with Ari. He shook his head slowly pulling himself up into a sitting position. His dark eyes scanned the room that he was in and he cursed the Twins silently. They were just there, ready and working on a plan to get Ari out of that house when her memories flooded him and then Franklin had quickly intervened in their conversation as well, just as the city of Newhaven formed itself into his mind’s eye. Then everything went black. Silly, juvenile, insane: that’s what Ari was. His anger flared and it took him a moment to soothe it down so that it didn’t cloud his mind. What the hell had she been thinking, running off like that?! Hadn’t Sean taught her anything: if not lessons in fighting then on the Pack law? He closed his eyes and placed his head into his hands, breathing deeply as he fought for control of his emotions.
“Why couldn’t she just stay,” he whispered, looking up to the ceiling in hopes that an answer would fall from the sky. After a second of staring up into the dusty rafters and studying the shadows and noting how the wood was rotting, he stood, shaking out his cramped muscles and stretching out his limbs. He knew Franklin and the others were around here somewhere and he exited the room, his hands working on attaching the sword to his hip. Franklin was just outside the door with the rest of the assassins and he stood up, a smile on his face.
“Rise and shine sleeping beauty,” he teased and Alex growled slightly as Franklin’s hand fell onto his shoulder and his body jolted from the force of the impact. Alex saw the other assassins, laughing quietly to themselves and he smirked, better to join them. His eyes flickered to Franklin’s, turning bright blue before fading. “Oh, they know everything,” Franklin smirked, still in a teasing mood, “You can speak in front of them Alex, or have you come to fear your own?”
“Fear,” Alex scoffed and then smiled, his own mood lightning, “Old man, you don’t know what it is to truly fear.”
Franklin laughed as did the other assassins and the man steered Alex toward the nearest window, smiling lightly.
“It’s about damned time you got up anyways Sleeping Beauty; we have a girl to save.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Ari’s eyes flickered open and she looked straight up as a man leapt over her alley, she shuddered to think that maybe it was a Hunter and they had just missed her. Ari stood as her stomach growled, the sound in the silence of everything sending chills up her arms. She was ravenous and she realized that she hadn’t eaten anything all day besides the little jerky that she had eaten. She produced the bag of coin from seemingly out of nowhere and weighed the bag in her hands. Essence, the wolf girl….. Ari shook her head and smiled, who knew that the wolf inside could be tamed. She quickly hid the coin, making it disappear into thin air, or that’s what it looked like anyways. She was very nimble as she slid around people, careful not to brush up against the stragglers and the ones who moved so quickly. She smirked as she skillfully “borrowed” some coin from the less attentive and the ones who were too lazy to properly hide their purse. She used to do this for a living when her parents were still alive and she was just mildly surprised that she still had the skill to do it. Soon she had enough to change out of the black shirt and leggings and into something a little bit less standoutish. She wandered through an alley, breaking away from the main road, now just wandering; her head filled with thoughts of the past when she saw a pretty dress hanging from a line, set out to dry. She walked past it, making sure that no one was around and she snatched the cloth, replacing it with one of the bags that she had collected from the unwary passerby. The brown cloth fluttered in her hands as her nose caught scent of food and she followed it to an Inn. She entered carefully, her enlightenment fading sharply as the scent assaulted her nose. The place was charming, the light from the candles placed strategically around the room to provide the softest light while still keeping it bright enough to move around in. There were some people wandering about, sitting at the tables ordering drinks and Ari shivered as one of the men in the furthest corner lifted his hooded face to stare at her, his face hidden in shadow. She walked up to the closest table, blushing as she asked for the Innkeeper. They pointed her over to where a woman was standing, wiping down a table and she walked quickly over, unable to get the feeling she was being watched out of her mind.
“Excuse me,” she said gently, the barmaid pausing to look up at her with a little smile, “Would you mind very much if I stayed here for awhile, its been a long day and I’m afraid I don’t know much about this city.”
“Poor thing,” the woman said, taking her gently by the hand and leading her up the stairs, “you can have the room at the very end of the hall and a while later I'll bring you something to eat.”
Ari thanked the girl, handing her the money she had taken and walking into the room, sighing lightly as she saw the bed and the small table in the middle of the room, with a candle on it. She slid out of the clothes, flinching as the cold air washed over her and she quickly slid on the brown dress, the warm cloth fitting her form perfectly and after searching the room she quickly found two ribbons and used one as a sash, wrapping it around her waist and letting the emerald green thing sit along her hips. She found a small mirror and a was bowl, using both to help her clean up her face which had some dirt smudges and then braiding her hair so it fell down along her back. She sighed, wondering why her enlightenment gave her the ability to heal so quickly when she shifted, to have unflawed skin after each shift and why her hair was never able to stay short for more than a couple changes. She stared into her own eyes, the green slightly disrupted by the small brown dots in each eye, freckles. She was pulled away as there was a knock on her door and she opened it, finding the barmaid there with a plate of hot food which she gave over with a sweet smile. Air was confused, no one had ever treated her like this and she immediately grew suspicious as the woman walked back down the hallway. She walked back into her room, shutting the door and sitting on the bed when someone moved from behind her, clamping their hand over her mouth before she could scream and snatching the plate, laying it on the table.
“Don’t fight me,” he growled, his breath stroking over the side of her face.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Kirsten ached, his legs burned and his ass was sore from all the riding he had been doing. He wondered if the Alpha took his advice and was now already in Newhaven searching for Ari. Kirsten sure as hell hoped so. He was riding at a leisurely pace, the horse tossing his head and the reins jingled and jerked in his hands as the war horse pranced under him. He pulled back on the reins, the horses head pulling back to its chest as the beast fought to break into a wild gallop and reluctantly Kirsten gave in. Just ahead of him was the city of Newhaven and he dreaded his arrival to his Night Hunters but found that he was actually somewhat intrigued to fight the girl name Ari. It would be fun, child’s play, but fun. His stomach twisted and a wicked grin spread across his face as the rocking of the horse quickened at his command. The terror and pain in her eyes when his sword pierced through her stomach, that……that would satisfy this death. He opened his eyes, their color matching the blood color of his cloak and with a hiss and a kick the black beast surged under him as he headed toward one of the best hunts he would ever have.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Ari held perfectly still as the stranger released her and walked to stand above her, the hood still hiding his face in shadow. She glared, eyes burning with hatred as she saw that it was the man from the corner of the tavern part of the inn downstairs. He reached up and pulled back his hood, exposing a kind face with hair as black as the midnight sky but with a streak of sliver along the side, just a tiny flaw but she recognized him immediately.
Moutains-Ten Years Ago
She had been climbing the ravine, cambering over the rocks when the rock her hand had been holding slipped. Hher body lurched down toward earth, a scream tearing through her throat, her eyes closing as the horror of what had happened hit her, hard. Ari was going to die, this was it. She waited for the fall and then the sudden stop at the bottom when suddenly; she lurched to a stop, her hand and arm clasped tightly in the grip of a grimy little boy. The dirty thing held her tightly, his voice commanding as he urged her to help him help herself.
“Grab that rock,” he cried, his eyes narrowing as she shook her head, “Do it or die.”
She had obeyed then, her arms shaking as she reached for it and then when she was sure that she was safe there she had clung to it as the boy went off to grab a rope, quickly coming back and dropping it over the edge, telling her how to tie it around herself using only one hand. He had then pulled her to the top, again instructing her how to swing from rock to rock to pull herself up, not only using her arms but also her legs. She had trusted him then, her mind confused and frightened to the point where she wouldn’t have been able to move if he hadn’t been barking out orders and encouraging her as she slowly made it up the face. When she was near the top his hand had reached for hers and the last little bit he had pulled her up, falling back onto the shale as she toppled next to him. Both were heaving and they turned to smile gently at each other.
“Stephan,” he said gently a smile spreading across his dirt covered face. His eyes were green like hers and his hair was black as a raven’s wing with a small streak of silver on the left side. His hair was messy and he was cute, the slight hint of freckles bridging up and over his nose and across his cheeks under all the dust and mud that was covering his face. Ari had given her name, surprised to see that he was wearing boots, his dark blue pants torn and baggy but not as baggy as his shirt which, Ari guessed, was supposed to be white. The boy, Stephan nodded and smiled at her, his teeth the only thing that was clean about him. “So, what cha doin’ all the way up here, Ari,” he asked, sitting up to wipe the sweat from his brow, leaving a dark smudge print all the way across his forehead.
“I wanted to touch the sky,” she had answered lightly, shivering as the cold wind struck her. She was offended when he had laughed in her face, noting how the cold hadn’t even caused him to suck in a sharp breath.
“Silly girl,” he smirked, “Don’t you know that the Viem live up there and if you were gunna climb higher they would claim you as their own?” He shook his head in wonder and smiled, standing up and offering his dirty little paws for her to take as he pulled her off of the ground. “Foreigners, here you need more clothes if you’re gunna come play with me.”
Ari had followed him along the rocky cliffs, his steps nimble and quick, without hesitation as he leapt from rock to rock, humming softly to himself and blabbing about the many different animals that wandered his mountain. Her green eyes turned toward the village far below, the clouds already rolling in as he turned to face her.
“Well? You comin’,” he called, turning back around as her attention snapped back to him. Already she had slipped and torn her pants and down below where her mother and father were swindling, it had begun to snow.
Ari stood and embraced him; his hands reaching hesitantly up to hold her closer to him and gently stroke her hair. She stepped back a smile across her face as she looked up at Stephan, his own lips quirking up into a grin.
“Long time no see girl,” he laughed lightly his eyes sparkling in amusement, “Don’t tell me that you weren’t frightened.”
“I wasn’t,” she said her voice flat as she walked over to the food and sat down, eating it as though he wasn’t there. She could feel his eyes on her back and she turned to look at him sitting on the bed. Something came flying at her and she yelped as it struck her chest, falling with the soft tinkling of coin and she carefully picked it up. “What is this for?”
“It’s all on me love,” he teased, grinning mischievously.
“You used your enlightenment,” Ari accused, tucking the purse away. His grin spread and his eyes flashed as he tapped the side of his nose knowingly. “What brings you down from the mountains?” She watched as his eyes narrowed and his lips pulled into a thin line. She quirked an eyebrow at him, taking another bite of the meat that was on the plate.
“I came down because the wind whispered,” he said gently standing up and walking to stand directly behind her, resting his hands on her shoulders and rubbing them gently. “It speaks of you following your path…your animal and becoming a true Wolf.” His hands grew tighter on her shoulders and she flinched slightly as their grip became vise like, restraining. “Is it true?”
She knew he was lying about the wind and she nodded, knowing perfectly well that he had probably come in contact with a Hunter. He released her and stepped away, his eyes sparking with a hidden emotion and he beamed at her.
“You’re in the wrong Inn,” his voice was rich with humor, it was almost mocking and she hated it. “Come with me…I can take you back to where you’ll be safe.”
Ari stood, her nose testing the air, her animal instincts flaring up to see if perhaps he was lying or had something else in mind. Finding nothing she nodded slowly. He smiled and took her by the hand, dragging her down the stairs and out the door, his grip tight but not painful as he lead her down the alleyways and toward a different inn. He dragged her inside before she had a chance to catch the name of the place and into a small group of people. Her eyes scanned the room, noting how much darker it was in this inn and she stayed put as Stephan left to get them both a drink. She sighed and leaned against the back of the chair, making sure that she wouldn’t draw too much attention when she noticed and odd character sitting back in the far end of the bar. She stared at him for a moment, seeing that his eyes were strange and she averted her gaze to out the window.
Isyer's attention snapped back to the bar as the Innkeeper made her way back over to him, smiling playfully once more," Here you go, handsome. Tonight's top dollar meal is a rabbit stew and a rye loaf. And then a nice glass of blackberry brandy, made right here in Newhaven. The best there is around here." Isyer nodded his thanks, his eyes never leaving her's as she set the food down. He smiled brightly once more, his charming mannerisms taking back over once more as his eyes twinkled in the dim firelight. He took out two gold coins, more than enough to pay for if meal, and laid them on the counter," Sounds perfect, my dear. And after this, I'll probably need a room for the night. And you just let me know how you want that tip." Sheila laughed a little bit, taking the coins and pocketing them but walking off without another word.
Isyer looked down to his food as he listened to the man who had just come in. He'd come up to the bar to order a few drinks for the himself and the woman. Isyer looked over to the man, nodding a little bit and smiling to him once he was done ordering," Hell of a night out there, huh? Thank the Twins it isn't snow, otherwise this city would be a mess." It was just small talk, but he wanted to find out how the man gauged people. Isyer wasn't exactly the most sane looking person most of the time. So he wanted to see if the man would regard him like any normal person, or if he automatically assumed the worst. But, chances were the man knew this inn better than he did, so the man would know the type of people who frequented a place like this. Isyer might be biting off a bit more than he could chew if things got out of hand. But he'd have to deal with that if it came down to it. For now, this was a straight recon mission to him, though. Isyer just wanted to get the lay of the land for how people reacted.
“Snow doesn’t bother me,” Stephan glanced at the person next to him, his lips pulling into a smirk as he leaned against the edge of the bar, his eyes never leaving Ari who looked slightly uncomfortable by herself. He turned as the Innkeeper placed two drinks next to him and her eyes smiled at him gently.
“Stephan, take off that ridiculous hood and let me see your handsome face again. It’s really been too long,” she reached up and pulled the hood off, Stephan remaining perfectly still as she did so. He beamed at her, his smile reaching his eyes as she winked at him.
“What the hell did you do to your face,” he asked, smiling slightly as she told him before she glanced over his shoulder, looking back at Ari and then at him.
“Now I know you’re not dragging that sweetness into any trouble,” she said ruffling his hair as she walked away with a sly smile and a wink. Stephan chuckled and turned back to the stranger, his black eyes narrowing slightly.
“So, stranger,” he said lightly, his voice low and dark but perfectly respectable, “You are not from these parts. Where do you hail from?”
He took a sip of his drink, not noticing how Ari had slid from her seat and had made her way through the crowd with feline grace and now stood beside him, her eyes flashing with curiosity. She stood tall and proud next to Stephan, tossing the hair out of her eyes as she looked from one man to the other. She didn’t trust the stranger, but then again she never trusted a lot of men. She shivered as she looked into his eyes, seeing for herself why they had caused her alarm the first time. From across the room one had looked blue and the other black but now she could tell that they were, in fact, both a deep blue and she smiled charmingly at him before playfully hitting Stephan in the arm.
“Hey girl,” he said with a grin after pulling a false face of pain and laughing slightly.
“You left me in the corner all alone,” Ari teased, her eyes flickering toward the man that stood behind her now. “And without a drink. But now I see that you were not being rude you were just talking to one of your friends.” The statement sounded more of a question as she spun back around to look at the stranger who made her enlightenment want to flare up….why she had yet to know. Her eyes locked onto his, their color changing from green to brown in a matter of moments before slowly sparking back to green.
"Tell us," she purred, her voice seductively sweet, "Where do you hail from? What is your name?"
Suddenly the door gave way.
“Hah.. Wait, no, Hey you!”
Crys hadn’t gotten anywhere before she was hailed down by the most unlikely of people. A bedraggled woman teetered and wobbled wildly on feet unbalanced. Her eyes were shimmering gold with uncanny light. She was doused in a cold sweat but her eyes though milky were restless, almost nervously bouncing from inside her skull. Her hands moved with delay, and her hips swayed back and fourth as though she were about to collapse at any moment. Yet somehow she swaggered back into opposite alignment and thus was forced too far again, back and fourth almost like a graceful drunken dance.
Her Enlightenment was easy to feel out right away, in fact her mind had to have activated it subconsciously and she held to her power with minimal exertion. Not too different from Crys in that respect. In fact if not for her magic she wouldn’t have been standing, the dozen of stitches were only being held together through her flouncing because the skin refused to part.
Dressed in only simple robe a few sizes too big, and floundering about like a drunken fool, one could have guessed Morrigan had just escaped the sick room. Still she seemed hardly bothered to communicate with this stranger that she happened upon. She was grinning brightly and looking quite appeased, the midwives must have prescribed the good stuff.
“Hey, hey hey… hey! Wait… no… Hey!”
She giggled a little, placing her hands over her mouth. Twirling through her hair idly like a little girl. All the while she was looking over this person scanning her from head to toe, trying to focus or maybe even just see her properly.
“He- Oh wait I said that. I’m looking for my friend, I think he’s in… You don’t look so good…. These aren’t my clothes.”
She seemed a touch distracted, having started pulling on the front of her robes.
“You’re pretty… I’d kiss you if I had a moustache.”
She let out a gasp, reaching she touched her lips. Then gave a sigh a relief, she indeed didn’t have a moustache. Casually she pulled on her robes again, checking over again for who knew why.
“I uh was looking for… eh… oh… hehe that’d be silly. Where?”
She would stop midsentence and have little snickering inbetween her sways. She could see Crys, but it felt like she’d lose focus and ignore her for a few seconds. Even little looks of surprise would fall on her when she’d look back and realize she was talking to somebody after all, or trying to at least.
“Have you seen my- Oh!”
She leaned in so close their foreheads were just centimeters from touching. Then she jerked back, relaxing her neck while she gazed at the ceiling a moment. Once she managed to roll her head around to face Crys she laughed to herself.
“You can’t see..”
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