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Ella Page

"The Queen is the strongest on the chess board. Why is it that I feel so weak?"-Deceased

0 · 2,121 views · located in Blackpond

a character in “Shadows of The Forgotten”, as played by Mr_Doomed

Groups

Queen and White Knights.

Description

Gender: Female

Age: 20 (Inviditas 2, 2536)

Affiliation: Queen of Newhaven

Ability (if enlightened): N/A

Description: Ella looks timid and not in any way threatening to anyone or anything. She has long blond wavy hair and light grey eyes. Her skin in very pale with only a few freckles that have appeared over time. Because of her pale skin and the time she spends outdoors, she gets sun burnt a lot and it isn't a surprise whenever you see red marks around her eyes. She is small and the perfect weight for a woman her size. It was discovered that she had a parasite living inside her by one of the White Shadows when she moved into the castle. This was the reason for her problem with being underweight.
Now that she lives in the castle and is the queen, she is able to wear dresses like she always loved to. She wears something similar to this.
As another reference photo, refer to this.

Personality

Ella, despite looking timid, she is a very talkative. She is friendly and is always ready to welcome someone new into her circle of friends, which is rather small now that she’s queen. She is one of those people who always seem to have a smile on her face, but is always discouraging herself. Of course she, like anyone has their breaking point.
Behind her friendly charm, there is a very depressed girl though. It is one that never really knew her real family and never really cared to either, until just recently. The thing that most affects her though, is the death of the real king. Inside, she is very pessimistic and never truly happy. She really wants to be able to tell people about her personal problems, but she is too afraid to.

History

Ella doesn't know a life outside of either the Wolf Pack or the orphanage she used to live in before things got out of hand. It all started when she met the king as he was parading down the streets by her orphanage in Newhaven. She wanted to get a closer look so she had ran past the guards and went to say hello to the him. The minute the King had seen Ella, he called upon his guards to send her away, but his son (the prince at the time), wanted to know more about her. There was just something about her that intrigued him.
After that day, the two became very close and after the King passed the crown down to his son, they just became closer. People always believed that Ella was the King's daughter, and it could have been true too. Of course they denied that that was true and then it was decided that the king had a sick love for young, underage girls. When that rumour started to go around, he had to abandon her back alone at the orphanage.
Years past and Ella hadn't heard from him. Then one day, a White Knight stormed into the orphanage and captured the girl. She was being persecuted for treason against the king. When she went to face the king head on, she realised that he wasn't the king that she remembered; he was Perry (the Shadow). He believed that she had an enlightened power and was going to gain this power from her. Before he could do anything though, the assassin's came and killed Perry.
She has since become an unofficial assassin and Queen of Newhaven this is after learning the truth about her royal lineage. This made her the next in line to the throne after her mother died.
Mageria has been there for her and tried to help her train to become a proper queen fit to rule what is often considered the best city in Valcrest.

So begins...

Ella Page's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ella Page Character Portrait: Ari Lupir

0.00 INK


The setting changes from valcrest to Newhaven

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ella Page Character Portrait: Ari Lupir

0.00 INK

What the hell am I doing here,’ Ari thought as she wiped away a loose strand of hair from her face leaving behind the streak of charcoal across her brow. It was her second day and already she had wound her way into the castle life and into the maid system there. Hell, she knew her mother had raised her to be a drudge but she never thought that the skills she had learned oh so long ago were now being put to use. The wicked woman whose blood had stained her lips once had now offered her the greatest gift ever, a chance to prove her worth to the Pack. But now she didn’t feel like a Wolf bent over old coals with aching knees and a bent back. Who possibly could?
Sean would be laughing now, wouldn’t he,’ she thought with a small smile before the ache of the coals got to her eyes. With a mutter she shoved the remainder of the ashes into the bucket, closing the lid with a sharp bang as she stood up from the floor. A real maid was busy carrying fresh linen for the bedroom in the queen’s chamber and hearing the clang she paused and turned into the doorway.

“Lillian,” she said softly, looking dead at Ari with a semi sad smile, “We don’t slam the lids closed honey; we make sure that we’re hardly noticed.”

“Of course Shelly,” Ari said softly, nodding her head as she picked up the bucket and moved onto the next room to check the fireplace there. When Ari had first arrived her skill was enough to be qualified, and after all, posing as a poor orphan girl, who could say no? Of course she had quickly been snatched up by Ella’s maids, saving her from the rough beating of the kitchen or endangerment from men anywhere else in the castle. Having a pretty face had saved her from that possible fate. However, much to Ari’s dismay, she had no contact with the Queen throughout her day. She wasn’t trusted enough yet.

Of course, it wasn’t hard to find information on her schedule. With her cute face she had been able to ask innocently around and as one of the aspiring maids, people were practically throwing information in her face. Brian, one of the boy’s at the royal stables had told her that only the Queen picked her maids for who they were and how well they worked. His advice on how to reach her was perhaps the greatest thing she could ask for right now. It was this that she kept in mind as she threw herself into the next mess of coals, scrubbing until there was nothing left and the floor shone as she stacked up the wood into a beautiful spiral that only took her a few moments. There. Something like that was bound to get her even noticed a little bit.

The halls of the castle were silent. Only the subdued footfall of the workers could be heard. That was only on occasion. More often than not, a worker, be it a maid or cook, would be seen before they were ever heard. They would just run down the halls, taking every last precaution to be as quiet as possible. Quite was an important thing too, especially at this time of day when most people were still asleep. The Sun was just about to poke its head from the distant horizon. This was the time that most workers around the castle got to their jobs. It wouldn't be another hour before any residents of the castle would be awake with exceptions to some of the higher ranked guards that took night duty. There was one other exception, however.

Ella slowly dredged through the halls with her mop head hair and a small blanket that she was using to cover up her undergarments. She shouldn't have been awake for another couple of hours, but she had gotten too caught up in a dream and the moment something frightening happened in it, she was instantly awoken. It was decided when she woke up that she would get a quick start at the day and finish early so she could have more time to herself. First, however, she would have to get a quick little breakfast. Her usual breakfast wouldn't be ready yet, but she didn't worry much about that.
Without warning she heard a voice say, "Ella, you're awake." Ella jumped right out of her skin from the unexpected, but familiar voice. "Oh sorry, did I frighten you? No worries, it is just me. Shelly. I'll grab new linens for your bed if you don't mind."
Ella wasn't quite awake enough to speak, so she just waved Shelly off and allowed her to do her job. Shelly was a nice woman. She did her job extremely well. Despite being a maid, she was always well dressed and spoke with a soft voice which most would find annoying. Ella found it sweet. The best thing was, despite how she could be treated sometimes, she always seemed to have a smile on her face. Shelly didn't frown, even when she was waved off like Ella just did. She just went right back to her job.
Ella continued to walk down the halls until she reached the kitchen. It was a very busy place at this time of day. When Ella walked in the room, everyone stopped and starred at her. The cooks weren't very used to people entering their kitchen while they worked, let alone the Queen. What made it worse for the cooks was that Ella looked like she had just gotten out of bed, like she had. For the men and women of the kitchen, it was the first time they would have seen her in such a condition. She ignored the worker's glares and just grabbed a half chopped apple from one of the cutting stations and walked out of the room to allow the cooks to get back to work.
On her way back to her room, she heard a loud bang. It sounded almost like an explosion had gone off, especially in the quite halls of the castle. She went down the hall where she thought she heard it coming from, passing by Shelly on the way. When she saw where the noise came from, she just looked for a moment. It was a girl, not much younger than she was, but obviously still in her teens. The girl didn't seem to notice her yet. She had her back to Ella while she was cleaning the floor. Ella took a bite out of her apple, making as loud a crunch as possible to grab the girl's attention.
"May I say, you have quite the talent for cleaning floors, but I'm surprised." She said. "What is a girl as pretty as you are doing cleaning floors here? I'm sure you could find better work somewhere else with such a pretty face like that."

Ari quickly turned to see who had entered, her eyes wide as she quickly took in the bedraggled and messy queen. Doni had told her what to look for, but nothing could have prepared her for this. She bowed her head, ducking quickly to hide the smile on her face. Bed head was not her best look.
“My queen,” she said slowly straightening upright, using her deepest control to keep a straight face. “I- I didn’t see you. My thanks for the complement; I take great pride in my work.”
Ari glanced at the floor, freighting a small smile before turning back toward Ella. That was a lie, she hated it. Her back ached and her head pounded and her arms were sore, but what was she supposed to do? Complain about it?
“I’m an orphan, m’lady, not left behind but my mum died and my dad was murdered. Cleaning floors is all I thought to do. The work’s not bad and the people are friendly enough. I’m safe and in good hands with Shelly as a guide and the other maids are kind and helpful. I don’t think that a job elsewhere would be half as good as this one here. It’s a pleasure and an honour to serve one as great as you.”

Ella cleared the sleep out of her eyes as she listened to the girl speak. There was a tension in her voice that indicated that she was picking her words carefully or possibly holding something in. Her hand recoiled from her eye as she pressed to hard on it. Her nose flinched as she rubbed her eye better. When she was done, she looked back up and brushed her messy hair away from her face. "If you think you can hide something from me like I believe you are right now, don't be fooled. I understand how you could be amused by seeing the Queen in rags like I am. You are allowed to laugh." She giggled. "I was an orphan too. Well, I guess I wasn't actually an orphan seeing as my father was the controversial king before my brother and my mother just only recently died... anyways, I've been advised I ask this to any maid who peaks my interests, so I'll just get this out of the way. What do you think of the Monarchy and more specifically, this Monarchy?"

Monarchy. That word- Ari smiled gently and dipped her head, hoping that the queen would believe that she was taking a moment to smile at the messy state she was in at that moment.
“Monarchy? You have kept us safe for generations, protected us from the outsiders that would wish us harm, so I see no harm in it as well. We must all pay the price for protection, this,” Ari said, gesturing to her surroundings with soot covered hands. “It's my way of showing my thanks and appreciation. However, I am glad not to be in such a place of power as you. It must be challenging running a kingdom. ”

Ella thought about the times before she was Queen for a moment. She thought about her childhood dreams, the ones that every girl had, of one day becoming the Queen. To rule over all her subjects with respect and dignity, making everyone happy and receiving the same sort of respect from the people she ruled over. She was such a gawk back then to think that being a Queen was anything like she imagined.
"Running a Kingdom is challenging, yes. I've got an entire council which seems to like me less and less each day, the city people seem to be the same way. The city, although appearing to be in good shape, is worse than it’s ever been. There's the looming threat of Blackpond, who have been far more active around Newhaven as of late. And of course there is the Wolfpack." Thoughts ran through her head. She typically only told a select few of her personal maids certain things. This maid seemed to be proficient in her work and pretty loyal though. Soon enough, she'd be her personal maid if she kept it up. "It's funny to think that Sean, the leader of the Wolves, is set to kill a former Wolf of their own. Blackpond was gracious enough to warn me about it, but it still seems odd that the Wolfpack took the hit. They don't have an impressive track record with killing royalty. I was there when the Wolves killed the false king, but besides that time, I've heard that in the complete history of Valcrest, the Wolves have taken contracts out on the Royals of Newhaven three other times. Each time the Wolves were nearly wiped out by Newhaven's Black Kni-"
Ella understood now. Every time they'd taken the contract on the royals, there were the Black Knights around. This time, the Black Knights were out of the way. Did the people in charge of Blackpond know this was going to happen? It seems doubtful, but she couldn't know for sure. "Sorry, I got lost in a maze of a thought for a moment. I'm not sure if I ever caught your name."

Ari took note. Every word was heeded, analyzed for importance and stored away in the deep recesses of her mind, locked and then forgotten until they would be called upon. It was there they would be safe, hidden until she could tell Donovan. Then, as Ari thought about Ella’s position, she couldn’t help but feel a pang of pity for the girl. Ari knew that Ella had no friends, only those that were deemed safe, she had very little time to play and loads of responsibility upon her shoulders. Her kingdom looked to her to lead and even if was the council who failed; Ella would have to pay the price. How lonely a life like that must be.
“Lillian,” she said bowing her head slightly, “M’lady. May I offer my advice? I know I’m just a maid, but living in an orphanage does add a different perspective to life.”

“Thank you my Queen. I have, as you have said already, known about Blackpond being a threat towards the crown, but them warning you frightens me. Is it possible that they are using the threat of the Pack’s murderous and treacherous behaviour to frighten you and in that way have a voice in your ear? If it is as you said, then why would the Pack risk taking out a former Wolf and one of royalty? They would be wiped from the face of the earth by those loyal to you. Surely this, Sean, isn’t stupid enough to dare launch an attack upon the Queen of Newhaven. It would mean the decimation of everything he holds dear, or what I assume he cares about, if everything is as history says. History repeats it’s self, and I’m sure that Sean would not wish to have everything negative happen again. But if Blackpond is a threat, and a big enough one to be mentioned, don’t you think perhaps their word should be questioned?”
Ari bowed her head quickly, looking back to the floor, a little abashed and ashamed for speaking so openly. She bit her lip and snuck a glance at the Queen who seemed to actually be considering her words. She looked at the clean floor, at the aria surrounding her and frowned. The floor was sparking it was so clean, every trace of mess had been wiped away and her body had paid the price, for now, she was a maid, not an advisor. She’d better remember her place.
“Pardon me my Queen; I shouldn’t have spoken so openly. I am a maid, nothing more. If you’ll excuse me, I would like to return to my work so that I may finish it before the others wake.”

The setting changes from newhaven to Blackpond

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lamya Character Portrait: Ella Page Character Portrait: Alexander

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There was just something about Lamya. Everyone who knew her hated her in some way or another for some reason, but at the same time, if you knew her well enough, you had to have a certain amount of respect for the woman. From the way that she moved around Valcrest to the way that she influenced the people around her. It was almost like she knew the people of Valcrest as well as she knew herself. Or maybe it was because she knew her self better than everyone else in Valcrest. She at least knew what she believed in. But what did she believe in? Whatever it was that she did believe in, it allowed her to host a party for all the important people of Valcrest, despite the fact that they probably all dislike her in some way.
Rita sat at the top of the stairs asking herself some of these questions as she watched Lamya talking castle workers around the ballroom to set up for the party which was less than twelve hours away. From the distance the smells from the kitchen attested to the hard work going on in there. Around her, people busily bringing out the finest carpets and decorations for the finest ball that Valcrest have seen in several hundred years. Not even the great balls of Newhaven, before the false king, were anything in comparison to what this was going to be. If historians didn’t write about this party, Rita was going to be shocked. Especially so, since Rita believed that Lamya had a few ulterior motives to this ball, which was yet another reason why Rita was surprised that people were actually going to show up to this thing.
With Rita deep in her thoughts, she almost forgot that she was supposed to be keeping an eye on people to make sure that no shady dealings were going on in the arrangement of the party. The instant that she realized this, she shot up and stood guard. She couldn’t actually help how absent minded she was lately. The thought of what Lamya had said to her more than a month ago was still on her mind. Lamya could tell too. Every once in a while, while Rita would be doing things around the castle in the past month, Lamya would walk up to her and ask her if everything was all right. Rita would say that she was fine, but she knew that Lamya knew better. It just really bothered her to know that there was someone even above Lamya in all of this and that she couldn’t do anything about the predicament. She was stuck in her position, serving a king who doesn’t deserve the throne; one who is just a puppet to Lamya, who herself was just a puppet to an unknown leader.
It would make sense that the leader of an organization which likes keeping its secrets would want to be hidden by the cover of shadows while others took what seemed to be the leading role. Would Lamya ever let herself be under control of someone else? Would she even be able to be tamed? Her wild chaotic nature seemed to say otherwise, but it could always just be a show… a very deadly one. What is an assassin but deadly? Suicidal? Maybe not so much. Rita had heard of what she had done in that random house in the woods just a couple of days back. How she had stabbed clean through herself with a blade. The only reason she knew this was because she was told about it after she arrived back home. Despite what the new leader of the White Shadows did to save Lamya, she still had a scar from what she had done. She had asked Rita to bring her a healthy body and preferably one without any scars on them.

Flashback- A couple of days ago
Rita simply nodded to Lamya at the request and walked off to satisfy her duty. It was late in the day and she really didn’t want to be doing any of these pointless duties, especially since she was due to be in her room in ten minutes for a discussion with one of her generals about pointless battle plans for pointless battles which would, needless to say, never happen. It wasn’t much fun being a commander of an army that sat around collecting fat, but then again, nearly three years of peace was a nice thing as well. It could be said that a commander that does their job right isn’t doing their job at all. That is definitely how Rita felt on occasion. The meeting would probably only last about ten minutes and then she would be able to say that she was finished with her duties for the day. With this task that she had been set out on, however, she could be at it for a while longer than she wished. No early nights where she would get to sit at a bar or other establishment and just enjoy the rest of the day with her fellow bar mates.
She walked down the corridors, looking around for a person who fit the description. The sad thing about Blackpond, however, was you weren’t really a citizen until you had a scar of some sort. It didn’t matter if it was from a simple fall off a tree or if it was from something more serious. You would have to be locked up in the castle all your life to be perfectly saved from any scaring. That was why Rick liked to take the maids… then she got an idea.
She started a walking her way to the king’s room. A walk that always reminded her of her dear friend Hastings. It was so terrible to walk in and see his dying body there and know that there was nothing that she could do. She cleared her head before walking through the door. That is when she heard Rick in the room.
“You are going to jump out that window by the time I get back or you will wish that you were dead.”
Rick walked out of the room. He looked over at Rita with a large, sadistic smile across his face. Rita just sneered back at him and said, “or you will wish you were dead? That’s your best threat?”
“Hey, it works.” He said and continued walking down the hall to wherever he was going.
Rita walked into the kings room, expecting to find a woman who was half beaten already. The only reason that she wouldn’t be beaten would be because she was ‘fresh meat’. Luckily for Rita, she was. This just meant that she was sparing one less maid’s life. At least, she would be for now. It would only be a matter of time Rick got himself a new toy.
“Oh, thank you! Thank you! You’ve come to save me.” The maid said from the bed. It was clear that she had the idea that Rita was there to save her. That wasn’t exactly the case. It was a shame that she couldn’t bring herself to break the news to her. The maid ran up to her and got down on her knees right in front of Rita. I’ve heard of the things that Rick does to us in here. He locks us away in here and does those terrible things until he drives us mad enough to kill ourselves. I knew someone would come to my rescue, I just knew it.”
Rita didn’t say anything. She just grabbed the woman’s arm and picked her up from off the floor then started walking back to Rita. The woman kept going on about how it was her luckiest day, since she had been locked away. That was probably true.
When she made it back to Lamya, she saw exactly what she expected to see. There was another one of the assassins there. One that she rarely saw unless there was some sort of issue regarding health. It was absolutely clear what was going to happen. The man with no name walked up to the maid and quickly offed her, right in front of Rita. Now the maid would not have to suffer through the unspeakable pains that would have occurred to her in Rick’s room. The assassin’s eyes glowed a bright gold and then he placed his hand over top of Lamya’s scar. In a matter of seconds, the scar was gone. All it took was the life of the young maid to do that. To fix a scar.


Reality
“Rita.” Lamya’s voice called from the bottom of the stairs. “Could I see you for just a brief moment?”
“Are we talking about people taking weapons at the door? If so, I’ve already got that settled.” Rita asked.
Lamya looked shocked. “No! Don’t do that. There’s no fun if there’s no weapons. That’s not what I want to talk about though. Come!”
Rita, with a slight hesitation did as she was asked of and walked down the stairs. She didn’t know what she should ever expect with Lamya and despite knowing her for three years; she still wasn’t used to it.
“What is it Lamya.”
“Not here.” Lamya quickly shushed her. She looked around a bit and then motioned to the next room where everyone had cleared out of since it was ready for the party.
They walked into the room, decorated in almost entirely green and white. Even the waxes of the candles on the chandeliers were green. The tables where the food and drinks would be placed were green and even the instruments that the string quartet would be playing were green. It was rather impressive as well. The room had been decorated with several emerald encrusted armour plates.
“Are you ready yet?” Rita asked, sounding rather frustrated with the whole ordeal. All she could smell off of Lamya was trouble.
“Hold on.” Lamya said as one by one, thirteen men appeared from nowhere in the room. She only recognized a couple.
“Hello Rick, Lazarus, Sandere… and the rest of you.” Then she chuckled a bit. “This is it? This is the Shadow’s Conflict?”
“Looks can be deceiving.” Rick smiled.
“That’s for sure. If I saw you on the road, I’d think you were a respectable man.” Rita said with a sliding chuckle.
Rick looked like he was about to draw his sword, but the eyes of one of the assassin’s flashed green for a moment and he almost instantly calmed. He wasn’t sure what had just happened to calm him so quickly, but she wasn’t exactly sure she wanted to know. “If you are planning to assassinate me, could you do it somewhere that will make less of a mess? There’s going to be guests in this room for in less than 12 hours.”
“We aren’t going to kill you yet. You are still yet useful to us. In fact, that is why I wanted to speak to you.” Lamya said in a most peculiar tone that almost sounded relaxed and normal. “You see, our boss will be here tonight to join the party. He would like nothing more than to see a number of people who will be attending the party dead. Several of them being us. Others include people from Newhaven as well. The killing of these people would bring about a full out war in Valcrest that you, as well as I know will not be winnable.”
The idea was concerning to Rita. She believed what Lamya was saying. If Lamya was crazy enough to do the things that she did, the person in charge of her would have to be insane enough to start a war that would bring Blackpond to its knees. There was no surprise there. What Lamya said next was a surprise. “I want to see peace just as much as everyone else…” Then it made sense, “Of course, that isn’t saying much lately. Regardless, I’d like to see something else other than the typical battle. Those get boring. That is why I need you to help me from stopping this man from killing anyone.”
“And How will I be able to tell who he is.”
“I’ll tell you what he looks like”…

Newhaven
“The carriage is… uhhh, Ms. Page?”
Ella was in one of the many rooms of the castle practicing for the next time that Evin arrived for a practice session. When the stable boy walked in to tell her that the horse and carriage was ready to set out for Blackpond, she was reciting the creation story while balancing on a small side table and swinging a sword, all while wearing her ball gown. It must have been a weird sight. Ella stopped what she was doing when she finally realized the stable boy and jumped off the table. She sat herself down on the chair and put her shoes back on.
“Tell me something. How is it that you were allowed anywhere near me? Security has been much higher the past couple of months you know and now that I’m going to the ball, I’m sure something like this, from a security standpoint, is absolutely deplorable.” Ella asked as she put her second shoe on. The boy remained silent, and for good reason too. The kid wasn’t supposed to be there, but what bragging rights there would be for the rest of the stable boys when he said he got to speak to the queen. How very much more interesting it would be when he told them what they witnessed her doing. “It’s fine. I know you aren’t supposed to be here and I won’t tell anyone. Just don’t do it again, because I will remember your face. Thank you.” The boy started to leave. “Wait!”
The boy stopped dead in his tracks. He turned around, with a bit of fear in his face, but as well, there was also the slightest bit of excitement. It was as if there was a sparkle in his eyes, not one of enlightenment. Rather, it was one that can only be described as the sighting of a spirit. Something that she could remember seeing in herself every now and again when she was younger. She still had something similar—gumption—it just wasn’t the same. She missed that same sort of spirit. There was only a few things that could bring her to that sort of spirit. It wasn’t something that she could share with people. No one would ever approve. Ella couldn’t afford to not have approval. Then again, she needed to tell someone.
“Come here kid.” The kid followed the order. “When I do this, you have to promise me that you will not go around telling people what you walked in on me doing. Promise?” The boy nodded. “Good.”
Ella walked right up to the boy. Because of the shoes she was wearing, she seemed unusually tall and towered over this little boy. She leaned down as best she could until she was right in his face. Then she grabbed the kid’s chin and twisted his head slightly so she could kiss the kid on the cheek. “Now there will be a good story to tell your friends. Get out of here before someone see’s you.”
The kid still didn’t say anything. He was in too much shock to even know what to do. With that, he smiled a wide smile and ran out of the room. There was no doubt he was going off to tell as many people as he could of what had happened to him.
With that, she was done with her practicing and ready to leave for the ball. She walked into the next room which she had dedicated to her own personal armoury. It was a small room. Almost just a walk in closet, but it was filled with several weapons that were perfect for a queen. Not all of these weapons were made for her however. There had been weapons made for several different occasions and instances for several different queens among many different reigns. She grabbed two different weapons. One was a small clip in her hair. It was meant to be decorative, but underneath the plume of hair, there was a considerable amount of blade to be found. It was nothing too good; just a simple poking weapon. It would do. The other one was a sword which was found under all her cloathing. She had her dress made specifically so that there would be a fold over a part of her hoop skirt that was not covered in fabric. All she had to do was move the flap and reach down her skirt for the holstered sword. She took the sword she wanted to use and then slipped it down the flap.
Now she was ready to go. She folded the flap back to its spot and walked out of the armoury, out of the next room and into the halls. Waiting there was Conrad. He wasn’t dressed in any of his usual guard uniform. Instead, he was dressed in his finest dress cloth. “What’s this?” Ella asked.
Conrad placed himself in the ground and stood tall. “I’m going to the ball.”
Ella was still a little confused. Enough so that she had to stifle a little laugh. “I think they’re only letting good looking people in.”
“I’m good looking and I know you think I am too so don’t even try to lie.”
Ella blushed. “Well I guess that’s true.”
“Anyways, I was looking for someone else to go the ball with. There are a lot of noble girls from Newhaven who seem to be going, but none of them are the Queen… I mean, none of them are Ella.”
“Yeah, yeah. Come along.”

------

In Newhaven Market, several things were taking place. Most of them were common day occurrences such as candid conversations, crafty conversations, conversations that just don’t make sense. There were many a new deals going down and many an old. Books, clothing, shoes, food and many other miscellaneous things were being sold. The typical thieves were out doing their thievery and the swindlers their swindling. Out of all the typical things that were going on however, there was one thing going on that could not be described in any other way but peculiar. Anyone who was to witness the whole thing take place wouldn’t exactly describe it as anything but regular, but to those involved, much more was going on.
The Queen had left for Blackpond a few hours ago. It was exactly where Alexander wanted to be in the next couple of hours as well. He just needed to be assured that when he walked in the ball, he would be ready. He wanted to be gone a couple of hours ago, shadowing the Queen. He didn’t really mind, but he was really hoping to get into the thing on time.
“You’ve already delayed me over two hours, Wyatt. I need to be at that party so just let me know that I have my people and where they are.” Alexander said in annoyance, lighting up another cigarette. The twelfth he’d had that day.
“I give you money, and you give me nothing in return and then I give you people. How do I expect to get something in return?” Wyatt said.
Alexander flicked the ash off his cigarette. “I gave the money back because I couldn’t find a large enough groups of swords for hire for my liking. Now, I’ve given you back that money, in case you don’t remember. Now I’m looking for swords for hire from you and I will guarantee you that you will be able to get your influence back in Blackpond Castle. This is the deal.”
“And if I don’t get any influence back?”
“I’ll guarantee you that you won’t. Now where will I find them?”
“They are all in the market right now.”
“In the market right now? Are you kidding me? Have you looked around you,” Alexander flicked his cigarette in the direction we wanted to bring Wyatt’s attention to. “I swear that person over there is a White Knight.”
Before Alexander could finish his sentence, the people that Wyatt had found him were there with them. “We’re fine.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Evin Bana Character Portrait: Dominic Adams Character Portrait: Lamya Character Portrait: Ella Page Character Portrait: Alexander

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Some would find it crazy, others, just plain stupid. Leaving a woman all alone in the most dangerous place inhabited in Valcrest while she was being threatened by an insanely rich, insane woman. Most people would like to stay with that threatened person no matter what if they were supposed to protect them. The only thing was that Evin had already sent her to the party. She was one of the first of the guests to arrive. Evin had nothing to worry about. If there were Wolves at the party, Evin suspected that they would be a little cautious before making their move. It would just seem too easy.
The reason that Evin left was because he wanted to go wait for Crystal. He didn’t want to waste time at a stupid and annoying party that was bound to be filled with hellish thoughts and hellish people who would be willing to act on those thoughts. He didn’t want to wait for Crystal there. It wouldn’t be nearly as fun as waiting all alone with his own thoughts would be. Of course, he wasn’t going to allow his presence to be known to Crystal right away. He wasn’t even sure if she would visit where he was waiting for her, but he expected that she might be compelled to go just for nostalgia’s sake.
He perched himself on the top of a roof near the building he was waiting at. It was the building that he recalled as the place that Crystal’s father died. What a great man he was, and to think that he would be killed so heartlessly, by Perry of all people. In that moment, the fate of the Wolfpack and the rest of Valcrest was sealed. Without that moment, it would be very unclear to foretell the events that transpired after. There would be far less motivation to go looking for the False King. Theron might not have been as motivated to join the Wolfpack and the Wolves might have actually gone into a regression as they might have been too afraid to re-enter Newhaven for a while without some sort of excuse. It was a sad thought, but not even Dani would have had the courage to face off against Newhaven without merit. From experience, Evin knew how much of a threat Newhaven was to the Wolves. With the state that Newhaven was in at the moment however, the Wolfpack could easily take down the entire infrastructure of the city if they wished to and after that, Blackpond would probably easily do the rest if they really wanted to.
Perched just out of sight, Evin watched as Crystal walked up to the old Wolfpack Inn. Just as he had expected. The attraction to places with bitter histories always seemed to be too much for most people in Valcrest to handle. She stood there, probably having similar thoughts to Evin’s about that night and how things changed because of it. About her life the way it is was now and finally, about her father. The great man with a million great and insightful thoughts.
He forgot the reason he had been waiting for Crystal in the first place. His thoughts of Bastian had distracted him for a moment. Obviously that moment was just one brief moment too long. He saw Dastan walk up behind him just as he was about to exit from his perch. While it wasn’t the worst thing in the world that Dastan was there, he rather he had a chance to talk to Crystal in private. Crystal to him was his confidant. She was someone who he could share anything with. That absolute trust in her and her decisions is what allowed her to talk openly to her. It didn’t matter if it was a negative or a positive; she would listen and would only tell those who needed to know as to the matters which he discussed with her. It was much like the constant trust that everyone could have in Time. No matter how much someone could attempt to change things, Time would continue, unwrinkled and pure. Nothing could contaminate the trust that people had in mind. Dastan, to Evin was more like water. He couldn’t exactly do go on without him, but is easy to contaminate. He didn’t want to discuss anything with Dastan nearby.
He continued to watch Crystal and Dastan until the two of them were gone. For about ten minutes after, he got off from his perch and made his way to the party.
At the entrance to the castle, there were six guards right at the door to welcome him in. On each side of the wide path that lead to the door, there were about five or six guards at attention. To any untrained eye, that would be all that anyone would see. This was a mistake. At the lowest windows and the lower two towers that protected the entrance, there were several men trying their best to be out of sight while still being ready to shoot their crossbows at anyone who even tried to enter. Even harder for the eye to catch, several hundred feet, directly above him at the top of the castle were just more archers ready to air their crossbows directly down on anyone who would try something funny. Finally, there were the true shadows of this party. Those were the shadows of what he could only imagine were the group that was known as the Shadow’s Conflict. Ten people who believed that they could hide themselves in plain sight. They were very skilled in the art of blending. Behind the stationary guards, in with some of the groups enjoying fresh air before entering the party, there was even one that was so perfectly still that only the blinking of his eyes is what tipped Evin off to the fact that he was standing there. The most deadly part about these assassins was that he knew that the moment they decided to come into the party, they will not be recognizable at all. People who were this skilled at blending in, that the moment they blended into the party, it would be nearly impossible to discern them from a regular guest. Evin was certain that they would bring him a good show when the actual party got started.
Evin gave a quick wave to the one who had blinked to let the rest know that he meant business and he wasn’t going to allow himself to be tricked by any simple mind game that they would plan to dish out at this party. He would be cautious, as they were capable of almost killing Crystal, but he wanted to show them that he had gained the first edge on them and not the other way around like they had expected would happen. He instantly saw the heads of the nine other assassins look his way when this happened. Evin then looked at each individual one of them. He placed his finger on his temple and tapped it a couple of times in a gesture of knowledge. Evin instantly regretted this decision. The assassins didn’t do anything, but he knew that by being so cocky, he was putting a huge target on his back.
He continued his walk down the path until he reached the six guards that were there to welcome him in. Shaking one of their hands, he spoke, “I’m so happy to have been invited to this party. I know you didn’t do it personally, but I’m still glad and would like to show my appreciation. Now I understand that there are no weapons checks here as I’ve seen a couple before me who weren’t even checked for weapons. You guys are so considerate, you know that. Thank you.”
Little did any of the guards know, but while shaking the man’s hand, he had grabbed the guard’s war axe as well as the holster for said weapon from right off his body.
This is when he moved himself into the party. It was the most beautiful of ballrooms… filled with hundreds of people. “Oh what fun!” Evin sarcastically exclaimed as he dipped himself into the fountain of madness that was going to be this party.

------

Alexander stood himself just in sight of the castle. His hired swords, the ones he had left, were walking their way along the road just ahead of him. He was a little nervous to go to this thing, but he knew it had to be done. If he wanted to bring Blackpond back to its former glory and possibly put a peaceful ending to this war, then he would. Damn it Grim, he thought as he continued thinking about the possibilities if everything was to work out.
“Hey, Alexander, what’s up?” One of the hired swords said, seeing that Alexander was sitting still.
Alexander jumped out of his thought to respond. “Oh, yes nothing. Just thinking.” He started walking again. “Now men. The odds are that the entrance to the Ball will be heavily fortified. Don’t act suspicious as you walk through the guards. Just act as if you are like any other party guest, but carrying a sword out in the open. When you get to the door, they will probably ask you to relinquish your weapons. At this point, it will be pretty easy to force our way into the door. After that, we target the red-head. I created it, so I will destroy it. The Shadow’s Conflict will suffocate under our feet as we re-take control of Blackpond.”
The two men and woman nodded in unison and fell into silence as they got close to the door. Alexander looked at every guard individually as he walked up the path. The whole idea of acting nonchalant about things wasn’t really working out for him. For the first time in over twenty years, the idea of fighting made him nervous. His heart pounded ten times faster until he reached the door, where six guards were there to welcome him. His heart stopped and he found it nearly impossible to catch his breath. It was like the feeling that he felt when he heard the sound of war drums out in the distance. At this moment, the hired swords looked just about ready to draw their weapons to attempt what Alexander only imagined would be a historic moment. Something that, whether it worked out or not didn’t really matter. Historians would still have some interesting things to write about. In a moment where everyone who is anyone in Valcrest sat themselves in one room for festivities, a small revolt was under way.
Alexander reached for his sword, but was stopped when one of the guards said. “What are you’s doing? This is an open invitation party. You can enter you know.”
The four looked around at each other with confused eyes. There was something wrong here. Why would anyone ever allow so many angry people into one room with swords when there was just so much conflict in Valcrest? The four revolutionaries passed through the doors and into the Ballroom. It was just as Alexander remembered, just with more people.
“Ok men, we will keep a low profile from now until we find the right opportunity. Know our enemies, they already know that we’re here and what we are here for so there is no need for surprise. Enjoy the night for now and we will attack when opportunity arises.”

-----

The instant that Ella’s parade made it within a mile of Blackpond, the news had already made it around that the Queen of Newhaven was actually personally visiting Blackpond. This was the first time that royalty had visited Blackpond personally since her father, from what she could remember. It was very important to the city of Blackpond. Despite the fact that these people were her enemy, she understood the needs of the people. When something exciting happened to them that didn’t involve a public maiming or some random rape, it brought joy to the citizens. The city’s dark and menacing demeanour brightened up for a change as the parade followed through.
“Dominic!” Ella called from her closed carriage.
The carriage continued on at the same pace and in a couple of seconds, then the door opened. The large White Knight took a few quick steps until he jumped into the moving compartment. Dominic, had to crouch as to not hit the roof, his head barely fitting as he sat down. The behemoth of a man then said, “What do you need?”
“I have a request for you Dominic. While you may not agree with it, I want you to wear this.” She hunched over to reach down to the floor and grab a handle. “Could you please move your feet?” She asked. When Dominic moved his feet, she opened the small compartment under the floor.
Dominic looked at what was in the compartment and just shook his head. “I don’t think that this is a good idea. If the council finds out, and trust me, they will—”
“I don’t really care what they think of it. I actually want them to know. I want the council and Blackpond to know that my loyalties are still strong, despite what it may seem.”
“There are other, more subtle ways to do this m’lady.” Dominic frowned.
“Just put it on.”

The trumpeters serenaded the party goes with their melody to signify the entrance of the Queen. Each note a beautiful representation of the delicate, yet demanding nature of Newhaven’s flower. Then the promenade; the grand march into the room was what made Ella the most important person in the room. It was true too. She was the attention to everyone’s eyes.
Ella’s had on a champagne pink, A-line dress with a flared skirt, puffed out by heaps of crinoline. The same crinoline material was used to accentuate the sweetheart neckline. The main focus of the dress was the rose however. It was a real pink rose with leaves still attached to create a slight green accent. It was placed right between her skirt and the corset, which had a seem down the middle and curved around her waist so the skirt came up further around the sides. She was absolutely stunning and clearly the best dressed as well, but when you are one of the best off people in Valcrest, it was simple to look better than other people in the room.
Behind her was something that put an aura of pure shock around the people who had come from Newhaven to the party. A black Knight stood tall and proud, seemingly there to protect the Queen with all the dishonor that came with the attire.
“Ella!” A voice echoed from the top of the staircase. “Pleasant for you to join.” It was the woman. The red haired woman who had visited the Castle from Blackpond the weeks before winter. “Now we can start our party.” The woman was accompanied by four other people right behind her. One of them was definitely working with something as his eyes began to glow. A fire started to build right around him. Then, a glow from a second person. This person wasn’t as visible as the other four who accompanied this woman. The glow of this person’s eyes came from an unlit balcony just above the woman and the four men. The fire moved from the man to the door behind Ella. It let out a large amount of heat, enough that the medal doors that Ella had just entered through started to melt. When the fire was gone, they could see that the fire melted the metal to create an airtight seal around the door. “My name is Lamya, and I’m your host for the evening.” Two of the other men’s eyes lit up, and again the balcony man’s eyes lit up as well. Water moved in every which direction to every exit in the entire ballroom. Then an incredible cool air blasted through the room, cooling the water right down until every entrance was covered in a layer of ice so thick that it would be impossible to break through. “As you can all tell, this is a historic night with so many figureheads of Valcrest in one room. I don’t even know how things are supposed to work out. With the amounts of conflict between all these figureheads, I can’t exactly tell how long it will take for things to get out of hand. Well, we are probably stuck here all night with the ice storm blocking us in and all. Enjoy the evening. Carry on.” She said with a smile before walking up the stairs into the balcony area above to blend with the crowds.
That moment after she stopped talking was when the commotion started. The festivities of the party that seemed to have been happening before from Ella’s point of view all stopped. There was a quiet but panicked chatter that buzzed through the room.
“Dominic, get the string quartet to continue with the music. I’m not going to let Blackpond ruin what should be a perfectly good evening. We can’t get out yet, but we might as well enjoy the time that we’re stuck here. Conrad, come with me.”
Dominic went off and Ella walked to the center of the room with Conrad. She placed her one hand on his shoulder and the other in his other hand. When the quartet started playing again, she danced. She hoped that this would calm the crowd down a little.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mageria Talsheir Character Portrait: Ella Page

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Mageria snorted a dry laugh. "It has indeed been a long couple of months, old friend." She tilted her head to the side and smiled mischievously. "Although if I've managed to fool you, that means that the nobles of Newhaven haven't a clue what's going on. As it should be." She leaned in closer. "Yes, they exiled me and mine. But what makes you think that I've actually left?" It was true, really. The number of Raven's in the Nest was about half of what it should be, if every Guard had followed her off into the wilderness. While the uninformed might think that the missing members had deserted her, they were actually still patrolling Newhaven. They rotated out every couple of weeks or so, in order to keep from being too noticeable. And they were getting a few recruits, young men and women who had heard who was in the area and come looking for training.

"I've even got a maid or two working for me. That's why I'm here, really. She wasn't able to stop anything, but she got word to me that Ella was on her way. What else could I do but show up?" She pushed away from the wall with one shoulder. "Now, I do believe I have some greetings to make, if you care to join me." Her eyes flashed a deep blue with her amusement. "We all know that this is going to go up in mass chaos soon or later. Why not enjoy it up till then?"

She wove her way through the crowd with ease, noting her silent amusement that for once people weren't scrabling to get out of her way. When the rest of the crowd happened to be know for being just as blood thirsty and psychotic, she was just a face in the crowd. She spotted her target as she swirled out of a dance and stepped up, for once her smile warm and welcoming.

"Hello, Ella. You're looking well."

The setting changes from blackpond to Valcrest

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mageria Talsheir Character Portrait: Grim Pondus 'War' Character Portrait: Ella Page Character Portrait: Alexander

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The party was starting to bustle with excitement again. The whole threat of not being able to leave started to pass around as people began to realize that there was no reason to worry about it. Even the party goers who were known for their panic-happy tirades were calmed by the crowds which acted as their camomile. It was a feeling that put Ella at ease. Despite her careless disposition, she had been in fear of what would happen far before she even arrived at the party. It was probably the reason she tried to convince Dominic into his old, shiny black suit. It acted as a mental buffer to anyone who wanted to try anything dramatic. There was only one person in the entire party that she knew had a taste for the dramatic and she knew that it probably wouldn’t be long. Evin wasn’t going to be trusted to keep the peace for just one night when there were so many different important people in one room.
Regardless of what was going to happen, she had to keep her composure. As a figurehead of Newhaven, she had no other choice, no matter how she felt inside.
“This isn’t going to end well.” Conrad whispered in her ear as their dancing feet slowly marched around the dance floor with rhythmic precision. “We all knew it wasn’t going to go well from the start, but now that there is no escape, we may have to start creating a strategic barrier.”
“And ruin the flow of the party? I don’t want history to write about the coward Queen who, in times of trouble, hid herself behind a pathetic barricade. I only imagine that it will all be embellished into something terrible too. I wouldn’t enjoy that.” Ella retorted.
Conrad stopped dancing, grabbing Ella by both of her arms. “You really are a fool Ella. Who cares what people think about you in the history books? The only thing that matters is that your lineage carries on until you have a child?”
“You are just as foolish Conrad. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and say that you actually care about my lineage—”
“That’s not fair!” Conrad interrupted.
Ella slipped her arm out of Conrad’s grip and gently placed her hand over his lips. “I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, as much as I think otherwise. What do I care if my lineage takes on this job? It isn’t as fun as it may look. I’d much rather be a maid or merchant. Something that doesn’t require me to know every issue in the damned city of Newahven.” She looked around her to see if anyone was listening in. “I love you Conrad, but I just can’t do it. No matter how much you care about my lineage .”
That was all she had to say. Conrad stopped talking and walked off. Ella felt bad for what she did. Just the way that Conrad walked off was enough to tell her that she had said things that maybe she shouldn’t have. A part of her died inside to see him so distraught, but she wasn’t going to let anything ruin this Ball for her. She couldn’t help but feel bad while looking towards Conrad, so she turned around and…
“Hello, Ella. You're looking well.”
“Shit!” Ella exclaimed. “Mageria. I don’t know why, but I’m surprised to see you. I mean, I expected you to be at the party—that wasn’t the surprise—it was just, just that you were right behind me.” Ella decided to stop talking as she felt she was just rambling on. Moving her hand to rub the back of her neck, she smiled and recomposed herself. “Well, uh, thanks! You look good yourself. I actually brought an armour set for you as well, but it’s in the carriage outside and… well we can’t get ourselves out there anymore. Besides enjoying what will probably be the last few hours of this false peace that has plagued the land for the past three years, what is it that you are after by attending this party?”

-----

Within the maze of partygoers, there was one man who found himself lost, not within the ball, but within his own mind. This man was so deep in his mind, that he actually didn’t even notice the whole display of fire that was going on right around him. Alexander’s great strategic mind was too deep into the works of how exactly he would want to take care of things around the ballroom. There were some very good strategic vantage points that would allow for him to take care of a considerable amount of people, even if he was to be outnumbered. There were so many opportunities, but knowing exactly how and where to execute them would be the issue. If he could somehow draw the entirety of his enemy onto the dance floor, he would be able to run up the main staircase for a perfect bottleneck. That wouldn’t be enough. He would need to find a way to create a barrier on the first flight of stairs and then find a way to get the second flight blocked off as well. Actually, maybe that wasn’t a good idea. It could be risky to give them a chance for a two pronged attack, as the second flight of stairs split off in two directions.
That gave Alexander a perfect idea. He would surround them from either side of the balcony, but again, that wouldn’t be enough. He had to factor in that they were all communicating, all the time without saying a word. All they had to do was think, and the others would know exactly what they were doing. From there, whenever it seemed like the power of the Conflict was getting to be too much, he would split them off into small groups. Communication through enlightenment would get muddled at that point. It would also give him a chance to take on Lamya alone. The abomination that she was to him. It was such a disappointment to know that he had created her. She was the biggest concern as she would, needless to say, screw everything up if she was kept alive.

When he was finished with his strategic thoughts, he went over to one of the tables with all the food and whatnot on it. He knocked on it a couple of times to see how thick it was, and then compared it to the width of the staircase. It would do. He grabbed a drink from the table and downed it. At this point, he didn’t care. He was going to do whatever he wanted with these last couple of hours.
Walking down around on the floor, he met eyes with the great beast himself. He walked over to the man, who towered over him with a big smile on his face. “Grim! I didn’t expect to see you here.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mageria Talsheir Character Portrait: Ella Page

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Mageria snorted softly. "You gave your followers the slip. When they couldn't keep up, they got in contact with me and told me what was going on." She shrugged slightly. "I thought it sounded like something that you couldn't be talked out of, so I decided to come along. My people who were in Newhaven couldn't pull out without being obvious.... Oh, I'm sorry." Mageria widened her eyes innocently. "Did I manage to give people the idea that me and mine actually left Newhaven? Sorry about that." She laughed musically.

"And honestly, I don't think that anything is going to happen here. There's far too many people who are armed to the teeth. It'd be a blood bath. Far more likely that we'll be threatened or someone will try and rearrange our minds or someone will be drug off to a dark corner and someone else will copy them and take their place...... Of maybe that while all the major players are here, everything we hold dear is going to be threatened." She sighed deeply, her shoulders moving with the breath. "But I doubt anybody's going to try and kill most of us. It just wouldn't be appropriate."

The setting changes from valcrest to Blackpond

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mageria Talsheir Character Portrait: Ella Page Character Portrait: Sean Fletcher Character Portrait: Ess Character Portrait: Ari Lupir Character Portrait: Kirsten Somare

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Balls were not all they had been made out to be. There were loud eruptions and the occasional Oooh and Ahh over someone who entered with a name or rank, the low growl of people’s private conversations and of course the music and dancing. The room was a whirl of colorful dresses and men leading ladies across the floor to the beat of the music, and everyone seemed to be getting along perfectly well. Sweet, comforting, and yet boring as hell. Why Ella would even want to come to one of these was beyond her reasoning. Orders were orders and Ari had followed in secret for the time being to keep an eye on her. Ari stifled another yawn as she rose from her place on the wall, her ball gown swaying over legs as she made her way across the hall. It, like the one she had worn for her induction into the Pack, was also white. The dress was constricting to her hips before flaring out across a floral pattern that split the dress into two parts. The gap was pushed out by white chiffon, the edges of the silk cloth embroidered with silver threads that swirled out. White flowers wound into her hair and draped off her shoulder and a small silver circlet dipped between her brows in a twisted leaf pattern. Unlike most, Ari had also chosen small touch of paint to circle her eyes in a silver mask that was painted on and left her golden hair free to dip back along her waist. This wasn’t exactly her idea of a gown but if Sean had left it for her to wear, then she would. She figured that he would have perhaps the greatest expertise in these situations after all. The Wolf she had gotten it from was pretty adamant that she wear it too.

Absently she rubbed the palms of her hands, little pieces of earth still stuck to them. Ari had no clue that Ella was actually going to the ball and her little run had placed Ella out of eye sight and out of earshot. Ari did the only thing she could think of. It was back into the white wolf, running along the shadows and earth to get to Blackpond as fast as she could. Of course she had forgotten the gown so it was a miracle that one of the Wolves had been waiting outside of the palace gates to greet her with one. Surprisingly the guards had no questions when he escorted her inside, only to vanish once she was safely inside the ball room. Her hands and feet still ached from the mad sprint against time and somehow she was managing to catch her breath underneath the sweltering heat of the dress, and it didn’t help that she was trying to move freely about. The dress was big.

Her green eyes sparkled as she passed by and through the general chatter that came with the whole dancing thing, catching bits and pieces of it. Most of it was general and proper greetings, however, she occasionally stumbled upon the hushed, yet heated conversations of people who would have preferred to have nothing to do with other. These were the conversations that caught her ears, and sometimes even drew her eyes. Her body stopped, the graceful movement of her procession stopped as she caught sight of a women she knew. Dressed from head to toe in black, Ari was damn sure that it had been the woman who was there for the archery competition, who had set up. Ari licked her lips nervously, unable to pull her eyes from the women as she struggled to put a name to the face.

“Staring is rude,” a voice whispered behind her as a hand gently touched her elbow. Ari drew her gaze away to the face she had hoped to never see again. Kirsten smiled down at her gently; his black coat and pants gave his eyes a special glint as he took a small step back.

“Well, I will give you this, you do dress up nice,” he smirked as his eyes roamed up and down the length of the dress.

“Kirsten? What are you doing here?” she hissed quietly, trying to take a step back as well. He was having none of it and he pulled her forward to him as he took her arm forcefully and led her across the hall.

“I’ll explain later,” he growled, pulling her with him.

“I’ll scream.”

“Lower your voice Ari, people are staring.”

It wasn’t until then that she realized that his words rung true and she quietly let him lead her across the floor. Ari bit her lip nervously, her green eyes tingeing gold as Kirsten came to a stop and gently turned towards her.

“Do you trust me?”

“Trust you?!” Ari wanted to laugh, but all that came was a strangled squeak.

“Tonight I am neither your enemy nor a Hunter,” Kirsten soothed quietly, genuine concern flickering over his handsome features, his brow furrowing. Ari realized that he had taken her question as a sign of fear but before she could protest he again took her hand, his eyes burning red as a wall rose between them and the crowd. A moment later the wall was gone as well as the odd couple that had stood there only moments before. Only a few guests saw it fizzle, most of them coming to the conclusion that they really had had too much to drink that night and politely placed their glasses down.

Kirsten felt Ari shiver behind him the moment they vanished behind the tapestry. He couldn’t tell if it was because she hadn’t realized what was going on yet or if it was because he had dipped into her childhood memories to make the wall appear. It left most victims shaken; after all, he had to flip through her memories to locate the fear. It was an invasion, and according to Eric it was like having a dark presence make you watch the memories you hated most while flipping through them like cards. To him however, memories ran like a silver thread through his fingers; fragile when put through too much but strong and smooth though a gentle touch. He smiled as he couldn’t help but compare himself to a seamstress. Thread was easy to work with if you knew how, as were the memories and fears of people.

“Kirsten,” Ari whispered behind him in the dark.

“Hush, were almost there.”

He wasn’t lying, for a few moments later his hands closed onto a door knob and gave it a small twist. A door creaked open and he quickly pulled her inside. The Night Hunters rose, Eric being the first to move forward to pull the girl to her feet. Ari carefully stood, brushing down the wrinkles in the dress as she looked from Kirsten to Eric and then even to Lichen.

“Took you long enough,” Eric grinned, looking towards Kirsten with amusement as Kirsten laughed.

“She was so pretty I didn’t know what I was looking for. It was only the wolf in her threads that gave her away, that and the description of the dress” he motioned to the silver threads on the dress and he watched as she blushed, “Anyways, I do believe, however, that it’s time for you to change.”

“Wha—”

“The person who got you all this was not a Wolf, in fact Sean has no idea that you are here. It was one of the younger recruit’s ideas.”

Kirsten smiled softly as she shook her head gently, nodding toward Lichen who carefully laid a different dress on the table. Ari was resisting, he could see a bead of sweat on Eric’s forehead as he tried to work with the suspicion they placed there. It was very true that Sean did have no idea she was here, but the dress was from a Wolf. Finally she blinked and nodded. Her hands scooped up the dress and ran off to change out of it, leaving them alone as Kirsten grinned. It was no longer the smile of a concerned man, but the triumphant grin of a wolf who knows he’s got the rabbit trapped at the end of a ravine.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

When next Ari found herself immersed in the swirl of colors she was hanging onto the arm of Eric. They were caught in the middle of the dance, her face washed fresh and her eyes bright with laughter as he spun her. The new dress moved like water across her skin and the corset let her breathe with ease. The white material fell loosely around her hips and flared as she spun, the golden accents of the string lacing across her chest drawing the gaze of a few people. Her golden hair was spiraled and braided atop her head, her slender neck and collarbone shimmering slightly as Eric pulled her from the dance floor, his own eyes bright as he bowed.

“That was truly magnificent,” he smiled, taking her hand into his before bending to press his lips to the back of it. Her cheeks were hot from dancing and her breath was short as he thanked her again and moved off. Ari smiled and moved to press her back against the coolness of the wall, her fingers moving to touch her heart. She became a wall flower again; content to watch the dancers as she caught a glimpse of Sean out on the floor dancing, Ella talking to the women she still couldn’t name, and she could have sworn that for a moment she had seen Essence out there too. Ari smiled and shook her head gently, obviously she needed air. Carefully pushing herself away from the wall, she began walking toward one of the many windows, turning her back on the whirl of color and organized confusion.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dastan Character Portrait: Ella Page Character Portrait: Sean Fletcher Character Portrait: Ess Character Portrait: Ari Lupir

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The lights, the drinks, the sound of the music unable to calm the rapid beating of hearts couldn’t distract from the tight tension that had her on edge. Ari itched. It wasn’t the fabric of the dress or the hot humid climate that her body had decided to take, it was her enlightenment. Something seemed wrong, out of place and it made her jumpy. Her green eyes were streaked with silver, her nose crinkled at the smell of the alcohol in her hands, her ears catching the soft whispers of those across the hall, her eyes scanning the windows, the doors, the dresses. Everything screamed threat and Ari shifted uncomfortably. Wolf was begging to be let out, to rip, tear, and defend and she had half a mind to do so. After all, she might have been the only one unarmed on the entire premises. However that wouldn’t have been pleasant. Somehow she managed to hold the wolf in check; perhaps it was the image of a girl running across the floor only to tear into a black wolf, or maybe it was the horror of being naked in front of everyone after the fact. Either way, it would have been funny in a couple hundred years to everyone else except her.

Ari took a sip of the drink, her fingers trembling as she then set the glass down. It was supposed to be calming, yet all it did was set her teeth on edge. Something smelled wrong. Ari turned her eyes back onto the crowd, locating her two targets quickly. Ella looked relatively safe; she did have a guard with her. Sean was talking to some girl and he seemed pretty safe too. Keeping an eye out was making her head hurt. Her first duty was toward the Alpha, she would lay her life down to protect him, and it wasn’t just because he had adopted a snot-nosed brat and turned her into this. He had become someone she considered a friend. Ella, on the other hand, was her new charge. If anything happened to her, Ari considered it a failure on her first mission, and wouldn’t Sean just love to gloat over that. And yet, Ella had been so open with someone she saw as just a maid, had listened. Most people didn’t listen to her. Then there were the other’s Ari had to keep an eye on. Dastan, Crys, Ali, Ess, Luckas; any one of them could blow her cover and expose her secrecy to those she didn’t want to know who, or where she was.

Her tongue ran over her lips and she let her hand fall to her side only to be pushed up by a wet nose and onto a head. She felt it rest on fur. Tala whined, her paw tugging into the hem of Ari’s dress and carefully, Ari knelt to the ground. Her eyes became level with that of the wolf and Ari smiled as Tala appeared to do the same, her knowing eyes bright but curious. They remembered each other, even outside wolf form, which was clear in the way that Ari could gently press her face into the shoulder, her face hidden in the musky scent of the wilderness.

“Tala girl. You remember,” she breathed, her fingers gently combing through the fur. The wolf seemed to let her pull everything back together and the anxiety slowly withdrew. As Ari pulled away Tala wagged once and then made her way back into the horde, her nose working the air in front of her as she scampered off, leaving Ari once again alone in the big room. Ari sighed and stood again, her dress moving like water across her knees. It was time to go, let someone else watch for awhile.

Ari cut her way through the crowd, passing many other people, her eyes locked on the way she came in.

“Ari!”

Ari groaned and turned her head, her eyes locking onto the face of Sesh. He waved and gently took her arm, pulling her back away from the doors and into the mob. His snow colored hair caught the light, his eyes dark as he smiled.

“I never thought I would see you here,” he grinned like a puppy, his entire ensemble black again, including the dagger he toyed with at his hip.

“I never thought you would go back to Kirsten,” she mused, her fingers picking at the grapes he had offered her from the food table.

“He is a devil to break from. You know the strength of Blood Moon.”

“Yes, but I really need to get out of here,” she sighed, shifting uncomfortably at the fact that now all of Kirsten’s men knew her attachments and abilities.

“You can’t, not yet anyway,” he smiled as she groaned his eyes bright with mischief, “Perhaps you could try sneaking out the windows up there. But you’d have use your enlightenment.”

“Excellent, then I will.”
He watched as she dropped under the table, a moment later, a small bird fluttering up from under it. It chirped and then flew up and as he looked around no one seemed to be any the wiser.

Ari was airborne. The tips of her wings glowed the same silver as her eyes and her small body drifted up above the palace, her wings tipping and tilting along the air. Her sharp eyes scanned the roofs, her beak clacking as her suspicion was proven wrong. She then dove down toward the ball. The windows above the dance floor, higher than anyone could climb, were slightly open to let in air and Ari had no problem swooping into the ball room. She landed on the grandest chandelier, her wings flapping as her head cocked. There seemed to be nothing out of the ordinary, just bright flowers swaying on the ground and the chatter of those she couldn’t understand. Her talons closed and flexed, watching as some of the glitter balls fell from the light and shattered against the ground. Her body hopped and fluttered, the lamp swinging as the hanging strained and groaned with the extra weight. A couple of people had looked up and were pointing. Ari leapt to another side, her head cocking as she looked toward Sesh. He had his eyes closed and was leaning in a corner, his arms crossed and his brow furrowed in concentration and worry. She laughed. As only a bird could, the laughter rose as a small chirping and flapping of wings. The lamp fell and Ari with it.


People dove out of the way, the music stopping as it came shattering on the ground. Glitter balls flew and popped loose, rolling under heels and along the ground as the candles on the lamp broke or went out and fell onto a small falcon. Sesh opened his eyes, moving away from the wall as his connection broke with the guard. People were screaming, whispering, some even had actually touched their weapons and he shook his head as he looked upon the mess that lay before him. He shook his head, wondering what could have caused the fall when he caught sight of a small flash of silver. He casually moved over towards the mass of brownish feathers, his body bending to gently scoop the bird up. Its head lolled in his hands and his thumbs gently stroked its breast, watching as the wings fluttered in response.

“It’s okay!” someone called but Sesh didn’t need to turn back to know that he was talking about the situation and not the bird. He moved away from the open pit, moving past people he didn’t care much about now, his attention was fixated on the bird. He looked up apologetically at a redhead and what he thought might be the Alpha, having walked between them. He carried the bird away, reaching the other end of the hall where there was water. He dropped a palm full on top of the bird’s beak, watching as it fluttered up to life in his hands, making a strangled chirping noise. Silver eyes stared at him, and Sesh smiled.

“Ari, you little devil,” he whispered, his grin reaching his eyes. His fingers stroked over her feathers, pulling his fingers away as she snapped at them.

“Getting you dressed is going to be hard now, you know that?” he smirked as she stared at him, cocking her head as her body began to melt. “Now? Ari, my dear, you are full of surprises.”

He carefully placed her on the ground watching as she chose, at the last moment to become a black wolf. She shook out her pelt, nudging him in his leg as she sniffed him with a small whine. Her tongue lolled from her mouth as she sat.

“Your dress is currently in the arms of a very confused guard. Don’t worry I will get it back and come up with something, but for now, you better just stay.”


Ari growled, the pun obviously intended as Sesh smirked and left her alone in the corner. She clacked her teeth and stood, walking forward along the crowd to see the extent of her little adventure. It wasn’t pretty, that was sure and Ari’s nose wrinkled as she caught a very good whiff of Sean. She sneezed and turned her head back over her shoulder to catch sight of him, his eyes appearing to glower at her. Just in case she shrugged, turned away, and melted back into the mass of people, all whispering and whining. She hadn’t meant to, but at least this had given her a chance to escape the itchy vulnerable human form. Her tail wagged as she cut her way around, crawling between the red head, Ess, and Sean. There she lay, her eyes looking up at him for a moment and then at the girl. Neither one took notice of her nor neither smelled like anything but suspicion. Well, that was good. They were not in imamate danger, not in the slightest. She wormed her way out of view, some people stepping back as she made her way to try and find Ella, drawn on by the smell of flowers and pink.

It wasn’t long until she saw the queen, her Black Knight and her clearly in conversation. Their whispers hushed and rushed. Ari scented the air around the two, back on her belly against the wall. When she was sure there was no danger to either of them, well, except random falling candles, she smiled. Good. Everything seemed to be alright and she no longer felt anxious. It was interesting how her fears had come to rest with the chaos that was happening around her. Ari smiled, being a small black wolf was cunning and relaxing. Slowly Ari dropped to her stomach, backing away as she caught sight of Sesh waving towards her, a white dress in his arms. The mess was already being taken care of, a speaker quickly answering questions and explaining what could have happened. Ari was honestly quite amazed with how well they were handling the fear and suspicion, almost as if—

“Get under the table and pull this back on, then tie it once you get back up, hurry. People are starting to mill about again,” he warned, as Ari grabbed the dress in her teeth, pulling it with her under the table and sliding into it still in wolf form. Granted it was awkward and tight, but it was better than trying to slide it on under the table. The shift was quick and she rolled from under the table. As she stood and quickly tied the knot in her dress, she whirled, her body colliding against someone as her bare feet tripped on the hem of the dress. Her hand caught herself on his build, his arm gripping hers as she slowly straightened herself out.

“Sorry!” she whispered, her green eyes locking onto a pair of dark brown ones. Her hand was pale in comparison to his tan skin, and her face blanched as she recognized the desert man and it was truly the last person she wanted to see here.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mageria Talsheir Character Portrait: Ella Page

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For Blackpond!!

Mageria didn't even think, upon hearing the cry and distinctive sound of a sword being freed of it's sheath. She simply grabbed Ella by one arm and all but flung her towards the nearest wall. Somethings, it seemed, simply couldn't be erased by a change of job titles. She didn't draw any of her weapons, but instead stood in a ready guard stance between the woman to whom she had given her loyalty and whatever danger it was.

"So Majesty, how's the Council been lately? Still upset or have they calmed down any?" She sounded almost bored, but she was almost hyper sensitive to what was going on around her.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mageria Talsheir Character Portrait: Dominic Adams Character Portrait: Ella Page Character Portrait: Sean Fletcher

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When the strobbing effect started, Mageria had dropped back half a pace, closing her eyes to avoid being dazzled out of instinct.
"The Council's forgotten about me huh? Maybe I'll have to come back and visit then. Like, when we get out of this bloody mess?" She neatly kicked a nearby combatant in the gut when he swung towards them, taking him out of the fight without killing him. She was about to say something else when Dominic landed beside her and took up a flanking position. Evidently he also decided that they weren't safe enough where they were, and went to grab Ella and take her to a more secure position. At least that's what Mageria assumed was supposed to happen; however he made the mistake of grabbing her arm instead and pulling her away. Mageria actually restrained herself from gutting the man by the barest of margins and only because she knew who he was. She didn't even bother with responding when he finally realize his mistake, mostly because she had been occupied with twisting around to try and keep Ella in sight. Years of battlefields had served her well; that and knowing what crazy idea was most likely to slip into her liege's head next.

"This way." She grunted, slipping between the individual fighters like a fish through water. She was headed, not to where Ella had been, but to where she was most likely to be headed. Which would be the Alpha of the Wolfpack, Sean. And there the little lunatic was, headed towards the man and slipping a small dagger out of her sleeve.

"Majesty!" Mageria just knew she was really going to regret this. With one hand she reached out and firmly grabbed the back of Ella's gown, pulling her backwards and out of the way. "Not the time or the place!" Mageria spun slightly, placing herself between the two of them. Times like this she really missed her old armor. There was a roughly equal chance that either of them was going to do their best to gut her in the next instant.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mageria Talsheir Character Portrait: Ella Page Character Portrait: Sean Fletcher

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It only took a moment for Ella to realize it, but something was pushing her backwards. She stumbled back, nearly tripping, but not quite. She felt a bit of pressure on her stomach as well. It was just her hand hitting her on the way back though. It knocked the wind out of her, but she caught it back quickly enough to realize who it was.
It seemed that Mageria had caught her just in time to save the life of the rat bastard Sean, a man who truly didn’t deserve it. The excuse that “it wasn’t the time or place” was just a load of horse manure. Ella and Mageria both knew it. The party had gone to shit already. It was only matter of time before the rest of the fight came to her and Sean and Mageria. She didn’t really care if she was the spark. It had to be done.
Ella looked up at Mageria. She was very close to her. They were so close that the two of them would have to take an effort to look at each other from anywhere below the bust. Ella attempted to let out a word, but nothing happened. Her look said it all, but when she couldn’t speak, it made her a little more panicky than anything. That’s when she noticed the pain. An agonizing pain that forced her to cringe and collapse to the floor. She grabbed at her stomach, where the pain was emanating and she caught another pain in her hand. Something had cut her when she tried to grab at the pain. It took less than a second to realize what had happened.
Letting out an earth-shattering scream, she bellowed in a manic inflection. Tears started falling from her face as she realized that she had no chance in hell at this point. There was so much blood on what was once a beautiful dress.
She finally managed to get a breath. “Why? Why couldn’t you just let me kill him? At least, when I was killed, my death would ha—”
Her voice was cut short by a single breath, expelling what was left of her sentence. Her skin quickly turned an ashen grey and she went limp. The Queen of Newhaven was dead.

Where did the Queens and Kings of old go when they died? Did they go to the same place as everyone else or did they go to a special place? They had to go somewhere. Whether they were more important than common folk or not was something that was beyond intellect or wisdom. If the children of gods went to Hell, it would probably dictate that Kings and Queens, people who were less important than the sons and daughters of the Twins, were also only deserving of a regular afterlife. What a droll thought, living a regular afterlife. The kind of life that should only be fit for a commoner. The things that the common man did were far from the grandeurs that a King and Queen took part in.
For one Royal, the common afterlife would be a handsome reward. The only logical thing was that Ella would as well live that droll afterlife. She would revert back to the world that she once knew, the common life: the one life she always wished on herself. The only difference was that now, it would be after her living life. For once, she would feel normal again, like the little orphan girl who imagined a magical world beyond her knowledge. The life of the Queen killed that for her. It would be great to be back.

The setting changes from blackpond to Valcrest

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mageria Talsheir Character Portrait: Ella Page Character Portrait: Sean Fletcher Character Portrait: Ess

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Sean was a little torn between venting his frustrations on the surrounding hired thugs, or keeping his attention on the words exchanged between his new acquaintance, Ebony and the man she was with. He had done his research on the woman and her ‘business’, but there was a difference between knowing some things and hearing them first hand. Sean couldn’t quite understand how Dani could actually accept a contract from someone like Ebony, and the more he thought it through the more he felt the little bit of respect he had left for the woman start to rapidly decrease. The conversation managed to distract Sean into standing perfectly still, his eyes registering the movement around him as if politely awaiting a physical altercation to take place; it didn’t take a great amount of perception to understand that that’s what was about to happen there.

"Smart men...know how to treat a Lady...Maybe I’d play nice, if you got on your knees for me..."

There was a subtle, very subtle hint in Ess’ words, but it was more than enough of a hint for Sean to catch and as the woman finished speaking the assassin immediately got down on one knee, feeling something possibly very sharp pass through the spot where his head was just a split second ago; blood spatter hitting the ground moments after. Things went messy and violent after that, and while Sean was somewhat eager to take down a mercenary or two, he suddenly found himself freezing in place as he felt something brush against his shoulder as he got back on his feet, as if someone was walking past him; only he couldn’t see anyone there. In the small moment it took Sean’s mind to process what he already knew was happening, he saw a man go down, and then another, both seeming untouched except for one small dark little metal needle poking out from their necks; Sean wouldn’t have seen it if he wasn’t looking for it, his eyes instinctively searching for someone he knew wasn’t able to see. This was curious, to say the least. In his stupor Sean had absently moved to get out of the way of two men fighting, noting that one of them seemed a bit familiar, but he wasn’t quite sure where he’d seen the guy before.

Oddly enough; the lights going off were the thing that caused Sean to snap to attention as if he’d been startled awake. His hand reaching for a weapon instinctively as all the fire in the room went out at once.

“Uh, Sean, you still there? Would you be a gentleman and help a lady out? I can’t run in this thing..”

A flicker of violet light caught the Alpha’s eye as he turned to Ess with a slightly questioning look, unsure if he should laugh at or not at her request. He couldn’t help but feel amused. “I’m pretty sure helping a woman you barely know out of clothing in the dark is far from any definition of ‘gentleman’, but then... For the most part so am I.” He replied, not hiding his amusement at the situation. His attention wandered from the woman however, momentarily as the lights flickered back on, then off again, then on again, as if sudden bursts of flame were exploding all around the ballroom, Sean started looking around, examining the movement of the crowd as if expecting for something particular to happen; he had a bad feeling about this and it became clear why when he heard a familiar voice speak just behind his back, causing him to turn away from Essence, his grip tightening around the hilt of his still sheathed dagger. Struck a little by surprise by the last person he would expect to actually manage such a thing. The fact that Ella was actually attacking him there and then caused him to momentarily flinch, but not enough to actually catch him off guard.

What happened next was as unexpected as it was confusing. Sean expected Ella to attack him, but something held her back; or rather someone. Mageria didn’t seem to be too far behind the escaped Queen and pulled her back before she could reach the Alpha. It seem like that would be the end of it, but no... It wasn’t... Not for Sean anyway. Ella turned to face Mageria, and Sean couldn’t hear what she said, but he slowly realized what was happening; the woman’s face went pale. and it was noticeable even in the flickering lights, and then she went limp... It was so quick that Sean had to check that even though he had drawn his blade on an instinct; it was clear of any blood. The Queen hadn’t been touched by his blade, but Sean knew that wouldn’t matter. Funny how sometimes no matter how much you try to avoid something, if it’s meant to be, it’ll simply happen to you anyway.

For a moment, it could have been just a second or a full minute, Sean simply stood paralyzed but once that moment passed he looked at Mageria, slowly lifting his clean knife to where she could see it. “Been a pleasure, Miss Essence.” He spoke calmly, not bothering to waste the one moment he had for words on the former Black Knight in any way; sheathing his knife and taking the opportunity to make himself disappear the moment the lights flickered out again. He had to find a way back home as fast as possible. He wasn’t sure what had just happened there, but he was absolutely sure it was going to cause him trouble no matter what.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Evin Bana Character Portrait: Mageria Talsheir Character Portrait: Lamya Character Portrait: Jake Turner Character Portrait: Ella Page Character Portrait: Alexander

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The death of a Queen or King once stood for something. It was the end of an era. The end of an era of treachery, pain, agony was the ones most remembered. Then there were the golden eras of joy, wealth and posterity. The least common of the eras remembered were those consisting of normalcy. That was mostly what Ella would be forgotten for. No matter where she did end up going after death, there were no real changes made under her rule. Most scholars would probably say that her ideology was that if she did nothing to change the world, she could do nothing to screw it up. The real problem was inexperience. It was as if she was placed in the middle of a chess game without knowing the mechanics of the pieces. The relations between nobles, the country and their cities were like these mechanics. This was the reality of being someone who didn’t grow up in the environment that would have allowed her to learn these mechanics. It wasn’t her fault. If anything, it was her mother and father for creating these circumstances for her. How were they supposed to know what was to become of their daughter in the years to come. It was a simple mitigation—maybe an evasion.
“Wake up girly!”
Ella tried to open her eyes to see where the voice was coming from. At first, with a calm temperament, but quickly it changed to a franticly fruitless effort. She then tried to move her arms to see what was wrong with her eyes. Those weren’t working either. In fact, it was almost as if she didn’t even have any arms. This strange and surreal feeling followed through across her entire body… or lack thereof a body. Laughing echoed through the corridors of open space.
“Death couldn’t even experience this without killing herself. It wasn’t until Death’s son searched for immortality that this experience could be documented. When I heard about him showing up a couple years back at the siege of Newhaven, I decided that I could give it a try. From what I can tell, it seems like the process worked out pretty well.”
“What in the Hell…” Ella exclaimed.
“No, not hell. You know, it is surprising how well Death’s son was able to describe this place. ‘It is the void in which voids are created. Living within this void, one discovers that which not even the sprit can be found. Rather, it is the birthplace of empirical logic as we know it. It creates the supernatural in which the natural comes from. True darkness only lightens up when the spirit interferes…’ What a brilliant place.”
Ella didn’t understand what this voice was saying, all she could think was “Who are you?”
Somehow, Ella could tell that the voice was smiling. “I’m Lazurus, the new owner of your body. Only reason you’re here is because of the other life you possess. That marking on your hand was supposed to do it, but I messed that one up. Good thing too, because I don’t think I’d be here right now if I you didn’t have that extra life.”
“Extra life? What is this? Why do you seek immortality?”
“I don’t seek immortality,” Lazurus quickly said. “Immortality comes at a price. You lose your humanity when you seek immortality, much like the son of Death did. He was described as a demon in the last 200 years of his life. What I seek is much simpler. I just seek a life long enough to break down the constructs of society enough for anarchy to take over. How much easier could that be than doing so it as Queen?”
There was a moment where Ella didn’t know how to feel about this, but quickly, she started to figure it all out. Ella tried to be mad, but she couldn’t even do that. It was just like when she tried to move her hand; it was as if the emotion didn’t exist.
“Ah! Relax there Girly. Good to take note that you may have a hot temper. Now tell me more or face an eternity of excruciating pain.” Ella didn’t know where it came from, but a pain rang through her non-existent body as if she was being torn apart. It was worse than the pain she felt when she’d stabbed herself. There was no way that she was going to ever deal with that pain for the rest of her life… or whatever exactly she was feeling.
“Ok, I’ll tell you anything you want to know about me.” Ella screamed in a frantic huff.
She spoke for what felt like an eternity about herself. Any question that Lazurus had, she would answer. He waited until he got a profile big enough to be able to properly portray Ella. To her, this was a bigger defeat than her death was. Unable to emote about it, she went immediately to a thought that had been lingering on since she ‘woke up’. “What do you mean by my extra life?” She asked, but it seemed like Lazurus was gone.

The first thing that could have been noticed was that Ella’s wound had disappeared. The only thing that remained as a reminder was a scar. A scar right around where her pancreas would meet her stomach, just below her ribs. It was a pretty damaging spot to have a cut as it probably hit right through her renal artery. This would have been what caused her to bleed out so fast.
The next indicator was that her eyes started to flicker. It could be seen that her eyes were moving underneath her eyelids, but it grew into a full flutter of the eyelids, at which point, despite being slightly stiff, Ella rolled out of the arms of the person holding her and onto the floor. She slowly got onto her feet, ignoring any reaction she might have got from those around her. It was only moments after she got up that she looked at who was holding her. Mageria… We are going to have a problem with this. Lazurus thought to himself.
You sure are. Ella replied.

-----

To Rita, the whole night had become exactly what she pictured it would be. Although she didn’t have that good of a sense of time, she would guess that by this time, it was probably the earlier hours in the morning. If the sun hadn’t already risen, it would be rising in the next few hours.
For her, she wanted this whole thing to end. Maybe Lamya was telling the truth and maybe this guy she was fighting was actually who she said he was. Maybe this would be the beginning of a long needed reformation of Blackpond. The end of this fight may not only mark the end of a really shitty party, but it could also possibly mark the end of everything she was fighting to end. The idea was just too alluring to let it go.
Rita blocked, parried and dodged her way through a defensive technique that she believed would work to her advantage. She was going to tire out the man, who looked really warn out to begin with. He was a hardened fighter, but he couldn’t fight forever. It was easier to take the defensive than to be the aggressor. This technique didn’t seem to work this this man though. There was an issue here. An important detail in this man’s fighting style that seemed uncharacteristic of someone who looked as beat up as he did. He seemed to hesitate, which meant that he wasn’t using up his energy. Was that what he wanted her to think, that he was hesitating? It was likely that he was waiting for her to realize that and then try to take advantage of that.
In a book supposedly written by War, it said that war was deceptive.
Rita decided to take the risk. She went on the aggressive and right away, she knew that there wasn’t any deception. Two quick blows knocked him back with an unexpected surprise flowing over his face. She then cut his sword arm. He dropped his sword, but without hesitation, he tackled her. It was a gut reaction. He was on top of her and her sword slid across the floor. She didn’t have anything to defend herself but her body. She tried to throw a punch. It was ineffective as he just blocked it with his good arm and then placed his bad arm over her neck, pushing down with his bodyweight and blocking her windpipe. There was nothing she could do but flail her arms for a few seconds. It took all the energy that she had to focus and relax enough to flip Alexander off him. As she tried to get up, he grabbed at her ankle and she fell back on the floor, head smacking against the floor with an audible crack.
The world turned completely black for a moment. She could see nothing and there was a loud ringing in her ear, she even felt as though there was a lack of any smell. Quickly, her sight began to come back, but it was grey. When things were clear enough, she noticed that Alexander was on top of her again. This time, there was a dagger staring her right in the eyes. Despite her inability to think strait, her instinct to live kicked in. She grabbed onto his wrist as the dagger dropped down. With what strength she had remaining she tried her best to avoid the tip from cutting through her already damaged head.
The man shook his head and moved his mouth, but only an obscured mumble could be heard through the ringing. Her sight cleared up a little more as she started winning the fight for her life. Color started coming back and she started to feel the blood running out of her head from where she hit the floor so hard.
Finally, it was far enough away that she could expend energy somewhere else and not be afraid of losing control of this knife fight. She used her knee to kick into his crotch. It was enough to make the man keel over and drop the dagger. Rita grabbed the dagger and finished the job. One quick stab to the heart and then another and another. All until she was conscious enough to realize what she was doing.
It all suddenly started to feel like an outer body experience. As she was overlooking the battlefield and able to see things that she hadn’t seen before.
She then realized what she was actually seeing. For the entire time she had fought with Alexander from the moment that he knocked her to the ground and her head hit the floor until then, she was looking at the battle as if she was a third person. It was surprising to her that she actually missed the fact that she was seeing things from a different angle, but in the moment of a battle, any the distracted are the dead. Especially when it comes to such a struggle to hold onto one’s life.
Rita took a moment to watch herself from the outside. She could see the cut on her forehead. It looked pretty bad. Then she moved to look down at herself and Alexander from above. She wasn’t done her job yet. Rita would be able to examine this new point of view at a different time.
She looked down as she waded through the personal belongings of Alexander’s coat. In his coat pocket, there was a book. She moved her vision in to focus purely on the book. It took her a moment to adjust to this new view. She could no longer see herself, only her hands. Learning how to move parts of her body which she is not even connected to would be a challenge, especially when she couldn’t see her body. She fumbled with the book until she looked at the final page with writing in it. It was a journal. In the final page, it was Alexander’s last account. She read the entirety of that page to see exactly what his motives were. By the end, she made the shocking realization.
Her view moved out so she could no longer see the words on the pages. She was looking at herself. Her eyes whited out as if she were a drowned body. In that moment, looking at herself, she could describe her exact emotion, even if she was a complete outside observer. In one word, she would call it droopy. Every single wrinkle and line seemed to want to fall from her face in this unbelievable sadness. Then, behind her, she caught Lamya’s gaze and that frown tensed up into a scowl.
She moved her view so that she would get the perfect view of what she was about to do and then she turned around. “You bitch!” She yelled loud enough for the entire ballroom to hear her. She picked up her sword and walked right up to her. She didn’t get close enough to be able to use the sword on her, but she got close enough to say, “you knew,” without anyone hearing.
“What of it?” Lamya asked.
“You are so fucking lucky. You wasted my energy from that fight. You fucking knew.”
Rita just turned around, this time sword pointing directly at her intendie. Heyden. Pointing it directly at his throat, he could tell that his moments were numbered. A woman in her state was not to be reasoned with. She would do what she wanted. “Let me out!” She said.
“Bevel can do it for you m’lady.”
“Bevel, let me out!” She yelled again, running up to him and pointing the sword at his throat.
He didn’t say anything to her. He just smiled as if to say, “as you wish,” and then his eyes brightened. A swift gust of wind appeared out of nowhere. Quickly the pressure in the room grew and everything felt heavy. In the next moment, his eyes stopped, but the pressure continued, then with a whooshing noise, the high pressure air formed in a single point and literally cut through the ice and then through the metal door. It was an incredible sight. The natural light finally let itself into the room. The sun was beginning to rise.
Rita’s expression didn’t change in any of this time. It didn’t even falter as she plunged the blade slowly into Bevel’s windpipe. It was only enough that he would eventually choke to death. It was going to be slow and painful. None of the Conflict moved against her as she walked out the castle doors.

-----

Lamya let out a loud yell to the cheering crowd as they all walked out the door. “Be sure to give the guards at the doors your weapons before leaving. Valcrest needs protecting after all.”

-----

Simon had given up on the fighting that had been going on. Once Rita got involved, the use of the Conflict was no longer really needed. What concerned Simon more was the whereabouts of Luckas and Rick. First off, Rick wasn’t to be trusted around anyone, but neither was Luckas, from the little he was able to gather from him. With the situation in the room dying down as the doors opened to let people out, there was a quick calming of everyone’s mind in the room. Tension that was once there was gone… or fleeing the scene and it allowed Simon to work harder on the things that needed work.
Luckas was there somewhere. If he could concentrate enough, he would be able to find him through reading the outer limits of his mind. With Rick, it wouldn’t be that easy. With the change in his patterns, he would have to rediscover the things that made Rick’s mind tick. It was an arduous task, but one that needed doing. If he could actually see where Rick was in the room, it might make things easier.
Where is Rick? Simon asked through the channels for the Conflict. There was no response.
Frustrated, Rick stepped out towards the door himself. There was only going to be one way to find Rick, and that was to personally confront him where ever he found him. The sooner, the better because he was practically useless in the frame of mind that he was in at the moment. Simon needed to catch Rick before someone else, such as Luckas, caught him so he could do his best to allow Rick as normal a life as he could possibly give him with his corrective mind work.
Let’s see all the good we accomplished today. Lamya’s voice suddenly stirred to meet Simon’s thoughts.
The commander is gone, Rick’s gone insane, Ella’s dead, relations with the Wolfpack have probably been sullied and Rita has left. Another of the Conflict said.
And what of Lazurus? Another bellowed.
There was a moment of silence. No one was sure if Lazurus had managed to do his job, but then, an unexpected voice came through. What the hell is going on?
As you can hear, Lazurus’ voice echoed in the hollowness of Simon’s mind, with the voice of Ella speaking to you, I’ve managed to plant the seed.
Good. Now we have a choice that must be made. Lamya said.
Before the conversation could go on any further, Simon spoke up. What of Rick? Where has he gone?
That isn’t priority at this moment Simon. We are more concerned about our next target. Lamya replied.
Mageria or Crystal? Vorso spoke up, knowing that the job would be appointed to him and his team. Not sure. Both of them could get in the way of our accomplishing what needs accomplishing. I’ll sit on it for a couple of months. Let things pan out and see where things take me.
Simon scoffed, as no one else seems to care, I’ll be after Rick. Think of it as an attempt to preserve the chain of command.
The chain of— Vorso said before Simon cut all his communications off with the Conflict. This would be the last time that they would use Simon’s form of communication for a while.

-----

“The chain of command?” Vorso slyly remarked under his breath.
Vorso grabbed a glass from the table that hadn’t been ruined by the fighting. He took a sip from the glass so that there was exactly a third of the drink as there was in the glass before. He placed it back onto the table and then started walking off into the heart of the castle.
He knew that there was some truth to what Simon had just said. The Conflict’s chain of command was in shambles. Lamya was only first in command by title as she really did nothing that could be described as organized. This left Rick in charge of organizing things for the most part. Since he’d gone insane, he could no longer attend to his duties the way he was supposed to. Lazurus was an interesting story. The man who was alive, but dead at the same time. The second that he was done with Ella’s body or he could no longer control Ella’s body, he would himself be dead. That left only one person in the chain of command that was in his way of taking the role of active leader of the Shadow’s Conflict: Simon.
Vorso stopped when he reached a small dining room it wasn’t in any way lavish. It was more or less used by the slaves who had been commissioned to work for the King. It had a table and a couple of chairs. Only big enough to hold about six or seven people, five if one wanted to be comfortable. That was what made this room perfect for Vorso’s needs.
Four men walked into the room. The four men were the elemental users of the Conflict. The one’s that Vorso had power over.
“We will keep an eye on Mageria, but for now, we have more pressing matters. Simon needs to be eliminated.”

-----

Evin looked around the room. He wasn’t sure what had just happened. The woman who was just in the fight against the man who had instigated the biggest conflict in the ballroom was angry enough to force the party to end. On top of it all, the crowds were rushing to get out of the room as quickly as possible. Only about five people could fit through the doors at a time and with the crowds all bunching up right there, it could take minutes to actually get out of the castle. Evin decided instead to sit back.
If there was one thing that he knew for certain, he knew that Jake would also wish to sit back. Jake was observant and what better time to observe people than when they leave a place. Usually, people feel less like they’re being watched when they are leaving a place, or at least, that was how Evin always felt when he left places.
Evin was just about to speak aloud when he was interrupted. “Not quite the party that I was expecting, Evin.” Jen sarcastically remarked as she approached him.
“It might not have been, but it sure was my kind of party.” Evin said.
“You must be insane.”
“More unafraid.”
Jen laughed. “To me, they’re the same thing.”
“Fine then. Call me crazy, but then I’ll call you crazy for being unafraid of the blissfully ignorant life you’ve been living.” Evin retorted.
“It wasn’t by choice!”
“Are you afraid of it?”
Jen paused for a moment. The only reason Evin could imagine her doing so was to look for a witty comeback to what he’d just said. With a sigh of defeat she said, “fair enough.”
Evin looked into Jen’s eyes for a moment. The two crystalline spheres flashed in and out as her eyelids closed and opened. It was a special ballet. A ballet where only the truest of onlookers would know exactly what the performers were trying to say. Soon, the crystal grew even clearer and they sparkled leaving Evin in wonderment and then consciousness. “Don’t worry.” He wiped the tears away. “I know what I have to do to solve everything.”
“Will you ever be able to solve yourself?”
Evin scratched his head. “What do you mean?”
“I’ll never be able to settle down if you don’t settle down. The only way you will ever keep me safe is if you stop protecting me.”
“There’s no truth to that.”
“Just hold me, Evin.”
Evin did exactly that. He grabbed her by the waist and pulled her close until they were united as one. Nothing could break that bond between them. Jen rested her head on his shoulder and she just let her emotions fly. All Evin knew to do was to rub her back and let her deal with the rest herself. Relations were never his strong suit.
“Jake. I know you’re there and I know that you want this to end just as much as I do.” Evin’s voice started to tremble. “He’s tried to hurt people we love and now he’s killed a queen. I’m going right to the camp after I’m through here.” Evin wasn’t finished, but he felt a cough coming.
He grabbed for the tissue he’d been using for his cough, which had been coming and going since he met up with Jen. Covering his mouth with the cloth, he let go. The pain from this cough was above a normal pain. He didn’t let anything show, but he sure didn’t like the feeling. When he uncovered his mouth, the cloth revealed something troubling. Blood. He looked at it for a moment, but then put it back into his pocket.
“It all ends in the next couple of days. Whether you are involved or not, Jake, it will end. If you join me, the odds will be better in our favor though.” Evin stopped talking. It was all he needed to say.
Evin stayed with Jen for as long as she needed. When she was done, he set off for the Wolf camp.

The setting changes from valcrest to Blackpond

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mageria Talsheir Character Portrait: Ella Page

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Mageria had been standing there, feeling the ice of shock and grief slowly work it's way through her chest. She couldn't move, all she could do was stare down at the body of the girl she had sworn to protect. The slightest movement caused her to tilt her head to the side slightly, reaching down to where Ella's body lay on the table. The death wound was no longer there. She stooped slightly, sliding one arm behind Ella's shoulder's to see if she could detect any breathing. The .... body shifted, sitting up and moving of it's own accord. Ella stood up, turning around to face her fully.

The brutal clarity of shook was immensely useful at that moment. Mageria felt nothing. Her mind coldly flipped through a series of observations and deductions before coming to a conclusion.

Ella had been dead. There was no doubt about that, she had faced too many bodies, friends and enemies, to mistake that state for anything else.

There had been no sign of an Elightenment being used, no shifting of eye color or other wise.

When Ella looked into her eyes, she saw a different person looking back. Blackpond was known to have a necromancer in it's employ. Somebody who could put on a body like a suit of cloths.

This was not Ella.

Mageria's expresion never changed. Her eyes still as black as midnight, she flicked her wrist slightly to the side, a small dagger suddenly filling her hand. So fast that it was a blur, she drove the dagger with all her might towards the thing's neck.

Lazurus knew in an instant that Mageria knew the truth. But of course she knew the truth. The truth was lying right in front of her, dead only moments before. It wasn't even a change in the eyes that clued him in. It was the change in the tension of her cheeks. A tension that could only be seen by the slightest twitching. Lazurus ignored the twitch and continued looking right into her black eyes, waiting for something.
The strike came quickly and with only the warning of sound. A skilled Knight as she was going to attempt for the killing blows right away. Which made him do the only thing that he could imagine to do with the time he had to react. Ducking below the strike, he immediately started backing away. With the people leaving the room now, there was far more room for him to move and he knew that Ella wasn't much of a fighter. If he was to start pulling off some incredible displays of strength and be so nimble that only an assassin could really pull off the moves that he was going to do, no one still left in the room would believe that is was really Ella in this body.
"Stop Mageria! What are you doing?" The sweet, soft and elegant voice of Ella came out with Lazurus' words.

Mageria turned smoothy, almost inhuman in the preciseness of her movements. She was past the point of being able to speak. Past the point of being able to let her emotions get any hold of her. Tossing the blade in her right hand up and catching it in her left; she brought her right foot up and grabbed the knife tucked in her boot, drawing it smoothy as she stalked forwards. She would kill this monster or prove to everyone in the room that this wasn't her Queen. Lips pulling back from her teeth in a slight snarl, she leapt forwards, blades gleaming in the surviving flames.


Lazurus didn't bother to think about what he was going to do. He knew that even if he continually just tried to avoid her, that there would be no hope in winning a fight. He didn't want to fight, but it seemed as though that was the only option that he was given.
You had to have come here with a blade you bitch! Where is it? Lazurus thought.
Ella's reply was slow and controlled. She didn't seem to care too much about the impending danger of Mageria. It wasn't like she really knew that there was any impending danger to begin with... or did she? My heel turns into a blade. Good luck figuring out which one it is.
"Bitch." He whispered as he continued to watch Mageria approach. He turned around, completely to face the staircase. and kicked both her shoes up to the top. Mageria was taking her time with the approach, so he knew that there would be time to run up the stairs and figure out the heels.
He ran up, and grabbed both of the shoes in his hand. It didn't take much detective work to figure out which one was the right shoe. The sole of the left shoe looked slightly deformed as if it were modified. He flipped the shoe to look at the heel. The heel was the handle. He broke the heel off until he heard a clicking noise and then drew the blade. It was no bigger than Ella's foot, but it would have to do.
He turned around to see Mageria almost right in front of him. Before he even gave her the opportunity to swing her blade, he attempted a slash at her abdomen. It was blacked with her dagger and then a quick counter came back at him with the larger blade. In the dress, Lazurus had little mobility, but he had enough to be able to dodge the attack. The blade cut right through the side of Ella's dress though, shredding it in an ugly fashion where cloth was hanging on barely by a thread in places.
Again Lazurus backed away as quickly as possible to avoid any more strikes against him. Much more of this fighting and it would give away the fact that she wasn't actually the Queen.

Mageria was done allowing even the slightest opportunity for her opponent to fight back. She darted forwards, dropping her left blade in order to grab the necromancer's left hand in her own. She twisted slightly, pulling it forwards and turning so that she could slam her right elbow into the thing's stomach. She twisted back, dropping the wrist lock and grabbing the necromancer's throat in her left hand, she slammed it backwards over the banister, pushing it off balance enough that it wouldn't be able to strike again. Gazing down at what had been her Queen, she struck a final time; a quick clean blow to the heart. It was the last service she could perform for Ella.

Ella didn't know what was going on. All she could decipher was a few slight emotions that would rush through her mind. Lazurus was obviously flustered with something, but what he was flustered with was something that she couldn't figure out. Without anything else she could do, however, she thought it the only good way to pass the time.
While trying to interpret the fight, she felt a pain. It was in her stomach, but she also felt Lazurus feel the same pain as well as another entity. There were three different minds interpreting the exact same thing. This didn't make sense, until when she felt another pain on her back. Lazurus felt the same pain, but the third entity didn't.
If Ella could express herself in any way, she would have made the biggest expression of shock ever. Now she understood.

Lazurus was on his back. He had gone over the railing and fallen is such a way that he knew he would be fine, but it still hurt so much. He let out a scream of pain forgetting that he would sound like a woman when he did it.
Before he could get back up, he felt a wieght pile up on him. Mageria stared daggers at him. Then the blade came for what was hoped to be a final blow. Desperation was what saved him. His hand lifted up and blocked the blade. It blocked it in the most painful of ways. The blade went right through the hand. Letting the tears flow completely naturally, Lazurus twisted the hand with the blade still in it so that Mageria would loose her grip. With the other hand, he grabbed Mageria by the back of her head and pulled her close enough so that he could whisper to her. something.
Blood was pouring from her mouth as he had bit his tongue when the blade came through the hand. He spat blood into Mageria's ear as he stuggled to say. "If you kill me, you kill the baby."

Mageria snarled, an vicious animal sound as she pulled back from the necromancer's hold. When she spoke it was as if the sound was torn from her throat, as if something so civilized as speech has no place in her mind. "Lies..." Her right hand snaked back and grasped one of the ornamental sticks holding her hair in an elegant twist. She flipped the slender stake around so that she held it like a wooden dagger and plunged it towards the necromancer's right eye.

Lazurus moved his head before his beautiful face became a mutilated mess on the floor and then yelled back his reply. "But it's true! Mageria, if you have something against me please find another way! I can't stand to die like this when I'm expecting! I can't just let my baby go like this!"
The yelling wasn't exactly to try to convince Mageria anything. Mageria was beyond repair. Lazurus wanted the right people to hear this. And they did. The dead weight of Mageria fell over on top of Lazurus. It was a face that Lazurus recognized as the guard who was there when he had first attacked Ella a while back. You had sex with one of your personal guards? It makes sense I guess. You've probably had more alone time with in than anyone else in your life. Naughty. There was no reply from Ella.
"A baby?" The guard asked. Lazurus nodded. The two kissed passionately. "What should we do about Mageria?" Conrad pushed away to ask.
"We'll bring her back to Newhaven where we will find a proper cell for her." Lazuras said in enjoyment. That would get her out of the way.
"No!" A voice spoke well over the volume needed to be heard. "The two of you will leave and I will personally escort Mageria safely to Newhaven where she will be given back what was rightfully hers."
Lazurus moved the head to see probably the tallest man in the room in Black armor staring back at her. He wasn't going to take no for an answer and Lazurus didn't want to see what the Black Knight would do if he did say no.

Mageria slowly sat up, reaching around to touch the raw lump on the back of her head where she had been knocked out. She stood smoothly, turning to look around at her people standing around her. They stood staring at her is various stages of shock. She tilted her head slightly and closed her eyes, drawing the icy calm around herself again.
“The Queen is dead. That person, was a necromancer wearing her skin. We will stop her before she gets back to Newhaven.” With that she strode out, her people falling in step with her as they swept from the hall.

The setting changes from blackpond to Valcrest

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sham (No Last Name) Character Portrait: Ella Page

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In the forest, a number of shadows lurked. They stood grimly, quietly, waiting for the moment they would be called upon. Most worrisome to some, they no longer wore the color that had become their badge, instead donning the colors of concealment; for they had a grim job indeed. Sham had arrived in camp an hour ago, collapsing after pushing herself to the very brink of her limits. She had gasped out her message and their orders before passing out. The medics gave her a one in two chance of making it through the night. If she did, she would be months recovering. But they all understood the need. Mageria's orders had been brief. "The Queen has been possessed and cannot be allowed to reach Newhaven. She bears a child that is now our heir. Stop her, without killing her."
They would do their duty.
They waited, until the royal coach came around the bend. With a nod, Mathew signaled his men further down, where they finished chopping through a smaller tree. The trunk came crashing down, blocking the way forwards. At the same time, two people in the tree branches, their faces well wrapped against what they carried, hurled cloth balls filled with sleeping dust at the horses. With an eerie silence, the rest of the team swept out, grimly intent on their goal.

The sudden stopping of the carriage was suspicious. It wasn't note-worthy, but suspicious. Lazurus knew that there could be several reasons to stop a carriage, but when there was such an unprecedented threat, there was reason for suspicion to take over. The clash of steel heightened that suspicion tenfold.
Lazurus reached to the other side of the carriage for the sword. He had fashioned a simple belt out of the dress which he used to hold the sword by his waist. He then opened the door to see exactly what was going on. Jumping up on the top of top of the carriage, he saw the fight unfold. There were five of them fighting the guards with efficiency. There was at least one more that he could see in the shadows of the forest and probably even more that he couldn't see.
He made his move faster than they could think. With the guards distracting those who were fighting, he had no troubles getting to the horse. Cutting the straps of one of the horses that was still knocked out. He then slit its throat, lighting up his eyes, it came back to life before it even fell over. Hopping up on the horse he announced, "To those of you who might want to shoot me off the horse, remember, if I fall off this horse, I may survive, but the child may not." He drew the sword and looked for an exit.

Keira had been waiting on the sidelines, hoping that the necromancer would place itself away from the others. She stepped forwards, holding the ends of several balls of tightly woven silk ribbons. It was said that great warriors in battle used to wear silk to the battlefield, because of the way it tangled around a blade and was almost impossible to cut. She whipped them out, a tangle of a dozen or more, yards long; sending them flying through the air to wind around the necromancer.

Lazurus didn't initially react when the ribbons started to fly around him. He had seen strange enlightenments, but he had never seen this one before. He didn't know to what extent this could be used against him, so he took it all in caution. Another reason for not reacting immediately was that ribbons could b the perfect distraction. It was becoming a new trend in the past hundred or so years that warriors would sometimes attach decorative items to weapons to attack people. This may have likely been the next evolutionary step forward from that. When no arrows came flying through the dome of ribbons surrounding him and the first ribbon attacked him, he was certain that he was safe from any distraction techniques for now.
Lazurus jumped off the un-dead horse to avoid the first attack. When that ribbon missed, it went back to the dome with the rest of the ribbons. With very little time to react after hitting the ground, the next ribbon went in to attack. He wrapped himself around the legs of the horse and forced the ribbon to follow until it tripped the horse, crushing the ribbon under it. Hopefully the horse was heavy enough to keep the ribbon stuck under it for a while. Odds were that the attacker was going to focus on the ribbons that weren't stuck somewhere so they could focus more on attacking.
With the few seconds that gave him to concentrate, he saw that there was one spot in the dome where he would actually have enough room to run out of. This was probably where the enlightened user had created a good line of sight. With the next attack, he dodged it, getting close enough to the side of the dome to get out safely. He was out.

Keira took one graceful step forwards; gesturing in a sweeping motion. The necromancer had come out of her blind spot and now she moved to correct that, her ribbons twisting through the air and pulling back to her. Behind her the rest of the Guard had the Royal Guard busy... there were enough of them that they could control the way things were going to happen. She only had ten ribbons left. That was fewer she could attack with, but conversely meant she had more control over them. She eyes shone a brilliant white, while she gestured again, her ribbons flying forth in a net that quickly closed around the retreating figure the same way the tentacles of an underwater predator closed about its prey.

The necromancer spun, its arms bound tightly to its side, while Keira walked forwards. She raised her hands, the ends for the ribbons wrapping back around her arms as she took up the slack. The necromancer watched her, eyes glittering for a moment, a crazed smile on its lips. Keira didn't have time to wonder as its actions; as a horse, its throat torn open and gaping, thundered towards her. She barely dodged, taking a crushing blow to the shoulder. She screamed rawly, as half her ribbons went limp, still tangled about the necromancer's body but now nothing more than strips of cloth. Her scream was echoed by an ear splitting whistle, as across the clearing one of her fellow guards let loose a sound that stunned anybody who wasn't expecting it.

The horse idea worked and the concentration of the woman had been broken significantly; up to the point where Lazurus was able to start loosening himself out of the binds. Then, a sound that could only be described as splintering. Very quickly, Lazurus started feeling uneasy. His breathing became spastic and despite being loosened greatly from the fabric, he felt more constricted than ever and with that, he became more frantic than ever. Struggling greatly to get out of that bondage that constrained him. Since the sound affected the woman who bound her too, he wasn't too afraid of what she might do. She probably had just as much chance of succeeding as he did, but she had just been hit by a horse, so he had the edge.
His desperation to feel unconstrained helped him loosen himself to the point where he was in as much control of the slack as the enlightened person was. He grabbed what slack he could and wrapped it around his hand until he had only a little slack left.
The woman attempted to defend herself by striking him with a kick, but Lazurus slipped by it and flung the ribbon forward, wrapping it around her neck. "Make the noise stop!" He yelled as loud as he could so she could hear him. "Make it stop and maybe you'll live!"

Keira bared her teeth in a bloodstained smile. She had one good arm, and five ribbons, six if she counted the one around her neck. A moment's thought loosened it slightly and then her eyes flared bright enough to cast a light of their own. The ribbons around the necromancer's arms twisted again, lashing themselves around the others neck and pulling tight as her own vision began to grey
We'll see...... how long the other lasts......

The setting changes from valcrest to Newhaven

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Evin Bana Character Portrait: Crystal Rivers Character Portrait: Mageria Talsheir Character Portrait: Lamya Character Portrait: Luckas Character Portrait: Ella Page Character Portrait: Sean Fletcher

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2 Days After the Ball
It was the first real day that Lazurus could get settled in. Everything on this day was unimportant. Everyone in the castle understood that Ella had been through a lot and that she needed rest. Lazurus, on the other hand, didn’t ever rest. He took this alone time as a chance to scower through Ella’s things. He wanted to get to know her just a little better. There was nothing too special in the room. It was a Rich blue color and kept a rather queen-ish theme that was expected from a queen. A couple of books on a shelf and a boat load of clothing in the closet. A chess set, a desk, a few notes from her secret, not-so-secret lover under her mattress. She was more or less a girl who was privileged, but not for her entire life so she didn’t exactly know what to do with those privileges. Any good royal would have an entire lifetime before being crowned to get to know this privilege. Ella didn’t have that luxury. It was really all that he could gather from the room.
You are a special kind of boring, Ella. Lazurus said.
What did you expect to find in my room? Unlike you scum, there are people who would actually be interested in knowing things about me. I don’t keep important things in my room. There’s a room only known the White Knights and the queen that is used for things like that. Ella replied.
Then tell me where—
Am I really pregnant? Ella asked.
Yeah. But what do you expect after fooling around like you did?
I was going to be a mother and you took that away from me!
You took it away from yourself, Ella. You are the one who was foolish enough to get yourself killed. I was just there to intervene. Lazurus said.
Ella took a moment. It was true, what he was saying to her. But she couldn’t help to be sort of excited. To be a mother… although, how would she ever be a mother if she was already dead. She couldn’t control her body. There was no way. She could only do stuff if Lazurus allowed her to. It was a depressing reality.
Although, Lazurus did seem surprised when she talked to him at the party. She obviously had some sort of control. Maybe there was a way that she could take control of Lazurus. If that was the case, she could live out the rest of her life normally. She could be the Queen. She could have her child and she could even marry Conrad. Things could be so much better!
I hope you go to hell. Ella said.
Lazurus didn’t say anything, but she knew that it bothered him.

Blackpond- 5 Days After the Ball
It was a struggle for Rita. Things had gone from bad to worse in Blackpond and she had to pick up the broken pieces and replace them with fresh new ones. The only way she could do it, however, was to use the broken pieces to make the new ones. It wasn’t her favorite of plans, but it was the best she had. The fact that she was disembodied seemed like nothing compared to the challenges that she had to face now.
She needed an army, and there was only one place where she could gather one large enough to take down the ruling of Blackpond with a single display of brute force, Blackpond’s favorite method of force.
It all started with a connection that she had made by making friends with some city guards who supported her cause. They spoke to those who ran the security in the dungeons and found out who could be trusted. Within only twelve hours of gathering the information she needed, she was looking towards the dastardly side of Blackpond’s crime syndicates. These were people who could be trusted far less, but with the fallacious promises of protection once Rita was in control of Blackpond, she gathered enough money to be used for a sizable bribe and a little more for extra measure. Sent out, the bribe allowed Rita passage through the dungeons without any trouble. It even gained her admittance into the underground city, where she was planning to go.
Rita literally saw no one on her way to the dungeon. No guards blocked her way or even made an appearance. She didn’t take any chances though. She brought twelve of the finest fighters that she could find to join her. Money could buy a person many things, but if there was one thing money could never buy, it was a guarantee. Standing at the door, she looked at her fighters and signaled them to stand down. She was going to go in alone. Maybe not the smartest thing, but again, a group of 13 Knightly-looking people walking into a room might have looked like a deathly cleansing waiting to happen. Going in alone was actually the safer approach, no matter how much others wanted to convince her otherwise.
She took the key from her belt and put it into the hole. Twisting it, it made a screeching sound, until finally, a click. She swung the door open and felt the stingy air breeze past her. It wasn’t like the first time she had visited. The air was actually fresh when she last visited. This was very different.
The bodies were everywhere. Not a single one more than a day past their expiration. It was a sea of bodies, not a single one of them living, but even in this horrific mess, something was wrong. When she was in the city the first time, it was a bustling ground that functioned better than its above ground counterpart was. It was a strange thing to her, seeing that most of these people were criminals. Now, at least a quarter of them were dead. The rest… missing.
“Lionel!” Rita shouted out to the door.
The door whooshed open with a gust a wind that flowed past Rita’s hair. Then she felt a stinging sensation through her body as she heard Lionel’s sword clang against the ground. Rita turned around to see a ghost. Lionel obviously had never fought in the war. There were no words for him to speak. He just walked forward. A face caught his eye. A breathy mumble escaped his mouth as he walked past Rita to see the face closer. When he got close enough, he confirmed what he knew was already true. He ran to the body and collapsed on top it.
Rita walked over slowly. She didn’t expect that he’d actually recognize a face in the crowd of faces in this underground city, but in Blackpond, everyone probably knew someone who ended up down here. She just stood beside him. He wasn’t crying, but he wasn’t happy.
Franklin spoke. “Her name was Yishka. She was my partner in my revolution. She was captured when we stormed the castle. I didn’t even know that this place existed.”
“It was a nice place to live in. Better than the shithole above. I’m sure she was actually quite content here.” There was a long pause between the two. “I doubt that there’ll be any, but have everyone search for survivors. I’m going to search around the rest of these dungeons and see if I can figure anything out.”
Rita took one more look at the bodies all around her and then she left the room. When she walked out, the 12 other warriors were waiting for an order. She just motioned them into the room with a wave of her hand and kept walking. She was sure that Lionel would do a fine job at relaying her orders and she wasn’t really in the mood for it. She ventured into other parts of the city that were far better known to her than this area. Her particular interest was in the room where Ella had been held all those years ago. If she was to find anyone from the underground city who was still alive, it would have been there.
She knew the path all too well. She heard all too much about the whole Ella ordeal from Lamya. It had to be the place she went. She walked into the next hall. It was more of a large room than a hall, but for some reason, it was called a hall. This is when she was caught off guard. The room was entirely dark. She knew this tactic all too well. It was exactly what they did when Mageria had come to take back Ella. They had a room completely blackened out by enlightenment. She was told this story so many times that she knew exactly where Jacy was hiding. Rita took her sword out and swung it towards the direction where Jacy should have been, but nothing connected. Instead, she was thrown for a loop. The room came to light and a face was right in front of her. Rita’s first reaction was to back away, but the owner of the face had already grabbed Rita by the neck and wouldn’t let go. Behind Rita, a sword poked her. There was no doubt that it was Jacy. The face in front of her: Lamya.
“Where’s the city?” Rita choked.
“Have you ever met a man named Lionel? He’s a nice guy. I decided to take him out on a date. Want to see?” Lamya let go of Rita and she felt the blade point direct her around. Behind her, a horror. A set made up of 12 dead bodies. Two chairs and a table with a candle and some food set atop it. A still living, but badly beaten Lionel sat in one of the chairs made from his dead comrade. The scariest part of it all was how Lionel seemed unwilling to struggle at all. He’d just given up. She hadn’t Lionel more than ten minutes before and it was as if he was just ready for death. What had happened to him?
Lamya walked up to the table. She reached over and under to the side that Rita couldn’t see. When she got up, she was holding a pitcher with a crimson liquid in it. She poured the liquid into a glass on the table. When the glass was about half full, she reached into the pitcher and grabbed a dark red clump from the bottom and plopped it into the glass, making it splash everywhere. She put the glass on the table and then cut the bonds that held Lionel. He didn’t even move an inch. He’d truly given up.
When Lamya was finished, she walked around the table to sit on her fleshy chair. “Go ahead, Lionel. Have a drink.”
That was the first moment that Rita saw Lionel feel emotion. His eyes widened and some color came back to his pallid face. He reached for the cup with a shaking arm and clasped onto it in the same way a crossbow would hold its arrows. He lifted it, but his shaking caused him to spill a small portion of the crimson liquid onto the ground. Slowly he brought it to his mouth. A little hint of contempt crossed over his face right before he put the cup against his mouth. He leaned his head back and gulped down the metallic liquid. Then came the clot. Before Lionel could even chew it so he could eat it, Lamya jumped across the table and placed her fingers over his nose. This forced him to swallow it whole, but it was too much. The clot didn’t make it past his windpipe and he started to choke.
“Oh little Lionel. Don’t do this to me. We were having a good time. Sure, we have our differences, and I know we fought earlier, but we can get through this. You don’t need to be angry anymore.” Finally, Lionel managed to pass it, but he didn’t look good. “Oh, thank the Twins!” Lamya kissed him passionately and he just fell to the floor, lifeless. Was the blood poisoned? What was the clot really? Rita couldn’t make proper sense of it all!
“You bitch!” Rita belted.
“Those were your best warriors, Rita? You’re going to have to do better than that. Jacy and I dealt with them all alone. Do you really want to go to the ends of hell with me? You see, the difference between the two of us is that in our limits. I don’t have them. You either stoop to my level or I’ll… well you can guess. I’ve already done in enough people you know to be able to prove a point… haven’t I. Now get out of here and come at me when you’re actually ready to put up a fight.”

6 Days After the Ball
The old Inn: it was exactly where Rita expected to find her. She had heard rumors over the week and a half after the party that she had stayed in town. It wasn't exactly Rita's business anymore to know why she was there, but if she could find out, it might be her best interest to make it her interest.
Rita cautiously walked up to the door. Knowing exactly what it was like to be in hiding, it was always in the hider's best interest to set up traps in their safe house in case an intruder wanted to poke around. To prevent any of these accidents, Rita treated it if she was visiting someone's house. She knocked.

"Are you sure there's enough room down here for this?" Nicholas asked, watching as Crys paced around the biggest room of the underground level of the Inn. "We need the smaller areas for storage, otherwise we could break the walls and open the space up."
"It'll be tight, but we'll manage. We need to at least store liquor in the other rooms, we can store other supplies upstairs, it'll work." She stated, smiling contently at the man. "It's not the best training area we've ever had, but it'll surely work."
"What about weapons?" Nicholas questioned, pacing around the basement himself.
"Patience, my friend... We have no allies to arm just yet. For what it's worth though, I'm working on it."
Nicholas chuckled a bit nervously. "I'm sorry, I don't mean to question you so much, I..."
"Its alright. If I'm putting you in charge of running the Inn it is your job to know these things and it's your right to question me." Crys reassured her fellow assassin with a small pat on the shoulder. "We're making great progress Nick, and the results will start showing soon, you'll see."
"I guess you're right, Crys. I'm just a bit anxious I guess... I know that once we're fully operational it's going to draw a lot of attention."
"Well, that's a part of it, I'm afraid." She whispered softly. "We'll be prepared when the time comes, I'm sure of it."
"Excuse me, Crys..." A voice called from the top of the stairs that led to the ground floor. "We... Uh... There's someone at the door."
Crys frowned slightly in confusion; the only people who knew they were there wouldn't be knocking on the door. "How odd. I suppose I should go check to see who it is."
Nicholas chuckled at her calm response. "Okay, so we've decided to make a training room down here, yes? I'll get to work on that."
"Yes, we've decided, I trust you to take care of it as you see fit. I'll be back as soon as I can." Crys replied to the man, starting to make her way to and up the staircase. The area of the bar was mostly functional and to Blackpond standards it was actually looking pretty fancy, but the front of the building, the exterior, was still the same as it had been since the Wolves left the city, they were very careful to not alert too many people of their presence just yet so this person was either very perceptive or simply knew enough about her to guess her whereabouts. Whichever the case, she wanted to know who this person was. That didn't mean she would simply open her door for a stranger. Instead she exited through a side door and walked her way to the person standing outside the establishment. "I recognize you, from the party. You were fighting not far from me on the dance floor." She stated casually. "We're not open for business yet."

Rita would have been caught off guard if it wasn't for her new perspective on life. Literally. She had her vision backed far enough away that she would be able to see the entire front of the Inn. She was even able to see at the side, where Crystal had stepped through her secret door. Regardless, she acted as surprised when Crystal spoke to her. She jumped a bit at the sound of the voice and turned to see her.
"I'm not here for a drink or a place to stay Miss Rivers." Rita went right to business. "The name's Rita, former commander of the Blackpond army and new found coordinator in the efforts that are now being made against the oppressive Blackpond leadership. I've come to speak about creating a symbiotic relationship between your people and mine. Even if you don't, there is a lot of information that your people will want to know if you are to want any success here and I'm willing to give it all up to you." Rita motioned for the door. "I'd like to speak with you more, but the streets have ears. In fact," Rita had her vision focused on a street adjacent to the one that they were on, "there are some informants to the Blackpond leadership that are well known to me who are closing in on our location very quickly. On my way here, I broke from their trail, but it seems that they are on the verge of finding me. If you want, turn me away, but know that you have nothing to lose from speaking to me."

Crys chuckled a bit under her breath at how direct the woman was, it was a rare thing nowadays to have someone state what they actually wanted instead of wasting time hiding behind false pretenses. Of course, she did know who Rita was, Jake had done a very thorough job of filling her in on all the details she might have missed of the ball, and he had already mentioned the woman to her when he told her of his time in the city dungeons. "Alright." She agreed, opening the door to the Inn and motioning for Rita to enter, following after her and closing the door after herself. "Please call me Crys, Rita. Now I'd offer you tea, but we don't really have any so I guess we might as well be more direct." She said, motioning for one of the few tables in the place the seemed to be clear of any messes, most of them were covered with random bits of wood and assorted tools as some of the men had been working on fixing or replacing some of the still broken furniture. The assassins present in the room immediately stopped what they were doing as they entered, but lingered around until Crys very discreetly indicated that she wanted them to leave. Once the room was empty except for herself and her guest, Crys continued. "I know the general rule is that one can never have too many allies, Rita, but I've gotten into the habit as of late of choosing mine with extreme care. So I hope you understand that the first thing I want to know before we go any further into this conversation is how you expect a possible relationship between my people and yours to be beneficial to your cause. As you can see we're not exactly functional in any way at this point. My entire group consists of no more than 75 assassins, most of which lack proper experience, and our presence in this city consists of only a fraction of those assassins. I don't question for a second the amount of aid you could provide us, but I wonder why you would bother to offer."

Next to Blackpond Castle, the Inn was one of the nicest places in Blackpond. Everything in the room spoke of wealth and that was something that very few people in Blackpond had. Even the richest of those in Blackpond most likely couldn't afford a place with such a nice interior. It still obviously had some work to do, but it didn't matter. She would be coming to this Inn all the time now that she knew how nice it was.
"I met your mother once. It was a brief encounter, probably several years before you were born. She assassinated my husband, who was on Blackpond's council just before the dissolution of council into the true monarchy that Blackpond has now.
Not long after his death, I was approached by a member of the Wolf Hunters. His name was Sebastian Rivers. I accepted his offer. For several years, I was taught how to fight assassins. It is in itself far different from fighting an army. One of the most common of tactics was creating the false contract. You'd hire an assassin for a contract that doesn't exist. It is all a trap and you'd ambush the assassin. Those less experienced assassins who would come with a partner were a little more difficult, but it was still an applicable strategy."
Reaching into the breast of her loose fitting epaulette, she grabbed a small bottle with a dirty-gold liquid from the neck between two fingers. In between the adjacent fingers, she pulled out two shot glasses. She placed them all onto the table and uncorked the bottle. Pouring equal amounts into the glasses, she looked up at Crystal. "I prefer alchohol over tea." She smiled. "If you want it, it is there, but no pressure." She winked and then took her shot.
"Anyways..." She poured herself another shot and continued with her story. "... the month before the death of the Wolf Hunters, I was told of a planned attack directly on the Wolfpack. I was no strategist at the time, but I saw it for what it was and what it was was a death wish. I told them that they should stick to old tactics, but they were greedy. The Wolfpack was at a low point in their history so they thought they could act greedy. I didn't want to be a part of it. I left and decided to join the Blackpond army. There were better ways to make a difference in the world." She took another shot and filled the glass again. She didn't know if she was going to take her next shot, but she thought she might as well pour it anyways. "I know how to kill an assassin, but I don't know how to fight a war against assassins. You'd be far more capable of that than I am. If not for anything else, I want you for your experience. Your mother, she ruined my life, but she turned out to be a good leader and I know that Sebastian was a good leader too, from personal experience. As a Rivers, I expect no less from you. I believe we have intersecting goals. That is why I've come to you."

Crys listened to Rita in silence, the expression on her face showing a mix of surprise and curiosity towards the fact this woman knew so much of her parents; she wasn't expecting to hear any of that and it caught her a bit off guard. Once Rita was finished speaking, Crys reached out to the shot glass that was placed before her on the table, casually sniffing its contents before drinking and placing the empty glass back on the table. "I see." She spoke softly, making a long pause as she went into a moment of thinking, her fingers lightly tapping the surface of the wooden table. "I can't say I've come here with the exact purpose of waging war, but I won't deny you any help should you need it. I don't know how much help I can provide however, the way these people operate is unlike anything I have ever seen in my life time. I don't fear them, but I'm not too proud to admit that they have bested me and I still have no idea how they did it. My purpose here, for the moment, is to learn what I can and then make an informed decision on whether a war is necessary. As you know all too well, every war, no matter how small, always brings casualties and I'd like to avoid those as much as possible." Leaning back in her seat, Crys fell into a another small moment of silence, a small smile crossing her features. It was funny how she always found herself having these conversations; first with Theron, who had his father killed by the Pack, then Mageria who lost her entire family by the hands of the clan, and now Rita whose husband had been taken out by her mother. "So, Rita, if you don't mind me asking... Who was the man you killed at the party?"

When Crystal asked her question, Rita instantly grabbed her shot glass and took a sip. She didn't want it necessarily as much as she needed it at that moment. She didn't pour another for herself though. That was going to be it. She could already feel the buzz from the other shots she took. Anymore and she was afraid she'd go past her tipping point. She did, however, pour another for Crystal if she wanted it.
"The man I killed. Well..." She was lost for words, but then she remembered something. She reached into her jacket one more time and pulled out a book. "I think this book can explain it better than I can." She handed Crystal the book and allowed her to scan through it. "Your answer will be on the second last page with writing in it. Turns out the Royals of the cities, even the really old cities passed around this diary of sorts between each other. From what I can tell, Ella was the one who broke with tradition and gave it to a non-royal. Namely, Sean. Since then, it’s been passed on to more non-royals and finally to me. You might as well take it and write something in it too. You seem important enough." Rita winked again. "Since we are playing the question game, I guess it’s my turn. If waging war isn't your main focus, what is? Is there something I can do to help. I have a sizable and fairly well trained force at my disposal, including Sean's little protégé girl, Ari. I also have a fair amount of intel that you'll need to know, both about the assassins and Blackpond. If you are going to stick your nose into such affairs, I can't stress enough how important this information will be to you."

Crys took the book that had been offered to her, holding it closed in her hand as she nodded, an amused smile crossing her features at Rita's question. "My main focus, my goal per se, is a pretty modest one really. I'm going to renovate this bar, open it up for business and keep it open. If that goes well I plan on doing the same with every shop and home in this neighborhood. Meanwhile, if there's anything else I can do to help the city, then of course I'll do it. If there's a war I'll gladly offer my assistance in fighting it, but right now I personally feel it's just as important to show that the damage that has been done to this city can still be undone." She shrugged casually, taking the refilled glass and drinking her second shot. "It may sound foolish I suppose, but I honestly don't see any point in what these so called assassin are doing aside from spreading chaos, so I believe the best course of action is to establish some sort of order from the
chaos they've created. So that is what I intend on doing, or rather I intend to encourage the people here to do. We're merely here to make sure they are not intimidated any further. Aside from that..." Crys sighed softly. "We've had word of certain people that have been operating in the city that we have been looking out for, these people are said to be involved in child kidnapping slavery, prostitution, and many other things that simply do not go well with me and my people. We are hunting for them. If in the future you or any under your command hear of any occurrences of that sort, I would like to be informed as soon as possible; some of my people have rather personal reasons to be after these elements." Crys sighed softly, her fingers lightly tapping the cover of the book she held in her hands. "I'm sure Sean will be pleased to know his recruit is in good company." She mentioned, a bit of amusement clear in her tone. "And of course any information you have to give me, Rita, will be greatly appreciated; the more we know of our opponents the better. If there's something else you may need to know from me in return, don't be afraid to ask. For an assassin I have considerably little to hide at this point in time."

"Alright." Rita sighed and she began. "I know a lot, but what I should first discuss with you is what I know of the assassins who have taken rule over the city. The one you probably know the best is Rick. Rick seems to be the person who is in charge of most menial things in the Assassin's order, as well as taking full reigns over what goes on in Blackpond. He is rather arrogant and easily fixates of things. He is able to teleport where ever he wants. Lazurus is one of the ones who is more messed up if you ask me. He brings the dead back to life and you can tell by the way he likes. I haven't personally seen it, but he collects blood in jars. He doesn't need them for any enlightenment. I think he drinks it. Then we have Simon. Simon can't speak like we all do. He only speaks through thoughts. Because he's mute, he has an inflated sense of his telepathic abilities. Sandere is someone I don't know much about. He appears from time to time when one of the assassins has hurt themselves. He usually appears with a random Blackpond street kid as some sacrifice to heal people. That's all I really know. Then there is the four elemental users. I don't know their names and they don't really have any personalities for themselves. It is more or less what Vorso wants them to be. Vorso is the one in charge. He likes to keep in the shadows, but from what I know, he's the real enforcer of the group."
Rita took a moment and shook her head before she continued. "Then there is Lamya. For as much as I've been around Lamya, I can honestly say that I know nothing worth wild about her. She is the epitome of crazy. She only really appears if she wants something from you, but she never lets you know. She is manipulative in a way that she never lets you know what she wants you to do, but you somehow manage to do it anyways. Maybe its because she's not entirely sure what she wants either? I don't know. Stay away from her. If she starts speaking to you, run the other way. The only way to avoid her psychopathy is to avoid it all together. Good luck if you can manage."
"Now... there is also a matter that is far too pressing for me to ignore. There's a city underneath Blackpond. Filled with criminals. I went there to try to gather more supporters for my cause the other day, but they are all gone. The only thing that remains is about a quarter of the citizens in that city are lying down there, dead. I don't know what it is for exactly, but Lamya has an army that is far stronger than anything I'd be able to produce with all of those citizens and I have no idea where they went. Hundreds of people are nowhere to be found and I heard nothing about any odd activities from any of my sources. It worries me. If there is any questions, I'll do my best to answer."

Crys listened carefully to everything Rita had to say, registering every bit of relevant information for when she'd need it in the future. It was really nothing new to Crys what the woman had to say about Lamya and Rick, but she knew nothing of the others and she couldn't deny that it was valuable information to have. She didn't seem too shocked at what the woman told her of the underground prisoners; Jake had already told her about that as well, but the absence of the prisoners, nearly all of them at once, was somewhat concerning. "If you can't find them, odds are they're not in the city... And if they're not in this city there is only one other place where one is likely to take an army. Let's face it, there's little left to destroy around here anyway." She responded, heaving a long deep sigh. "What happened to the bodies of those people in the underground city?" She asked simply, not elaborating on why she wanted to know such a thing and moving on. "I'd advise you, Rita, if I were to give any advice, to consider the possibility of reaching out to the former Black Knights, I think they're calling themselves Ravens now. You've met one of them in the dungeons already; the man responsible for my mother's Death as you so kindly reminded him. Newhaven, as of late, has its own reasons to want these assassins gone as it seems that what has happened to their Queen during the ball fits the work of someone who can raise the dead... The Wolfpack would be more than willing to assist as well I'm sure, but I'm not sure I'd advise you to go to them; things have not been the same since I left, I'm afraid." Crys smirked at the last words, a very discreet trace of bitterness in her smile that lasted for only a fraction of a second. "I have to ask though, why are you still fighting for Blackpond? Are you actually fighting for Blackpond, or are you just fighting against these people?"

Rita looked at Crystal completely seriously. Her eyes were parted just enough that the pearly whites could only just be seen. She parted her lips for a moment, but only just slightly before she shut them again. What was she fighting for? "I fight for a belief, Crystal. What that belief is; I'm not really certain. What I am certain about is, no matter what that belief is, it is better than the shadow that has fallen over Valcrest."

Newhaven- 1 Week After the Ball
It was the first official council meeting since Ella had come back from the Ball. In fact, it was the only council meeting that the councilmen had told Ella of. The council had things to talk about in terms of the troubles that had occurred in the week after Ella's arrival. Mageria no longer seemed to support her at all. It made everyone wonder what had happened at that party. Some councilmen were even at the party, but not a single one could really figure out what happened.
"Shall we kick things off?" Ella Quickly asked.
"The first issue is rather pressing. A large number of citizens of Blackpond are sitting outside the gates. They've all claimed that they see the war that is about to break of out Blackpond and..."
"Let them in." Ella interrupted.
"But my Queen, there is not enough room in the city."
"Then we'll make room. Mr. Bennett, I want immediate action on the construction of the West end of Newhaven. And by immediate, I mean now. Tell the guards to start letting people in too."

"No."
Mageria's voice was quiet, but carried clearly. She stepped forwards, her eyes glittering strangely in the light. She was dressed in her uniform of Captain of the Black Guard, but she still wore the coat that was decorated with the pattern of Raven's feathers. No more than half of the old Guard had returned, choosing instead to stay out in the woods. It was said that they were still intensely loyal to her, and her alone.
Mageria walked forwards, her hands clasped behind her, carefully placing one foot in front of the other. Anybody looking at her could see that she was armed to the teeth. Now that was her privilege and duty, to always be armed. But she seemed to carry herself differently now, not as if she was on guard, but as if she was ready to attack. As she walked carefully along the table, the light coming in the windows highlighted the sudden presence of stark white in her hair, as if it was frosted touched. It also highlighted the new hollows under her cheekbones. Mageria was a woman being driven to the limit of her strength and it showed. For a moment she wavered, her strength of will failing her. Could she do this? Then she drew a deep breath, steeling herself. She knew what she had to do.
"The purpose of the Black Guard, is to protect Newhaven against any threat, by any means. Today, it is my duty to carry this out." She stood tall and grim, eyes black as night. "With great responsibility, comes great power. At any time, if both Captains are in agreement, they can call for the abdication of the ruler of Newhaven." From the shadows opposite her, Thomas also stepped out, an equally grim alabaster statue. And if the puppet before you was real, that is what we would do. But not today." Mageria drew a deep breath, her voice ringing out. "The Queen is dead and an imposter sits on the throne of Newhaven!"

-----------

Outside the window, Sham had been waiting for the entire morning. She had hidden herself away on Mageria's orders, waiting for the proper moment. Mageria didn't really believe that she could talk any sense into anybody, but she thought she could make a good distraction.

"Keep going Bennett. Don't worry about anyone getting in your way. Conrad and the city guard have an obligation to the Queen to carry out their duties. So do the White Knights but for reasons that aren't entirely understandable to me, the White Knights can no longer be trusted." She nodded to another dark corner of the room where Conrad walked out of. His sword was drawn and as he walked passed Thomas, he bumped his shoulder.
"This is a military coup." Ella said calmly replied to Mageria and her White Knight counterpart. "I'm a reasonable woman Mageria, but there comes a point where enough is enough. It surprises me that when my father was killed and replaced by an impostor that you were completely incapable of doing your job to protect Newhaven. If you did your job then, maybe Blackpond would have fallen by now!"It was obvious to everyone in the room how angry Ella was getting. It was uncharacteristic of her, but not necessarily uncharacteristic of a pregnant woman so it didn't seem out of place. "Now." She paused again, throwing her hand up to the top of the table and stabbing a dagger into the wood. "Mageria... if you are actually serious about kicking me off this throne then do it. Otherwise, get the hell out of my council room."

"I failed once. When the King died. I failed again. When Ella died. I will not fail again."
Mageria smiled thinly, like a knife slash. "False Queen, I would be glad to leave, forever if you like. So long as you agree to stand before the White Shadows, before their mind readers, and have them state that you are who you seem."

Ella stopped, not speaking for several moments. For a painfully long five minutes every eye in the council room stared at her while he tried to put things into perspective. "The White Shadows have proven to be an extremely bias group in the past couple of years. They have been very clearly and very secretively been taking sides in this war over the past years. I can trust them as well as I can trust a Black Traitor's mouth." Ella stood up, staring daggers at Mageria. Lazurus knew that Mageria had won this battle, but he still intended on winning the war.
When Ella had gotten up, the entire room bowed. (This is an OOC note. If you intend on having Mageria bow, I would like to mention it here, but I will wait for a PM from you confirming that before I add it into the text) She waved them all off and people stood back up. Then she looked at Mageira again. "Come now Mageria. These accusations have gone too far. Let the coup begin already. Otherwise you are wasting my your time, my time and the council's time."

Mageria stood straight, refusing to bow before one who didn't deserve it. "The Black Knights are traitors. The White Knights are traitors as well. Now the White Shadows are biased and you stand ready to throw the gates of the city open to the huddled masses fleeing Blackpond in the hopes of a better life." She took a few slow steps forward, living shadow in a pool of light. "This is all very out of character; for the ruler of Newhaven, that we know so well. A change so very.... sudden. It is almost as if you seek to cut us off from everybody that we have trusted in the past." She smiled grimly. "The White Shadows are neutral to every conflict. They avoid the double dealing and back stabbing of the rest of Valcrest like the plague it is." Her voice suddenly rang like the clash of blade against blade. "You will stand before the White Shadows and be declared to be whom you claim or you shall be restrained in a secure location until you give birth. Those are your options."

"Since Lana's disappearance and afterwords, her death, the White Shadows have been less and less what they used to represent. Since Dani's death, this has been going on with the Wolfpack. My Brother's death marked the end of what Newhaven represented. and Blackpond's loss of their king has marked the end of what they represent. I would say something about the Black Knights too, but that would just be rude. Regardless, everything that Valcrest used to be has changed. Newhaven has always been on the forefront of change and I plan on making this change better, not only for Newhaven, but for Valcrest. A good start to that is letting the refugees in. It will bolster the already illustrious reputation of Newhaven." Ella snarly remarked.
She walked towards the nearest window. It looked down at the city in full view. It was a bright day and there was barely a cloud in the sky. It made seeing the hundreds of Blackpond refugees waiting at the gate more than visible. If she looked close enough, she would be able to see each individual head bobbing about. "Now," she said, still looking out the window, "there is the ultimatum that you've given me. Trust the White Shadows to be honest or trust you to run a city. The White Shadows don't help the Wolfpack anymore, from what I've heard. I don't know if I can trust--"
Down at the city gates, she could see that the refugees were starting to be let in. She turned around and looked at Mageria. "It looks like you'll have to restrain me."

Mageria sighed slightly. If that's the way you're going to play it, you murderous bastard....

Mageria whistled sharply. Sham, who had been hanging under the windowsill, burst into sharp action. She pushed off from the wall, turning and flipping so that she landed feet first inside the room. The miniature crossbow she held in one hand only held one bolt, but one bolt was all she needed. She took one step forwards and jammed the point into the chest of the False Queen. "Aye then, you'll be wanting not to make any sudden moves."
Around the room, there was a clatter as those who's alligence lay with the person they thought was the Queen drew their weapons and were disarmed by those who were loyal to Mageria and Thomas.

"That. Is. Enough." Mageria's voice was cold as the heart of winter.

Newhaven-1 Week 6 Days After the Ball
Luckas groaned slightly under his breath as he wandered the halls of the Newhaven Castle. He had decided at random to check things out before going back to the Ravens’ camp. He hadn’t been in the city in over a month, even less the castle, and he wondered if the place had changed from its previous dreadfully boring state. It didn’t seem like there was much difference to be honest. If anything the place had gotten even more boring without the children roaming the halls and the random visits of assassins and formerly deceased members of the military. As he started to think it was about time to give up and go home he caught a curious sight; about three or four men were guarding one single door as if all of the demons in hell would run loose in the castle if it happened to open. Luckas didn’t need as much as a second glance to recognize Black Guard when he saw it. Upon his approach the men immediately blocked his path and ordered him to turn away. Luckas stood, hesitantly for a moment or so. Usually this wouldn’t be enough to hold him back, but as of late he and the Captain had a silent agreement of sorts; as long he posed no threat to her people they wouldn’t mind him wandering in and out of camp. The terms were simple enough that there wasn’t ever a need to talk about it; it simply was. He didn’t like to admit it, but access to the encampment was really important to Luckas, and he’d rather not lose that little privilege he’d gained.
Smiling innocently he looked from one Guard to another and then tried to peek through the little barred window on the center of the door, but unable to see past the men. “Whaaat are you guys keeping in there?” Luke questioned, seeming quite curious and amused, even when the four guards stood menacingly blocking his path in silence. Luckas sighed. “Not feeling chatty, then? I getcha.” He chucked. “I’d be grumpy too if I had to stand here all day. I bet you guys are really tired, huh? I’m tired too you know, been traveling a while.” Luke sighed, faking a yawn, holding back a smirk as he saw one of the men mimic his gesture and discreetly yawn as well. “In fact, I am very, veeery, sleepy... I you are all sleepy too, right. So... Very... Sleeepy...” Luckas continued, his voice lowering to a near whisper, but somehow still getting through to the men, one or two of them starting to sway where they stood in a bit of a stupor. “Yes, if I was standing there all day I’d probably be thinking to myself ‘boy, I’d really love to close my eyes for a bit.’, why don’t you guys try that, just for a second, hm? Just for a little while... Close your eyes... Just for a second.... You know you want to...”
It worked. It was almost ridiculous how well it worked. One by one the men started to fall to the floor, slipping out of consciousness and into a deep slumber. “Well, that was easy...” Luckas mumbled, approaching the door and peeking into the room. What he saw inside caused him to snort in amusement. “Of course.” He muttered under his breath before raising his voice and addressing the person inside the cell. “Poor little Ella... Your family has such an annoying habit of getting captured and impersonated. I don’t know if that’s sad or hilarious, honestly.”

"Yes." Lazurus huffed. "Because Mageria is known for her impersonations."

Luckas snickered softly. "Captain has her talents, even I'm forced to admit that..." He said simply, shrugging at his own words. "...But personally, I know far better impersonators. Some of them so good at what they do that if they choose to take your place, your own mom won't know the difference... And given enough time you may even actually start believing they're for real and you're the fake. Some people would surely benefit from a lesson or two from such impersonators in my opinion. Too many amateurs out there getting murdered by wolves and locked up in jail cells... It's just awkward for everyone."

Lazurus laughed. It was a uncharacteristic laugh. "I'm not going to give you the satisfaction. I can tell you're one of those types of people. Those people who like to beat around the bush until they seem to figure things out unsuspectingly. How dreadfully boring is that!"
Lazurus looked at Luke dead in the eyes. For a moment, it was Lazurus' deadly glare, but a moment of desperation slipped into the eyes. Then intense anger and a moment's thought of self-harm. Then Lazurus continued. "You think what a handful of people who still trust Mageria believe. I don't know how you haven't been arrested yet. Martial Law is in effect out there. Must me a helluva sight. She's got a woman coming over--a Healer--to read my thoughts... you want to do me a favor?"

"I'm amused that you think you could possibly satisfy me in anyway." Luckas replied calmly, arching an eyebrow in a mildly curious expression. "I honestly don't understand why everyone feels the need to tell me what kind of person I am... Even if I don't know that for myself by now it's highly unlikely I'll take someone else's word on it. Just seems like a ridiculous waste of energy." He sighed softly. "I doubt anyone here could arrest me, if they could they would have long ago." Luckas leaned against the door with both hands, pressing his forehead against its surface for a moment as if in deep thought, before raising his head again and snickering. "Why would I want to do you favors? We don't know each other. And I don't do favors."

"Kid, in the end, it doesn't matter much what you think of yourself. It is what others think of you that really affect the way you live your life. Does it matter what Life thought of himself? No. It is what people think of him that lasts in our memories. Quit trying to be a clever. If you do me a favor, I'll let you talk to Ella without a fight."

"Come on, Life? That's stupidest possible comparison. Seriously, people need to really shut up about the Twins already. It's been thousands of years since they actually mattered for something other than people's need to create increasingly uninventive analogies." Luckas shook his head. "And if it's what others think of me that really matters maybe you all should be preaching to each other until you reach an understanding of what kind of person I am instead of annoying me with your opinions, since my thoughts on the subject are simply irrelevant; but again that would be an even greater waste of energy, so my point still stands. Truth of the matter though... Is that in the end nothing will matter... Because it will be the end." Luckas replied simply, shrugging once again. "But fine: Assuming I have any interest in speaking with Ella, and assuming I'd actually even consider you an obstacle; which I really don't. Pray tell... What the hell do you want?"

Lazurus just sat back--as that was all he could do--as he listened to Luke. He just proved his point. Luke thought that the Twins were a waste of time. That was all that mattered to him and therefore, it was all that mattered about the Twins. He wondered for a moment if Luke was smart enough to figure it out. He decided that he wasn't. "As someone who has never experienced 'the end', I feel that I'm under qualified to make claims of what it might be. I just use it as a reference point more than anything." Lazurus snorted. "Now will you kill a guard for me? That's all I ask of you."

"Hmm... I'm not really in a killing mood right now." Luckas stated simply. "Since you did me the kindness of not going on about how my opinions clearly prove your point in some way I really don't give a shit about, I'll make you a deal... I'll talk to Ella, whether you let me or not; I'm not asking permission, and if in the meantime someone happens to find me here, where I'm clearly not supposed to be... I'll take care of 'em. We'll leave it up to fate, or whatever other uninventive analogies you happen to believe in, whether you get your way or not. Yes?"

"We have a deal." Lazurus smiled a devilish smile.

"We'll see." Luckas stated, smiling back through the door and giving a slight glance at his surroundings before putting his focus on the imprisoned 'Queen' inside the cell. The scenery changing from the grey castle walls to an open grass field lit up in gold from a bright sun above, empty for miles and miles except for himself and Ella, no another living thing in sight; even less another person. Luckas had made sure to shut the necromancer off from the conversation, so he would not be able to hear or see anything other than what was happening in reality; which was Luckas standing in silence outside the door. Luke snorted and looked around with a frown in his expression, squinting some at the sudden brightness. "I wanted something outdoorsy, but I think I might have overdone it just a bit. I don't usually put much thought into these illusions, but I felt like giving it a shot." He spoke, walking around a bit in a wide circle as if testing to see how real the ground felt beneath his feet. "So, Little Ella... I'm a bit curious... What does death feel like? Does it hurt?"

Ella was taken by surprise. She had no idea what had just happened, but the face was familiar. She had the urge to reply despite the content of the question. She wasn't too happy about answering it though and it showed in her tone. "I don't know. I haven't really died, have I?"

"I think that it depends if you believe in afterlife. If you do, then you are technically already dead because you are no longer occupying a human body of your own. You are dead and so is the man in control of your body, although it doesn't seem like it to either of you. If you believe that after you die there's nothing because you simply cease to exist; body and soul, then you're alive because you haven't ceased to exist yet." Luckas shrugged. "You look pretty dead to me. So... Does it hurt?”

"I guess not then." Ella shirked. "How the hell did you even get into my head anyways?" Ella wasn't really sure about anything at the moment. It was all too much for her to really handle. She was experiencing the world again. She could feel the breeze and the grass under her feet. The sweet scent of the flowers wafted into her nose as she heard the wind through the grass. This man created this world for her to talk to her. She even had her own body. He could control the mind. Part of it was enlightenment, but after entering the mind, it comes down to skill. "Would you be able to help me?"

Luckas sighed softly, sitting in the grass with his legs crossed like a child, staring at Ella with amused interest. "Technically, I'm not in your head, Little Ella... I'm in his head... Without going into complex and boring explanations, at this point your mind exists as a voice in his head." He answered. "The only way I could possibly help you would be to kill your body. Then you, him and little Ella Jr, will all discover whether there is an afterlife or not after all. If you want, I can do that. Other than that, I don't think there's anything I can do to remedy your situation."

Ella wasn't satisfied with that answer. It wasn't what she needed. She needed to know that there was another way out. "NO!" She yelled! "I'm in control! I'm not just a voice in his head! That is my head that he is using!" Ella started to cry. It was an uncontrollable sobbing sound. The kind of crying that was in no way flattering on any human being. "He's not controlling me right now. He's even surprised that I can strike up conversations with him at my own whim! I need to know that there's another way! Please."

Luckas groaned a bit under his breath. He absolutely hated pleading, but he sat through it because he knew he could only really do this once. "There's a certain amount of power involved with being a voice in someone's head. I would know. And there's much that you can do to get back at him before you run out of time, if you put effort into it; but in the end... You can't really save yourself. You could have before it came to this, but now it's too late." He replied calmly. "Your heart stopped beating, Little Ella... You died. You just didn't cease to exist. Death, in a physical sense, is rather permanent. What keeps your body functioning right now, I imagine, is the necromancer's control, so if he goes your body stops functioning and vice-versa."

Ella tried her best to control her sobbing. She tensed her neck up and tried to set her breath. It wasn't perfect, but it was way better than before. "I can force him out of control of my body then? But I don't get it. Why can't I control my body afterwords? I heard something about a White Knight who harbored the body of the son of Death. How is this different?"

"A necromancer is someone who can control dead bodies, usually from the outside like someone controlling a string puppet.What this guy managed to do somehow is that, by giving up his own body, he is be able to control yours from the inside instead, like a hand puppet. So even though you breathe, your heart beats and every other part of your body is still functional, it's only functional due to his enlightenment. Since his original body has died, he depends on this body to exist, but since this body is technically not alive, without the necromancer's control it will shut down." Luckas explained, not really stopping to ask himself how he even knew all of this. He just did somehow. "It's different from the Son of Death only in because the Son of Death was a Demigod. His soul was able to endure certain periods of time without a body so he learned to jump from carrier body to another in order to technically live forever. Since his soul was not entirely human though, It was too much for a human body to bear for too long without changing in some horrific way. That is what happened to Sir Daniel. I've been in his mind, granted far more briefly than I've been in yours, and there was very little humanity still left in him. Captain did him a huge favor by slaying the Beast he became." Luckas stopped talking for a second, going into a moment of thought and remembering his brief encounter with the thing. After a while though he shook his head and continued speaking. "If you want to you can push him out, yes, but there is simply no way to bring your body back to life once you do."

Ella understood what Luke was saying all too well. If she wanted to get rid of Lazurus, she was going to have to give up her life. She wanted control. Was control of her body for a brief moment worth her death? If not, Lazurus might be able to live for far longer and she would never... no. She didn't want to think about it anymore.
"I think a lot of people misunderstand you. You don't exactly make a good impression on people and you have qualities that many would see as unredeamable. You really do have a sweet heart somewhere in all the black you wear." Ella said, but then her expression changed. She was no longer herself, not even in her mind. "Someone's coming." Said Lazurus through Ella's voice.

Wolf Camp- 1 Week, 6 Days After the Ball
Evin was sure that he wasn’t the only one who was having trouble sleeping. The entire camp was probably having trouble sleeping. Even the forest was in a state of unrest. The wolves, deep in the forest were howling nonstop. Things weren’t right.

Wolf Camp- 2 Weeks After the Ball
Tradition is very thread on which the fabric of society functions. Each generation uses it as their own personal crutch. They only know life through tradition and there is no other way in which society could ever function. But from generation, to generation, the newer generation always proves them wrong. Suddenly, one doesn’t need to be dipped into the water as a child to become enlightened. There is no correlation between water and enlightenment and the new generation proves it. That is what they said when they did it, at least. There’s no real way to test it though, so people just believed it.
This urge of the new generation to push away the traditions of the older generation had to do with an urge that each generation had. Each generation has an urge to be better than their parents. It was something that was undoubtedly similar among every generation that had ever existed. It was what made Sean do what he did and it was what compelled Evin to try to stop him at all costs. It is also what made him so rebellious against Dani, no matter how good a friend she was to him. In the end, the one tradition that never changed was the tradition of breaking tradition.
These were the thoughts that ran across Evin’s mind while he sat by the bonfire at the Wolf camp again. Last time he was there, some assassins were spending their time drinking away; breaking with tradition. Not unlike Evin probably would have done in his youth, but he valued the tradition of abstaining from drinking too much to have ever broken that tradition. It was just one of those things that may not have made much sense, but to have lived through a horrific attack on the Wolfpack in more than one occasion, he knew how detrimental such a gluttonous action could be.
Evin noticed something. A loud noise and then a change in the crowd. It was a shift in the atmosphere almost too subtle to be detected. Two Wolves made quite sudden and abrupt movements. An instant change of direction, nearly in unison was all that this movement was. This action, however, could easily be hidden by what Evin would call a ‘oh yeah!’ moment where they realized that there was something important in the camp that they had to do which was at the opposite direction of where they were going. This told Evin nothing other than they might have forgotten something, but it was when the rest of the assassins walking around camp took notice to them and started to walk just a slight bit slower and looked around in a way only an assassin looked in. Something was about to happen. It was Evin’s hope that this distraction, whatever it was, would be enough to make his move.
Evin sat up from the log he was on and grabbed the axe that was positioned next to it. Doing his best to look like the average worker that he was, he moved along the group of assassins as if he knew that there was nothing going on. If he made them aware that he understood such intricacies of the movements of assassins as a mere worker, he might have found himself in trouble. It was more of a testament to Evin’s skill that he could do what he did though.
As he made it past the crowds, he found himself in the almost strenuously familiar path. A path that he had traveled down more times than anyone could count, for both good and for bad reasons. This, by far was going to be for the worst of all reasons. He took his time walking down the path towards the Alpha’s cabin. Maybe it was his stupidity that didn’t make him rush or maybe it was the nerves. Not much of it mattered in the end because regardless, the only end Evin saw was one of absolutes. There was absolutely going to be an end to a war spanning three years between Sean and Evin. No matter how far it took him, it was absolutely going to end with an absolute. Nothing more, nothing less.
When Evin got close enough to see the cabin, the door opened. Before he could see who was at the door, he threw the axe towards the door, hitting the frame just beside where Sean’s head would be. It was just a warning. Evin wanted to at least start the fight on equal footing.
Evin quickly realized that the figure at the door was not the same height as the axe at all. The figure was slightly taller. Evin knew exactly who it was.
“Evin, I don’t have time for this! Let me through!” Franklin yelled from the door.
Evin’s reaction was nothing but what was to expected of Evin. Daggers were drawn quicker than a wolf’s bite and within moments, he was right in front of Franklin and it all came with a flash of the eyes. Franklin had a sabre with a very thick and heavy blade out and he quickly deflected that first shot.
“This isn’t a joke Evin!” Franklin barked out, but it was all in vain. Evin continued at him relentlessly. Never too hard to block, but also never too easy to dodge. Evin wanted to end this quickly. “Enough!” Franklin finally yelled. The shock of it all made Evin flinch, in which time Franklin disarmed Evin and grabbed him. Evin seemed petrified as Franklin took Evin’s shoulders and rolled onto his back, kicking Evin into the sturdy wood table inside the cabin. The force was so strong, but the table didn’t even move. It wasn’t that the table was nailed down to the floor, it was just so heavy.
Evin was disoriented. The actions happened so fast that he didn’t even have a moment to figure out what had just happened. Franklin was way past his prime, but he was still a fierce fighter and Evin knew that all too well. In all his confusion, Evin still made sure that Franklin couldn’t escape him. Evin saw, through a blur, Franklin leaving. Franklin seemed only to take three steps before Evin could feel the tug on his hand, then a thud. Franklin was on the floor. Evin dragged the thin line holding Franklin until he was inside the cabin too. The whole time, Franklin tried desperately to untie the rope.
The two of them stood up seemingly equal; without weapons. Where Franklin’s weapon had gone seemed a mystery to both. Evin still couldn’t see the room straight. The room was a set of gears in motion which distorted Evin’s vision in several spinning circlets. This distorted vision made it hard to tell if the pull he felt next was his disorientation or something else.
Turns out it was something else. Franklin had grabbed the wire that was attached to him and pulled Evin towards him. This made Evin snap back into reality. The time it took to do so was the time that Franklin had to completely eliminate the gap between the two. This was a mutual agreement between the assassins and they both knew it. They had bonded each other literally and figuratively with the wire. It was literally what connected them and figuratively, it was connected them to a death pact. As it was the only thing they both held, it was considered by both assassins to be their weapon; a shared weapon between foes. One of them was going to die by it.
The fight began in fantastic force. Evin was the first to make a strong move. It was a quick tug upwards. An attempt to see if he would lose his grip of the rope or not more than anything significant. Franklin, however, pulled down on the rope, which gave Evin the perfect opportunity to use the torque to his advantage. Franklin had the same idea and it just left them back at square one. Evin then leaned into the rope, causing tension between them. It wasn’t exactly enough so, he moved a step back, at which point, he could see Franklin losing position. Evin quickly gave himself some slack and Franklin stumbled backwards. Evin didn’t let Franklin get his footing though, he instead ran towards the stumbling man, but Franklin used the slack to his advantage, even as he was stumbled. Franklin let himself fall once Evin was close enough. He put his hand on the ground and then used his hand to slide himself on the ground, maneuvering right under Evin’s feet until he was behind him.
Evin saw this and knew exactly what was about to happen. Stopping himself from the momentum he’d created was more impossible. Instead, he did the best he could by planting his feet into the ground with as much force as he could. Almost at the exact time he was expecting it, the tug. It was a sudden grab at the bottom of his pants, right at the crotch from the rope that worked its way up until it reached his hand, at which point there was no longer any slack from the rope. The momentum had to go somewhere. Evin’s had was pulled along with the rope down between his legs. Soon enough the rest of his body followed as it turned inside-out on itself. Once he did a full flip, he landed flat on with a hard thump. By this point, it was too late for Evin to react. Franklin was now right behind him and he used the slack that Evin had created for him to wrap tightly around his neck. Evin had only the chance to catch his breath after the flip and it wasn’t a particularly good one. Not only was there that, but there was also a sharp object pointed directly at his spine.
Evin’s instant reaction was to try to catch his breath, but of course, there was nothing going in or out. His next reaction was to grab at his neck, but he didn’t allow himself to do that. He knew that if he made any movements that Franklin would kill him right there. Everything he did had to be subtle enough that an assassin wouldn’t be able to notice. His hand was something that he wouldn’t be able to see unless he was looking over his shoulder at him. That was something he had to his advantage, but there was little time. He had to be quick, but he couldn’t make anything obvious. As quickly as he could—but not in any panicked rush—he unravelled some of the rope in his hand, creating some more slack. Just as there was about enough slack to make his move, he started to feel an unusual sense of calm. He didn’t even want to do anything anymore. It was this feeling of complete complacent content; a euphoric escape to eternity unlike anything he had ever felt. Things went grey and a black slowly followed along until everything was black. Then a second black started to surround the first black. It was a darkness disembodied from any known darkness. It was truly the most fearful thing that he had ever seen in his lifetime. It was deaths dress covering him to bring him to the end…
…nothing….
…more nothing….
…a disembodied scream…
… as the color came back to him, the scream became less disembodied and more distant; somewhere in the camp. Again, Evin tried to breathe, but quickly, he remembered the predicament he was left in. With even less breath than before, he did his job with more fervour than before. With the slack on his side again, he was able to stretch himself forward and slightly to the left. With this time, Evin took the chance to breathe again. The dagger stabbed into his side instead of his spine. Then he stood, as the rope tightened onto him again. Now, however, there was far more free rope to play around with.
Evin turned around to face Franklin again. He was already trying to manipulate the rope, but Evin, still being choked by the rope kicked Franklin in the gut, pushing him back and jolting Evin towards him by the neck. Evin, however was prepared for this jolt. He gave himself a chance to manipulate the rope himself. Evin had the upper hand for this moment. He didn’t worry so much about the fact that he still couldn’t breathe at the moment and rather, focused on putting Franklin in the same predicament. But it wasn’t going to work. Evin saw it. He saw exactly what Franklin was going to do. He tried for subtly, but Evin knew Franklin’s work all too well. Evin let go out the rope and twisted himself out of his bonds just before Franklin tried to pull hind down. Franklin’s tug was a strong one and it gave him all the rope, including what was at the very end of it. Evin turned around and the dagger, still stuck in his back popped, out and flew right towards Franklin. Hitting him right in the chest, it knocked Franklin right over. Evin ran up towards him and punched the dagger further into Franklin’s chest.
“You always taught me how to fight with a rope, but you never once taught me to put a dagger at the end of the rope. You were a good mentor, but by the Twins, you are about as stubborn as Life himself.” Evin smiled at Franklin.
Franklin didn’t say anything. He was still up for a fight. But with the dagger in his chest, it was only a matter of time. Franklin tried to punch him, but Evin dodged it and grabbed his hand.
Franklin cringed and then sighed. “I knew that it was a matter of time. Perry was my best student. He was better than me before he even graduated. When you killed him those few years back, I knew that you were officially the best student that I ever graduated.” He coughed. “When I was appointed as the Beta, I knew I this was going to come, but I planned to make it different. As your mentor, I’d like to make one request.” Evin opened his mouth to ask what it was, but nothing came out. “Make my death a sceptical. The Wolfpack is already in frenzy. I was going to save her, but you got in my way. I know you aren’t only here for me and Sean. You are here to bring down the Wolfpack this time. And if not, you’re a liar!”

24 Years Ago
The training area for the Wolfpack was under renovation. There were improvements being made to it to make it better than it ever had been. To the unconventional, however, this construction zone was better than any fully functional training zone could be. The constantly changing, not fully finished conditions allowed for variables that a fully functioning are couldn’t give.
Evin flew through the area, dodging workers as he tried to get away from his follower. Evin saw his chance. A large tree had been cut and hollowed out. It was the perfect spot to hide away.
His attempt was to blend with the crowds. He grabbed hats and coats right off workers. He even managed to steal some tools. When he was well enough blended, he made a straight for the hollowed-out trunk. He reached up to get inside of it, but someone from inside grabbed his hand and yanked him up. With one swoop, Evin found himself inside the trunk and held up.
“Pretending to be someone you aren’t isn’t becoming.” The voice of Franklin said to Evin.
“I’m not pretending.”
“Then you’re lying.” He said starkly. “Quit hiding behind something you aren’t and stop running. Do you run away from your targets?” Evin shook his head, ‘no’. “Then why would you ever run from your killer?”
“He’s my killer!” Evin exclaimed.
“You fear Death? You can’t fear Death and dedicate your life to Death all in one. Why even train to be a killer if you fear to be killed? All you are is a liar.”

Present
The camp was back to normal. It was as if nothing had happened. People around the campfire told stories of both lore and what they ate for breakfast that day or how their sleeps were interrupted by the commotion from the wolves howls the previous night. Some workers were coming back with firewood, completely unaware of what had just happened. There were some other people walking by as if they didn’t know what had gone on. Evin knew they knew exactly what happened.
Evin and Franklin observed from the branch of a tree. While Evin was holding Franklin there under duress, Franklin didn’t try anything, like yell for help. He was rather complacent, given his situation. Around his neck a very thin wire tied as a noose. The two of them just looked at the camp. It was the last time that the camp would ever be like this. Today, it was either Evin or Sean. Either way, the camp was going to fall to shambles after. He knew that and Franklin knew that. Evin hid his feelings towards it all well, but Franklin knew. Evin could just feel it. Franklin knew.
“Evin,” Franklin interrupted the silence. “I believe in the Wolfpack. I don’t necessarily believe that it is in the right place right now. That doesn’t mean, however, that I thought everything was in the right place when Dani ran things either. One day it may find its roots again, but I don’t think we’ll ever see that. It will be long after our death. It can only get worse before it gets better. Are you sure that you’re ready to see what will happen to the Wolfpack after this?” Evin nodded, ‘yes’. “I know I’m not. Let’s just get this over with.”
Evin fell silent. The features of his face well defined by the shadows created by the lines he had created. He didn’t want to do this, but it was going to be done. He had to uphold himself to the same standard he had before or he was just a fraud. Franklin himself would agree.
With one movement, Evin pushed Franklin from the branch and jumped off the tree. He only knew something was wrong when his feet didn’t hit the ground. In fact, they did exactly the opposite. Still in air, his legs swept up from under him and he found himself hanging upside down by his legs. Then his back hit something. Franklin’s dead body whacked him with a force of dead weight that felt almost like being hit head on by a house. Then, the cool sting of metal against his neck. The assassins were quick to react. Three blades were right against his neck by three different assassins. Then two other assassins stood there with blades drawn, but backed away in case Evin tried anything funny.
“That bastard.” Evin chuckled under his breath, but he knew the rest could probably hear him. Franklin had managed to tie the wire around Evin’s leg while he was distracted by the goings on around the camp. When he pushed Franklin off and jumped down, Franklin’s weight was used as an anchor to keep Evin suspended in air with him. It was such a brilliant way to win a fight, even after death.
The assassins had been talking, but Evin had been distracted. “… no! He is Sean’s to deal with.”
“We’ve got him here. Let’s have some fun. Grab some sticks and we can get started.”

Two Hours Later
Evin took off his shoes and rolled his pants up to his knees. For some reason he had the urge to walk into the icy waters of the lake. The numbing pain surged through his body, giving him chills up and down his spine when the icy water contacted his toes. He didn't worry much about Sean behind him, even though he was in no condition to fight, he knew Sean wouldn’t attempt to strike him. There was so much to be expected from this place, yet it was sort of a letdown. Evin tried to stretch out his arms wide as if he was ready for a big hug, like he would do in his happier moments when he was alone by the lake back in his glory days. This only caused Evin to let out a deathly grunt. Hunching in defeat, he let the blood sink from his mouth, into the lake.
"You know," he said, slowly turning around, "there was a time where it was so refreshing to go down by this lake. I could really find a deep place to meditate and I'd always feel ten times better after spending time here. Now there is something different. I can't explain it."
He coughed and took his feet out of the frigid water, drying them off as best he could with the bloodied sleeve of his coat. He unrolled his pants and put his shoes back on. He covered his mouth with the same sleeve and coughed a few more times before continuing. "You know what's really funny? This entire time, we've been at war with each other. I focused so much on Heart while you focused more or less on Mind, but neither Heart nor Mind can find wisdom. Mind is too focused on information to ever think about knowledge and Heart too focused on passion and love. If I can't find wisdom from this damn lake anymore, where will I find it? Without this wisdom, I can't find a reason not to continue to fight. We—no everyone—everyone is a damn fool in this conflict. Wisdom is just another shadow that can be forgotten in this fucked up conflict we created and for that, one of us will eventually have to die. If the other ever wants to find real wisdom, that is what needs to be done."

Sean stood silent, leaning into the trunk of a tree as he watched Evin go into the lake. His expression was stripped of any distinguishable emotion as he stared at the man, there was no room left within his eyes not even for the usual rage and contempt at this point, only an emotionless void. He remained silent as Evin spoke, only responding with a weary sigh as the man turned to face him, but eventually breaking his silence, his voice soft as though it took him effort to raise his tone above a whisper. “Wisdom... Is that actually supposed to mean something, Bana? I doubt there’s any real wisdom left to be found in this Land... 'Wisdom’ is just another word we use to make our crap justifiable; or rather the lack of it, but can we really lack something we never truly had? No, I don’t think so. You can’t find a reason to stop fighting because you don’t want one. People like you, like me, it’s what we do; we fight, because if we don't then what else is there? No amount of wisdom could ever change that. At least I never fooled myself into thinking Death would bring me anything other than itself. I think that’s something you never understood about me. That’s why, last time we spoke, you couldn't figure out my motives... I wanted revenge, yes, but I never expected it to bring me anything, I never hoped it would make me better... I wanted it because, in my opinion, it was fair. Not even actual justice can change the past though... Neither can wisdom. I've made my peace with that early in life.”

Evin put his hands in his pockets and allowed his slouch to take over. Leaning into his slouch, he let his head lower to even things out causing his uncouth hair act as a drape for his eyes. Evin couldn't see Sean and so the opposite seemed only to be a fair assumption. He was pretty heedless in listening to Sean, only really taking time to catch the main idea of what he was saying. "Stupid." Evin whispered. "Fucking stupid." He wiped his face and looked up.
"Are you telling me that you killed Crystal for no reason other than your own satisfaction? I always said it Sean Fletcher, but I will never mean it more than I mean it today. You are crazy. Did you ever feel remorse for the people you assassinated? Did you feel remorse when you thought you'd killed Crystal?"
Evin sat himself down on the cold and damp forest floor. The snow was all nearly gone with an exception or two where tree cover would protect some patches of the earth from the some more than others. Placing his head just on the line that marked the top of his head and his forehead, he sat there, slouching more than ever with his pointy elbows seeming to penetrate his crossed legs. His hands clenched tightly around causing his hair to fall victim to the sudden pull. He looked up again, this time everything about him said he was fighting back anger. "With me here, as vulnerable as I am, why haven't you done it yet? Why haven't you killed me?"

Sean heaved a weary sigh as he listened to Evin, a trace of a chuckle escaping under his breath, although completely unamused. "No, Bana. That's the opposite of what I said actually. I've tried to kill Crys knowing it wouldn't bring me peace, or enjoyment, but because I felt her life was as important to Dani as Theron's death was to me... So at the time it seemed only fair to take it away. In a moment of anger I may have felt some level of satisfaction in watching her suffer, I won’t deny that, but once it seemed as though it was over... It really brought me no enjoyment.”
Going silent for a few moments, Sean slid his back down the tree trunk he’d been leaning against, crouching as if meaning to place himself in Evin’s eye level, as though he was addressing a small child. “If I was still the same spiteful boy I was three years ago, Bana, you’d be dead for sure right now. If I still cared to hurt Crys... Then maybe that would matter... As is though; your life has never mattered less to me than it does right now. Beside... If my life these past years has taught me anything, is that dying for some things is not nearly as painful as living with them.”

Evin couldn't agree more with what Sean had said. Death was an escape from Life. "Three and a half years ago I promised you hell. You said I couldn't do it, that I didn't know what hell was to you, but I promised myself that I'd find out." Evin tried to laugh, but it only came out as a hampered and depressing cough. "I think I figured out what hell is to you now. Wanna know how that makes me feel?" He waited for the response that wasn't coming. "Like hell!" Evin final answered in Sean's absence.

“Hell is filled with good intentions.” Sean muttered darkly, his hazel eyes staring at Evin as though he was transparent and Sean could see right past him. “You want to know something funny, Bana?” He asked, simply moving on without expecting any answers; his tone nowhere near amused. “Dani was the only one who knew what I wanted to do... She figured me out as soon as the thought crossed my mind for the first time, but you can’t really punish someone for their thoughts, right? So she simply told me to reconsider, she said I should think of the path I was about to take, that once you let hate rule your every decision you’ll eventually become what you hate. I see that now... True enlightenment, it seems, always comes just a moment too late, doesn’t it?”

Evin found himself stuck like a fly to honey paper. Lost for words and unable to even open his mouth. He nodded, but then shook his head before he finally said something. "Are your intentions really good though?" Evin completely ignored the rest of what Sean said. "I'm Sebastian and you are Dani at this moment. You can choose to kill me now or you can forgive me and I can possibly continue to terrorize the Wolfpack."
He lifted himself off the ground in a haggard way and stood, still slouched over at them. He lifted his arms to his side and then quickly let them go limp and cocked his head forward. "You think enlightenment comes too late and maybe that's true, but it is never too late to start searching for it." Evin walked towards Sean and wretched the messiest weapon that he had on him from his coat. He dropped it on the ground in front of them. "Do it now or drown your sorrows much like you've done to the Wolfpack."

“Good is a relative term, Bana... Lena once told me that she believed no man truly chooses evil, rather they mistake it for happiness.” Sean replied simply. “For the purpose of this conversation, however, it’s a lot easier to say that the nature of my intentions doesn’t really matter. I’ll save my explanations for someone who may actually care to hear them, if you don’t mind.” Sean stood slowly, still leaning against the tree trunk as though it was the only thing keeping him on his feet. Evin’s next words causing him to shake his head all the while he spoke as though simply being forced to hear them was an insult. “You’re always trying to end things on your terms, aren’t you? Last time we spoke you gave me two choices basically, I should challenge you or you would give me hell... Now you’re giving me two choices again, but the difference this time, Evin, is that you are in no position to do so. I’m not giving you death nor am I giving you forgiveness, because the way I see it you don’t deserve either one. So now I’m giving you two choices Bana, you can find a way to drag your pathetic carcass to where Crys can hear you and tell her to meet me here in four weeks’ time to settle this in a fair fight, or you can sit on your ass and die of your injuries right here. I don’t care which one you choose, all I know is that my little sister died today, and I sure as hell won’t allow her death to be forgotten, brushed aside, or shadowed by the end of your pathetic life.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Evin Bana Character Portrait: Ella Page Character Portrait: Allison Blake

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In the darkness of thought, Ella was alone. She caught everything that her captor thought, but they were disconnected from the rest of the world. It was the view of the world from only one point of reference, which left Ella imagining what could be going on in the real world. And a twisted view of the world it was. A bleak view of things left Ella incredibly depressed, but even more determined to somehow escape her captor. Time and again, Lazarus told her how no matter what she did, she wouldn't be able to escape. That his enlightenment could not be overpowered. With recent developments, however, she believed him less and less.
As time went on, she learned more about the real abilities of this enlightenment. She knew that there was something happening with the enlightened in Valcrest. They were all weakening in some way. Her experience of this allowed her to hear the outside world from time to time. She started to discover that Lazurus couldn't hold up his powers for much longer. Day by day, he would grow weaker. Ella found strength in this and knew that eventually, he'd fail. If that meant certain death, than so be it. Autonomy was too valuable to give up on so easily.
Ella didn't know what time of day it was or what Lazarus was up too. Time didn't exist in his realm of reality. The only thing that existed in this realm was her thoughts. She didn't know if Lazarus was on his guard or not or even how sick he was.
She relaxed her mind, letting the darkness truly engulf every part of her soul, down the deepest reaches and across her most hidden secrets. She did this until she'd completely melded with the darkness. It wasn't certain how long this took. It could have been days or years. All that mattered was that she was completely melded within the darkness created by Lazarus.
Then, the light. It was blinding, but didn't hurt to look at. Quickly, the light dimmed to the point where she was able to see what was happening. Right in front of her, a face with eyes wide opened looked into hers. The man's eyes spoke of absolute fear as blood started to trickle out of his mouth until it became a cascade. His eyes faded and Ella's hand pushed him back far enough to remove the man from the sword that she was holding. He fell to the ground and two other people faced Ella. Both of them with fear painted across their face. Then she looked at her peripherals to see the armour the two were wearing, but focused more on the reflection. She was standing there, yet she didn't recognize herself. Not only from the massive baby bump, but because of how sickly she actually looked. She didn't look like she was healthy enough to be bearing a child.
She noticed that she was speaking to the two guards. She couldn't hear her voice. All she could do was look at her mouth move in the armour. It was obvious, that all she had power over was her sight. She couldn't even move her eyes with her own volition. It seemed that her hijacker was still in control of that.
All she could do was watch as the dead guard in front of her reanimated and killed the other two guards, who appeared to have trouble attacking their own men, even if the reanimated body was no longer in control of it, like Ella was.

[Desert]
Evin took it upon himself to organize all of the equipment for Annie. He spread a cloth across the floor beside Indrani. On the cloth, he carefully placed each tool and herb. Starting from the right with all of the herbs and medicines. From there, he lay the bandages which eventually moved onto the actual medical tools. When even was happy with the way that everything was laid out, he looked to see if there were any other ways that he could help. Looking at Indrani's wounds, he knew that there was nothing that his basic knowledge could help out with. It would be better help to stay completely out of the whole procedure.
Evin then looked around at what was around him. Everyone who still needed help had wounds that were just a little too big for Evin to handle. He didn't want to screw anyone over with his medical treatment and so he looked to Allison.  
Evin stood from the crouched position he was in before. He began to pace, looking at Allison every few seconds as he went along. She was fixated on Annie and Indrani enough that what he wanted to do was going to be relatively simple. As he paced one more time, he went around, behind Allison. With one swift movement, he flung his arms under hers and wrapped them around, locking his fingers behind her head. He lifted her up and started to drag her. “I'm sorry Allison, but I know you wouldn't leave any other way. Annie, I'd say you owe me one, but having to spend a walk with me is enough of a favour.”  
He dragged Allison, until they were in a secluded part of the temple; a spiral staircase that lead to the top of one of the smaller towers. It was dark, as no torches had been lit on the staircase. It gave Evin the impression that it wasn't often used, which made it the perfect place to speak privately with Allison. 
He let go of her, tossing her towards the staircase and blocked the exit from her. “Annie can handle herself just fine. We would only be getting in the way. And besides, Darren is near by if she needs help. If I thought that you'd come with me without a fight, I wouldn't have done that, but I wasn't going to give you the benefit of the doubt. You're just a little too fiery.”

“Always the gentleman.” Allison muttered when Evin released her, taking the time to catch her balance and not fall over. She didn’t respond to Evin’s statements that Annie could handle the situation on her own; that wasn’t the only reason why Ali wanted to stay, but she wouldn’t argue with the man over it. “I’ll take fiery as a compliment, even though I’m not entirely sure of what you’re supposed to mean by it.” Heaving a weary sigh, Ali leaned against the nearest wall; mostly because she still felt a bit dizzy, and took a long moment to examine Evin’s appearance, but making no comments on what she was seeing. “I hope you have something to talk about otherwise standing here and staring at each other’s faces is bound to get dull pretty quickly.”

Evin, taken aback by the comment about staring at each other, took a moment to actually look at her. He thought the girl was twenty, but she had age on her. The blue dots of her eyes were just less useful. Evin didn't know if that meant that they lacked the sparkle they did before or if the shade of blue had just changed. “Crystal never got the chance to meet with Sean. He died this afternoon. Drowned.” He sighed, looking up the dark corridor of the staircase as if he'd find an answer to an unsolved riddle there. “Where do we go from here?” He said, almost just as a throw away comment.  
He walked passed Allison, walked up a few of the steps. He walked until his waist met up with Allison's head. When he sat on the step, his head was practically at Allison's. He stretched his legs down the stairs and rested his hands just above his knees. He looked her dead in the eyes. “Where do we go?”

Allison let out a short amused wave of laughter. “Drowned? All on his own?” She questioned, watching Evin with a slightly suspecting look in her eyes. “I almost feel bad, he had very little time to live with the consequences of his stupidity.” For a little while Ali ignored Evin’s question on where to go. She wasn’t sure if she truly understood the question, or if he actually meant for her to give an answer. Eventually she shrugged. “I go where Crys goes... At least until I’m drawn to something else... Who knows, the future is uncertain.” She leaned further into the wall with a tired grunt. “I think though, the Wolfpack will take years to go back to what is once was, if it’s possible, depending on who the next Alpha will be. Meanwhile, we have been adding to our ranks and for what I’ve seen we’re far more organized now that we have been in three years. Not to mention we have none of the notoriety the Wolfpack has gained in the past five years. If you think on it, the clan started to suffer from the moment The Shadow turned the cities on us and we were forced into the open. Soon enough everyone knew the name of the Alpha and the location of the camp... Newhaven Knights were popping in for random visits at all hours of the day... It was just madness.”

“Sean lived to see the consequences of his stupidity. Unfortunately, so did his sister.” Evin said.
Evin smiled at the thought of the days before The Shadow corrupted the ways of the Wolfpack. He closed his eyes, remembering the days when the Wolfpack was a name that struck people with mystery. When the only way to speak to a Wolf was to talk to the Innkeeper and even then, no one really knew if the Innkeeper was actually an assassin or just merely a messenger. People avoided the deep woods and walked the long way around to the cities and the Plains. There was not even a path worn down enough for anyone without knowledge of the path to find. The Alpha was a position that could be kept for longer than a decade completely uncontested. And the Hunters had only been a mild nuisance for a long time. Those were the days that Evin would remember most fondly and the days that Evin would hopefully never forget.  
“Perry was a pretty unfortunate part of our history. Probably the downfall of it all... So what have you been up to since we last met? What was it, the ball?”

Ali stopped to think when she had last seen Evin, it had been quite a long time since then. “The ball, yeah, probably. Did Jake not invite you to his birthday or did you simply not want to come? It was a nice party all things considered. That’s where we all were before coming here, the plan was that I would wait here for Crys to come back from the Wolves’ camp and then either return to Newhaven or follow her back to Blackpond; depending on the outcome. Before the party I was with Trevor and a few others stationed in Newhaven... In Jake’s old house. I’m still not sure why. I mean the people in Blackpond are recruiting, but we were just... Watching the city I guess. I haven’t had much of a chance to question Crys on what she is planning exactly, I just have a feeling there is something... Or was... I don’t know how Sean’s death fits into things.” She went silent for a little while, remembering that night in Blackpond. “Now that you mention it, the Ball... Do you know what really happened, with Ella? I mean, Crys said she wasn’t sure what actually happened, just that Ella was dead, but as far as the population knew, she was... Well... Not. I wasn’t about to go around asking questions in the city, but things have been weird ever since.”

“Jake and I have a special kind of relationship. We have the same goals but very different ways about getting towards them. I stay out of his business and he stays out of mine. That includes anything from avoiding a party to turning a blind eye. I will admit, avoiding a party is one of the easier ways to stay out of the guy's life.” Evin said. He chuckled for a moment, but immediately stopped as a thought crossed his mind. He almost spoke the thought until he turned his head and covered his mouth with his hand. Slowly his hand slipped down his face and onto his lap. “Ella.” He said as if reminding himself of something. “Yes. I haven't been able to gather much information on Ella. I know she died and I also heard that she was pregnant. There are rumours about that she is still alive, but all I've heard are rumours. It might explain why Newhaven is being governed by the Knights. Was Ella actually the last remaining member of the royal family? What happened to all the cousins and whatnot? Ah, I don't know. I just know that when things don't make sense, there is probably a reason for it. Take Perry...” Evin's thought trailed off, distracted by another thought. “... You know something, this whole enlightenment thing has the mark of Perry. I mean, I don't even know how someone could poison every single enlightened person. By the Twins, I should have asked Jake about that when I had the chance... Nah, it couldn't be. What do you think?”

Ali took a few moments to think about Perry, a frown marking her features as she remembered the whole process of hunting down the responsible for the deaths back then. “You know... Now that you mention it... I wonder...” She mumbled, a bit to herself before shaking her head and changing her tone to a more casual one as she elaborated. “The whole thing with Perry, with that dagger... That book Bastian had; the one that got passed around a lot after Perry died and we lost the dagger... It said very clearly that no one knew whether or not it even worked and... Well... I didn’t know the guy at all, and certainly not as well as you or Lena, but... He seemed to be a clever man, he did fool everyone for a very long time. Would he really murder all those people and risk taking his own life on a maybe? I wonder...” Once again Ali paused, staring at Evin quietly for a little while. “I wonder if someone wasn’t behind his actions somehow, fooled him into believing the dagger’s powers were real... Assuming it doesn’t work, had he followed through with his plan he would have simply murdered a bunch of enlightened and then killed himself, and no one would know why. It’s a foolish thing to believe, isn’t it? Achieve some form of invincibility from murdering a bunch of people and then stabbing yourself... What would it take for someone to believe something like that? What amount of proof would be enough to make the risk seem worthwhile? We never really gave much thought to why he was so sure of what he was doing, or where that blasted knife even come from. I don’t know if there is any sort of connection, but we never really looked into it. We were too involved in trying to not get slaughtered by Newhaven.”

Evin thought about what Ali said. He looked back at what he knew about Perry and his persona. He thought about the changes that came from it. How he left all of his focus on the Knights of Newhaven after the fact. How he could no longer focus on the simple life that he'd grown up with. “It seems impossible for someone to make such a perfect plan. Something like this would have to be planned by more than one person and even with careful planning and execution, things don't just line up so perfectly. This person convinces Perry to kill enlightened people, giving him a dagger of unknown origin and telling him it will give him great power. Perry is trusted to fool everyone he's ever met, including Lena and the Nobles of Newhaven. Trickery of this scale had to have taken several people. Then we move onto the assassin's involvement, this master planner must have known that we were going to have to kill Perry.” Evin ran both his hands through his hair. “When we killed Perry, the planner must have known that Newhaven would chase us and distract us from our other duties around Valcrest. Now, the planner is removing Enlightened from Valcrest.”
Evin jumped up from the stairs, nearly toppling backwards. He saved himself with some quick adjustments to where he distributed his weight and stood up tall. “This must be a planned assault on Valcrest from one of the outside lands. Remove the biggest threat to conquest, the Enlightened, and then sweep across the country taking whatever they want. It would make sense—distracting us Wolves that is—for the spies infiltrating us if we were out of the loop on things going on outside of Newhaven. Which mean, Blackpond. You said Crystal would be going to Blackpond after she came back from the Wolfpack? Do you suppose that she'll still get to Blackpond, given what she's probably learned by now at the Camp?”

“No, no... They wouldn’t necessarily have to kill him... Assuming the dagger doesn’t really work, he would have done it to himself. A bunch of enlightened killed and the king commits suicide. No one would suspect a connection, don’t you think? Such a clever little plan.” Ali mumbled. “Plans fail though, Dani always used to say so, and I think... We weren’t a part of the plan. We weren’t supposed to figure him out. Who would have thought we could? Lena didn’t. The White Knights didn’t. We may be smarter than the White knights... We’re probably smarter than the White Knights... Well, definitely smarter... We, as a group, are still not smarter than Lena. He... She... They... Whoever... Didn’t expect us to figure it out. Perry was arrogant though, killing Bastian the way he did, attacking me inside the encampment, he pushed too far. So maybe the question isn’t what happened, but what would have happened if we had not interfered...” Allison stopped talking for a little while and chuckled at herself. “That’s ironic. You know, Lena gave me a journal, when she came back, it belonged to my mother. The line most written in that journal was ‘I’m not crazy’. I’m starting to understand that feeling.” Once again Ali stopped speaking again, lowering her head and rubbing her eyes, stubbornly fighting her exhaustion and trying her best to ignore the lingering pain that had been plaguing her on and off for the past few months. Eventually she spoke again raising her head to start at Evin. “Theron said something to Crys, about an outside invasion, but... I don’t know... That sounds like such a simple explanation, doesn’t it? Too simple. After everything, so far, call me crazy if you will, but I don’t trust simple anymore. The Blackhurst scholars and the White Shadows, after thousands of years, never fully understood enlightenment... How could outsiders do this? Decades of planning on the off chance that we’d allow ourselves to lay down and die out is not the best of war strategies.”
Ali sighed, finally giving in and sitting down on the floor. “It was the plan for Crys to come here before going back to Blackpond. If she didn’t have Sean to deal with she should be back by now.”

Evin knew that a lot of what Allison said was probably right. Especially the fact that things were always more complicated than they first appeared. Answers were not just just going to pop up out of the blue from talking about the possibilities. Answers were only going to come from facts. Facts that could only be obtained by taking action. “If this is merely a disease, than the Whites will be able to do more than we could in fighting this. But if there is in fact a person or group of people who are systematically eliminating the enlightened of Valcrest, we'll have to take action and fast. It may not be the wisest thing to do, but I think we should somehow attempt to draw this person out into the open. We need to start agitating them and force them to take action or face the possibility of us ruining their plans. If it does nothing else, it will give us an opening into the world of this person or organization. We are desperate and likely to make a costly mistake, but making them desperate as well will put us on an equal playing field. If we are right, we'll need an equal playing field more than anything. As for what I can do next; I could either go to the White Shadow's camp and gather information, but I'd much rather go to Blackpond with you and Crystal. If Lena couldn't find anything useful, I'll likely ever find it either.”

"This is nice, isn't it?" Ali spoke, a bit of amusement and sarcasm in her tone. "I don't think we've taken the time to form conspiracy theories since the day of that storm, back in camp, before Crys came back, remember? That was a long time ago, or at least it feels like it."Ali nodded to herself in agreement. "Suppose you're right though, we have to dosomething. Let's see what Crys has to say when she arrives, about Sean and everything else. Night's fallen, she shouldn't be long now." She sighed. "How's this whole sickness thing affecting you, by the way? I have to say, I'm not having a good time with it."

Evin had completely forgotten about the sickness in himself until just then. All of a sudden, he felt a massive drain as if he had been sucked through a reed. All the life that had been in him since the early morning had completely left, leaving him feeling frail. “I can't believe how this has made me feel. I'm sure you can see it. I don't have the energy to do things as I used to. My joints ache, I run fevers often, I'll get sudden spike in my heart rate that lead me to believe I'm dying.” He smirked as he remarked, Well I guess I am dying. The worst of it all is the blood. I'm coughing up a lot of blood now. It started innocent enough as a cold, but as just been getting worse as time goes by. I'm not sure how much longer I have, but I can definitely feel it coming.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Evin Bana Character Portrait: Dominic Adams Character Portrait: Jake Turner Character Portrait: Ella Page

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Only a couple more minutes. That was all the time he needed. Ella's bed marinated in her blood as she bled from everywhere. The smell of death—something Lazurus was far too familiar with—was palpable. He just needed to hold onto the guards for a moment longer. Just a moment. He looked down at Ella's hands. The skin was greying. He worried that he might have over spent himself. Would be be able to get out of bed? He was going to have to.
He took deep breaths preparing for the moment that he'd have to lit himself out of bed. It quite possibly, was going to be one of the more difficult moments in his life. It was pathetic in a way. The fact that simply lifting himself out of bed, something he'd done so many times in his life, was now a challenge.
The sound of footsteps started to grow from the hallway. The guards were coming to relieve the others from their post.
Lazurus took a deep breath and lifted himself into a seated position and waited for the commanding officer on the other side to knock. The officer, however, didn't bother to knock this time. This was a change in the procedure, probably due to lack of attentiveness more than anything. This was perfect. The officer walked through the door and told the guards standing guard already that they were to be relieved. The three guards on duty, didn't heed the command. Instead, they withdrew their swords; each attacking their counterpart before they even had a chance to properly react.
At that moment, a clank of armour rang through the hallway as all three men fell. That was soon followed by the fallen armour of the three guards who had attacked their revealing forces. With that, Lazurus let out a huge sigh and collapsed back into bed. A million tons had just been lifted off Ella's shoulder. Soon, the bleeding stopped and he knew that he was going to recover from this.
Lazurus took a moment to take in his situation. To really see how well he would be able to move. He tested his arms. They were heavy and he felt weak, but he could still move them. Then his hands and fingers. While his fingers were useless, unable to move as if they were a rusted metal joint on a plate of armour. He still had a slight amount of dexterity left in his wrists, but hardly any. The same applied to his legs and feet. He was going to be able to walk, but it was going to be a struggle.
Slowly he shifted out of the bed. His arms, merely used to attempt to make sure he landed feet first. He slid down like a snake until his butt gently sat itself of the cold stone floor. From this position, he attempted to leverage his arms on the floor to push himself up to his feet. This didn't work too well and with the swollen stomach that Ella had developed, he wasn't exactly weighted in a way that would help him get up from a seated position. He changed tactics, opting to get himself into a kneeling position, facing the bed. He lifted his arms, and with a muffled slap, they hit the bed. He used his arms as his anchoring point and lifted, rolling over his toes and onto his feet. From there, the struggle of just lifting his body with merely his weakened legs was enough for him to let out a grunt. He jumped a little at the sound of his voice. Even after six months, he wasn't quite used to the girl's voice that he had adopted.
Lazurus trudged through the room and to the doorway, only poking his head out to see if anyone else was near by. As he suspected, there was no one. It was time to make his escape.

``````

In the city's lower district, Dominic, Rick and Simon were held up in a small house. Its size compared to houses in the nicer districts in the city made the house look more like a tool shed of sorts, but this modest place was once home to a small family before they were slaughter in a vicious riot that broke out in the city a month ago. Since then, Dominic had been using it as his own little house when he wanted to get out of the castle for a day. It wasn't much, but it was enough.
A knock at the door distracted Dominic from Rick, who was sleeping on the overused cot in the corner of the room. He slowly opened the door, making sure not to place his head directly out the crack as to avoid any blades from getting him by surprise. On the other side, however, he only saw the face of Peter, a Black Guard. How he knew to find Dominic in a small shack in the lower district was beyond him. Dominic stepped through the door and shut it quietly behind him.
“What are you doing here, Peter?”
“I've come with a message. Jake has come into town. He's come to relieve you of your duties. Wouldn't say much more about it, but he doesn't sound too happy about it.”
Dominic rolled his eyes, although he couldn't blame Jake. “Thank you.”

“He's coming now?” Simon asked as Dominic entered the shack again. 
“How did you hear that?” Dominic asked in shock. Dominic instantly regretted his decision to ask the question. It was an admission without actually saying it plain. 
“I'm not deaf and the two of you speak louder than a drunken spy slurring out restricted information at a bar.”
“Yes,” Dominic sighed, “he's coming.” 
Simon didn't say anything else to Dominic. While Dominic didn't know what else he was expecting the man to say, he did expect him to ask more questions. While Dominic didn't enjoy the silence as much as his friend there, he wasn't going to bother lest he wanted to be belittled some more. Instead, Dominic stepped outside of the shack again and waited for Jake to come by. 
In the meantime, he had the pleasure of watching two cats hiss at each other over territory. The grey tabby cat had walked into the orange cat's territory. Orange took note and instantly puffed up, hissing and showing off it's cheek muscles. A cat's cheeks was typically a good indication of how tough the cat was. Usually the cat with the larger cheeks would win a fight if it came to it.
Unfortunately for Orange, Tabby was a little bigger than him. Orange, however, was not going to give up its territory to a slightly larger cat. Orange could still take Tabby on in a fair fight. Dominic decided that he didn't want to see any more fighting. He'd seen enough for a lifetime and was sure he'd see more before his Death. He threw a rock at Tabby and he ran off.

Jake and Sophie had spent about half an hour sitting in Ess’ former house and talking about the people who had stopped by looking for her. It struck Jake as amusing that this was the first time he was ever in his sister’s house and she had long since moved. One of the ‘visitors’ Sophie mentioned Jake had already heard of through Sheila. He’d tracked the guy pretty easily and come to the conclusion he was harmless. The others acted too harmless for Jake’s liking and while none matched the description of the man named Hector, Jake had a gut feeling they were connected to him somehow. He warned Sophie to watch out for herself, and Bran, around those types, his warning met with glare that clearly meant ‘what, do you think I’m dumb?’. He chuckled and said nothing more on the subject. They parted ways on the street, Sophie heading to the castle and Jake towards his former home. One last stop before starting on his new mission.

He knocked on the door a certain number of times and waited. One of the assassins opened the door with a smile that clearly indicated he was expecting someone specific. “Oh, Jake,” the man mumbled, smile fading slowly, “can I help you with something?”
“Expecting someone Travis?” Jake snickered. “I need someone to send along a message to Crys. She should be back in Blackpond by now.”
“I thought it was Allison. She was supposed to be back today. Is she staying in the desert? Lowell said... It was bad?”
“I don’t know where Ali’s headed, but she was waiting for Crys to decide, so maybe she left a bit late,” he told the man. “So... Travis... Message... Can you send it for me? It need to go out today.”
“Uhm, sure. What should I tell her?”
“Tell her I need Kaya back at the Nest as soon as possible. Everything is fine, I just need her for an assignment.”
“Will do.”
Tell Ali to be safe, when she gets here, okay?”
The man half smile. “Sure, man.”

Travis was halfway through closing the door when he opened it again. “Oh, Jake! One of your knight buddies was around here earlier... He had this other guy with him... They went that way, if it’s relevant.”
“Ah, great.” Jake snorted, seeming less than pleased with the information really. “Thanks, Travis.”

The door closed and Jake headed in the direction the assassin had pointed him. As he turned a corner a tabby cat ran at full speed in his direction and slipped between his legs, almost tripping him over. “What the hell!” Jake muttered, looking over his shoulder as the tabby disappeared behind a pile of rubbish near one of the houses. “Crazy cat.”

A few steps into the street and he spotted Dominic, the man was the only person standing the empty street. “Very inconspicuous, gotta give him that,” Jake smirked. Of course Dominic was a big guy, it wouldn’t be hard to spot in a crowded street, but standing there alone made him stand out even more.

Jake rose his hand in a half-hearted wave as he approached the Knight. Stopping before the man and spreading his arms as though greeting a long lost friend; which Dominic wasn’t. “Sir Dominic. How delightful to see you again...” He spoke, with a laugh underneath his words, taking a playful bow as if mocking the very concept of civilized greetings. It wasn’t that Jake didn’t like the man, but something about Dominic just made him want to tease the man. Probably still a lingering effect of their very first meeting. “Funny how we almost never meet when you don’t have a Blackpond rat clinging to your shadow, isn’t it?” Jake had been all laughs and mischief with Sophie, but the bitterness had returned to him the moment he put one single thought to what he was asked to do. He had to remind himself who and why he was doing it for and even so he couldn’t make it disappear completely. “I’m not happy, and I truly see no point in this, but Captain asked that I think your little buddy off your hands and keep him alive... for now... So take him I shall...” Jake’s eyes seemed to turn to ice for a brief moment, but it faded. The young man breathed a sigh and put his hands in his pockets, his posture relaxing as we as his tone. “I have to ask; have you heard of all the deaths? In the forest... In the desert? I told the Captain little over an hour ago, but I know these things spread fast.”

Jake came down the road in his typical fashion. Even with no one in the streets, his demeanour implied that he was ready to go into hiding at a moments notice, almost like a skittish mouse. His words struck more like a snake. Each jab came out with a venomous edge; none that were lethal, but all of them with the intention to hurt. None of them hurt Dominic, not really. He understood that Jake had issues controlling his emotions, especially when he was forced into doing things he didn't want to do. He could only imagine that Jake didn't want to babysit. 
Then Jake's tone shifted and he spoke of deaths. “What deaths?”

Jake smiled at Dominic’s question. “Ah. So the guard I sent after you hadn’t been listening in on my talk with the Captain... That’s good to know. I’m sure you’ll get the details in the castle somewhere, so to cut things short here: The Wolfpack lost its Alpha, and the Crimson Shadows lost well... almost its entire ranks. I was recently there watching the corpses being prepared for the pyre, the most friends I lost in a day. Valcrest is just a gift that keeps on giving, ain’t it?” Jake snorted. “Anything relevant I need to know about this Blackpond guy before I take him off your hands, Dom? If not, just hand him over so I can be on my way. I don’t think I’ve ever been more eager to leave this city than today.”

No wonder he's on edge. Dominic thought as Jake quickly briefed him on the recent events to the west. An ally to the Black Knights and likely to Newhaven was nearly wiped out of existence and the mad Alpha of the Wolves was no longer. It was hard to say what was to happen to the Wolf Pack now that it lost its third leader in less than a decade, but no new or strong leaders were left of them. As for the Crimson, it was hard to say as well. Without knowing the true state of their losses, Dominic could only be left to speculate. 
“Nothing to be said about these Blackpond folk except for the fact that the one is insane and the mute's a ripe old prick.” Dominic snorted.
“That's no way to talk about me.” The thoughts of Simon intruded him. Dominic turned around to see Simon standing at the door, waving with a smile plastered across his face.
“Can he hear you?” Dominic asked, motioning to Jake.
“Now he can. Nice to speak to you again Jake. Hopefully you do a little less of it or at least say something intelligent. Dom here is insufferable.”
“Have fun.” Dominic said, smiling as he walked down the street the way Jake had come.

Jake was less than pleased to have someone’s voice in his head, but he had been warned of this guy’s inability to speak normally, so he'd have to excuse it. He waited for Dominic to leave before addressing Simon. “I have more interest in speaking to my horse than you. Likewise I’d much rather not hear a peep from you in my head unless it’s necessary. I honestly don’t know what you want, seeing as you could break your idiot King from prison on your own without having to show your face; hell, a Wolfpack recruit could have pulled that off in the state Newhaven's in, but I’m quite frankly past the point of caring for what you people want or what you’re planning... I’m just going to play along until you give me a good enough excuse to kill you.”

Gesturing towards the opposite direction Dominic had wandered off to, Jake urged Simon to walk in front of him. “I’m not stationed here, so we’re leaving the city.” He informed, not sure whether or not Dominic had mentioned, or was even aware of that. Afterwards he fell completely silent.

Simon was a little displeased to find himself leaving Newhaven so early. He'd just gotten there and intended on finding what he was looking for before leaving. The misfortune of fate brought him to this. He was no longer in control of where he ended up now that he was being hauled around by a Black Knight. Especially not Jake Turner. Of all the Black Knights, Jake wasn't one to be pushed around. Even Simon could find a way to sway Mageria to do things for him. She was smart to get Jake to take care of him. A miscalculation on his part.
Simon pushed up ahead of Jake, but didn't move for a moment. “Come along, Rick.” He turned around to look at the shack that he was staying at. He didn't say anything to Jake and just waited. A minute passed before Rick sluggishly passed through the door. Simon was sure that Jake probably wasn't pleased to see the sickly King. It would slow down travel for sure and Jake seemed to be in a rush to get out of the city.
With Jake behind them, the two started walking. Simon supposed that he was probably headed towards the front gate, so he went along. Rick's paced slowed them down, but it was no real issue. In fact, the longer he was in the city, the better. Not only did it allow him just a little more time to get his work done, but it also allowed him protection. Being around a Black Knight was good protection, but as long as he was in the city, he hadn't found the item he was looking for, which meant that neither had Vorso. The minute he left the city would be the minute Vorso would strike. At least, that's what he expected.
With immediacy in his stance, Rick perked up. Simon was surprised by this change in his demeanour, but he knew what that meant. After a period of lethargic stupor, Rick was back into his stage of enthusiastic work. There was no stopping him now, which meant Jake and Rick went where he went. Simon stopped ad turned to Jake. “I go where he goes. So you can either do your duty and follow me or you can abandon your obligations... or, I suppose, you could try and kill us. Either way, I'll be over here.” He pointed towards the street that Rick was hurriedly walking down and turned to walk that way. Jake would either follow him or there would be a fight. Simon just continued to walk, hoping it would be the former.
Simon followed Rick right to the street where the infamous Wolf Inn was. And was the Inn ever busy. People coming in and out of the place in a constant stream. Old ad young, rich and poor, drunk and drunker. All forms of life were about the Inn. It seemed that this was where Rick was headed. Simon followed closely behind him, hand softly pressed against the dagger sitting against his pant leg.

Jake was beyond displeased at the sight of Rick, but he managed to not act on his urge to just kill the man where he stood. He had not forgotten the situation at the Ball in the slightest, nor would he ever. It didn’t matter if the guy was messed up in the head, sick, or whatever else. His eyes on Crys that day marked him a dead man the moment Jake had a say in the matter. At the moment he didn’t however, so when the bastard started to stray from the path he was so eager to take and Simon declared he would follow, Jake complied. It wasn’t duty; and if Simon expected to play that card often he was in for a surprise, but Jake did remind himself that Mageria trusted him, and if anything he owed her the same no matter how strongly he disagreed.

Jake was yet to draw a weapon, but he slid a black needle into his hand the moment he caught sight of Rick’s destination, the thin metal poking out between his index and his middle fingers. Why was it open? The Alpha was dead, the clan was in mourning... Sheila was in the encampment; he saw her there. The Inn should be sealed and Jake couldn’t find a reasonable explanation for why it wasn’t. Rick seemed relentless in his intent to go there however. The man was barely responsive moments ago, but now he was on a mission; and Jake could guess why. He could very well guess now why Simon wanted him free and what he was after. What he didn’t understand was his need of Newhaven for this. Simon could have rescued Rick on his own; why was Jake needed? All things considered, and for the time being, he decided he wasn’t going to worry, or act. He was just going to follow the crazed assassin and his mute companion and see where that would lead.

Simon knew that this was it. Nearly half a year of his life had been spent on this exact moment. All his efforts in tracking and hiding from people he once called allies. It had all come down to what was inside the Inn. Simon didn't question how Rick knew where to go. He didn't for a moment want to enter his mind to find out. He just summed it up to the complexity of a mad man's mind.
Jake was clearly intrigued by the Inn, just as much as Simon had been. If what Jake had said to Dominic was true, the Wolfpack should have closed the Inn and left it vacant. Some townspeople must have discovered that the assassins who usually attended the camp were gone. They must have decided to ransack the place and enjoy themselves some good fun without cash or consequence. This meant that it would probably be easily to discreetly walk in and out of the inn without much issue. Simon let in a big breath and then followed Rick through the doors into the Inn.
The Inn was filled with characters doing exactly as he had expected. People over drinking, gambling and singing songs. Overall they were eccentric and rowdy ad nauseam. There was even an old man in the corner, distributing what appeared to be weapons from a rather large box. Intrigued, by this, Simon took a seat at a nearby stool while Rick went around to a back room in search of what he was after.
It appeared to be a tournament. Two men would blindly pick a weapon out of the large box. Simon had heard rumours of a lost and found box full of different weapons owned by the Wolves at the Inn, but he took the rumours as merely a funny tale. The first men drew out a poorly crafted longsword. It looked more like a toy than a sword. Simon doubted that it could be used to kill. The next person grabbed an arrow. The crowd laughed as the man looked at his weapon with confusion.
“Good, good!” The old tournament master shouted out with a hearty chuckle. “Now these two will use their weapons in a fight to see who can first draw blood from their opponent. The man who is able to draw blood from their opponent is the victor!”
The crowd cheered again in anticipation for the fight. A small box had been created in the centre of the room with a barricade of chairs. A few kids, attempting to get a good view of the fight straddled the chairs, leaning over the barrier. Much to the displeasure of some older patrons who were attempting to keep them a safe distance from the fighting.
The two men stepped into the makeshift arena and took their stance on either side of the room. The crowd cheered for the man with the arrow. People loved a good underdog. In confidence, he lifted the arrow above his head and the crowd roared even louder. Then a few screams. The other man with the longsword had taken this moment to charge Arrow Man. He noticed just in time to back away, smashing right into a chair as he stumbled over. Arrow man, in desperation threw the arrow in Longsword's direction, but he missed entirely and the arrow flew out of the ring. Without a weapon, Arrow Man was helpless, so he jumped out of the ring, disqualifying himself from the tournament before Longsword could cut him.
The crowd, who only moments before were cheering, booed for Arrow Man. Throwing their drinks at him and finally running him out of the bar.
“Okay! We have one more spot left in the first round of this tournament! Would two more challengers please step up to grab a weapon!” The tournament master said.
Simon perked up when he heard this. Rick was busy doing the work, so Simon decided that it would be fine for him to take a break from searching and just have a good bout with some commoner. Maybe he'd even win some coin from this. Simon stood up and the tournament master shouted. “It looks like we have a contestant. Come on down and pick a weapon from the box.”
Simon went to the box. The man blindfolded him and told him to just reach in and grab something. While it didn't seem entirely safe to blindly grab into a box full of sharp objects, he did so anyways. He felt a rather ornate handle and instantly grabbed it. He knew that a weapon with such a nice handle would be crafted by a noble blacksmith. This wasn't a weapon that was made for a poor man. This was a good weapon. He lifted his hand out of the box with the weapon in hand. The man untied the blindfold and allowed Simon to get a good look at his weapon.
He didn't react at first to the dagger. An incredibly sharp, steel blade, affixed to a blue and red handle, lined with white gold. It was an impressively crafted dagger to say the least, but that wasn't what made Simon's eyes widen. He looked up to see if Jake had noticed then smirked.
“Don't make a scene out of this, Jake.” He transfered his thoughts to him. “Imagine the Wolfpack's reaction to a rumour about you killing a man over a dagger in their own establishment. It might beg the Wolves to ask some questions and start investigations.”

The Inn was in total chaos. It was obvious someone had broken in and opened up the place to the public. Jake wondered briefly how much coin the Pack would lose because of this. Under different circumstances he would have emptied those idiots’ pockets and kicked them out the door, if only for Sheila’s sake, but this time he couldn’t afford to draw that type of attention. Rick rushed to the back and Jake leaned against the bar. He was sure Simon wouldn’t let the maniac disappear on him, the telepath didn’t seemed concerned to let the man out of his sight and Jake was happy to not have to look at him anymore. He was very unimpressed and uninterested with the little tournament the ‘patrons’ had going on; it was clumsy fighting at best. He’d had more fun watching Darren and Aiden punch each other. Jake poured himself a drink, thinking to himself he’d pay for it once Sheila came back; that if she did, and drank it all in one gulp, grimacing as the liquor burned its way down. He refilled his glass while watching Simon approach the weapon box and emptied it at once again.

It was only when Jake saw what Simon got out of the box that he actually paid attention to the man. His eyes caught the dagger and he tensed. A man that had been standing near him started to step forward as if to challenge Simon, but Jake pulled him back by the collar. The man turned to Jake as if he meant to pick a fight but recognized the black feathers hanging from his belt and recoiled. Jake walked to the old man running the tournament and allowed him to blindfold him for the weapon draw. He gripped a hilt that felt somewhat familiar and drew a blade that was in between a long dagger and short sword in length. It looked well preserved and sharp enough for this. Jake smiled although his eyes were cold staring at Simon. He didn’t speak his reply to the man, but simply thought it. “Simon... Have you forgotten me? I wandered into Blackpond’s Castle and kicked down the King’s door. Are you really willing to bet your life on my fear of a leaderless pack of Wolves?”

Jake and Simon stepped into the makeshift ring and there was immediate tension in the air. To the drunken idiots surrounding the two men, nothing odd was going on other than two strangers fighting each other for sport. This wasn’t sport for Jake; someone was going to die in that ring if it was up to him. Jake felt the weight of his borrowed sword for a few seconds before making the first move and slashing at Simon’s chest, the man quickly dodging and countering as if it was nothing. It was nothing. Jake caught a glimpse of the dagger’s blade and close it had been to his body as he twisted his torso away from it, and knowing what it was threw off his balance. The back of his knees hit the barrier of chairs that formed the ring and for a split second Jake remembered Perry; the look in the man’s eyes holding that blade and rambling about his pursuit of power. He steadied before Simon could take advantage, catching the man’s attack with his own sword and throwing a punch at his face. It hit. Jake allowed Simon to recover, or so it looked; he was actually regaining his own composure instead.

To the laymen in the audience, watching the fight, Jake looked to have the upper hand. He held a sword while Simon held a dagger, and Jake had made the first punch. However, that first punch meant next to nothing as it didn't leave either fighters at an advantage. Jake's punch was far more likely out of desperation. They layman would be right that Simon was at a disadvantage though, but not for the reasons that they believed. Simon's disadvantage came about in his intent. Jake had the intent to kill while Simon merely had the intent to force Jake to concede. This left Simon with far fewer courses of action than Jake and it left him a little worried.
Simon came in with the next attack with a ferocity that his first attack didn't have. He hacked and slashed with the dagger, only ever making contact with his opponent's blade, but forcing Jake backwards. Simon wasn't giving Jake an ounce of space to fight. That is where the dagger had its advantage to the sword, especially in the closer quarters of the fighting ring. Limiting Jake's range of motion completely took away his range advantage as well as undermining his abilities to make any offensive swings back.
Simon had nearly backed Jake into the corner of the arena again. Simon doubled his efforts, attacking with twice the furry he had before, hoping to catch Jake off balance. Simon's furious attacks quickly stopped when something caught his wrist. Simon quickly grabbed Jake's wrist in retaliation. The two locked blades and held each others wrists. Sweat beating down their foreheads as they locked eyes. The crowds roar was merely a whisper in Simon's ear as he anticipated Jake's next move.
Jake pushed Simon backwards and again, the two opponents took a moment to get their footing. Jake's attack came first this time. Jake took the attack to Simon's legs, which left Jake open to any attacks from above the waist, but only if Simon had the reach, which his dagger left him short. Much to Simon's surprise, he reacted by diving towards Jake and tackling him to the ground.
Screams were heard in the audience as Jake's sword clamoured to the floor just outside the arena. Jake was now without a sword, which meant that the competition would be over soon. All Simon had to do was draw blood and they would put the fight to an end before it escalated any further. The two rolled on the floor, grappling and pushing until Simon found himself straddled over top of Jake. Jake Threw his hands up in defence. Simon looked for the opening and threw a punch just around his hands, connecting just below Jake's right eye. Simon then attempted to press his dagger against the boy's cheek to draw first blood, but Jake threw up his hand and grabbed Simon by the forearm. Simon grabbed the hilt of the dagger with both hands and pressed down as hard as he could while Jake did the same from the other end. Now it turned into a battle of will. Both men were about equal in strength and it was just down to the first person to concede. In Jake's eyes, he saw someone with the will of a true killer. Something that Simon didn't have. He was going to lose the battle of wills... unless.
Simon closed his eyes for a moment. When they opened, they were shining a seafoam green. Jake's eyes grew wider as he realized what this meant, but by then, it was too late. It wasn't hard for Simon to find Jake's mind. A clear mind was hard to find, but for one that was attempting to keep in control and maintain his will, Jake's mind was like an open book.
“Hi Jake. You can't talk back to me right now. I'm not going to allow it, but that's fine. Just sit back and enjoy the carriage ride I'm about to take you on.”
Jake's mind looked like a sea of colours. It was a painter's cleaning bowl after a long day's work where watered down paint swished and swirled around to make winding streaks in the water. These colours swam viciously through the expanse as Jake pushed the unmoving object, which was Simon, out of his mind. The colours, however, abruptly stilled themselves and, with a little resistance, flowed into the expanse, creating a world around which Simon could create the thoughts. It started out as a few stone pillars and some grass, but quickly grew into a large meadow with tents and old stone buildings covering up some of the empty space. Next, people started to flow out of the tents and structures; more people than what should have reasonably fit. Jake would never notice. Neither, would he notice the fact that he wasn't actually experiencing any of this from the first person, but rather, from just above the whole scene. Each face was a person familiar to Jake. Not all of them should have been in this mock Blackhurst camp, but each of them wore the garbs of the White Shadow either way. The one thing that Simon let slip was making Crystal one of those people in the garb. Hopefully Jake didn't notice or the plan would be ruined entirely. He moved Crystal into one of the tents to disconnect the thought all together. Then, out of the same tent came Lena, who walked towards Jake, at least Jake's image of himself. It always amused Simon to see what people's image of themselves were. It was never what they actually looked like. It could be better or it could be worse, but it was never true to reality. In Jake's case, it was worse.
Jake handed Lena the dagger, which seemed to just appear in his hand. Lena nodded happily and then threw the dagger into a fire, where it burned up and turned to smoke.
Hopefully, this would be enough. A suggestion that the dagger no longer existed could be the thing to break Jake's will and allow Simon to finish the fight. Simon snapped back into reality. The look of shock that Simon had left seeing Jake's face in was now gone and it appeared to Simon that it did in fact work. Slowly, Simon was getting the edge. The dagger carefully made its way towards Jake's face. But the trick ore off too quickly. Jake noticed the dagger and realized that it wasn't in fact destroyed. He had been tricked.
This time, Jake put all his strength into pulling the dagger to his left. This threw Simon completely off from on top of Jake and rolling across the floor.
Simon jumped to his feet and looked around the arena. Jake was now gone. He looked above him to see if he was hanging from a rafter. Nothing. He wouldn't have fled, so he had to be around somewhere. Next, Simon looked for the sword on the floor. The instant he looked over to it, it had disappeared into seeming nothingness. Simon began to suspect that Jake could disappear at the will of his enlightenment, which worried Simon a little. He could try to listen for Jake, but with the crowd's banter, there was no way he was going to successfully hear a thing. Simon was going to have to get creative. His head jerked from side to side to look for something that he could use to assist him.
On the other side of the room, a group of people sat on a piece of the chair barricade that had been set up. He ran towards them, hearing the air being cut by Jake's sword right behind him as he took his first few steps. That was a close one. The men had bottles in their hand. He grabbed the bottles and threw them in every which direction across the floor, leaving the floor covered in green glass. If he couldn't see Jake, he could at least see where he was walking now.
With every step Jake took, glass flipped around the floor. The flipping stopped for a moment, and then continued. Each distortion of the glass got closer until Jake was in striking range. Simon couldn't know where the attack came from, but instead, he kicked the glass up towards Jake. He dived towards Jake, attempting to take this fight to the floor again, but the two of them just stumbled to the floor and into a puddle of booze that was left from the broken glass. Instantly, Jake became visible again. His eyes stopped glowing and he got up from the floor. Simon did the same. The two of them were now covered in scratches from the glass. Simon could feel a shard of glass lodged in his face.
Jake and Simon both looked at each other with an intensity that would cut through anyone who even tried to step between them. Unfortunately, for the game master, it was him. “This fight is clearly a draw.” The old man shouted.
The crowds roar completely drowned out the sound of the man's spine collarbone snapping as Jake tackled the man and used him as a shield as he pressed towards Simon with his sword out like a lancer. Simon used what little time he had to react to perry the blade away from him, cutting the game master down in the process. Screams were now heard from the crowds as they started to run in every which direction in panic. Simon took the confusion as his chance to escape. He dived over the chairs and into the panicked crowd, trying his best to blend in. He was stopped rather quickly by Jake, who had thrown a chair at him. He arched his back in pain and flopped to the ground. He turned around, bracing his hands on the floor behind him as he saw Jake approach in a furry; sword ready to take its next victim. Before he could slay his strike down, a twinkle from behind Jake flew towards him and struck just above the hilt of his blade, causing him to drop it.
“What's all this about Jake?” Simon heard a yell from the direction the throwing blade had come. He didn't stay long enough to see what it was though. He turned around and ran out of the Inn, hoping to gain some distance on Jake before he found him.
As he left the Inn, he saw Rick standing across the street, just standing, watching the panicked crowd rushing out of the Inn. He ran over, grabbed the man's hand and ducked into the shadows before anyone could follow him.

Jake cringed when the sword slipped from his grasp. He didn’t need to hear Evin’s voice to know it was him. Of course it was. He caught a glimpse of Simon disappearing out the door, but instead of following the man directly he turned the other way, momentarily rushed towards Evin as though he was about unleash his wrath on the man, but walking past him instead. “Fucking hell, Evin... What joy do you take in screwing up my plans?” He muttered out, otherwise not even looking the man in the eyes and climbing the stairs to the top floor of the Inn in a hurry. He slipped out the window and jumped to the roof of the adjacent building.

Jake had spent some time with Sham on the rooftops after she helped him out of Blackpond and even though he lacked the woman’s speed and agility he’d learned his way around the city rooftops, he knew them almost as well as she. Finding Simon in a crowd wouldn’t be that easy, but he could recognize Rick’s walk miles away in the state the man was currently in. If wasn’t for Simon’s insistence to drag the sick man around he might have gotten away from Jake. At least the nutcase was good for one thing.

Sham had a point in her methods; people hardly felt the need to look up. Even though Jake was invisible, he was probably being overzealous; Simon had not glanced above his head once. He’d followed both men, watching them from above until opportunity to intercept them presented itself. Jake dropped from the edge of a building directly in front of Simon, the man colliding into ‘nothing’. Jake quickly disarmed Simon, knocking the dagger from his hand to the floor and planting his left foot firmly over it before showing himself, a dagger of his own held tightly in his clenched fist. “I’m not supposed to kill you, as per my Captain’s orders, Simon. I like Mageria, and I’d rather play nice, but if I bring back that dagger I’m sure she’ll understand my side... If you have one good reason why things should end any differently you better say so now. And be quick about it, because today I’ve already been driven miles past the point of tolerating bullshit.”

Simon's head hit the floor hard when he was knocked down. For a moment, he saw a flash of bright light, then his vision went blurry. He wasn't quite sure of where he was until his eyes cleared up enough to see Jake above him, spitting words down to him. Simon shifted uncomfortably, tying to sit himself up. He didn't dare attempt to stand. The world was spinning around him.
Simon tried as hard as he could to focus on Jake. He shook his head and then tried again. The world seemed to begin to steady itself. His eyes brightened as he was about to speak, but then he reconsidered his thoughts. From out of the corner of his eyes, he saw Rick, slowly shifting behind Jake. It would seem that Jake's focus was fixed on Simon and the dagger more than it was Rick.
“First off. I'd like to start by saying that there are people other than me who want this dagger. In fact, I should be the least of your worries when it comes to that dagger. My friends are waiting for me to exit the city with this dagger. The only reason that they haven't entered the city is because it would be safer to attack me once I'm in the woods. When they find out that I've died, which they will soon enough, they'll enter the city and terrorize it until they find this dagger. My methods will seem tame in comparison.” He paused, watching from the corner of his eyes as Rick leaned down to grab the dagger from under Jake's foot. The moment he touched it, his eyes flashed and he disappeared. “Of course. If that's not incentive enough, I'm sure that the fact that Rick has just disappeared with the dagger will be enough incentive to keep me alive.” He waited to watch Jake's reaction in amusement. Despite the entertainment value of Rick's disappearing act, Simon wasn't happy. Now he was going to have to go searching for the guy again. “The man's deranged. Who's to say what he's going to do with that dagger or where he's taking it? You'll never be able to find him. Not without my help.” Simon smiled again. This time, with a maniacal twist. He'd just dodged Death that time. If it weren't for Rick, nothing that Simon would have said could have saved him. He'd had no leverage and lying wasn't a game worth playing with Jake. It was a good thing that mad men were so easy to persuade. And with a little help from his enlightenment, Simon had done the impossible.

Jake showed no reaction to Rick disappearing with the dagger, even though that in itself was one heck of a display of anger. He listened to what Simon had to say and snorted. “Say you do find him... Then what? What do you want with it, Simon? How does it ‘help me’ that you find it, or that you live? Valcrest is small, I have a lot of friends, are you betting your life in my inability to find one crazy man? The sickness is in his blood also, he won’t be teleporting around for much longer. Dagger or no... I have every intention of finding good ol’ King Richard...” Jake turn around and started to walk towards the city gates as was his original plan. “Long live the King...” He sneered. “We’ll see about you later, Simon... If you think I’m dangerous, I have a friend I look forward to introducing you to... Her name is Kaya.”

``````

Evin felt like such an idiot when he'd seen Jake's face glaring at him. All he wanted was to stop the mayhem that was causing him such insomnia. It just so happened that the one causing his insomnia was Jake. Of course, he didn't know that when he was stopping him from killing the man on the floor. He just saw Jake's back and in a moment of gut reaction, more out of the fact that he wanted sleep than anything else, he just wanted to stop the killing from happening.
He realized the mistake now. If Jake was so blatantly after someone, there was typically a good reason, even if Evin didn't always agree with him. However, the chase was now being conducted outside of the Inn. Maybe, once the people settled down again, he'd get some sleep.
But, as if it were some sort of divine intervention, preventing Evin from getting a proper sleep, the door burst open and several guards entered the Inn with their swords brandished.
“Nobody move!” the one in the front shouted. “Everyone here is under arrest for illegal arena fighting in the city. Do not try to run or you will be killed.”
“Just perfect.” Evin muttered.
The crowds at the Inn were still rather large and he could move around them without any attention being drawn to him. He made his way to the stairs and started to walk up them.
“You, at the stairs!” The man said. “Stop under order of the queen regent Mag—” The voice trailed off into a grunt followed by a nervous stutter from the guards. The one who had been making demands to Evin had been stabbed in the gut by one of the patrons at the Inn. Soon enough, the entire room filled with fighting. Patrons hastily lined up to grab weapons from the box while others revealed that they'd been hiding weapons underneath their clothes the entire time. More guards started piling in until there were nearly a hundred people packed into the Inn. While it was a large place, it never meant to hold so many people. The fighting was brutal and there was no room. Quickly, people started to get pushed up the stairs. Some of the fighting was headed directly towards Evin.
A man holding a candle in one hand and a short sword in the other. He tried to hand the candle to Evin, “Go light the signal. Let them know that the castle is ready for attack!”
Evin pushed the candle away from him. “What the hell are you talking about boy!”
“Damn you old man!” The guy said, shoving his sword into Evin's hand and pushing him aside. The boy ran past him and up the stairs.
Confusion overwhelmed Evin, but he figured that being confused while holding a sword was better than to not be holding a sword. At least in this situation, it was. He extended the sword out as far as it could allow him and prayed that he didn't have to use it.

``````

Dominic's walk was a quiet one. The streets of Newhaven at night recently were tranquil, making walking around a comfortable thing to do. Being a Knight gave him protection. His uniform protected him in the way armour wasn't usually meant to protect. It was intimidating to face a Knight, white or black, in the middle of the night. Even larger groups of people were hesitant to even be seen by the Knight in the streets. If they were seen, they'd scurry away like rats.
This allowed Dominic to walk to streets completely undisturbed. He was alone with his thoughts and it was comforting. He slipped his hands around his belt and dragged his feet across the cobblestone, making an awful scraping sound. It didn't take long for Dominic to realize that maybe it wasn't the best idea to do that in the middle of the night. He picked up his feet and continued on his way.
His thoughts drifted from the state of Newhaven to the state of Blackpond and finally to the world outside of Valcrest. He wondered what it was like on the other side. Many people, despite living through the hardship of war, never left Valcrest. There was something that kept everyone around. He didn't care to know why people never left, but he did wonder why he never left. He had had chances to go before. When in Blackpond, it was only a half days walk and he'd be officially out of the boarder. It was so close, but he never thought to go any further north. He'd make excuses for himself like how it was just too cold to go any further north, but in the summer time, that wasn't true. The South was too far a walk and word was that there wasn't much to the West of Valcrest. In the East, a big lake blocked the way. All of these reasons that Dominic had made from time to time were just a thinly placed veil that really just meant that he had too much to lose from leaving Valcrest. Despite the war, there was a lot for Dominic to lose if he left. He didn't want to lose it.
A light flashed through the street, illuminating it for the briefest moment. Another moment later, he heard a loud bang from behind him. An explosion? Dominic turned around and looked up at where the bang came from. All he could see, under the faint moonlight, was a small bit of smoke billowing from the middle of the night's sky. The explosion must have been a fire work. He turned back around and jumped a little. He hadn't heard them approach. For such a large group, he expected to hear at least one of them, but then, when he thought about it, the night had grown unbelievably silent.
The group was a malicious one, but one with noticeable fright in their eyes. Each one of them held a weapon, from swords to pitchforks and everything in between. At the back of the crowd, a man was holding a spadone. His eyes were aglow in a bright purple. When the Knight made eye contact with the enlightened user, his gaze slipped downwards.
Dominic didn't draw his claymore yet. He didn't see the need to. The group were obviously afraid of him, a Black Knight. They were probably hoping that he was merely just one of the guards, paroling the city centre. The man with the purple eyes had muted the world to him. That was how they'd gotten so close to him without him hearing them. When he turned and they saw he was actually a Knight, they froze in their spot, unsure of what to do. Dominic widened his stance. He was ready for a fight, but if he could intimidate the men enough for them to run off without conflict, he'd be satisfied.
The men's mouths moved, but Dominic couldn't hear what they were saying. With a few quick glances and hand movements, he gathered that they were conflicted on whether they would want to attack Dominic or not.
Then, one of the men looked just past Dominic with a look of panic in his eyes. He raised his hands and his mouth seemed to shape the word, “Don't”. Dominic gripped his sword and spun on his feet. The sword was unsheathed at unnatural speeds. The butt of the sword cracked across the scull of the man charging towards him. He fell to the ground, motionless. The group of new people brandishing weapons behind them stopped for only a moment to realize that Dominic had just cracked the man's skull open. A moment later, they charged the Knight. Dominic looked behind him and the men there were also charging now.
He lifted his sword, adjusting his grip as he took his left hand off the weapon to grab a shorter parrying blade from his hip. The first man to approach him was cut down quickly with a cut across the stomach. He swung his sword above and behind his head, deflecting a blow in front while parrying a woodcutter's axe in front of him.
At this moment, he realized that the men he was fighting were not warriors. They were simple folk. Only a few of them had real weapons. He didn't expect many of them to have any real fighting experience. As his sword swung back around to his front, he grabbed it, with his other hand, still holding the parrying blade. He pointed his sword forward, at level and pressed up against his hip, he charged forward. Most men jumped or dived out of the way of his blade's tip. The few that attempted an attack were either met by the tip of his blade or a quick slash across the various parts of their body that they left vulnerable.
At the end of the procession of people was the man with the purple eyes. He held his spadone in a slight variation of the near ward stance. Dominic halted almost instantly in his tracks, only just over a sword's length away from the man. He planted his feet firmly on the cobblestone road and adjusted his own stance. He held his sword with the pommel beside his ear, facing the tip directly at his opponent's face. He leaned very low into his stance, to the point where he was almost shorter than the man he was facing.
Dominic took a quick glance behind him to make sure he was safe from the mob behind him. As it turned out, they were gearing up for their next assault. Dominic couldn't keep himself held up on this single opponent for more than just a single second. Unfortunately, Dominic knew that this man had skill with the sword. He was going to need more than a second to effectively down this opponent.
He lifted his stance slightly, carefully moving in a half circle around to the other side of his opponent. This gave Dominic a clear view of every single fighter on the battlefield, giving himself a higher level of awareness as well as a clear path to run when he had the chance. First, the enlightened man had to die. He sunk into his stance again and waited for his opponent to make the first strike.
It came, as Dominic had expected, sweeping behind himself and up to strike down at Dominic's head. All Dominic had to do was shift his tip of his sword to the left, leaving the two men in a high bind above one another's heads. Dominic stepped forward and forced his opponent's sword down across Dominic's right side. With another step forward, Dominic shoulder checked the man, knocking him a couple of steps back. Dominic took the oprotunity and lunged forward, stabbing the man directly through the neck.
Instantly, the world's sounds boomed back into existence. The man fell with a hard thump. Part of the mob looked in astonishment. It was clear that the man who Dominic had faced was a skilled fighter, probably trained as an officer in the army. The ease at which Dominic was able to take down this man, probably someone who had been training this mob for some time in swordplay, caused the lines of this mob to rout. Dominic wouldn't have bother to chase after them if it weren't for the one man, who was obviously attempting to now take charge after the death of their other commander.
“Forget the Knight!” He shouted. “The men at the Inn will not be able to hold their lines forever. We need to take to the castle while the city guard is still distracted!”
Dominic's eyes widened and he attempted to chase after the mob. His armour didn't allow him the same mobility as the crowd though and he found himself lagging farther and farther behind. He wasn't going to be able to stop this mob, but he continued to pursue them anyway.

``````

Lazurus was beginning to feel better. He could walk without fearing collapse now, but he still propped himself up against the wall as he walked through the empty halls of the castle. A trail of blood followed his path across the wall. He tried to keep to the less patrolled parts of the castle as best he could, but that was only going to keep him safe for a while. Before turning a corner, he peeked by to see if there was anyone coming. After about the third hall, he started to hear shouts from another part of the castle. The sound of steel also rang through the halls.
Lazurus was unsure of what he was hearing. It left him weary of moving forward, but he had to. There was no chance in turning back now. The guards would find for sure and he'd be thrown into maximum security until the baby was born. He couldn't have that happen. He needed to get the baby back to Blackpond before it was too late. Without Ella's baby, everything would be for naught.
He pressed forward more, listening to the clash of metal on metal and stone. It was getting closer or was he just getting closer to it? He was afraid to find out.
Then, from behind him, he heard shouts. “There she is!” Lazurus slowly turned. He didn't have the energy to fight. He was going to lose this one. “Walden, get her back to her bedchambers and keep posted outside her door. Thanh, go find more guards to post outside the door. I'll join the fight.”
The three men ran their separate ways. Only one guard was was left to bringing him back to the bedroom. Did they know what happened in that room? Had they seen what she did to their guards, their friends? If they did, they would've likely left more than one guard to him.
“Move along.” Walden said, in a cold tone.
Lazurus decidedly didn't fight. He couldn't fight. He barely had the energy to keep from falling over. His escape was over. He had no chance whatsoever of escape now. Lamya wouldn't ever come to his rescue. That is, unless she flipped a coin and it just so happened to land on its side so she decided to do something out of the ordinary that day. Actually, who knew how that woman actually decided anything. It was intriguing to him, but nothing that he really bothered to ever understand.
“Hold on.” Walden said as they reached the end of the hall.
Lazurus stopped and sluggishly turned around. “What's the pr—”
Walden stood before Lazurus, with his sword pressed right up against Ella's protruding stomach. Walden's eyes wild with thought as he stared at the end of his blade.
“Do it.” Lazurus said so quietly that it was nearly inaudible. Walden's eyes softened a little when he did. The pressure of the sword lightened on his stomach. “Come on Walden. Do it. I've always wanted to meet Death. I want to know what she feels like. What she looks like, what she smells like, what she... what she tastes like. Most people run from the idea, but I lured towards it. My life ends soon anyways. I know that, but the closer I get to Her sweet kiss, the closer I get to blowing in anticipation.”
Walden took a step back. The blade was no longer pressing against his surrogate’s skin.
“I said do it!” Lazurus shouted. “I know why you want to do it. Killing the Demon of Newhaven would be seen as heroic in some circles. Even if it did mean sacrificing the Page bloodline. That matters very little. There have been several dynasties to rule over Newhaven in its history. Maybe you could find a ruler fit to rule instead of this indecisive girl you see standing before you. And who's to say that the child is going to be any better a ruler? Maybe, through some brilliant series of events you will end up on the throne. Just end the life of your prince, your queen, and the wretched thing that has sullied her and then who knows? Just do it.”
As his final sentence echoed through the halls, another sound cracked above it. Then a hard thud. Walden collapsed to the ground with a crossbow bolt jutting out of his back. Behind him, a small group of men in a hodgepodge of armour and weapons. They all looked down the hall, past the fallen man, every single one of them straightening up when they saw what was beyond Walden. As more men ran into the hall, they stopped with immediacy at the exact same spot that the rest of the group stood. They were saying things, but Lazurus couldn't make them out at that distance.
Finally, the man with the crossbow started walking towards Lazurus. Lazurus started walking towards the man too, which caused the man to flinch just the slightest. Lazurus, however, stopped at Walden. He bent down and pulled the arrow out. Blood soaked the tip and it slowly dripped down the shaft onto his hand. He moved it towards his face and took a deep breath in. “Have you ever wondered what Death tastes like?” Lazurus said to no one in particular.
“What?” He looked up to see the man with he crossbow right in front of him.
Lazurus dabbed his finger in the blood around the shaft and then placed his finger gently onto his tongue. “I imagine that she tastes like blood. But then, everyone's blood tastes different...”
Lazurus didn't even try to resist. The man with the crossbow tied him up and hoisted him over his shoulders.

The setting changes from newhaven to Blackpond

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Evin Bana Character Portrait: Dominic Adams Character Portrait: Jake Turner Character Portrait: Ella Page

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[Otium 18th, Morning]

Rita let her go. She watched Lamya walk out of the door and didn't do anything to stop her. It would be next to impossible to track her now. She'd let Rita find her if it was Lamya's desire. Now, Rita had one promise to rely on and a tip where she may find her. That was all she had to go from and there wasn't a reason to believe any of it. Lamya didn't believe in honesty. Honesty went against her code.

These thoughts of Lamya rushed through her head as she stood in front of the Blackpond war room. Alone; still, within the barren hallway that Rita had yet to decorate. No structure was in place for castle guards yet. The castle was empty for the most part, save for a motley crew of guards scattered along the castle's hall. This was one of many reasons why Rita and her war council had to have this meeting. Many things needed clearing up before Blackpond would be in working order again. Roles needed reassignment, laws needed rewriting, the nobility restructured. What Rita and her war council had in front of them was a difficult range of mountains the new rule had yet to surmount. It was what Blackpond needed. Rita took a deep breath before she pushed open the doors to let herself into the room.

A small council of five people were sitting at a table, pages tossed about the table with reckless abandonment. Each of the five stood upon Rita's entrance.
"Sit down, everyone. We're all equals in this room until we've established who the real leaders of Blackpond are. Let's get to it."
The room sat in silence for a moment, each person looking at one another for approval before taking their seats again. Rita found her seat and joined them at the table. Nothing she could do would prepare her for the long day of discussion that lay ahead.

The six people all looked around the room. Rita noted each expression and tried to make sense of where they were at. They were apprehensive. Some of them more than others. Some of them likely didn't want to be at this meeting, but they had no choice. Arcadius Trivelli, for example, was a military man, through and through. He wasn't much for diplomacy. The only time he felt comfortable sitting was when it was on the back of his spirited warhorse. Brute force in the face of adversity was his forté and while not always the answer, it still commanded respect.

After a prolonged silence Oswald Valkenburg was the first to speak. He was a patient man, choosing his moments with care. "What do we do now?" He asked. "The military campaign is over and the city is ours again. We fought, but we didn't place any thought on who would lead when this was over."

"Isn't that why we're here?" Brianna Westall said in reply. "To decide on a leader?"

Brianna was a formidable officer. She committed to risking everything to achieve her goals. Sometimes it scared Rita knowing how close to defeat Brianna would go in securing a victory, but she her methods never failed her. Some would call it crazy, but Rita saw it for what it was: abstract. For that reason alone, Rita saw Brianna's tactics as an asset.

"And I thought we were here to discuss religion. We can go beating around the bush all we want, but I think everyone in this room can agree. It's time to jump to the conclusion of this meeting. Rita will reject the idea vehemently for a couple of hours, but cave to it eventually. She's going to be our next Queen, it's only a matter of time before she realises this fact herself." Mayson Coffman proposed. He was the outspoken wit of Rita's army. Fun to have around but at times, a nuisance.

"I won't accept that. I'm not meant to lead a city. I struggle leading an army sometimes. The only reason I'm useful is because I can see the battlefield from a bird's eye view." Rita said.

"You took the city back," Oswald said.

"I was handed the city," Rita said.

"It doesn't matter, much, does it? Which one of us would be better at ruling the city? You were closest to the royals before the death of Rory. You would know better than any of us how this city should run." Arcadius said.

"I know next to nothing that went on in Rory's rule over the city. I was like one of you, an officer of Commander Hastings' army." Rita said.

"She's right, you know," said Korvin Strongwell, who had up until that moment, remained silent. "None of us are close to understanding how to run the city. With the fire from earlier this year, we no longer have the resources to learn for ourselves."

"You spend more time in that library than you do the battlefield. You're telling us that you've never read anything about City politics?" Arcadius asked flippantly.

Korvin edged his gaze towards Arcadius. Cool and collected, but direct with his intent. Rita shifted in her seat slightly. It was as if the room's lights had all flickered out at once. Although relaxed, Korvin was prone to bouts of energy that he would direct on his enemies. It was useful in battle but in a discussion, it was a deadly detriment.

"What an immense waste of time for a warrior to read of politics," Korvin said. Mayson scoffed but Korvin didn't skip a syllable as he continued. "I spent my time in the library reading through the largest collection of battle records known to Valcrest. Something a jokester such as you, Mayson, could find beneficial."

"Okay, let's settle down for a moment!" Brianna stepped in to defuse the conflict.

Oswald continued by saying, "let me get this straight. A group of assassins could run a city but we couldn't? I have a hard time believing that."

"This city wasn't a city while it was under their power. Their only means of political tactics were assassinations of any and all dissenters." Rita said.

"Surely that wasn't their only tactic. Why don't we speak to him; the guy that gave you the city?" Oswald asked.

The whole room looked to Rita. The suggestion was a promising one. One that could get insight into the workings of Blackpond from the people who ran it before them. They might have known more than the military leaders would. Surely they'd know more. Assassins had an air about them, making them look like they could achieve anything. That was the propaganda spread by the Wolves in their threatening days, which made them true shadows of any creed. All this told to her in the eyes of each of the five people looking at her for answers.

"After she gave me the city, she started to walk out the room. I told her that she wasn't going to leave this room alive. The crimes she committed against the city and it's people were too great to let pass. She turned around and before she could get another word out, I killed her." Rita said.

"Are you okay, Rita?" Mayson asked.

Rita looked down at her hands. She was grasping papers that were in front of her on the table. When she let go, the papers remained in their crumpled form, jumping off the table. Korvin and Arcadius rose from their seats and fumbled along the floor to grab the papers.

"I'm alright. My point is," she looked around the table, "she is no longer around. She can't help us." Both those statements were true. Lamya wasn't around and even if she were, she wouldn't be of any help. It was best to let the group believe she was dead than have them searching for the woman on their own. She hoped.

Briana chose this moment to interject. "It might be time for us to choose something new. Why not start with the six of us? We can rule the city as a collective. Making choices together, like we do on the battlefield."

"Because that worked well for us already."

"Enough of the unwanted comments, Mayson. The more people who are making decisions for the city, the better off we will be. We can shoot down stupid choices and discuss choices that don't have clear answers." Brianna continued.

"You suggest we vote on decisions; the six of us?" Oswald asked.

"Exactly."

"And if we split the vote?"

Brianna thought about it for a moment. "We have a seventh member. A swing vote."

"That sounds rather corruptable. The swing could side with one person on every issue. They'd become the de facto king or queen with all the power of the council."

"I don't know. What do you think, Rita?" Brianna asked.

"What?"

Rita hadn't been listening for the past couple of minutes. Her mind was elsewhere, looking down at the papers that she'd crumpled which Korvin and Arcadius did their best to decrease. Her mind leapt back to Lamya again. It was the same thing, over and over. She couldn't forget that Lamya was on the loose and what that meant for her and everyone around her. For anyone Lamya chose to cross paths with. No new thoughts were passing through her head. Not for the past day since she saw the woman last, but her mind fixated on it.

Now her lie made things complicated. She couldn't ask for help. She couldn't put Lamya on trial. Rita would have to settle things are her own, without the knowledge of her closest of advisors to help.

"We were wondering what you thought about us six making all the choices and voting on the matters. The only problem is that there are six of us and to have a single swing vote could prove to be disastrous." Korvin repeated.

"All we need is more than one swing vote," Rita said.

"Of course!" Mayson said.

"Shut up," Brianna said to defuse Mayson again.

"I'd say nine more people would be good. That would round us out to 15 people." Arcadius said.

"So a small council of 6 and then 9 more to make a large council of 15 that could vote when the small council is divided," Oswald said. "It sounds solid."

"Now comes to fun part," Mayson said with a sarcastic smile. "The fine details."

Mayson was right. The group sat in the room for the next two hours discussing how exactly this council system would work. They decided on how long each term would be. How the council would elect a new member when the term was over. They decided on who might fit the bill to be on the large council. By the time they finished, each member felt confident that the city was now in competent hands.


[Otium 18th, Midday] Raven's Nest

Jake had been told about Evin’s presence the day of his arrival but decided to keep his distance at first. They hadn’t actually spoken two words to one another in a long time, but as of late, he was constantly running into the man wherever he went. It made that silence heavier for some reason and, even though Jake didn’t know what he’d even have to say to Evin in the first place, he felt compelled to break it. He thought about what good could come of that, he thought it about it most of the night as he watched over Ess’ sleep, he thought it about it during his morning drills... And he had no idea. Matthew had made a comment about it maybe being a good idea having Evin there, but when Jake asked what he meant the man said they’d talk about it later, that it wasn’t time yet. Something in his words made Jake uneasy, but he pushed it aside for ‘later’, not much else to do about that. Jake had learned a long time ago that it was impossible to trick any information out of Matthew.

After lunch Jake left the mess hall and made his way to the little storage shed Evin had holed up in, knocking on the door and not awaiting a response before going in and closing it behind his back. “You know, there might something to be said about you kidnapping the queen, but... coming to think of it... Not the first time you stole the kid, is it? That’s not that surprising to me, but... You being here is, though. Never considered this to be a place you’d run to, regardless of how much you may trust the Captain.”

The storage shed Evin had found was an adequate space for living. He had managed to create a small bed for Ella using a broken table and some torn fabrics that he'd found. And while his hair was now covered in cobwebs, he had managed to occupy his time by organising the space to provide him with a little more space. The space, while cramped was just enough for Evin. Hardly enough for the monster hijacking Ella's body, though. In Ella's waking hours, Evin would listen to the constant complaints of the living conditions. It was hard to imagine that this person was skilled enough to do anything let alone steal a dying girl's body.
Evin was just about to use the new space he'd acquired to work out and train when he heard footsteps outside his door. A sudden dread raced through him. He'd have done his best to avoid it, but he knew that coming to the Nest, he'd be bound to face it. Before Jake even revealed himself, Evin seemed to know exactly who it was. He knew that the two of them could only go on avoiding each other for so long. This had to come to a head at some point. That point was now.
“Thank you for the reminder,” Evin said in reference to Ella. “When first I stole her, she was practically dead. This time, she's a corpse. I'd rather she be in my hands than in the hands of a young, headstrong resistance leader, though.” He paused to see if Ella was still sleeping. “I don't run from anything, Jake. I'm not like you. I came here because I couldn't tell you the first thing about birthing a child. I figure that it'd be best that Ella's child be born in the arms of my friends.”

“I find that hard to believe,” Jake spoke with a shrug, leaning against the wall beside the door and staring at the man a mix of amusement and veiled contempt. “Not that you’re nothing like me; that is much clear, but I highly doubt you don’t run from anything. I’m pretty damn sure that running into all the things you do on a regular basis is nothing more than a way to escape something. I can just picture you setting off explosions out there as a way to drown out your own thoughts.”

Jake’s gaze softened momentarily as he looked at Ella. The girl was gone. He had to remember that. Crys had said she was still there; weak, fading, but there. Even so, there was no saving Ella’s life. He didn't know the girl well, but if she was still enduring all this, he had to acknowledge; she was tougher at her core than she would ever be given credit for. “And then what?” He asked. “I’m assuming this child has a father, no?”

“The only thing I ever ran from is my best friend and I swore I'd never do that again. If that means I'm running from my true, cowardly self, then so be it. I don't drown out my thoughts. Some people I know might drown problems, but that's not me. I let my thoughts out. I'm honest with my feelings and I express them and I feel like my actions reflect that nicely.” Evin's gaze narrowed. He thought for a moment if he had ever punched Jake. He knew he'd done so in training, but that was hardly worth anything. A good punch, without warning or any real reason. Just bottled up frustration with the boy. While pleasurable, it would accomplish nothing. Evin relaxed just a little, placing his hands in his pockets as there was no better place to keep them contained.
“For all I know, the father's died the night I kidnapped her. That's a question for another time.” Evin closed his eyes and let out a loud, audible sigh. “Did you just come here to trade insults or is there a reason for this intrusive visit?”

Jake chuckled at Evin’s question. “Insults? Who’s insulting who here?” He asked, smirking at the man. “I am, whether either one of us likes it, the highest ranking Raven in this camp, Evin. So I’d consider you dragging kidnapped dying royalty in here to be much my business. Especially now.” He quietly rubbed the bridge of his nose, feeling an all too familiar sting of pain behind his eyes. “Pardon my intrusion, however. Are you comfortable? Can I get you anything?” He asked, lowering his hand and crossing both arms over his chest. “And surely, you’re a shining example of emotional stability; my apologies for implying otherwise. I honestly don’t know what could have given me that idea.”

Jake shook his head as if realising the amount of sarcasm that had come out of him at once and mentally scolding himself. “I don’t think it’s ever too early to start asking some questions. Who knows, if more questions were asked three years ago, maybe this kid wouldn’t have ended up where she is now; wherever that may be.”

Evin restrained himself for long enough. He did his best to contain himself when around Jake most times, but he could only hold back the seething anger he felt for so long. His eyes sparked a shining black and like a flash, his fist connected with Jake's jaw. Time raced back to its regular pace and that's when Evin began to feel the pain. It was more intense than usual. He keeled over as if he'd been punched in the gut himself. It was only after a few moments that he began to feel the pain in his fist. The punch wasn't proper. In his anger, he'd forgotten his technique. It was a dirty, street punch like none other that he'd given to someone. The pain he felt in his hand was satisfying in a way peculiar to Evin, but the pain in his stomach was disturbing. Reality seemed to snap back to him.
“We both want the same things yet somehow we devolve into this. You're a real ass, you know that?”

There was no time to react. Evin’s fist had connected before Jake could process what was happening and still; he couldn’t say he didn’t see it coming. The assassin’s punch had pushed Jake’s head against the wall behind him and left him with a lingering ache in the back of his head as well as his jaw. It wasn’t what Jake would call a proper punch by any means, but he would still be feeling it for a while. “Did you always want to be a Wolf, Evin? When I was a kid, I wanted to be a Knight. I thought knights protected people; I wanted to always be able to protect those around me.” Jake mumbled, sliding down the wall and sitting on the floor, rubbing his temples. “I never wanted to be a Wolf. Dani was one of two people I admitted that to at the time of my expulsion. She knew that I only came back; the only reason I would ever, was because Crys said she needed me...” Jake snorted softly. “And I’m always going to wonder, if part of the reason she sent me to Newhaven was to give me a way out, or if she just outright used me. Likewise, I’ll always be the one who killed her... You’re always going to be the guy who cut off a piece of my ear... Some things simply cannot be mended for the sake of any greater good. They are what they are.” Jake sighed. “Regardless, I meant what I said; about the kid. It’s not too soon to think about it, especially if the father’s gone. Ella’s mother put her in that orphanage to keep her safe. If not for The Shadow; for us, it might have worked.”

Jake went on about his life as if it were important. As if the fact that he chose to be a Knight was important. As if killing Dani was important and as if a superficial loss of his ear garnered importance. He was right, these were all things that couldn't be taken back. He spoke as if fate was a factor in all this. However, there was no merit to fate. “They are what they are,” Evin repeated.
“I never had the chance to not want to be a Wolf, Jake. I was a Wolf the moment that I was born into the camp. It wasn't something that I wanted or even something that I didn't want, for that matter. It was who I was. Through and through. Ella was the same. She was a Page and the Page family is royal. From the moment of her birth until her unnaturally long death, she's been royal. Hiding her in an orphanage didn't change that fact. Disguising her as a Wolf didn't change that either. And in the end, her death wasn't a consequence of any of these events. The events that happened in that ballroom lived in their own little world, Jake.”

“Pawns will be pawns... and Kings will be Kings... Like little pieces of a chess board, right? You can tell yourself that all you want, Evin. The world can tell itself that all it wants. I see how that’s reassuring. To strip choice from the equation, take away responsibility...” Jake laughed softly. “If Ella was always a Royal and nothing would change that, then why bring her to the forest, to begin with? Why train her in the first place if she was never going to truly be a Wolf? She was already a royal then, the only difference was no one knew. Dani said she had potential then. So, when people did know, did she change? Did all that potential die? I don’t want to throw this in your face, but I find it amusing that Sean was the one who fought for her to stay. And I’m not saying that would have been better, but I’m saying it was still an option.” Jake sighed, pushing himself to stand before the task became too difficult, swaying a bit in place. “You do what you have to, Evin, or find someone who will... I admit it’s not my business; not one bit, and this won’t be one of the many things keeping me up at night.”

“This girl was passed around her entire life. She went from castle to orphanage, back to the castle, to the dungeons, to the Wolves, to another dungeon before finally, she found her way back to the castle. Only once did she ever have a choice in the matter of where to go. Ella could have stayed with the Wolves. She could have chosen to go off and live a normal life, too. If she wanted to, she could have. I was her mentor. You know what happened to Owen. Did you just expect me to leave her with the man who’d just admitted to attempting to kill Crys? I gave her to Ria and then Ella chose to go to Newhaven instead of the desert. Ella was like the daughter I nev--”
“How sweet.” The young voice of the girl who Evin had thought was sleeping said. “You didn’t kidnap Ella to keep the baby safe, did you? You just want to hold onto your precious baby girl a little longer.”
“Now is not the time to be aggravating me.” Evin retorted.
“Oh, or what? You’ll hit me like you did to the jackass over there? I’d dare you to punch your precious little pregnant girl.”

“Evin, might not be able to, but I would, so I suggest you shut it.” Jake warned, not seeming at all fazed by the interruption and continuing to address Evin as though ‘Ella’ had never spoken. “I understand the facts, Evin. And that’s exactly the point. Ella’s life was mostly driven by desperation; her mother left her out of desperation, we dragged her to the forest to save her life, the White Knights were after her in some desperate attempt to restore order to Newhaven... By the time she had any choice, how was she expected to know what she wanted or who she even was? However there is a chance here to do for this child what was never done for her and, if there truly is no longer a father, maybe you and Captain should discuss this amongst yourselves. If anyone cared about that girl as much as you, it’s her. Think about it.”

“Are you suggesting I raise the child? I’m too old for it, Jake. Ria’s close to being too old for it. Hell, I’m nearing 38 now. When that child’s matured, I’ll be nearing my 60’s. As stressful as my life is now, I couldn’t do it. We couldn’t do it.” Evin said. Then he chuckled. “Who knows, I might not even make it past next month with all things considered.”
“It’s amazing that you brought me all this way without a plan,” Ella said, the tone mocking.
“There is another reason I’m here,” Evin said, ignoring the fact that he was being mocked. “I’m following leads on a person. He goes by the name of Wyatt. Seems to have been involved with Xypher in attempting to remove Ria from Newhaven. He also seems to know that I’m looking for him. Following me in bars, assassinating people who may have known about him. It almost reminds me of Perry in a way. It almost scares me how similar they are.”

Jake was silent for a few moments, a goofy look of amusement spreading across his features as he was clearly trying to imagine Evin and Mageria teaming up to raise a baby. While he managed to burst out laughing he did chuckle briefly. “Look, all I’m saying is that when a child loses both parents it should be up to their closest family to decide their fate. Whether or not the child’s mother was Queen shouldn’t change that. The fact of the matter is, you and Captain are the closest to a family this kid’s gonna have, so whatever is decided, you should at least decide together.” He shrugged.

Jake continued to ignore the necromancer, Evin’s mention of the name Wyatt peaking his interest. “Wyatt? That’s odd. Ali mentioned meeting a Wyatt at the ball in Blackpond. She described him as a redhead teenager, said he was in the company of this blonde couple and the woman seemed to be trying to kidnap Donovan. She distinctly remembered warning Ryan about them.”

Evin was interested, but not captivated by Allison’s encounter with a Wyatt. The description didn’t seem to fit what he was looking for. A teenager wouldn’t have the influence or skills to do what the Wyatt Evin was looking for could. The Wyatt he was looking for was a killer who had a way with words. That much, Evin could infer. How common of a name was Wyatt? He couldn’t think of any other Wyatt’s that he knew. The thief, Lionel likely used the name for himself because of its obscurity.
“I’m not sure if it’s the same Wyatt, but I’ll keep it in mind.”
Evin looked over to Ella again for a moment. She was twitching. It wasn’t an uncommon sight. Every once in awhile, the host would seem to disappear into Ella’s body and then the convulsions would start. Evin wasn’t quite sure what was going on but figured he wouldn’t worry himself over it too much.
“He can’t hear us right now,” Evin said, motioning to Ella. “If you want to say it… or anything for that matter, now would be the time.”

“It’s probably not the same, no, but maybe this person has some connection to your Wyatt. I mean, it’s plausible the man isn’t working alone. By your own comparison, I’m still not convinced The Shadow didn’t have people backing him. Impressive as his manipulative skills were, no one impersonates a king for that long without someone noticing.”

Jake stared at Ella’s twitching form, pondering Evin’s words. Some things were probably best left unsaid. Left alone. Buried. He sighed. “I went by the Wolves camp while they were preparing Sean for burial... I did promise him I’d return his knife after all... The clan seems to be falling behind Donovan now. I’m not sure whether it’s official yet, but... Suppose he’s just as good a candidate for Alpha as the next guy. The Pack and I will likely never be in good terms again, considering what I’ve done, but for the rest of you, the animosity hopefully died with Sean.”

Evin nodded his head at Jake. It was true, Sean’s death marked the end of many things to many people. To Evin, it marked the end of his connections with the Wolfpack. Everyone who kept him to the Wolfpack was either dead or had defected. Everything that Evin had built his life on was now completely unaffiliated with the Wolfpack. All his friends, companions, rivals, and associates were now bigger than what the Wolfpack had become. “I see cooperation in the future for the two of us. As long as you can keep yourself from killing my good friends, I think we can make this work. The past did die with Sean. I think it’s time to start anew.”

Jake couldn’t help but arch an eyebrow at Evin’s words about the past dying with Sean. It sounded unusually optimistic to him coming from Evin, but he wasn’t going to bring that up or argue the man’s statement. There’d be no point. He just nodded along instead. “That seems fair, I guess,” he answered calmly, rubbing his aching jaw as he took his leave.

------------------

Simon didn't bother wondering too far from where Jake had left him. There wasn't anything that he was after in the Raven's Nest. Simon's goal was singular. The campsite was just a resting spot until the opportunity arose and he was in no particular hurry rise. Nothing rushed him to complete his task. As long as he had the dagger, Simon didn't have to worry. His only worry rested with the wolf.

Simon didn't dislike dogs. He wasn't so sure about wolves. That wasn't what bothered him about his new companion, though. It all came down to Simon's pride. To have to be babysat by a dog brought Simon back to childhood when dogs would be used as a way to ensure Simon's safety from himself. When mother couldn't bother to take care of him, the family dog was always there to make sure Simon was safe. Now, many years later, Simon found himself in a similar position before. The only relief being that in Simon's metaphor for treating him as a child, Jake was Simon's mother. An amusing thought, but meaningless beyond Simon's headspace. The worry of the dog in itself was a meaningless thought which meant Simon could continue on, not caring for his predicament.

It was a spacious little area which Simon had been brought. By all means, one could almost call this encampment a town. It functioned much like any other town, except for the limitations to who may enter said camp. It was a military base before anything else, less involved in their previous obligations to Newhaven than before. Their obligations were elsewhere, now. Where they were, Simon couldn't discern from his limited view. He could have slipped into the various people's minds as they rushed by him. Maybe they could give him some insight. Did he care for insight? What would it gain him? It was possible that he'd gain nothing but at the same time, it was possible that he gained valuable information. It was also a waste of his time. What else would I do with my time?

Simon was right. There wasn't anything worthwhile to do in the camp. With the risk of a misstep resulting in a face ripped apart by a wolf, Simon preferred to stay on the safe side. It would be straightforward to get away with slipping into other people's minds unnoticed. The use of Simon's enlightenment was unassuming on most occasions.

There was a large rock propped by a tree. He ushered Rick to stand by the rock while Simon sat against the rock. He closed his eyes and when he opened them, he'd become attuned to the thoughts of the people around him. Most prevalent were the thoughts of Rick, deprived of logic and filled with depravities Simon preferred not to focus on. Broadening his thought, he started to catch glimpses of the people closest to him. A woman who was looking for her husband. A man who couldn't grasp the concept of swimming in the nearby river. Children hoping no one would catch them sneaking into the armoury to get a close look at all the interesting weapons. A conversation where two were dancing around the real talking points. And a mind all too familiar.

Simon snapped out of it. All the intrusive thoughts around him disappeared. He leapt off the ground, searching his surroundings for a specific face. The wolf growled, looking up at Simon with teeth bared and hair at attention. Simon settled back into the rock but didn't take his gaze off the wolf for one moment. While keeping a close eye on the wolf, he started to focus his thoughts again, looking for the familiar thoughts again.

It didn't take Simon long at all to focus back into the thought. To find where it was coming from wasn't all too difficult, either. He was just across the river and a couple dozen feet away from the person he was looking for.

"I never expected to find a mind so familiar to me when I ended up here. How did you end up here?" Simon asked the mind.

"I was kidnapped." The mind replied. "And you?"

Simon thought about that for a moment. Why would the Ravens feel a need to kidnap the queen from Newhaven? It wasn't a particular matter for him.

"I found Rick, but I also ended up finding the Black Knights. I have something now I've been put on quite a tight leash."

"You're going to give it to Vorso like you were instructed?" The mind asked.

"No," Simon said

"So you'll give it to Lamya?"

"I wouldn't give Lamya my socks."

"This isn't the smart thing to do, Simon. You're just going to abandon the Conflict like that?"

"The Conflict has never been a single entity. We are just a group of opportunists. Vorso, Lamya... you."

"I'm winning the war for Blackpond. I'm the closest thing to the Conflict's original purpose than anyone in this group is."

"Don't play me that way. I know more about you than you can ever comprehend. I know what you want better than you do." Simon said.

"I want Blackpond to win the war."

"Ella's an interesting woman. There's an interesting chapter about her in a book stored away somewhere in the White Shadows' archives. Myths of Medicine. You went to the archives that one time when Rory had us do reconnaissance, didn't you? How old were we again? Fifteen? Do remember what chapter it was? Don't hurt your brain, I know you don't but if you want, I could unlock that memory for you."

"You know, I never liked you."

"I know. To be frank, I don't care what you do. I don't care what any of you Valcrestians do as long as you aren't getting in my way."

Simon cut off the contact with the mind. Paying attention to reality again, he looked across the river to where the mind had come from. It was a small supply shed. From out the door, Jake walked out into the open. He thought about playing with Jake. Invading his mind and asking him why the Queen was in the camp. He decided against it. There was no need to provoke Jake anymore than he was already.

He looked back down to the wolf that was before him. Not having a particular need to provoke it, either, he decided to go off to find some food.


[Otium 18th, Evening] Blackpond

Rita looked around the room of Blackpond's new council. All fifteen members were now in the room. Present to hear what they were being offered. She knew some of them may reject their position and it was their right to do as they please. Every one of the people in the room was once a member of Rita's army. Most of them were competent generals and officers but there was an unlikely few that had been faceless soldiers to Rtia a short time before. They'd only had their chance to join the Large Council by recommendation of the new Small Council members who'd helped iron out Blackponds new political structure. It was important to have a mixture of people unknown to all of the Small Council Members. It allowed for diversity of opinions and was something Rita hoped would be beneficial to Blackpond's success from this point forward.

"We've spent the entire day discussing at great lengths what needs to be done to make this work. I can't guarantee that it will work and I'm sure we will run into problems but this is how things are going to be. The Small Council will consist of the six people who have been in discussion over the past ten hours. Those people are Oswald Valkenburg, Korvin Strongwell, Mayson Coffman, Brianna Westbrook, Arcadius Trivelli, and Ritania Lavoie-Hastings. The rest of you will sit on the Large Council if you so choose. Feel free to leave. We will find a replacement. If you wish to stay, we'll be discussing what your roles shall be in this new government."


[Otium 19th, Midnight] Not far from Blackpond

Dominic sat upright in his bed. He had been staring at the wardrobe in the corner of the room for what seemed like an hour now. It's bland features started blending into the wall as Dominic drifted in and out of conscious thought. For brief moments, he would be interrupted by the sound of Conrad or Wyatt turning in their sleep only to be drawn back to the corner of the room where he would continue to mindlessly drift through his thoughts.

There was no reason that Dominic was doing this. He was tired, but couldn't really sleep. He thought maybe it had something to do with Ella or possibly with the thought of Newhaven being crippled from the inside by revolutionaries. That wasn't the reason Dominic had trouble sleeping, though. He had moments like this before. Moments where he knew that he was facing a certain level of danger. It was the night before a battle. He'd only experienced it when he was certain that he was going to fight. This time, there was no sign that a fight was near.

"You can't sleep either?"

Dominic jumped to his feet but sat back down when he saw Wyatt adjusting himself upright in his bed. "No."

Wyatt didn't reply. He just stared back at Dominic. He supposed Wyatt expected him to continue his thoughts. Dominic went back to staring at the corner of the room, but he continued to look back at Wyatt who was just staring at Dominic. No real expression was on his face and he didn't seem at all willing to continue the conversation himself. Dominic let out a sigh.

"I've this feeling in my gut," Dominic said. "Can't place my finger on it."

"Do you suppose--"

"I can't place my finger on it."

Wyatt sluggishly slipped out of his bed. He walked into Dominic's vision, jolting Dominic out of his trance with the wall in front of him. "I was going to ask, do you suppose that it has something to do with the fact that even if you reclaim Ella from her assassin captor that she's practically dead anyway? At least, by all accounts, it sounds like she's a dead girl walking."

"No." Dominic paused for a moment but remembered that attempting to end this conversation was just leading to more anxiety. He continued. "I didn't become a knight to save the queen. I did it to preserve Sun and Moon's vision when they created Newhaven."

"And you know that vision?" Wyatt said.

"I wish I knew the exact answer to that. Have you ever felt that there is something bigger than you that you must achieve without knowing how to get there?"

"Long ago, yes," Wyatt said.

"You're just a kid. No older than Ella, at least. What would you know about, 'long ago'?" Dominic said.

Wyatt rolled his eyes at Dominic like anyone his age might do to someone undercutting their thoughts based on their age. Dominic didn't want to get into an argument with a kid over something like this, so he just avoided the question altogether. "I just know that Sun and Moon had a vision. If they didn't they wouldn't have created Newhaven to begin with. I'm fairly certain that Newhaven isn't nearly what it was like when Sun and Moon created it. Valcrest isn't anything that it was then, I imagine."

"I suppose you're right. That's what you're gut is telling you?"

"It has nothing to do with that. You asked me if it had to do with Ella and we got on this tangent. Like I said, I wasn't sure what my gut was telling me when you started this conversation and that fact hasn't changed in the last five minutes that we've been spent talking." Dominic said.

"Sorry. Does it have anything to do with the group that's been following us since we left Newhaven?"

"What?" Dominic asked.

"The five men that have been following us. You haven't noticed them. I don't think they're after us if that's any consolation. If I were to make a guess, I'd say that they're after something like us. Maybe they're hoping we'll lead them to it? I'm not sure, but that's what I'd do if I were them. They'll likely try to get the jump on us just before we reach our goal."

Dominic had gotten out of his bed while Wyatt was talking. He'd walked over to the window, next to Conrad's bed. Just a dirt path. What did he expect at that time of night? Across the road, there was another house not unlike the one that the three of them were staying in for the night. Dominic caught a glimpse of something on the roof. He peered towards it and then another movement caught his attention. A curtain in the window across the way ruffled a bit as a hand pushed open a window. He then caught a man coming from around the side of the house. He opened the front door. from behind the shadows of the door, Dominic caught a familiar flash. He ducked as the window he'd been staring out of shattered. A thud behind him. The wardrobe behind him splintered and a crossbow bolt stuck itself deep into the wood. Dominic looked back up through the window. He just caught a leg crawling through the window from the house across the way.

"What the hell is going on!" Conrad shouted. He'd already gotten out of bed, hardly clothed and brandishing his weapons that he'd left leaning against his bedside table.

Dominic didn't reply. Another crossbow bolt came flying through the window. This time, it whizzed just past Dominic's ear. He rushed out of the room, to the ground level where he'd left his weapon. Conrad followed not too far behind. Dominic didn't bother to check to see if Wyatt had followed them, too. Dominic busted through the door. Two men were standing there. Waiting for him. Dominic brandished the tip of his blade directly at one of the men in a threatening stance, but he didn't strike. He had more honour than to strike an unarmed opponent, even given their threatening nature.

The man didn't flinch. He stood there, almost stoic. "I don't mean to be so threatening. I only wish to show off my group's talents. We aren't after the queen and we aren't after you. We're after a man whose betrayed our cause and it just so happens that he's gone in the same direction as your queen's abductor. Would you at all be opposed to a tentative partnership?"

Dominic looked behind the man. His attackers had dropped all their weapons and slipped out of the shadows. He then looked back at Conrad and Wyatt who were just behind him.

"I'm not sure what you're angle is," Dominic said. He was weary of these men for good reason but it wouldn't be the first time that a Black Knight had worked with dubious and deceitful people. He'd already picked up Wyatt, who still wasn't too clear about his motives. "I suppose we can at least talk about it. Come in."