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Jake Turner

"There is no truth, only perception."

0 · 794 views · located in Raven's Nest

a character in “Shadows of The Forgotten”, as played by Blackbird26

Groups

Former Black Guard

Description

General Information

Full Name: Jacob Allen Turner

Nicknames/Aliases: Jake, Jakey (only Ess and Crys are allowed to call him that), Blue Eyes (by Ess, as a child), Pretty Boy (by some of his fellow Ravens), Jakey-Bear/J-Bear/J.B (by Luckas), Stupid Boy (by Lena), Kid (by Bastian)

Age: 24 (date of birth: Otium 12, 2532)

Gender: Male

Sexual Orientation: Straight

Place of Birth: City of Blackpond, Valcrest

Affiliation: Black Knights of Newhaven (aka: The Ravens)

Rank: Knight

Important Associates: Crystal Rivers (love interest/girlfriend/better half/reason for living), Kaya (Part-time wolf companion/snuggle buddy/baby practice), Irvin Grant (friend/apprentice), Captain Mageria Talsheir (superior/friend), Sham (fellow Raven/friend), Aiden Cross (fellow Raven/‘bro’), Sophie and Bran (fellow Ravens/friends/‘wonder twins’), Allison Blake (friend), Sheila (just a friend/really they’re just friends/and absolutely nothing else), Dastan Shaykh (friend/temporary rival/kinda sorta annoys him sometimes), Luckas (psychopathic nuisance), Evin Bana (hostile frenemy/ally by proxy)

Known Family: David Benjamin Turner (father, deceased age 37), Linda Gyselle Hayes-Turner (mother, deceased age 32), Jessica Marie Turner (older sister, deceased age 18), Helena Turner (aunt, deceased age 50), Anne Turner (cousin), Essence Talon (adopted sister), Darren Hearst (adopted nephew/buddy).

Main Theme: Rev Theory - Ten Years

Theme Song 02: Lifehouse - Storm (Acoustic)

Theme Song 03: Papa Roach - Carry Me (Acoustic)

Theme Song 04: Rev Theory - Slowburn (Acoustic)

Theme Song 05: Keane - Somewhere Only We Know (Acoustic)

Appearance

Body: Jake is 1,87m tall (6.14ft I think. Online converters are stupid). He has an athletic build, not as bulky as most knights, but stronger than the average ‘nimble rogue’ type. Jake is very agile; used to climbing buildings and trees, light, and quick on his feet. He is also a very powerful fighter; used to fighting close range, if not empty handed, and can land very brutal and precise blows if he truly means to harm or kill an opponent.

Face: Jake has lightly tanned skin, a square shaped face, strong jaw, and is actually quite handsome when he cleans up a bit. Most of the time though he looks about five years older than he actually is due to his unkempt stubble and dark under his eyes; a product of his insomnia. His scar and other facial injuries (upon close inspection one can notice his nose has been broken at least a couple of times), despite not actually detracting from his good looks, have earned him the playful nickname of ‘pretty boy’ amongst some of his fellow Ravens.

Eyes: Jake’s eyes are naturally very blue and his most distinctive feature. They seem to glow even brighter moments before his enlightenment is triggered and a few seconds afterwards.

Hair: Jake’s hair has been a matter of debate ever since he was a child when he would usually argue and struggle before allowing his sister to cut it. Now a grown man, Jake lets his black wavy locks grow wild until almost shoulder length, but not quite, ignoring Crys’ complaints that it’s too long and makes him ‘look like a hobo’. While it’s true that it’s a bit difficult to get it to not look disheveled, Jake believes it adds to his charm.

Scars/Tattoos/Birthmarks: Jake has a scar that runs vertically over his left eye. He is also missing the top of his left ear (a trait usually concealed by his hair). It is rumores he has a scar on his butt, but someone is yet to get confirmation from him; or Crys, on whether that is in fact the truth. He has no tattoos at this point.

Clothes: Jake wears the black and dark grey colors of the Ravens: simple shirts and pants, sturdy black leather boots, a hooded cloak and light leather armor; if any. Jake left his Black Knight armor behind in Newhaven Castle when he first abandoned the squad and upon his return stated that he would never wear it again. Despite that, and despite donning his “rogue getup” most of the time, he is known to sometimes wear his Newhaven Guard tunic under his cloak; all black with a crescent moon embroidered on the left side of the chest in silver thread. He wears an ornament made of black feathers on his belt, as do most of his fellow Ravens.

Reference image:

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Skills and Talents

Enlightenment: Jake can make himself and/or anything he touches invisible at will. However, the illusion can be shattered should Jake get himself, or the object being concealed, wet. Under normal circumstance there is no limit to how long Jake can maintain invisibility and he can use it not only to hide himself, or his weapons, but to see through doors and walls.

Other Skills: Jake has extensive knowledge of anatomy, poisons, antidotes, and herbology in general. His assassin training combined with his enlightenment makes him a stealth master and a valuable asset for spy work as he can get in and out of places silently and with considerable ease. He’s also trained with multiple types of blades, throwing weapons, and hand to hand combat. He is also a good dancer and is said to have a really nice singing voice. It also seems that he has the gift of constantly infuriating temperamental redheads and somehow not getting stabbed in the face by any of them.

Personality

Personality

General: Jake is, for lack of better terms, an adorable jerk. When in a good disposition he’s just one big sweetie; outgoing, friendly even with strangers unless given reasons otherwise, a genuinely loyal and caring friend and just one giant cuddly teddy bear when it comes to his adopted sister or the children that reside in the Ravens’ camp. Despite the fact that he can be a temperamental, stubborn, overbearing, self-righteous, hypocritical... Asshole, it’s impossible to deny he is each and every one of those things with the absolute best of intentions, often in protection or defense of someone he cares about. He is especially protective of the women in his life and is unlikely to tolerate any threats or disrespect towards them.

The loss of his older sister at the young age of ten is what has instilled Jake with a great need to protect those around him. However the same need is also what led Jake to make some bad decisions and unwittingly hurt some of his loved ones by either attempting to leave them behind or actively pushing them away. Not to mention his blatant disregard for his own safety has caused them all a fair share of grief. It may have taken him a bit too long, but he’s slowly realizing that some of these habits have caused more harm than good and is determined to break them; which has proven quite a difficult task for him to accomplish alone. With help, however, he’s made some considerable progress.

Phobias: Jake has no known phobias

Likes: Cinnamon cookies, people, animals, music, dancing, his friends, quiet time with Crys, poison making, books,

Dislikes: Threats or disrespect to his friends, arrogance, mind games, politics, disloyalty.

Odd Behaviors and Habits: Jake has the habit of touching the golden locket around his neck, or the golden chain it hangs from when upset or nervous. He also tends to hum a certain lullaby when he can’t sleep or thinks no one is listening.

Equipment

Equipment

Weapons: Jake has a sword nearly identical to Crystal’s (it belonged to her father’s brother); it was gifted to him when he completed his assassin training. He rarely uses it for fighting, but carries it with him always. He also has a pair of long dagger, set of throwing knives and a tiny golden dagger he carries in a sheath at his ankle. His boot are also rigged with hidden blades laced with poison (sleeping poison on the left, deadly on the right). His most used weapon are black metal throwing darts/needles. He carries over fifty of them on his person at all times, laced with different types of poison.

Other Items: Jake carries Jessica’s locket around his neck at all time. He rarely parts with it.

History

TO BE UPDATED

So begins...

Jake Turner's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Crystal Rivers Character Portrait: Dastan Character Portrait: Indrani Nayar Character Portrait: Luckas Character Portrait: Jake Turner Character Portrait: Annie Turner Character Portrait: Allison Blake

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The sun came up in Valcrest once more. Allison’s eyes were closed, waiting for the sounds of the camp below to fill her ears; Dastan going on about not knowing where he left an object the night before, Indrani complaining about some mess someone surely had made while intoxicated, people walking and wishing others “good morning” as they passed. Eyes still closed, the assassin felt the engravings on the silver ring she was holding. The ring had been delivered to the desert by a seven year old worker. Sean probably thought not even Evin would have it in him to harm the little girl, Allison didn’t know, the man wasn’t present at the time, and she knew that she had fought the urge to send the worker’s corpse back to Sean in pieces. She didn’t touch the kid, it wasn’t her fault after all, but the thought of Sean made her feel a level of anger she hadn’t experienced in a couple of years. She thought she’d put that part of herself to rest, but her former colleague seemed to know exactly what to do to awaken it.

“Allison!” A voice called down in the distance.
Ali opened her eyes to see a mercenary waving with both arms in the direction of the tower the young assassin was looking down from. He couldn’t see her there at that distance, but everyone knew that if Ali wasn’t on a job and wasn’t in plain sight, she was on top of the watch tower. It had become her favorite place, much like the lake once used to be, back in the forest.

Quickly she climbed down into the ruins of the Fire Temple, and walked out of the building in the direction of the mercenary who had called her name. It only took a few minutes for the young woman to get from the top of the construction to the ground, but the man didn’t seem surprised as the girl reached him, a gentle smile crossing her face. “Jackson.” She greeted. “How did the hunt go?” She asked him, still smiling until she caught the look in the man’s eyes.
Jackson shook his head. “We lost Lionel. One moment he was right behind me, the next he was gone.” The man heaved a sigh. “Then, next we knew, we heard this… Noise; like something dropping, and when we all turned to look his body was lying dead on the trail. They killed Lionel.”
Ali sighed. “Those bastards…” She took the time to guard the ring, which she still held firmly, into her pocket. “Have you told Indrani about it yet?”
“No. Not yet.” The man mumbled staring at his feet. Then he raised his head and gave her a weak smile. “I managed to shoot a rabbit though.”
Ali chuckled, resting a hand on the man’s shoulder. “That’s really good, Jack. I’m impressed, rabbits are fast little buggers.” She said, attempting to cheer the man up a little.
“So they are.” The man agreed. Then, tilting his head to one side and giving her a playful smirk, the mercenary reached out and ran one finger down the bridge of her nose, which was red due a sun burn. “You’re a sensitive little forest creature, aren’t ya?” He provoked. “Can’t really remember the last time your face wasn’t red. Or maybe it’s just my charm…” He stated.
Ali rolled her eyes in annoyance and gave the man a gentle push away from her. “I see that you’re feeling better now.”
“Why, yes, but there are faster ways of cheering a guy up.” He replied, winking at her.
Ali sighed. “Isn’t your throat sore yet?”
Jackson looked at her in confusion. “What?”
“You know, from all this barking up the wrong tree you’ve been doing lately.” She replied smirking.

Jackson had opened his mouth to reply, but was cut off by another Crimson that had come running towards them at full speed, tripping over everything. The man stopped, took one breath and exclaimed in overly-excited tone. “Dastan wants everyone available to go to the training area! He’s going to fight Crys!” He grabbed each of them by the shoulder and exclaimed in much more excited tone and in one single breath: “Whatareyoupeoplewaitingfor?!” That said, he ran straight to the training area. Ali and Jackson stood for a second, and then the two of them ran to the training field themselves, as fast as they possibly could. The excitement was for a reason: For over two years Dastan and Crys had been training in there, and every time Dastan would forbid anyone to go near the training area “not to interfere with concentration”. Now he was asking people to go there… This would certainly be entertaining.

As they arrived at the training field a small crowd her gathered, and now Ali understood why Dastan had done that; Crys looked extremely uncomfortable by the amount of people all around her. She looked slightly… Suffocated; her face was pale and her hands were shivering.

“Aright!” Dastan exclaimed. “Shut your mouths and just watch, don’t make me kick ya sorry butts outta here!”
Ali took a seat on the top of a nearby boulder, immediately going silent and watching Crys carefully as she began to take deep breaths to concentrate.
“What’s she doin’? Jackson whispered next to her.
“She’s ignoring us.” Ali stated “Or trying to at least.”
Jackson chuckled. “I betcha the blind girl is going to be eating sand in a moment.” Jackson stated. “My last pay against yours, watcha say blondie?” He asked offering a hand shake.
Ali gave the mercenary a suspecting glance before shaking his hand. “Fine.” Then she looked back to the arena to see that Dastan had sat on the ground. “Now, what is he doing?” She mumbled.
“Heh, heh.” Jackson chuckled. “You haven’t seen Shaykh’s enlightenment yet? Oh, what fun!”

“Wha-?” Ali’s questioning was interrupted by Indrani’s voice on the other side of her.
“He’s using Jon on her? That’s a little too much.” She stated.
“Jon?” Ali turned to Indrani with a completely confused expression. Indrani, however, simply nodded towards the arena. Ali turned her eyes to see the shadow figure that had appeared standing before Crys, holding replicas of Dastan’s weapons in its hands. His exact silhouette, his own shadow; materialized and alive, or at least animated. “Holy shit.” She mumbled watching as Crys pulled her Katana and took a stance. “Is he controlling it?” She asked, watching Dastan as he sat there, his eyes turned completely black.
Indrani chuckled. “Not quite. I mean, in a way you can say Jon has a mind of its own. He has free will even, unless Dastan gives him a direct order. Dastan tells me that, in reality, it is only a fragment of his own personality. So Jon is a version of Dastan, only fully rational and void of emotion; which means he won’t hesitate to kill Crystal.”
Ali’s eye widened as she watched the shadow advance towards Crys slowly, step by step. “Void of emotion?”
“Yes.” Indrani confirmed. “He also feels no pain and cannot be killed. I mean, it’s a shadow. The only way to stop Jon is knocking Dastan unconscious. So I assume her goal is to reach him.”
“How long can he keep it animated?” Ali asked, now unable to keep her eyes from the shadow figure as it circled Crys.
“His record is three days, but it almost killed him.” Indrani answered, a hint of excitement concealed in her tone.
“I’m going back on that bet.” Ali stated.
“Nah, blondie.” Jackson grinned. “You shook on it, a deal is a deal.”
“Damn it.” She muttered.

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“Are you ready?” Dastan had asked as he sat down on the sand. “Once I summon him there’s no turning back.”
“Sure. What is another beating? If I didn’t know any better I’d think he enjoys it.”
Dastan chuckled slightly. “That’s me you’re sensing there, Red.”
“Figured.” Crys stated, drawing her Katana and readying herself for an incoming strike. In the past two years, she had gone back to the very basics of her training: Using her senses instead of her enlightenment. Dastan’s enlightenment was the perfect aid; a “living” opponent with no emotions. Not only that, that shadow was completely silent, the only way to fight that thing was on raw instinct. Something she had come to develop. The progress had finally reached a point where they could take it one step further: Relying on her senses despite her enlightenment. The level of excitement of their little audience was more than enough to give Crys uncomfortable shivers. Soon enough, she felt the shadow’s presence circling her, it was difficult to explain… She could feel the movement on her skin... It was just cold.

Finally, she took a single step towards Dastan, immediately being forced to dodge the incoming hits. She slashed at the shadow, but it didn’t even slow it down; she had forgotten how useless it was to attack it. The more the fight progressed the more the excitement and tension grew around her… Such an overwhelming feeling…

“Shit!” Crys muttered as the shadow’s dark blade nicked her face. Her mind was drifting off, that couldn’t happen. Again, it nicked her. Again! Finally, she fell with her back to the ground, immediately rolling over to avoid the blade aimed directly at her head. Jumping to her feet she felt a hand grab her ankle. “Oh, crap.” She exclaimed, feeling the pull knocking her down again, face down on the sand, which was immediately followed by the weight of a knee on her back and a hand forcing her head down in to the sand; causing her to suffocate. She heard Indrani’s voice somewhere calling Dastan’s name, asking him to stop it. However, she didn’t succumb to the overall sensation of fear around her. She reached for a throwing knife in her belt, tried to pinpoint where Dastan was sitting and threw it at him. It must have worked because the weight holding her down disappeared and she managed to get on her hands and knees, coughing and spitting out sand. “Son of a bitch! I hate that damn thing!” She shouted after finally catching a breath.
Dastan laughed out. “You didn’t completely embarrass yourself, Red. Productive, but you only managed to break my concentration. I could have brought it back to finish the job.” He stood in front of her and offered his hand. “It was great progress though.”

As Crys got on her feet, wiping the sand of her hands and face, suddenly she lifted her head with the expression of someone who had felt an enormous chill down their spine.
“What’s the matter?” Dastan asked. “Crys… Are you listening to me?”
“It’s just not possible.” She mumbled, walking past Dastan and out of the arena.

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“Ha!” Jackson exclaimed. “Face down on the dirt like I said! Pay up!”
Allison was barely paying attention to him though; she pulled a bag of coins and dropped in his lap. “Here take it.” She mumbled, watching as Crys pulled a knife and tossed it in Dastan’s direction, missing him, but causing him to lose concentration. The shadow faded and Crys was able to breathe. When Ali looked around, she noticed Indrani had left. “Where did she go?” She asked Jackson.
“The scouts spotted travelers headed this way from the south. Indrani went to greet them and see what they want. It’s her duty and all.”

Ali chuckled hearing Crys shout that she hated the shadow, but her smile shut when she saw the look on her friend’s face as she walked away. It was completely unrelated to the training… Something had happened, something important.

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[The Ruins – White Shadows encampment]

It was a beautiful morning in the plains. A soft breeze was blowing and spreading the smell of flowers and tea throughout the encampment. Annie was sitting in her tent staring at a sealed envelope, waiting on her cousin to show up; as she had asked him to the night before. Jake had argued with her about what she wanted him to do, but there was no other way to go about it. She couldn’t possibly afford to send a healer as far as Newhaven.

The girl smiled brightly as she heard footsteps walking towards the tent. As Jake walked in, she had a cup of tea waiting for him. The man gave her an annoyed look as he sat in front of her. “No.” He stated simply, accepting the tea cup, but not drinking.
“Jake, don’t be a baby. Just deliver the letter, it’s a simple task.” She told him, with a slight frown.
“I haven’t been in Newhaven in, what, two years, haven’t been in the castle in almost three. Doesn’t it occur to you that I’m avoiding the place?”
“Any more than you’re avoiding everything else?” She asked him with a raised eyebrow. “Look, I have very few healers, a bunch of apprentices with minimum to no control over their enlightenments and a considerable number of injured people to tend to. So, I really couldn’t care less for your whining. You owe me this, and you’re taking the damn letter to Captain Mageria, or so help me, I will make your life a living hell!” She exclaimed.
Jake had opened his mouth to argue, but didn’t find words to say and simply closed it again. Finally he heaved a long sigh. “Alright… Your Worshipness.” He muttered, taking the letter from her and standing up. As he left a healer entered, looking rather shaky. “Annie, w-we have situation.”

Annie followed the healers to the gates and there a young man was simply making his way in, the reddish glow spread across his eyes was a warning for the healers not to stand in his way. He was simply passing through the healers in the most disrespectful way possible, however, Annie knew that Luke simply didn’t understand the need for social conventions: They were just pointless. He only stopped when he saw her, smiling pleasantly he took a bow – although the exaggerated gesture was filled with sarcasm – and spoke. “Honorable leader of the White Shadows, I’ve come here to respectfully ask for access to you clan’s archives.”
“Those are restricted Luckas.” Annie stated. “And cut the bullshit, please. I’m not in the mood.”
Luckas chuckled. “Oh, my… The princess said ‘shit’.” He nodded. “No seriously, I need to see those files.” He repeated, taking a step forward and looking straight into the girl’s eyes. “I’d hate to be more persuasive.” He whispered.
Annie simply put a hand in his chest and pushed him away, however she frowned when noticing that he had winced as she did so. “You’re hurt.” She stated.
Luckas didn’t answer, he simply repeated. “I need to see those files”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Crystal Rivers Character Portrait: Dastan Character Portrait: Luckas Character Portrait: Jake Turner Character Portrait: Annie Turner Character Portrait: Allison Blake

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Crys had walked from the gates to the inside of the Fire Temple without a word to anyone. She wasn’t angry, or at least she didn’t think she was, she just didn’t know how to react. That man she had just walked away from was a dear friend, and one she hadn’t heard of in a very long time. She found the room she had taken for herself there, on the opposite end of the hall from Dastan’s room, and sat on the bed, still attempting to get rid of all the sand that had stuck to her skin. For some reason, the man’s words sounded in the back of her head as she thought of her little training session earlier: “You didn’t do good, but you didn’t fail either.” In much simpler words; exactly what happened in her time as leader, what had happened the night she was attacked, what had happened when Sean challenged her, and what happened again on that training field. Four years later, and it felt like nothing had changed in the slightest. “Story of my life...” She muttered out.

Crys wanted to be happy. She wanted to see this like Ali probably would: the return of an old dear friend. Not all was as simple as it once used to be though, and she wasn’t entirely happy with the man. If she had to be completely honest with herself, she would say that she was indifferent for the moment, but she just might be happy or furious in a heartbeat. Not knowing for sure exactly which it would be just made her want to sit there and ignore the situation in the hopes it disappeared. Was it childish? Yes, but it was an honest response.

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“Hey, blondie!”
Ali simply moved away from Jackson as he waved his hand in front of her eyes. She just couldn’t stop staring at the man in the mask. It was odd. Way too familiar… She tilted her head to one side, looking slightly intrigued. Finally she decided to activate her enlightenment to hear what was being said as the three other member of the group dispersed; probably to get food and rest.

"Then let us withdraw to a more private area to discuss my business there. However, I'd wish for two more persons to join our conversation; Allison Blake and Crystal Rivers." She heard the man say. The voice was familiar as well, even if not exactly what she remembered, but it was the fact that he knew her name that made it clear without a doubt. He didn’t remind her of someone she knew; he was someone she knew. “No way!” She whispered, opening a cheerful smile.

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Dastan examined the man in the mask a little further. The request to speak to the two assassins had changed his posture to a more protective one; still he kept his same old friendly tone “You want the assassin girls? Are you sure, mate? I mean, they are rather pissy and fond of pointy sharp objects. I wouldn’t personally recommend.” He chuckled. “Not to mention that once they get attached to you, you can’t possibly get rid of them.” He said jokingly, but then his expression turned slightly more serious. “If you don’t mind me asking, now, friend, where do you know the girls from? My commander informs me that Crys vouched for you, but for what I saw she didn’t seem all that hap-” Dastan’s questioning was suddenly interrupted by Ali as she rushed past him and collided with the masked man, giving him what appeared to be one very tight hug. “THERON, YOU’RE BACK!” She exclaimed, cheerfully.

Dastan stood there for a moment scratching the back of his head, confused. Then finally he laughed out, shaking his head. “Whoa… What do I gotta do to get one of those?” He joked, causing chuckles amongst the surrounding mercenaries.

Ali released Theron and turned to Dastan with a grin. “Well, let me think….” She paused for a moment , then listed: “First you’d have to pull me out of a burning building, although I have no intention of ever being trapped in one again. Then you’d have to train me for about a month or two, blow up half a castle and face almost the entire guard with only about five people as backup, survive all that, then disappear for about four years and randomly show up one morning.”

Dastan stretched lazily as she finished talking and faked a yawn. “Nah, that’s too much work just for a hug.” He grinned. He then shot a glance to one of the windows of the temple and added. “You know what? Why don’t you take your friend into the main hall and let me run ahead and find Crys?” He asked, turning to walk into the temple. “Chances are she’s hiding upstairs somewhere.” He stated over his shoulder as he walked.
“Sure, no problem.” Ali responded. She then gave a look to Theron and nodded towards the door of the building Dastan had entered, and began to walk there herself. Ali went silent as the man followed her into the ruined building and to a wide hall where a circle had been made out of some rocks that were just good enough to sit on, a sort of conference room, or the closest thing to it considering this was the Crimson encampment – There were some empty bottles lying around, and it was noticeable that there had been some sort of commotion there recently. When she sat down in one of the rocks, however, she eyed Theron a little more intently. Mask aside, the man looked so different than what she remembered. He even looked a bit taller, if that was even possible. “It’s a shame we didn’t get to speak before you left.” She stated simply. “Dani told me that she would let me go to the healers, but only if I left immediately, so I didn’t really talk to anyone. Then I heard you spent some time in the plains, but we must have missed each other.”

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Dastan climbed up the wall to the second floor, mentally cursing Crys for pulling the rope ladder up, and walked over to her room making as much noise as he could while walking, not to startle her. As he walking in he saw Crys sitting in her bed, with her sword drawn, examining the blade. “Oy, Red… You’re not thinking of doing something stupid with that thing, now are you? Because I wouldn’t like to clean any decapitated heads off my floor.”
“Since when do you clean anything?” Crys asked, turning to face him and sheathing the sword. “I was just making sure there was no damage to the blade. It’s an old sword you know.”
Dastan sat on the edge of the bed. “Hm, I see. So, tell me: What’s the deal with that mystery man that you would, according to Indrani, trust with your life, but doesn’t seem to want to speak to?”
“It’s a long story.” Crys said simply.
“Well, he wants to talk to you.” Dastan said, paying attention to her reaction, and seeing that there was very little to observe: She simply nodded. “You don’t have to talk to him, you know. I can just say I couldn’t find you or something.”
“Or you could say I didn’t want to speak to him, if that was the case.” She stated. “It’s not.” She added, getting on her feet.
“We’ve known each other for what, now? Ten years?” Dastan asked.
“Give or take.” She replied.
“Right. Yet, not once have I actually worried for you, but then I’ve never seen you react like this.” He told her. “You’re not the type of person that walks away, or hides from people or situations. So, really… Who is he?”
Crys heaved a sigh and thought for a second or two before replying. “That man out there is my father’s best friend, the last of the Wolf Hunters, my Instructor, and a very dear friend. He is also a man who left Valcrest when the Wolfpack still stood for something and my mother was still alive.”
“Oh, I see.” Dastan mumbled. “Well, like I said, you don’t really have to talk to him now.”
Crys chuckled. “I don’t, and I might not.” She replied walking out of the room, still holding the sheathed katana.
Dastan followed her with a slight frown. “Seriously, now: no decapitated heads.”

Crys simply snickered in response as they made their way down the rope ladder and over to the main hall. Dastan took a seat on one of the rocks, and Crys sat beside him in silence, deciding to simply listen unless she was spoken to, her father’s weapon resting gently against her leg. Theron was different than he once was; she hadn’t yet formed an opinion if the time away from Valcrest had done him good or bad. In four years of travel… Probably both. She waited patiently for someone to speak, not minding the silence in one bit. After a couple of moments, Dastan spoke. “So, friend… What brings you to our lovely home, and what business are those you have to discuss with me?”

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[The Ruins – White Shadow encampment]

“So, are you really not telling me how this happened?” Annie asked, curiously, examining a nasty looking claw-shaped wound on Luckas’ chest.
“No.” He retorted simply, staring at the ceiling of the tent. “Do we really need them?” He asked, giving an annoyed look to two mercenaries standing by the entrance.
“They’re just protective, ignore them” She stated simply. “How long ago was this?”
“A couple of weeks give or take.” He replied, looking back to her and trying to look innocent.
“Weeks?! Why didn’t you come to us sooner, Luckas?” She asked him with an angry look. “This looks infected!”
He chuckled. “You’re cute when you’re angry.” The he gave a light shrug as she glared at him. “I’ve been self-medicating. I’m not a very good medic apparently.”
Annie didn’t answer, she simply dropped some herbal extract on the wound, giggling softly as Luckas groaned in pain. “Oh, I’m sorry, did that hurt?” She asked innocently.
Luckas laughed out. “…Ow, that burns like a bitch! And I’m the sadistic one?” He asked, lying back, grimacing.
“You’ll have to spend the night here.” She informed.
“No, no, no, no.” He said, trying to get up, but realizing he really didn’t have the strength.
“Listen…” She started, covering the wound with clean bandages. “I’m sure no one would give a crap if I let you wander off and drop dead somewhere, but I’m still not going to let it happen. I’m just that stubborn.” She stated. “And… If you want to look at the clan records you need to give me a reason. A GOOD reason. Otherwise… Forget it.” She told him. “… And stop trying to get up, because you’ll be falling unconscious soon, and if you fall down I’ll have to keep you here longer.” She smiled cheerfully as she stood up to leave. “Enjoy the next twelve hours, they’ll sure be entertaining.”

As she walked out of the tent, a healer came towards her with a vial. “Annie, some Wolves just arrived bringing a poisoned girl. She seems to be stable for now, but they refuse to remove their weapons and are arguing with the Crimson guards at the gates.”
The girl sighed, taking the vial from the man and walking past him towards the assassins and mercenaries at the gates. “Good day gentlemen.” She told the assassins. “What seems to be the problem?”
One of the assassins gave her a look and responded. “These rats here want us to drop our weapons and turn our backs on them. The hell we will!” He exclaimed.
“You don’t have to surrender your weapons if you wait outside our territory.” Annie explained. “Leave her with us and go back to your camp.”
“Our orders are to stay with her.” One of the men argued and tried to pass, but one of the mercenaries pushed him back. As the assassin drew his blade Annie put herself between the two men. “Stop this, now!” She told them.
The mercenary hesitated, but the assassin stepped closer to the girl and pointed the knife at her face. “Who are you to give me orders little girl?

As he spoke those words the assassin jumped back as flames rose from the ground between him and Annie. The girl turned and gave a severe look to one of her healers. “Issac, that’s enough!” Then she turned to the assassin and said. “I’ve spent a lot of my time you encampment, assassin. I know Sean and I know for a fact that he will have you all killed if his sister dies while you’re standing here arguing. And believe me, I will let that happen if you don’t comply.”
The assassin glared at Annie for a moment before finally giving a nod in agreement. Two healers moved to carry the girls into a tent. Annie smiled. “Wise decision, gentlemen. Now, tell your leader I will be treating his sister myself and she will be as good as new in a couple of days.”

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

[Newhaven – Early evening]

Jake rode from the plains to Newhaven as slowly as he could. The trip in itself was uneventful, not to say dull, but it gave him time to think. He thought mostly of his friends, wondering how they were, and remembering when he last saw them. His hand instinctively moved towards the golden locket, hanging from the chain around his neck. He sighed, shaking his head to push the thoughts away as he crossed the city gates; giving a few words to the guards and showing the envelope with the White Shadows’ seal was enough to get him into the city and it would probably be enough to get him into the castle. It was odd to wander these parts without being invisible for a change. After finding a place to leave his horse, deciding not to walk while in the city, he walked the streets for a little while until he reached a small innocent looking Inn. As he entered the place a small bell rang announcing a costumer had arrived. There were a man and a woman tending the bar and some people sitting at tables.

Jake stood in front of the bar and placed both hands on the counter leaning forward and smiling pleasantly at the female barkeeper. “Evening, miss.” He greeted, putting two gold coins on the top of the counter. “Would you be so kind as to serve this traveler some nice ale?”
The woman served Jake the ale, taking the gold, and leaned over the counter. “Now, why hasn’t this handsome traveler shown up in such a long a time? It gets lonely here, you know.”
“I’ve been busy. It’s not easy to be a mercenary around these parts.” He stated simply. “Now, I have no doubt I’ve been missed, but I wouldn’t be innocent to the point of believing you have been lonely, Sheila. You of all women...”
She grinned. “Well, I haven’t been waiting on you, if that’s what you mean.” She leaned a little bit closer and whispered. “... But I have been looking forward to your visit nonetheless.”
Jake smiled, drinking the ale and pushing the mug aside. “Too bad I’m here on a job. I’d love to have time to waste with you.” He stated.
“Well, honey, come back later if you do.” She said and, without warning, grabbed him by the collar, pulled him closer, and kissed him.
Once the woman released him Jake simply nodded. “I’ll be sure to stop by more often, that’s for sure.” He told her, with a smile, before turning to walk away, with a simple “take care, now” as a good-bye.

After walking out of the Inn and walking a fair distance Jake sighed, patting the inside of his cloak to check the envelope that had been planted in his pocket; some nice info on the Wolfpack. It had taken him over a year to find a reliable informant and work out a system to get the information from her to him right under the noses of assassins and customers alike. Sure, it involved a little role-playing, but it was a small sacrifice to make.

Reaching the castle gates, Jake knew he could just show Annie’s letter and allow himself to be escorted in, but… He decided he’d sneak in instead. If he was lucky enough he could drop the letter off and leave without being spotted. It was for the best.

Activating his enlightenment, he quickly made his way to the Black Guards’ barracks, thinking that’d be a safe guess as to where Mageria would be. Turns out, it was a damn good guess, but not necessarily a safe one. Once he reached the common room, the sounds of a commotion reached his ears and, as he wandered into the room he caught the oddest of scenes:

Mageria was in fact there, although she seemed rather tied up at the moment fighting with another woman he had never seen before. Not knowing whether he should intervene or not, by the time he managed to think of a reaction, the unknown woman was getting her head smashed against the ground. At which point, Jake simply couldn’t help himself.

Letting out a loud cough, he made himself visible and spoke, waving Annie’s letter playfully. “Hey, Captain, I have a letter for you, but I see you are rather busy. Should I come back later?”

The setting changes from the-desert to Newhaven

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mageria Talsheir Character Portrait: Thomas Sidin Character Portrait: Jake Turner

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(Just outside Newhaven)
A hard smile crossed Thomas’s face. “Well then, I’ll pass your words along. Maybe then that idiot woman can stop being distracted and nearly getting herself killed in the process. It’s not like she’s had enough to deal with in the past few years, she had to keep looking and hoping that you would come home someday.”
He started to turn away and then stopped.
“You and your men are welcome enough here at Newhaven, Warleader. Keep them calm and they’ll even be welcome in the taverns and inns. But if you truly don’t want to see Mageria again, I suggest you increase the guards around the camp.” With that Thomas got back on his horse and started to ride away.

------------------------------
(Newhaven)
Jake simply raised an eyebrow at the woman named Sham as she talked, not really sure if he should be amused by her or not. If anything, he did take notice of the woman's agility as she made her way out of the window. "Huh." He mumbled, slightly intrigued. He then snorted out a chuckle. "Wait, you mean that this place was once calm? I know it's been a while, but I don't really remember any quiet moments." Then, thinking for a moment or two, he finally decided he could spare some time, since he was already there. "Suppose I could stay for a while." He said, moving over to one table that seemed to have gone unscathed, and taking a seat by it. "Annie is probably not dying to have me back so soon. She says she's got enough on her hands without having to babysit me... Whatever that means." He said, running one hand through his hair and stretching lazily in his seat. He didn't really like riding as much as he liked walking, but Annie said that the letter was to be delivered as soon as possible. "So, aside from chaotic, how are things around here? I see that the Black Knights' standards of recruitment remain as high as usual." He joked, although, for what he heard, there was no one left of the group he had worked with aside from Mageria herself. He knew why Set had left, he knew why he had left, he wasn't all that sure what happened to the other guy, but out of all people, he never imagined Grim would be leaving Newhaven. That until he ran into a member of the Black Guard in the city one day and was informed that he had done just that. He didn't go into that topic though, the man must have had his reasons as well, whatever they were. Instead, he asked about something else that had him curious. "So, what is this letter about that was so urgent? If you don't mind me asking, that is."
---------


Mageria sighed. "I don't have normal days anymore. Typical ones, yes. But not normal. I sometimes wonder what they feel like. As for our standards of recruitment; well, it's always been a problem to find people with the right mix of balls and brains to be a good Knight. The people I have now are good, but times have been, well, interesting. I could wish . . . " She waved the thought away and opened the envelope that Jake had given her and read it quickly, catching her lip between her teeth as certain details added to recent events started to make a worrying amount of sense. "Damn," she muttered under her breath. This was going to make things much more complicated. According to the letter, Jason was apparently a firestarter, which meant that his Enlightenment was going to be exceedingly hard to control. It was going to take a lot of managing to help him handle all of this, but she wasn't willing to give up right away. Looking up, she caught Jake's raised eyebrow and twitched a half smile.
"Sorry. I've got a couple of kids living here who's parents were Guards that died during the last siege. One of them recently started displaying an Enlightenment, apparently he's a firestarter. I wrote Annie for help training him in control. But according to this, it's going to be difficult." Frowning, she drummed her fingers on the table and stared at the letter.
--------


"Dani Rivers used to say that you can always find good people, but extraordinary people usually find you first." Jake stated absently, a hint of a smile crossing his features, but fading soon after. He sighed softly. "Normal... I don't think I even remember what that's supposed to mean anymore." He stated, watching as she read the letter and taking notice of the concern in her expression and raising an eyebrow. When she explained what the situation was he nodded. "Ah, I see..." He said, immediately remembering one of the White Shadows, Isaac, who not only had an enlightenment like that, but also disliked Jake with a passion. "I've met a firestarter back at the ruins, he is 28 years old, but still loses control eventually. Although, I'm pretty sure that the times he attempted to light me on fire were not accidental." He stated, a small frown crossing his expression as he recalled the incidents. "But now I see why Annie was in such a hurry to get this letter delivered. Which reminds me I also have something for Ella, been carrying it around with me for over a year for whenever I stopped by." He said, pulling a wooden pendant of a chess queen hanging on a string. The wooden piece was perfectly crafted, half of it painted white, and half painted black. He chuckled. "Maybe a little too simple for a Queen, but it's from a friend. I think she'll appreciate the sentiment" He stated, letting it rest on the table, carefully. "Will you make sure she gets it?" He asked, discretely reaching for the golden chain around his neck and fiddling with it.
-------------

Mageria picked up the pendent and tucked it away carefully. "Of course. I think she'll be glad to get it." She raised one eyebrow, grinning. "It took you a year of wandering Valcrest to make your way here? Should I draw you a map for next time?" A cough from the door drew her attention, there was a Black Guard standing there with a sheaf of papers.
"Sorry Captain, but there's something you need to know about."
Mageria sighed. "Typical day. Excuse me a moment." She got up and walked over, accepting the papers he held out. He looked around, grinning. "Sham try again?"
Mageria snorted, "Of course, who else could cause that much damage in that short of time? Go ahead and pass the word, then get someone in here to get things cleaned up." There was apparently a pool going as to when Sham was finally going to succeed in her attempts.
Mageria rapidly examined the papers, finding them to be a report on action between a Knight and a couple of thieves. Reading the details, she sighed, rubbing her forehead. "Of course he did. I'll take care of it in a little bit. Thanks for this."
A tiny girl wandered in past him as they were talking, climbing up next to Jake on the bench. She clutched a battered white teddy bear under one arm and regarded Jake with an open and curious expression.
"My name's Lily. What's yours?"
----------

Jake chuckled slightly. "Well, it has been a busy couple of years..." He said, smiling innocently. "I can still find my way around just fine though, better than most even." He stated, holding back a grin. As a cough came from the direction of the door Jake turned to take a look at the guard standing there. He didn't know the man, so he simply let his mind wander off while he and Mageria conversed, still fiddling with golden chain, absently. With the corner of his eyes he noticed the little girl that had made her way into the room and onto the bench next to him, probably one of the kids Mageria had mentioned. He turned his head and looked down at her as she asked his name, looking at him with curious eyes. "Hi, Lily. I'm Jake." He told her, tilting his head to one side and asking. "Do you always wander around the castle on your own like this?"
-------------

Lily shook her head, chewing on one finger. "Puppy follows me most of the time. Maga says it's cause no one else can keep up with me. And that when Puppy says I'm not supposed to go somewhere, I should listen. Mostly we just stay in the big room, but I got bored. And Puppy didn't make me go back, so I came here." She looked around. "Was Maga and Sham playing again?" She fussed with her teddy bear, then looked up again. "This is Sir Penic, Knight Cap'n of the Order of the Eternal Light." She pronounced each word carefully, holding out her bear with obvious pride. It had seen a hard life, one ear almost chewed off and several places where it had been restitched, but it still bore a Knight's surcoat with a sun-in-glory stitched on the front of it.
Lily clutched her bear with both arms around it's neck and looked up at Jake with a strand of tangled blond hair hanging over one eye. "Do you want to be a Knight, Jake? You can be part of my troop."

There was a snuffling noise at the door and a wolf hound worked its way in, nudging it's way past the two standing in the door. It stood about three feet high and the shoulder and was covered in frosted grey fur. Looking about with surprisingly intelligent eyes, it spotted Lily and crossed over to her, sitting down and putting it's muzzle on the bench with a sigh. Lily patted it's head and grinned. "This is Puppy."
----------------

Jake listened to the little girl as she talked, with a slightly amused expression on his face, letting out a chuckle when she asked if Mageria and Sham had been playing again. He figured the unusual scene he stumbled upon wasn't really that unusual after all.
He then gave the bear a curious look while Lily introduced him, it looked as beaten as any child's favorite toy. "Well, nice meeting you, Sir Knight." He said, giving a slight bow. "So you have your own troop, huh? I used to be a Knight, but not anymore. I'm a mercenary now, you know what a mercenary is?" He asked her, glancing around the room in time to see an enormous wolfhound enter the room after the girl. "Puppy?" He mumbled staring at the hound. Finally he shook his head and sighed, amused. "Of course he is."
----------------

Lily looked confused. "How come you're nots a Knight? Did you get in trouble? I thought that ifs you was a Knight you was always a Knight."

Mageria finally finished talking with the Guard and looked over, it appeared that Lily was in the process of wrapping another person around her tiny finger. With a small grin, she went over to rescue Jake. "Mathew, would you take Lily back to the play room, please?" She leaned over. "Say bye to Jake, Lily." Lily grinned and stood up on the bench to wrap both arms around Jake's neck. "Bye Jake! I love you!" She hopped down off the bench and followed the Guard out of the room, Puppy ambling after her.

Mageria smiled and sat back down. "Sorry about that. Lily thinks that everyone in the world is her friend." She fiddled with a bit of silverware. "But listen, you've been wandering around for the past few years. What have heard? Any strange rumors? I just get the feeling . . ." She sighed and looked troubled. "I just get the feeling that something is on the horizon heading towards us." A brief self deprecating smile crossed her face. "Maybe I've just been expecting trouble for too long."
---------------


Jake scratched his head and chuckled at Lily's way of seeing things. "Yes, I did get in trouble a little bit." He stated simply. He wasn't about to tell a kid that age that nothing really lasts forever, that people change or just randomly leave without a warning. She had some good years left before seeing it for herself, or so he hoped. When Mageria came back and told Lily to say goodbye, Jake was a little surprised when the little girl stood on the bench and wrapped her arms around his neck, before hopping off and following the guard out of the room. Jake simply shook his head, responding with a "bye" of his own.

As Mageria sat down, Jake turned his attention back to the woman with a small chuckle. "Cute kid." He stated before addressing the question she had asked. "Rumors? There's this rumor that Evin has been wandering the streets of Blackpond, drunk out of his mind." He smirked. "But I started those, so...Rumors, per say, no. Things are strange in Blackpond though. And that to say the least. About a year ago, while I was still in the desert, I was hired by an army officer who was planning on deserting. He wanted me to take his wife and kids safely out of the city and to the healers, the woman was pregnant. I did what he hired me to do, but then I got a little concerned for him and went back to find him." Jake heaved a small sigh and continued. "The man had vanished the next day. When I asked people, who I knew where his friends, about his whereabouts they simply gave me panicked looks and said they didn't know who I was talking about." Jake ran a hand wearily through his hair. "I went back and told this pregnant woman that her husband had vanished into thin air. After that I moved to the Plains to stay closer to the city. I've spent long periods of time there... The city is in the worst shape it had ever been in its history. I couldn't get any concrete information though. On anything." He stated and then he shrugged a little bit. "I know that technically, they've backed off Newhaven, but I don't know... That place seems to me like it's about to explode at any moment."
------------

"Blackpond is worrisome, but we're as prepared as we can be, I hope anyways. They hit us pretty hard last time, but maybe we can be ready this time. I'll have to take measures." She shook her head."And then you went and stayed close to the city in order to find out what was going on." Mageria smiled to herself. "Balls and brains. You had them when I offered you the Black years ago, you still have them now." She propped her chin on one hand and half smiled. "I'm glad you came by Jake. Not just for the letter and the information. But it's good to know that you're doing ok." She tilted her head to the side. "I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but I could wish that you were still around more. And now I've made you horribly uncomfortable, haven't I?"
-------------

Jake nodded at the Captain's words, cursing himself mentally for not doing what he had planned all along and staying unnoticed. It wasn't unpleasant to be there, on the contrary; he was glad he had stopped and taken the time to talk to Mageria. Especially since he hadn't stopped for anyone in a very long time. However, Jake himself had changed over the last four years. He had betrayed every oath he had taken, and he had also been betrayed by Dani in such a way that, despite comprehending, he was still unable to forgive entirely. He had distanced himself from most of his loved ones so he could work where they weren't involved. Still, with the Pack splitting up, the White Shadows almost wiped out, Blackpond in a mess... Newhaven seemed to be the one familiar place left, and although Jake wouldn't actually admit it; he needed something familiar. He opened a half smile and responded. "Uncomfortable? Not really. If that was the case, being referred to as a 'boytoy' would have certainly done it." He said, glancing towards the window, a hint of amusement in his eyes. "Say, how many Knights do you have under your command currently?" He asked in a casual and maybe a little too uninterested tone. "I suppose, since I'm not currently on a job or anything, sticking around Newhaven for a while wouldn't hurt. If that's alright, that is." Jake was still suppressing the urge to ask about Grim. But the man's words, spoken to him so long ago, resurfaced in his mind unexpectedly: "Why don't you come home, Jake?" Funny how things turned out... Funny indeed.
--------------------

Mageria shrugged. “Well, currently, I’ve got three Knights. Which means that there’s room for one more. Even better if its one that I’ve known in the past and can trust.” She held out one hand. “I hope. . . .”
Whatever she was going to say was intruppted by a breathles Guard slamming into the door way. “There’s a strange woman at the gate, she wants to talk, Lady Ella’s gone to the gate . . .” That was as far as he got before Mageria exploded out of her seat and pushed past him.
“Bloody Hell! Come on!” She raced down the stairs and through corridors, saving only enough breath to whistle sharply in the code that told Sham that there was trouble. She would find a vantage point and watch for any need.
Only slightly breathless, Mageria made it to the gate and found Ella standing there facing a woman in a strangely dyed red cloak. With a sigh at the turn of events she took her place at her Queen’s right side.
“And who is today’s visitor?”

The setting changes from newhaven to Valcrest

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Jake Turner

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[Forest – Heading towards the Wolfpack encampment]

On the way back from the White Shadows’ encampment the group of five assassins was still discussing the insolence of the White Shadow leader in taking protection from the Crimson Shadows. After all, it was a well-known fact that the Pack had offered the same services on several occasions and were denied every time. It was just disrespectful, that’s what it was.
“The nerve on that girl…” One of them muttered out. “If Sean punishes us for this, I’m going back there!”
“I don’t think he will. He keeps telling us not to mess with the healers.” Another responded. “I don’t care what he says about the Crimson though… Those mercenaries are going to get it one of those days!”

Amongst curses and detailed discussions of what the mercenaries would suffer for their insolence, the sound of singing reached the ears of the assassins and they stopped and grinned to each other. It sounded like drunken singing, and in their territory… This would be fun. Quickly the men hid amongst the trees and awaited as the singing came closer and closer. As the owner of the voice approached, one of the assassins put himself in his path as the others remained hidden. “Halt! You are trespassing in the territory of the Wolfpack.”

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

[Newhaven]

Jake raised an eyebrow as Mageria told him there were currently four Knights. Even though he asked, he had figured that in three years the positions would have been filled. Although it seemed like that conversation would have to wait, since a guard entered the room, almost out of breath and informed someone was at the gates, and that Ella was headed that way. As Mageria stood up to leave, Jake stood up as well, waiting for her to go ahead, he made himself invisible and followed after her towards the gates. As he walked outside, the rain made it impossible for him to remain invisible, but he dismissed it and carried on, pulling up the hood of his cloak and continuing to walk. At the gates, a woman was standing: To say that she was stunning would be an understatement, she was beyond attractive, but what truly caught Jake’s eye was what she was wearing.

He had spent more than enough time with the healers to recognize the fabric, and the crimson tone it had been stained with caused chills to run down his spine for some reason. Unlike others, who traced their limit where Ella and Mageria stood, Jake walked past the Black Knight Captain, and past the gates. He even walked past the visitor and stood behind her, in case she pulled a weapon or tried any sort of trick behind her back. There were more than enough people with swords there to take down a single woman, so he stood there, deciding to simply stay out of it unless she did something.

The setting changes from valcrest to The Desert

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Crystal Rivers Character Portrait: Dastan Character Portrait: Jake Turner Character Portrait: Allison Blake

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Ali heaved an annoyed sigh as Evin pushed her aside and walked past her into the room. She was about to follow after him, but stopped as she heard a scream and felt the ground shake. Before she started walking again Theron walked past her towards the temple entrance. Ali shook her head and simply kept walking into the room. As she passed Evin she patted his back where she knew he was hurt and whispered: “Pain is good for you.”
She didn’t care that the man seemed angered and she wasn’t making it better: She didn’t appreciate being pushed. Plus she didn’t want Evin to get all worked up about what was happening and forget to treat the injury.

Sitting down where she had been seated before she heaved another sigh. “Well… This is nice, huh? Just like the good old days.” She couldn’t help the sarcasm in her tone. The silence left in the room was just overwhelming. Finally she sighed and turned to Crys. “I know Evin is angry, but what are you?”

“I don’t know yet.” She stated, standing up and leaving after Theron, attaching the sheathed sword to her belt as she walked.

Ali nodded, turning to Dastan and changing the subject completely. “One of the men got caught on the hunt this morning. I’m assuming Indrani will come to you soon in order to arrange a funeral for him.” She told the man. “If I had gone with them…”
“That’s between you and Crys.” Dastan cut her off. “If she says you should stay away from the Pack, I think you should listen.”
“He’s going to take it out on your people. He’ll do whatever it takes to draw us out.”
Dastan shook his head in disagreement. “My men have their orders, Allison. They’re adults and very well trained in spite what some of you people may think.” He stated, simply. “They know the risks and they know them very well. So, if you have something to say to Crys, or if you want to ignore her orders to you… Be my guest, but you’re not hunting with my men, and you’re not dragging me into this discussion of yours.” He stood up and looked from Allison to Evin. “Look, I won’t even bother asking what the hell just happened here… Just… Keep the damn earthquakes to a minimum, will you? Last thing we need is more crumbling buildings.” With that said, he walked out. Ali knew she had upset him by bringing the whole thing up again, but she was tired of seeing it happen. Jackson was an experienced hunter and an excellent tracker, but he had no clue how to think ahead of a human predator. It didn’t matter what precautions he took, the Pack would get to him eventually.

A few minutes after Dastan left, Ali stood up as well and stretched as she did so. The good mood she had been in was long gone. She was angry at Crys for making her stay put, and frustrated with what had just happened between her friends. Finally she began to leave the room with an expression on her face that made her disappointment very clear: Evin was being a selfish prick, Crys was just being a coward… Again, and she had enough of it for one day. “I’m getting something to eat.” She mumbled, mostly to herself, as she crossed the door.

By the time Allison reached the center of the encampment, preparations were being made for yet another victim of the assassins. These occurrences had been so frequent in the past few years that the assassins already knew exactly how the Crimson sent their kinsmen to the afterlife. Ali was less than pleased with the fact that they burned their dead, but she really couldn’t do anything except keep distance from the ceremonies whenever they occurred, paying her respects from a distance. Absently she walked to the heart of the camp where the cooks were serving bowls of rabbit stew. She nodded at one of the older women of the clan as the woman offered her food and suggested that maybe she wasn’t feeding herself properly, a grin escaping her as she accepted the food and walked away. Apparently cooks were the same in every encampment; they never seem to think she had enough to eat. Admittedly, she hadn’t eaten all day, but she was more than used to it. She sat on a rock a little bit further from the crowds and began eating quietly, discouraging conversation, and watching as the Crimson mourned the death of another brave warrior.

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

Crys left the ruins and simply followed Theron to where he had gone, she didn’t know what the building was, or used to be, but she knew that the Crimson had no use for it. She knew that everything she had told the man had been painful to him, but that couldn’t be helped. There was no amount of sugar coating that would make anything better. It was just the way it was.

She stood around the man, not minding what he was doing and silent for quite some time. She didn’t really mind that Theron had left them four years ago. If her mother had given him permission who was she to disagree? And she wasn’t angry that he was back, not really. She just didn’t understand why now. It didn’t look like he had come back just to see how they were doing, although she didn’t doubt that it was on his list somewhere. “So, you’re Theron Lockwood, huh?” She said absently. “Funny. The Theron Lockwood I remember would have given me a scolding for behaving the way you just did. ‘Never let your emotions control you’, he would have said, you know, before continuing to beat the shit out of me” She stated, an amused smile beginning to unwillingly spread across her features. “I have plenty to ask, once everyone is calm, but right now I just want to know one thing from you: Have you faced your moment of truth?”

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

[Newhaven]

Jake frowned deeply as the woman began to move towards Ella, but all he did was move as well, keeping the exact same distance between the visitor and himself at all times. The strange woman’s words caused him to frown even deeper, as she mentioned the Pack. What could be big enough about the Pack that the King of Blackpond would send someone to Newhaven to discuss? And this woman: It was obvious that she wasn’t a servant, but she also didn’t seem to care if the lie sounded coherent, which meant she was probably prepared for an attack somehow. He didn’t like it one bit.

"Noble gentleman," she said, holding one hand out to him, "if you may escort me to some place more dry. I'd much rather discuss these matters indoors... if you don't mind." Jake didn’t respond at first, giving Mageria a look that distinctly showed he was concerned. Finally, he crossed his arms over his chest. “I will gladly escort you anywhere you wish, miss. If your entry is granted by the Queen, and it is her wish that I do so.” He responded mimicking the overly polite tone she seemed to be using, and fully aware of the fact he had spoken as if he was a Knight of Newhaven although at the moment he was no such thing. As he kept his eyes locked on the woman, he couldn’t help the thought that she was stunning: It was an undeniable fact. However, it wasn’t enough to make him ignore the sensation that there was something very suspicious in this whole scenario.

The setting changes from the-desert to Newhaven

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Crystal Rivers Character Portrait: Lamya Character Portrait: Luckas Character Portrait: Jake Turner Character Portrait: Allison Blake

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As Ella decided to let the woman in and Mageria asked him to lead her to the 'receiving room' Jake bowed his head respectfully, while holding back an annoyed frown. He had no intention of being dragged into this situation; he was there out of curiosity, but had regretted it already. Unwillingly, he ignored the woman's hand as she reached out to him again and forced himself not to let his frustration show as he answered. "Of course miss, please follow me.", before leading the visitor into the castle.

Once inside the castle he strayed from the path he was supposed to take and took another one, a longer one, to the room Mageria had directed him. Once sure no one was listening in, he spoke in a quiet tone, not turning to face the woman as she walked beside him. "Between you and me: Or you are lying through your teeth as to who you are, or your King is one tremendous fool." He stated. "Which one is it?"

Lamya had been in the castle of Newhaven enough times to understand where she was, and it seemed that she was being brought on a wild goose chase until they were able to secure a proper place for her. What did it matter where she was going though. She was going to have some fun with Jake.
"Would both be acceptable answers?" She said with a fake smile. "Now please tell me why after these years is the solo artist Jake taking orders from a young woman. If I remember correctly, you left the Black Knights after the incident with the Pack."
She didn't bother to say anything else to explain why she would know something like that. She enjoyed the ambiguity in the way she spoke. It caused people to feel a loss of control; a unbearable sense of chaos.

Jake laughed out at the information the woman had on him. He didn't care how she got it, and he surely didn't care that she had it. It was a far more interesting reaction than what he had been expecting, and it also confirmed what he already knew; this woman was far more dangerous than she appeared. "If you know that much about me, you also know I won't be sharing my motives with you. However I was simply leaving the decisions that concern Newhaven to those who have to make them, I have no reason to get involved in politics. I wouldn't even be here if you hadn't requested my presence." He glanced towards the woman now. "And I wonder why that is. I noticed there was at least one Knight far more interested in being your escort than I would ever be."

"Why should you give someone what they want Mr. Turner?" Lamya asked swaying her arms back and forth like a child would as they would walk. Both going forward and then back with a sharp jerks of the hips in the opposite direction. "That doesn't really matter, does it? What really matters is the fact that you decided to get involved in this even though you had a choise not to. Hmmm... . Anywho, I'm curious as to what you were laughing at. Did you laugh at the mere absurdity that I thought you might be afflicted by the knowledge that I appear to have on you? Maybe it was just because you find my motives to be absurd. I personally like to laugh at the laughter of those who find what they laugh at to be absurd." She then began to let out an incredibly fake and monotonous laughter until her blood stained cloak fell of her shoulders and onto the ground. She didn't even mean to do it, but in a way wished that she had.
She didn't say anything for a few moments and neither did Jake, but then Lamya stopped and turned to look at the cloak. A few moment beats passed by while she looked. She didn't bother to notice if Jake had kept walking or if he had noticed the sword that was placed around the loose fitting belt she had on around her purple dress. She just continued to stare at it until she finally broke the silence to say, "are you going to get that?"

Jake didn't speak as the woman rambled on, he kept leading her through the halls, careful not to go anywhere important, not that he thought it'd matter. He didn't speak or stop until she dropped her cloak and he immediately turned to look at it. A moment, or maybe even a few moments, passed in silence as they both stared at the red cloak. Then she broke the silence, asking if he was going to get it. "I don't see why I should." He stated simply, raising his head to face the woman, but not elaborating on why he wouldn't get it. He watched her for a couple of seconds only, and then turned to keep walking, deciding to address the question she made before about the laughter. "Specifically I laughed at the words 'solo artist'. Such a theatrical term. Made me wonder if you are actually familiar with my work. But then at the same time all your assumptions would also be correct." He said, pretending to watch the path, but at the same time keeping his attention on the woman to be sure she would follow. "The only problem I see with asking questions is that you usually get nothing out of them aside from more questions." He nodded slightly, stopping at a few steps away from their destination. "And I'm afraid, miss, we don't have that many halls." He leaned against the wall and nodded towards the door to the room. "Ladies first."

Lamya listened in intrigue about the laughter. She didn't bother to pick up her cloak, just leaving it in the middle of the hall, letting whatever happen to it happen. "So you were laughing at the absurdity of my choise in words?" Interesting. It's also interesting that you chose to escort me by my request, yet you choose not to pick my cloak off the floor. So many choices, so many inconsistencies." She paused to let him continue his talks until finally he said, "ladies first."
Lamya didn't walk through the door as Jake had requested. "The trick to a question is to get more knowledge out of the question than you do questions, unless however you wish to lead a string of questions, by which you should be asking a question with the intent of having another question to ask after the original question has been asked. Now the question is, whether my questions had the intent of leading more questions or if they were specifically intended for obtaining answers. You will probably never know. Now I suggest you either grab my cloak from down the hall there while I enter the room or enter the room before I do. Both paths will lead to the same meaningless result in the end so it doesn't matter what one you pick."

Jake raised an eyebrow at the woman after she was done talking, and glanced at the cloak that was still lying on the floor where it had been left, however he didn't move towards it, or towards the room entrance. "Inconsistencies? I don't see inconsistencies in my behavior, but perhaps that would be because I know that both actions you refer to have the same motives behind them. I also find it irrelevant to know whether you mean your questions to obtain answers from me or not, as much as it is irrelevant whether you answer mine. After all... Whatever the truth might mean to you, or to me, it is unlikely that either one of us would speak it in this moment." At this point, Jake spotted what he had been waiting for as a servant passed the halls in their direction, noticed the red cloak lying in his path and picked it up. Jake simply waved to catch the man's attention and spoke. "Bring that to me, will you?"
The man immediately brought the cloak to Jake with a small bow of his head and wandered off down the hall, quickening his pace before anyone had the chance to ask anything more of him. Jake then looked at the woman, still holding the cloak in his hand, and repeated. "Ladies first."

Once they both entered the room, Jake simply folded the cloak on top of a chair and leaned casually against the wall beside the entrance. Fully aware that he had taken longer than it would have been necessary to bring the woman over, he faced Mageria and spoke with a perfectly straight face. "Sorry, Captain. It seems I don't remember my way around the castle as well as I thought."

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[Forest - Outside Newhaven]

Luke was wandering around the little encampment growing more and more bored with it by the second. There was really nothing to see there, at least nothing that would interest him. Not even stealing food from these guys seemed challenging enough to be entertaining. As a result, he simply wandered past, making sure that no one he crossed could ever remember his face. His face could raise a couple of red flags in the city after all, the joys of having a famous twin... His brother: The gift that keeps on giving. If anything, he had left Luckas with a goal, a purpose of sorts: The woman who had killed him or, better yet, survived him.

Suddenly, he was faced with a rather odd sight, his attention immediately caught by the girl in ragged clothing who stood in his path. Nonetheless, he simply kept walking, although slowing down his pace, watching the young woman with curious eyes, not quite sure what to make of her. He kept walking until her was close enough to see the golden color of her eyes. Something told him that it would be smarter to just keep walking and ignore, but when he was curious about something or someone, Luke found it extremely difficult to be smart. So, he stopped, intrigued be the strange words she spoke to him, tilting his head to one side. "My turn? Are we playing a game?" He asked, curiously.

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[The desert]

Ali nodded, listening to Akida explain about where she had come from, one eye glancing over to the orc again as he told his stories. He was most likely exaggerating, because all the good storytellers do, but it all sounded very impressive even so. "Well, welcome to Valcrest. Although, I'm afraid that if half of what your friend says is true, you might be terribly bored here." She stated with a grin. "And it's true, we don't have any ties with other countries, not ever since Brightvale was destroyed centuries ago..." She nodded towards the crumbled buildings around them. "... The Crimson have their stories of what the ancestors have seen and lived in their travels, but they are too much of a small clan to afford sending people out of the territory nowadays." She explained. "Same with every other faction in the land. We're so busy trying to keep an eye on each other that we simply can't bother to look any further." She heaved a long sigh and poked at her stew, not really wanting to eat anymore, but forcing herself to take another bite before continuing with the conversation. "It's a pity, but maybe someday."

She took one more bite of food before addressing the question. "As for how we met Theron... Well... It's a long complicated story. I think currently he would be the only one who knows where or how it began, but to put it simply: He wanted to exterminate our clan. He was actually getting pretty close to it, although Crys likes to think we would've been able to stop him had things gone different. I'm not so sure." She stated, taking a moment to rethink the whole scenario of four years ago. "Anyway... Evin and I left camp one night to try and find him in Newhaven. Evin had personal reasons to be going after Theron and Dani, our leader at the time and Crys' mother, insisted he took someone with him. We ran into Theron sooner than we expected, in an Inn that the clan owned. Evin thought he could intimidate him and some things were said, and in the end they both agreed they would duel the next night. The clan got word of the whole thing and the next morning, after Evin and I came back from an errand, Crys was there having a very friendly conversation with a man who was our sworn enemy. Before we could even get an understanding of what was really going on though, we got attacked by soldiers and the Inn ended up on fire. Theron helped me out of the building." She frowned a little bit thinking that she never thought of asking Crys what she and Theron talked about. "Well, after we managed to get out and lose the soldiers, Evin and Crys went to Blackpond, I went back to our camp with Theron, and a friend of ours who was there helping. He turned himself in that night. Dani forgave him and accepted him into the clan as an instructor. Crys, Evin and I trained under his supervision after that." She concluded. Sure, she had left a lot out of the story, including everything that had to do with the Shadow. For some reason talking about the whole thing still made her uneasy. "I never really understood why he surrendered though. After he left, I discovered that he and Dani had met before we caught up to him at the Inn, but... She died before I got the chance to ask her about it and he had gone, so..." She finished with a light shrug, turning back to her food for a bit until it was done. Then she sat the bowl aside and chuckled. "It's odd to hear you call him 'Lockwood'. For months I only knew him by Theron." She said absently.

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[Flashback - Wolfpack Camp, approximately 10 years ago]

It was early in the afternoon, a bright sunny day, but still cool with the occasional breeze that was so common in the forest at spring. Even though the day was beautiful and perfectly enjoyable, and even though she had no chores or assignments, Crys was unable to enjoy any of it. She was stuck trying to find a solution to an unsolvable problem. Sitting by her mother’s table at the common room of the Leader’s cabin, she was sitting there trying to think of what answer to give her father when he got back. As if it wasn’t enough that she didn’t have one, her parents came home a little earlier than expected; or maybe she had been sitting there longer than she had imagined. It didn’t matter, soon the quiet room was filled with the sound of talking.

“You two and your mind games...” An amused voice pierced through Crystal’s ears, disrupting her thoughts.
The girl shook her head in annoyance and waved towards her mother dismissively. “Sssh… I’m thinking.” She mumbled.
Dani laughed. “Bastian, your daughter is going crazy.”
“Leave her, she’ll figure it out eventually.” Bastian replied with a chuckle. “It’s not an easy one.”
“It’s been two whole days.” Dani argued. “This isn’t healthy.”
“It’s really not an easy one.” Bastian explained.
“I usually don’t ask, but what is the question here? I’ve never seen Crystal this stuck on a logic problem.”
“Ah, but… The problem with this problem is that it has nothing to do with logic. It doesn’t even have a right answer.” He explained. Crys knew he was doing it to mess with her; she was more than used to it, only this time she really couldn’t figure it out.

Finally, she let her head down and pressed her forehead against the wooden surface of the table. “I quit.” She mumbled. “I don’t know what to answer.”
“That’s unacceptable.” Bastian said simply. “Keep thinking, or choose one.” He said, sitting across from her. “Just pick one, any one will do.”
“Which one did you pick?” Crys asked him raising her head to face her father.
Bastian sighed. “I’ll tell you once you’ve answered.”
“What is the question?” Dani asked again, sitting by the table as well.

“There is a flood about to wash over the whole land. Nothing will be left and the only way to survive is to reach the mountains before the water reaches you. You have a carriage, but, aside from yourself, you can only carry one more person. Halfway to safety, you run into three people: Your best friend , the love of your life, and a pregnant woman, who is a complete stranger. Knowing you can only save one person, who do you choose?” Crys asked her.
“That’s easy.” Dani stated simply, standing. “I’m making some tea, anyone want some?”
“No, thank you… How is that easy? You know what you would do?” Crys asked her.
“There is no right answer, either way someone is going to die. So… It doesn’t really matter. The only question is? Do you rescue two strangers: the woman and her unborn child, or do you save one loved one? And in that case, which one?”
Crys chuckled. “And that is easy?” She asked.
“I’ll gladly tell you what I would do, if you give me your answer first.”

Crys stopped to think for just one more second before answering. “Fine, I’d choose my best friend.” She said, then she turned to her father and asked. “What did you answer?”
Bastian laughed. “Well… Back when I was first given this problem, I chose my best friend, and it didn’t even take me long to think about it, but that was a long time ago. Right now, suppose I’d have to give it more thought.”
Crys waited for a good few moments while her mother made tea, before finally letting curiosity get the best of her and pushing the subject. “Mom, what about you? You said it was easy.”
“I would get off the carriage and ask my best friend to take the pregnant woman to the mountains.” She stated simply, sitting back down with a cup of hot tea.
“Wait, what?” Crys asked her. “You would get off the carriage?”
“Yes. If the carriage only holds two people, then by giving up my spot I can save a loved one and two strangers.”
“Alright… Then why the best friend?” Crys asked her.
“For two reasons: Your best friend is always more likely to respect your wishes, and… If you’re going to die, might as well die with the love of your life.”
“Why thanks, love. That’s so considerate of you.” Bastian laughed.
"Don't mention it." She replied, sipping from her cup of tea.
“And having to decide on this is not difficult at all?” Crys inquired.
“Of course it is, but I suppose it’s better than killing everyone simply because I couldn’t make a decision.” Dani replied. “If there is no right answer then you simply have to pick whatever seems right to you.”

“This question is meant to point out what you value most in your life: Love, friendship, or morals.” Bastian explained. “Morals dictate you save a pregnant woman and her child, loyalty demands that you save your friend, and obviously love would beg you not to leave your significant other behind.”
“And your answer would be different now?” Crys asked him.
“Honestly? Nowadays, I would most likely want to save my significant other; although, she might respond by kicking me off the carriage and replacing me with the pregnant lady.” He said, jokingly.
“Really?” Crys asked, rather intrigued. “Why would you choose that?”
“I don’t really have anyone I would call a best friend anymore, besides… I’ve left my friends behind once, and if it came to it I’d probably do it again. It’s just a part of my personality I’ve come to accept over the years. One day you’ll come to accept the fact that you can’t always be loyal kiddo. One day you might have to choose, and trust me: You can’t ever know what that choice will be until you make it.”


[Reality - The Desert, present time]

“Hey, Crys, did you hear what I said?” A familiar voice broke Crys out of her memories and she turned to face one of her assassins.
“I’m sorry Trevor, could you please repeat that?” She mumbled, leaning back against a rock, near the place where the Crimson were paying their respects to their fallen comrade.
“I said Katelyn was rushed to the healers this morning. She is in a vulnerable spot, we could take advantage of that.” The man informed. “Should we pick her up?”
Crys heaved a sigh. “I’m not sure yet. Taking her could put the Pack on our trail a little too soon.”
“If you will excuse me, I think that an attempt on her life might have been more than enough to do that. She could give us an advantage, when Sean killed Owen he took away our source of information. We have no idea what the Pack is planning; we haven’t had any concrete information in months. If only Jake would bother to…” The man stopped immediately after realizing the name he had just spoken. “I-I’m sorry, Crys, I…”
Crys simply shook her head, usually simply mentioning Jake’s name would be enough to finish a conversation, but tonight she had greater concerns, and she needed to take care of this immediately. “Yes… I know Jake has an informant and a good one and he could provide us with that information, but that’s not an option. Not right now at least.” She thought for another second. “Keep a close watch on the White Shadows camp, and pick her up when you can, but… Not until she’s fully recovered. I don’t the kid dead on our watch.” She pulled away from the boulder and added. “Snatch her once she’s healed, but before Annie gets a chance to notify Sean. Be careful though, the last thing we want is problems with healers.”

The man bowed, even though his leader couldn’t see. “Consider it done.” He assured her.
Crys simply nodded and, as the man turned to leave, she gave him one final instruction. “Not a word of this to anyone, and remember: If you get caught, you’re on your own.”
There was no response from the assassin, but Crys was sure he had gotten the instructions. With that taken care of, she slowly moved back to the center of the encampment, thinking of getting something to eat and maybe see what Theron had to tell her about his return. “What a damn long day.” She muttered under her breath as she walked.

Reaching the center of the camp, she got herself some stew, trying not to wonder when the last time she had anything different was, and stopped to locate the man amongst the small noisy crowd of mercenaries. Once she located him she walked over and sat next to him, focusing on her food for few moments. Finally she lifted her head and muttered. “I’d kill for apples. I would literally kill for a bag of apples. I haven’t had one in over six months.” She stated absently. After which she changed the subject to what she really wanted to discuss. “I don’t get it… Why are you back after all?”

The setting changes from newhaven to The Desert

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Crystal Rivers Character Portrait: Jake Turner Character Portrait: Annie Turner Character Portrait: Allison Blake

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Crys listened to Theron’s words carefully, however she didn’t seem so affected by them. If there’s one thing Crys learned in the past few years, was to care as little as possible for the greater good, that if she wanted to keep her sanity. “Fate…” She mumbled, thinking to herself that Theron was the only person in a very long time she’d heard use that word as if it meant something. “Personally, I think you have been gone for too long to come back making so many demands. You’re asking too much of this land, and too much of yourself if you truly believe that you can end this war when no one else could in thousands of years.” She stated, digging into her bowl of stew with a slightly annoyed expression. “I strongly suggest you take the time to see what you’re dealing with here. Things have changed in the last four years. Some of those changes are still unknown to me, but I can sense that things aren’t as calm as they seem to be.” She made a pause to eat and while doing so she did her best to sense the people around her and pinpoint where everyone was. Evin wasn’t around; she’d have to find him, maybe in the morning, and try to talk to him about all of this… She also needed to deal with Ali before she did anything stupid…

After a couple of moments, Crys managed to put her thoughts aside and continued with the conversation at hand. “King Rory died, three years ago. They say he was murdered by the city Commander, a man named Hastings, and he was killed for it. Coincidentally or not, soon after that a son of his turned up, out of nowhere, and took command of the city.” She grimaced. “The stories I’ve heard of the new King are less than flattering. The Crimson won’t take assignments in Blackpond ever since. Jake accepted one though, a little over a year ago... I don’t know what he saw there, but he didn’t come back the same. After a while, he just stopped coming back at all.” She sighed. “If I have to guess, I’d say he is in the Plains right now, maybe you should talk to him.” Picking at her food absently, she moved on. “The White Shadows are under new management as well… Lena’s kid, Annie, is now leader. She’s only eighteen, but she’s very smart, and not very easy to deal with unless you act respectfully. Newhaven is also under a new leadership. Remember the girl the Shadow was holding hostage when we fought him in the castle? As it turns out, she was the heir to the throne; Ella. I haven’t seen her in a long time, I didn’t even get a chance to speak with her before she got dragged away to be Queen. I hope she’s doing alright. That kid was full of potential, but had little to no faith in herself.” After that statement, Crys let silence linger as she finished her food. After having finished, and setting the bowl aside, she heaved a sigh and spoke. “The current leader of the Pack, his name is Sean Fletcher…” She shook her head. “He has a special kind of hatred for my mother for letting you live, for my father for being a Wolf Hunter and for me, for breaking a promise...” She said, with a light shrug. “The longer you can keep your return from him, the better. He might not be able to reach you directly, but you’ll have the whole clan on your trail in a split second.”

She stopped talking and focused a bit on the laughter, the smell of smoke from the campfire, the chilling breeze… The desert felt so much different than the forest; much more silent too. Once the party finally ended and everyone retired for the night, it would be dead silent. “When my mother died she was sure that the clan was in good hands. She trusted me and Evin to hold it together… Now, for the past three years I’ve sat here and thought of the people I was meant to protect as enemies; people I grew up with, people I trained…” She mumbled, mostly to herself, facing the heat from the fire, then she turned to face Theron and added. “I’ll help you if I can, but… At least for now, don’t ask for my trust. I have very little of it left to go around.”

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Ali snorted out a small laugh. “He won’t respond if you call him Sir? That’s funny, funny indeed.” She said in an amused tone, pulling a small piece of wood from one of her pockets and a small carving knife from her belt. She began to work the piece of wood slowly. “So, I take it he never told you guys about the Wolf Hunters either, right? Well… If you really want to know about that, the whole story of it, you’d have to ask him, or you could just eavesdrop when I eventually ask him. You could also ask Crys about it, though. Her father was in the group with Theron, they were close friends for what I heard.” She said, absently working the piece of wood with the carving knife as she thought. “Theron left before I had the chance to ask him any questions and I only learned most of what I know after he was gone. Crys knows most of the story though, her father usually told her everything. Unusual thing for a parent to do, but Bastian was an odd individual.”

She opened a small smile, taking a glance towards the man sitting next to Crys by the fire. She had many questions to ask Theron, she had gone over them in her mind repeatedly over the years, but for some reason, now she felt absolutely no urge to ask them. In this particular moment, all Ali needed was someone to tell her why she should sit quietly and allow Sean to keep breathing after all he had done. She needed a reason not to do something stupid; a real reason, not another of Crys’ excuses. She continued to work on the piece of wood, that had now taken the form of a small wolf-figurine, as the shouts of several mercenaries alerted her to the presence of their commander. She turned her head to see Indrani had been lifted off the ground by two of the Crimson as a form of greeting, and was shouting at the men to put her down, although a good observer would notice a slight tone of laughter amongst her shouting. As she watched the scene in amusement, she noticed a figure in the background, moving towards the camp exit; the unmistakable silhouette of an assassin leaving on a mission.

“Excuse me…” Ali mumbled, slowly getting on her feet, letting the wolf figurine rest softly on the sand next to her seat. “I think I see a friend. It was very nice meeting you though.” She stated, before walking away to catch up with the man.

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[White Shadows encampment]

“It was a weak poison, not really meant to kill instantly.” Annie mumbled to herself, frowning as she watched the sleeping girl intently. If she didn’t know better, she would think Jake had pulled this off, but the poison used was not much Jake’s style, besides she knew where he was and doubted he would have stopped on his way to Newhaven just to do something like this. It was too low to have been Allison, and she didn’t usually use poison… That left Evin as the only assassin Annie could think of who would do this. The others wouldn’t make such a bold move behind Crystal’s back. Hearing footsteps entering her tent, she turned to the healer named Isaac and gave the man a small smile. “The Pack lost another Second, I assume.” She told the man. “Katelyn was probably just a distraction or a warning… I don’t know.”

“Luckas left, and stole the medicine you left in his tent. I’m sure you were expecting that though.” The man said, with slight amusement in his tone.
“I’m glad that he at least took the medicine, I doubt it’ll do him any good in the long run. He’ll be back eventually.” She stated.
“We have another situation at the gates.” Isaac informed. “A man came around being chased by some of the Wolves that were here earlier. He crossed our borders safely, even though he has some wounds on him, now the assassins are demanding we surrender him. Apparently he killed two of them.”
Annie sighed deeply before standing up and walking past Isaac out of the tent. “Come with me…” She told him. “This might get ugly.”

Annie reached the gates and found six mercenaries attempting to hold back the assassins. She stopped a step behind the mercenaries and smiled at the Wolves. “Gentlemen… Back so soon?” She asked.
“That scumbag invaded our territory and killed two of our men. We demand that he pays for what he did!” One of the assassins shouted.
Annie simply smiled. “I don’t care what he did or didn’t do. He made it to our territory alive and we intend to keep him that way as long as he is here; if you guys want to sit and wait for him to leave, me by guests. What you do with him then is your business.”
“This is unacceptable.”
“What is unacceptable is that I have to hear your whining when I have injured and sick people who would be a better use of my time.” Annie stated, in a firm tone. “There were five of you, if I recall… If you failed to kill a man who was outnumbered five to one, in your own territory, don’t blame me or my clan for your failure. Go back to your leader with your tail between your legs and hope he is in a good mood.” She said, opening up a smirk. “Don’t embarrass yourselves further by committing some foolish act against my people.”

The assassins flinched, probably taking Annie’s words into consideration. Sean wouldn’t be pleased that this man had gone unpunished, but they didn’t really have that much of a choice. “Fine… No matter, we’ll find him.” One of the men muttered out to Annie, signaling the others to follow him as he turned around.
As soon as they were far enough Annie sighed. “Where is this idiot?”

The healer directed her to the tent where they were keeping the man. They had managed to get him to lie down on a mat, but for the looks of the healers that were observing him, the talking Annie heard when entering had been going on for a while. With one wave of her hand the two healers left and she was alone with the patient. “You, sir, are a very stupid man.” She stated. “A very stupid and, soon to be, dead man.”

She sat on the floor next to the mat eyeing him curiously. “Are you drunk, or have you been drinking? Because, from where I sit, you have several minor wounds from where, I assume you’ve been scratched by tree branches, and… Well… Then there’s the knife lodged in your thigh. That can get nasty if it nicks a blood vessel. Alcohol is a great anesthetic, isn’t it?” She asked, resting her hand over her knees. “Listen, I’m going to have you cured, as good as new, in less than two minutes. Once I do that, we won’t have chance to speak, so if you have questions, ask them now. After you are healed, head south to the desert. Anywhere else you go, the assassins will find you and kill you.”

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[Newhaven]

While people were running up and down checking for the announced bomb, or bombs, Jake was still standing in the same spot, leaned against the wall, going over the conversation he had with the woman in his mind repeatedly. From time to time he would mumble words to himself as if trying to solve some sort of puzzle. A puzzle: that was the only term he could think of to describe the whole thing.

[Flashback – Newhaven Inn, approximately 7 years ago]

“Alright, kid, see that guy?” Bastian asked, pointing at a man seated by the counter of the Inn, already falling down drunk and mumbling rubbish. “His wife just had a baby and he doesn’t want to go home to the crying. At the same time he feels guilty for not being there for her.”

“Hum, and you know this how?” Jake asked, giving the man a discrete look from behind his glass.
“Because, he looks severely sleep deprived and even drunk he glances at his wedding ring every time he raises his glass.” Bastian explained. “Like you, when you are upset. Also, Crys was the most annoying baby to ever be born in Valcrest. I’ve been there.”
“Like me?” Jake asked, raising an eyebrow.
“When you’re genuinely upset about something, you have a tendency of reaching for your sister’s locket. I assume she used to say something that you like to remember in these situations, right?” The man asked, leaning back in his seat.
“Yes, but… I really do that?” Jake mumbled, frowning slightly, trying to remember when he’d done that.
“People are creatures of habits Jake. Many times we function in patterns. A good observer can catch these patterns in one single conversation, a game of chess, or even in a great moment of silence. If you know what to look for, you can find behavioral patterns in almost anyone.” Bastian told him.
“Do you have them?” Jake asked.
Bastian chuckled. “Do I?” He asked, smirking slightly. “I wouldn’t know if I did. And If I knew, I wouldn’t have them. ”
“I’m confused.” Jake chuckled, scratching his head.
“Good. Use that.” Bastian told him. “Be confused, be obsessive, go over every detail over and over and find the things you missed. The things left unsaid, the questions that were avoided, the words chosen, those are all patterns that go unnoticed to most people. Everything we say and do says something about who we really are.” Bastian said, enthusiastically as if Jake had somehow had figured it all out; whatever it was.
“There’s one thing I can’t, for the life of me, figure out…” Jake said, looking at Bastian intently, trying to catch a glimpse of the answer in the man’s gestures, since he knew it would certainly not be just given to him. “…Why are you teaching me this?”
Bastian simply chuckled, shaking his head as he stood up to pay for their drinks. “Why not? It’s an useful skill, isn’t it?”


[Reality – Newhaven, present time]

“…If it works, it might be worth it. I admit that I’d do a lot to get our people back, which means that if we went for it, I’d be doing it. But it would mean strengthening Blackpond’s position, and I’m not sure that’s something that we should be doing. Plus you know what the Pack is willing to do if it doesn’t work the way that they seem to think it would.”

Jake snapped out of his thoughts to a piece of what Mageria was saying. “So many inconsistencies…” He muttered under his breath, before looking up to pay full attention to what was being said. It seems that whatever it was on that piece of paper, it was being considered. Jake didn’t know what it was, and it didn’t matter much to him, he didn’t think anything coming from Blackpond was good news. He was about to say so, when Mageria left the room. Patiently, he waited for her to return and then cleared his throat a little bit before speaking. “If I may… I don’t know what is on that note, but it’s not a good idea. I’ve been to Blackpond, I spent time there, their King doesn’t give a damn about his city or its people, so I don’t see what he would want or need from Newhaven, other than set some sort of trap.” He stopped for a moment and glanced towards the window. “Also, I believe we just met one of those assassins I’ve heard so much about.” He shrugged lightly and added. “Of course, this is just my opinion.” He pushed away from the wall and crossed his arms in front of his chest. “I would also like to put myself at the disposal of the Black Knights, if there’s ever a need to fill that last position. I have a feeling things will get busier and busier around here. If anything, an extra set of hand is always good.”

The setting changes from the-desert to Newhaven

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mageria Talsheir Character Portrait: Thomas Sidin Character Portrait: Sham (No Last Name) Character Portrait: Jake Turner

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Jake could guess what the whole thing was about before Mageria even spoke a word to him; the slightly evil smile on the woman's face was a very good hint of what was to come. His suspicions growing as she led him by the arm, and confirmed as they reached a training area. He heaved a small sigh knowing that he would probably leave this with a few bruises and aches, but grinned even so. It had been a long while since he had a chance at a (considerably) leveled fight. This would actually turn out to be quite fun for him.

Before picking up training gear, Jake needed to get rid of what he definitely wouldn't be using for this: his needles. So he carefully removed the sheathes located at his waist, forearms, and ankles, each containing ten to twenty needles. Afterwards he felt the weight of the training swords until he decided to arm himself with two short swords. They were heavier than his own sword, but weren't as heavy as the ones the knights were used to. He also got a couple of daggers, easily concealing them here and there as needed. Once done, he proceeded to join the Captain in the center of the courtyard. "Fair enough." He stated simply "You will have to excuse me if I'm a bit rusty though. You know, it's been a while." He added, a slight smirk showing on his face as he walked towards the woman, feeling his feet sink slightly in the muddy ground, one sword in each hand and some daggers hidden just in case, after all, old habits die hard.

Jake paced calmly towards Mageria, and never actually stopped before her. Not wasting any time in delivering the first couple of blows, he aimed a first hit with his left sword directly at Mageria's face and a second with his right sword at her chest.

Mageria snorted at the "a bit rusty" claim of Jake's. As if he would let any skills of his get rusty. She set her feet in a fighting stance and watched as Jake made his way towards her. Behind them both standing under the awnings were a number of the Guards watching them both and making bets on them both. When Jake struck at her face, Mageria brought her right arm up and deflected it off of her vambrace, letting it slide harmlessly past her head. The right hand sword she caught on the dagger in her left hand, twisting slightly so that she was inside Jake's guard. Bringing her right arm in tight, she aimed her elbow toward Jake's gut and jabbed it backwards . . .

Jake didn't try to escape the blow aimed at his gut, instead he simply decided to twist his body enough to protect his mid section and not get the wind knocked out of him. As he took the hit, he walked back a couple of steps so he could to put his guard up again properly, raising his left sword in a defensive manner while attacking with his good hand. Then he shook his head lightly and opened up a small smirk. "Now, what did I tell you? Rusty. It's almost shameful." He stated. Obviously, he didn't expect Mageria to believe that, but he was getting a bit of a kick out of messing with the guards who were betting on the fight. Following the statement, Jake advanced again; this time being careful not to leave another opening like the one before, aiming for body blows that were easily dodged or blocked and returned as he looked for an opening.

Mageria raised her eyebrows sardonically and tilted her head at Jake's words. Then a lightning grin worked it's way across her face and she started raining blows down on Jake, driving him across the yard and through a couple of puddles. He blocked every blow, so she took a moment to take a step back and dig her toe into a puddle and fling a glob of mud at Jake's face.



Jake notice the mud flying off the ground towards his face a moment too late to dodge, as the 'projectile' hit him straight in the face he dropped his left sword and let a dagger slide from under his sleeve, concealing it with his enlightenment. He then raised his hand as if to wipe the mud of his face, and threw the dagger in the direction of Mageria's face before to wiping the mud of his eyes.

Impressed with Jake's ability to conceal his actions, Mageria dove to one side to avoid the dagger flying at her face, rolling on the ground and coming up in a crouch. Bracing one hand on the ground, she brought her leg around in a sweeping motion towards Jake's legs.

Jake wiped his eyes and regained sight barely in time to see the incoming sweep kick. He attempted to jump over the kick, but it still caught his left foot, causing him to lose his balance and stumble back as he landed. The muddy ground didn't help his case, and he ended up slipping and falling backwards, immediately rolling over to his left and retrieving the sword he had dropped in order to defend himself better from the attack he knew would be coming next.

Mageria smoothly spun up from her crouch, settling her weight on both feet once again. She turned to see that Jake was rolling away, reaching for his sword and trying to bring it up. Walking towards him, she absently swung first the sword in her right hand and the long dagger in her left in circles, keeping her wrists loose and flinging a bit of mud off.
"Come on then. Stand up." Stopping a couple of steps away, she gestured with her sword, giving Jake the chance to get up out of the mud. When he hesitated, she raised one eyebrow and smiled.
"Don't you trust me?" Keeping back, she waited for what he'd do next.
Of course she pushed an attack the instant he started to move, aiming a couple of heavy blows toward his head.

Jake hesitated when Mageria told him to stand up. He did trust the woman with his life, but he knew for a fact she wasn't one to hold back, even if it was training, and he wouldn't really expect her to. Besides, the first thing he was taught, still as a kid, was: Never listen to a word your opponent says. Still, simply lying there would accomplish nothing so he took his chance at pulling himself off the ground, knowing it wouldn't be that simple.
Of course, the moment he moved he was met with several blows aimed towards his head. Jake wasn't even standing up straight yet as he was forced to lift up his left sword to stop Mageria's blade from hitting him in the head. As he blocked the first blow he almost lost balance again, but managed to steady himself, blocking the second blow as well. As the next blows came his way, instead of trying to properly stand and block them, he dropped to one knee, still protecting his head with his left sword, and swung his right sword towards Mageria's knees.

Mageria brought her dagger around to block Jake's blow, but couldn't block all of the force. It actually caught her in just the right place that it made her knee buckle, throwing her to the side and driving the air from her lungs for an instant. Forcing herself up, she rolled and drove herself to her feet.

Jake had an opportunity and he wasn't going to waste it. In the few moments it took for Mageria to bring herself up again, he activated his enlightenment and vanished, being careful to walk quietly and stepping over his own footprints not to give himself away, he circled her and attacked from behind, aiming a blow to her back.

Jake was gone. Well, obviously not gone, but not visible anymore. Obviously he was counting on his Enlightenment to give him the advantage, but like most Enlightened, he counted on it far too much, in her opinion. Drawing a careful breath, Mageria let her eyes drift half closed, pushing her dagger back into it's sheath to leave her left hand free. Most mercenaries practiced blind fighting for fun, but it was a skill that she had found extremely useful. It involved the ability to rely on senses other than sight, concentrating instead on trying to sense an opponent's movements with a sense of the space around a fighter.

Mageria settled her weight on both feet and concentrated. Half a breath in . . . she spun, eyes still half closed and brought her sword up, hearing it clang against another weapon. With her left hand she grabbed the invisible arm and seized a pressure point, using it to lever Jake's arm out and down in a rather painful hold. She smiled as she heard bets being settled back in the doorway.
"Nice try Jake. Care to try again?"

Later that night Mageria grinned a bit as she got ready for bed. Jake hadn’t done that bad, really. She’d have no problem bringing him up to a proper level of skill in no time. With a small sigh of exhaustion, she went about her nightly rituals. First was making sure that there was enough oil in the lamp sitting on her mantle. It was a small, squat lamp known as a Traveler’s Blessing, a bit of mercenary superstition that she couldn’t quite break herself of. Most mercenaries, once they managed to settle down, still had friends that were walking “The Long Road” as it was known. The belief was that if a light was kept burning for them, one day they would be able to find their way home. At the moment, there were two wicks burning, each of them labeled with a small metal tag. Because naming the person that was watched for meant that Death would also be watching for them, the tradition was that they were labeled with something that represented the person. One of the wicks was labeled with an ancient rune which meant “Strength through Courage” while the other read “Strength through Faith”. She brushed her fingers across it and moved on. One day they would find their rest.

Next she checked her weapons, another habit, but one she wasn’t about to break. Everything was in order, and her smile was tinged with sadness as she ran her fingers over a war hammer hanging from a rack. It was bright silver, with several ancient holy symbols impressed into it. The shaft was badly scratched, as if a hand with claws had tried to hold it. And it had, really. There was also blood that had soaked into the wood, no matter how hard she tried she hadn’t been able to clean it off. There was a leather thong on one end that would be used to attach it to a belt, from that dangled a battered iron cross.
“Hold on Daniel. I know that you’re out there.”

Finally she crossed to her desk to carefully shelve a couple of books. The knowledge that they held had been hard won, and not something that she would care to let just anyone know. The shelf that she put them on held several old and battered journals, most of them ancient and each stamped with either a golden sun or a silver crescent. Sometimes the best way to learn was to listen to those who were no longer able to speak.

Pushing herself to relax, she finally climbed into bed. Today had been exciting enough. Tomorrow might hold even more . . .

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

Thomas rubbed his hands through his hair and sighed in impatience. He just knew that things were going to get complicated with the Salamanders camped right outside the walls of Newhaven, but there was nothing he could do about it. Best to just move on to what he could control. Reaching out with one arm, he drug a stack of reports nearer and started leafing through it. He hadn’t been ready to become the Captain of the White Knights in the first place, ever since then it had felt like a desperate scramble to catch up. There had been months of late nights like this, trying to fill a role that he had been shoved into. Absently he ate with one hand while studying the reports with the other, not even tasting what he was eating. It took him a couple of hours, but he finally waded through them all. Putting them in a pile to deal with later, he wandered back into his bed room and shrugged out of his shirt. Not even bothering to pull anything else off, he just collapsed backwards and pulled a pillow over his head; dropping into a dreamless sleep.

-------

Sham was sitting on the edge of a roof watching the city when the stars started coming out. She liked to watch the city put itself to sleep, remembering when this time of day used to be her most active. For some reason nobody looked around during twilight. She hugged her knees to her chest, more disturbed with the actions and words of Yishka than she wanted to admit

“Why should a city have only one voice? I think Mageria has had the same idea as I have for a while now and she knows that it must be done to insure optimal survival."

"Now I have a story for you. . . . There was once a woman at the mercy of another woman. The first woman-- let's call her Yishka-- was on the ground with the blade of the second woman aimed directly for her heart. Yishka was a vile woman, who used threats and lied to get her way. No one could tell how many people's death she was responsible for. The second woman, with the perfect chance to kill this woman has a difficult choice to make herself however. She could kill Yishka, but face the consequence when 27 innocent soldiers die or she could let Yishka go, not knowing how many innocent lives she could possibly take herself. So, would you rather play the soulless tango with Mother Death herself or would you rather kill what you know you need to have to be happy?"


Did Mageria think the same way that this Yishka did? She knew that the woman was capable of almost anything, but surely there were limits to what the Captain would do. Weren’t there?

Finally Sham stood up and started running along the edge of the roof, her eyes flaring green as she shifted her sight to better deal with the dark. There was nothing she could do about it now. She’d just have to see how things turned out next.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Crystal Rivers Character Portrait: Dastan Character Portrait: Indrani Nayar Character Portrait: Luckas Character Portrait: Jake Turner

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[Flashback – Wolfpack Camp, approximately 7 years ago]

Jake was sitting by the lake staring blankly at the surface of the water, trying to silence the cries and screams still ringing in his ears. This wasn’t at all what he had planned, and he had planned it thoroughly throughout the years, as it turned out: Revenge didn’t taste as sweet as he thought it would.

“Jakey, Jakey... You stink of fear shame.” Crys whispered in his ear mockingly. “Don’t worry now; she won’t hurt you that badly. You are an asset to this clan after all.”
Jake sighed, annoyed, as he stared into the water of the lake. “You’re not helping Crys.”
“Does it look like I’m trying to help? I was against this whole thing from the start, remember?”
“You’re a great friend, did you know?” He muttered.
“Yes, I do know.” She chuckled putting one arm around his shoulders. “You’ll do fine. Just don’t lie to her face and she’ll understand. You didn’t do anything after all.”
“Right… I didn’t do anything; that’s the problem.” Jake replied. “I should have done something.”
“What would you have done, killed Sean? Then you’d really be in trouble right now.” Crys said absently. “Even if you could have done something, it doesn’t matter now, does it?”
“I promised Lionel I wouldn’t say anything.” Jake mumbled, running one hand through his hair.
Crys gave him a small push in response. “No, Jake! You’ll tell her exactly what happened. You don’t owe Sean or Lionel anything.”
“What does it matter now what I tell her? It’s done!” He replied, pulling himself up and walking a few steps away from her.
“Yes, but you didn’t do it!” Crys shouted as he started to walk away. “Don’t lie to her, Jake!”

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

[Flashback – Leader’s cabin, approximately 7 years ago]

“So, Jacob… Have a seat.” Dani said, indicating the chair across from her. “Let’s have a little chat.”
Jake stood in the doorway for another moment before closing the door behind him and sitting down without speaking a word. He thought it better to just let Dani speak first.
“I spoke to Sean about what happened in Blackpond. Now, he told me a random story about how the woman panicked and attacked the two of you and it was self-defense.” She started, leaning forward and looking at him from across the table with a serious expression, her blue eyes piercing right through him. “I didn’t believe a word of what he said to me and I advise you to be smarter than that if you attempt a lie. Now… Tell me: What exactly happened in that house, and who was responsible?”
Jake hesitated for a moment, thinking of all the lies he could make up and all the excuses he could give. Finally, he decided it was easier to just be honest. “I’m responsible. I crossed the line, I know, but I wanted him to suffer. I wanted him to feel what I felt.”
“How so?” Dani asked, in a slightly interested tone, leaning forward a little bit more.
“Well, my sister was all I had and… They made me watch as they took her from me. There was nothing I could do to save her, I was useless then. I wanted him to feel that, even if for a moment.”
“You were ten, Jake. What do you assume you could have done?” Dani asked him.
“It doesn’t matter, it feels the same. You know the feeling.” Jake replied. “Logic doesn’t apply to situations like these. Logic doesn’t take away the feeling, now does it?” He asked leaning back in his seat.
Dani nodded. “How does it feel now? Better?” She chuckled. “I know that feeling as well.” She leaned back as well and sighed. “But… That’s not why you’re here. As much as I was against this stupidity, I was convinced to give my consent. What I didn’t allow was for an innocent woman to be disfigured as a part of it. I also don’t believe you did this yourself. Not after what was done to your sister.”
“I wanted him to suffer. I wanted him to know the feeling. I wanted it.” Jake repeated. “Does it really matter who was holding the knife?”
“It matters to me. Who was holding the knife?” Dani asked.
“I was holding a knife, Sean was also holding a knife. I had blood on my knife, and so did he.” Jake stated simply, holding Dani’s gaze firmly.
“I see…” She replied. “Very well, I suppose I have no choice but to give the same punishment I gave Sean. You are suspended as of now, and will be placed under observation. If you fail the evaluation, and I will demote you to worker, do you understand?”
“Yes, I do.” Jake replied.
“And don’t expect Bastian or Crys to be the ones evaluating you, Jake. You’ve gotten away with too much already. Now, you answer to me. Are we clear?”
“Yes, perfectly clear.” Jake responded, lowering his head.
“Good. You’re dismissed, for now.” Dani told him. “Get out before I decide I’m being too nice.”

Jake didn’t say another word, nor did he stop to think about it, he simply stood up and left the cabin as fast as he could without running. As he closed the door behind him and stepped outside he saw Sean walking over probably wanting to know what he said. However, before Sean had the chance to say a word to him, Jake punched him in the face, knocking him down to the floor. Jake crouched down and stared at Sean with and angry look in his eyes as he spoke. “I covered for you, this time, because your brother begged me. Don’t expect me to ever do it again.”

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

[Flashback – Fire Temple, little over a year ago]

“Go back to sleep.” Jake heard a whisper behind his back and grimaced: Crys knew he was awake, and without a doubt she knew why.
He was sitting on the edge of the bed, hiding his face in his hands, trying to erase the memories that flooded his dreams, as well as the anger they carried; and only the Gods knew just how angry he still was. Crys had been asleep, but obviously she wouldn’t be for long after he sat up and turned his back. He should have stayed down, then at least she would let him pretend to be sleeping and the silence would linger.
“I can’t… I’m not…” He sighed, stopping himself before he made the mistake of lying to her. “I just don’t want to.”
“You shouldn’t do this, Jake.” She replied, suppressing a yawn. “It will only end badly. You know it, I know it… But suit yourself, I won’t argue with you again.”
“You don’t understand.” He muttered out. “You can’t understand…”
“I’m not just saying this: I really won’t argue with you. You know what my opinion is, and it hasn’t changed, but I won’t ask you not to go.” She sighed. “We both know you won’t listen, because you never once listened, and sooner or later we’ll just be back where we started.”

Jake simply shook his head, face still hidden in his hands. “I might never come back.”
“You never did come back. Not really.” She retorted. “If you want to stay here and pretend your mind isn’t elsewhere… I’m not one to complain.” She said, hugging him from behind and resting her chin on his shoulder. “I’m also not stupid, and I know you way too well to actually believe you can keep this up for much longer.”
“Are you happy here, Crys? I mean really happy?” He asked her, lifting his head and looking at the stars through the stone window of the fire temple.
Crys sighed softly. “I’m not unhappy.”
“That’s not what I asked.” He replied.
“I’ve been happier, but, all things considered: Yes, I am. I have a small piece of family left, I have a small shadow of what my clan once was, and as much as I hate the sand and the dry heat… The desert has been good to us in the past couple of years. I’m not entirely happy, but, as is, I feel that I can be one day. That’s more than enough for me right now.” Crys replied in a whisper, finally releasing the yawn she had held back moments before.
“Go back to sleep, you’re tired.” Jake told her.
“I’ll just stay awake a little bit longer.” She mumbled. “Besides… You’ll leave as soon as I fall asleep.”
“I will.” Jake confirmed with a sigh. “I have to.”
“Fine, but… Jake…” She mumbled, yawning again.
“Yes?” He asked still staring blankly at some point outside the window.
“Don’t come back unless you’re staying.”


[Reality – Newhaven Castle, present time]

The light of one lit candle reflected on the surface of a golden locket causing it to sparkle before Jake’s blue eyes; a lonely golden light in a dark room; the same room Jake had barely used the last time he stayed there. It was more of a storage than a room then since he was always away from the castle for one reason or another.

This had been Jake’s nightly ritual for the past year and half: Drowning in his memories and hoping for exhaustion to lull him to sleep. It wasn’t always effective, but just enough to get him by. Insomnia had been a real problem in the past couple of years, but one he had learned to handle. Annie had given him herbs for it, but he tried not to depend on them and only used them as a last resort. This wasn’t the time to turn to those methods, though, so he did his best to just lay back in bed until he just couldn’t manage to keep his eyes open anymore.

Closing his fist around the locket, Jake let his mind wander from the past to the present, although that wasn’t any less bothersome. The conversation with that strange woman from Blackpond was still tormenting him, even if he would never admit it. He didn’t know what she wanted, he wasn’t even sure if he wanted to know, but whatever it was… It couldn’t end well. He sighed, staring at the ceiling. “Who are you?” He mumbled to himself. “What are you trying to pull?” Aside from the fact she seemed delighted with the possibility of toying with him, he couldn’t know what was on that woman’s mind… It was unsettling, and that to say the least.

Finally, he felt himself yawn, exhaustion finally beginning to get the best of him. The fight had been great for that as well. Jake was a indeed a bit rusty, he hadn’t given himself time to train in a little while, and it showed, but… Bruises, and aches aside: It had been a good one, and if there was one living person he wouldn’t mind losing a fight to, that person would have to be Mageria; which, of course, didn’t mean he wouldn't try to beat her if the chance presented itself in the future. A little smirk began to show on his face unconsciously as he closed his eyes. He wouldn’t dare admit it, not even to himself, but it was actually nice to be back after all.

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

[Desert – Crimson Shadows’ Camp]

Crys listened to Theron, all the while thinking that he hadn’t really told her a damn thing. It was frustrating, to say the least, but she didn’t really have the time to waste trying to figure out what exactly the man was seeking with the healers. She knew that, whatever it was, she could help him get it, but he didn’t say what it was so she didn’t offer to go with him. If he wanted help he’d ask for it… And she would consider it his problem until told otherwise. However, one thing he said bothered her: He said he would force the war to end and that… That was something that she couldn’t agree with, not for any reason. Yet, she didn’t say anything about it and simply remained silent until he stood to retire for the night. Then she spoke, not facing him and still facing the warmth of the fire. “If you believe that giving me the truth of what you’re doing will jeopardize anything, then you and I might have different definitions of trust, old friend. As is, I also believe we have different definitions of progress and how to obtain it.” She sighed. “I always believed that the day would come when Valcrest would either save itself or self-destruct… I still believe that the day will come, and when it does… Whatever happens will happen, despite anyone’s plans.” She stated, absently.

As Theron said good night the only response she gave the man was: “Call me Crys.”

For next couple of hours, Crys sat by the fire, thinking of things that happened in the past five years and things that would surely become more and more complicated in the next few days. It had been a stressful day, and it would probably be the first of many. Finally standing, she led herself towards the Fire Temple, thinking of things she needed to take care of the next day. Only then she realized something: Ali was nowhere around in the camp.
Turning back towards the encampment she found some assassins of her group and questioned them. One of the actives had seen Ali follow Trevor out of the encampment, obviously he just assumed she had been sent out with him on his assignment, none of them knew that Ali was ordered to stand down; only Evin knew that. “Crap!” Crys muttered under her breath. “Listen, as soon as any of you spot Evin around camp in the morning, let him know I need to speak with him.” She told them, knowing that they would probably spot the man before she did. She needed to ask his opinions on this, besides, she wasn’t sure how well they could keep the Pack from figuring out their plans. It was possible that they would have to rethink things a little bit.

A while ago they had agreed on spreading out and making it look like every assassin in their group was working on their own. Crys had stayed put in the desert, hoping Sean would believe she had given up, or maybe simply see it as a possibility. It was frustrating, but she knew that if he ever knew for a fact that they were recruiting he would unleash the Pack on them with full force. Surely, he would find out eventually, but she hoped they would be strong enough to resist by the time it happened. At the moment they weren’t, but it didn’t matter… Whenever Sean found out Theron was back, he would do anything to affect the man… Going after them would be the first thing on the list. They needed to prepare for that.

As for Ali: Crys would have to deal with her when she returned. Until then, all she could do was hope she didn’t get herself into any kind of trouble with the Pack.

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

Dastan stood most of the night watching the flames engulf the body of his friend, waiting for the time to scatter his ashes to the wind. For a rare moment his expression was completely serious as he watched the man be consumed by the fire. They had never had as many deaths in the clan as they did lately. Dastan would be lying if he said that it didn’t bother him to see this many good men killed for so little, but he also knew this was being done to push them into a betrayal, and he wouldn’t let the Pack have their way, even if it meant pushing back and starting a war.

“You don’t have to stay here all night, you know. We can have someone else keep watch.” Indrani spoke beside him, resting a hand on his shoulder.
“I want to stay.” He replied, not looking at her. “I saw Evin approach you earlier. Was he harassing you in any way? Because if that’s the case, then…”
“No. It was nothing really.” She told him. “Nothing I can’t handle.”
“Was it about that stupid tent again?” He mumbled.
“No.” She chuckled. “Just drop it, okay?”
“Was he hitting on you then?” He asked, opening a little smirk. “Because, if you ask me, I’d say that fellow really needs a good woman.”
Indrani responded by punching Dastan in the arm with full force. “No! What the hell is wrong with you?”
Dastan chuckled, rubbing his arm where she hit him. “Well… Why else would he want to talk to you? It’s not like you two were ever friendly with each other. I’m suspicious now… Maybe I should go have a talk with this guy. I will have no one messing with my little sister.” He stated, faking an angry expression.
“By the Gods, Dastan, shut up.” She muttered.
He laughed. “Alright, alright… I’ll leave you alone, I promise.”
“Are you really staying here all night?” She asked him.
Dastan sat down on a boulder next to the pyre and nodded. “I’m staying.” He stated, still watching the flames. “I will personally see to it that his remains are handled properly. I owe it to his family.”
Indrani sighed. “Alright, just… Have someone wake me if you feel the need to rest. I'll stay in your place.” She told him, before walking away to her tent.

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

[Outside of Newhaven]

Luckas was a little bit confused as well as curious and, in that state he simply allowed this strange young woman to drag him around the encampment in what could only be described as some weird dance routine. Finally, she dropped him by this man she called Alex. Once dropped on the ground Luke simply laid back and let out a small giggle, before looking up at this girl with a little bit more care than last time. She was definitely interesting in the sense of not boring and possibly dangerous, but not interesting in the sense of being someone he could attempt to mess with. She didn’t strike him as someone he could frighten and it was easy to see that her mind was just as broken as it would ever be. Lovely in a way and strangely fascinating in another, but nothing he could ever work with. He watched her for a good while, the dumb smile on his face completely separated from the sharp look in his eyes. There were a lot of eyes on him now, and to actually go by unnoticed was out of the question, but he didn't really care; he was suddenly not bored anymore.

At last he turned his attention to the man he had been ‘offered’ to. He laughed out, still lying flat on his back, as he turned his eyes at the man. “Is she, like, your pet, Alex?” He asked curiously, purposely referring to the girl who brought him there as if she wasn’t present. “I had a cat once; he used to bring me dead birdies and rats… A lovely little freak, he was. Of course he had the nasty habit of trying to sink his claws into me at every given chance… I eventually got fed up with him.” He stated absently. “Oh, I’m sorry… How rude of me…” He said, holding out one hand. “… I’m Luckas. You can call me Luke if you rather.” He told him, in an extremely friendly tone as if they were both meeting at a party or another social occasion of the sorts.

The setting changes from newhaven to The Ruins (Healer's camp)

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Crystal Rivers Character Portrait: Luckas Character Portrait: Jake Turner Character Portrait: Annie Turner Character Portrait: Allison Blake Character Portrait: Sean Fletcher

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Annie Turner woke up before Sunrise, as she usually did, after only a few hours of sleep the night before. She knew she would be hearing from Sean very soon after the way she treated his assassins, but she wasn’t worried about it at the moment. She knew he was capable of quite a lot, but he still had some sort of respect for the healer clan, which made it easier to deal with him than with the rest most of his subordinates.
The day before had been busy and the next ones didn’t show signs of getting any better, but Annie had three years to get used to the fact that she would probably never have another quiet moment again. It had been difficult to gain the clan’s respect, and most of the elders had chosen to leave the White Shadows in protest after Annie reinstated the healers who had fought in the battles against Blackpond, they were offended with how she responded to their claims that her mother would never allow such a thing. They had called her a foolish child for that decision, but that was something she felt was right, and if she had learned anything in her short lived life is that sometimes you just need to follow your instincts, and if the rules are against that… Well… She’d just have to change the rules.

As it was usual, at the first sign of movement coming from her tent, someone came to break the silence. Except, it wasn’t who she thought it would be.
“I hear movement. Are you awake, then?” Ali’s voice called from outside the tent, in a tone only slightly above a whisper.
Annie took her time carefully folding her covers and setting them down on top of her sleeping mat, before replying. “I’m awake, yes. Why are you here, Ali?”
Allison walked into the tent and nodded a greeting as she sat on the floor as she had done many times in the past couple of years. “I’m just visiting a friend.” She stated innocently.
Annie chuckled as she sat down in front of her. “You are never ‘just’ doing anything.” She stated.

“I followed Trevor here, I think it has to do with Katelyn, but I wouldn’t know that for sure, now would I?” She said in a slightly bitter tone. “Because, even if I could ask, he wouldn’t be allowed to tell me.”
“How is your hand recovering?” Annie asked, changing the subject to something a little less dangerous and more of her concern.
“Not much of a change since last time I was here.” She said, holding out her right hand and pulling off her glove to expose the scar that ran across the palm, she slowly began to close her hand, but stopped halfway through, with a sigh. “It’s as far as it goes without pain, and I can barely hold my bow drawn. I mean, I can… But not for very long.”
“Any spasms, shaking or numbness?” Annie asked absently.
“No.” Ali mumbled putting the glove back on and staring at her hand with an angry expression.

Annie sighed. “You were very lucky; if he had been a little more precise your hand would be useless right now. And you’re recovering; slowly, but you are recovering.”
“I know, I just…” Ali sighed running her fingers through her hair. “You wouldn’t understand.”
“You don’t think I understand what it feels like to hate someone so badly that the mere thought of him breathing keeps you awake at night?” Annie asked, standing up and moving to light a fire. “You don’t think I understand going over a decision over a thousand times in your mind wondering what could have been done better, unable to stop even though it’s clear you can’t change anything even if you do find the answer?” She chuckled. “Allison, do you have a clue how many people die on my hands every day? I don’t. I already lost count. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night simply because I figured out how I could’ve helped someone who had already died hours before. Still, I’m the leader of this clan and so… I have to act as if I’m not worried about this land clearly going further and further down the worse possible road.” She sighed. “I’m tired of this war, even more than most people if it’s even possible, and it makes me feel just as angry and helpless as it makes you.”
Ali nodded, quietly, at Annie’s words. Obviously she hadn’t considered it. “I suppose so, but what do you suggest I do? I can’t just take this quietly. I really can’t.”
“Do what I do.” Annie stated. “Ask yourself one question before you act: ‘What good does this do?’ If you can’t think of an answer, then do nothing.” She said, calmly. “Tea?”
“No thank you.” Ali mumbled, still a little lost in her head. “People say ‘do nothing’ as if it was easy.”

Annie sat back down gently stirring a cup of tea. “They say ‘do nothing’ because they believe you’re strong enough for that. Even my mother thought of you as a strong spirit, or so she said, are you really going to act weak and foolish now?”
Ali sighed. “I might just be weak and foolish after all.”
Annie smiled, taking a small sip from her tea. “If you believe that, then yes, you are.”
Ali chuckled in response to Annie’s words. “You sound just like your mother.”
Annie smirked slightly. “Well, someone has to.”
“She really didn’t tell you where she was running off to or why?” Ali asked, with an intrigued expression crossing her face momentarily. She remembered the last time she saw Lena in the desert, but the woman had simply vanished after that, and no one had heard from her since, nor did she give anyone an explanation as to why she was leaving.
“No. She did leave me a few instructions and assured me that she would be back one day.” Annie stated absently, drinking the rest of her tea.
“You seem awfully calm about it.” Ali said, giving her a slightly concerned look. “I mean, I would be a little mad at least.”
“I’ve been mad, but it’s been three years. At some point you just have to let these things go.”

Ali was going to say something else, but at that point a healer entered the tent and interrupted the conversation. “Annie, there is a man here asking to speak with you.” The older woman said as she gave Ali a curious look, noting that the young assassin was still fully armed and had not walked past the gates. “He didn’t give his name, but he asked for you directly. Also: He is accompanied by a young lady, an elf and an orc, it seems.”
Ali nodded quietly and lifted her head to face the woman who was standing. “Is he wearing a mask?” She asked, already sure of what the answer would be.
“Yes, as a matter of fact he is.” The healer answered.
Ali nodded, and gave Annie a slight smile as she explained. “Theron.”
“Hum…” Annie mumbled. “Do you know what he wants?” She asked.
Ali shrugged. “Not a clue.”
“I see…” Annie mumbled, standing and walking over to a locked chest, opening it, and going through its contents until she pulled something out, which she held out of Ali’s sight as she walked out of the tent and followed the healer to where she had left the man named Theron.

As Annie walked towards the man in the mask, she let her eyes wander through the encampment, locating the three companions the man had brought along with him. She also spotted the assassins Ali had mentioned and a few scouts of the Wolfpack that were constantly lurking around in the limits of the forest. Finally she turned her brown eyes the man as she stopped before him and offered a smile. “Theron Lockwood. I have been expecting you.” She told him. Before she could say another word, however, a shout was heard throughout the encampment.

“WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?”

Annie turned quickly to see the healer named Isaac rushing towards the orc with his fists clenched and eyes glowing pure red, his face was turning red and he was shaking from head to toe in pure rage. “Hell, no.” Annie muttered under her breath and she took off running towards the healer and literally colliding with him in order to pull him away, fully aware that the shock of being tackled was the only thing that kept Isaac from tossing her aside and moving on.
Isaac simply sat on the floor where he had fallen, still shaking, and visibly fighting to control his enlightenment. “She’s going to get herself killed. He has no right!”
“Isaac, get a hold of yourself.” Annie said, in a calm tone, sitting next to him and placing her hands in both sides of the man’s face, forcing him to look at her. “Breathe before you end up hurting us both. Just breathe.”
Isaac took a few moments to calm himself enough to speak. When he finally managed, he spoke in a calmer tone. “I was up all night, trying to keep that woman from running off and doing something stupid, and now this…” He sighed, holding back the insult he wanted to make as he pointed at Barca. “He spends five minutes with her and she runs off to do just that!”
“It was her choice. Otherwise, no amount of talking would have been enough to push her into it. You know that.” She told him.
“Her husband died last night she wasn’t in her right mind just yet.” He argued.
“You have no right to decide that, and you know it. We can’t choose what’s best for people, all we can do is help when we are asked, if we can."
“She’s going to get killed.” He muttered, still visibly angry.
“Probably, but then she knows that too.” Annie replied, getting back on her feet a dusting herself off. “Now go get some sleep. If I managed to tackle you down, then you’re probably too tired.” She told him with a little grin.
The man chuckled, pulling himself off the floor and turning his back to head for his tent.

Once Isaac was out of sight Annie heaved a long sigh and found Theron again, continuing the conversation as if there had been no interruption. She handed him and envelope and smiled. “Like I said, I have been expecting you. My mother left you this, obviously I don’t know what it says, but she told me to give it to you as soon as you came over. Apparently she knew you would be coming here.” She told him with a light shrug. “Why don’t you have a read? If afterwards you still need to talk, you can find me in my tent.” She informed, leaving him with the envelope and starting to walk away. “Oh, and… If your friends need anything, they can ask for it. I just ask that no one upsets my healers, since that would probably end badly, and I have very few of them left.” She said over her shoulder as she walked back to her tent.

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[Desert – Crimson Shadows Camp]

Crys had slept very little and spent hours playing music in her room, thinking of what to do about all these changes. She had been trying to find a word to describe what she was feeling about all of this, and the only one she could think of was ‘frustration’. She was frustrated about a great deal of things, her greatest frustration was the possibility of three years of work and planning going to waste. She had come to the conclusion that it didn’t matter either: The moment Sean realized Theron was back in Valcrest he would throw any caution out the window. He would present the clan with the opportunity of taking vengeance and, of course, they would gladly take it.

Another concern in her mind was with the Crimson Shadows, it had taken a while, but they were slowly feeling the losses and there had been discussion of whether or not their support to the assassins was worth it. It was Dastan’s decision, and his word was law to the clan, but she knew that eventually he had to think of what was best for his people, and she would never hold that against him. They could move outside the Crimson’s territory, if needed; the desert was big enough for that.

As the Sun finally rose and she could feel the room getting warmer, she got out of bed and made her way out of the temple, stopping at the altar to say her prayers. Crys was never used to praying, but spending time with the Crimson had given her that habit. Dastan often spoke of how he wanted to rebuild the city and make the temple as glorious as it once had been, but he had never actually moved a finger to do it in the time they knew each other. She had asked him why a couple of times… He simply mumbled something about not being ready to let go and quickly changed the subject. She figured it was something he had to handle himself, and simply dropped the subject.

Halfway to the encampment she stopped as she heard some excited whispers from a group of Crimson Shadows, she approached them, simply listening until the noticed and stopped talking. She smiled at the group of mercenaries. “Why do you people sound like you’ve pulled some sort of prank?”
One of the mercenary chuckled. “No, that’s not it. We’re waiting to see if Evin gets out alive."
“Gets out alive from what?” She asked, raising an eyebrow. “What’re you people up to?”
“We built this awesome death trap contraption, type, thing.” One of them stated cheerfully. “We put so many traps into that thing that we don’t even know for sure all it does.” Another added. “Hope he enjoys it. After all we put a lot of thought into it.”
Crys chuckled as the distant sounds of a crumbling structure and several explosions reached her ears. “Oh, I’m sure he’s having fun with it.”

All of a sudden the sound of Dastan’s voice echoed through the small encampment calling his people to scatter the ashes of their fallen companion. The small group of mercenaries left to answer the call of their leader. Crys shook her head still amused by the whole ‘contraption’ thing, and wandered off in the direction the noises had come from until she found Evin. “Huh, so you did get out alive.” She stated absently. “I have some things I’d like to talk about, when you have the time. I’ll be in camp.” She told him, beginning to walk back to the camp to get something to eat.

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[Assassin’s Camp]

“So, let me see if I get this straight…” Sean started glaring at the actives that he had sent to the healers the night before. “This guy killed two of our men, ran off towards the plains and you three simply left him there and came home. You didn’t even consider standing guard to get him on his way out?” He asked. “You are, of course, aware that he is probably in the desert by now, right?” One of the actives opened his mouth to speak, but Sean cut him off. “I don’t care for your excuses.” He sighed, rubbing his eyes in clear exhaustion. “I will go to the healers myself and have a chat with their leader. Send another messenger to the Crimson offering another truce. Tell them it’s their last chance to surrender the traitors; there won’t be any more warnings.”
The actives bowed their heads and left Sean alone in the office. It had been a very long night, but Sean had slept through it. Aside from an argument that broke out between two brothers, late at night, the camp was quiet as could be.

Standing up from his seat and walking to his bedroom, Sean armed himself before walking outside to the center of camp. Workers were putting out was left of the campfire and the guards were changing shifts, he called one of the instructors over and ordered him to gather a couple of actives and retrieve the bodies of the two men killed, that if they were still where they had been left the night before, only then he would inform the men’s families of their deaths, which was something he absolutely hated doing, but always made sure to do in person.

Walking to the training field he found his brother practicing archery by himself. Opening a grin he sneaked behind him and as the boy was about to release the arrow he shouted. “DONI!”
Donovan jumped up and sent the arrow flying in a completely crooked angle, causing it to sink into the ground, nowhere near its intended target.
“Screw you, Sean!” He muttered. “What do you want?”
Sean chuckled. “Nothing... I’m just saying ‘hi’.” He said, putting one arms around his brother’s shoulders. “I’m going to go see Katie in the plains.”
“I still think you shouldn’t have left her there alone.” Donovan said, frowning slightly. “It’s not safe.”
“She was attacked here, so I don’t really see how that eve matters.” Sean replied. “It’s not safe anywhere anymore, but at least the healers are somewhat left alone.”
“We just need to get rid of them.” Donovan said. “Evin and Crys, they’re the reason why it’s not safe here, right?”
“Yes, I’m working on it.” Sean said with a little nod. “…As we speak, actually. So for now all you have to worry about, little brother, is how easily distracted you are.” He chuckled. “I mean, really, that was a lousy shot.”
Donovan shoved him, annoyed by the comment. “Shut up, you idiot.”
Sean nodded. “Tsk, tsk… You shouldn’t talk to your leader like that. You know, I could have you suspended.”
“You could, but then I’d have to challenge you.” Donovan replied with a grin. “Now, that would put you in a rather awkward position, wouldn’t it?”
“You’re blackmailing me, you little punk!” Sean exclaimed, faking shock.
“Blackmail is such a heavy term, brother. I’m simply reminding you of the possible consequences of your actions, that’s all.” Donovan explained with a less than convincing innocent tone in his voice.
Sean chuckled, patting his brother on the head. “That’s funny, kid, but you don’t want to try me.” He stated walking away from the training field and towards the exit of the camp. As he passed the gates he warned the guards that Avius would be in charge until he got back and that anything important should be taken straight to him. He was going to try, one more time, to offer the White Shadows his protection, and get them to separate themselves from the Crimson for good.

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[Healer’s Camp]

Ali had walked to the other side of the encampment to one of the small flower gardens that were quieter and more isolated from the camp itself. There she sat by a rock and tried to enjoy the silence and sunlight for at least a moment. Annie had a good point: everyone was tired, everyone was angry for a reason or another nowadays. She needed to breathe, and try to act rationally, or she would only make things worse. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, putting all her attention in the smell of flowers and the cool morning breeze, trying to clear her mind from all the troubles that had been afflicting her lately.

“Mind if I sit?” A slightly weak voice spoke and pierced through Ali’s thoughts. She recognized it as being Sean’s sister and heaved a small sigh.
“You shouldn’t be talking to me Kate.” She replied, not opening her eyes.
“I love my brother, I do, but he needs to stop. Tell me what I can do to help.” The girl asked.
“No.” Ali replied, still not looking at her.
“I can help.” Katie argued.
“Sure you can. You can also get yourself killed by standing in the middle of this and I don’t want that on my conscience. Wait for your brother to pick you up, go home and stay as far away from this as possible.” Ali said, finally opening her eyes and looking up at the girl with an angry look in her eyes.
Kate nodded, and sat down on the grass, resting her chin on her knees. “I was poisoned at home, having done absolutely nothing, simply because one of you guys wanted to mess with my brother’s head. I would much rather be accused of treason and have my life threatened for an actual reason.”
“Your life was never actually at risk, you know that. Do you want to end up like Owen? Because I don’t believe, not for a second, that Sean would be any more merciful to you. Not after what he did to Lionel.” Ali muttered. “If you really want to do something, be there for the clan. Help them because, the Gods know, when all hell breaks loose no one is going to be thinking of them.”
“What do you suggest I do?” Katie asked with a frown. “I’m not even a recruit, who is going to listen to me?”
“You’re the leader’s sister. If you find the right people they’ll listen to the truth.” Ali told her. “Tell them what you just told me, change things from the inside, like your brother did.”

Katie nodded quietly, and for a little while silence lingered in the garden. That until a voice called from behind the two of them; a cold and enraged voice. “Katelyn… Go back to camp.”
Ali didn’t turn to look; she knew that voice all too well. She simply watched with the corner of her eyes as Katie stood up and slowly began to walk away. The girl whispered something to Sean as she walked past him, but Ali couldn’t hear. She couldn’t hear anything anymore, the mere sound of Sean’s voice got her blood boiling and ears ringing in rage. Whatever was left of her senses were turned towards the effort necessary to remain seated and calm. As Sean took a step towards her she finally broke the silence. “Walk away, Sean. Don’t make me disrespect the sanctity of this place by gauging your eyes out.”
Sean stopped walking, but didn’t walk away. “You’re no different from me.” He stated. “Sending Evin to do your dirty work, seriously? I expected more from you Ali, but you’re just a coward who sends a psycho like that to attack a little girl!” He shouted, walking closer. “Does she know? Doe she even know what this was really about? Did you tell her? DID YOU?”

As Sean finished screaming his accusations Ali stood quickly and turned towards him, gripping her bow firmly as if hanging on to it was the only thing stopping her from pulling out a knife. “I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.” She muttered, glaring at him with a disgusted look in her eyes.
He walked closer yet another step, and another, and then another, until there was less than an inch of space between the two. “Tell Sean, this is what he gets for killing Ali’s recruit: Those were the words that piece of shit spoke to my men when he invaded our camp and poisoned my little sister.” She told her, his voice only slightly above a whisper. “So now, I’m just kindly pointing out to you that, out of the two of us, you were the one who dragged a fifteen year old kid who had barely made it through his first mission into something he couldn’t handle, you were responsible for leading every mercenary I’ve killed into MY territory and then causing their deaths. YOU were the one who almost caused my sister’s death, and you are the one hiding while others act for you, I assume because Crys ordered you to stand down. Out of the two of us, who is really the coward, Ali? Tell me!”

It was a split second, maybe even less; all Sean had the time to do was pull himself back to avoid the knife slashing at his chest. Ali didn’t try again; she calmly sheathed the dagger as she replied. “This was me asking a second time for you to back off. Make me ask again and I won’t give you time to dodge. Now: I don’t know that the hell you are talking about. I haven’t asked Evin any favors and Crys didn’t give me any orders. As for what you did to Owen… When I do something about it, believe me, you’ll know it’s me.” She said starting to walk past him towards the encampment.
As she passed Sean shook his head. “Advise your mercenary friends to reconsider their allegiance, Allison. Unless you want to witness yet another massacre…” He whispered. “How many more families can you bear to lose?”
She sighed softly. “Sean, you’d be surprised with what I can still bear. Just remember: the less I have to lose, the worse it will be for you in the end.”

With that said, Ali walked past Sean and began to head towards the exit of the camp, in the direction of the desert.

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[/b][Newhaven][/b]

(dialogue written in collaboration with The_Sickness)

Jake left the dining room absently thinking about going into the city and visit the market if he had the chance, only half-concerned with the council meeting Dominic had mentioned. If, or when, he was needed, surely someone would ask for him, until then he did have a few things of his own he could tend to around the city. After all, it had been a while since he was last around Newhaven he had some acquaintances he could visit for information and a few things that he could do.

While he walked the hall he caught pieces of conversation between the guards, they seemed to be talking a lot about Mageria leaving in a hurry and something to do with Thomas keeping something from her. Aside from thinking that Thomas wasn't being very smart he didn't really pay attention. He just kept walking the halls in the direction of the courtyard.

Michael walked the hall after collecting his armor from his hiding spot and setting his cloak back where it belonged.
He then skipped back through the hall in full armor causing the same "thunk" sound over and over again that he had the night before.
Michael was headed back to the main room when he happened across Jake.
The man for whatever reason didn't seem to be like anyone else in the castle.
He just seemed different from the usual, boring, run of the mill, knight.
And thus Michael stopped in his tracks and walked around him like a shark circling it's prey.
"Hm you're no black knight.
Or if you are you certainly aren't the spoiled child in armor this place breeds"
He stood in front of Jake only a moment seemingly sizing him up, with a raise of a black gloved finger Michael once more started to circle him.
"So tell me my boy what..." he said walking by his left ear.
"brings you.." he said walking by his right ear
"here." which was said as he stood in front of Jake his hands clasped by his waist.
Michael's voice then rose slightly as he said "Hmm?"

Jake stopped in his tracks and simply let his eyes follow the man that was circling him like a hound. Once the man finally stopped in front of him, inconveniently blocking his path, Jake gave a slightly curious look as he answered. "My horse, brought me here. And I might be a Black Knight, or I might be something else entirely... I can be a lot of different things if I want." He stated with a light shrug of shoulders. He then crossed his arms over his chest and added "The name's Jake, by the way. Not 'boy', not 'kid'... Jake. And you, pal, who are you? " He asked, scanning the man with his eyes, not yet sure what to make of him.

Michael wagged his index fignerback and forth a smile playing at the corners of his lips.
"Touchy, touchy..tsk tsk tsk.
I thought you different from the rest of these sods in their shiny armor but no..."
he sighed before continuing with his hands clasped behind his back.
"you're not are you? After all if two tiiiiiiiiiny words can unnerve you so quickly imagine the damage done by an entire conversation.
Still though..."
The ghost of a sceptical look haunted his face over and over as he watched what he could only view as a boy before him.

"Jake you said your name was yes?
Your horse brought you here, very astute, though not quite the reason for the question.
You see dear boy I have little patience for the lack luster performance of many here.
As you have no doubt seen.
The guards this place wields are litle more than toy soldiers for the most part.
Save a few..."
Michael then put his right hand over his heart and his voice lowered to just over a growl as he said
"such as myself. But I sensed something different about you. Perhaps I was wrong though or perhaps I still have something to learn from you yet.
Which one is it?"

Jake raised an eyebrow at man's speech, thinking that this place had grown far more crazy than he remembered it and that maybe there was something specifically peculiar about his person for him to be drawing so much of it. Even so, he decided not to be unnecessarily rude and indulge this person. "Well, everyone is different in some way, friend. So I take it you are looking for something different in me, but different in a specific sense, therefor you are seeking something which is similar to some sort of trait or quality you believe to be better or more important, which the others here, or most of them, do not possess. You think I may be different than them in such a way. I may or may not be, but either way I wouldn't really be completely different nor completely equal to anyone. Now, would I?" He made a short pause following the question, after which he went on. "As for whether you have something to learn about me, well... I think you can always learn from people, but then... If I told you, how would you ever learn?" He asked with a small grin. "And I'm sorry, Sir, but I don't think I caught your name. He added, knowing very well that the man hadn't given any name.

Michael's face and tone quickly took on a less than pleased atmosphere.
"My name is not "sir" not now, not ever.
Do bear that in mind my good man and pardon my manners."
He then bowed with his right arm folded at his waist.
"My name is James, Michael James"
As he stood to right himself he said plainly
"At your service."
He then looked up as if in thought a moment before continuing, his eyes now meeting the man in front of him.

"Oh you would surprised at the things I can and have learned.
Perhaps more surprised at the things I know.
Buuuut..."
His voice became deeper and more cynical in nature.
"As you said, if I told you, how would you ever learn?"
This was accompanied by a slight laugh.
This guy was managing to if nothing else entertain the former general.
And holding Michael's interest longer than a minute was something few managed to do.
"Now dear boy the question remains.. are you the warrior I think you are?
Or are you like any of the rest of the lot here?
You know incapable of action without orders?"

Jake chuckled. "Well, I can say I have learned quite a bit with this much conversation, but I won't bore you with the many things I see in you, as I am certain you know yourself too well to find it interesting." He stated, seemingly unaffected by the man's reaction to such a harmless term as 'sir' although it had told him something, as well as his overly polite speech and the way he carried himself altogether. It all added up to a very interesting individual, that to say the least. "As for your question: There is very little I'm incapable of, Michael. Whether I accept an order or not usually depends on whose order it is, what kind of order it is and what situation I'm in. So, I'm not sure if I can answer your question unless I'm faced with the opportunity to follow a given order or not." He replied, tilting his head to the side only slightly in curiosity. "Now, I have a question: What is a man such as yourself doing amongst toy soldiers and spoiled children? You don't seem devoted enough to Newhaven to be making the sacrifice of surrounding yourself with such mediocrity just so you can defend it. So I'm left to assume something else keeps you here."

Michael started circling him once more, his hands clasped behind his back.
"Very astute, my purpose here is simple.
This job pays me where none anywhere else would.
I would dare to say I could cure this place of the pit of mediocrity it has turned into but alas the leaders of this place will not allow it.
Of course I have other reasons to be here my boy but those are a lesson for some other time. Yes?
In keeping with the spirit of the conversation, perhaps you might endulge me. After all..."
he said with a devious, yellow toothed smile
"I showed you mine, now you get to show me yours... what brings you here exactly? You do not strike me either as the type to be entirely devoted to Newhaven."

"Hum..." Jake mumbled again following Michael with his eyes as he circled. "Suppose I can't say I am devoted to Newhaven or anything else for that matter. What was left of my devotion has been taken from me a while ago. So, to answer your question, I'm here simply because I want to. Why do I want to? I'm not really sure, I suppose because it's a familiar place and it's nice to sleep in a bed and eat real food for a change. You know, those little comforts you simply don't get while living with the healers." Giving a small shrug, he added. "Of, course, I do have small bit of history with the Black Knights, but that might be a story for another time, if you can push enough alcohol on me to make me willing to tell it."

"Sleeping?
Here of all places?
Come now I would sooner sleep in the forest. Although.."
He said rubbing his chin a moment
"Your answers indicate some similarities between yourself and me.
How very..."
He looked up in thought and righ as his eyes lowered once more he said with his voice lowering to just over a growl a he continued.
"disturbing.
Though I should've expected no less Valcrest seems to be filled with self serving sinners of all kinds.
Some more covert in their self serving nature than others.
No, no my boy you are deffinetly no knight.
You may well wear the armor, you may even take inclination to take orders from time to time but you are not now.
Nor have you ever been a knight at heart.
Something around your eyes betrays that vert sentiment."

Jake chuckled in response to Michael statements. "We are all selfish at our core. However some people's selfishness actually serves the purpose of doing others good, and those who benefit from said selfishness perceive it as a selfless act. I mean, do-gooders wouldn't help others if it made them feel like shit, so the fact that they help others is nothing more than an attempt to make themselves feel good, which is actually pretty selfish. Everything we do in our lives is done either to achieve some sort of gratification or to avoid pain. No more, no less." He said, casually leaning against a wall. "I've been a part of nearly every faction in Valcrest, give or take a few, so I can tell you this: No one is really a Knight or assassin, or healer, or mercenary, at heart. In our hearts we are all simply human; whatever the hell it means. In that I'm no different, and neither are you."

He grew silent after that statement for a moment or so, before opening a small smile. "Bottom line: We are what people see in us, at the same time as we are what we believe we are. So who, or what, I am... Can be anything at any given moment. It just depends on whose point of view it is. It's pretty funny, to say the least. Wouldn't you say?" Following the question he pulled away from the wall and stretched, groaning slightly as he felt some of his muscles still sore from the training session the night before. He then nodded towards the path leading to the main entrance and added. "I have personal affairs to tend to, friend. So unless there's anything else you wish to discuss, I better be going now."

Michael listened carefully and for once a thoughtful expression crept across his face.
"I suppose perception does make a great deal of what one is.
Both perception of oneself and how others perceive us."
His step now took a long, pacing stride.
He then watched Jake walk and chuckled cynically at being called "friend"
"Oh my boy, there is a world of difference between us, you will come to know this in time.
For now though I also have more pressing matters to tend to."
With that Michael strolled once more to his seat in the great room in front of the fire with his legs stretched out.

Jake left the castle in a hurry after speaking with Michael; he really didn’t want anyone else to approach him for conversation or tell him what they thought he was like. While that was entertaining in a way, two conversations like that in less than an hour was more than he could take. He only made one stop to let a member of the Black Guard know he’d be in the city for a couple and he could be reached there if something came up. After that he left the castle without even paying attention to whether someone tried to speak with him or not.

Upon reaching the city, Jake’s first stop was the Inn where he had been the night before. He had read the information he was given, and now he had to return the favor, so to speak. As he walked through the front door he quickly scanned the place for anyone who might know his face. There was no one he knew, only Sheila and two or three customers, probably there to get something to eat. He looked a little more intently at this one guy; he looked like a mercenary, but something about him seemed different. Brushing it aside, he jumped over the counter and stopped before the woman he had spoken to the night before and gave her a playful smirk. “Come sit with me, we need to talk.” He told her.
“I’m working Jake…” She stated simply, walking around him to clean something that had been spilled on the counter.
“Oh, come on… There’s, what, two customers here? It will only take a minute.” Jake argued, taking her hand and pulling her around the counter and towards a table in the corner.
She chuckled. “Now… When you say that, I know for a fact that I won’t be having any fun.”

Jake sat down and indicated the seat across from him. “Just sit, Sheila. I’d like to finish this conversation before someone familiar shows up in here.”
Sheila sat down on the chair across from him and leaned forward so they could keep their voices down. “What is so important?”
“Have you sent your weekly report yet?” Jake asked her, also leaning forward.
“No, I’ll be sending it this afternoon, why?” She asked, a curious expression crossing her features.
“I need you to pass Sean some important information. First, tell him that a woman came to see the Queen yesterday; a representative from Blackpond. I’m not sure what exactly she wanted, but the Pack was mentioned, so I think they should try contacting Sean at some point.” Jake said stated, with a small frown, remembering the conversation he had with the woman. “Last, but not least… Tell him I’m in town.”

Sheila nodded. “First of all, that’s very helpful information… Why are you passing it along? Second of all: Are you insane? If Sean finds out you’re here he is going to go crazy.”
“I’m passing it along because I think Blackpond is something no one should be getting involved in for any reason right now. And yes, I know. I’m counting on him going crazy; the crazier the better. Flipping out and doing something to upset Newhaven authorities would be greatly welcomed. So you may tell him I’ll be residing in the castle if he wants to come get me.” Jake told her with a slightly evil grin.
“You’re insane. If the ‘Newhaven authorities’ find out you are doing this, won’t they be pissed at you?” She asked.
“Probably, but I don’t care what the consequences are for me… I want Sean buried, and for that I’ll make sure he digs his own grave.” He stated, firmly. “Will you do this for me?”
Sheila sighed. “If that’s what you want…”She said with a small shrug. “It would be such a waste if someone put yet another mark on that pretty face of yours, though. Promise you’ll be careful?”
“I’m always careful.” He stated, smiling.
“Uh-huh… Do you forget how long we’ve known each other Jacob?” She said, giving a highly skeptical look. “So, tell me: Are you still into that redhead or can I put my hopes up finally?”
Jake grimaced slightly at the question. “I really don’t want to talk about it.”
Sheila chuckled. “Oh, so you still like her. What did you do wrong?”
“Why would you immediately assume I did something wrong?” He asked, raising an eyebrow. “I haven’t seen her in over a year, so I really don’t know what to tell you there… I should get going, though.” He stated, standing up to leave.

The moment Jake got up though, three assassins walked into the inn, the two that walked in first didn’t seem to notice Jake, but the third man took one look at him and whispered something to the others. They immediately walked to where Jake was, pulling daggers. “Jake Turner.” One of them stated. “You don’t remember me, right?”
Jake sighed, knowing that he was probably going to have to cause some sort of commotion to get out of this, which wasn’t what he wanted. “I don’t know, should I remember you?”
“I was there on the last time you visited our camp.” The man stated. “You killed my brother that night.” The man told him, stepping forward and pushing Jake into a wall.
“Come on now…” Jake said holding up empty hands. “This is neutral territory; I’m not here to fight.”
“It’s not neutral for you, traitor!” Another assassin said, holding up his blade against Jake’s neck.
Jake sighed, nodding slightly at Sheila when he noticed her move towards the men. He watched her back away towards the counter. “Now, gentlemen, let’s be reasonable here. If anyone of you had the guts to kill me here, I would be dead right now, so… The only question is: How badly do you want to get hurt, before I walk out of here?”

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[Newhaven: Castle]

(This cutesy little scene was written in collaboration with Trickster)

Lilly was humming softly as she worked on her latest masterpiece. Knight Mica was sad, so she was making him something pretty. She had a collection of chalks in lots of bright colors and she was using them to draw a whole field of pretty flowers on his door. Maga had made her promise to never ever ever go in a Knights room without asking first, but she never said anything about staying outside their room. Humming softly, Lilly stretched up as high as she could, adding a couple of hearts and stars to the sky above the flowers.

Behind her, Puppy sighed softly as he lay on the floor. Bright streaks of color were clustered around his shoulders and head were Lilly had wiped her hands on his fur. Suddenly he wolfed softly and sat up, Lilly spun around and glared at the person standing in the hallway, both hands on her hips.
“You can’t look, I’m not done yet!”

Luckas was just strolling carelessly down the halls of the castle, beginning to feel extremely bored as he hadn't encountered anyone fun to play with, only a few guards who were barely even interesting and had no relevant information to give, they didn't even try to stop him and ask what he was doing there... So boring.
Turning another corner, he saw something he didn't really expect to see wandering this part of the castle: A little girl, around six years old, drawing on a door with a wolfhound lying near her.
The dog was the first to notice Luke, but soon he was being scolded for looking at the drawing before it was finished. His response was to cover his eyes with his hands immediately. "Sorry, not my intention. I was just passing by." He said, opening a small gap between his fingers to peek at the girl. "So... You're the new decorator, I'm guessing?"

Lilly scrunched her face up in confusion. This was somebody that she'd never seen before, so that made him a stranger, and she wasn't supposed to talk to strangers. But he was in the Castle which meant he was ok, 'cause the people in the Castle were always nice to you. But Puppy wasn't getting angry and that meant that it was ok to talk to him. "I'm not a decorator, I'm Lilly." Moving over to Puppy, she grabbed his ear; turning it bright blue in the process and looked up at the stranger with her head tilted to the side. "Who're you?" Puppy whined and she patted him between the ears. "Are you lost?" She swung one arm back and forth and accidentally jerked on Puppy's ear with the other. "Cause if your lost all you have to do is ask onna the Knights and they'll make sure you find where your 'possed to be." She smiled brightly. "I can help you find a Knight. All you have to do is be where your not 'possed to be and cry and they find you. And then they find where you belong."

Luckas chuckled at the girl's logic on how to find a Knight. "I'm Luckas. You can call me Luke though." He said, lowering his hands and looking at the door. "So, Lilly, if you're not a decorator, why are you decorating the door?" He asked curiously. "And I'm not actually lost... No. I'm looking for a friend and she is a Knight, but I haven't had any luck finding her and I don't want the other Knights to see me because I want to surprise her." He said, absently offering his hand for the hound to sniff as a greeting. "You live here then?" He asked, still a little confused as to why there was a little girl in this part of the castle.

Lilly waved with one hand. "Hiya Luke. I'm givin' Kni' Mike some flowers 'cause he needs somethin' pretty." She watched Puppy sniff Luke's hand and looked over at the door. Picking up the orange chalk, she added one more big flower right in the middle of the door and stood back and nodded happily. She pointed at it and looked over her shoulder. "You can look at it now." Carefully she started to pick up her chalks, making sure that each of them got found.
"Yeah, me and a buncha kids live down in those rooms." She pointed over her shoulder. "We's not supposed to know, but Maga got inna bunch of trouble over it. They tried to tell her what to do and she got mad and then she got her way." She leaned over and whispered. "You always wanna listen to what Maga says. She get's scary when she's mad. If your a grown up anyways. Jason burned off somma her hair when he found out he was 'Lightened and she didn't yell at him or nothing."

"I see... Well, we all need something pretty sometimes, that's for sure." Luke said with a little nod as he got permission to look at the drawing. "Very nice. I'm sure he'll enjoy it." He said, looking at the pretty flowers and hearts the girl had painted all over the Knight's door. He looked a little intrigued while Lily explained to him that there were other kids living in the castle as well, and that 'Maga', who he assumed was Mageria for what the girl was saying, had picked a fight to make that happen. Luke chuckled. "Yeah... She was pretty scary when I tried to use my ability on her." He said absently. "Suppose she thinks I'm a grown up then?" He said, slightly amused. "You wouldn't happen to know where she is, now would you?" He smiled.

Lily scrunched up her face and thought for a moment. "I think she left to find somebody. Maybe he gots lost? But she'll come back. You can come play with me till she comes home!" Holding her bag of chalk with one hand she grabbed Luke's hand with the other and started towing him down the hallway. "Puppy, come!" Puppy whined and heaved himself up, following them and sniffing at some of the doorways. Lilly towed her new friend into the sunny day room that was where most of the other kids stayed during the day. There were tables along one side where they ate and made stuff and things, while the other side had all the toys and games. She pulled Luke over to her corner, past some of the other kids, to where there was a little table covered with a pretty cloth and a couple of chipped dishes.
"Here. You can have tea with me an' Puppy." Puppy, being used to this, made his way to another spot and laid his head on the table, sighing and looking over at Luke with a resigned look in his eyes. In the spot across from Luke there was a battered teddy bear, it was canted to one side and looked like it had lost a fight or two.
Lily hurried over the dress up chest and pulled an armload of things out, coming back and handing them out to the people at the table. Luke got a child's cape with some sort of Knight's symbol on it, Puppy got a princess hat that she had to tie on, and the teddy bear got a little crown.
"Would you like some tea?" she asked Luke, holding out a small tea pot filled with juice and waiting for Luke to hold out his cup.

"I, uh... Yeah, sure." Luckas mumbled under his breath, not knowing how to say 'no' to this. Not that Lily was actually giving him much of a choice as she dragged him down the hall to what was clearly a playroom and pulled him to a small table to have tea. Well, it's not like he didn't have the time to waste on a tea party anyway, he wasn't in a hurry. Besides, he wasn't the kind of guy who denied kids of their fun. So, he examined the cape he was handed with an amused expression before putting it on and holding out his cup. "Sure, I'd like some tea." He replied. "And who's your friend?" He asked nodding towards the teddy bear.

Lily carefully poured some 'tea' into the cup that Luke held out for her, then into a saucer for Puppy, and finally into a cup for both the bear and herself before sitting down. Luke wanted to know how her bear was and since they were having a tea party she had to say it the way that the grownups did. Carefully she sat up straight and said, "This is Sir Penic, Knight Captain of the Order of the Eternal Light," in her most grown up voice. Noticing that he was all crooked, she reached over and carefully sat him up, fixing his shirt and patting him on the head. "He's done lotsa brave things, like fighting monsters and stuff. And he goes on quests and finds treasures and . . . and . . . lotsa things like that."
Across from her Puppy leaned over and started slurping up juice from his saucer, the gauzy ends of the scarf on his hat caught over one ear. Behind them she could hear Mally and Tina arguing about something, just like always.

Suddenly Sarah noticed that she had a new friend and came over to be bossy. Sarah was one of the ladies that took care of them during the day, and she hated it when Lily went anywhere she wasn't supposed to, even if she had Puppy with her.
"Lily, who do we have here?" Her voice was all nice and pretty but her eyes were all mean when she looked at Luke.

Luke listened to Lily's introduction of the bear and nodded politely taking a small sip from his 'tea', raising his little finger as he did so, much like he had seen rich people do when he was a kid. Setting the cup down on the small table he immediately turned towards the bear and bowed the best he could. "Well, it is an honor to meet your acquaintance, Sir Captain." He said.

As he sat up straight again he caught sight of a woman walking over with the the corner of his eyes. As she stopped next to the table and asked Lily who he was, Luke caught the woman's eyes on him and his smile shut as he held her gaze, but only for a moment. As he stood up again and extended one hand to her, he offered the woman a smile, although a slightly different one than he had offered Lily. "Well hello there, ma'am. I'm Luckas." He greeted. "I was just wandering past, looking for a friend I've come to visit and Lily invited me for tea." He chuckled. "I couldn't say no, now could I? That would be very rude of me."

Sarah's eyes darted between Lily, Puppy and Luckas. Seeing that Puppy was just trying to get the last of his juice out of the saucer, she relaxed fractionally and took his hand.
"I'm sorry, but I have to watch out for the children. May I ask who you're here to see?"


Luke, seeing that the woman accepted his handshake and didn't try to scare him off as if he was some kind of lunatic, as most usually did, relaxed a bit himself. "The Captain of the Black Knights." He answered simply. "She's not expecting me though and I would bet she'd be surprised to see me. We haven't crossed paths in, I think, three years. "Actually, I was hoping to sneak up on her... For old times sake. It's a little game, of sorts, that we like to play." He said, with a small grin. "Well, I like it at least."

Sarah raised one eyebrow when he said he was there to visit the Captain. She always had the strangest visitors . . . Nodding, she patted Lily on the head and smiled fractionally. "Please don't upset the children while you're waiting. Especially Jason." She indicated an older boy sitting over by the window reading a book. "There's too many things around here that could burn if he get's upset. And if you can, keep Lily here, she's not supposed to be wandering around the Castle." She patted Puppy on the head and went back to the girls that she had been watching, leaning over to point at something in the lessons that they were working on, while at the same time making no bones about the fact that she was continuing to watch over the two of them.

Lily made a face at Sarah's back as the woman walked away. "She's bossy." She plopped back down and chewed on a finger. "You're playing hide and seek with Maga? You must be really good at it." She poured more tea into his cup and drank her own with tiny little slurps.

Luckas didn't answer the woman and just let her wander off, perfectly aware that she would continue to keep an eye on him. Not that it mattered; he didn't plan on doing anything unusual right now... At least not yet. Sitting back down, he nodded. "Well, grown ups can be like that sometimes." He said, glancing at the boy the woman had called Jason with slight curiosity. "And I am pretty good at hide and seek, I'm better at hiding than seeking, but yeah..." He answered with a little smile. "That's one of my favorite games." He said with a little nod, looking around curiously and deciding he might as well sit there and play until he found something more interesting to do.

The setting changes from the-ruins-healers-camp to Newhaven

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Jake Turner

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The assassins had hesitated a little bit at Jake's words and soon another voice added to their confusion. They wanted Jake dead, obviously, but they didn't want to cause trouble for the clan, and getting another person involved, no matter who it was, could end up doing just that. The guy who seemed to be in charge stepped away from Jake and walked towards the woman who had just spoken to them. "Come on now, miss... This doesn't concern you. It's between us and that piece of scum over there. So why don't you just leave now before you get hurt?"

Jake laughed out. "Ryan, I've seen her fight, you really shouldn't be so arrogant." Then he addressed the woman, completely ignoring the two assassins who were still trying to push him against the wall. "You followed me here? I don't know if I should be impressed or insulted."
The man who was holding the blade to his throat took a step closer and increased pressure on the blade. "Shut up."
Jake simply laughed louder, and took a step forward as well, letting the blade break his skin slightly, his attention turning to the assassin in front of him; the guy didn't seem like he had much experience, if he did he wouldn't be getting this close. "Don't make threats you can't fulfill, puppy." He said, with clear mockery in his voice. "You just graduated, I bet. Probably haven't actually taken many contracts... You look as if you expect someone to tell you what to do. Which is just your luck... I won't have to kill you."
"I'm the one holding the knife." The assassin replied.
"Yes, but I'm going to disarm you. And your partner is just one step too far to stop me from severely injuring you, an by the time he does get to me I'll have him on the ground before he lays a finger on me. Too bad you'll be on the ground crying or passed out and won't be able to see it."
"And how do you suppose yo-"
Jake didn't give the man time to finish asking how he planned to do all that. The moment he felt the assassin's grip on the knife relax just enough, he smashed his head against the man's nose, immediately punching him on the throat when he closed his eyes in pain; the assassin fell on to the floor unconscious. The other assassin had already walked the short distance necessary to reach Jake, but before he had time to even raise his dagger he already had a black needle pinned to his neck and fell to the ground shortly after.
"Stupid amateurs." Jake snorted, looking down at the two assassins at his feet. They would live and fully recover, which he felt was much more than what they deserved for their stupidity.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Jake Turner

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"Come on now, miss... This doesn't concern you. It's between us and that piece of scum over there. So why don't you just leave now before you get hurt?"

Sham grinned broadly. “Miss it it? I don’t believe that anyone’s ever called me that before. Tis a bit of kindness, it it.”

From behind the bigger bully, Jake spoke up. "Ryan, I've seen her fight, you really shouldn't be so arrogant. . . .You followed me here? I don't know if I should be impressed or insulted."

Sham shook her head in a bit of pity. “For someone who’s been dodging fools like this for years, you don’t look up very often. No one around here seems to. But if I had my choice, I’d go with impressed.” She looked back at the man in front of her as Jake started talking to the man holding a knife to his throat. “Now, this be what’s called neutral ground. That means no blood drawn and all walk away in one piece.” She leaned to the side and watched as Jake made a couple of lightning fast moves; then sighed heavily once she saw the scarlet streak across his neck. “Well, too late for that.” The single standing man left started to turn around to see what had happened; starting to step back towards the two lying on the ground.
“None of that now.” Sham lashed out with one foot, kicking him in the back of the knee and causing his leg to buckle as he cursed and collapsed on the floor. He started to lunge back up, twisting to face her, Sham simply hooked her foot around his supporting leg and swept it out from under him again. The man crashed down to the floor, snarling and pushed back up with a look of rage in his eye. Sham courteously waited until he was most of the way up before she kicked him in the jaw, watching as his eyes rolled back up in his head and he hit the ground yet again. Then she shook her head in a mixture of amusement and amazement as he struggled to get up once more.
“Listen mate, take a hint and stay down this time.” She swept a mug off the nearby table and smashed it over his head, watching as finally he fell limply to the ground and didn’t get back up.
“What a waste.” She looked sadly at the puddle of ale that dripped off her opponents head and flipped a coin to the woman standing near the bar. “Sorry about that, would it be to much trouble to get another?”

She put her batons back in their sheaths and wandered over to where Jake stood over his two.
“You know, mate, while this place does have the best ale anywhere in town; there are quieter places to get a drink. Less likely to run into folk like this too.” She nudged one of them with her toe, he groaned and cringed for a moment before lapsing back into silence.
“Although if you wanted to get away from the pissing contest that the other two in the crew probably put you through, I understand that.”

Setting

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Character Portrait: Jake Turner

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Jake sighed softly, walking over the fallen assassins and around Sham to take a seat by the counter. "Well, let's see: Captain gave me a small beating, Dominic threatened to ream my neck, and Michael thinks we're somewhat similar, which I have to say is the most disturbing thing I've heard so far, so... Yeah, I feel right at home." He said, pulling some gold coins out and placing them on the counter. "For the troubles, and a drink." He told Sheila with a little smile.
The woman took the gold from the counter and whispered to him. "Are they dead?"
Jake nodded a 'no' to that and went on addressing Sham. "And then there's you following me around the city. Which is in fact very impressive, since I can usually tell when I'm being followed without having to look anywhere. Growing up in the forest just makes you THAT paranoid."

Sheila then served the drinks and lingered around eyeing Sham with curiosity. "Jakey, what kind of dangerous people have you gotten involved with this time?" She said in a playful tone.
"Don't call me that." He said, giving her a serious look. "And mind your own damn business. Don't you have a report to write?"
The woman snorted a laugh and walked to the backroom. The sound of an outburst hysterical laughter could be heard moments after she left the room. Jake chuckled slightly grabbing his mug of ale and taking a drink. "As for why I'm here... Well, first of all, I'm visiting a friend. Second of all, it's my personal business." He said with a little shrug. "I don't tell my personal business to people I've known less than a day, doesn't matter how impressed I am. I'm sure you understand that."

Setting

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Character Portrait: Jake Turner

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Jake took another drink quietly thinking of what to do next: Sit and wait for orders, or take matters into his own hands again? Being here or being away... That's what made the choice so difficult. He told Mageria he would stick around and the last time he told himself he would just take care of one thing and then return, well... He never did return. However, if he did find out what he wanted to find out, it would probably benefit Newhaven greatly, but he wasn't going to pretend that was the reason why he wanted to do it. Finally he spoke with a little chuckle "A powerful bit describes it quite well actually, and I've been through the training; about a year of it. She's one of very few living people who always seems to see right through me, which is fine most of time, but particularly unpleasant in a fight." He said, rubbing a bruise on his shoulder. "I tell you though, following me around might just leave you with more questions than answers. I go to all the strange places for no apparent reason. It's easier if you ask what you want to know, worst case scenario, I just won't answer."

He then glanced to the men on the floor and snorted in annoyance. "Idiots." He muttered. "They'll probably wake up in a couple of hours and run home with their tails between their legs to tell their leader what happened. They won't try again, mostly because they know me, but the Pack may turn into an annoyance pretty soon because of this. They have strong reasons to want me dead, although I might have stronger reasons to want them dead. " He emptied the mug and set it aside, turning to look at Sham. "Say, you followed that woman from Blackpond yesterday, right? What did you make of her?"

Setting

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Character Portrait: Luckas Character Portrait: Jake Turner

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Luke didn't appreciate much being set aside by whatever news that messenger had brought, but he was quickly distracted by the book Mageria dropped to the ground. He immediately picked it up and started going through it. After a little bit of skimming he laughed out. "Oh, this is too good." He exclaimed, walking away to find a quiet place to read more.

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Jake was about to reply to what Sham had told him of the Blackpond woman, in some level he wished he had been the one with the woman’s life on his hands, it would probably end in saving them all the future trouble he was sure she would cause them. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t that easy. Before he managed to utter a word however, a man spoke up; the mercenary Jake had spotted when he entered the Inn, for some reason Jake had completely forgotten the man and obviously he had been having quite a bit of fun watching the whole commotion between them and the assassins. He listened to the man’s words with an amount of interest he hadn’t shown anyone in quite a while. This was good. He had that psycho’s actual name now, as well as the name of someone who could possibly give him some answers. He wouldn’t have believed any stranger this quickly, wasn’t for the fact that he had heard similar things from several people in Blackpond… All of them convinced Hastings hadn’t killed the King. All had vanished without leaving a trace.
Jake was going to ask some questions, but this was interrupted as well as two men entered the Inn and another fight broke out; this time between the man who had addressed them and the two other men. Jake didn’t move; the guy seemed to be handling himself pretty well on his own.

As the fight was over, Sham pointed out to him that something was going on, and with only one glance outside the Inn, he saw what she did; something was definitely wrong.
Sheila had heard the commotion and walked back into the room. Jake simple looked at her and gave a half smile, pointing at the two new men on the floor. “Those aren’t mine, and I have to run. Is Shadow still where I left him, or did you move him?”
“He’s still there.” She told him. “Did something happen?”
“I don’t know yet. Sorry about the mess.” He said, walking out and running to the small stable in the back of the building, finding the horse he had left there the night before and riding out in the direction everyone else had gone.

When Jake rode from the plains he made sure to go around the forest and not through it, while he would usually welcome any excuse to take down an assassin or two Annie had told him to hurry her letter to Newhaven, so he took a longer, yet safer, path to the city. He only came to know of who was camped there in the morning, through the whispers of the black guards roaming the halls. He thought he’d have the time to pay a visit at some point later, but apparently he was severely mistaken. He rode in to where he could assume there was once a camp, to find a funeral pyre being built there. He didn’t bother to ride any further or even dismount; he simply spotted a familiar face amongst the working men and questioned him.
“Allan, what happened here?” He asked the man.
“Uh, I’m not sure Jake. Things were just in a mess when we got here, but for what I understand there was some sort of coup, amongst the Salamanders. We looked for survivors, but there was none and Grim…” The man stopped talking as he saw the look on Jake’s face, changing what he was actually about to say to: “There were no survivors.”
Jake looked around and could spot the movement of bodies being carried, lined up, and prepared for the pyre, but he quickly looked back to the man he was speaking to. “I see…” He mumbled, lowering his head and stroking his horse’s neck to calm the animal down. “... And the Captain?”
“She was here moments ago, so was Sham, but they already rode back to the city.” Allan informed. “She didn’t look so good, you know?”
Jake sighed at the obvious statement. “I’m sure she’s not.” He replied. “Thank you for the information.” He said, turning his horse back in the direction of the city. Before riding off, he lifted his head and added. “Make sure someone retrieved Grim’s sword. A Knight’s weapon shouldn’t be left lying around for scavengers to find.”

Jake rode off back to Newhaven not really paying much attention to his path and finding himself reaching the castle stables in what seemed to him like record time. As he dismounted he finally took a long deep breath, pressing his forehead against Shadow’s snout momentarily before leaving the horse and making his way into the castle, and through some little known passages, until he found himself in one of the towers.
Sitting on the window ledge, looking down at the city, he started thinking back to his days of training when he heard the younger members of the Black Guard discussing amongst themselves, in loud and excited voices, how many armies would be necessary to bring down ‘War’. While at first Jake laughed at those exaggerations, he thought maybe he’d heard them enough to partially believe them… Out of everyone he had considered a friend in his life; Grim was one of the few who he had never imagined being found dead in the woods. He still wasn’t sure he actually believed it happened, it didn't feel real.


After a long moment of silence, a familiar chuckle reached Jake’s ears and he sighed, turning to face the smiling figure of Luckas. “What are you doing here, you little vermin?”
“Awe, Jakey… I love you too.” Luckas replied, with a small giggle. “Have you finally decided to dump the redhead and run away with me?”
“Shut up Luckas, I really don’t have any patience left to deal with you right now.” Jake muttered.
Luckas stood from the little wooden bench he had been sitting on, hiding whatever he had on his hands on the insides of his jacket. “Now, now… Don’t be that way. You don’t want to wake up naked and tied to a tree like last time you were mean to me.” He said, with a faked tone of innocence in his voice. “Come on Jakey, tell your old pal Luke what’s the problem.” He said walking over to where Jake was sitting and landing a hand on his shoulder.

The moment Luckas touched him Jake stood and struck him in the face, activated his enlightenment and pushed him against the wall, pressing his forearm firmly against his throat, causing him to suffocate. “You are NOT my friend! You don’t the meaning of that word, you worthless piece of junk!” Luke really couldn’t breathe right, but Jake could tell he was trying to say something even so. “You can’t talk, you can’t see my eyes, and you can’t break free. Don’t even bother; you’ll breathe if I decide to let you go. I may, or may not let you go… In other words: I own you. How does it feel?” Jake muttered out to him. Luke had stopped fighting for air, and was now holding a slightly satisfied grin on his face.

After a moment or two, Jake released his hold and Luckas dropped to his knees, coughing as he tried to catch a breath. Slowly tough, he began to chuckle. As he regained his breath the chuckle turned into full formed laughter, and soon enough the room was filled with the sound of manic laughter. Once able to speak, coughing slightly, now from all the laughing, Luke stood up and started to applaud. “Wow! That was fantastic, Jakey! I almost thought you were going to kill me there. I’m disappointed though, it didn’t last very long, but you will get there! We’re not so far apart you and I.”
“I’m nothing like you, you freak!” Jake shouted at him.
“Oh, you’re not? Why are you not in the plains, or in the desert with that girlfriend of yours?” Luke asked, a chuckle still escaping him. “I’ll tell you why: Because that’s BORING, that’s why! You had to go to Blackpond, you had to go where everything is twisted and broken, you have to go where the oddities are see what makes them tick! You can’t sleep if you don’t, you can’t breathe; it’s just meaningless!” He shook his head, still smiling. “The difference between you and me, my dear old friend, is that I don’t bother to pretend I’m doing it for some random cause. I don’t pretend I don’t enjoy myself with these little mind games we all play. I’m honest, and you are a liar. A damn good one too, because I think you actually believe yourself, but a liar nonetheless.” Luke stated calmly. “Now, don’t be shy, show yourself. Let me see what’s going on inside that pretty little head of yours.”
Jake deactivated his invisibility knowing full well that he was an idiot for letting Luckas ramble on and distract him. The little freak was going to go through his thoughts now, which is something he had done at least twice before. The moment Jake was visible Luckas caught his gaze and there was no escaping it.

Once done going through Jake’s thoughts Luke grinned. “Jake, Jake, Jake… Why is it always a redhead the first thought on your mind? First the blind one, then her mother… Weird, but who am I to judge? And now there’s a different redhead, I see… Lamya, is it? I’ll have to meet this woman, she’s managed to get further into your head than I have ever been, in only one conversation… Wow, if I was actually capable of such I could really fall for a girl like that!”

“Screw you.” Jake said, sitting back down by the window, it was almost dusk now. The pyre would be lit soon.
“Too bad you didn’t get speak more to Alex… He seems like a very interesting man.” Luke stated simply.
Jake caught his words and stood up slowly, turning to face Luckas. “Alex?”
“The man at the inn, his name is Alex. He is a… Salamander. I passed their camp on the way here.” He said absently.
“Luckas... What do you know about him?” Jake asked with a slight frown.
“Oh, it’s Luckas now? Not vermin, or maggot, or freak?” He chuckled. “Can’t help you there. I didn’t play with him… And I think I seriously freaked him out, or might have been more because of the girl that brought me to him.”
“What girl?”
“Scars all over, slightly psychotic… Really fun, but not my type. I don’t think I caught her name.” Luke stated with a shrug, beginning to grow bored of all the questions. He started to walk out. “Have fun at the funeral.” He stated, leaving Jake with a lot more questions to answer.

The setting changes from newhaven to The Ruins (Healer's camp)

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Crystal Rivers Character Portrait: Jake Turner Character Portrait: Annie Turner Character Portrait: Allison Blake Character Portrait: Sean Fletcher

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Sean watched Allison leave, frowning as she walked away. He resisted the urge to stab her in the back and walked into the encampment, where he spotted a healer and asked her for Annie.
“Miss Turner is speaking to a visitor right now, would you please wait for her? I will let you know when she’s free.”
“Alright, good… Have you seen my sister anywhere? A teenage girl, dark brown hair…”
“Oh, yes, she was talking to Isaac.” The healer pointed at one of the tents. “Over there.”
“Thank you.” Sean mumbled walking towards the tent he had been pointed at. As he got nearer though he stopped as he could listen to the conversation going on inside:

“… I know, but I’m really confused. Sean is my brother, I love him, and he was always great to me, but I can’t ignore what he’s done to the clan… To our family… I mean, he told me he tried to stop Lionel, and that was a lie. I can’t trust him, no matter how hard I try, and Donovan is very close to turning out the same.”
“What do you think your father would say about this?”
Kate let out a small, embittered chuckle. “If my father knew half of what Sean pulled… I think he would want to kill him personally. I think about it sometimes. I’m not much of a fighter, and I don’t have it in me to kill anyone, even less my own brother, but I do think about it. I think Sean is doing more harm than good, and I know he won’t listen or change.”
“You don’t think he is doing the clan a service as a leader, then? For what I’ve heard they seem pleased with his leadership.”
“Sure they do, within the clan things are fine, but we have more enemies now than we have ever had; The White Shadows are a good example of this: Our clans used to cooperate, now our actives are openly threatening healers as if it was no problem. The Crimson will eventually take a greater stand against us because, fools and mercenaries as they are, they don’t respond well to anyone or anything threatening their way of life; They are faithful to their traditions and their land, and they will fight us before betraying an ally.” She sighed heavily and went silent for a few minutes. “I’m sorry Isaac, this is really not your problem.”
The man chuckled. “No, no… That’s what we’re here for. I’m more than used to listening to people.” He told her. “It’s just easier sometimes to talk to a stranger, right?”
“I guess it is.” She replied.

Sean shook his head slowly at Katie’s words, but decided it was best not to let his sister know he was there. Katie was just a kid; she still believed there was justice in the world, somewhere. It was a matter of time until she realized that there was none. What was considered fair by most was only available to few, and those were the people who had the power and means to make justice for themselves. Everyone else was just fated to conform; there was nothing they could do, and no one who would do a thing for them. Forgiveness was nothing more than that: A pretty word for conformity. Sean refused to forgive; he wanted justice and he just didn’t care what price he would have to pay for it. Not anymore.

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

Annie looked up at Theron from where she was seated, looking over some notes she had made on Luke’s wound; she sincerely hope he would return to have it taken care of, but she doubted he would. Setting the notes aside, she gave the man a little smile. “If you want a neutral source of information, you would probably have to ask the Creators themselves, because I’m afraid even the Twins would be a little biased at this point.” She stated, in an amused tone, but then she shook her head trying to put on a straight face and not take every little thing literally, as it had the tendency of annoying people. “Long story short, Lockwood, I’ll give you what I can, which is my point of view: Valcrest is in the middle of a calm period, before a devastating storm. Those amongst my clan who are more sensitive to it are actually speaking of it as ‘the end of times’. Crys should be sensing some discomfort, although I’m not sure how open she would be with anyone about that. What I think is well… I think you should go take a look at what Blackpond has become and that would maybe give you an idea of where we’re heading. To Newhaven, that’s fine, maybe, because they’re quiet and not a threat… Yet. Still, once upon a time they would’ve intervened; the Pack would have intervened if Dani Rivers was still in command.” She sighed, trying to find the words to describe. “Valcrest is shattered to pieces, and putting them together will cost a lot more than anyone can imagine at this point.” Annie stopped talking for a moment then added: “When my mother left us, she was troubled. She told me, that… That if she didn’t come back in 30 months, at most, Valcrest might not survive. Now… She wouldn’t tell me what exactly she knew, but she would never say something like that for no reason. And she has been gone for 28 months now.”

She stood up and looked at where the man’s eyes were behind the mask. The silence lingered for a couple of minutes until she finally let her gaze wander freely and spoke. “I think your abilities would be wasted here, but I appreciate the offer even so.” She said, now looking over his shoulder to were a healer stood, patiently waiting to speak with her. “Do stay as long you like, though.” She added as she walked past him towards the healer.
The woman gave her a look and whispered. “The assassins’ leader is here to see you Annie.”
Annie sighed. “Fine, lead him to one of the visitor tents, I don’t want him here.” She told her.
The healer bowed her head and walked away to find Sean and lead him to a tent. Annie didn’t turn back towards her tent; she simply mumbled “I have to go take care of this” and walked away towards the tent herself.

As she arrived Sean was standing there with his arms crossed over his chest. “Should I be insulted that you greet strangers in your tent and send me here?” He asked, opening a half-smile. “You’re making things difficult for me, Annie, and I don’t want to be forced into some unspeakable act here, I just want to find some common ground to stand on.”
“Forced?” Annie chuckled. “Is that what you tell yourself Sean? That you’re not responsible, you were forced into this. Maybe you’re enough of a fool to believe that, but I most certainly am not.”
He laughed. “Did I say ‘forced’? I meant ‘pushed’. I’m everything but irresponsible Annie. I know that these things come with a price, I just… Really don’t mind paying.”
“That’s because you’re not the one who pays Sean. Not yet, at least.” She stated. “Why are you here now?”
“I’ll be attacking the Crimson Shadows, considering they will probably deny my latest offer for a truce. The White Shadows don’t have to be a part of this, if it’s protection you need, we can provide it. I wouldn’t want your clan to suffer with this.”
“I don’t want thugs guarding my gates, Sean, but thank you anyway. Go ahead and do what you must, we can take care of ourselves.” Annie replied. “Is that all you had to say?”
“Is my sister healthy enough to travel back to camp?” He asked her.
“She is better now, but I’d suggest that she stays in observation until tomorrow. You can take her home then.” She answered.
“Then I suppose I’ll be staying overnight, if that’s not too much of a hassle, but we have nothing more to talk about.” He sated, nodding slightly and beginning to walk past her to leave, but then he stopped right beside her. “Wait, there is one thing: Right after your mother left, you said you needed to talk to me about something, but Evin invaded the camp that day and I didn’t come see you…” He looked at her with the corner of his eyes. “What was it you wanted to say to me then?”
Annie lowered her head, a frown taking over her expression. She thought about whether she should in fact tell him or not, maybe it was best if he didn’t know after all. “I don’t remember, Sean. It’s been over two years. Stay for as long as you like, though.”
Sean shook his head and chuckled. “I don’t believe you, but alright, you know where to find me in case you change your mind.” He stated, walking out of the tent.

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

[The Desert – Crimson Shadows Camp]

After the conversation she had with Evin, Crys spent most of her day in the training area, thinking things through. There was something she desperately wanted to do, but she didn’t know if she should. It was risky, to say the least. Finally she heard steps behind her and snapped out of her thoughts when Ali spoke in an angered tone. “Where’s Evin?”
“He said he was going to the plains, you missed him, I think.” Crys told her, not turning around from where she was standing, throwing knives at a dummy. “And where were you?”
“I went to see Annie, I needed to vent. Why?” Ali said
“You went to see Annie, and…?” Crys asked walking towards the dummy to retrieve the knives she had thrown at its head.
“And, Theron was there, I avoided him… And Sean showed up. I couldn’t avoid him.” Ali stated.
At that moment Crys turned around to face Ali with a serious look on her face. “Sean was in the plains?”
“He was. I think he was there because of what happened to Katelyn, but… I don’t know. I don’t like it.” Ali said, taking a seat on a nearby boulder.
“Did he see you?” Crys asked simply.
“Oh, he saw me. We spoke.” Ali responded.

Crys went silent for minute or two, facing Ali as if she saw something amusing there. “Alright, you know… I’m sick of this attitude of yours; stand up.”
Ali snorted out a chuckle. “What?”
“Are you deaf? Stand. Up.” Crys repeated.

Ali didn’t know what this was all about, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to find out either, but even so she stood up and walked a few steps to the center of the arena, watching Crys walk to the weapon rack and pick up a wooden sword. She walked back slowly and threw the sword to her. Ali grabbed the training sword in the air with her left hand, looking at Crys with suspicion as she dropped her own weapons on the floor. “What do you expect me to do with this?”
“What the hell do you think?” Crys told her, walking closer and crossing her arms over her chest. “Hit me.”
“I’m not going to do that.” Ali said simply, dropping the training sword and turning to walk away.
“It was your fault, what happened with Owen. You should have known better than to get him involved. You should have known he wouldn’t be able to tell when things got too risky. It was your responsibility to make sure he got out alive. You failed him completely, and that’s why he died.”
Ali lowered her head and sighed. “I know that.”
“Yes, and you also know that Sean was the one who actually killed him, and no matter whose fault it is, there is nothing you can do to change that.” Crys said, picking up the training sword and offering it to Ali again. “Take it.”
“I don’t want to hit you.” Ali told her, with an annoyed expression.
Crys laughed out. “Oh, yes you do, but I didn’t say I was going to let you. Come on, pick it up or you’ll have to fight me empty handed.”
Ali turned to face Crys and took the training sword heaving a sigh. “Are you sure? I’ve been practicing you know.”
Crys shook her head, laughing. “Not enough, you haven’t.”

-Two hours later-

Ali walked out of the training area with a small limp and a visible bruise on her neck, where Crys had punched her to end the fight. She was muttering to herself things she should have done differently, frowning, although it did help her feel better. Crys had a very good point in what she told her: Owen was only one person that was going to get caught in the middle of this, if she wasn’t prepared to be responsible for those deaths, she was useless.

Ali was so distracted with her thoughts that she didn’t even noticed Jackson walking in her direction; she collided with him before looking up to face the mercenary, who was visibly about to fall down drunk. “Jack, are you feeling alright?”
The man stopped and stared at her for a long while, trying to focus on her face. “Ther’s a woof at th’ gates, lookin’ for tryscal.”
“There’s a what, looking for… What?” Ali asked, looking at him with confusion.”
“A woof, lookin’ for tryscal.” Jackson repeated, apparently confused about what part of the message was unclear.
Ali stopped to think and try to make sense of what the man was trying to say. As she managed to put the pieces together, she smacked her own forehead and laughed out. “Oh! A Wolf! Looking for Crystal!”
“Tha’s wut I sad!” Jackson exclaimed, laughing as if Ali had said something incredibly silly.
Ali shook her head and patted the man’s shoulder. “Sure it was… Sure it was. Can you go tell ‘Tryscal’ for me?”
“S-ure.” He answered, a hiccup breaking the word in two as he stumbled off towards the arena.
“Well… He’s going in the right direction at least.” Ali said, watching to make sure the man actually went to the training fields where she had left Crys, before walking towards the gates.

Once she got to the gates she saw a shaky, pale and scared-looking figure of an assassin. The guy was shaking from head to toe, and had a terrified look in his eyes; he also he his right hand wrapped around a bloody cloth. “What the hell…” Ali muttered, before walking past the Crimson that were all facing the man as if he would jump on them at any moment. She stopped in front of the man and waved the mercenaries away. They walked back to a more comfortable distance, but still stayed close enough to watch her back. “What do you want?” She asked him.
“I… I… I need help.” He mumbled, stumbling forward and landing on his knees.
“Are you joking?” Ali asked raising an eyebrow. “Why would we ever help you?”
“I had n-nowhere else to go, there’s was n-no one else…” He stuttered. “Sean went crazy after Evin invaded camp yesterday. Me and a couple of friends had smuggled some booze in, for kicks… He blamed it on us that Evin got in so easily. We were punished…” He stopped talking, and simply sat there on the ground shivering for a few moments before he managed to speak again. “Sean told Avius to ‘handle us’, we were whipped in front of the whole clan, an example to the others. I got the worse of it though. Evin was sitting right next to me and I didn’t recognize him. When Sean found out about that he….” The man sighed, slowly freeing his hand from the bloody cloth that protected it, showing that his ring finger had been cut off. “I can’t go back. I have no place to go. Please.”
Ali took a good look at the injury… It looked very much self-inflicted, and she knew for a fact that Sean was the kind of sick bastard that would talk someone into this.

As she thought about it, Crys showed up behind her. “What is this?” She asked, frowning at the man that was now sobbing on the floor. “By the way, next time don’t send me a drunken idiot for a messenger. Took me quite some time to understand what the hell he was trying to say.”
Ali chuckled. “Sorry, I wanted to check this out for myself before you got here. This poor loser here is asking that we take him in. Apparently Sean took his ring, finger and all.”
Crys immediately picked up on the fact that Ali didn’t believe the story, but as she raised an eyebrow and turned to her she sounded interested. “You don’t say…” She mumbled, looking back to the man. “Well… I don’t really know what you expect us to do about it, but if that’s true, you can take your plea to the head of the Crimson Shadows and if he believes you, you’ll be welcome to stay.”
“T-thank you. I’ll do that.” He answered.
Crys nodded and gave Ali a very discrete signal that told her to keep an eye on the guy. “You do that, now excuse me… I have some errands I need to take care of.”

Ali sighed heavily watching the shivering figure. The guy was lying, but it seems like Crys wanted Sean to believe they had bought it. Fine, she’d play along. Looking at one of the Crimson who seemed to be a little less intoxicated and asked her for clean bandages and a bottle to clean the man’s wounded hand. Sitting next to him on the floor, she grabbed his wrist without asking permission and mumbled a “this will sting”, before pouring a good amount of alcohol on his wounded hand, and act that was followed by several complaints of the Crimson due to her ‘waste of good booze’. “So…” She mumbled starting to wrap the bandages around the guy’s hand. “What’s your name?”
“Eric.” He answered.
“Very, well, Eric…” She told him. “While I’m usually a very nice person, Sean Fletcher has harmed me to the point of anything slightly, remotely, related to him being able to turn me into a violent bitch. So, let me make something perfectly clear…” She sunk her nails painfully into his wound and leaned closer, staring menacingly into his eyes. “If you do anything, ANYTHING, that leads me to believe you are still working with the Wolfpack, I will cut your every finger, toe, hand… Hell, I will slice you into little chewable pieces and send you back to Sean in a little wooden box. Are we understood?”
The man simply nodded in response, since he was in too much pain to be able to utter a word.
“Good.” She said, releasing him. “Welcome to the desert.”

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

[Flashback - Wolfpack Camp, approximately 12 years ago]

Crys was sitting by the lake, it was cold away from the camp fire, but at least she was alone. She had another outburst that morning, she couldn't stand being around almost anyone anymore ever since her enlightenment began to manifest itself, almost a year ago. She was scared all the time and she just didn’t know how she would ever be able to live with this her whole life; it was unimaginable.
After a good while of enduring the shivering cold, Crys felt a blanket dropping down on her shoulders and sighed. “Hey, uncle Eldric.”
“Hey, kid.” The man greeted, sitting next to her on the ground. “Are you trying to freeze?”
Crys moved away from him slowly and simply shrugged.
“It’s your birthday, Crys… Why are you hiding out here?” He asked.
“I can’t handle a party right now.” She said, rubbing her eyes. “I’m tired anyway.”
“I’m sure you are… Kicking and screaming can be pretty exhaustive.” He said with a little chuckle.
“Shut up.” She muttered.
He laughed. “Oh, come on, kid… Don’t be like that.” He said. “I made you a present, but… Before I let you have it, you’ll need to sit through one of my stories.”
Crys sighed. “Fine. Not like I’m doing something important anyway…”
Eldric laughed some more, it seemed he just couldn’t stop laughing at her, she didn’t know whether she should laugh right back or be angry at the man. Finally she shook her head and opened a little smile. “What’s the damn story?” She asked.
“When I was a kid, not older than you, Dani’s mother, you grandmother, had the habit of gathering the recruits and telling them stories of the Twins and the time they spent in Valcrest.” He chuckled. “Now, Dani wasn’t a recruit yet, but she was an annoying little thing, and wouldn’t shut up unless she was allowed to hear the stories too. And her favorite story happened to be about the origin of music. You like music, right?”
“Sure.” Crys nodded.
“Sure, but do you know where it came from?” He asked her.
“I assume that you’re just about to tell me.” She replied with a grin.

“Yes, as a matter of fact, I am.” He said, letting another chuckle. “It goes a little but like this:

Heart and Mind were the fifth pair of Twins to arrive in Valcrest. As soon as they arrived, Heart was amazed by the Land and its beauty. She found it all so perfect that she felt there was nothing she would change or improve, thus, she decided she would give something to the humans; something that would allow them to appreciate the beauty of the world and of the people around them much better, she gave them the gift of emotions.

Now, at first, the humans weren’t all too pleased with Heart’s gift. Emotions were complicated, they were impossible to control, and even after Mind gave the humans reason, emotions seemed to often overcome it. As a result, a group of humans decided to go to the Goddess and beg her to take the gift away. They didn’t want to have their actions controlled by emotions anymore, most of all: They didn’t want to feel pain anymore.

Heart listened patiently to the complaints of the humans, and then told them to follow her into the forest. The humans didn’t understand, but complied and followed Heart to the depths of the forest, to its darker and quieter corner. Once there, Heart said that she would not take the emotions away, but she would give them another gift; something that would allow them to feel happy any time they wanted. She then asked them to close their eyes and be silent.
Intrigued with the offer, the humans did as they were told and closed their eyes. After a moment or two a sound filled their ears; a sound like nothing they had had heard before. As they listened to it, they felt their troubles fade and their hearts fill with joy.

Heart then told the humans that this was music, and that music was something that could be created at will by their own hands, at any moment and it would always bring them comfort. Ever since that day, wherever there were humans in Valcrest, there was also music.”

Crys listened to the story with interest. She’d never heard it before. “That’s a great story, but it’s not true.”
“What is not true?” Eldric asked.
“Music doesn’t necessarily makes you feel happy.” She stated.
“No, but you can choose what songs to hear, or play, and it makes it seem like have you control, even if a little while.” He explained. “And Heart would much rather let the humans figure that out for themselves, or at least I like to think that.”
“Mom told me Heart could sense every living creature in Valcrest… At all times. What if trees had emotions? Where the hell would I run to?” Crys muttered out, frustrated.
“You can’t avoid people forever, Crys. You know that, but…” He took her hand and placed an object on it. “You can pretend you have some sort of control, at least for a little while until you figure out the rest.”
Crys examined the object in her hands; it was cylindrical wooden casing. Opening it she reached the object inside, removing it from its casing she began to examine it with her finger tips and smile growing wider and wider across her face. “It’s a flute!” She exclaimed, unable to hold back the excitement. “Did you make this?”
“Yes, I did, missy. It took a good amount of my time too. I can’t take complete credit for it though; it was your mother’s idea, but the work is all mine as you can probably tell.” He said with a very satisfied tone in his voice.
“It’s the best gift ever, uncle… Thank you.” She smiled.
“I’m glad you like it, hopefully it’ll help you too.”


. . . . . . . . . . .

[Flashback – Wolfpack camp, approximately 4 years ago]

”YOU LIED TO ME!!!” Sean’s words exploded and echoed through the camp coming from the leader’s cabin. It caused chills down Crys’ spine; she had never felt so many rage coming from one single person before. All directed towards her mother.
“Sean, lower your voice.” Dani asked him in her calmest tone. “I know what you want, and I know how you feel, but this doesn’t solve anything.”
“No… You don’t know how I feel.” Sean stated, lowering his voice like she had asked, but not changing his tone in one bit. “You saw with your own eye what he did to her, what it did to me. You gave me your word that he would pay for this. You. Promised. Me.”
“He was punished for it.” Dani stated simply.
“How? How was he punished?” Sean asked with a chuckle. “You think that because he’s ‘sorry’, that’s enough punishment? Really? Didn’t you slay the Wolf Hunters for what they did to your mother? Huh? So don’t give me that crap about redemption and forgiveness now! You can’t have it both ways!”
“I did that, yes.” Dani stated. “I was punished for it too, over and over with every death that occurred as a result from it; your mother’s death included.” She sighed. “I’m very sorry Sean, but it has to end. It has to end here.”
“You’re not sorry.” Sean spat out in anger. “Not enough, not yet… I’ll make you sorry. I’ll make sure one day you truly know how this feels; that is my promise to you.” He stated.

At that moment the cabin door opened and Eldric walked in with firm footsteps to take his son away. Sean had to be dragged out, still cursing and screaming at Dani for her injustice. Crys simply stood where she was, silent even after she heard her mother speak.
“I am sorry, kid.”


[Reality - Wolfpack Camp, early evening]

Fingers grazed the name in the cold stone. It had been a long time since Crys had been there, a little over three years actually. She had spent a lot of time there, she even talked to some of those who were buried there. Out of those people, Eldric Fletcher had been a great friend to both her parents; and to her personally, but Crys had somehow forgotten him. “My dear old friend, I am so sorry.” She whispered. “I know this isn’t what you wanted. I know you did the best you could, maybe I could have done a little more, I don’t know… But now here we are.” She sighed. “I hope you will understand why I have to do this. I hope you will forgive him whenever you see him again, because I can’t anymore. He took almost everything from me, even if not by my hands… He’ll have to pay. And I am truly sorry.”

Crys knew she had a little bit of time to be there before she was seen. People usually paid their respects to the dead in the morning. For some silly reason most people avoided the memorial at night. She moved from Eldric’s to her mother’s grave and there she sat, right beside it, with her back against a stone that held her own name. Sean had left it there for whatever reason. It was funny in her opinion.

After sitting she sighed slightly. “I’m still a little mad at you, but tomorrow we celebrate creation, and the Crimson believe it’s a day to think of new beginnings and ask the Twins for blessings. I have faith in the Twins, but I have trust in you, so maybe you can bless me instead, I think I need it now more than ever. I also wanted an excuse to come here again. But still; here I am, right? That must count for something.” She sighed, surprised at how stupid she felt asking questions to a grave; not like she never done it before. “The other reason though, you know what it is. I think it’s what you’d like me to do, but understand I’m only trying this once.” She brought her knees closers and hugged them tightly, feeling a slight shiver. It was starting to know, and she was no longer used to this kind of cold. “I’ve been alright, all in all. Jake is constantly a concern though, I keep expecting someone to show up and tell me he dropped dead somewhere. I wish there was some way I could help, but I know there isn’t. All I can do is hope that he’s alright somehow.” She paused for a minute then shook her head. “Oh, Theron’s back, which is good in a way, but I still don’t know how I feel about it. Evin is angry, hurt… I’m not sure… Sometimes it’s actually difficult to tell with him, although it doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. He’s always telling me how friends should act though, makes me wonder if he demands these things from all his friends, or if he’s just doing it to mess with me. Again, it’s hard to tell.” She chuckled. “I don’t know, I knew he wouldn’t be happy, but I still expect him to suddenly start giving Theron attitude like he did four years ago. Those two were such stubborn idiots back then, but I do miss it sometimes.”

Finally, she took one deep breath and pulled her flute from the bag she was carrying and started to play. Soon enough the breeze carried the music into the camp. It didn’t take long for people to start wondering where it was coming from and heading towards the memorial area.

“What is she doing here?” A female voice asked.
“We should do something, she’s trespassing, and is a traitor.” A male active suggested.
“Yeah, but… You know…” Another one mumbled. “We should probably call Avius. He’s in charge.”

Crys snickered softly at the whispers of the confused actives, which interrupted the sweet and calm melody that had been echoing through the clearing. She hadn’t shown up, been heard from, or even given proof of life after Allison had escorted her out of the encampment three years ago. It was very amusing how people seemed confused and frightened to see her there, sitting by her own gravestone (that had never been removed), playing flute as if she was right at home. They were shocked, and didn’t know what to do about the whole thing. Finally she lowered the flute and turned to face the small crowd of actives. “Please, just pick one already. You’re making me frustrated.”
“Why are you here?” One of the actives asked.
“I’m here to see Dante. Could you please go get him?” She asked, not saying anything more and simply going back to playing her music.

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

[Newhaven]

The pyre was about to be lit.

The pyre was about to be lit and Jake was stuck in his room, pacing back and forth trying to make a decision. He wanted to pay his respects, sure, but being at a funeral would remind him of every other funeral in his life… His sister’s, which was practically inexistent, only a few old friends of her father watching as she was buried next to their parents in the local cemetery, an empty grave next to her held his own name and marked him dead as far as the records of Blackpond were concerned.
Bastian’s funeral, which he had to sneak in to the Pack camp to see. The sight of Crys, covered in blood, looking pale and shaky, suddenly popped in his mind. He stopped pacing and sat on his bed, hiding his face in his hands… Dani’s funeral… He was in Newhaven then; he didn’t even know she was dead.

He sighed heavily, deciding not to go to the funeral after all. Instead he left his room and made his way to the courtyards, sitting down on a stone bench and closing his eyes for a moment to take noticing of the chilling night air.
Jake was never the kind of man that prayed, and he constantly mocked Crys for speaking to graves as if the dead could hear her. Still he sat there, took a deep breath and spoke with a little chuckle. “I don’t know why I came here, but suppose it’s as good of a place as anywhere else; I was told the dead can hear you anywhere…” He sighed. “Everyone is outside now, shedding their tears and saying their goodbyes. I was supposed to be there with them, but you know me though, I’m not much of a sentimental type, and when I have something to say I prefer to say it privately; even if it is ‘goodbye’.” He scratched the back of his head nervously, feeling a little bit stupid, but going on with what he wanted to say. “I suppose it’s not as much a ‘goodbye’ as it is a ‘thank you’. After all, you were a damn good friend to me in a time when it was hard for me trust myself, even less anyone else. Now, I know Valcrest is yet to find peace, the way you always said you wanted it, but I sincerely hope that you have.” He opened a little smile and added. “So, you just enjoy your freedom, and let the rest of us take care of this mess. It might be a little slower without you, but if there’s a way we’ll find it.”

With that said, Jake simply sat there in silence. He could hear the voices singing in the distance, but couldn’t make out the words. He raised his head as he felt it began to snow, if he sat there for long he’d be wet from head to toe, but for the moment he just didn’t feel like moving.

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

After a good while of sitting out in the cold Jake decided it was best to just go inside and change into dry clothes. He had decided he would wait a bit before running off to do what he needed, wait to see how things would be in the morning; for everyone. He didn’t know how long he’d been sitting there in the dark, he’d heard the people passing coming back from the forest and some other movement, but he couldn’t really bring himself to pay attention, and if someone had noticed him there they didn’t mention.

Finally he stood and slowly made his way into the castle and up to his room to change, dragging his feet and thinking over things he needed to find out soon. Probably easier if he hadn’t associated with the Black Knights again, but he had stopped questioning why he made these sorts of decisions a long time ago, he just learned to accept his own stupidities. Halfway through changing into a dry set of clothes, the sound of crashing and yelling was heard echoing through the stone halls. Jake stormed out of his room with his head half stuck in a shirt, but managed to get it on properly before reaching the group of seemingly confused members of the Guard standing outside Mageria’s bedroom door; the shouting and shattering coming from inside. “What’s this?” He asked the men.
“Uh… We don’t know. Should we… Break the door down, maybe?” One of them asked, clearly expecting the he give them some sort of order; something he was not at all used to doing.
“Hum…” He put his ear against the door for a moment, but quickly pulled back as something broke right close to it. “No. I don’t think so.” He told them. It was loud and ugly, but to him it seemed like she’d just had a meltdown and started breaking things. Or at least at first it did… Not soon after the guards had dispersed, as if Jake’s words had given the perfect excuse to just run as far away from the door as possible, the shattering stopped and a scream was heard loud and clear coming from the inside of the room: “JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!”
That made Jake doubt his theory to the point of making him press his ear against the door and consider barging in himself. However, what he heard next caused him to relax a little bit. Mageria was clearly sobbing, which was a little bit frightening to overhear, but in a way it was good, because it was bound to happen eventually.

Jake thought he’d heard someone else speak though, so he stood there and listened in for a little while longer.

"Stupid arrogant overdressed prick. I thought you were dead."

Jake didn’t need to listen to anything else after that one. There was only one person he could think of to fit that description, so he walked away trying not to think of how incredibly intrusive he had been, but thinking that this was a good thing. “Son of bitch isn’t dead.” He mumbled, as he walked down to hall. He was moving his plan along then, as soon as possible, which meant he needed to find Sham.

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

Jake had been almost everywhere in the castle looking for Sham. It was difficult to look for someone you barely know in such a big place, Jake could barely take a decent guess to where she would go. Finally, he went back to the tower where he had been sitting prior to the funeral. If he didn't find her there, he'd just sit around and wait until morning, he didn't feel like sleeping at all at this point and he liked the view from that window.

When he went inside though he couldn't help but open a grin when seeing her there, he couldn't understand why it didn't occur to him to look there first. "Huh... Why didn't I think you'd be in a high place? I must be tired or something." He stated, finding the little wooden bench Luckas had used earlier and sitting on it. Remembering Luke, he looked around for any sign of that little freak being hiding there, he could be surprisingly sneaky, but he wasn't there, so he figured it was safe to get into the subject at hand. "So, what you said earlier about being all for messing with Blackpond... How serious are you about it?" He asked.

Sham twisted around from where she was perched on the window sill and raised an eyebrow. She had changed out of most of her formal uniform, but still wore the coat and tunic. The hood was pulled forward, hiding the glint of her hair from anybody looking from below. But the winter air still cut through the cloth.
"I like high places because so many others avoid them." She pulled her legs up and crossed them in front of her, tucking each foot under the other leg.
"You'd be wanting to cause trouble over there then?" She leaned one shoulder against the frame. "I'd say that that'd be something I'd be most interested in." A dangerous glint shown in her eye. "I've got a bone or two to pick with those over there myself."

"Does that mean you like to avoid people?" He asked in an interested tone. "And that's good, because I do plan to cause a lot of trouble there. I have reasons of my own to do it, but I figure it might actually benefit Newhaven if I can pull this off." He paused a little thinking about just how much he wanted to tell, how much he was willing to admit to at this point. finally he decided to give just the most relevant part of the information he had, for the moment:

"There are some strange things going on in Blackpond ever since this new King took the throne. I spent close to two years sneaking around trying to find out wh Everyone who could have given me decent information on the things happening inside the castle, disappeared before I could get anything useful out of them, and anyone who speaks against the crown is dragged to the dungeons never to be seen again. I tried to sneak into the castle one time, but somehow they knew I was there and I almost didn't make it out." He said trying not to think too much about what happened that time, it had been a very close call. "I've had this idea in my mind for quiet some time, and while it's absolutely stupid, it might be crazy enough to work... I'll get myself taken to the dungeons. I'll make enough of a scene for anyone in there who might be having problems with the new King to be able to find me, at the same time, maybe there is someone alive in those cells that can give me something useful." He smiled slightly. "This, is my stupid plan. I'm going to do it by myself if I have to, but It'd be nice to have some backup. Mostly since I can't know what will happen once I'm caught." He didn't tell Sham everything, not yet, but it wasn't relevant anyway, besides... He didn't know how much she knew about the whole story.


Sham shrugged. "I don't have a lot in common with most anybody in this place. I grew up in the gutter, learning to steal to survive. First time I saw the Cap'n? Couple of me mates was being chased by Blackpond soldiers. We was giving 'em hell, and outta nowhere a couple of crazed folk in Black armor showed up, killed 'em, ended up offering us supplies for our help." She shook her head at the memory. "I really did think she was a bit cracked, but it worked for a while. Anyways, I got less idea how to act with some of these noble folk than I have to fly."

Sham curled her legs up under her chin and listened quietly as Jake outlined his plan. "Why do I not think you've told Cap'n about this? The woman who came the other day, she's holdin' the lives of a bunch of our folk over the Cap'n's head, at least from what I can gather. Me, not to be darkcast, but I have trouble believin'' that they're still alive." She stayed quiet for a long moment. "So that'd be one o' the things we'd have to find out. Along with what ever it is else you want to find out."
She measured Jake with her eyes, considering what she saw. He looked as if he could hold his own in most any situation, and resolved enough to go through with his plan and not break halfway through.
"So, do ya have an exit plan, or is that going to be up to your back-up?" She grinned and gestured at herself, indicating that she was going to be going along with his mad scheme. Then she tilted her head to the side. "You know, she's really not going to be happy about this. And with the walking around covered in blood and not even realizin' it; you think we should go off like that?"


Jake chuckled. "Well, nobles are strange folk, I give you that, but there's a decent number of misfits amongst the Guard too."
He said absently. "We're a small, but ever growing group." He said in an amused tone. "And no, I didn't tell her, but I like to think she knows me well enough to expect this kind of stupidity." He said still smiling, letting the smile fade slowly as he thought about the situation with the prisoners. "Those soldiers... Yeah, you're right. It's hard to believe they're still alive, but as long as there's chance they are, they're a great bargaining tool. Knowing for sure will help us know what to do... If there's something that can be done."

He stretched lazily where he sat and let out a small yawn. He wasn't sure how late it was, but even thought he knew he was tired, he was also wide awake. "Exit plan? Hum... No, I don't have one." He laughed. "I heard starting a riot is an effective way to escape from prison, but I have a feeling that it won't work very well." He joked. "Seriously though, it's very difficult to know how to get out of a place without knowing what's there, but... I'm sure there's a way. Worst case scenario they'll have another bargaining tool." He stated with a small shrug. "I'm hoping that woman the guy in the Inn mentioned, Rita, will be smart enough to contact me in there... She'd probably want to help us if she believes Lamya killed the King."

Jake went silent for a little while. Then he heaved a little sigh. "As long as we don't get killed and get some actual results, we'll be fine. As for the walking around covered in blood... That's not strange. She and Grim were very close, now he's gone, and that hurts like... Well, there's really nothing the hurts quite like it." He shook his head, not sure if he should laugh or not as he added. "Besides, I have a feeling the Captain will be in good hands while we're away. And I certainly don't want to wait for her to be well enough to know what we're up to here. I mean she probably will, but I don't plan on being anywhere on sight when she does." He said with a small grin.

Sham grinned back. "Well, unless they've done some major remodeling, there's a secret passage or two in there. They know about them, but they might come in handy anyways. We happen to have a map that shows where they be. Shouldn't be too out of date." She thought a bit more and suddenly laughed a little bit.
"So, your whole plan for not getting in trouble is to simply not be here when Cap'n finds out and not get dead while doing it? I can't argue against the stupid part. Maybe even insane. But it sounds like a lovely bit of fun. You'd be wanting to start trouble for that Lamya?"
Smoothly, Sham rolled forward out of the window sill to land on her hands, rolling into a handstand and then flipping over to land on her feet once more.
"When do you want to leave?"

Honestly, she wanted to get away from the Castle. Seeing the Cap'n in that much pain brought back memories of when she lost her entire crew to a pack of Blackpond dogs. She had wandered lost for a long time before Mageria happened to cross into her sight once more and give her a reason to keep going.

Jake laughed out. "Oh, no... I think I'll probably get in trouble either way, that's my plan for not getting strangled." He said, still chuckling. "If the map you're talking about is the one I think it is... It is a bit old. I know for a fact that there's at least a whole new part of the dungeons that isn't on it, but those passages can still be useful, yes." He watched Sham with a slight curiosity as she moved. It was indeed curious. "Lamya is not really my priority unless she would like to be so kind as to put herself on the tip of my blade, but..." He sighed. "Since I doubt she would grant me that favor as much as I doubt it's possible to avoid having to deal with her again... Whatever I can do to cause her trouble, I'll sure do it."

He stopped to think for a little while about when would be the best time to leave. "Before sunrise, if that's okay. I would say 'right now', but I think it might be best to try and get a few hours of sleep." He stifled a yawn and stood up, stretching, and running a hand through his hair. "It was damn long day today." Jake knew he probably wouldn't be able to get any sleep, but he needed to try anyway... He didn't know when he'd get the chance to sleep in a bed again.

Sham nodded and stretched herself. "Aye, I can be up and ready to go. Take a couple of horses, ride over, I find a place to den up, while you go and make trouble. Then I'll lurk about and see what I can learn while you enjoy Blackpond's lovely hospitality." She nodded again. "Sounds like a fair deal."
With a slight snort, she linked her arm through his and started walking toward the stairs. "Soooooo . . . which one of us is going to leave the note? I mean, I guess that we're not to just mention that we're out on a ride. A note that get's to her somewhere abouts lunch ought to give us enough lead. You think? Maybe that there's something you wanted to check out and I went to back ya up a bit? It's all true enough."

Jake nodded opening a little smirk. “Oh, I’ll leave the note. I think I know what to say.”

The setting changes from the-ruins-healers-camp to Blackpond

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sham (No Last Name) Character Portrait: Jake Turner

0.00 INK

Sham made her way down to the stables, a pack of everything that she thought she might need slung over one shoulder and a couple of breakfast rolls in her hands. Her pack had a couple of changes of clothing, some food, some money, her backup weapons . . . . and a few surprises that she had in a special pocket sewn into the lining. But for now she just looked like a reasonably well off young woman who was out to travel into the city for a festival. Grinning at Jake, who had managed to get there before her, she tossed him a stuffed role and went to check out her horse. Finding it to be ready to go, she mounted and waited, following Jake as he rode out.

Sham looked around as she rode, she always enjoyed the Blessings Festivals, not the least because it had always been an opportunity for thieving. But even then, the sheer giddiness of the celebration always made the world seem a little brighter. Leaning over, she accepted a flower held out to her by a little girl, tucking it behind one ear as the finally made it through the gates and out of the city. Glancing sideways out of the corner of her eye she studied the young man carefully, waiting until they were well out of earshot of anybody else.

"So," she finally broke the silence. "I understand the need to be causing trouble, in the name of the greater good and all that. But you look to be walkin' up to a bee's nest and whacking it with a stick." She rode for a moment more in silence. "Now, you have your reasons, and I'll not push if you'll not talk of them. But nobody paints a target on themselves and invites the archers to take their best shot without a powerful reason." She looked at Jake and then away, waiting for his answer. "So what is it that gives you such a wish to queer Blackpond's plans?"

Jake had been quiet as they rode out, only stopping as they crossed the castle gates onto the city. There he handed one of the guards the note he had written for Mageria, leaning down and whispering something to the man before riding on. He looked around at all the people as they crossed the city, curiously wondering how the Wolves would be celebrating it this time. He had poisoned their food supplies the last couple of years, but he would be too busy for that this time, what a pity... But Sean had been moved back on his list of priorities just a little bit for now

He was lost in thought, he wasn't sure for how long, until Sham spoke to him about why he was doing this. He thought about it for a few seconds, thinking that he has way too many reasons to name them all. "So, I take it that now you know me well enough to ask questions, huh?" He started with a little grin. "I don't really believe in greater good, you know; it's an impossibility. All of my reasons for this are personal in a way, some are strong enough to be risking my life" He sighed. "My strongest reason? I like Blackpond. I spent a lot of my nights in the Inns of that city as a teenager, I always thought people there had a lot of spirit to survive with so little as they did. I always thought that the whole city had a lot of potential, which they wasted in the war, but potential nonetheless... So I don't like how things are doing there. I also don't believe their King is who he says he is, and I have a special kind of hatred for fake Kings."

He looked around a little bit in silence then added. "There is also something that I've been looking for, for about four years now, and I suspect it might be there, but that's mostly a guess." He said, patting his horse absently. "What about you? Why are you helping me? Aside from it being great fun."

Sham grinned back. "Sometimes you need to ask the questions, just to see how somebody don't answer them." She scratched her nose and leaned back a bit. "You'd be wanting to save the city from themselves? That's be a mighty big hope, even for somebody who's been a Knight, twice over. And even if ya can prove that the King not be who he says he is, what then? Newhaven had the same deal, somebody killed the King and everything went to hell. And then things just kept getting worse, leading to us going out to stir up trouble all over again."

Absently, Sham traced a scar on the back of her left hand, in the shape of a jagged X. It was the swearing in mark from her old gang, all that she had left to show that they had ever existed. Carefully, she peeled off the fingerless glove and showed it to Jake.
"I told ya, Cap'n found me during the last siege, me an' my mates. This be our mark. Our territory was square in the way of the fighting, so pickings was good for a while. Took the Blackpond dogs a while to catch on that it was a buncha kids taking 'em out one by one. Took them longer to track us down and do somethin' about it. But when they did . . ." She shook her head, for once losing the cheerful demeanor that characterized her. "I was the bait, out lookin' for a mark. I heard . . . screams. And things blowin' up. And . . . worse. By the time I got back, all that was left was bits. Just burned up and torn apart. Naught but kids, but they were old enough to fight back. Old enough to kill." Sham pulled her glove back on, rubbing the stiffness out of her neck.

"I wandered around for a while, just looking for a reason to keep going. Eventually Cap'n and I crossed paths a couple times. One thing to another, I joined up." Sham shrugged. "So aye, I'd be looking for a bit of revenge. But back with my gang days, there was one rule we held above all others. You never leave your mate in the wind. You always back 'em." She glanced out of the corner of her eyes at Jake and grinned. "No matter how mad they seem at the time."

"Oh, I don't want to save Blackpond. I think salvation, no matter what you think it is, is your own choice. I just think they also deserve to have that choice. No more, no less." Jake stated simply. "And I don't have to prove anything. Rita, or whoever else is interested, can take care of that... I'll just give it a push if I can."

He then went silent listening to Sham's story. Something in her tone while she told it seemed all too familiar to him. He'd used that tone way too many times before, each of those times left a mark he would never be able to erase, but in a way or two it was worth the price. He was silent all the while she spoke and few moments after that. Then out of the blue he talked again. "When I talked to Lamya she... She dropped her cloak in the middle of the hall. We walked past it, and when we reached the door to the meeting room, she told me I had the choice to pick it up myself and let her walk in ahead of me, or enter the room while she picked it up. She said it didn't matter which choice I made, it would only lead to the same meaningless result. That stuck in my head for a little while, not for any reason other than it sounded like the most honest thing she said. Or maybe I'm wrong and she was just messing with me... Either way, I can't decide if I agree with that or not. Does anything actually matter? One day we're all going to die, and be forgotten. If we end this war today, what's to say it won't start all over again in a hundred years when no one even remembers how much sacrifice it took to end it in the first place? Under that perspective, isn't it correct to say that nothing has actual meaning: Everything is temporary and pointless?"

Suddenly he took notice of the fact that he was just making himself sound a lot crazier and let out a small chuckle. "You know... Never mind that, I was just thinking aloud." He told her, scratching the back of his head. "Do you want to go through the forest or around it? Through the forest is faster, but we might have trouble with the wolves. As you know, they don't like me much." He shrugged. "Up to you, really."

Sham shrugged. "Aye, everything might just be a bit pointless. So the meaning, that be the meaning that we give them, no? We know that we're born, we know that we die, all that in the middle, that's what we make of it. We can waste it or we can take the chance the Twins gave us and try and leave a mark. The choices we make, that's what makes us who we are. Those that just allow the world to push them around? They be the ones that will be forgotten the fastest."
She shrugged uncomfortably at the look that Jake gave her. "One of the best places to stay warm during the winter was in some of the eating houses; a lot of time people got together and argued about all manner of things to pass the time. I was bored, so I listened."

Sham looked between the both of them, neither of them were anything that looked like it would attract too much attention. She shifted, looking up at the sun to gauge the time. "Well, we want to be getting to Blackpond as quick as can be, aye? I'd say we take the quicker path. Any trouble we get into, I'd say we can get out of fast enough. And you wanted to cause trouble with everyone, aye? Might as well get started."

Jake nodded simply, taking the path that crossed the forest. "Suppose, you're right, although depending on the kind of trouble it might slow us down a bit." He grinned. "Not that I'm complaining. I'm all for causing trouble." Riding further into the woods, Jake kept silent for a little while longer then he turned to face Sham. "Ever been to Blackpond before?" He asked absently. They weren't far enough in the woods for there to be Pack scouts around, but still, Jake made sure to keep his ears open for any movement. The snow from the night before had melted in the sun, leaving a pleasant smell of wet dirt in the air. It reminded him of when he was a simple Pack recruit, a smile even crossed his expression for a split second... It was funny how meaningless things brought back such meaningful memories. "Oh, I was meaning to ask: That little scene I stumbled upon when I first got to the castle..." He let out a little snicker. "Was that a... Regular occurrence?"

Sham kept her own eyes on the forest as they talked, her eyes growing faintly greener as she drew slightly on her Enlightenment in order to track the sights and sounds of their surroundings. Odd how skills that she had used to keep track of potential marks back in the city translated into use outside Newhaven.
"Aye, I've been there a time or three, enough to know my way around. Both before and after I joined the Night Crew, which lead to some interesting times. But one thing stays the same in both places, almost no one ever looks up." She smiled at the memories.

Turning, she flicked a glance at Jake before settling back in her saddle and shrugging. "You mean when Cap'n and I were sparring? Happen's every once in a while. For someone with not a bit of a Gift, I haven't an idea how she always manages to know what's going on around her like that. So I keep tryin' and she keeps makin' me eat dirt. The deal was, so long as she kept beating me, I had to do drills, longer each time I failed. I'm up to" she rolled her eyes back, counting on her fingers. "About six hours of drills if I want to keep trying to jump her."

"What about you? I heard about your match with Cap'n as well. Didn't even faze her when you went all see through. Any idea how she does it?"

"Some people don't need to look up, like I said." He chuckled. "But since I didn't notice you following me either, I'll just shut up about it. And that match was not my proudest moment, even when training is considered, I kind of expected a worse beating than what I got actually. Although... In a life or death scenario I would have worked it from another angle." He said absently, shifting in his saddle and patting Shadow when the horse snorted out in annoyance. "Some of the guys from the Guard used to go on about how she's got a hidden enlightenment, but I don't really believe that. With extensive training it's possible for someone to enhance their sense to a point of gaining a sixth sense of sorts. I know a few veterans of the Pack who had trained themselves to that extent. So I figure it must be that." He said with a little shrug. "So, I guess you just have to keep trying then." He said with a little smirk, turning as he heard movement in the bushes, but brushing it aside when realizing it was something too small to be human. "When we get there, there's one place I need to go before anything else." He informed simply.

Sham nodded. "Will you be wanting company? If no, then I'll use the time to stable the horses and start looking for places to cache supplies. I'm fine with sleeping out of the way, means that there's more ways out when some come after us. And it might even be better to just scout places where we can steal what we need on the way out rather than try and hide anything. It's not as if it's that far between Blackpond and Newhaven. Fair warnin' though. The longer I use my Enlightenment, the more I hav' ta eat. So if we end up runnin' we may end up huntin' on the way back. But that's the only problem that I can see."

Sham scratched her nose and listened carefully as something bounded away from them in the trees. "So . . . what was this I heard about the Cap'n wrecking her room? And somebody comin' back from the dead?"

"Sounds good to me, I'd much rather be alone for this, actually." Jake replied. He thought for a little while on Sham's next question, wondering just how much he should tell of something he had no business knowing about in the first place, but then he decided it really didn't matter, the whole thing had probably turned into gossip by now anyway. "The, uh, somebody who came back, for what I understand, is the former Captain of the White Knights. Everyone thought he died three years ago when Blackpond invaded. He was never found anywhere, not even a piece of him, only the sword. He was declared missing, presumed dead... I'm not sure, I wasn't there then. I never liked the guy much for the little I knew him, thought he was too loud and flashy for my liking, but he and Mageria were pretty close. And for what I heard of the shouting he just showed up out of nowhere, or at least I assume it was him... Can't think of anyone else who fits the description of an 'arrogant overdressed prick'." He scratched his head for a moment. "Gotta admit that the guy's timing was less than ideal."

They were riding closer to the assassins camp now, which made Jake straighten up a bit in his saddle and draw his hands closer to his sword on an instinct. Hopefully there would be no trouble, few of the Wolves who had remained in the clan knew his face, and unless he was recognized, they shouldn't try to stop the two of them.

Sham snorted. "I'll shove off then, I know when I'm not wanted." A grin took the sting out of her snarky comment. Then she tilted her head to the side. "So, three years ago, a bunch of you all took off at abouts the same time. And then you come back, and join back up. And Pondus comes back and dies in the Cap'n's arms. And this other Cap'n comes back and pushs Cap'n into a bout of screaming and breakin' things." She scratched her nose and nodded. "I will be very surprised if she doesn't end up a bit cracked after all that."

Watching Jake closely, she noticed that he was getting more tense and ready to fight. In response, she slipped one of her batons out of it's holder on her back and laid it across her lap. "Out of curiosity, just how much do they 'not like' you around here?"

"Who isn't cracked nowadays..." Jake mumbled in response to Sham's comments. It seemed there was so much going on lately, but still when he looked around there was nothing out of place. He felt like some crazy person chasing ghosts sometimes; he knew there was something there, he could just feel it, but he couldn't see it. Sometimes he had to wonder if he was just getting too paranoid.

"They don't like me in one bit." He stated. "I'm still well known as the traitor who pledged allegiance to the Black Knights and poisoned their most beloved leader." He said absently, lowering his head respectfully at the memory of Dani, but the moment lasted only a few seconds. "Although technically that's true... It's not really the whole story. The whole story is a bit of a long one... And it would require a considerable amount of alcohol for me to get through it." He said, keeping his eyes and ears open to any strange movement. There was none. "It's all quiet, they're probably celebrating." He concluded, relaxing just a little bit. "I remember these parties being good, it was one of the few occasions alcohol was allowed in camp... Can't get any funnier than drunken assassins." He said with a little chuckle.

"Unfortunately, I'm out of booze at the moment." Sham shifted and her eyes started darting around the forest. "That'll have to wait for later."

A brief smile flashed over her face. "Me an' my crew, we never really celebrated Creation day. We celebrated the day after . . . . day of was one of our busiest days. We worked hard enough, we had enough swag and glim to keep us eating for the next month or so. Half the time you didn't even need to sneak through the houses, everyone was down in the parlors getting as drunk as they could, no one knew who was supposed to be there because they hired extra help. One time I even walked into one of those parties with a drink tray, lifted some jewelry on my way through." She sighed wistfully. "We always ate well too, nicking food from the rich folks kitchens."

Sham looked down at the warm clothing that now covered her, well made with no holes, something that she could only have dreamed of just a few years ago. "Strange, the places that life will take you, aye?"

"The day after was fun when I was kid. I got to pull pranks on the Instructors while they were passed out drunk." Jake laughed. "Not so fun when I was an Active and had to wake up early for training or assignments." He said with a little grin. "And then, of course, I've been everywhere over the past few years, so..." The rest of the sentence was lost the moment Jake noticed the movement he had been looking out for; something had moved in the bushes to his left.

Jake pulled on the reigns, slowing Shadow to a halt, and gripped the hilt of his sword. There were five or six assassins surrounding them, as far as he could tell, but they hadn't decided to make a move yet. Jake stopped, and now it was clear that he knew the Wolves were there, so if they knew him, they would attack, if they didn't, they would most likely be very quiet until the intruders decided to move along. A moment passed in silence, two... "Shit." He muttered as he leaned back to dodge an arrow.

"My, my, my... Jake Turner." A man greeted as he walked out of the shadows, holding a bow in his hand. "Sean will be glad to see your corpse once I'm through with you. Who's your friend?"
Jake sighed in annoyance as he dismounted, he knew this man, and he knew he wasn't going to back down. "Terry... Nice to see you still manage to fire a bow without the fingers I cut off."
"Sean demoted me after that humiliation you put me through, but not this time, see, it's snowing, so you can't hide like the coward you are."

Jake sighed. "Come on, Terry... I have somewhere else I need to be, and my friend here has nothing to do with this. Can we settle this another time?" Jake wasn't scared of him, but he was a former Instructor and an enlightened, nothing like those idiots from the Inn, and taking him out wouldn't be so easy if it came to that. "Sorry, kid, but we settle this here." As he said that, four scouts came out of the bushes as well. "I was hoping you would show, Jacob... Didn't expect you to bring company though."

"Dani always said it was disrespectful to shed blood on the day of creation." Jake stated, with a little sigh. "Suppose you folks don't care as much for tradition as you claim, huh?"
Terry walked closer and closer until he was less than an inch away from Jake, then he leaned over and whispered. "Funny how much you still care for the opinions of a woman you murdered." In a louder tone of voice he added. "We're letting people through unscathed unless they make trouble, but that does not apply to traitors like you. So your friend can go on, if she wants, but you're not going anywhere."

Jake shook his head in amusement, glancing towards Sham. "You hear that? You're free to go. Ain't that nice?" He looked back to Terry his hand was still holding on to his blade, but he didn't draw it. He looked the assassin straight in the eyes and smirked. "No blood." He mumbled, releasing the hilt of the sword and striking with his fist instead. Terry dodged the punch and sighed, tossing aside the bow he was holding. "Fine kid, have it your way."

Sham frowned. “Five ta two hardly seems like a fair fight.” She shrugged. “But still, as if I’d leave when they went to the trouble to set up a party for us like this.” She whipped out her other baton and grinned wildly as her eyes flared a bright green. “No blood, aye?”

With that she pulled her feet free of the stirrups and pulled them up under her, pushing off the saddle to fly through the air at the man in the center. They had spread out in a rough fan pattern, which meant that she had plenty of room to move between them. The first one went down with a grunt as she landed feet first on his chest, Sham brought her baton around and smashed it into his head as hard as she could. “That was the easy one.” Sham muttered under her breath as she looked up. The rest of the folk surrounding her looked upset, to put it mildly.

The other three all attacked her with daggers and swords, some of them two handed and Sham had all that she could to to keep them from scoring a hit. She wove both her batons around herself in a dizzying blur, ducking and weaving as fast as she could in order to stay unscathed. She couldn’t managed anything beyond defense for a long moment, before a lucky strike drove one of her attackers back. The second one darted in, momentarily getting in the way of his partner. He struck high and low at the same time, trying to get past Sham’s guard. Sham blocked both strikes, but he used the movement to momentarily bind her weapons so she couldn’t do anything. Frustrated, Sham snarled and leaned back slightly, bringing her right foot up in a savage kick that caught him neatly on the point of his chin. His eyes rolled back almost comically and he dropped limply to the ground. Sham stepped back and spun her batons around her torso in a fancy bit of display. “Well? You two really want to keep going?”

Jake was barely managing to block the hits coming at him. Terry's enlightenment was, according to Lena, called Mirroring. Which meant that the guy could know the opponent's moved right before they were made. The only to go around it was if the opponent was out of sight. That wouldn't be a problem for Jake, wasn't for the snow. So at this point he was struggling to keep up. Finally, a slip of his foot, and he found himself face down on the ground.

"You lose, kid." Terry growled at him.

Jake chuckled in response. "No, I cheated. And you're dead."

Terry pulled a dagger at those words, but it was far too late. Before he had the chance to do anything else, he dropped unconscious. The other two assassins immediately rushed towards Jake as he stood, but stopped when he spoke. "He's not dead!" He stated. "Well, not yet. He will be if you don't get him to a healer in time though. So I suggest you get moving."

The two remaining Wolves looked confused as to what to do, but while they didn't move Jake was already walking back to his horse and mounting. "We'll be going now. You guys have a nice day." He said, as the two assassins finally decided to help Terry instead of just standing there. "And tell Sean I still plan on returning his knife."

Sham jumped on her horse as well and dug her heels into it's side, sending her cantering off after Jake as the assassins started pulling their leader into the bushes.
"And just what was that you'd be cheating with?" Sham twisted around and dug into her pack, pulling out a large strip of jerky and a hunk of bread. As her stomach growled almost embarrassingly loud, she ripped a piece off and nearly swallowed it whole.
"I'm only asking outa professional curiosity. I like ta know all the ways available to work on the sly."
Finishing the snack she dug out a bag full of trail mix, throwing the pieces up in the air one at a time and catching them in her mouth. Hopefully the rest of the ride would be quiet.

Jake shrugged absently and pulled a black needle, seemingly out of nowhere, and held it where it was visible. "Poison." He stated. "It's not really cheating, per say, but that's how they'd see it. I'm known for that too, a little bit. They think I don't fight like a man and all that crap." He said, putting away the needle and glancing at Sham with an amused smile as he heard a pretty loud growl. "Those guys back there were idiots, most of them, but the older guy, Terrence, is an experienced assassin. He was an Instructor until about a year ago when he caught me sneaking around camp. I escaped him, so he was demoted for it. To a guy like him there's nothing worse. I'll probably have to kill him eventually." He explained. "Which is too bad, because they don't make assassins like him anymore."

Rubbing his eyes in a clear sign of weariness, Jake figured it wouldn't be too long before they reached Blackpond, hopefully things would be a little lighter in the city during this particular date, it would be nice if he could speak to his contact without getting the man into too much trouble.

The rest of the ride was quiet and uneventful, thankfully. Jake wasn’t in a bad mood or anything, but he was tired and anyone else who tried to get in his way would not be as lucky as the assassins were. The man he was going to meet was his father’s best friend, he was retired from the Castle Guard, but he still had good connections on the inside, if Jake could find him and get the man to recognize him, he would be a great source of information. There was a small problem though: the man thought Jake had died thirteen years ago, on the same day as his sister.

As they crossed the gates, Jake wasn't sure if he should be glad or suspicious of the they stumbled upon; people were cheerful walking the streets without a care, having snowball fights, laughing and playing. Blackpond looked like a completely different city altogether. He couldn't help a smile as he watched the whole scene. "Well..." He mumbled. "This is surely surprising."

He dismounted once they were closer to the center of the city and offered Sham Shadow's reigns. "You said you were going to stable the horses, right? Careful though, he bites." He warned her with a smile. "I need to find an old friend, and... I'd rather do that alone, I have to talk him into helping and that might not be easy; amongst other things he doesn't like Knights all that much." He stated. "I'll be in the north end of the cemetery in about an hour, we can meet up there."

With that said, he began to walk away disappearing amongst the small crowds of people. He wasn't sure where the man would be, but he had a slight idea of where he should start looking; walking through a familiar street, he stopped in front of a particular house, not far from where he was born, and entered without knocking. The place was dark and looked abandoned, but two steps into the house and that proved itself not to be the case. Suddenly, Jake felt the tip of a blade on the back of his neck. "Who are you?"

Jake smiled as he heard the voice asking the question. "Nathaniel Morris?"
The blade was pressed harder onto his neck, almost breaking through his skin. "I know who I am, boy. Who are you?"
Jake reached slowly into his shirt and pulled the locket he wore around his neck, holding it where the man could see it over his shoulder. "Do you remember this?"
"Where did you get this?" The man growled withdrawing the knife. "Turn around."
Jake turned to face the older man, a smile still plastered on his face; the man looked exactly like Jake remembered him, a few wrinkles, grey hairs, and scars added to it, but it was the same face he knew as a kid. "Hello Nate." He greeted.
The man took a good couple of steps back, still pointing the knife at Jake, but now with a look of absolute shock in his face. "I don't know who you are, or what you are trying to pull, but i suggest you leave now." He said.
Jake chuckled. "You think I'm an illlusion? Take a good look at me... It's not a vision."
"I don't believe it. It just can't be... You." He mumbled, now lowering the knife and walking closer, narrowing his eyes at Jake. "Little Jacob?"
Jake laughed out. "Well, took you long enough old man. I was beginning to think you would never connect the dots."
"I thought those thieves dropped your corpse in the woods that day. Everyone saw them drag you away." The man said, finally sheathing the knife and relaxing. "Where have you been all this time?"
Jake sighed. "Everywhere. Anywhere. I was rescued by one of the leaders of the Wolfpack that day. I woke up in their encampment, I trained with them for almost six years." He explained, giving a light shrug. "I'd love to say I never looked back, but that's not entirely true."

Jake then walked back to the door and opened it. "Walk with me, I'll tell you everything you want to know before I tell you why I've come." He told the man, tucking the golden locket back underneath his shirt.
Nathaniel followed after him, always one step behind, as Jake headed for the cemetery. Both of them stopped as they reached a line of graves in the northern area of the graveyard. Jake eyes were fixed on the name of the second grave from the right. It read: Jessica Marie Turner, followed by his sister's date of birth and death. To the right of Jessica's grave there was another one that read Jacob Allen Turner, the same date of his sister's grave marked Jake's early demise... He did in fact die that day in more ways than one, but not in the way his father's best friend was led to believe he had.

Not taking a single glance at his parents' graves, Jake broke the silence after a long while of staring at Jessica's name. "I never had the courage to come here, I thought that maybe I should now." He lowered his head for a second before letting out a chuckle and shaking his head in an amused gesture. "You know what's funny? According to the Newhaven Archives, I died four years ago. Makes me wonder how many more times will I get to die before I'm really dead."
"Why are you dead according to Newhaven files?" Nate asked.
"I can tell you that, but you might not like the answer." Jake stated. "Remember after my father died, when you said he was always talking about how I could become anything I wanted and he would always be proud of me?"
"I remember that, yes." Nate answered.
"I highly doubt he would say that if he knew." Jake answered, with a little smirk.
"I don't think your father would mind it if you are a Wolf." Nate stated. "If that's what you're worried about."
"I'm not a Wolf, Nate. Not anymore." Jake said, turning away from the graves to face the older man. "I'm something far worse, to your eyes at least. Think of the absolute worse. I am it."

"You mean a..." Nate silenced the words he was about to speak, not even able to utter the name. "You are one of them? They killed your father, Jacob! What they have done to this city... There's no excuse for that!" The man exclaimed, spitting on the ground a Jake's feet.
"None of the people I know killed my father. Not that I would actually care if they had. The man who killed my father, I think his name was Morgan, is now dead. Yes, I did check." Jake stated, completely unfazed by the man's obvious anger. "Are you done now, or do you have more to say to that?"
"I have nothing more to say to a..."
"Traitor?" Jake asked, raising an eyebrow. "I admit that I am, in every possible sense, I sure as hell am. Although, not in this case." He nodded. "Unlike you, I owe no loyalty to Blackpond; if anything I should hate this place for everything it took from me. Instead I'm taking one huge risk to try and find answers people like you should be asking a long time ago. So, are you going to help me or not?"

Nate hesitated, Jake was his best friend's son, but he had just admited to being the one thing he despised the most in the world. He hadn't seen the kid in thirteen years, how much could he trust a Black Knight?
"Come on, Nate. I trusted you with my identity and I could have easily lied, give me some answers." Jake insisted.
"You still haven't told me why you've come." Nathaniel stated simply, his green eyes piercing through Jake in such a way, that if a simple gaze could kill, the young man would have dropped dead immediately.
"I was once asked what matters most: actions or intentions. If someone takes the life of someone you love, does it matter why they do it? No. Right? However if someone offers you help, that's the first thing you ask: Why?" He snickered. "Double standards are everywhere, huh? I have many reasons, doesn't matter which one I give, none of them will seem important to you. I'm not doing it in my father's memory, although I'm pretty sure that's what you wanted to hear." Jake answered.

Nate was silent again, still examining Jake with his eyes as if he expect to see something he could actually believe in. "Ask your question, and I'll decide whether or not I'll answer them." He said finally.
"Tell me about the assassin training program." Jake said finally.
"I cannot deny or confirm the fact that there was ever one. Just as much as you couldn't confirm or deny if asked if a certain person is in fact one of your people.
"I know it exists, Nate." Jake muttered. "I've seen the scar they left on a close friend of mine. So spare me that crap; What, if anything, do you know?"
"Only the King and the Commander knew anything concrete, Jake. What the rest of us knew was... Rumours, speculations. Most never believed they were actually real." Nate sighed. "Your father was head of Guard for almost ten years, but I doubt even he ever really knew anything."
"This I know you know: What happened when the King died?" Jake asked, lowering his voice as he noticed someone standing by a grave not far from them.
"What I actually know is that the King was found lying dead, apparently poisoned, Commander Hastings was found dead in the room as well, stabbed. The official story is that Hastings was caught after killing the King and killed as a traitor, but... I heard from a secure source that he was already dead." Nate looked around to see there were a few people paying their respects as well. "I never liked Hastings, a lot of people didn't. The man was a drunk and a bastard, but he was one of the best Commanders this city has ever seen in its history. And I would bet you anything you want that he didn't kill our Ruler."
"I didn't think he did." Jake mumbled. "Is there anything else, a detail maybe?"
"The curtains were missing. In the King's chambers, one of maids told me that, but... Haven't been able to find her ever since. She remembers it clearly, because the King seemed excited about the fabric. It was the same the White Shadows used."

Those words caused Jake's mind to travel back to Newhaven, to Lamya's visit, to that damned cloak that had disturbed him so much... "Shit."
"What, kid?" Nate asked, raising an eyebrow at Jake's expression.
"Nothing." Jake replied, shaking his head slightly as he tried to pull his thoughts together. "There's one more thing I need from you, Nate."
"What?" The man asked.
"A way out of the dungeons" Jake replied with a serious expression that showed he wasn't just asking that.
"Three years ago, maybe, kid. Now... I can't possibly give you that. I honestly doubt there even is one. What are you going to do?" The man asked.
"I'm going to protect Newhaven from any harm, at any cost." Jake stated simply. "That's... What we do." He said, opening a grin as he saw the disgusted look on the man's face. "But it might help Blackpond in a way or two. Or maybe make things worse, but that's really not my problem, is it?"
Nathaniel shook his head in clear disappointment as he turned to leave. "David Turner's son... A Black Knight... This land is really going to hell." He muttered. "Monsters... All of them, souless monsters..." The man mumbled on as he left the cemetery.

Jake simply stood, saying a silent prayer for his sister as he waited for Sham to meet him. He needed to talk with her one more time before he even considered causing the amount of trouble he had in mind.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sham (No Last Name) Character Portrait: Jake Turner

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"You said you were going to stable the horses, right? Careful though, he bites."

Sham snickered at Jake’s warning. “Aye, and so do I.” She raised two fingers in a kind of salute. “Good luck with your friend.” She gathered up the reins and rode off, looking for the common stables; which was where those who couldn’t afford to keep their horses with them stabled while they were in town. It was relatively easy to find and she didn’t have any problem getting room for their mounts. After that she found her her way to one of the rougher parts of town where no one asked any questions. Surprisingly, that part of town was quite large, larger than it should have been. Obviously Blackpond had fallen on extremely hard times lately. Judging it to be safer to rent a room, if only for appearances, she found a sleazy little boarding house. It took her a bit of arguing, but she managed to get a room for the week. Assuming Jake didn’t get himself thrown in jail right off, he’d get to sleep on the floor. Which, judging from the state of the sheets, might be cleaner than the bed. But she’d slept in worse places. After securing the packs and gear as best she could, she went out to wander the streets for a while as she waited.

She only managed to get a couple of streets before there was a scuff on the roof near her. Sham looked up, spotting a flicker of movement where none should be. Obeying her instincts, she worked her way over to a side alley and quickly swarmed up the wall while no one was watching. The sight that greeted her wasn’t entirely unexpected. It was a crew of thieves, not so very different from the one that she had run with for a good long while. She nodded to their leader, while at the same time tracking the three that moved around behind her.
“You look ta be moving in ta my territory, bitch.” The lead stepped forward aggressively, looking slightly disappointed when Sham didn’t respond.
“Just movin’ through. I’m not lookin’ to step on anybodies’ toes.”
Everybody seemed to find this enormously funny, laughing quietly with an edge of menace. Sham held up one hand, looking hurt and innocent. “Nah, tellin’ true here! Moon strike me if I lie.” It had always struck her as odd that the patron of the Black Knights was also the Twin that thieves swore by, but in the end it made sense.
The gang shuffled uneasily at her oath, calling upon the Twins was not something done lightly. One of the more aggressive stepped forward and got right in her face. “If’n you ain’t here to scout for swag, whatcha doing then?”
Sham looked at him deadpan for a moment, before taking a half step forward and head butting him as hard as she could. Blood spurted from his nose as he staggered back, before snarling and coming back swinging. Sham grabbed his arm and twisted it around and back, leaning gently on the elbow almost to the breaking point.
“My business . . . would be my own.” She looked around at everyone else, who stood uneasily. Thieves for the most part, weren’t that aggressive unless they were pushed; this crew ran the lift’n lay, not snuffing for sport and pay. For the most part, that meant that they wouldn’t try and stick a knife in her now that she had proven that she could take them.
“Word to the Twins, I’m not hear to make trouble.” Sham released her captive and stepped back. “Standard fees though. I do business, I pay the tax.” They had to be satisfied with that, because Sham pushed past them and stepped off the edge of the roof, grabbing a couple of loose bricks and ledges to slow her descent.

After that she worked her way past the Castle to confirm an idea she had while they were riding, seeing that her guess was right she quickly found her way to the graveyard. Slowly,, she worked her way respectfully through the markers before she found Jake standing off alone. She walked up, not even trying to walk quietly.
“You find who ya looking for?”

The setting changes from blackpond to The Desert

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dastan Character Portrait: Indrani Nayar Character Portrait: Luckas Character Portrait: Jake Turner Character Portrait: Allison Blake

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The Day of Creation simply prolonged the party the Crimson were already having on account of their loss. It was rather sad, yet comic, that they saw no difference between both occasions; it was just another party to them. There was music, dancing, and laughing, but above all else there was drinking. There was so much of it, in fact, that Ali had to find somewhere where people weren't falling over and slurring their words all around, and so she walked to the training area with her bow to practice a little.

It was still painful to shoot, and Ali found that her accurracy wasn't what it used to, or should be, anymore. An injury to the hand could permanently keep an archer from ever firing a bow again. Luckily for her, Sean didn't do the job right and it was possible that her hand would regain full movement in the future. She just wasn't sure when that would happen, that if it actually did.

[Flashback - Small village in the plains, approximately 11 years ago]

Ali was sitting in the grass watching her brother target practice. She always enjoyed watching Alex train. He didn't even seem aware of anything other than the target; From the moment he nocked the arrow until it reached the target it was like he was in a distant place inside his mind. She wondered how he managed to focus like that and still be aware of his surroundings because, even though she was careful not to make a sound, he knew very well that she was watching. That much become clear when he stopped, halfway through pulling another arrow from the quiver he carried at his waist, and smiled. "Allison, why are you so quiet? I don't think I've ever seen you spend this much time without talking."
Ali tilted her head to one side and smiled cheerfully at her brother. "I didn't want to disturb you."

"You don't want to disturb me?"Alex retrieved and put his arrow back in the quiver before walking over and crouching in front of his little sister. He looked at her with a suspicious look on his face, then pointed a finger at her and asked abruptly. "Who are you and what have you done to my annoying little sister?"
Ali giggled softly and slapped his hand away from her face. "Shut up, silly."
Alex shook his head, sitting down on the grass next to her. "Now, now... That's not a nice thing for a young lady to say, Allison." He told her in a sarcastic tone.
"When will you teach me to shoot like you?" Ali asked, laying back on the grass and focusing in trying to find interesting shapes in the clouds.
"I already told you... Father doesn't want you to be an archer. It's dangerous." Alex stated.
"He doesn't have to know." She argued. "Please."
"What? Ali... No. He's right, it's too dangerous. We can be attacked at any minute, and..."
"And I want to help protect the village, like you and father. Why can't I do that?"
Alex sighed softly. "Listen to me, sis: You can do anything you want. Anything. I just think that you deserve a better life."


[Reality - Desert, present time]

Taking a long deep breath, she gripped the bow just tightly enough to be firm and yet without tension, her left hand relaxed as she held it. With the left side of her body facing the target, she aligned her feet and parted them at shoulder width, maintaining a relaxed posture as she faced the target sideways and pulled an arrow from her quiver. After examining the arrow for a bit with a frown, it wasn't of the best quality, but it was the best she could manage around these parts, she nocked it.

[Flashback - Wolfpack encampment, aproximately 8 years ago]

"I can't"

"Yes you can. Hold it!"

The pain was invading Ali's body slowly as she held the bow drawn. The arrow pointed at Crys. She was not to release it until she moved aside, but she had been there for what it felt like hours and Crys hadn't moved a step; she had simply stood there with her arms crossed over her chest, like a damned statue. "I can't stand it."

"Fine then: Release. You'll kill me and be executed for treason." Crys stated simply. "Everybody wins." She added, sarcastically.

Ali didn't respond. She had a feeling that the more she complained, the longer she would have to hold, and the effort she was being forced to make to simply keep the bow string hooked in her fingers was almost too much to bear.

Finaly, after what felt like an eternity, Crys moved aside, exposing the target. Ali released the arrow and fell to her knees, exhaustion setting in. She could hear Crys walking around her, she hadn't said anything yet, and that couldn't be good.

"Not bad..." Crys stated. "But you missed the center of the target. So, get yourself on your feet, and we'll try this again."

Ali didn't move. Her back and shoulders where hurting badly. "I can't take anymore." She knew she shouldn't have said that the moment it came out of her mouth, she knew Crys hated whining; this would cost her.

Crys kneeled beside her, the tone in her voice was soft, and dangerously cold. "I'll decide what you can, or cannot, take. Now get on your feet. Or I'll make sure you don't stand for a very long time."

Ali stood, slowly, and faced Crys with a look of pure hatred. "One day... I swear... I'll slit your throat while you sleep."
Crys laughed. "If you ever manage to become that skilled I'll gladly die. Now: Let's try again, and this time you better make the shot perfect."


[Reality - Desert, present time]

Another deep breath. She placed her index finger just above the nock and her middle and ring fingers just below it, hooking the string firmly with those three fingers, she raised her bow to shoulder height and began to draw the string until it gently touched her nose and chin.

[Flashback - Wolfpack encampment, approximately 6 years ago]

Ali was leaving the training area with her bow at her back when she heard someone whistle behind her. She turned to find a tall man with dark-grey hair leaning by the leader's cabin and looking at her with an interested look in his eyes. She held the man's gaze and asked, in a less than polite tone: "What do you want?"
"You're Allison, right?" He asked, seemingly unfazed by the aggressiveness in her tone. "Crystal's recruit?"
"Yes. And who are you?" Ali asked in return.
"Is that your bow?" He asked, ignoring her question.
"It is." Ali answered, now turning away and beginning to walk back to the recruits' dormitories. She heard the man following her, but didn't turn to look, deciding to simply ignore him.
"You stole it, right? It can't be yours, it's too big for you." He stated.
Ali suddenly stopped, and turned to the man with a look of pure hatred. "I'm not a thief!" She exclaimed. "What do you want from me? Leave me the hell alone."
"It's too big for you." He repeated. "However, you're what, fifteen? You might still grow enough to use it. How tall was the previous owner?"
Ali gave the man an intrigued look. "He wasn't all that much taller than I am now. And I'm fourteen." She mumbled.
"Fourteen? Even better." He said, opening a smile. "Whose was it?"
"My bother's." She replied. "He crafted it himself."
"Did he, now?" The man asked, seeming even more ineterested. "That's some fine craftsmanship. Your brother was an artist." He held out his hand. "Can I have a look?"
"I'd rather not." Ali replied, with a slightly apologetic look. She didn't mean to be rude, she just didn't trust this man quite yet.
"That's alright." He stated. "Can I see your arrows instead?"
Ali nodded in agreement, handing him her quiver.
He pulled an arrow out of the small leather quiver and examined it carefully, seeming displeased with what he saw. "Did you make these yourself?"
"I did, why?" Ali asked, wondering if she should be offended by his tone.
"They're crap. These feathers are different sizes, from different types of birds even, and I bet you don't even know what kind of wood this is." He stated. "You can't make arrows out of just anything." He tossed the quiver back at her and reached behind his back to hi own quiver, from where he pulled an arrow of his own. "You want to make your arrow shafts out of cedar, pine, or birch, they all have different qualities and you have to try them and see which one you like best. Cherry is not bad either, but hard to find around these parts and you don't want to stray too far from camp." He explained. "Goose feathers are what I consider the best, but some use turkey feathers and claim they are just as effective. They need to be the exact same size. Tail feathers are better for this." He explained, putting his own arrow away. "Tell me, kid: How seriously do you plan on taking this? You're four years into your basic training, you're likely to be graduating soon, if you actually plan on calling yourself an archer, I suggest you learn these things, and fast."
"How seriously do I take this?" Ali asked, raising an eyebrow. "I will learn these things and I'll be damned if I'm not the best archer this clan has ever seen when I'm done."
The man opened a satisfied grin. "Dani's right, you do have potential." He said absently. "You'll need work though, lots and lots of work. Are you sure your up for it?"
"Absolutely." She stated, without a hint of hesitation.
"You understand this doesn't count as official training? It's extra work, and a lot of it." He asked.
"I don't care." She answered.
The man nodded in agreement, for the first time a look of approval crossed his features as he extended his hand towards her one more time. "Eldric Fletcher." He stated finally. "I am the best archer this clan has ever seen, but I guarantee you'll be better when I'm through with you."


[Reality - Desert, present time]

Ali took one more deep breath as she held the bow drawn; keeping her injured hand in the 'hooking' position in itself was painful, but holding the weight of the extended string without releasing it prematurely was agony. She endured it though, carefully taking aim before letting the string gently slide out of her hold, releasing the arrow on its way towards the target. It landed gently in its center, however, slightly off the intended course. Ali mentally cursed as she lowered the bow; her draw hand had shivered during the release and altered the arrow's course.

"That took forever. I thought you people were trained to kill quickly." Dastan's voice spoke behind her.
Ali didn't turn, she simply pulled another arrow and repeated the process, this time taking no longer than a second to go through it. "Sometimes it's good to do things slowly. If you do something often enough for it to become mechanical, you eventually forget what the process feels like." She paused before pulling another arrow and adding: "You sound strangely sober."
"My old man had three rules to live by: Never bet what you can't afford to lose; Never turn your back on a friend; Never drink when you're upset." Dastan answered.
"Oh, so you being sober is a bad thing?" Ali asked, releasing another arrow into the target. "And why are you upset?"
"Your friend, Sean, sent yet another messenger this morning. He says he will launch an attack on us if I don't surrender you people to him by sundown."
"I see." Ali mumbled. "And what did you answer?"
"You really need to ask me that?" He said. "Never turn your back on a friend." He repeated.
"Aren't the Crimson your friends too Dastan? Do you think they can endure this attack? The Pack may not be what it once was, but it's still extremely powerful. It would be a massacre even if they didn't greatly outnumber your people." She turned to him and smiled. "Look, I don't want you to turn on us, but you should think of them first."
"It's really not that simple." He replied. "The crew likes you people. They even like Evin, except for Indrani, she kinda hates him, but you get my point. They won't accept what's best for them, I have to consider that too."
Ali chuckled. "See, that's why I can't be a leader; I can't bring myself to think that way."
"And how do you think?" He asked.
"I think that this isn't your fight. Whatever happened to not getting involved?" Ali asked, walking to retrieve her arrows on the target, examining them one by one for damage before putting them away in the quiver.
"We were always involved. We just pretended not to be." Dastan stated. "Not even we can pretend anymore."

Ali sighed softly. "I guess everyone is rethinking things nowadays." It was true. So many things had happened in the past years, hell, in the past two days. Things that had forced her to question everything: Her loyalties, her life, who she once was and who she hoped to become... Past and present were so mixed together now, it was too hard to know what was reality and what was a simple memory... And now, more than ever, the future was uncertain.

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

-Scene written between Sickness and me... Ages ago-

Billy wandered through the desert and by chance or fate depending on what one might believe.
Happened on what he could only guess was the camp of the Crimson Shadows.
He took a moment to survey the various comings and goings of the people in the camp.
The cooks ever busied with prepping the days next meal.
Some cutting meat, others working with huge black pots of scalding hot water.
Once he grew satisfied with one particular scene being played out he moved around the very outer perimeter of the camp.
Slowly creeping closer and closer watching every movement with the eyes of a hawk.

He worked very hard at not being spotted, and although Annie said the people in the Crimson Shadows would be friendly.
Billy was in no mood or shape for yet another fight with a group like the pack.
His leg had gotten a chance to get a bit of sand in the wound which was not only a touch painful but aggravating to say the very least.
Had it been anyone else it might've dampened their mood but Billy was never one to show weakness even in his personality.
And anger over pain is deffinetly a weakness.
Slowly he crept ever slower toward the back side of the camp looking for some sign of the general demeanor.

Indrani had been training young recruits most of the morning, which surprisingly had put her in a pretty good mood. The progress had been great and it had taken her mind off the problems they've been having. She had many discussions with Dastan lately, all about the same thing: The assassins. As much as Indrani liked them, and she did, they were losing many of their people and getting pulled into a war that wasn't theirs to fight. She thought maybe it was time they started to look out for their own a little more. It didn't matter anyway, Dastan had the final say, all she could do was make sure the mercenaries were well-trained and mentally prepared. That was her job, and she was good at it.

Walking back from the training area, carrying her scythe over her shoulder, she looked around and immediately noticed an unfamiliar face amongst the mercenaries. This guy wouldn't actually stand out to her that much, wasn't for that fact that she knew all the names and faces in that camp. She stopped to watch the guy for a moment or two, before walking up to him. "Hey, you... You're trespassing." She told him. "Are you lost, by any chance?"

Billy faced her more than a bit startled.
He, for whatever reason didn't notice her presence until she spoke and then he snapped into reality quickly.
He then said in answer to her question.
"Lost? No love I'm no lost.
Trespassing aye ta be sure but deffinetly not lost.
Truth be told I'm looking for a place what ta be hiding out from those pack lads for a bit.
Maybe put in some work, have a drink or several, kill some time, and more pack members given half the chance.
T'was a wee lass what gave me a bit of healing that directed me out this way.
Said ya folks would accept people of me sort pretty quick and keep the pack from putting another hole in me leg."

BIlly then shook his hair from his face and smiled.
"So love maybe ya can help me ta no be trespassing anymore so much as getting applied for a spot with you lot.
I'm handy with a blade, quick on me feet, and have bad jokes a plenty ta be telling ta anyone what is fool enough ta be listening."
He then extended his hand and said with a half smile.
"Where are me manners?
Me name is Billy ta me friends tis a pleasure ta be meeting ya love.
That is provided ya are no going ta be putting a blade in me."

Indrani looked at this outsider intently before even considering what to say. He looked like a messed up fool, but she had lived with the Crimson Shadows her whole life; more than enough to know that appearances didn't really mean that much. The fact he mentioned a run-in with the Wolves and the healers made his story just plausible enough for her. "Well... Billy is it? Follow me." She said, walking past him towards the encampment. "You should consider getting a drink of something non-alcoholic from time to time and wear lighter clothing if you plan on staying here. Otherwise you'll probably drop flat on your back before the sun is even at its highest." She told him, with a little smile. "We always have use for another set of hands and... We have more than enough fools to entertain if you really want to put yourself through it. Careful with the girls when they're drunk, some of them tend to get a little too friendly and won't want to hear a 'no'. I'm never drunk, remember that."

Once they reach the center of the encampment, she pointed at one larger tent. "Food and drink that way. This is the living area, south from here are training grounds, my tent and the temple. You'll need permission to enter the temple, but feel free to explore the training area. Come near my tent and I'll behead you on an instinct without even taking a second look at your face." Then she smiled pleasantly and added. "Any questions?"

Billy answered her last question quickly and with a smile.
"Aye I've got me share of questions though the first one just might be what's ya name love?
The second would be, there's such a thing as non alcoholic drink?
And the third...those lasses what do no take "no" for an answer where might they be?"
He then chuckled and responded
"Of course I'm just pulling ya leg love.
Ya do no behead people for that now do ya?"
He then scratched his head with the tip of his dagger.
"Guess I had more questions than I thought eh."

He started to look around the camp but his gaze still fell back on her.
Shaking his hair from his face he said.
"So if I'm going ta be sneaking into your tent I'll be needing ta ply ya with water or something ta the like first then?"
He snapped his fingers and laughed.
"Just like a lass ta want me ta get ya sober first."

"Indrani." She stated simply. "I'd say it's nice meeting you, but it's a little early to tell." She said, looking at him with a raised eyebrow. "Eh, it's up to you whether you drink water or not, but you might consider it. If you don't you'll pass out from the heat and probably wake up to find someone stuffing your pants with hot sand. Or some other similar stupidity." She snorted a little chuckle and added. "And oh... They'll find you. Just wait for it." She said.

She moved her scythe from her shoulder And leaned the lower blade on the ground, the one on the top still going over her shoulder. "You don't want to sneak into my tent... That would be terrible for your health, you know." She said in a very calm tone, opening a smile and adding. "Although, if you are good enough with those blades of yours to actually impress me... Who knows, you might get invited." She said. "It's not at all easy though, I should warn you."

Billy tossed a dagger end over end into the air catching it by the handle.
"Me skill with me daggers none can question love.
You'll just have ta be coming around some time what when I'm throwing them.
Guess I'll be looking for the lad or lass what leads this place eh?
Or maybe that drink along with those lasses.
As for filling me pockets with sand t'would be the first time anyone filled me pockets with anything."
He the laughed and walked off tossing the dagger end over end singing.
"Don't hit your mother in the head with a shovel.
It'll leave a dull impression on her mind."

Indrani watched Billy walk away with a somewhat intrigued look on her face. Finally she shook her head and mumbled. "The types of people who show up around here... It's just impressive." With that she followed the sound of music into the celebration that was happening. While she usually prefer to keep to herself, Creation Day, out of all days, was a different story. It was her favorite day since she was a little girl.

Walking amongst the small crowd of mercenaries and assassins, she spotted Crys in the middle of the party. That was an odd sight. Crys usually avoided this sort of event like the plague, however: There she was, allowing herself to be pulled into dancing around to a music that was already out of rhythym due to the level of alcohol the musicians had in them. Indrani couldn't help but watch that scene with curious eyes. In three years it was the one time she'd seen Crys do anything other than converse with others in secluded corners or play that flute she seemed unable to separate from; even on the date of Creation, she had never truly broken out of that 'assassin leader' posture of hers, at least not as far as Indrani could recall. It was comforting and yet bothersome to see what was underneath; it made her wonder what had caused such a change.

After a while she realized she had stared for long enough to catch the attention of the blind woman, and soon enough Crys was walking in her direction. She stopped in front of her and cracked open a smile. "Beautiful day, is it not?" She greeted.
"A beautiful day, indeed." Indrani replied, all of a sudden feeling slightly nervous. She didn't remember ever exchanging this many words with Crys. She had even spoken more with Evin than with her, if she counted the times she had yelled at the man as 'speaking'.
Crys chuckled. "Do I disturb you in some way? She asked. "You seem nervous, and I can't quite understand why." She stated. It sounded as if Crys found it absolutely normal for her to be nervous, which only seemed to make it worse.
"N-no... I'm fine, really." She mumbled in response. Did she just stammer? She had never stammered before in her life.
Crys widened her smile. "I can tell you're perfectly fine, even so, you wouldn't be the first person to be nervous around an empath. People tend to be constantly afraid of what I might find out about them. You, for instance, are probably worried I'll be able to know that you don't want us here."
That statement caused Indrani to let out a small chuckle. "Oh, well... Fair enough." She stated. "I really don't. As much as I like you people, I think that the last thing we need right now is more trouble."

"You don't like me." Crys stated simply. "You're just too polite to say so. Don't worry though, I highly doubt you'll hurt my feelings with that." She sighed. "Truth is, we're not so different, you and I. I bet you've been pushing yourself your whole life, wanting to prove you can do this despite what others might think, what your parents might think... And now that you actually managed to gain their respect and their trust, you're terrified out of your mind thinking that maybe you're not as strong as you thought you were. Maybe, just maybe, you can't actually do this; you can't protect them."
Indrani was frozen where she stood. The truth in those words had managed to put her in a state of absolute shock. She wanted to say something, but she simply couldn't find the words.
"You want us gone because if there's no conflict you will never have to know for sure." Crys added. "I'm sympathetic, I truly am. Especially because that voice in your head is absolutely right: you're not strong enough, you can't protect them and the more you try to do so, the more and more you'll fail. The sensation is something similar to sinking into quicksand. The more you struggle, the faster you sink."

Indrani was very close to truly being furious now, her hands were gripping the shaft of her scythe so tightly she could barely feel them. She could still hear the music and laughing of the party, but the sounds seemed so distant now, as if they were echoes in the back of her mind. Suddenly, she felt a hand on her shoulder and realized that Crys was leading her away from the party.
"Come on, walk with me." Crys said, calmly. "I know this isn't what you want to hear. You'd much rather pretend there is some way to stop this, but take my word for it: there isn't. The sooner you accept this, the better."
"So what, should I just quit? Nothing I do matters. That's what you're saying." Indrani finally spoke.
"That's not what I said. I'm trying to explain something I came to understand a little bit too late; Being a Leader means you'll have to live with the choices no one else wants to make, those choices will inevitably lead to deaths, and you'll have those deaths on your hands and on your conscience for as long as you live. Everything will be your fault, and no matter how many times you tell yourself that things couldn't be helped, there is no amount of reasoning that will make you feel better. And if, by any chance, after everything is said and done, there are still people willing to follow you to death... It only makes everything feel worse, because you can't help but think that's exactly what they will be forced to do." She smiled gently and concluded. "What makes a great Leader, the way I see it, is going through all of that and still be willing to wake up the next day just to go through it again."
"You surely think highly of yourself, don't you?" Indrani said, slightly amused.
Crys laughed in response. "I'm flattered if you actually think I was talking about myself." she said, closing her eyes as a rare breeze flew by. "It's snowing everywhere, but here. Isn't that funny?" She said, absently.

"Why are you suddenly so... Relaxed?" Indrani asked finally, watching her curiously.
"Because... Right now, I don't have a specific reason not to be. And I'm very much aware of the fact that I should enjoy it while it lasts." She answered simply.

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

[White Shadows encampment]

Annie chuckled slightly at the name Evin called her by. Her mother always mentioned him as being a spoiled, immature, brat. If she said so, it was most likely that he was one, or at least that he acted that way with her, but Annie had never really had a problem with him. Which immediately made her like him... After all, lately she'd had nothing but problems, with everyone. "Theron... I think he left already. I'm not entirely sure though. And, I advised him to go to Blackpond first, but he never told me where he was going. We didn't talk much, to be honest. My mother left a letter for him and I simply delievered it. I think that told him about whatever he came here looking for. One of the girls told me the Elf he was with mentioned they came here for something we had. Although, I don't know what it is and I obviously don't have it." She shrugged. "It was all a bit strange, in my opinion."

She raised one eyebrow when Evin spoke of Katelyn. Not only for the way he spoke of the whole thing, but also because he asked to see the girl. "Chance is not what I would call it exactly, Evin." She told him, in a tone that made clear that she knew what was behind 'the unfortunate event' he had referred to, but she made no further comments on the fact, she didn't think they would help the situation, so they were simply useless. "She's fine though, so I don't see a problem with that. Why don't you wait here for a minute and I'll go find her?" She said standing up. "And oh, please, help yourself to some tea, I don't mind." She said playfully, as she walked out of the tent.

Annie found Katelyn in one of the gardens, after being directed there by a passing healer who had spotted her there. The girl was pacing around in the grass, absently humming a song to herself. She smiled when she saw Annie walking over. "I remember coming here when I was little. There were always flowers in these gardens. I hope one day they'll be full of flowers again."
Annie nodded. "They will. I'll make sure of that." She stated. "Where's your brother?" She asked.
"Alistair distracted him. Sean is very much interested in finding out where your mother wandered off to and why." She said with a little shrug. "I don't really understand why he's so interested, but he is."
Annie chuckled. "Oh, well... I wish him luck with that."
"Really? No one ever wishes Sean luck. They usually wish that he'll die a painful death." Katie replied, with a little smirk.
"What do you wish?" Annie asked, curiously.
"I wish that he'll just... Find peace, somehow." She replied, with a little sigh.
"That's a very good wish." Annie stated. "So... Evin Bana is here. He asked to see you."
"Why?" Katie asked a little bit surprised to hear that.
"I'm not sure. You don't have to talk to him though, if you don't want to. I can tell him you already left." She offered.
"No, it's alright." Kate said. "I want to know what he wants. It's just... Sean already caught me talking to Ali, and..."
"Don't worry about Sean." Annie told her. "Come with me."

Walking Katie towards her tent, she caught sight of Alistair talking with Sean and made a signal to him behind the assassin's back, so that he would keep the conversation going for as long as possible. She then nodded towards the tent and smiled at the girl. "I'm not holding your hand, you know? Go in. I'll be right outside."
Kate nodded in response as she wandered into the tent, staring at her feet as she did so, and found a place to sit. She was never what anyone would describe as a shy person, but she wasn't sure what this was really about, and it just felt incredibly awkward to be there; so much she didn't even think of anything she could say, she simply sat there, eyes wandering everywhere as to avoid looking at Evin. This was really, really, awkward.

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

[Blackpond]

“You find who ya looking for?”

Jake was a little startled by Sham's voice. His mind was miles away in the past by the time she reached him. He took the time to rub his eyes, pretending it was due to exhaustion and not the tears that he had unconsciously let slip, before turning around and walking a few steps away from the line of graves. "Yeah, I found him." He stated. "He confirms what the guy from the Inn told us. According to what he knows, the King was found dead in his bed, apparently poisoned, and the city Commander, Hastings, was stabbed to death." He shook his head. "Get this: One of the maids told him that the Kings curtains were made from the same fabric the White Shadows use to make their robes; they were missing. Do you remember the cloak our visitor was wearing? That... Red cloak? I recognized the fabrics. Now I know where it came from. Fun stuff." Jake said sarcastically. "Aside from that, he wasn't all that helpful, information-wise. It was an emotional little reunion though." He said with an amused grin. "How about you? Seen anything interesting around the city?"

As he asked that, he started walking towards the exit of the cemetery, his eyes looking towards the street ahead. As they reached the gates, however, he stopped noticing the unusual movement of a small armed crowd heading towards the castle, ahead of that crowd; a familiar individual in black armor. "Is that...?" He squinted trying to get a better look at the moving figure. "That's Dominic. What's he doing with the rebels?" He asked, rushing towards the street to get a better look. People were retreating into their homes at first sight of the group, knowing that this wasn't going to end very well. Jake thought for a second, two at most, before he concluded that there would be a heck of a commotion, and that was just the perfect opportunity. He wasn't going to waste it. "Change of plans." He stated simply, following after the group of rebels from a short distance.

Once the group reached the castle, the Guard was already prepared for battle. Anyone with a small bit of brains could tell that the whole thing was suicidal. It was brave, sure, however, being brave never saved someone from being stabbed to death or locked in a dungeon; being smart, maybe, but not brave. That was something Jake learned early in life: being a coward can save you sometimes.

Once the rebels began their attack, Jake turned invisible, grateful that the snow had stopped falling and was only on the ground. In the middle of that mess it wouldn't be difficult at all to mask his footprints. Making his way through the confusion he spotted another familiar figure. He couldn't help a chill from going down his spine at the sight of Lamya. She was moving, almost gracefully, amongst the fighters stabbing anyone that crossed her line of sight; be it a rebel, or a guard. It didn't seem to matter to her. Some of them actually seemed to stop to stare at her as if they couldn't believe their eyes... Unfortunately for them, that was the last thing they would ever see. Jake himself had stopped for a little longer than he should and was forced to duck under a blade one of the rebels was swinging around not very skillfully, when it almost hit his face. He finally snapped out of the trance and moved on amongst the fighters. Somehow the rebels managed to break through the gates and into the courtyard, but Jake doubted they would make it any further than that.

In the middle of the commotion he spotted Dominic fighting two guards with considerable ease. The man stood out amongst the rebels since he was a far more skilled fighter, Jake just couldn't consider him to be a smart person for the little he'd seen of him so far. Getting mixed up in the conflict like this was just plain stupid, and Jake couldn't understand what would lead anyone to such a decision. At some moment Jake noticed one of the guards was about to sneak up on the man. It didn't matter how stupid Jake thought Dominic was, he instinctively pulled his attacker by the back of his uniform and stuck him with a needle to the back of the neck, he then tossed the unconscious man on Dominic as if to show what almost happened to him. He knew that if someone, anyone, had been paying attention; his presence had already been noticed so he didn't waste any more time from then on and made his way inside the castle through a servant's entrance left unnatended.

Jake knew he'd probably get caught by doing this, he almost had been last time he tried and he didn't even get close to his intended destination. Still, he was going to try and reach the King's chambers again. If not for any reason, he wanted to see the room where Rory had died. This castle didn't have as many servant passages as the Newhaven castle did, they were more strategic, and didn't cover the more important areas. One would have actually roam the hallways to reach the King's chambers. Jake walked the passages until he reached the correct area of the Castle. He made it closer than last time, a lot of the Guard had been moved to hold the castle's defenses, that was probably why. The hall that lead to the room, however, was still highly guarded. There were five guards on the hallway alone, and a guard's station on the end of the hall. He needed to clear that hall, or he'd never reach the doorway.

Walking back the way he came, he found a passage tha led to the library, the archivist was there, and two or three people that seemed to work there. Mentally cursing at what he was about to do... Jake dicretely picked an oil lamp from one of the tables and smashed it against one of the book shelves, causing it to catch fire. Once the first person in the room noticed the flames, Jake pulled four smoke bombs and set them off one after the other, filling the whole room with smoke, making the small fire he created to seem a lot worse than it actually was. Wasn't that enough, he grabbed one of the librarians, and slit the man's throat open. It was stupid, and messy, and Jake wouldn't have done it usually, but it was more than enough to start a panic and summon the Guard to the area. As the first guards entered, Jake left and made his way back towards the King's room, now left guarded by only two men. Walking over to one of them, he grabbed the man, dosing him with poison, and making him invisible. When the other Guard pulled his sword, Jake tossed the dead body onto it, and threw a throwing knife at the distracted man, killing him as well. He didn't bother to hide the bodies, he had split seconds before the guards realized the commotion had been a simple distraction and came looking for him.

Not bothering to be quiet either, he kicked down the door...

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

[Newhaven]

Mageria was working her way towards the Archives when an itching sensation between her shoulder-blades let her know that someone was following her. It was a sense that had saved her life a time or two before, and so she listened to it today. The odd thing was, she didn't sense a 'hunting' quality to the following, which meant that it was probably one of the kids; which meant that she had to respond calmly.

Head tilted to the side, she stopped suddenly and spun on the ball of her foot, "Don't you know better. . ." She couldn't stop the slight twitch that resulted from seeing that it was Luckas following her, but it was nothing like the instant urge to kill him that she used to have. Maybe the kid was wearing the edge off of the urge. "To stalk the Captain?" she finished with a raised eyebrow.

Looking Luckas up and down, she couldn't help a small sigh. "Do I even want to know why you're wandering around in a Guard's uniform?" Then she noticed that he was still itching at his chest. "Did you ever get that looked at? No, of course you didn't. Come on." With one hand she grabbed his shoulder and basically marched the young man in the direction of the Infirmary. Due to the hour and the fact that there were no patients at the moment, there was no one else in there, so Mageria grabbed a rough blanket and tossed it at Luckas, before heading into the store room and rummaging around.
"Here. Get out of those soaked cloths, dry off and wrap up in that. Your wound needs cleaning again." There was the sound of clunking and scuffing before she came back out with her hands full.

Mageria's reaction was amusing to Luke. Apparently she was expecting someone else, or at least she wasn't expecting him, to be following her. The amusement turned into a slight sense of shock, since he was also expecting something different from a scolding and a forced trip to the infirmary. He didn't even manage to attempt a reaction before being grabbed by the shoulder and taken to the empty ward.

"You know Captain, you're a lot more fun when you want to kill me." He stated, grabbing the blanket she tossed at him, waiting for her to leave the room before getting out of the soaked uniforms and drying off, retrieving a soaked note and the journal he had been carrying in its pockets before tossing them carelessly on the floor. "You know, you people take snowball fights a little too seriously around here. I got slaughtered." He mentioned. "Which is kind of a bother, now that I think of it; I don't actually have a change of clothes. Not that these are mine anyway." He said absently, wrapping the blanket tightly around himself and sitting on one of the empty beds, looking around the infirmary and whistling to himself.

He had taken the effort to hide the journal under the bed, right below the spot where he was seated, but left the note on top of the bed, in plain sight. It was soaked and blurry, but still readable. When Mageria walked out from the store room, he simply pointed at it. "Jake left this, not with me of course, but oh well..." He gave a light shrug, showing no real interest in the contents of the note.

"You know Captain, you're a lot more fun when you want to kill me."

Mageria arched one eyebrow and snorted softly. “So sorry to ruin your day.” She turned away and grabbed a bottle and a rag, cracking it open and pouring out a small portion the the sharp smelling liquid inside. “I could stab you, if that would make you feel better. Although this is likely to feel about the same way. Hold still please.” With that she neatly sliced the wet bandages off and started gently but firmly cleaning out the infected claw marks. She had used this stuff on herself and knew it stung like hell, but it would kill just about any infection.

“And it’s not . . . completely a game. Back during the last siege, too many people were hurt because they didn’t know how to follow instructions, didn’t know how to get away from someone coming after them, couldn’t figure out that they didn’t have any chance fighting against a superior force.” Mageria said absently as she continued to clean the wounds. Infection was a dangerous thing and she wanted to make sure that she got everything clean before re-bandaging. “I couldn’t just force everybody into training, no one would cooperate and the Council wouldn’t cough up the money. And I couldn’t do what I . . . There was nothing I could do to change their minds. But make it a game, and people are lining up for it. So I’ve got some of my retired Guards teaching basic moves to people who are interested, hopefully it will mean fewer casualties next time. If there is a next time. Let that dry a moment.”

Mageria pulled the note from the bed and read through it quickly before sighing heavily.

Captain.

Sorry I have to leave with a note, again. I'm trying not to make a habit out of it. I thought that you'd have a little bit too much on your mind at this point and decided not to bother you with this at least until morning.

I have an acquaintance in Blackpond I was reluctant to contact; I didn't really want to get him into too much trouble, but I came across someone in the city today and that made me reconsider. It should be simple enough to talk to him and come back, but I'm taking Sham with me just in case something unexpected happens. Best case scenario I find out if those prisoners are really alive in the dungeons somewhere. Worst case scenario I'm wasting my time. I'll see which one it is when we get there.

Take care of yourself.

Jake


“Why do I know that he’s going to be getting in far more trouble than he’s telling me about?” She shrugged. “Oh well. Hopefully Sham can get him out of whatever it is that he’s about to stumble into.” Mageria slanted a sharp look at Luckas before she started smearing a think paste on the claw marks. “We never did get to finish our talk earlier. Just what were you doing that you got close enough to the thing that left these?” A trick of the light highlighted the claw marks across the left side of her face, mute evidence that she had gotten just as close three years ago.

Luckas grinned widely when Mageria mentioned that she could stab him. "Oh, you could stab me, strangle me, smother me with a pillow... Or simply let this wound get infected and kill me. The question is... Would you? I mean, despite my, uh, resemblance to someone who did do a LOT of terrible things, and I mean really A LOT, I haven't actually done anything. At least not that you know of." He paused holding back a groan as he felt his chest begin to sting. "So then the question here isn't whether or not you can kill me, but whether or not you would kill me simply because you can." He said tilting his head and staring at her as if he expected the answer to be written somewhere in her expression. His eyes sparkled for a bit, but didn't change from their usual dark color, confirming what he already knew; whatever was going through the woman's mind was simply out of his reach. Finally he looked away pretending to find something incredibly interesting in the ceiling above as he thought of the whole snowball tournament. "Oh, everything is a game Captain, some people simply aren't aware that they're playing, or what the rules are, but it's all just a game nonetheless. And those Council people seem like just my type." He stated, turning his gaze back at her, his smile a little bit more evil than before. "I would absolutely love the opportunity to permanently change their minds sometime. Think about it."

Luke frowned slightly when the conversation subject changed to how he got those wounds. "Well, if you're going to ask me things, I'm going to ask you things too. Sounds fair now, doesn't it?" He stopped to think of what exactly happened that day. "Well, I was minding my own business at that time actually, hunting... Rabbits, mind you. I'm a lousy fighter, but I'm a decent hunter. Anyway, I thought I heard something, and then I definitely saw something moving in the shadows. I don't think it wanted to be noticed, because next thing I know I'm on the ground with my chest nearly sliced open. The thing stood over me then, and... I looked into its eyes, only lasted about a split second, but it was enough to catch a glimpse of some memories. Like I said, almost all of it involved you. At this point I realized I could use my enlightenment on it. I commanded it to stop and ran as fast as I could." He paused for a second. "There's one more thing, but first I ask you a question: The man who died yesterday, who was he?"

Mageria glanced up as she worked and shrugged. “I don’t usually kill people just because they resemble someone else. Its just a special case with you and your brother. That being said, I don’t hate you enough to let you die of an infected wound like this. I’ve seen that happen before and it’s a horribly painful way to go. I don’t think you’d enjoy the sensation of your chest rotting off.”

She was quiet for a while before she spoke back up. “Don’t worry about the Council, I took care of them just fine on my own.” A brief smile quirked the side of her face as she remembered a night three years ago. She and a couple of her more ‘adventurous’ Guards had spent the night climbing into the bedroom windows of certain Council members; dodging a couple of guard dogs, a few private mercenaries, a thief or two, and in a memorable moment two ‘professional ladies’ who were ‘consulting’ with one of the Council ‘privately’. The men who had been with her during that trip had wanted to bribe the women to pass along some of the more intimate details of their work, but had settled for sketching out the positions they had got to watch through the window while they were waiting. It had been an interesting night.

Mageria pointed one finger at Luckas before continuing her work. “And don’t do anything that I might have to deal with. I’d hate to have to do something permanent before I’ve made up my mind about having to kill you.”

“Why the hell would it still be focused on me?” Mageria’s brow furrowed as she thought. “Surely it’s got something better to do instead of focus on me after what, three years now? We only fought the one time and I certainly didn’t win.” She sat back on her heels before picking up the tools around her and going to put them on the table. She had just grabbed a roll of bandage when Luckas spoke up with his last question. She had managed to forget for a moment that Grim had died in her arms yesterday, now it came crashing back down around her. Leaning against the table, Mageria bowed her head as a series of memories washed over her,

Grim laughing at her when she tried to cook something . . . and failed miserably.

Grim waking up battered and bloody after she got done patching him back together after a fight.

Grim, sharing a glass of wine during a cold winter night.

She flinched a little bit before she slammed a lid down on her reactions, her expression smoothing out and the only evidence of her distress showing in the lightning of her eyes. She never could control that indicator, it was a surefire way of figuring out what she was really feeling.

Taking a deep breath, Mageria turned back around and started to wrap the bandage securely around Luckas’s chest, first placing a pad down over the slices. She was silent for a long moment before speaking. “That was Grim Pondus. Former Black Knight and Captain of the Salamanders. And a very good friend of mine.” She finished tying off the bandage and sat back on the bed across from the young man. “Now, why is it you can command that Beast thing, but not me?”

"How much hate would it take? I mean, just wondering what I'd have to do to spare myself of situations like this in the future." Luckas asked with a little grin. "Although, not as unpleasant or awkward as it would be with the healers. Most of them hate me just enough to make bandaging feel a little bit like torture." He said absently.

When she pointed at him with a warning, Luke chuckled. "Well, that's not fair Captain. Why should you have all the fun? I promise I'll behave as much as possible though, if it helps." He said with a smile, trying, but failing to look innocent. "After all, I wouldn't want to get in trouble."

Luke was silent after that, letting his mind go over the details of what had happened in his encounter with the beast; nothing in those memories gave him an answer of why it was so fixated on Mageria and, while usually something like this would make Luckas curious, or even amused, this particular fact made him uneasy. He couldn't say he'd be even a little bit sad if that thing was to kill her, but if that happened he might never get the answers he wanted. Not to mention it would be quite a waste. Luke wasn't fond of waste.

He didn't speak until after she answered his question, to which he automatically responded with: "I'm sorry." He wasn't sorry and didn't bother to fake it in his tone, but still he felt compelled to say it. "And that, I don't know for sure." He stated, in response to her question; absently scratching over the bandages the moment they were placed. "Lena told me that telepathic abilities are difficult to predict, even for people who have spent their lives studying them. See, each mind works differently so, while there might be hundreds, if not thousands, of telepaths out there, it is unlikely that two telepathic abilities would ever manifest in the same way. That said, I can guess that in some level your mind has learned to protect itself. Which is odd, to say the least, considering you have absolutely no enlightened ability, even less a telepathic ability of any sort. Needless to say, I'm eager to find out more." He stated, with a little smirk. "And I can't exactly command the beast, per say. I can command the human mind that is still alive within. And while he still has some influence over the beast's actions, my guess is that he is getting weaker by the minute. Which leads to my next question: Who is this Daniel Zimmerman?"

“How much hate would it take?” Briefly Mageria smiled, but it was bitter and bleak as the coldest winter night. “Something along the lines of what your brother did to me.” Her eyes slowly shaded to black, something that they had almost never done before. “Even” she stopped and took a moment before she started again. “. . . . even my worst enemy I’m inclined to just kill.” A soulless smile played over her lips. “But it would take a lot to push me to the edge like that.”

Slowly she calmed down, pushing the messy stew of emotions back down where it belonged. Even without an Enlightenment, she had enough influence that things would get very ugly if she let her emotions rule her actions. That was something that she had to be aware of at all times. Sometimes she wished she could go back to the days when it was just her, only her own actions to consider, but those days were long gone.

“Stop scratching at that, you’ll keep tearing it open.” she warned Luckas absently, her mind on other things. “Lovely, that mean’s you’ll be staying around then, won’t it?” Mageria got up and started putting away her tools. “And if you’ve read that journal I dropped, then you know who Daniel Zimmerman is. Or was. Which reminds me, I need that back. I put a lot of hard work into it and I’d rather not lose it.”

Luckas watched Mageria intently and with interest, noticing the shift in the color of her eyes. He said nothing about it though and simply responded to her words. "Hum, I see... But you can't actually kill your worst enemy, not really." He said with a smile, not elaborating on what exactly that was supposed to mean. He then sighed, stopping himself before reaching for the bandages again, and leaning back, crossing his arms behind his head. "I will be staying around. I haven't been in Newhaven in a long time, I forgot how fun this place can be." He replied. "And that book doesn't really answer my question... But then, I'm just asking out of curiosity. I'll give it back, don't worry. I'm not a thief." He stated simply, again not explaining when he planned on giving it back.

Luckas then hesitated, going silent for a moment before asking another question, now looking at the ceiling and trying to pretend the question was innocent. "Say... How well did you sleep last night, Captain?"

Mageria hesitated and shrugged. "Nightmares, of course. Would you expect any less?" She sighed. "They seem to be following a theme lately." She stated it simply and left it at that. "Why do you ask, Luckas? You don't seem the type to worry about another person's health like that. No offense."

Luke laughed out at the words 'no offense'. "You're too polite, considering the circumstances." He nodded, still smiling. "And I do worry about your health, Captain. Perhaps not for what you would call 'the right reasons', but I do." He sat up straight again, and nodded. "The reason I ask is because I haven't been sleeping well myself. And while I can't always remember my dreams exactly, since I got here... Well... It's gotten worse." He stated, showing off his left forearm that still had the reddish marking of the word 'stop' scratched on it. "I've also been seeing and hearing things, even while awake, ever since I looked into that thing's mind. It's bothersome. Especially because it all seems to have something to do with you." He scratched the back of his head and sighed. "I guess I'm trying to say that... I want to help you, when time comes for that."

He was silent for a little while after that statement, then he opened up a playful grin and added: "And, do I get a change of clothes? Or should I wander the castle naked until I find some I can snatch? I don't mind doing that at all, it just occurs to me that it may come off as inappropriate." He stated with a little shrug.

Mageria lifted one eyebrow. "That would be worrisome. The seeing and hearing things part. I remember when it happened to me, only it was my own personal demons, not something I was sharing with anyone else. I can sympathize." Going to a cabinet she pulled it open and chose a set of clothing that looked as if it would fit the boy. She tossed them at him and leaned against the wall. "If this is the same Beast that I faced three years ago, finally come back for some reason, then there's not a lot we can do, Luckas. It can be killed, but only at an enormous cost. Always in the past, it's wiped out the entirety of the Black Guard and Knights that faced it. All of them. I've had three years to plan." A hard look crossed her face. "I won't lead my people to a useless death, Luckas. And as much as you remind me of your brother, I won't lead you to a pointless death either." She jerked her chin at the pile of cloths. "Go ahead and get dressed. And let me know if your wound keeps itching. I'll take another look at it." With a nod she pushed off the wall and walked out, giving Luckas the privacy to change into the new cloths.

Luke watched the doorway for a while after Mageria walked off, finally he got up and began to get dressed. "I wasn't asking your permission, Captain." He mumbled.

The setting changes from the-desert to Valcrest

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Crystal Rivers Character Portrait: Dastan Character Portrait: Indrani Nayar Character Portrait: Jake Turner Character Portrait: Annie Turner Character Portrait: Allison Blake Character Portrait: Sean Fletcher Character Portrait: Ari Lupir

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[Healer's Camp - Sunrise]

The night was dead silent, and throughout the plains not a sound was heard, aside from the occasional coughing and moaning of the ill. Some of the exhausted healers attempted to stay awake through the night and tend to the needs of patients, while others got their very much deserved rest. Annie had stayed awake herself so that she could relieve as many healers as possible; Alistair had stayed awake to help, although he kept saying that he was just keeping her company. Whatever reasons he had, she was grateful to have him back even if for a few days. She was also glad to have someone to talk that didn’t see her simply as the leader of the Shadows. It was bothersome sometimes to think she had so very little friends although she had the loyalty of so many people. It was an odd feeling, at best.

“Why did you do that?” Alistair asked, absently as he sat back on the rock he had been sitting on moments ago. “It was nothing serious, just a nightmare.” He added, referring to the sick child he had gone to check up on. His eyes flashing gold as he stared to the small fire they had managed to keep alive for warmth.
“Why did I do what? And stop trying to sense my emotions or I’ll hurt you.” Annie mumbled in response. Of course, she knew exactly what Alistair meant.
“You gave Sean a blessing, even after he threatened you. Why would you do such a thing?” He asked. “And I really can’t help it sometimes, you know that.”
“This will sound stupid, but… I like Sean. I think that if he was given some guidance when he was younger none of this would have happened. So, in a way, it was Dani’s fault.”
Alistair laughed softly. “Oh, please… Say that in front of your mother, I just want to see the look on her face when she hears it.” He said, with a chuckle. “Let’s just say that’s true, does it excuse what he’s doing now? He’s not a child anymore; he’s responsible for other people’s lives.”
“I never said it excuses anything. I’m saying that I don’t hate him. That’s all I’m saying.” She shrugged.
“My concern is with what you’re not saying, Annie. Come on now, I’ve known you forever. I can tell when you’re hiding something and I don’t need my enlightenment for that.” He pushed.
“It’s nothing, Al, really.” She mumbled, standing up to get some tea. “Better if you don’t know anyway.”
Alistair went silent after that, but only for a moment. “Oh, I see… You know.”
“What?” She asked, turning to face him.
“You know.” He repeated, his eyes locked on hers as if they finished the sentence for him.
“I do.” She replied. “And no, I didn’t tell him anything although I was tempted to do it.”
“You can never tell him, who knows what he would do.” Alistair told her in a severe tone.
Annie didn’t answer, a slight bit of guilt crossing her expression.
“Annie, what did you do?” He asked.
“It’s better if you don’t know.” She repeated.

Alistair sighed, but didn’t insist on the matter. He knew how this was difficult for her. “You should get some rest, it’s almost morning. I can take care of things for a couple of hours.” He offered.
Annie chuckled in response. “Honestly Al, you really don’t miss it?” She asked him.
Alistair sighed. “I was very happy in my time here, Annie. I will always love this place and the people who live here. I just can’t handle the stress of this life anymore.” He gave a little shrug then smiled at her. “I’ll always be your friend though. You know that.”
Annie smiled back at the man, for a moment feeling more like the cheerful kid she was three years ago. “I’m not tired, really.” She said simply, in response to his offer. Besides, it’s nice to be able to sit in the silence for a while.”
As she finished that statement a mercenary came running towards them at full speed, tripping over his own feet and struggling to catch a breath. Once he stopped before her he breathed in deep and screamed in excitement “Annie! Annie! You won’t believe this!” The man screamed through the silence. “Look!” He said, grabbing Annie by the shoulders and turning her towards a dark figure that was carelessly strolling into the encampment. As the first rays of sunlight reached the small encampment they revealed the familiar face of a woman, her blue eyes sparkling as she opened a smile to the young leader of the White Shadows.

Annie blinked, unable to trust her eyes at first. “Mom?” she mumbled to herself, before actually being sure that it was mother she was seeing underneath the dark cloak, it was an odd sight after; after all, she had always seen her in the white robes of the healers. Even in the day she left them three years ago she wore light white clothing. As she walked closer Annie could tell she was tired, and different somehow, but she seemed perfectly alright. Finally, Annie walked a straight line to the woman and wrapped her arms around her in a tight hug.

Lena chuckled slightly, returning her daughter’s embrace as she looked over the girl’s shoulder to the man named Alistair. “Well, hello, there Mr. There’s-no-way-in-hell-you-can-make-me-go-back…” She said, a slightly arrogant smile playing on her lips. “It’s not at all surprising to see you here, although I must say it took you long enough.”
Alistair snorted softly to the comment. “Shut up, old woman.” He muttered in response.
She laughed out. “I’m glad, it seems that the time you spent away did you a lot of good, boy.” She told him.
“I’m sorry I can’t say the same for you. You look like crap.” He told her.

“Yes, well… I have been walking for a very long time. I have not been sleeping all that well and food sources are scarce in the mountains, so… Yes, I do look like crap. I’ll look healthier in a day or so.” She said, absent minded. “Now…” She smiled wide, grabbing Annie by the shoulders and gently pushing her away a couple of steps so she could get a good look at the girl. “Let me have a good look at you, kiddo. You’re so grown up.” She examined the girl from head to toe with her eyes then added in a slightly severe stone. “When was the last time you’ve eaten something though? What did I tell you about not taking any breaks?”
Annie laughed. “Mom, I’m fine. Really.” She stated. “Everybody’s tired, but I am taking care of myself.”
Lena sighed. “Seems like you’ve lost a good number of healers, huh? How many are there left?” She asked, her smiled melting into a concerned expression.
“Seventy five, myself included.” Annie told her. “I reinstated those who were rescued from the dungeons, but it didn’t go very well with the elders.” She explained. “Then there were Blackpond’s angered citizens, blaming their disgraces one us. They shortened our numbers by a few dozens in the past years, but eventually they stopped.” She shrugged. “I held it together the best way I could, took allegiance from the Crimson Shadows to try and keep our borders safe, but it’s been… Challenging.”
Lena chuckled, putting one arm around the girl’s shoulders and beginning to walk with her further into the camp. “You did great, kiddo. Really, great.” She told her.

As the healers began to wake up, excited whispers began to fill the plains as they caught sight of their former leader. They all said the same thing: The White Rose had finally returned.

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[Desert – Crimson Shadows encampment, a few hours before Sunrise]

Indrani had most of the day by herself thinking about everything that had happened in the past years. Three years ago, Dastan had promised her he had plans to keep the clan safe from the Pack, he had told her he would take care of it, however their people were being killed and he was simply putting all his faith on the possibility that those assassins would help them. She couldn’t believe that they would, she doubted they cared and overall she simply didn’t trust them for a minute. However, she trusted Allison. She trusted the archer enough to be honest with her about her feelings, knowing that she could understand them almost as well as anyone else. However, there was one thing she never told Ali, or anyone else no matter how much she trusted them. And that secret was the thing constantly on her mind in the past few months.

[Flashback – Wolfpack Territory, approximately 5 years ago]

Indrani had been exploring this new place where the Crimson had been allowed to set up camp, it was alright she guessed, and she was very grateful to the assassin Leader for sharing part of their territory, but it wasn’t home for her. Taking in her surroundings and trying to memorize the paths that led in and out of their assigned territory, the eighteen year old girl found herself a bit distracted. So much that she didn’t notice the seventeen year old boy sneaking up on her. Next thing she knew, she was feeling the tip of a knife to the back of her neck.

“You’re trespassing.” The voice of a young male spoke behind her. “Who are you?”
“I’m with the Crimson Shadows.” She told him. “Your leader is letting us stay here.” She informed.
“She is?” The boy asked, seeming confused. “Well, how do I know you’re actually with the Crimson Shadows?” He asked, unsure whether or not to let her go.
Indrani slowly pulled on her necklace and rose the pendant with the mark of the Water goddess, Crest of her mother’s side of the Royal family. “Effort royalty.” She stated, a proud note showing itself in her voice as she mentioned the city’s name.

The boy laughed, lowering his blade. “Oh, my apologies, Your Highness; won’t happen again.” He said, unable to hold back the laughter and the mockery in his tone. Perhaps he should have thought it through, however, because in a split second he was being hit straight in the face by Indrani’s fist. Surprised by the act, he stumbled back, dropping his sword. When he looked up again, Indrani had a sword of her own pointed at him.

“Pick it up.” She said, nodding towards the weapon he had dropped.

A devious smile spread itself across the boy’s face as he slid his foot under the blade and kicked up, grabbing the hilt of the sword in the air. “Your wish is my command, Princess. Show me what you got.” He said, wiping a bit of blood that had dripped from his nose and taking a defensive stance.

Indrani smirked at his comment, her golden eyes examining him from head to toe as if he was one of her clan’s recruits, weighing him over. Finally she began to circle him slowly, her eyes always locked on his, somewhat taken in by how they shifted ever so slightly from green to brown as she moved. He remained still, patiently observing her movements. The silence in the clearing only disturbed by the soft sound of the girl’s footsteps, the sounds of their breaths and their heartbeats… The birds, the breeze hitting the trees, the distant howls of the wolves announcing the nightfall was nearing… All those sounds had vanished in that moment as the two teenagers stared into each other’s eyes.

And then, without notice, that peace was suddenly disturbed by the clashing of metal as Indrani’s sword collided with the Wolf’s blade with tremendous force, once, and then many times more as they moved through the clearing almost in a dance, avoiding each other’s attacks by a matter of millimeters; none of them attempting to kill the other, but simply prove themselves superior. Every time one of them managed to get the slight bit of advantage, however, the other managed to compensate somehow. At one point the Wolf managed to knock Indrani’s blade to the side and draw a dagger to slash at her face, only to discover that girl had drawn a knife of her own to defend herself from the blow. The fight went on, even; no words exchanged; no signs of exhaustion shown from either side… Night was beginning to fall and they went on… Until a distant voice broke through the clearing and through the girl’s concentration: “INDRANI!”

The flinch caused by Dastan’s voice was enough for the young assassin to get inside Indrani’s guard and elbow her in the stomach, knocking the wind out of her. As she struggled to breathe he knocked the sword out f her hand. Still coughing, she tried to attack him with the knife, but he avoided the blade and managed to get a tight hold on her wrist, twisting her arm behind her back in a painful hold. Indrani struggled against the hold until she felt him wrap his other arm around her neck, pressing a dagger tightly against her throat, a subtle move and she’d be dead.

They were close enough that she could feel his heart beating fast against his chest, his voice came out in a gasp as it sounded in her ear. “Your Prince Charming, Princess?” He asked, still taunting her even after she’d shown him what she was capable of.
“Brother.” She whispered back.
“How protective is he?” He asked.
“Very. And he’s enlightened.” She answered.
“Too bad I’ll be long gone by the time he gets here, judging by the sound of his shouting.” He said. “That if he even finds the trail; there are so many of them.” He took a deep breath, exhaustion beginning to set as the adrenaline faded. “You have one chance to convince me not to kill you… One word: That’s all you get.” He told her.
Indrani didn’t even think, a smirk playing on her lips despite the fear she was feeling; the adrenaline and the excitement still talking louder than her senses. “Rematch.” She told him.
The boy chuckled softly in her ear. “You’re insane.”
“Oh, you don’t know the half it...” She replied, leaving a pause for him to give his name, sincerely hoping that he would.
“Sean.” He told her immediately. “Should I keep calling you Princess?” He asked, now in a more playful tone.
“Indrani.” She informed, wincing as she heard Dastan’s voice again; this time much closer. She barely noticed that Sean had already released her arm and was holding his dagger loosely in his hand; the blade was no longer near her skin.
“Indrani.” The assassin repeated. “If you run into another Wolf, and he decides to give you trouble, remember one word: ‘Effect’.” He told her. “Will you remember?”
“Effect.” She repeated.
“Good.” He said finally releasing her and sheathing his blade.
“Tomorrow, then?” She asked, putting away her knife and retrieving her sword from the ground.
“What?” He asked, scratching his head.
“The rematch!” She answered. “Or you think I wasn’t serious? You owe me.” She told him.
Sean laughed. “Oh, alright: Tomorrow.” He agreed. “I’ll be here.”

[Flashback – Somewhere deep in the forest, approximately 3 years ago]

“I’m trying Sean! He won’t listen to me!” Indrani shouted, frustrated.
“I thought you were the only one he listened to? What could have possibly changed?” Sean asked, his voice was still calm despite her shouting although his tone was bitter as if he knew the answer before it was ever spoken.
“Crystal.” Indrani answered, frowning deeply. “He won’t dare betray her.” She muttered. “Why the hell couldn’t you kill her properly?” She shot the question at him on an impulse, going very quiet for a moment afterwards as she noticed the painful expression that formed on his face. “I’m sorry.” She mumbled, taking a deep breath to calm herself. “I didn’t mean to say that, I…”

“Yes you did. It’s alright.” He sighed, running a hand over his eyes. “I’ll get rid of her, I’ll find a way. Until then, you…” He paused, choosing his words with care. “Be very careful around her, don’t… Don’t let her find out we know each other. She can’t know that, ever.”
“I know. I’ll be careful, I promise. No one will ever know.” She said, leaning her back against a tree staring at her feet, still unable to face her friend after what she said to him.
“Listen...” Sean started as he walked over to her and crouched down so he was in her line of sight. “I promise I’ll do everything I can to prevent a war. Everything until I have no choice. I won’t hurt a single one of your men unless I have to. I swear on my life.”
Indrani closed her eyes as Sean moved into her line of sight. She didn’t want to look at him anymore. The fact that she would have to choose between him and Dastan, if not now, in the future, was crushing her as if she was being held tightly by a huge iron fist.
“Indrani, please say something: Anything. Just give me a sign that you don’t hate me.” Sean insisted. “Tell me what you’re thinking.” He pleaded.
“Rematch.” She stated simply, her golden eyes blurred with tears as she opened them. “The next one might the last one.” She told him. “That’s all I can think of.”


[Reality – Desert, present time]

“Hey… What are you doing standing there?” Jackson’s voice sounded, curious, yet cautious as if he was worried about the sanity of his Commander.
“I’m just worried, that’s all.” Indrani answered, not encouraging any questions and beginning to walk away from the training arena and towards her home. “Please don’t disturb me unless is urgent. I’m very tired.”

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

Dastan had been sitting in his bed, absently listening to the sound of the flute that came from the room in the opposite end of the hall. Crys had been cheerful earlier in the day, but now for no apparent reason she was a little depressed. Dastan knew this because the music coming the blind woman’s room was simply heart breaking stuff. The mercenary had noticed in the past three years that Crys’ music not only helped vent whatever emotion was overwhelming her at the time, but it also could influence others; if that had something to do with the assassin’s enlightenment or if it was just the music itself… That he wasn’t sure of.

The man closed his eyes, breathing in and out softly and letting the music drive him deeper into a darkness he fought against since his early teens. Although he was good at hiding it, sometimes it wore him out. “These people are not your responsibility.” It whispered to him. “They only seem to care for you because they can use you. How many times will you repay the same debt? Are you a fool?”

Dastan sat up quickly, holding his head with both hands, trying to make the dark color leave his eyes. “No!” He muttered. “Go away!”

“I am you, remember? Where do you expect me to disappear to?” The voice mocked him. “Ignore me all you like, Shaykh, but mark my words: You will watch your people die because of it.”

Dastan shuddered as the shadows faded from his eyes, from his soul, at least for the moment. “I won’t let you take me like you did my father.” He muttered. “I’ll die before you have the chance!”

On the end of the hall the music still played, soft and melancholic. It was painful, yet beautiful as something deeply desired, yet unattainable. Like a shattered dream, or a long lost love. It ached, yet he wouldn’t dare cover his ears, or leave its reach, it seemed to have a hold on his soul somehow. It made him wonder what was going through his friend’s mind. He knew Crystal for so long, but he never seemed to be able to understand her. Their friendship was mostly based off of jokes of how they could one up each other and their concerns for their respective clans. Dastan respected her in a way that was reserved for a chosen few, Indrani above them all. In return it seemed that Crys trusted him with her own life and the lives of those she cared about, which he didn’t take lightly. He couldn’t take that lightly. If it wasn’t for her help, he would have died in a hole in Blackpond; he could never repay her enough for that.

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[Flashback – Wolfpack Camp, approximately 10 years ago]

“Jake! Open the door, you can’t lock yourself in there forever!” She shouted through the door of Jake’s room. “Damn it! Jacob! Don’t make me have to call my father!” She warned, slamming her fist against the door. There was no response. “Jaaaake!” she whined, now kicking the door. “I’m not leaving, you know.” She insisted, sitting on the floor outside the door and beginning to chant softly, while slamming her back against the bedroom door: “Jake. Jake. Jake. Jake. Jake. Jake. Jake. Jake. Jake…”

“FINE!” The boy shouted from inside of the room, unlocking the door, but not opening it.
Crys stood up and entered the room to the smell of smoke. “Were you burning stuff?” She asked, frowning slightly. “Wait… You weren’t smoking, right? ‘Cause mom will kill you if you were.”
Jake snorted softly. “No.” He mumbled. “Why do you say that?”
“Say what?” Crys asked confused, tilting her head to the side slightly.
“You say ‘mom’ like she’s everyone’s mother, but you say my father when you refer to your dad.” He stated.
“Well…” Crys started, walking over to where she thought a chair would be, but not finding it.
“To the left, two steps” Jake mumbled.
“Thanks.” She said, finding the chair and sitting. “Well, he is my father! You can’t have him, I won’t share!” She exclaimed, in a playful tone. Then she shrugged. “I don’t know, suppose I’m used to the fact that my mom is like everyone’s mom in a way. Dad is like a teacher to most, but he’s only a father to me. Well… And you.”
“Me?” Jake asked, honestly surprised.
“Yeah, you.” She said. “And I don’t mind that at all, by the way.”
“I don’t…” Jake mumbled, not knowing what to say to that.
Crys laughed. “Nice try, but that’s not why I’m here.” She said. “What happened today? Lionel said you asked to see your sister’s grave and then you freaked out and ran out on him.”
“So… That’s what happened.” Jake said. “Why do you have to bother me over it?”
“I haven’t told mom about it yet. I have to, but I need to hear it from you first.” She explained.
“It was nothing, I don’t know why, I just… Panicked. I needed to get out. I have memories of that city and… I need to forget them. I need to leave them behind, Crys. Do you understand?”

“Do you trust me Jake?” Crys asked, not answering the question.
“Of course I do.” Jake replied, quickly as if he wondered what had caused her to even ask.
“You know that whatever you tell me in secret dies with me, right?” She continued.
“I do know that, why…?”
“Then tell me about Jessica.” She added, cutting in before he asked the question.
“I already told you about Jessica.” He said, his tone turning slightly angry just by the fact that she had mentioned it.
“No… You told me how she died. Tell me about her, what was she like, what stories would she tell you… Tell me about who she was and what she meant to you.” She explained.

Jake was silent for a long while, Crys could tell he was crying even though he didn’t make a sound. Finally he spoke. “Please, don’t ask me that.” He pleaded; his tone only slightly above a whisper. “Please don’t make me think of her now.”
“Why not?” Crys asked.
“Because…” Jake mumbled, now actually starting to sob. “I should have protected her… I should have been there… I promised…”
Crys sighed softly, slowly moving to sit next to him on the bed. She absently put one arm around him, hating the fact that she could feel just how badly this had wounded him. “Jakey...” She whispered. “You couldn’t have protected her, you know that, why do you keep demanding so much of yourself? Is not always up to you to save the day, you know. You can’t make yourself responsible for everyone you love. If you do… You’ll only get hurt more.”
“I’m sorry. It seems like you always have to comfort me. It’s so embarrassing” He muttered
“Well… Someone has to protect you.” She told him. “How else will you save the world?”
Jake finally let out a chuckle. “Fair enough: You can protect me then, you’re allowed.”
Crys laughed. “Yeah, well… There’s one thing no one can protect you from.”
“The Alpha.” Jake sighed.
“That’s the one.” She chuckled. “I have to go tell her what happened, and I’ll be back later. Will you be alright?”
“I’ll live.” He told her. “At least I hope so… How’s her mood today?” He asked, a hopeful tone in his voice.
Crys laughed. “Yeah, I’d keep my fingers crossed if I were you, kay?” She told him, hesitating a moment then kissing him in the cheek before getting up to leave the room.

“Wait, what was that for?” Jake’s voice called as she was already walking out of the house.

“Extra luck.” She responded, closing the door behind her.


[Reality – Desert, present time]

The music seemed to pour out of Crys’ soul, flooding the room slowly… And she was drowning in it too, suffocating, but she couldn’t bear to stop. It was a vicious circle of sorts, and one she simply couldn’t break free of. She didn’t know what had caused her to suddenly think of the past when she tried so hard not to. She struggled against those memories as if they could eventually kill her the moment she dared to let them linger for too long. And just like that, she suddenly understood why Jake never liked to think of the past. Ironic, to say the least, that this was the reason why, but she did understand it now.

[Flashback – Newhaven, approximately 6 years ago]

It was early morning by the time Crys reached the city of Newhaven; the air was only slightly cool, as if announcing that the winter was nearing and the streets were almost completely silent as the first citizens were only starting to leave their homes to start their days. The house she was seeking wasn’t hard to find; it one of the backstreets away from the noise and excitement of the market, easy to get in and out of unnoticed, a nice little spot for one to settle down. Stopping before the house she knocked on the door and patiently waited for it to open, unable to hold back a smile as Jake’s voice sounded in her ears.

“Twins, have mercy. I’ll never get rid of you, will I?” He exclaimed, a bit of laughter escaping him. “You’re violating a dozen rules right now, Crys.”
“I’m already suspended, so…” She shrugged. “Can I come in?”
“Oh, excuse me, that makes it about twenty rules.” He chuckled. “And if I said no, would that stop you?” He asked, taking her hand to pull her into the house, closing the door behind her. “Careful, there’s some stuff lying around…” He stopped talking as Crys tipped over a bag and muttered something that sounded much like the word ‘boys’. "…Yeah. There’s a chair to your right. Watch your step."

Crys found the chair and sat down, tapping her foot against the wooden floor ever so lightly. Silence lingered, except for that sound, for what seemed like a long time.
“Why were you suspended?” Jake broke the silence all of a sudden.
“I… I rather not say.” Crys mumbled.
“Oh, it’s embarrassing, isn’t it?” Jake laughed. “Tell me!”
“I don’t want to talk about it!” She said, now actually hiding her face in her hands, feeling it warm up rapidly.
“You’re blushing…” Jake taunted. “Oh, come on… If you can’t tell me, then who will you tell?”
“Oh, everybody knows. Believe me… There will be talk of this for years.”
“Alright, then I guess I’ll have to find someone to ask…” He teased. “I’m sure the folks at Inn would looove to gossip.”
“Shut up, just… Shut up. Fine.” She muttered. “Mom’s birthday party… Three days ago… I got a little tipsy.”
“Define ‘tipsy’.” Jake asked, obviously trying to hold back laughter.
“I might have… Sung a little bit, then I got sick as hell and threw up… On the cake.” She mumbled. “Don’t you dare laugh at me, Jacob!”
It was too late. Jake had already exploded into a full blown laughing fit. “I can’t believe I missed this!” He exclaimed, grasping for air. “Did you actually sing?”
“I was told I did.” She sighed. “I honestly don’t remember anything before the ‘sick as hell’ part.”
“Wow, Crys… Drunk, really?” He said, still letting out a few chuckles. “How furious was your mother?”
“Don’t remind me.” She mumbled. “I think she’ll never let this go.”
He chuckled. “Come on, you know she can’t get mad at you forever.”
“Suppose so…” She said. “Can I just hide over here for a while? I’m tired of the jokes.”
“Did you have to come as far as Newhaven to hide?” Jake asked absently.
“I had to come as far as Newhaven for my best friend.” She stated. “When will you learn, Jakey? I’ll always find you; no matter how far you run.”

[Flashback – Desert, approximately 3 years ago]

“So…” Jake scratched his head, nervously. “You… Are you okay? I mean…”
“I’ll recover.” Crys stated, facing him from where she had sat on Dastan’s bed. “Listen, I’m sorry about everything. And I do mean everything, Jake. You should have never been put in that position to begin with. And I know it wasn’t your fault.”
“No, I…” He sighed. “Your mother warned me that I would probably have to do things I’d regret. I should have listened to her.”
“I wanted to tell you not to go. I should have asked you not to go, because, I knew…” She sighed. “I know you Jake. You go in too deep, you always have, and this time… I don’t know.”
“You could have asked me not to go, but then you know I never listen, right?” He said, forcing a chuckle.
Crys shook her head, lying back on the bed as she began to feel tired. She should have never left the room to begin with, but she knew she couldn’t stand much more of doing nothing. She groaned a bit at the pain in her stomach as she tried to get comfortable.
“I’m sorry for asking this, but… What exactly happened?” Jake asked.
“Blackpond people.” Crys stated simply. “Assassins; and damn good ones I might add. There were about three of them; that I could tell, at least. Sean said there were four, but I’m not sure I can even trust him with that.” She breathed in and out slowly, still feeling pain from the blow Sean had landed on her. “I don’t know how long I crawled; it didn’t feel like long enough to me… Towards the end all I could think of was taking another breath. Just one more breath… That was the last thought I remember having. I didn’t want to die Jake. Not like that.”

Jake had sat by the side of the bed, but Crys hadn’t noticed how close he was until he laid his head down on the pillow next to hers. “Bless the Twins for making you so stubborn, I’ll never doubt them again.” He whispered, softly. “I hate that I’m never there when you need me.”
“You were there. You’re always there.” She mumbled. “Thought you might not be after all that happened, but you were still there…” Crys mumbled, starting to drift off to sleep.


Tears began to roll down from pale green eyes and Crys finally felt like she couldn’t take anymore. The music stopped abruptly as the wooden flute slipped away from her hands onto the bed. Absently she laid back and reached for the silver ring she still carried around her neck… The night it had been given to her was so lost in the past that the promises made back then were shattered and scattered to the winds. She would never get them back.

"No matter what happens. No matter what I say, or do... I'm always on your side."

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

Ali had been trying to sleep without much success. Tossing and turning at the memories of all the deaths. Her parents, her brother, her little sister, Dani, Bastian, Owen… When she decided that it was useless, she finally gave up and left the small tent where she had made her home in the past three years, sheltered by the walls of one of the largest buildings Other assassins had places their tents nearby as well; it was the most quiet and secluded place. As she walked out in the open, a familiar face was there to greet her. Or better yet: almost shock her to death. She simply stood, staring at the woman who was standing there smiling at her.

“You want to poke me and make sure I’m real, don’t you?” She asked with an amused tone in her voice.
“A little bit, yeah.” Ali replied.
“Hum…” The woman mumbled. “Which begs the question: Why would you be hallucinating?” She asked, raising an eyebrow, holding the intrigued expression for a moment before snickering. “Don’t be foolish, kid. Of course I’m real.”
Ali chuckled in response. “It’s definitely you.” She smiled wide walking a few steps towards the woman and giving her a friendly hug. “Lena!” She exclaimed.
Lena chuckled. “Hush, I don’t want anyone to know I’m back just yet. I just stopped here because I needed to see you. Besides, I was in need of a break.” She added. “Sorry about you insomnia, by the way.” She smiled apologetically.
“Ah… I see.” Ali mumbled, frowning a little, but shrugging it off, she was much more curious to know why Lena would need to see her before everyone else. “Do you want to step inside for a moment?”
“I think that’ll be best.” Lena replied, motioning towards the small tent so that Ali would enter first.

Once inside, they both sat on the floor, facing each other. Lena was still smiling, which was odd to Ali; she didn’t think she’d ever seen the woman smile like that. “Say, Allison…” She started. “Do you remember when we talked about your parents? Remember I told you your mother was a friend of mine?”
“Yes. Why?” Ali asked, her smile now fading slowly.
“I never told you the whole story; and I think you, out of all people, deserves to hear it. As Leader of the White Shadows I wasn’t allowed to give you the whole truth, but now I need to because you may be the only one who can help me.”
Ali was even more confused by that statement. “The… The whole story? What do you mean by that?”
“Allison, Blackhurst was a place like no other, or so the stories say. The people who lived there were simple folk, and enlightened, all of them to the last one. In the years before the city was destroyed, a group of scholars was determined to find out more about what truths were there to the myths and if there was in fact a physical source of magic present in Valcrest. Rumors spread that they had found it. Both Blackpond and Newhaven pressured the city to give up the information, both offering protection, allegiance, and whatever else they could think of. The man who was then King of Blackhurst refused to give up the information of the power source, claiming that if it was ever to be disturbed it would bring destruction upon the land. The two other cities became impatient and so they both attacked Blackhurst, each trying to find the information they had and use for their own gain. Blackhurst was unable to withstand the advances and so it was destroyed. Files were found indicating that the source of power was in the mountains somewhere, so the next move to be made was to get rid of Effort. Blackpond and Newhaven each allied one of the southern cities, and once against each other, Brightvale and Effort were reduced to what today is about half of the Crimson Shadows. The mountains were then searched, but nothing was found there. So, for years it was put to rest… Until about twenty years ago, when one of the city rulers dug up reports of the searches and decided that the villages outside of Blackhurst territory should be investigated. In the years that followed, one by one, the villages were destroyed, its inhabitants exterminated, some by Blackpond, others by Newhaven… It all sounds completely pointless, right? All that killing and nothing was accomplished.”

Ali was motionless listening to the story, tears silently falling from her blue eyes as she relived the horror in her mind, yet again. She was silent for a long while after Lena stopped talking, shivers going down her spine. Her parents died for nothing… Her brother and sister died for nothing… Some pointless search for power, that’s what it was. “Why?” She whispered, her voice so weak it was barely audible. “Why are you telling me this now?”
“A few months before your village was attacked, your mother left something for me while I was away from camp, with a note asking me to keep it and not tell a soul. I kept it. After the attack, when I heard there were no survivors I opened the book she had left me. It was a journal of sorts… It contained pieces of tales told by her ancestors through generations, however… Some of them were missing full paragraphs. I held on to that book for years, and after I found out you had survived I made a promise to myself that when the time was right I would let you have it. So…” She pulled a small brown book from the bag she was carrying. “This is for you, Ali. I hope that, if anything, it will bring you some form of closure.”
Ali took the journal and spent some time simply staring at it, tears still falling from her eyes. She suddenly felt so small and alone, as if she was ten years old again, wandering the forest without a destination. “Lena…” She mumbled. “Will you do something for me before you go?” She whispered.
“If I can.” The woman replied.
“Give me your blessing.” Ali asked.
“I’m not the leader of the White Shadows anymore, Allison.” Lena said, opening a kind smile. “I can’t give blessings.”
“I’m not asking the leader of the Shadows, I’m asking you.” Ali stated simply. “Please.”
Lena hesitated, but she really didn’t have the courage to say no to the girl in this moment. So she moved closer to Ali and placed her hands on the sides of the girls face, looking straight into her eyes as she whispered: “May the Goddess light your path so that you may find Peace, be it in Life or in the Afterlife. And may all the Twins protect you, now and through eternity.” She recited.
Ali sighed softly, still crying in silence, but seeming much calmer than she had been thus far. “Thank you.” She told Lena.
“You’re welcome.” Lena replied, lowering her hands and landing them on Ali’s shoulders. “I know this is a lot, and I’m sorry I don’t have the time to break it to you slower, but this is very, very, important Allison. You have no idea how important it is. So, please, if while reading this you remember anything your mother might have told you… Will you write it down for me?”
“Yes, Lena.” Ali answered, still struggling through her shivers.
“Thank you.” The woman told her. “I have to go now, will you be alright?”
“I don’t know.” Ali mumbled. “But, I’ll try.”

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[Blackpond – Some moment in middle of the night]

Jake had appeared in the cell, and so he finally understood how Rick had managed to get behind him in the first place. Trying to stand, he found he had no balance so he found himself falling to his knees and vomiting in a corner of the cell. Thinking that the last thing that place needed was the smell of vomit, he blacked out, soon after.

Flashback – Desert, approximately 3 years ago]

“Why are you telling me this now?” Jake questioned Lena with the intrigued look in his eyes. The woman was difficult to read, but he had known her for long enough to be able to tell when she was hiding something. “It didn’t seem to concern you so much a year ago when I asked you to share the White Shadows’ knowledge on the subject. You said it wasn’t a priority.”
“No… I said it wasn’t a priority for you.” Lena corrected. “You had too much on your plate at that time, giving you more wouldn’t have helped anyone.” She explained, leaning her back against the large boulder that had been providing them shade. “Either way, all I’m saying is that you should keep an eye open for that damned weapon.”
“And the book I wanted to see, where is it?” Jake asked absently.
“The Captain of the Black Knights should have it still.” Lena answered with a light shrug of shoulders. “I’m sure she would let you have a look at it.”
“Captain Mageria?” Jake asked a little confused.
Lena chuckled. “Yes, Jacob. Last I heard she is still the Captain of the Black Knights.” She stated, shaking her head in amusement. “When I confirmed to her the Shadow’s identity I told her about the weapon and told her where to find the book. So I assume she has it now.”
“She knows about the dagger, then?” Jake asked. “Hum…” He mumbled, going into silent thinking, but unconsciously glancing towards the fire temple as he did so.

“Crystal is still asleep.” Lena stated simply. “And no, she won’t like this in one bit.”
“Stay out of my head.” He muttered, looking down at his feet.
“As if I needed to use my enlightenment to know this…” She retorted, with a little smirk. “I’ve known the two of you for long enough to make accurate assumptions.” She stated, turning to face Jake who was leaning on the boulder beside her. “Kid, I will be leaving as soon as night falls, and I won’t be back for a long time, that if I am back at all. I know you still blame me for a lot of things, some of which are in fact my fault, but if there’s one advice you take from me, I need this to be it: There’s never a right time for things Jake. Don’t lie to yourself thinking that you can fix everything and then make a life for yourself when you’re done, because that’s not how it works. Time will not stop for you and you will never be done.” She told him, in a severe tone. “Yes, I need you to find this dagger, yes, there is something I’m not telling you and trust me: It can and will be incredibly dangerous one day, but there’s a line between doing all you can and trying to do everything for yourself.”


”Hey, pal! You alive?”

The sound of a male voice broke through Jake’s dreams. Refusing to open his eyes, he muttered. “I’m dead. Leave me alone.”

“You’re funny, mate. Dead people can’t talk.” The voice insisted. “What’s your name?” He asked.

Jake finally opened his eyes, wondering when the hell this guy got tossed in the cell with him; he was sure there was no one there when he arrived. Looking around though, he saw no one.

“Helloo… Name. What’s your name?”

Jake looked around the cell again, even in the dark he couldn’t see anyone in the room. “Where the hell are you?” He mumbled.

“Don’t talk out loud, the guards will hear you. Just think of what you want to say.” The voice told him. “I’m two cells away from you. My name’s Viktor, with a ‘k’. What’s your name?”

Jake sat on the ground finally calming himself with the explanation. “The name’s Jake, also with a ‘k’. So you’re a telepath?”

“Telepath? You a White Shadow? Most people just say ‘mind reader’, but yeah, I’m a telepath.”

“Can you communicate with anyone you want?” Jake asked, a smile crossing his face.

“Why do I get the impression that you’re going to ask me a favor, Jake?” Viktor asked. “I can communicate with anyone if: One, they are within a certain range; or two, I can picture them in my head.”

“If I was to ask you a favor, what would that cost me?” Jake asked. “If I can picture someone in my head, would you be able to see her too?”

“Her, eh? Already missing your lady friend, mate? Make sure you picture her in detail for me, then. I’ve been here a long time.” Viktor asked, pausing for a long time and then adding. “I want out. Promise that you will take me with you if you get out. I’ll send whatever message you want.”

“She’s a lady, and a friend, but that’s it. So I don’t have the kind of details you’re looking for. Sorry to disappoint.” Jake explained, unable to hold back a bit of laughter. “I can promise to do my best, if I can get out. That’s the most I can promise.”

“Eeeeh, Yeah, alright; better than nothin’ I guess.” Viktor replied. “Picture that lady friend of yours for me then.”

Jake took a deep breath trying to clear his mind of all the thoughts that had been torturing him, and concentrating on the person he wanted to contact, forming her clear image in his mind as he did so.

“She’s quite a looker, mate. Mind introducing me when we get out? Viktor asked, hopefully. “I’ll try it in the morning, if she’s asleep it might not work.”

Jake couldn’t help, but chuckle at this guy. “I don’t mind introducing you, no, but you’ll be speaking to her before I do, so make a good impression.” He replied, amused. “And alright. Say, do you know if there are any Newhaven soldiers being held captive here?”

“Do I? You’ve just met one, friend. You’re from Newhaven?” Viktor asked.

“With the Blacks.” Jake stated simply. “Are all the captive soldiers still alive?”

“Bless the Twins, I thought everyone had forgotten us by now!” The man replied. “Yes, sir! Everyone is alive and well.”

“Great.” Jake replied, although he didn’t think it was great. It meant Blackpond did have a bargaining tool. “If you have a limit to your ability we better go back to sleep. We need to contact my partner first thing in the morning.” Jake told him.

There was no response. Jake felt an aching in the back of his head now. Free from the man’s voice, the dungeons were silent… This was no good. They had the soldiers, they were alive, and now this man probably expected to be rescued somehow. How that would ever happen… Jake had no clue. He wouldn’t be so discouraged if that wasn’t the least of their problems, the real problem would be if this so called ‘King’ of Blackpond realized what he was actually holding in his hands. Jake had no doubt the man would use in the worse possible way. “We’re all screwed.” He muttered, thinking aloud.

[Assassin’s Camp – Early morning]

Ari eyes twitched under her lids as the sun gently kissed her face. Her eyes flew open, shining bright green. She stood up slowly, stretching out all her sore and mussels and when she looked around she found a pair of breeches and a tight top. She carefully took the clothes in her hand and smiled. Laughter escaped her lips and she spun around in circles. When Ari had come to a stop she looked out and up at the sky. Seeing how far the sun has risen she pulled her clothes on, tightening her bodice. She ran her fingers through her hair quickly until she was pleased with the way it fell down her shoulders. With that she threw open the door and bolted outside, pausing as she caught the gaze of several men and women. She blushed but kept her head held high as she ran down the path and towards the house she was last night.
She reached the door the moment the sun struck it, raising her hand to knock.

Sean woke up before Sunrise, quickly washed up, and ate a piece of fruit even before he got dressed for the day. One thing he had learnt was to take a moment for himself before even getting up properly, otherwise he would never have one. At the slightest sign of movement from his house there was almost someone needing to see him for something, sometimes they wouldn't give him a full night sleep, so he took on the habit of eating before anything else in the morning, because depending on the day he wouldn't get another chance.
By the time the sun rose, Sean had eaten, dressed, made his bed and locked his bedroom shut. It was costume that the door to the Leader's home was always open during the day, so Sean made a habit of locking his personal space carefully before starting his day.

At the sound of the knock on his door, he simply stood up and walked outside, passing the girl that had knocked without so much as wishing her good-morning. "Follow me." He said simply, walking her across the camp under the curious glances of the clan, and through a path that led to a more secluded clearing, similar to the one they had been the night before, only this one was inside the perimeter of the camp. Once there, he pointed her to a wooden shed, half hidden amongst the trees. "Any weapons you have on you, you can store them in there. You won't need them yet, first I need to know a few things." He told her. "Now..." He started, taking a seat one of a few bench-shaped rocks that were placed there to form a circle, expecting her to sit as well, but not asking her to do so. "Tell me something, that has been puzzling me: Why would you approach us blurting out the name of the Commander of a clan we are at war with?" He asked, looking at the girl with interest. "Most people would want to hide their ties with any mercenary from us at all costs, we've executed people for less." He stated, wondering if Indrani had mentioned something to Ari that he should be aware of.

“Morning,” she mumbled, before sitting close enough that they could talk and far enough where she could run if need be. She was a little embarrassed that she had left the daggers in her room, possibly a costly mistake, but she would just have to live with it for now. She was just a little amused by his question that had quickly been followed by unimportant information, knowing perfectly well that they probably should have killed her but grateful that she was alive; for now.
“Before I can tell you anything I believe you would need to know how we met,” her green eyes sparkled with mischief before she continued, “Indrani and I met though my curse. I remember it well. I was wandering through the desert, why I do not recall,” Ari closed her eyes, remembering, “She came riding up over the hill and I panicked. There’s no place to hide so I changed. I became a horse and Indrani saw me and took me back to their camp. I couldn’t fight back, well I could have but I was curious. She was finishing up with her horse when my time ran up. As you heard, shifting is very, very painful. She heard me and we befriended each other.”
Ari paused, the images flashing through her head like it had happened only yesterday before continuing.
“It didn’t take long for Dastan to hear about me and,” she smirked, “I don’t trust men. So Indrani helped me escape out into the desert where there was a small oasis. Only she knew where I was and for awhile I loved contently; there was game and water and she came to talk to me almost every day. Ranting and raving about Dastan’s stupid plan. Of course the game ran low and I was forced to leave but I was able to get a message to her and she told if I ever left the desert alive and ran into the pack just say one word; that one word. ‘Effect.’ I don’t understand but I am just doing what I was told.”
Her eyes opened and she blinked them a couple times, smiling. She could tell that Sean had been listening very closely even if his face was a complete mask. She scooted closer to him, finally feeling at ease.
“I guess I was willing to say anything that would cause Stranger to hesitate. I figured I was going to die anyways so why not tell someone, even if he was planning on killing you right after you had finished speaking. Let the gods hear the whisper and give a sign, right,” Ari asked looking straight ahead at a tree, “As for why I dare mention her name, I cannot say.”
She kept the darker parts to herself, letting him mull over what she had just said, keeping her eyes fixed forward. She sighed quietly and stood, walking over to the tree she had been studying and gently resting her hand on its bark. She studied it for awhile longer before turning abruptly and looked Sean blushing slightly.
“Why, Sean, do you not trust those who surround you?”

Sean listened to the girl's story carefully. "Effect." He mouthed the word, not letting the sound escape him as he mulled over everything she had told him. That was a safe-word, and one that very few people knew, for outsiders cooperating with the clan, he had given that code to Indrani a very long time ago, he had no idea she still remembered it. He sighed softly, running the fingers of his left hand through his light brown hair. "I see, well that explains it." He said simply, not elaborating on how it explained anything.

“Why, Sean, do you not trust those who surround you?”

At the question Sean turned to face the girl, not showing shock, or anger or any other similar emotion, only more interest. "That question is a fair one, however that answer to that question is awfully complicated." He stated. "It has to do with how I became Alpha and that is a story that starts a very long time ago, with people who are no longer amongst the living. To make it very short: I had to betray the clan in a way in order to do what I believed was right. The former leader was... Loved, by most; even while they were unhappy with her, and respected by all until this day. They stood by me when I challenged her command, but today that anger they felt towards her has melted and if she wandered in demanding their loyalties she'd have it, and yet she won't, because three years ago they made a choice and that's how much she respects them." He explained, not much caring for the fact that he was just voicing his problems to this girl when he was supposed to be the one listening to her story. He needed to speak, and she was someone who hadn't known him his whole life, for some odd reason it was easier to trust her that way.

"See, that woman, Crystal... I don't know how she does it, perhaps it's because of her enlightenment, maybe it's something I am yet to learn, but she gains people's trust so easily. It takes her minutes, a few exchanges words, an act of kindness, sometimes less... It's like she casts as spell on people, in a way: She stands before them and speaks, and no matter how much they have reasons to hate her; they don't harm her, and they listen. She killed my brother, in front of the whole clan, and they forgave her. I spared her life, even when I had every right to kill her by the clan laws, by they won't forgive me for what I've done. It doesn't matter what I do, she's still the 'real Alpha' I'm just someone they follow while awaiting her return." He explained. "So, no... I cannot trust them as long as they won't trust me. It is a sad reality, but it's the way it is, whether the accept me eventually or kill me in my sleep... That's yet to be seen." He sighed. "Then there is also the possibility of Crystal's return. Which will mean my execution." He lowered his head in thought for a second, raising it again with a slightly bitter smile playing on his lips. "If that happens, feel free to join the angry mob, I won't hold it against you."

After a moment of silence the young Alpha then softened his expression slightly and added. "Those problems are my own though, and are not the reason why we've come here. So... Tell me: Why are women any more worthy of your trust than men?" His smiled turning in to a little smirk. "Has my kind offended you somehow?"

Ari was pleased that she had gotten the Alpha to open up to her, he had told her with ease and a scene of trust. She finally believed she had gained some of his trust and she smiled lightly, her eyes flashing gold.
“Women and men are the same. I trust no one but myself; and even that I doubt,” she said sharply, scuffing her boot against the ground, “they are both no better than the other, bloodthirsty and yet all trying to survive,” here she paused, thinking carefully of her words.
“Men,” she smirked, “Have hunted me. What they have tried to do and have done I will not repeat for those memories hurt me still today. What you need to know is that I have been mishandled, wronged by every man I have met and normally end up with their sword in my face.”
She let it at that, closing her eyes lightly and tilting her head back to look up into the sun. She took a deep breath and sighed.
“As for your mob,” she whispered, praying that he didn’t hear what she was about to say, “I don’t think I could stand with them, but rather in front of them.”
She hated her feelings for this man. Yes he was charming, and though she hated how he called her kid, he had taken the time to listen to her story. He seemed like he cared, like he wanted to know. Her palms itched for a fight, her mind uncomfortable with all the questions, but she needed to know more and so she would ask until her mind was put at ease.
“Shouldn’t you show a little faith in them? Who knows if there will be a mob? Besides, without them you’re really just a nobody. Just like me,” she knew she was on very shaky ground but she had seen the way his bed had looked, the way his body tensed ever so slightly as he walked through the camp. His scent had changed as well, growing darker and heavier when he was with more people. However, out here it was lighter, sweeter, and his body relaxed. She liked the man out here much more than the man who felt that he needed to show her up in front of all the people. Sean out here was stunning and beautiful, a free spirit, but inside the role of Alpha he became hard and tight, uncaring. She wanted to show him what her life had been like, the endless freedom that the forest gave. She wanted to show him that he didn’t have to be strong and proud in front of her.
“Never mind, you don’t have to answer that,” she quickly said. Better to be silent now and revive this for a later time then to dig to deep and lose her head because of it. She turned back to the tree, scrambling up it at a rapid speed before calling down to the Alpha below, “This tree is perfect for bows.”
She swung down, flipping in the air and landing on her feet, her eyes glowing silver slightly. She didn’t mean to show off, it was just the way she did things. She smiled brightly at him, for a moment forgetting she was being questioned and who she was with, wanting to show him what it was like to have fun again.
“I could fashion a couple from it if it is needed. But I wouldn’t dare touch it unless we are short, it is too beautiful to be stripped,” She looked admirably up at the tree that towered above her, the silver fading from her eyes. Then something else caught her attention. She crept forward through the trees, motioning quickly to Sean to follow. She slithered around a bush, motioning him to be quiet before ducking behind a bush. She had lead them far from the clearing and as she pulled the branches a family was exposed. Not a human family but a small heard of deer. She smiled at him, her eyes tracking the frolicking movement of the does and the proud stance of the bucks. Quietly she tapped the side of her nose before drifting away; her foot falls nonexistent as she lead him back. She spun quickly, laughing.
“Aren’t they amazing creatures,” she bounded forward embracing him before snapping back and backing away, a blush coloring her cheeks.
“Erm,” she coughed, clearly embarrassed, “Sorry, ab-about that.”
She cursed herself for her stupidity and for getting too relaxed. She wished that her childhood friend, Kirsten had been there instead of Sean. She pulled her had behind her back and looked away from her face, expecting some rebuke or mocking response, both with the dreaded word ‘child’. Her blush deepened and spread wildly across her cheeks.

Sean listened to the girl's answer to his question with care, all the while his eyes watching her movements, frowning slightly as she said she trusted no one, not even herself. Yet she caught her whispering that she would stand in front of the angry if there happen to be one. This girl was a walking contradiction it seemed; she trusted no one, yet she asked him to have faith in people. She didn't trust herself, yet she seemed to confident enough in her skill to stand before a group of elite assassins making threats: something that, however foolish, did take plenty of confidence. Caught a little off guard when she suddenly began climbing onto a tree and then down to the ground again, going on about making bows and how beautiful the tree was, he let her go on, absently following along as she led him away from the clearing and into the woods where a herd of deer was just minding their own business. Sean didn't recall ever seeing deer in that area. Perhaps it was because he was louder than he thought in his movements, or maybe he simply never cared to look around. Either way, it was a little difficult to conceal a small trace of a small threatening to break through as they turned back to training area, he was still a little lost in his head when the girl suddenly lunged towards him and embraced him. She immediately pulled back and apologized, but Sean was a little bit shocked, not to say a bit frightened with the sudden gesture. "it's... fine." He responded, although taking a step back himself.

After a slight moment during which the Alpha was silent, thinking of things that surely didn't show on his face, he spoke again. "Tell me something then... Why do you say you don't trust yourself? Does that mean you don't trust your own potential or does it mean that you don't trust your own decisions?"He asked her, walking to the shed he had indicated before and storing his weapons in there. "Do you trust yourself in a fight without using this... curse of yours?" He questioned, turning back to face the girl he went on talking as if he was simply thinking aloud and not speaking to her directly. "One of those can be improved, the other not so much, but we'll see." The he shrugged lightly. "As for men in this camp, I can't guarantee you won't have a sword to your face at one point or another, but as for the rest of it your safe. I give my word."

Breaking a twig from a branch that had fallen nearby, he used to draw a wide circle in the dirt around himself. "Let's do something while we talk, shall we? Remove me from the circle: Empty hands, no enlightenment." He crossed his arms over his chest.

Ari blushed as her nose caught the sharp scent of Sean’s fear. The contact of her body against his had sent her heart into a flurry and her senses were heightened. Her eyes tracked his movements, unwilling to look away.
“Neither, I don’t trust my heart. It is soft, and when I have feelings for someone it clouds my judgment. As for you fight,” she snickered, stepping into the circle with him, “I believe I can manage what you throw at me.”
She smiled and pulled her hair back, quickly braiding it and tying a leather strap around the bottom. She had begun to circle Sean, her eyes scanning his body for any sign of weakness. Her piercing green eyes flickered, noting his breath rate. She couldn’t find one and so she stood.
“I can’t,” she said simply, “It would be foolish of me to make the first move considering you have the advantage. So, how about this. We both fight to push each other out of the circle. That way I’m not only attacking but defending.”
She cocked her head, bracing herself and waiting for his answer.

Sean didn't move as the girl circled him, when she quickly said that she couldn't do it, and tried to change the arrangements he chuckled. "This isn't a negotiation, kid. Not all battles will give you advantage or an even chance. You can't ask a situation to adapt to you, you should find a way to adapt to it. There is a way: Find it." He told her. "Use that pretty little head of yours for thinking." He opened a slightly deviant smile and added. "Take your time to think though. Meanwhile let's address this lack of faith you have in yourself. Now, I understand that people lose their judgement on account of love, or hate, and that it is a dangerous thing. I'm very much that way, I can't help what I feel for people, when I rarely do; I can hide it very well, but I tend to let my emotions get the best of me at times. It has caused me a lot of trouble. Has it happened to you or is it simply a fear you have?"

He paused for a moment to see if she was going to make a move, as she didn't yet, he talked some more. "When I turned fifteen, my older brother knocked me unconscious and tied me to a tree by my ankles, with my hands bound behind my back. He waited for me to come to my senses and said he'd come back for me the next day. When he woke up the next morning he was hanging from the tree in my place. I was asleep in my bed. He had to cry for help, because he couldn't set himself free. I never told him how I did it." He said casually. "That was tricky, this is simple. Remove me from the circle: If you can't push me or pule me, use another method. Don't worry though, you'll get your fight if that's what you want, but first you do it my way." He said, still smiling, the look in his eyes was amused as if he was holding something back.

She approached him carefully, stepping forward and gently resting her hand on his chest.
“So, let get something straight here,” she smirked, feeling him tense up, “You try anything with rope and I will repay the offer in a matter of moments. This kid,” she whispered, bringing her body closer to his, her eyes and fingertips catching everything, “Is seventeen. She’s not afraid to fight dirty.”
She stood on her tip toes, keeping her body pressed on his. He didn’t like this, she could feel it. Whether he would run or not, she wasn’t sure, but if he struck she would take it with grace. She didn’t know how else to move him. He was bigger, stronger, and much more controlled than she was, but she could appeal to his human nature.

“Why do you want to know,” she whispered, a small smile appearing on her face. Her green eyes glimmered with hope.

Sean's smile shut tight at the distance, or lack there of, between the two of them, taking noticed that his ears and the back of his neck were warming as if they were slowly turning red. He began to pace back without even taking notice, only stopping to a halt and looking down as he realized his feet were outside the circle. "Not what I had in mind, but then, it worked." He mumbled, gripping the girl by the shoulders and gently pushing her back to a comfortable distance. "Not what I was expecting, but fine..." He muttered, obviously upset at how easy it had been for the girl to cause such a reaction on him, rubbing the back of his neck as if that would make the redness go away unnoticed. "I wanted to know, because if you're afraid of something that you think might happen, that it's an irrational fear, if it has happened before and you know might happen again, that it is only logical to be afraid." He explained. "If it's too personal, you don't have to answer though."

"So..." He started, stepping into the circle again. "Would you like to do it your way now?"

“Its rational, it has happened before,” she smiled sweetly and bounced away, “Please, after I won already. I think I could do it again.”
She took a threatening step forward and smiled before stepping a safe distance away.
“If you want to regain your honor then yes, otherwise I might laugh every time I pass you,” she smiled shifting into a crouch. Her hair dropped below her shoulders. Her eyes glowed slightly and she braced herself.

Sean laughed out. "My honor?" He choked a bit on laughter. "I'm a killer who betrayed his own clan to take command, do you really think I still have any left? Has our conversation taught you nothing aside from an easy way out of a tricky situation?" He asked, his tone a little more severe. She had done well in exploiting his weakness, but she was getting arrogant again, and he wouldn't have that. "And I also could not care less for what makes you laugh, rather I am here to teach and it seems that you still need a lesson, and badly."

Ari stood and looked at him, cocking her head slightly with a tiny frown on her face.
“I see that my words have angered you again,” she sighed and took a step back, “I was only joking. But it is a sad man that believes he has no honour. You betrayed them because you needed to save them, if you have told me correctly. You did what you saw fit to save them from their own destruction. As for your lesson, no. It’s taught me to stop, and search for my opponent’s weakness before striking, if time allows,” here she paused, her eyes already searching, “Laughter makes the best part of us shine and relieves stress. Personally, and in no way do I mean to offend you Alpha,” she bowed quickly to emphasise that she was an omega as far as he was concerned, “but I do believe you could use some laughter. I say this in the humblest way possible.”
Her green eyes flashed with silver for a moment, and she shook her head sadly. If she sounded arrogant she didn’t mean to, all she had said was based on observations, most of them which he was sure he had overlooked. She studied the ground, smiling internally as she caught the attention of something that might just help her, not win, she knew she couldn’t but stall for awhile.

Sean's eyes narrowed only slightly. "I'm a sad man, then. However, I'm alive. And doing honorable things can make that difficult sometimes. In one moment of 'honorable thinking' I failed to rid myself of a person who still haunts me. Knowing that she's alive is the one thing that frightens me still. Not because she can kill me, and she can kill me, but because she might return to this clan, and then all I've done will have been for nothing. If anything, I curse honor for what it cost me." As he said that he paced, slowly his eyes fixed on the girl as he did so, the fact that he kept telling this girl things was still bothering him, but it felt now like a distant echo in the back of his mind, if she put up a good fight, maybe he could set it all aside and take charge of her training, otherwise, he'd have to assign her to one of the Instructors. "You haven't angered me, girl. Trust me, you'll know it when I'm angry. I'm glad you've learned something, means I'm not wasting my time, and while it's cute that you concern yourself with my needs, I already told you; these problems are my own and they're not the reason why we've come here." He concluded, slowly digging the tip of his foot into the dirt as he spoke. "Tell me, don't you think some people are simply fated to never be happy?" He asked. "Maybe I'm just one of those people."

Not giving her a chance to reply, he kicked a good amount of wet dirt up in the air and in the direction of the girl's face, his fist following not far behind.

Sean struck first, kicking dirt up into her face and causing her to stumble back as he charged forward, his fist reaching for her face. Ari kicked, catching him in the side of the knee and causing him taking a couple of steps back. She advanced, moving lithely as a cat. She kicked up, catching him in the side but not being able to retreat fast enough. His hand grabbed her leg, twisting it sharply so that she had to turn or risk breaking it. He shoved her away, her foot catching on the dirt and sending her sprawling face first into the mud. She had just enough time to push herself up off the ground before he was on her again. His fists caught her sides, and she bit her lip to hold back the whimper. She feigned a strike at his face and as his hands moved to catch her wrist as she raised her leg and was able to get a good kick in at his side. He stumbled back and she backed away too. Her lip was bleeding and her side screamed in pain while he looked absolutely fine. He attacked her again, running at her with a triumphant smile on his face. She waited for the opportune moment before dealing him a roundhouse kick and he responded by getting a fierce blow into her side. She backed away, breathless, and she glared at him.
“I think you could be,” she snarled before lunging forward and pushing him back a couple of steps to where small puddle was. He lashed out at her face but she dropped and spun with a yell, hitting him in the back of his knees and causing him to slip on the ground as he tried to stand. She let him regain his footing watching with dark eyes as he grabbed a long stick. Swordplay it was to be then. He advanced, while she stood perfectly still, her hands empty. He swung at her chest and she bent back, avoiding the blow as he shifted and leaped forward. She scrambled out of the way, making a run for the other stick at the other side of the circle. He dropped his shoulder and she collided with him, flipping through the air as he tossed her over his shoulder and then turned, pushing his hand against her chest and slamming her into the ground. He raised the stick, a look of success and disappointment on his face, before swinging it down. She rolled out of the way, striking out with her leg and catching him in the stomach. She crawled back to the stick and grabbed it standing, muddy water dripping off of her face. She swung it playfully in her hands, a flash of fear spreading across her face. They began to dance around each other, striking and blocking blows, backing away before spinning to meet each other.
Ari was sweating and she sprang back as Sean’s stick had come dangerously close to hitting her stomach. She wiped the sweat from under her eye, revealing a complex and beautiful tattoo. She lunged forward, aiming a strike at his knees but then kicking out to catch him in the shoulder and push him back. Furious with her hair clinging to her face she ran her sleeve across her face. The full tattoo was revealed, not just under her eye but along her left cheek and down along her nose. Sean saw the marks and was a little taken aback but he saw his opening and he took it. He lunged forward, grabbing Ari’s hair and yanking down. She cried out and hit the earth, falling still.

[Flashback]

The man stood, towering above her. He had cheated, using her hair to drag her down to the ground. His eyes burned red-orange, locking on to hers. He was searching her memories, the sharp press of his mind on hers letting her know that was exactly what he was doing. Her body locked as the tip of his sword pressed to her throat. He twirled his wrist slightly as he didn’t find what he was looking for. The man stepped back removing his sword but keeping his foot firmly pressed into her shoulder.
“Girl,” he said as she fought to remove his presence, “what is your name?”
“Why should I tell a murderer like you,” she spat, her hands clawing at his shiny black boot. He laughed, removing his boot carefully from her shoulder, looking into her bright green eyes.
“Ari,” he whispered and she sat up, looking up into his now black eyes, “You have had a rough life. Abandoned by your father and mother, abused by those whose paths you’ve crossed. You needn’t fear me.”
Ari stopped cocking her head slightly. This man had sparked her curiosity; she wanted to know this boyish person. After all he had chased her through the woods for days now. She took his hand and pulled herself to her feet. He was taller than she was by a lot, and she had to tilt her head back to see him.
“Who are you,” she whispered, walking around him and carefully running her hand across his back.
“Kirsten,” he whispered, smirking slightly, “And as you have guessed, I am a hunter.”
She shivered as his words struck her inner being. The darkness and truth of what he said striking against her heart. Kirsten smiled lightly, hearing her breath catch before spinning and grabbing her wrists. He held her tightly, expecting her to put up a fight but she gave none. He loosened his hold, as her fingers gently twined with his.
“And what is it that you hunt,” she asked lightly, her green eyes locking onto his. He gave no response, his gaze flickering down to her lips. Ari saw his eyes move and she couldn’t help the smile that brightened her face. With a sharp and quick movement she raised her knee, striking him in the groin and causing him to double over in pain. She leapt away, springing through the trees, looking over her shoulder in worry. Her eyes burned silver, getting ready to shift when there was a sharp pull on her long hair and yanked back, her body hitting the ground.

Her eyes glimmered, wet with tears as Kirsten’s face faded from her mind’s eye and was replaced with the face of Sean. She had felt the sharp pull of his hands in her long hair, yanking her back to the ground; that was what had triggered the memory. He stood over her, waiting for her to retaliate, to fight back. She didn't move, but rather surrendered.

Sean stood waiting for the girl to stand up and keep fighting, or at the very least say something, but she didn’t move or speak; she simply lay on the floor with a look in her eyes that made clear something was troubling her inside. While it wasn’t shocking that she had troubles in her, or that she might have memories that she couldn’t let go of, he couldn’t understand what had triggered it.

Before he could say something, Donovan ran into the clearing. “Sean! Sean! There’s someone here to see you.”

“Who?” He asked, still looking at the fallen girl with a curious expression.
Donovan didn’t respond right away, which caused Sean to turn and see his little brother with a slightly panicked look in his eyes. “Who is it?” Sean repeated the question, walking towards Donovan. “Doni…”

Donovan glanced towards Ari and nodded, whispering the name in Sean’s ear, causing the Alpha to mimic his brother’s shocked expression for a split second, before concealing it and heaving a sigh. Walking back to the training area he retrieved his weapons from the wooden shed mumbling his final words to Ari before leaving the girl behind. “You did well, kid, but whatever you had going through your mind: Get rid of it.” He told her.

As Sean walked to the Leader’s cabin he realized it was probably close to noon. Time had gone by so fast for some reason, as he went inside he found his visitor in the office, staring curiously at the burn marks in one of the walls from when Evin set fire to the clan records and amused smile on her face.

“Evin was always such an impulsive creature.” She chuckled as she heard the Alpha’s footsteps. “I have to appreciate his sense of humor though… Closing the book is not as entertaining as burning it down.”
“Why are you here and where have you been?” Sean asked, ignoring the mention of Evin’s name completely.
“I’m here to give a warning Sean: Let go of the past or everything you love will be ripped apart, painfully.” The woman stated, in the calmest of tones, still examining the burn marks with her eyes.
“You came all the way here to threaten me?” Sean asked.
“No… I came here to give you a warning.” She repeated. “It’s up to you to decide what matters most; your revenge or the only important things in your life.” She replied with a shrug, finally turning to face the young man examining him with her eyes for a long moment and then shaking her head. “It surely is impressive.”
“What is so impressive, Lena?” Sean asked moving to sit behind the round table, casually putting his feet over it, and opening a smirk as he noticed the woman twitch slightly at his disrespect for the relic. It was Dani’s pride and joy: that table. It had endured everything since the creation of the clan… It was a relic. He could destroy it, but what would be the point of lashing out on a piece of furniture? He’d much rather destroy Dani’s other pride and joy instead.
“It’s impressive how you can look so much like your father and yet be absolutely nothing like him.” Lena stated. “He would be crying with shame if he saw you today.”
“Humph.” Sean mumbled. “Gladly he’s not.” He stated simply. “You… you were here when he was buried, were you not? I believe I have seen you there that day. You gave him a blessing before he died…”
“I did.” She cut him off. “I gave a lot of assassins my blessings that day. The one’s who didn’t die immediately. Some people like to believe the White Shadows communicate better with the Twins. We humor them.” She explained. “What is your point, exactly?”
“What was the last thought on his mind before he died?” Sean asked, opening a smirk.
“Your sister.” Lena answered, without as much as a flinch. “Are you sure you want to play your mind games with me, boy? I’m not a healer anymore… I can, and will, destroy you.” She said, her eyes sparkling a blue light.
Sean chuckled. “Oh, I’m sorry, did I hit a nerve?” He sighed, leaning back further in his chair. “If Crys put you up to this…”
“No one puts me up to things, Alpha. And Crystal doesn’t know I’m back yet.” The woman replied, with a severe expression on her face. “I’m not threatening you either, kid… I’m giving you a chance to save yourself. I owe it to your father to give you that chance.” She stated simply. “You’re not strong enough to lead this clan Sean, not through what is about to happen.”

Sean lowered his feet from the table and sat up straight. “What is about to happen?”

Lena smiled kindly at him. “Everything.” She said. “Just remember what I said.” She added beginning to walk through the door. “If you’ll excuse me… I would like to get to Newhaven before nightfall… I have some people there I’d like to see.”

“Well, I’m sure you can’t wait to spread the joy.” Sean muttered. He didn’t want to believe Lena, he didn’t trust her, but he couldn't take her words lightly. What if he just wasn’t strong enough after all?

The setting changes from valcrest to Assassin's Camp

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Crystal Rivers Character Portrait: Jake Turner Character Portrait: Allison Blake Character Portrait: Sean Fletcher Character Portrait: Ari Lupir

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Ari had finally reached the camp and she had run through it into the place they were letting her stay. She didn’t want to call it home because it wasn’t home, not yet. She still felt new, unwanted and she didn’t have a friend in sight here. She pulled the wolf dagger from its resting place, pulling the blade from its sheath. Her hands scrambled to pull open the tip of the sheath, fumbling with it horribly. She finally got it open, dumping out a light powder. She cursed and scooped some up onto her fingers, rubbing it over the markings and looking into the dagger with a sigh. She had again hidden the markings on her face, no one would ever know of this. Besides, they didn’t count. She’d never slept with someone.
She consoled herself, attaching the dagger to her hip and grabbing her bow before stepping outside. Ari walked through the camp, head held high. She saw and scented how uncomfortable the people were, something was going on. Her eyes burned silver and her ears heard the voices of someone in Sean’s cabin. She twisted as her nose caught the sharp scent of blood. Ari turned and ran toward the scent, readying her bow. She leapt over the fallen logs, ran around trees until she saw them.
She didn’t recognize the woman but she knew her prisoner, it was the same man that had called Sean away earlier. She stepped forward, shifting into a crouch and running her fingers down along the feathers of her arrow, her eyes growing dark.
“Who are you,” she asked, stepping into full view of the women.

Ali was calm as could be, hear eyes and ears open to any bit of change in her surroundings. She knew every face staring at her in anger, people she'd worked with, shared laughs with, people she had trusted her life with... And while three years ago it would be heart breaking to even consider being in this position, today it felt perfectly natural to her; The Pack was the enemy, simple as that, and she'd kill them all to the last one if it came to that.

"Who are you?" A voice asked, and Ali locked her blue eyes on a girl, not much older than Donovan, but whose face she didn't recognize.
"If you don't know me, and I don't know you... You're new here." Ali stated with a little smirk. "Take my advice then: Leave while you can." She fixed her gaze on the girl's eyes and added, in a more serious tone. "And whatever you think you can do to stop me: Don't bother. If I don't kill him another will, and I don't think the Alpha will enjoy seeing his brother dead in the middle of his camp because you felt like trying to save the day."

Her heart stuttered and she carefully unstrung her bow, lowering it. Ari cocked her head, not taking her green eyes from the blue, placing the bow gently on the ground and dropping her daggers right next to it. Brother, of Sean? She took a couple steps forward.
“I have no loyalties to them yet,” she said, noticing the worried look on her face, “They call me Ari. I would just like to talk if that is alright with you?”
Ari didn’t want death, not now not today. Her eyes glowed sliver around the pupils and she sniffed the air. She wasn’t lying about the others and she playfully tossed her hair out of her eyes. She stood awkwardly, waiting for an answer from this girl, her senses heightened.

"We can talk." Ali stated simply, relaxing some, but not taking her attention from the assassins nor relaxing her hold on Donovan. "Doni is not much a pleasant company, but then I can't blame him. And those guys..." She nodded towards the nearby assassins. "They hate me a little bit for this, can't blame them either. What kind of a monster threatens to kill a sixteen year old recruit, right?" Her voice turned into a low growl as she spoke those words giving an angered glare towards the assassins, some of them shifted uncomfortably in guilt.

"He was a traitor." Donovan stated. "He deserved what he got."
Ali tightened the garrotte only slightly as he said that. "Careful, Donovan." She hissed. "And Lionel was a traitor as well, wasn't he? He was buried properly, with his ring, as any member of the clan would be."

Donovan silenced after that and Ali turned her attention towards Ari again. "Allison Blake, nice meeting you, although I don't consider these the best of circumstances." She smiled. "I can hear your heartbeat changed just a bit when I mentioned Don was Sean's brother..." She snickered. "Whatever the reason, I hope you snap out of it soon. He's a heartless bastard, you'll see." She tilted her head curiously when she noticed Ari had sniffed the air. "You can enhance your senses too, or is it some other ability that allows you to catch their scent? She asked intrigued. "That's interesting... And unfortunate, they haven't bathed in a while."

Ari smiled slightly, she was not kidding about the bath that they needed and she blushed slightly as she mentioned Sean.
“Very nice to meet you, though I was it was under better circumstances as well. Donovan,” she said, acting like she knew him to some extent, “I suggest you keep your thoughts to yourself; that is unless they enhance the conversation. I care not for Sean, truth be told he frightens me.
My enlightenment, allows me to become any animal I choose. I don’t have to change completely, but can choose to give my body the senses of that animal, so heighten them in a way. I assume you have an enlightenment that enhances your senses?”
Ari smiled back, being pleasant enough, but all the while her eyes were taking in the little details; the cord around his neck, the position of the men, the way Allison was positioned. She wasn’t kidding about killing him and she seemed settled enough to the point where she wouldn’t kill him, not yet. Ari just wanted to be there so that she wouldn’t have the chance to cause more damage to Donovan.

"Oh, Sean can be a very scary monster, can't he Doni?" Ali said, taunting the boy. "Don't take me for a bad person, now, Ari, but I have a few individuals I hold dear, and I'm not very fond of people trying to stick arrows in them; No matter how ridiculous their attempt is."
"Ranged attacks are much more effective against an empath..." Doni started.
"Not Crys, you idiot! She had your level of skill when you were still pissing your pants and she can sense that rage of yours as far as Blackpond. If you were my brother I would beat the crap out of you for being so damn stupid!" She said, in a tone filled with contempt, but yet severe as if she wanted the boy to learn. "Now, listen to your friend's advice and shut up; she's obviously smarter than you."

That said, she put her attention on Ari again. She could tell the girl had analyzed the situation to a point where she had settled with simple conversation, Ali hoped that didn't change, she'd rather not have to kill any recruits. "I can enhance or nullify any of my senses... Which means I can not feel pain for certain periods of time, which is useful, but if I overdo it, it becomes very unpleasant afterwards." She gave a slight shrug, careful not to put more tension on the wire. "I don't mind pain though... It's there for a reason, much like fear... It let's you know what you should stay away from." Her eyes lowered from the girl's face to the bow she had dropped on the ground. "That's a beautiful weapon, is it your work?" She asked in a very interested tone. "You know, I need to craft myself a new bow, mine is getting a bit old..." She said, indicating the black bow she was carrying at her back. "I can't make peace with the idea of retiring it though, it was the last thing my brother crafted before he died. Sentimental value and all that." She said absently, giving a small sigh at the mention of her older brother. She didn't like to think of what Alex would think of what she was doing now. "It's an interesting enlightenment you have. Animals are such wonderful creatures, aren't they? If only we were a little more like them... Well, we wouldn't be standing here now in this situation."

Ari smiled and nodded sharply, her eyes glimmering with some hidden emotion.
“Yes, I crafted it myself. Wandering in the woods as a loner could get a bit lonely. I am sorry about your brother,” Ari frowned and shifted, stretching out her leg, “If you want I could craft you one, though it is only an offer.”
She moved briskly to the bow lying on the ground and picked up one of the wolf daggers, carrying back toward the other girl. She held it out for her to take and quietly said, “This was my lover’s. He disappeared, where I do not know, he could be dead,” she shrugged, “I try not to use it though it comes handy in a fight. I prefer to carry it around, just to keep him close. I would say try the same thing, but a bow is harder to work with. Perhaps you could put it someplace special, a shine perhaps. It is hard to lose someone you love.”
Ari’s eyes flickered blue, betraying her emotions and she carefully turned her back toward Allison as she carried the dagger back to the pile. She turned back to the girl, smiling again her eyes glimmering silver.
“We really are wondrous creatures,” she tilted her head, her ears catching the approach of footsteps; “you might say it’s interesting, but really it’s appealing to my other nature. I would show you, but…”
Ari trailed off, coming back to stand far enough away not to make herself look like a threat but close enough to intervene if need be. Her eyes caught Allison’s and she smirked.

"It is hard to lose a loved one." Ali agreed. "Perhaps I'll burn it, then. In Blackhurst, archers believed that if they burned their bows, as they got too old for use, the weapon would be waiting for them in the Afterlife." She explained absently. "I think my brother would like to have it back, when I can't no longer use it. Besides... The irony of it is just too good. On the other hand, I might craft something else from it. Why waste perfectly good wood, right?" She asked with a little smirk.

"Eeeeh, I wouldn't do that if I were you." She stated, out of the blue. "I can hear you and I can hear them. If there's one heartbeat unaccounted for... Don't test me." She said, opening a grin. "I have my orders, but I'd welcome an excuse to disobey."

As she said that three assassins stepped out of hiding and into the center of camp, angered expressions on their faces.

"Much better." She told them, with a smile. "Isn't it better when we all play nice?"

Then she went on with the conversation as if there had been no interruptions. "As for you offer, take no offense, but I decline. If, or when, I replace this bow I will replace it with one that holds the same significance... For that I'll have to craft it with my own hands and put a little bit of myself into it. I think, and maybe that's just a weirdness of mine, I think that one's bow should be an extension of their person in a way." She chuckled slightly. "I think it is a weirdness, but it's how I feel nonetheless." She added.

As she said that, Sean's voice was heard shouting something, followed by the sound of something being slammed against one of the walls. Many of the assassins grimaced and looked around warily wondering if they should intervene. Ali, however, let out a soft giggle. "Sean's so emotional... Tsk, tsk..." She said, shaking her head slightly. "Perhaps you can show me the extent of your abilities at another time... Whenever you're in the desert maybe. It seems we will be leaving soon."

Ari nodded, not really willing to shift right now. She looked nervously in the direction of the shouting and then back at Allison.
“When I make another journey I will call upon you,” Ari giggled and took a couple steps back toward her bow and daggers, “No offence is taken, I prefer to make my own bows too. It always adds a little of your soul into it.” She turned back to face them, standing tall and proud. “It was quite an honour to meet you Allison, but I best be on my way, before Sean sees me caught up in all this. Would hate to end up dead before I’ve really even started.”
She winked at Allison slinging her quiver over her back and attaching the daggers to her hip. She snatched up her bow and mockingly bowed at Donovan and she smiled at Allison.
“Donovan, it is good to see that you can take advice from a lesser like me, I suggest you keep it in mind next time you find yourself in this situation. But then again, what do I know, right?”
She turned her attention back on Allison, her head starting to throb with pain at keeping her senses heightened for so long.
“Before I leave, I do have one request,” she said hesitating at the tree line, turning back to face them, “When we next meet, I would like to have a little contest, one of archery. That is only if you are up for it?”
She cocked her head waiting for her response, her heart beating rapidly in her chest in fear that Sean would show his face and recognise hers. Her bright green eyes flickered form Allison’s face, scanning the trees. She had been here too long, revealed too much.

Ali laughed slightly at Ari's comments. "Oh, I understand. I wouldn't want to be caught up in this either. And I'm always up for a little competition, although if you beat me I might have to kill you for the sake of my reputation." She joked. "Until then, have a nice day." She added, with a small wink.

Once the girl had vanished amongst the trees Ali chuckled softly into Donovan's ear. "She's really, really, talented Don. I hope she gets wise enough to leave before your brother ruins that. That'd be such a waste."

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Crys entered the cabin and immediately walked around the round table, running her hand through its battered surface as if to make sure it was still the same table she had, oh so often, bumped her head against when she was small enough to hide underneath it. She felt a sharp pain in her heart at the memories contained in that place. She was born there, she had taken her first steps there, spoken her first words… Her mother had died there. It was a lot harder to stand in that cabin than she had ever imagined it would be, yet at the same time, the memories there contained gave her strength in a way. She walked past the table and sat by it, smiling as Sean walked in and spoke.

“You’re in my seat, Crystal.” He complained.
“Excuse me, Alpha, old habits. Do you mind? For old times’ sake?” She asked, smiling at how this bothered him.
“Fine.” Sean muttered, sitting across from her. “What do you want Crys? Why mess with my people after all this time of hiding? What changed?”
“I’ve changed. You’ve certainly changed. I can list about a thousand other things that have changed as well, but it would be a waste of both my time and yours. What I want, what I really came here for… I want you to leave the White Shadows alone.”
“Why do you think I would want to mess with them?” Sean asked, honestly surprised. “And I don’t believe that’s why you’re here.”
“I haven’t moved against you Sean, I started over, I have absolutely no interest in the Pack anymore. Why are you so afraid of me?” She asked, leaning forward over the table. “What have I ever actually done to you?”
You haven’t moved against me; that’s true… What about Evin, and Jake and Allison? You’re honestly going to tell me that you had nothing to do with them?”

Crys shook her head, leaning back on the chair. “You’re dodging the actual question, Sean. And I have no control over what Evin does. I never had it when I was Alpha, why would I have it now? He’s a free man, he can annoy or murder whoever he pleases and he happens to really hate you. I haven’t seen Jake in almost two years, but he hates you just as much and not all the reasons involve me, as I’m sure you recall. Ali didn’t hate you, but now I think she hates you more than the other two, the only thing keeping your brother alive is her friendship for me. The only thing she has done to spite you, aside from saving my life, is aid the Crimson Shadows. You were the one who wounded her hand and murdered a fifteen year old kid who she happened to love like a little brother. I mean, really… Knowing Allison you didn’t think that would make her want to jump at your throat?”
“I’m not afraid of you.” Sean stated. “And you know what you did to me.”

“Liar, liar…” Crys snickered. “You’re terrified because you know that everything you built is yours as long as I don’t decide to take it from you.” She stated. “Tell me, have you lost sleep thinking about this moment? Have you been up all night thinking about me coming back and taking everything away? Did you toss and turn wondering what was going through my head?” She asked him, unable to hold back a delighted grin as she felt the anger stir up inside of him. “I didn’t do anything to you.” She stated. “Sparing Theron’s life was my mother’s decision. I supported it as much as I would have supported her had she chosen to kill him.”
“You promised me he would pay, remember that? Whatever it takes, you said.” Sean told her. “I waited and I tried not to go insane, because I trusted you, and I trusted your mother, with the only thing that could still give me comfort: Knowing that the man who killed my mother would suffer the consequences. I put that one hope I had in your mother’s hands, and she crushed it. And my father let her do it because she was the great Dani Rivers; the one who exterminated the Wolf Hunters. What a load of crap!” He exclaimed. “And then I discover that your mother and that outsider she married were responsible. If it wasn’t for them there would be no Shadow Hunter!”

Crys raised an eyebrow. “My father was a Wolf, Sean. He joined the Wolf Hunters when he was a child, he didn’t know better.” She leaned back in the chair. “You’re pathetic, Sean. I honestly feel sorry for you.” She stood up and walked towards the door. “Not as much as I feel sorry for the clan for supporting such a weak leader, or for your family for being stuck in the middle of this.” Before she reached for the door, however, Sean slammed his hand against it and got in her way.
“We’re not done yet!” He shouted.”
Crys sighed. “It’s fine.” She whispered, so that Ali would know she was still safe. “You should keep your voice down, Sean. You wouldn’t want you brother to suffer over that temper of yours.” She told him, taking a step away from the door and closer to him. “I said what I needed: Touch the healers and I will make every one of your nightmares come to life, one by one; I swear on my mother’s grave.”

Sean ignored the threat, although Crys could tell he was furious. “Tell me something: How do you do it? How do you get people so devoted to you? How do they trust you so easily? It can’t be just your mother’s reputation, or your enlightenment… There has to be something else. I mean, Jake… We all know what’s in it for him, right? Evin was close to Dani, Ali was your recruit, but then... There’s the Crimson; there’s Dastan. Tell me Crys, what kind of spell have you cast on that poor man to make him risk exterminating his entire clan for you?”
Crys snickered. “Funny Sean, you sound so familiar when you say that. Wonder where I’ve heard it before…” She whispered, fixing her eyes on him. “Don’t think I trick people into doing what I want, it’s more complicated than that; it’s beyond your comprehension, even. I will tell you this: My friends have never done anything for me that I wouldn’t do for them, not once, and I like to think they know that. You should take a good look at yourself though, before you accuse me of using people. Speaking of which… Has Blackpond come to collect your soul yet?”
“My soul remains intact, thanks for asking.” Sean muttered.
Crys chuckled as he said that. “I hope you’re good looking, Sean, because you’re just not that clever.” She told him, shaking her head in amusement. “Are we done now? Or do you wish to attempt any more insults? I have time, but I’m guessing Donovan might be getting tired.”
“Mark my words, Crystal: I’ll make you pay for this.”
She smiled, reaching for the door handle with a shrug. “Put it on my tab.”
“Oh, I will. And, you know… Whenever you see Jake again, thank him for me.” Sean said casually. “I needed an excuse to break my truce with Newhaven anyway.”
“What are you talking about?” Crys asked, her tone slightly more serious.
“You didn’t know he was back in Newhaven? He was kind enough to let me know, I thought he’d show you the same consideration… No? Anyway, remember Amalia? Remember the day she got here? Remember the story she told your mother? Remember how your mother used to write everything down; no exceptions? Need I say more?”
Crys frowned slightly remembering the story the woman had told her mother; she had never really seen was actually been told there until just then, and she could feel how Sean was satisfied to be the one to make her reach such conclusion. “It’ll never stick.” She stated finally, glaring at him in anger. “There are no names in those files and the only witness is someone whose credibility is shaky at best.”
Sean snickered. “You’re so naïve sometimes, Crys. I’ve paid enough taxes to the city Council to know that they will take any excuse to get rid of her. Truth is: They’d much rather the way Morgan ran things, he was a sadistic bastard, but he was less of a hassle to the higher-ups.” He shrugged. “Even if they don’t make it stick… It ought to keep them occupied for some time and, as you know, my dear friend… Time is everything.”

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Ali was holding Doni hostage for what seemed like forever when Crys finally left the Leader’s Cabin. It was hard to make out the expression on her face, it didn’t show what she was feeling or thinking. Sean stepped out right after her, same blank expression. If one of them had won whatever discussion they had… Neither one of them would show it. She could see on the faces of most Actives that they were hopeful there would be some sort of truce, however she knew better than them. There would never be a truce as long as Sean was alive.

Crys walked past her and the boy and mumbled a “Let’s go”. Ali didn’t hesitate to drag Donovan along and follow Crys out of camp. As she turned her back she could hear Sean order his people to let them go, this time. So, they walked South and when they were far enough from camp, they released Donovan, ordering him to walk away and not look back. Once the boy had gone, Ali finally asked Crys what she wanted to know. “So, is he going to attack the White Shadows like Trevor said he might?”
Crys nodded, leaning casually against a tree. “He has no intentions of going against the Shadows, even after I threatened him. I think the healers are safe, from him at least. Did you find out anything interesting?”
“Sean has a recruit.” Ali stated.
“No kidding? I thought they weren’t recruiting.” Crys said, looking genuinely surprised with the news. “How do you know it is Sean’s recruit?”
“I’m not absolutely sure, but that’s what the Actives whispered to each other when she came up to me.” Ali confirmed. “She’s around seventeen, if I had to guess, pretty and all that. A shifter, talented with a bow, if she shoots as well as she crafts. A real waste of talent, in my opinion.”
“Ali…” Crys chuckled.
“What?” Ali asked, faking an innocent tone in her voice, but knowing it was no use.
“She’s Sean’s recruit. I don’t need to be an empath to know what you’re thinking.” Crys said, in a slightly severe tone.
“I don’t want to kill her.” Ali stated in a serious tone. “I’d much rather save her before Sean infects her with his stupidity.”
“That’s her decision to make.” Crys stated, as if ending the subject. She paused for a moment then added. “I’m going to Newhaven.”
“Newhaven… Why?” Ali asked, seeming a bit confused with such a sudden decision.
“Sean told me he did something that… Well… If he did it, it could end up disbanding the Black Knights, or worse.”
“What’s worse?”
“They could go back to being what they were.” Crys said.
“We don’t want that?” Ali asked, sitting down on a nearby rock, feeling her ears ringing from overuse of her enlightenment.
“Nobody wants that. It’s just bad all around.” Crys sighed. “Sean doesn’t see what he’s messing with here.”
“What can you possibly do about, whatever it is, Sean did?” Ali asked, now rubbing her eyes.
“I doubt there’s something I can do about this, but I would like to see it for myself.” Crys explained. “Besides, there’s someone there I would like to talk to, although she would probably not want to see me.”
“You haven’t told me what this is, yet.” Ali said absently, looking up at Crys as if waiting for her to tell a story.

Crys chuckled. “Another time, maybe. Either way, I was planning on talking to Sheila either way, I might stop by the Castle and see if Sean actually did what he said he did.”

“Alright… I have one more question for you then: What do you care for the Black Knights right now?
Crys gave a light shrug. “Call it a matter of common courtesy, if you will.” She said.
Ali laughed. “You’re walking all the way to Newhaven simply out of courtesy? Right…”
Crys smiled slightly. “Let’s just say that when people show me kindness I tend to remember it.”
“Oh, so you know this person?” Ali asked curiously.
“We’ve had a conversation once. You remember? It was on the night we got to the desert.” She stated. “I probably won’t spend more than a day in the city, but we’ll see.” She said.

“I remember. And let me guess: You want me to go back and keep an eye on things, because Evin is, wherever the hell Evin usually goes, and someone needs to stay ‘in charge’, right?” Ali asked, not even waiting for the answer, since she knew what it would be. She simply stood up and continued to walk South. “Say hi to Jake if you happen to see him.” She said, over her should her.

As Ali heard Crys’ footsteps walking away she distinctively heard her snicker and mumble the words “Opposing allies”. Wondering what the hell that meant, the archer walked back to the territory of the Crimson Shadows.

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Ari walked carefully along the path. She had just realized how stupid she had been to openly talk to the “traitor”, Allison in front of all those people, it would only be a matter of moments until Sean found out and she would have to answer to him. She ran back to the room, leaving her bow on the bed and grabbing a bag, slipping her dagger into it and her clothes. She stripped down, her body twisting and writing as she changed into a large black wolf. Her eyes flashed silver and then faded to the gold colour of the wolf. She threw back her head and howled, feeling her body lock. She paced back and forth along the door, waiting for someone to open it, her body feeling trapped. Ari began to get nervous, her instincts taking over. Her golden eyes flickered to the window and she backed away, her hackles rising along her back as her lip pulled back in a snarl.
She sprang through the window, the glass shattering around her as she bolted out, the bag strapped to her back. She watched as a couple of the assassins drew their swords as she bolted past and she slid to a halt as the door to Sean’s house opened. She scrambled back, her eyes opening in horror. She relaxed as it closed again, no one coming out. She yelped as an arrow landed beside her and she went into the woods, vanishing like a ghost into the trees, avoiding the next rain of arrows.
Her eyes remained golden as she tried to call upon her curse, erm, enlightenment. She shook, hating herself for using it way too much today. She whined, unable to form any words to express her anger, and the tree next to her suffered the wrath of her anger. She shook her pelt, sniffing at the large gouge marks that had cut through the bark. She sighed and wandered down the path, the bag bouncing along her back, her nose fixed on the ground.
Someone had been along this path, someone who smelled of the desert. Her pace quickened into a trot and she found herself catching up.

Crys walked the path that led to Newhaven without much of a care and not much of a hurry. She knew there was really nothing she could do for the Black Knights, except maybe offer her apologies for not slitting Sean’s throat while she had him alone, however, he had mentioned he needed time for something, and he wasn’t bluffing; which made her wonder what he would actually gain from causing this level of commotion in the Newhaven ranks. A trip to the Inn could maybe give her an answer or two, if she could get the recruiter there to talk to her; wouldn’t be easy, the woman didn’t like her in one bit.

Crys sighed, thinking of what Sean had told her. She remembered clearly when, around seven years ago, this woman, Amalia, made her way to camp asking that she was allowed to stay. She was carrying a bag of coins, a small child and was also pregnant. Crys’ mother decided to let her stay as a worker, but not before she told her story. The woman told, in plenty of detail for what Crys heard, how she was being held hostage in this bandit camp when it was raided by these two ‘strangers’: A man, who seemed to be the leader, and a woman. They eliminated the bandits, but the man wanted to get rid of the witnesses as well. He would have killed Amalia and her small child hadn’t his companion intervened. The woman ran her sword right through him, told Amalia to run away, and not tell a soul. She didn’t tell a soul, except for the Leader of the Pack at the time. And she always filed everything in the archives; absolutely everything.
It was also around that time that the Captain of the Black Knights, the man who was Captain then, was killed by bandits, and Mageria was promoted after him. Crys knew this because the Pack investigated both the Black and White Knight Captains when they sent Jake to Newhaven; that was also in the clan records… Sean must have put both stories together when Evin made him Second and he gained access to those files. Crys shook her head, not really sure of why she had never put it all together herself. If she had, she would have found a way to make those records disappear a long time ago.

Suddenly, the blind woman stopped walking and slowly moved her hand towards the hilt of her Katana. There’s someone around, but whoever it was she couldn’t hear. She waited for a moment, but nothing. “Who’s there?” She called, gripping the sword and waiting for a response.

Her black ears tilted forward as she heard a woman’s voice. She picked up her pace, running up over the hill, slipping under a fallen log. Ari growled and came forth from the brush, curiosity causing her to walk up carefully to the stranger. Her nose told her that something was wrong with this woman and she barked, announcing her appearance. She crept forward, keeping her head low and brushed her tail gently across the woman’s leg, gently circling her. Her eyes flash silver and she squealed as her body writhed and she became human. Ari stood there, panting in pain from the shift and she smiled, blushing lightly.
“Ari, Ari Lupir,” she said pulling her bag off of her back and quickly pulling on her clothes, “the question is: who are you?”

Crys was intrigued for quite some time as what sounded and felt much like a wolf walked around her in circles, she could sense it was a person however, which made her even more intrigued. Crys had spent a lot of time amongst wolves in her early teens, one of the few good things about her ability was to discover that she could easily get animals to trust her. Although animals didn't actually feel in the same level as humans, they were extremely sensitive to human emotions, and she discovered she could, in a way, communicate with them. This 'animal' however, had a complexity of emotions within that made sure to Crys it was a human being.

Crys tilted her head slightly as she couldn't recognize by sound what was happening then, although she guessed the wolf was taking a human form, a guess that was confirmed as the voice of a girl spoke to her. Crys was silent for a little while before she responded. "My name is Crystal. Crystal Rivers, but I'd much rather be called Crys. And you..." Crys started walking towards Newhaven again, only slower, not to leave the girl behind or draw her too far from camp. "You are with the Wolfpack, no?"

Ari froze, fear and suspicion rising in her mind and a tiny growl rose from her throat. Crys, the old alpha, the true alpha, the one Sean feared. She walked carefully along side of the woman, nodding slightly with a quick and sharp “yes.”
“I am with them, though I use that term loosely. I would say looking to join, but not with yet,” she said carefully, her hand resting on her dagger, “You came back. Why? Was it just to torment, or did you have some other agenda?”
She knew the question was extremely straightforward and most likely boarded on being rude, but she was angry and a curious. Her eyes scanned the woman, searching for a weakness just in case, but her attention was soon diverted from the hunt when a deer sprang across the path in front of them.
Ari didn't trust her and didn't want to but still, she wanted to know more about Crys.

Crys chuckled slightly. "I came to speak to your Alpha. I spoke, I listened, and now I'm leaving. No more no less." She shook her head slightly. "Judging by your already defensive posture towards me, I'd say that you're more with them than you'd like to admit; or maybe more with Sean. I hear he hand-picked you, that's impressive." She stated, stopping when a deer crossed their path. She opened a bright smile as the animal passed as if she ran into a friend. "I had almost forgotten how much I missed these woods." She stated. "See, I was born in this forest, I've spent 22 years of my life here, my parents are buried in these grounds, and Sean took that from me in one day, and I don't mean the day when he challenged me for command, but I digress. So... I do have an agenda: I plan on tormenting Sean everyday for as long as we both breathe; and one day, when the time is right, one of us will have to die, most likely." She said calmly. "Today, however, is not that day. Today I have somewhere else I need to be."

She opened her bag and pulled an apple from it and took a bite of it chewing on it quietly for a while before adding. "That's between me and Sean though, I'd rather no one else got involved, although I see how that's difficult when he's so afraid of me."

Ari nodded slightly, not quite understanding why it was such a big deal to be picked by the Alpha. She felt her cheeks grow hot with colour as Crys mentioned how close she felt to Sean. She shrugged, playing it cool, and continued to walk with the woman before shaking her head sharply and bowing.
“I hate to talk and run, but” she looked over her shoulder, “I must get back. If Sean...”
Ari trailed off, knowing just how much he hated and feared this woman and how much trouble she was getting herself into. She would have loved to stop and talk about the woods with Crys, for felt like she herself was part of the forest.
“What have I done,” she whispered, appalled as she turned back toward the camp, “He’s going to kill me.”
She looked back at Crys, her eyes bright brilliant green, slowly fading to blue as she grew scared and sad.

"Ari, is it?" Crys asked, stopping for a moment. "Don't be afraid of Sean. If he likes you in one bit he'll just hate me some more for trying to 'cast my spell' on you. That's crap, by the way, I can't do that so don't worry about it. If he doesn't, well... We can use people of your talents. Allison seemed impressed by you, and she's not easily impressed." Crys stated. "You seem like a nice person, all in all... I'd advise you to keep your distance from the Pack, but I have the impression that you need to learn that for yourself." She began walking again, taking another bite of the apple. A few steps up the road she spoke over her shoulder. "…The sooner the better."

With that said she waved over her shoulder and continued on her way.

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

[Blackpond – In the morning]

"Hey, mate... I think I found your lady friend. What do I tell her?" Viktor called.

Jake wasn't sure what time of day, or night, it was anymore when he heard the man's voice sounding on his mind. Heaving a sigh he replied. "Tell her you're with me in the dungeons and you have a message for her."

"What's her name, then? And I should probably say something that will prove the messages are really coming from you." Viktor told him.

Jake sighed again, thinking back to the little he and Sham had talked in their way there and in Newhaven to find something that would make the woman sure he was behind the messages. He picked the first answer he could think of. "Ask her if she's having fun yet or if I should cause more trouble."

"A'right... If you think that'll work." Viktor told him, going silent.

The telepath didn't think of his words much, he thought the best way to do this was to be simple and say just what was needed... Focusing on the woman he sent the message to her:

"Hello! Sham, is it? My name's Viktor, nice to meet you. I'm sitting here in the dungeons with your pal Jake... He asks if you're having fun yet or if he should cause more trouble. He also has some things he needs you to know. Let me know if you can hear me."

Sham was trying to shadow Jake from the rooftops as he joined the mob heading towards the Castle. She couldn't follow him directly, but she could catch glimpses of what had to be him, as people were tripped and others that were killed, without any reason that she could see. It was at the crossroads that she ran into the slight problem that it was too far for her to jump normally. Backtracking for a house or three, she went down past to where she didn't think that anyone would be able to notice her with everything else going on. Her eyes flaring greenly, she took a running leap and soared across the way, rolling smoothly once she hit the other side.

Running smoothly over the roofs, Sham finally found a good spot to wait and settled in, drawing her cloak around herself to try and blend in with the roof line, one more gargoyle among many.

Sham was considerably startled, jumping a bit and nearly loosing her seat on her perch before she grabbed a handhold and recovered.
What the hell? How do I tell him if I can hear him?
She moved back from view of the street and made sure that no one was around to see or hear her. Going on the theory that a telepath would be able to read her mind as well, she focused on thinking clearly, as if she was speaking.
Viktor? Yes, I can hear you.

"Alright... I got her attention, Jake. What do you need to tell her?" Viktor told Jake.

Jake thought about how to say what he needed without giving the telepath too much important information, after all... He was very much aware of the fact that this guy could be just anyone. Fact was; he needed to get the message out, no matter how he did it. "I Need you to repeat what I say, word by word, do you understand?"

"Yup, I get it." Viktor replied.

"Alright, tell her I saw Dom in the Castle and she might want to find him because last I saw him he was with... Red Cloak." He said, not wanting to give Lamya's name. He remembered hearing her talk to Dominic and didn't see him afterwards, not that he had much time to pay attention. "Also tell her that the soldiers are alive as far I was told..."

"Hey! You don't trust me, mate?" Viktor argued.

"Sorry, but I trust my eyes better than a random voice in my head. No offense." Jake told him. "Last, but not least. She needs to tell the Captain, and the Captain only, that I have spotted the item Lena told her about. She needs to tell her that as soon as possible, even if it means going back to Newhaven and saying it in person. I have no clue how I got to the cell, and I'm not even sure where in dungeons I am. I just... Appeared here, apparently. Tell her that."

Viktor's voice went silent in Jake's head as he passed the message along, trying to repeat exactly what Jake had told him to say: "Hey, I'm back! Okay... He wants me to say he saw Dom in the Castle and you might want to find him because last he saw him, he was with Red Cloak. Is that a code or was he actually wearing a red cloak? Anyway... The soldiers are all alive and well, as far as he was told. I told him, by the way. And, this seems important: He wants you to let Captain know that he spotted the item Lena told her about. He says this message is to be delivered to the Captain only and as soon as possible, even if it means going back to deliver it personally, sounds serious. He also says he has no clue how he ended up in the cell or what section of the dungeons we're at, I don't know either, sorry. I don't have much time left, so if you got questions or messages for him, you better make them quick."[/quote]

Sham chewed on her lip, torn by indecision. There were two things she had to do and they both led to opposite ends of Valcrest. Thinking quickly, she made up her mind.

All right mate. Two questions, one for you and one for him. Jake's question. Which is more important, the message or Dom? And your question. How do I know this isn't some kind of trick?


"She wants to know what's more important, the message or Dom?" Viktor sent to Jake. "Hurry up, mate, I can't keep this up for much longer."

"Shit." Jake muttered, standing up from where he was seated and pacing around in the cell. Dom was a grown man, and a Knight, but he was completely stupid when around that woman. Maybe if he was good enough of a fighter she'd lock him up too. There was no way to know though, there was no logic to that woman's actions. And then... The King didn't seem to know what he had. The problem was, the moment he found out it would be hell all over again. And his friends could be at risk, not to mention every one else in the land if he finished what the Shadow had started... "Holy shit." He growled. "The message. If you can still reach her as far as Newhaven, then tell her you'll keep her posted if I find out something else."

Viktor didn't waste time in sending the response along, he was almost running out of time. "Message, he says. He also says I'll keep you posted if he finds out anything else. As for your question to me... I guess that, much like your friend, you just can't know. I'm a voice in your head. I can be anyone anywhere. I swear on the Twins though, I'm just a soldier who's been locked up in a cell too long, Miss. Your friend didn't even promise to get me out, he'd only promised he'd try, but I'm betting on it. I've been doing this too long now, I have to g-"

Sham swore quietly and passionately for a few long moments. Jake said the message was more important that anything else, or rather, Viktor said that Jake said that the message was the most important thing. But it could be a trick, somebody trying to get her to leave Jake behind. Taking a deep breath, she followed all the logic paths that she could, trying to imagine every possible outcome. It was hard, she was more of a reactive person than a planning person. Finally she had to choose. Jake was a grown man, the same that Dom was. Worse come to worse, they could take care of themselves. If the message was true, it was apparently vitally important that it be delivered.

Moments later, a non-descript traveler entered the boarding stable and turned in a chit for one of the horses. They saddled it quickly and competently, before mounting up and riding out. They wound their way through the streets of Blackpond, lost in a crowd of merchants as the exited, slowly falling back as they each went their own way. It was only when the traveler entered the forest and was alone when they put their heels to their horse and took off at top speed.

Jake didn’t hear Viktor anymore after he told him what to answer. He hoped the message got through to Sham. He hoped Dominic didn’t get into too much trouble too. He thought the guy was a bit of an idiot, but he’d rather not see him hurt for it.

The setting changes from assassins-camp to Blackpond

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Jake Turner

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As Jake opened his eyes he realized that he held a tight grip around the wrist of a rather frail-looking teenager who had tried to reach for his locket. The boy smirked at him and Jake felt cold spread from his fingertips and up his arm, forcing him to release his hold. The boy simply straightened himself up from where he had been leaning over the sleeping Jake and turned over to this man who looked like he could easily break a normal sized human in half like a twig.

“The new guy is good!” He exclaimed, addressing the big guy and not bothering with the fact that Jake could hear him.

Jake frowned, not happy to be around people all of sudden and even less with the fact that they all seemed eager to poke him in every way they could come up with as if he was a new toy.

He had followed Lamya without a word and not caring to wonder why the hell she thought he would ever lead any army, for her or anyone. For all he knew this was just another way to mess with his head and he wasn’t going to indulge her by asking questions. He just wished she was actually crazy to the point of willingly letting him out so he could slit her throat.

For what she had said, he thought the place would be just a big room crammed full of people, but the place was more like an underground village of sorts, or maybe 'complex' would be a better term. There was a whole wing that were sleeping quarters and then there were several other facilities, cafeterias, bath rooms and latrines, common rooms, and Jake was almost sure he’d seen a bar. The living standards in that area seemed not only better than in the rest of the dungeons, but better than in the city as whole. He hadn’t taken the time to explore much, and he was sure there was more to the place than just what he had seen, but he figured there would be time for that later. The first thing he did was find and available bed and claim it, and that in itself had taken quite a while since there were a lot of beds and most were taken, but he finally found a spot; a room with ten other people, one of them a very annoying fifteen year old kid.

The kid was the least of his problems though. The real problem was Rick. Jake had little contact with the man, but enough to know that he was dangerous and if he knew what he had in his hands, it was more than likely that history would repeat itself. He wasn’t a praying man, but at this point all he could was beg the Twins that his message had made its way to Mageria safely.

“Hey, mate! You’re awake! Where did they move you to?” Viktor suddenly called.

Jake heaved a sigh, not really wanting someone going through his minds right now, but he replied anyway. ”Not sure, they put with me with this bunch of other people… Did you get the message to her?”

“I think so… I blacked out, but I had already told her what you wanted. If she’s as far as Newhaven I better get some more rest before trying to find her again… The further the target the more tired I get.”

“I understand.” Jake replied, absently going through his pockets and finding something he had forgotten was there. He finally found the little chess knight. He remembered the day Ali found out Sean had burned every piece of woodwork she left behind; Bastian’s chess set included. The only thing left of it was a single black pawn, which Sean sent to her ‘as a souvenir’. She said she was going to make herself another set, but she never really got to it. She carved random pieces and left them behind when she was done with them. There were probably chess pieces scattered all over Valcrest by now. Jake couldn’t help but think that she was doing that on purpose, but could never understand why.
“Who’s the blond girl?” Jake actually jumped up at the sudden voice in his head; he had forgotten the telepath completely.
“A friend.” Jake answered simply, sitting up straight in the bed he had taken for himself and ignoring the stares of some people.
“Are all your friends women, pal?” Viktor joked. “Is she unattached?”
“You gave up Sham that easily, huh?” Jake asked, amused. “And I have male friends, they’re all unattached as far as I know.”
“Funny man.” Viktor replied, but didn’t insist on asking about Ali, which Jake was grateful for.
“Why are you so interested in my personal life, Viktor?” Jake asked the man.
“If you were in here as long I have… And, you know… If I had someone I’d let her know I’m alive. I can contact that little blondie for you, or… The redhead one you were dreaming about just now.”
“Stop. Stop right there.” Jake told the man. “If you ever look into my dreams or memories again, when I find your damn cell I’ll get in there just to break your neck, are we clear?”

“I’m sorry, Jake. I didn’t mean to intrude. I was just waiting for you to wake up. Won’t happen again.”

“Jake?”

“Jake?”

“Just let me know when you can find Sham again, until then: Stay the hell out of my head.”

Glancing around the place, Jake caught sight of the little thief that tried to take his locket; the boy was a frail looking thing with pale white skin and blonde hair so light that seemed to be just as white as his skin. That kid could easily disappear in a plain white room wasn’t for his bright blue eyes. The big man he was with was exactly the opposite: Dark hair, dark skin, enough scars to show that he was in no way frail, as if his size alone didn’t give that away. He remembered something Bastian always used to tell him: You can never have too many allies.


Jake sat up as the teenager’s blue eyes caught his and he tossed the chess knight to the boy. “What’s your name, kid?”
The boy picked up the piece in the air and examined it for a moment before walking over and replying. “Irvin…” He grinned. “You know, I’d much rather have the jewelry.”
“I’d much rather be somewhere else, but we can’t always get what we want, huh?” Jake replied, ignoring the stares of the other people in the room, as this was the first time he had spoken since he got there.
“Fair enough.” The boy chuckled. “So, what’s your story, though guy? You look like a Wolf, are you? Will they come for you?” The boy asked, settling down on the edge of the bed, facing Jake.
“No one will come for me.” Jake stated simply. “I’m a lone Wolf, get it? And the name’s Jake.” He told the kid.
“Oh, that’s too bad. I was hoping we’d finally get to see some action around here… So awfully boring once you’ve been here a while...” He shook his head. “Say, do you play cards, Jake? Are you a betting man?”
“Depends on what you want to bet.” Jake said with a light shrug.
“Hum… How about a secret? Can you think of anything more valuable than that?” The boy asked with a little grin.
Jake frowned slightly, this kid looked familiar, but he didn’t know why. “A secret, huh? What kind of secret can a kid like you have?”
“Oh, I have plenty.” Irvin answered with a shrug. “A few of them may even interest you. As a matter of fact, I have a better game… You seem like a smart man, Jake. So here’s the game: I’ll ask you a question about me and if you get it right you score a point, if you get wrong I score a point. And then you ask me a question about you… So on and so on… The first to score ten points wins.”

Jake rested his back on the headboard of the bed and crossed his arms under his head. “Alright. I’ll start: Where was I born?”
“Blackpond.” The boy answered immediately. “Am I right?”
“Right. That’s one for you.” Jake nodded. A few people had gathered around to listen in some of them whispering amongst themselves speculating on who was going to win this weird game, other were just interested in the answers.
“What is my enlightenment?” Irvin asked, with a slight grin.
“You can manipulate water.” Jake replied immediately.
“That’s impressive…” The boy chuckled. “You got that from the little I used it on you? I was sure you were going to say it was the ability to freeze. That’s one for you.”
“I did get that from the little you used it on me. How did I know?”
The boy thought for a very long time before laughing. “Oh, I don’t know. How?”
“You began to freeze my arm from the inside out, only my arm, it wasn’t cold around, not even your hand was cold, so I assume you lowered the temperature of the water present in my body in order to do that.” Jake stated.
“You studied enlightenments, it seems…” Irvin mumbled, seeming a little impressed. “Yes I can control water temperature and, as you know, there is water everywhere.” He smirked. “I can literally make a person’s blood boil in their veins, if I want. That’s two for you…”

The game went on for a little, between questions and answers and comments exchanged it summed up to a good couple of hours of talk, until finally both of them had nine points and it was the boys turn to ask a question. He grinned at Jake as if they were playing chess and they boy had moved every piece just right to get the man where he wanted. As if this whole little game was just a ruse from the start… It was, they both knew it, but know Jake would know why. “Alright now, Jake… You can win the game if you think hard enough.” Irvin said in triumphant tone as he shot the question. “Why do I look familiar?”
Jake flinched at the question. The boy did look familiar, but he really didn’t know why.”
“Think.” Irvin insisted. “I know you can find the answer if you concentrate, where do you know me from, Killer?”
Jake nearly jumped to his feet at the word Irvin spoke. He remembered it now.

[Flashback – Blackpond, approximately seven years ago]

“I-I’m s-so s-sorry… I-I -I s-swear…” The man stuttered; his eyes wide as he stared at the blade being held so close to his wife’s neck.

“Shut up! You’ll speak when I tell you to speak. Are we clear?” Jake told him, his sword pressed against the side of the man’s face; he used it to force the kneeling man to turn his head, taking his eyes away from the woman and facing him instead. “Are we clear?” He repeated.

The man nodded in sheer terror as he looked into the teenager’s blue eyes and saw the rage burning underneath. The last time he’d seen those eyes they were wide in terror, but so much had passed since then… Some much blood had gone through those hands already, so many of his bones had been broken… Jake was no longer a frightened little boy; he was a Wolf now and he would never have fear in his eyes again. Looking down at the man, Jake grinned. “It’s been a very long time, hasn’t it?” He asked, in a soft growl. “I can see that you remember though. I remember you… The scared-looking one in the back… You just wanted to steal and leave, right? We had nothing to steal though. My sister had nothing but herself and you people had to take that away for kicks!” He nodded towards the woman who was being restrained by Sean. “Does your wife know what you did? Do your children know? Do they know how you hung a little boy, just about their age, to a tree and left him to die? Do they know what kind of scum you are?” Jake pressed the blade harder against the man’s face, breaking through his skin only slightly. “Tell them.”

“W-what?” The man stammered.
Jake stared at the man coldly as he replied. “Remind me of my sister’s final hours: Did she cry? Did she beg? Did she put up a fight? Tell us everything: Start from the beginning and spare no details.”
“Y-You’re crazy. I can’t… Please…” He begged.
The man didn’t obey and as a response, Sean gripped the woman by the hair and pulled her head back, holding his knife near her throat, not touching her, and motioned as if sliding the blade across her neck. “Next time, will be for real.” He said calmly, now pressing the blade against her neck, keeping it there. “Talk.”

“I’ll do whatever you want, just don’t hurt them.” The man asked.
Jake’s eyes narrowed at the words, and he kicked the man in the chest with full force. “I’m not like you!” He hissed. “Can’t quite vouch for my friend here though, so do as I say!”

The man shivered in fear and pain, his voice trembling as he started talking. “We wanted to steal and leave, yes. We entered the house thinking it would be empty, it always was, but not that day…”

“I insisted I was old enough to work, she had finally let me try. We agreed she’d stay home and wait for me…” Jake explained. “Go on.”

“We would have just run off, but Ike…” The man sighed heavily. “Our leader was frustrated, we had hit two other homes early that day and come up with nothing but liquor bottles… He was frustrated… We were all drunk and frustrated…” He paused for a moment, but felt the blade touch his face again and continued. “We broke in, started making a mess, when Ike suddenly let out a scream and cursed. I ran to him and saw he had a crossbow bolt sticking out of his arm. Man, was he pissed! When I realized who had shot, the girl had already been caught and restrained. I think she heard the noises and came from the bedroom with the weapon, but only saw Ike, since we were some in the kitchen and some on the opposite of the room, out of sight from the doorway… I was in the kitchen then, but that’s how I think it happened. Two of the guys held her arms behind her back, Ike immediately slapped her across the face. She turned back to face him and spat on his face. He was even more pissed then.” At this point the man didn’t seem able to stop talking; his eyes fixed on Jake, staring into his eyes silently begin for forgiveness as he went on. “Some of the guys laughed, I knew Ike hated being laughed at… I knew this wasn’t going to be good for her. He grabbed her by the neck, forced her to look at him and pulled out his knife, pressed it against her faced, slowly, she winced when it broke her skin, he slid it down her face talking about what a pretty thing she was. She just glared at him, but didn’t say anything. At this point he was just meaning to scare her, I think, but there was a noise outside, and maybe she thought it was you, and she changed her attitude. She told Ike to just kill her already if he was going to do it. ‘Kill me and get the hell out of my house’, she said. He saw she was scared of something, she wanted us out at any cost and he realized that. That’s when something in his eyes changed and he slid the knife down her face, down her neck, to her chest. When he cut open her dress… That when she was finally looked terrified. I never forgot, how fast her eyes widened in fear, those beautiful green eyes, they grew so wide it’s like they screamed. The others started to laugh again, but now they were laughing at her, at her terrified eyes. Ike grinned, and said we weren’t in a hurry. I was. I wanted to get out, I wanted to be anywhere else, but I couldn’t move. One of the guys found a stuffed animal on the living room couch and he waved at her saying that if she played nice we wouldn’t hurt the kid… You.” He paused again, swallowing hard before forcing himself to go on. “Ike dragged her onto the kitchen table, by the hair… She didn’t fight them anymore after the promise of not hurting you. She screamed and cried at first, but didn’t fight, then she stopped screaming and just whimpered, and eventually, not even that. She just lay there, staring blankly into nothing… Eyes wide in terror, mumbling not even to us or herself, but to the Twins I think… ‘Just don’t hurt him’, that’s all she’d say.”

“Where were you through all that?” Jake asked; his voice void of any emotion even though every word the man spoke was like a burning dagger through his heart.

“At first I stood in the living room, I could hear her screaming and pleading… I wanted to run away and call someone, but I never did, and then Ike called for me. Said I was missing out. I walked to the kitchen then and stood in a corner. I didn’t want anything to do with… It, but I forced myself to look at her face, to look into her eyes, to see her break, I forced myself to remember. I begged the Twins to forgive me… I don’t expect the same from you.”

Jake stared at the man, his face still void, he didn’t look to the man’s wife or children as he confessed his sins. Sure he hadn’t actually told them how his ‘friends’ had repeatedly violated, burned and cut Jake’s sister, all the while laughing about it. Some of them still laughed as Jake made them confess, knowing he would kill them for it, but this man had confessed enough and the kids didn’t have listen to the more graphic details of those five hours of torture. “And then what?”

“There was another noise outside, this time it was you. When she heard someone was coming she pleaded again, she begged that we let you go. Ike just laughed and told us all to hide and we did… We waited until you went in and saw her…”

This time as the kneeling man spoke Jake saw it in his mind as if it was right in front of him; his sister’s eyes wide in terror as she saw him, her lips moving; rambling pleas for mercy… No mercy was given; they laughed. Their voices echoed in Jake’s mind for so long, for so many sleepless nights, when he was younger he used to think to himself that that was what true evil sounded like… As he grew older, good and evil became so intertwined within that it just didn’t make sense to think that way anymore. He broke out of his thoughts to the sound of the man begging forgiveness in shaky sobs, Jake didn’t want to hear it; he was ready to run his sword right through the man, one clean stab through the heart… The man’s next words stopped him, however, as he pointed to the floorboards underneath a chair.

“I kept it. I don’t know why, but I kept it.” The man mumbled.

Jake frowned slightly and sheathed his sword. “Don’t move a muscle.” He stated, walking to the spot the man had pointed to, kicking the chair away and opening the floorboards to find a soft leather bag, inside it there was a very old, patched up, but still intact, stuffed animal. It was something similar to a black dog, with horns and a long spiked tail. Jake stared at it for a very long time. “Drake…” He mumbled. The ‘dragon’ Jess had clumsily sewn together for him when their mother died. That little stuffed creature was his favorite thing in the world when he was a child… If only he hadn’t left it lying around the house that day… He sighed, pressing the toy against his face for a moment, before standing up from his crouch and turning to the man, who had remained on the floor, motionless. A voice whispering in the back of his mind, a voice he had long ago tried to erase:

“Here are some questions to ask yourself Jake, when you are deciding who is a good person. Does this individual knowingly hurt others? Does this person only act to better themselves and help no one else? Do they regret their mistakes or feel bad for them?”

That man did regret and he was in pain, but he had made a life for himself so it couldn’t possibly have been enough pain. “I won’t kill you.” He stated. “I want you to live. I want you to live and remember her face, her eyes, and know that I’ll never forgive you. I want you to live with the fact that your family will always know what kind of a coward you are.”

“Jake…” Sean argued. “You’re just letting him live?”
Jake didn’t turn to face Sean, his eyes fixed on the little toy dragon. “Death is not enough punishment.” He stated.
“You’re right, I suppose.” Sean agreed. Jake was still staring at Drake, but lifted his head when he heard Sean’s voice again. “You’re lucky we’re not allowed to touch children.” A high pitched scream followed his voice, but was almost immediately silenced. When Jake turned his head he caught sight of Sean had done; of what he was doing…

“Sean, what are you doing?” He asked; his eyes widened in honest shock.

Jake honestly never imagined Sean to be the type to ever hurt a woman, but he had cut the man’s wife, right beneath her eye, and carved a letter K, slowly moving on to a letter I… A strange grin plastered on his face as he replied. “You want him to remember… I’ll give him something to remember.” He explained, now carving the next letter; an L. Under his grip the woman screamed in pain and terror, tears coming out of her eyes as she hopelessly tried to squirm away from him. Sean whispered for her to hold still, that he didn’t want it to hurt more than necessary.

Jake couldn’t move, even if he wanted Sean to stop what he was doing: He was frozen and all he did was watch as Sean dropped the woman on the floor. Sobbing, she immediately crawled her way to her three children… It was the first time Jake had turned to look at the kids. His eyes caught the youngest of the two boys, he was absently stroking his mother’s hair as she clung to him, his eyes filled with rage, so much like Jake’s had been not so long ago. The scene reminded him of something in his past and it ached badly inside his chest.

Sean was already making his way out, but Jake hadn’t moved, and when he did, he walked towards the blond pale boy and dropped the stuffed dragon at his feet. He didn’t look down at the boy as he spoke. “You’re not a coward like your father, like me, but if you ever decide to become one… I’ll be waiting.” He turned his back and started to walk away, clenching his fists as he heard the woman whimper. “I’m ugly now.”


Irvin’s grin was wide and proud as he saw the look of horror in Jake’s eyes. “I’m glad you remember. I remember you… The scare-looking one in the back… The one who stood there while my mother screamed…” The boy said in a soft growl, loving the irony, cherishing that victory over Jake.

Jake closed his eyes at Irvin’s words, his words, the irony stung painfully. Jake had never forgiven himself for letting Sean go through with what he did to that woman. He entered that home to obtain some sort of closure, but he came out of it knowing that he was no different from the man he had gone there to kill; a coward. It still shamed him to know that.

“You won the game.” Irvin stated. “I’ll get you your prize.” With that he boy stood, a few people moved to get out of his way, some of them shooting glances towards Jake, not quite understanding what had just happened between him and the boy. Irvin returned with a ugly looking stuffed animal, battered and torn in a few spots. He dropped it on Jake’s bed with a light shrug, “I’m too old for a bedtime buddy, but it’s your first night in this weird place… So I thought you might want him.”

Jake tilted his head a little confused by Irvin’s behavior now. “You kept it?”
“You let my father live because he never forgot. You couldn’t forgive him, but you let him live, and that was something. I’m willing to let you live, Killer, because you haven’t forgotten either... I might even forgive you one day, who knows? Your friend, however, the one with the knife, I won’t have the same mercy for him.” He said, sitting back down. “Don’t you people have better things to do? Game’s over; piss off.” He muttered. People immediately dispersed, except for the huge individual Irvin had been speaking to earlier. He stayed close to the boy at all times, like a body guard. Irvin follow Jake’s eyes to the older man and chuckled. “Don’t worry about Oliver, he looks mean, but he’s a puppy. Just don’t piss him off.”

“You won’t get him, not even with a thousand puppies like Oliver on your back, Kid. The guy with the knife is the leader of the Wolfpack now. He has about three hundred trained killers with knives to protect him. You won’t survive trying.”
“I have to try.” Irvin stated. “Even if I can’t survive, maybe I can take him with me.”
Jake sighed. “Tell you what: If you help me out of this place and give me your word that you won’t run to the middle of the assassins’ camp holding a knife… I will help you get your revenge, if you’re patient and do as I say.”
Irvin smiled. “Well, I was just about to suggest that… You seem to want to leave this place as soon as possible and I need training. I think I can help you. Hell, I would’ve been out of here months ago had I wanted to.” He sighed.
“Why haven’t you left then?” Jake questioned, raising an eyebrow.
“Why would I? Life here is much easier than on the city, Killer. We’re warm, well fed, protected, or at least as protected as one can be in Blackpond… Why leave and struggle on the outside? Still… I can’t kill the Alpha stuck in here, can I?” He asked with a grin, standing up. “Now, come on… If you want to get out of here alive, we have places to go and people to meet.”
“What?” Jake asked, standing up and scratching the back of his head.
“Getting out of here ain’t a two person job, Killer. You need to make some friends and most importantly, you need to know who to avoid and how to avoid them. Not everyone is fond of deserters and they’ll try to stop us.”
“Deserters?” Jake asked, beginning to follow the boy out of the dormitory.
“Twins give me patience… I’m going to have to teach you everything aren’t I?” Irvin asked, highly amused as he walked Jake through the complex.

The setting changes from blackpond to Newhaven

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Crystal Rivers Character Portrait: Jake Turner

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Crys woke up feeling heavy. She had a warm blanket over her, and she immediately noticed a patch over her wounded eye. She started moving her toes, opening and closing her hands, taking deep breaths, before finally stretching and letting the pain in her muscles come back to her slowly as she regained movement. First thing she tried to do was get rid of the eye patch, and that's when someone grabbed her wrist, and the familiar voice that spoke caused Crys to jump to a sitting position, rather painfully.

"Leave it on." Lena stated. "If your eye gets infected you might have to wear one forever."
"What are you doing here?" Crys asked, twisting her arm out of Lena's grip and lying back down in pain. "When did you come back anyway?" She muttered.
"Well, it's nice to see you too, kid. I'm fine, thanks for asking." Lena replied, an amused tone in her voice. "You have no idea how much you sound like your mother right now."
"You didn't answer me." Crys stated simply, frowning even more deeply to hear Lena mention her mother.
"No, I didn't. Did I?" She chuckled. "I have been back a day or so. I thought Ali would tell you I stopped by the camp."
"No, she didn't tell me anything." Crys replied, heaving a long sigh and reaching for her eye again, fiddling with the patch until it was placed in a way it didn't bother her as much, and turning her face away from Lena. "Is that all?"
"No. It's not all, Crystal. I gave you time and space, more than enough of it. It's been three years, and now that time is up. So say whatever it is you are holding back, because I won't leave until I hear it." Lena stated, calmly.
"This is just the worse possible time." Crys muttered out.
"I don't think it is. I think it's just the right time." Lena replied.

There was a very long silence between the two of them before finaly Crys took one deep breath and spoke. "You shouldn't have kept this from me! She shouldn't have kept this from me! If anything you should have at least told Jake the truth."
"Told Jake the truth? What was I supposed to tell him exactly? That someone he trusted and loved used him like that? Should I have told him how she lied to his face? Should I have tried to make it less terrible by mentioning how awful she felt for doing it? If I had added that weight to his shoulders right then, he would have cracked. And you! Was the truth really what you needed to hear, Crystal? Do you honestly think it would have made it any less painful?" Lena retorted calmly. "So your mother wanted to protect you. How dare she? That bitch!"
"Don't you call her that!" Crys shouted, sitting up again, and holding back a whimper at the pain that caused. "Don't you dare!"

Lena chuckled. "Take it easy now, girl. You'll hurt yourself."
"She never did that before, protect me. I mean, not like that. She always told me I needed to learn to fight through the pain, through anything no matter how painful... She never kept things from me that way. She knew I could take it." Crys' tone was more calm as she spoke now, tears running down her face. "Why couldn't I tell? She was acting different and I thought... I don't know what I thought... Idiot! I'm such an idiot!"
"You're not an idiot, Crys. You didn't see it because you didn't want to see, no one wants to see these things. And Dani... She didn't want anyone to know, not even your father. You know how badly that would have hurt him if he knew. She just couldn't." Lena heaved a long sigh, leaning back in the chair she was sitting on, by the bed. "After he died, she was crushed. Not only because he was gone, but because she would be gone as well, and she worried for you."
Crys shook her head. "That's why she insisted so much that Evin looked out for me. I get that." She mumbled. "I just... Wish she hadn't left things this way."

Lena was silent for a few moments before she spoke again. "So you know where the name White Rose came from?" she asked. "Your dad ever tell you that story?"
"No, he hasn't. I thought it was your alias in the Pack." Crys replied, a curious tone in her voice.
"No, no... It was..." She chuckled. "Actually, I don't even remember what my real alias was, after your father gave me the nickname it stuck."
"My father? Why would he do that?" She asked.
"Well... My last assignment before becoming instructor was to kill this girl. The motive, as far I was told, was an inheritance she was in control of and that would go to some cousin with a gambling problem after she died; her two brothers being too young to control the family fortune. It was a relatively easy kill; I knocked on the door with a basket of flowers, the two brothers were sparring in the front yard when I walked past. The girl opened the door, and I smiled offering her the flowers to buy, knowing she would say no. After she refused I asked if she could spare me something to drink, and she let me in. Once past the door, the moment she turned her back to me, I pulled my knife and put my arm around her neck, pressing it against her throat. She didn't scream, even though she had time, the two boys would be the only ones to hear it. Instead she whispered something to me right before I slashed her throat."
"What did she say?" Crys asked.
"She said: 'I'll ask the Twins to forgive you'." Lena replied, a slightly bitter laughter escaping her as she spoke the words. "It was the first time I ever heard anything like it and, for the first time, I felt remorse. So I left a white rose over her body, and I closed her eyes. I didn't know any prayers to say, but I mumbled a few words even so before leaving. I never forgot the sight though, of that blood stained white rose... I don't know how he knew, but he knew that."
"You're saying that you assassinated my dad's sister? And he knew?" Crys couldn't help a small laugh at that. "How did...?" She broke out in full laughter. "I'm sorry, but that's hysterical... So his revenge on you was a nickname?"
"His revenge on me was a permanent reminder of his sister's death, yes. The name caught on in a such a way that everyone in Valcrest knows it, even if they haven't met me in person. My own clan calls me by it, clueless to the fact that it refers to a painful regret. I'll never get rid of it." She laughed. "Yes, it's hysterical, but it is brilliant, isn't it? Bastian was truly a brilliant man. The moment he arrived, he knew who I was, but he didn't say anything. And then one day, he offered me a white rose, made sure Eldric saw it too, and went on about how he knew it was my favorite flower. That's when I realized who he really was. After that, he started calling me White Rose in front of others until the name spread. "He knew I couldn't say a word about it, because if I let people know who he really was, Dani would never forgive me for it, and he knew I wouldn't have that." She shook her head, seeming amused. "See, when there is someone you would do anything for, it's easy for people to use that."

"Yet you say it was brilliant." Crys said. "And the two of you were friends."
"True, it was brilliant. Your father could have clung to the idea of killing me, but he decided to find a way to punish me, and no one else. I couldn't help but respect him for that. In the end we turned all of our reasons to hate each other into sick private jokes and built a friendship around them."

"Huh... Wonder if Sean will accept 'Backstabbing Son of a Bitch' has a cute pet name..." Crys chuckled.
"That's different." Lena stated. "You should keep in mind though, what your father did, when time comes to settle that score."
"I'm trying to think like that, but it's not that easy for me. I saw him yesterday, and... If Ali hadn't been with me, I don't know what I would have done. I think... If it wasn't for these people that followed me out of the clan... If I didn't have to take care of them too... I would have done something incredibly stupid by now. Something that could have gotten a lot of people hurt. I'm trying to spare the clan, I still feel it's not their fault, but if I was completely true to how I feel..." She heaved a long sigh and left the sentence unfinished, vaguely remembering how her rage fit the previous day had been directed at the man. "You stil didn't tell me what you're doing here."
"I was looking for Mageria, I was told she would be here, but I think I missed her." Lena explained.
"Well, she's not in the castle, still somewhere in the city though." Crys informed absently.
"Alright, then maybe I should walk around and see if I can fin-"

Lena's voice was cut off by the loud screech of a bird coming from the window. The sound repeating over and over as the bird, Lena assumed, flew around outside. Crys' response to it, was to jump to her feet, grimacing from pain, and beginning to retrieve her weapons and her bag that had been left nearby. After a moment more the bird seemed to have gone away, but Crys was still alarmed from some reason.

"What was that about?" Lena asked, looking at her curiously.
"It's a signal. It means I have to go back right away." She stated. "Something happened."
"Something happened?" Lena asked, but Crys was halfway out the door.

Crys didn't stay long enough to explain anything more, if Ali had sent the bird after her then something had happened in camp, and she needed to get there before nightfall. Findind her way out of the castle was a lot easier now that she was rested, it didn't take long at all for her to be out the gates and into the city.

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

[Blackpond]

Jake was woken up in the morning by something soft being dragged over his face. He frowned and opened his eyes to the see the stuffed 'dragon' he slept with the night before being held in front of his eyes.

"Wakey, wakey, Killer." A silly voice Jake recognized as being Irvin's spoke as if being the dragon. The kid moved the dragon's paw to poke Jake in the nose with it. "Come on, you bum, move! I'm hungry, time for breakfast!" 'Drake' repeated the gesture of poking Jake's nose until finally he groaned and grabbed the toy out of Irvin's hands.

"Knock it off." He muttered, sitting up on the bed and rubbing his eyes until the blurriness was all gone from his sight, dropping Drake gently over his pillow.
"What is the deal with this stupid dog anyway?" Irvin asked. "Why is it so important?"
"He's a dragon!" Jake muttered. "And my sister made him for me a very long time ago, when my mother died. I'm sure you remember the story of what happened to her, so I don't have to remind you."
"Sorry, Killer, but your dragon looks awfully like a black dog with horns..." Irvin insisted. "I mean, I always thought it was a dog..."
"Didn't you say you were in a hurry?" Jake asked, standing up from the bed and beginning to head for the exit of the dormitory.
"Oh, gee, so sensitive." Irvin laughed, running to catch up with him. "Wait, you don't even know which way to go!"

After breakfast Jake took notice of excited and cheerful talking all over the 'city'. Irvin and Oliver exchanged looks and the boy grinned. "I'm going to take a closer look!" He exclaimed, rather excited himself as he ran off and Jake completely lost sight of him within minutes, which left him alone with Oliver, who had not yet spoken a word to him so far.

Jake smiled, looking up at the older man; he had actually been eager to speak to the man alone, if not for any other reason, out of curiosity. "So, what is this commotion about?" He asked curiously.
Oliver absently scratched the back of his head, fingers running through greying hair as he mumbled. "She's probably here. The boy explained to you why we're gathered down here, no?"
"Oh, yes..." Jake heaved an annoyed sigh. Irvin had indeed explained that he should be careful with demonstrating his true feelings towards Lamya as she was, without exaggeration, worshiped by the majority on the inhabitants of that odd community he had been dropped into. The official story was that they were all there awaiting the right moment to fight and return Blackpond to its former glory and most of the people there believed in that cause above all else. Even the ones who didn't would do anything for the simple priviledge of living down in the underground fortress... Protected from the sad reality of the city itself. Jake didn't believe it, he had conditioned himseld upon their very first meeting to doubt everything and anything that came from Lamya. He turned to Oliver after of moment of watching excited faces running over to maybe catch a glimpse of their 'savior'. "And what about you? What do you believe?"
"I believe in survival." The man replied. "Odds are just better down here." He gave Jake a curious glance from the corner of his eyes. "The boy, however, there is only one thing that matters to him. It's all he ever talks about since I met him. He seems to think you will be the way to get it." The man spoke as if he saw Jake as someone enabling an unrealistic plan of world domination. "You of all people."

"Me, of all people." Jake repeated absently, laughing a bit to himself at the thought. "How long have you known Irvin?"
"A year and a half, or so. The boy is trouble, lies, cheats, steals... You've seen. Like I said, all the while everything he talked about was getting even with 'guy with the knife', he seems to have liked you though. Maybe he thinks that in some level you're the only one who understands, I don't know what it is exactly."
Jake sighed. "I was just a troubled kid myself. No more no less. If I can pull him away from that idea of his, then I will."
Oliver shook his head. "You were troubled? Kid, you went to sleep holding a stuffed animal, and I'm pretty sure I heard some humming from you. You're as messed up as they come."
"It has sentimental value." Jake argued. "And no you didn't."
Oliver laughed out. "Sure I didn't kid. Sure I didn't." He eyed Jake carefully for a second. "You think you can help the boy?"
"If I can't... I surely know some people who can. They helped me after all." Jake replied, with a small sigh. "And the name is Jake, not 'kid'.
"Well... Jake... I hope you know at least how to reach the dormitory on your own, because I have some business of my own to take care of, and I rather do that alone." With that said, Oliver left Jake where he stood, and he stayed there for a bit of time watching the expression on people's faces, they were absolutely happy with living in the safety of their prison.

Irvin made his way back to the dormitory after managing to sneak a peek at the woman who was, officially speaking, their leader. He and Jake had a very long talk the night before about loyalties, about truths and lies, and how, to his eyes, the woman was poisonous. The boy wasn't sure how much he agreed, but he did find the conversation interesting and he listened carefully to the man's opinions. He did have a lot to learn, and it seemed to him that Jake was willing to share something with him.

As he reached the room, his eyes widened and a grin spread across his pale features as he saw the figure of a woman, seemingly asleep, on his bed. She wouldn't be there unless she was new, or a visitor. Irvin didn't think twice to snoop around and find out which. Carefully, without a sound, he crouched next to the bed and looked the woman over, searching for a pocket, or a valuable, he could reach easily without alarming her. Finally he found a pocket he could reach and started to slowly slip his hand into it.

That's when an annoyed voice called from the doorway, in a whisper: "Irvin!"

The boy startled, and as he did so, it awoke the woman, who responded by punching him on the side of his face. Losing his balance he fell back on the floor and looked up as Jake stood over him.

"What did I tell you, kid?" Jake asked, in an agered tone.
"Stealing is bad?" Irvin asked, trying to fake an innocent tone. "I'm sorry, but she's in my bed!"
"I don't care!" Jake retorted, offering a hand to help him up. "Apologize."
"What? No." Irvin argued, taking the offered hand. "I didn't even take anything, and she punched me!"
"And you deserved it. Now, apologize to the lady." Jake insisted.
Irvin sighed, looking down at his feet as she turned to the woman and muttered. "My apologies, miss." After which the boy attempted to leave the dorm, but Jake gripped him by the arm and whispered. "Find the man in black armor, and keep track of his movements for me." He released Irvin and the boy gave an intrigued look, before grinning and leaving the room in a hurry.

Jake shook his head as the teenager left, a small chuckle escaping him. "Excuse the kid, miss, he has a few bad habits, but he's not bad himself." That said he sat on the edge of his own bed across the room. "My name is Jake, by the way. Jake Turner. Who might you be?"

The setting changes from newhaven to Blackpond

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Jake Turner Character Portrait: Darren Hearst

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Jake felt his amusement change into a painful sting of anger the moment Dani's name was mentioned, and it was clear; a deep frown wrinkled his forehead and his fists clenched at his sides. His eyes sparkled blue menancingly, and he took a deep shaky breath before he finally spoke, almost in a growl. "For what you heard?" He muttered, almost under his breath, but in a still perfectly audible tone. "For what I heard, Rita, your pal Hastings was a traitor who murdered his King because the old man was senile and no longer fit to rule this hellhole, and then got killed for it. However, I'm not the type of man who immediately believes everything he's told. Now, there are two sides to that story you just told, in both of them I am, in fact, responsible for the death of a woman who raised me as if I was her son and a great many things happened as result, including the near assassination of someone who is very important to me, so I won't bother to explain myself to you, because those aren't things you explain to a complete stranger in a prison. Maybe one day in the future, if we both live to see it, I can enlighten you on the matter. Now, I am man enough to admit to what I have done, and I understand that perhaps you need to dump your frustration on someone... I don't mind being that someone. However, don't dare utter Dani's name again as if she was a mere pawn in a chess board... Or I will break your neck."

After saying that, he seemed to calm as he sat on his own bed and heaved a sigh. "I think the Myths, whether they are true or not, excuse us for what we are. They show that the Twins were flawed, their children were worse, and if Gods are selfish, cruel, and murderous, why shouldn't we be?" He snickered softly, pulling the golden chain around his neck and absently fiddlling with it. "That's what people search for in the Gods, I believe... Themselves, a justification of some sort... Answers to inexistent questions..." He locked his gaze on the woman's for the first time and smiled. "You say the Twins, Mother and Father... They hide the truth. but do you truly believe we seek the truth, if there's one? People don't want the truth, they just want something to believe in. Look around you, this place is living proof of it."

Leaning back further on the bed, Jake pulled the chain further until the golden locket slipped out the insides of his shirt; spinning it slowly on its chain, he watched the movement of the jewelry as he continued speaking. "I've heard that Hastings murdered the King, but the few people I've spoken to who've met him believe he wouldn't have done it. Including the former leader of the White Shadows, and that tells me something since she was in no way fond of the man. So I'm far more interested in hearing what I haven't heard from anyone, because they didn't know what to answer; Who is this man you call a King? Because I'm pretty sure that he isn't Rory's son." He couldn't dare speak ill of Lamya in the underground city, but 'King Richard' wasn't a problem, and his brief encounter with the Blackpond ruler had made Jake intrigued, and not in a pleasant way.

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

A crowd of men gathered around a table, hooting and hollaring cheers of encouragement and insults, tossing trinkets and coin about. In the center, two men were arm wrestling for more than a few minutes; their struggle teetering back and forth in their favor only to make the pot all the sweeter. On the right, a blond man roared as his free hand gripped the table to steady himself as the veins in his neck bulged in his attempt to pin his opponents arm down. On the left, a black curly haired man seemed calm even though he was losing at the moment. His blue eyes flickered with traces of purple as they narrowed in a defiant expression, an impertinent smirk curling his tightening lips.

“Darren, stop teasing and pin the guy already!” A man belted out, accompanied by an assortment of cheers in agreement.

Darren, tossed a few curly locs from his gaze, stretching his fingers from his grip while his opponnent still held on, pressing further to win, barely off the table. The man tightened and locked his fingers back around the blond’s hand, the flame tattoo along his forearm appearing to flicker to life as his muscle flexed. “I’m not teasing....” He chuckled as his arm began to rise, the blond’s eyes widening as he felt Darren’s strength grow. “Ok, this is getting boring.” Darren joked, suddenly slamming the blond’s hand hard against the table. Releasing his opponent with a satisfied grin plastered upon his face, he stood firmly patting the man’s shoulder respectfully. “Good match, friend!” The hilarity of the crowd’s exuberance was fueled with Darren raising his fists in the air dramatically with a chuckle before he collected his winnings. There was a nice assortment of coin and cigarettes(which he would trade back for other things later).

Gradually Darren made his way back down the halls to his cot, receiving nods, smiles, and handshakes from several who passed showing that this man was known throughout the place and was well liked overall. He relaxed stretching his lengthy yet muscular legs out, his back propped up along the wall as he reached for a tattered book he had been reading to pass the time. There wasn’t anything really all the special about the book, as it was just a collection of stories concerning the Twins and their descendents, but every time he held the book his Enlightenment would kick start, showing the same vision of a young brunette beauty. His eyes glowed in a purple hue for a few seconds before fading as the image of this woman came and went, unable to hold onto her face for too long at a time. Strange it was that this inanimate object held a single vision, this woman’s energy focused into the trinket more than anything else it may have encountered. Darren didn’t feel it was really crucial, he just couldn’t get over the girl’s beauty and the green of her eyes.

Darren’s smile faded as he gradually remembered the first time he discovered his gift only six years ago. He had been avoiding his tutor that day, not in the mood to work his numbers since it was his least favorite subject, and he had taken to the streets of Blackpond wandering aimlessly for amusement. He accidently happened to come across a shiny dagger that looked to have been dumped between two buildings, but not very discretely. Darren noticed the blade was crusted over with a red residue, further fueling his interest in the object so that he kneeled to pick it up. The second his fingers came into contact with the object, his hand involuntarily tightened around the hilt of the blade, the sight in front of him flashing a replacement horror. It came and went so suddenly, but it didn’t erase was had been burnt into his mind: Several different men and women stabbed repeatedly with the same blade, the looks of terror and pain always the same. As if they were in disbelief at what was happening to them or if it had been by a familiar or trusted individual.

Darren threw the blade clear across the street from himself, still he could see the victim’s wide eyes of shock and their mouths twisted in a final silent scream. That boy took off in frantic run, panicking all the way home only to hide in his room for the rest of the day. His father eventually got him to unlock the door, but he had refused to tell him what scared him so bad as he was unsure if his father would even believe him.

Each time it happened, it was always different. A different kind of vision triggered by touch to a person or object and even once a particular place. Sometimes the rush would cause dizziness and nausea and other times he would get blinding migraines accompanied by nose bleeds. With those side effects, he wasn’t able to hide it from his father Asher for long, but it did turn out better than expected. Asher was intrigued and found Darren another tutor, but this one taught him to hone his talent and use it on command. Although he didn’t always understand what was shown to him, it did make the next few years easier, knowing he wasn’t crazy.

Irvin tried to keep an eye on the man in Black armor like Jake had asked him to, but he truly wasn't interested in it, and he didn't quite understand what was the point. The excited cheers and shouts of a gathered crowd pulled his attention from the man he was supposed to follow. Making his way past the taller individuals Irvin managed to take a look at the arm wrestling match that was taking place at one of the tables. The boy's curiosity spiked as he observed the winner, who was being referred to as Darren. He'd heard of the guy, and had been hearing more and more in the past couple of months, but had never actually met him. Tilting his head to the side as the guy walked past him, he decided maybe it was about time and started to follow him from a distance, absently rolling a wet piece of cloth around his fist and using his enlightenment to form little ice crystals on the surface of the fabric. Once frozen, Irv pressed the fabric to the left side of his face, where a bruise had started to form itself from the punch he received from the sleeping woman. He snorted out in annoyance remembering he had been forced to apologize for that... It was a little humiliating.

Keeping one eye on Darren, he followed him to the dormitory, but stopped a few minutes before following him all the way through, re-frosting the now melted cloth he was holding, and again pressing it to his bruise. Walking into the dormitory he greeted with. "Hey there, winner." Leaning against the wall at a respectful distance. "That was a nice match, say... Care to spend some of those winnings? I could use some income right now. And before you ask what I'm selling; name it and I'll get it for you. Except girls, I don't do that. I do however know a guy." He stated, giving a light shrug.

Darren’s attention shattered from his current thoughts, his gaze lifting from the book to meet the man’s across from his cot. Giving a modest shrug, Darren smiled as he swung his legs over the side in a sitting position, tucking the book beneath his cot. “Thanks man...I’ve only lost once so far....” A snicker escaped him suddenly as he remembered that match, “You know..that beast of a guy, Kyle I think his name is? He’s bloodly huge! Big as an ox I swear...his arms are the thickness of my leg.” Cocking his head he quirked a brow looking over the man speaking to him, thinking he looked familiar, as he was around his age. When he mentioned being able to acquire whatever he desired for a fee Darren nodded as it all came together. “Oh...I’ve heard of you...sorry didn’t catch your name, but I’m Darren...”

Resting his elbows upon his knees, Darren slouched forward hanging his head in thought. “Well, I’m not into men, friend...and I’d like not to have to pay for a lady’s company anyways...what would I want? I’m afraid I’m not one for trinkets...I’m a ‘keep it simple’ kind of guy.” He muttered in distracted thought. “Besides, you seem like a ‘take what I want when I want it’ kind of guy. Why you interested in doing business?” He chuckled. “There..is this one...thing...but naw nevermind.” Flipping his body back around Darren laid down upon the cot, relaxing as if he were going to take a nap.

Irvin would have left it at that, but he was curious, and he also wasn't so fond of people telling him what kind of guy he was, even if it was almost a correct assumption. "Well, friend, like I said... I need the income, but if I was to explain further I'm afraid I'd have to kill you." He said playfully. "Besides, I don't take things because I want them. I rarely want them, actually. I take things, because I can. And when I can't, I try again. Because, who knows... Some day I just might need something. Practice makes perfect, wouldn't you say?" He asked, tilting his head playfully to one side. "And I've got lots and lots of practice. Now..." He started, unrolling the cloth he was using, and stretching it absently in front of his face, his eyes sparkling a brighter blue as a bit of steam rose from the fabric and it was dry. Once dry he folded the cloth and hid it in his shirt pocket, taking a flask from another pocket and taking a long drink of water from it as if he hadn't had any in days. "Now, I'm sure that whatever it is you want is worth something to you, right? I can usually get my hands on anything, or get favors from anyone, because a lot of people here have used my skill at one point or another. It's important to keep things peaceful and it's easier to snatch what you want than arguing over it, am I right?" He then shrugged. "If you don't want my help though... I'm sure is not too important."

He went silent for a bit staring at the ceiling before going into a completely different subject. "Did you get to see Her? She was here, possibly still is, roaming around the place... Brought this Black Knight with her too... Odd isn't it? Wonder what he's looking for..." His eyes sparkled slightly as he grinned. "Man... She's pretty though, ain't she?"

Crossing his arms behind his head for a pillow, Darren closed his eyes listening to the man speak. His tone remained even, friendly, almost carefree when he responded, “Hey..guy what you do with your money and such is your business, no sweat. I’m sure you’re good at whatever it is you do, as we all have our talents.” Darren peeked one eye open at the man, trying to remember if he had heard his name or not. He honestly wasn’t sure if he would give him such a task, as to the one he was comtemplating and as he thought it over in his mind his other eye opened at the change of subject. He had trained himself not to cringe whenever someone spoke of the woman who brought him here, as he found it easier to be liked by most if he simply played along with the popular vote down there.

Darren chuckled slightly, avoiding the man’s questions, “Ah, so you believe she’ll lead us all to greatness and glory? Who knows what that....” He paused trying to place an agreeable, yet not untruthful word to Lamya. “...enticing woman has truly planned for us all. I honestly am just missing the feeling of the wind on my back and the fresh air.” Clearing his throat, he glanced in the man’s direction, “Well, I have yet to come across an ugly redhead, but I prefer brunettes myself.” He smiled, not quite avoiding or answering that last question as well. Slowly Darren sat up, as if it were a chore and he wasn’t sure if he wanted to move, reaching to his side there were two pouches. Unhooking one from his waist he tossed it easily in the man’s direction. “Why not...not like I need the money really in here anyways...but I’ll give you half now in good faith and for a name...” A playful smiled widened his features, the whites of his teeth peeking past his lips. “The other half after you retrieve something from my father, Asher...you may have heard of him? Brown hair, blue eyes, a bit shorter than me...we have the same chin. He’s in his fifties I think now..” Darren trailed off, his brows narrowing when he thought of his father, showing he wasn’t to fond of the man, but not flaunting how deep the dislike went.

Irvin chuckled softly at Darren's question on his beliefs. "I don't believe in glory or greatness, friend... Only in survival, and that's the only thing on my plans, until I... Get what I truly seek." He walked to a vacant bed and jumped on it, casually stretching over it as if he owned it, still keeping one eye on Darren. "Wind and fresh air, huh? Well that might be a little more expensive, mate." He stated causally, a hint of a smirk crossing his features. "Not impossible though. Just pointing it out." Irvin sighed a little bit staring at the ceiling again. "Any brunettes or a particular one, mate?" He asked, raising an eyebrow comically. "Aye, redheads are pretty overall, but She is... I dunno... Different."

When the subject shifted back to business, Irvin jumped into a sitting position, picking the coin pouch in mid-air, not really bothering to check what, or how much, was in it, could be pebbles for all he cared. "Irvin. Irvin Grant. You can call me Irv, if you want. And aye, Asher, I've seen him. What should I be retrieving?"

Running a few fingers through his hair, the strands fell against his ears as he nodded distantly. “Survival is only instinctual after all....and if all goes well in this venture...perhaps I’ll inquire to your price for fresh air.” Darren sighed, the bulk of his chest rising and falling just slightly at the thought of the green eyed brunette from his visions. “Brunettes in general...course the ones from our dreams, the untouchable are always my favorite it seems. We always desire what we can’t have...or what doesn’t exist. Isn’t that Ironic?” He kept quiet at Irvin's mention of Her being different, thinking how much of an understatement that was, holding back a laugh.

Darren smiled, his hands gesturing into a small square like shape as he spoke, “Irv...you will find on Asher a small ledger that he keeps close to him at all times. Honestly, how that was not taken away from him when he was arrested, I don’t know. It’s red and black, easily concealed...and it has a list of all his contacts through life and business and who their connections are to.” Darren rolled his eyes as his smile faded to look at Irvin. “I don’t care if you read it, because honestly friend, I would be curious to. All I ask is that you bring it to me in one piece. It may or may not be important to others, but I have my own reasons for wanting that book. Honestly my father acts like he’s such a smart man, but I see this ledger as proof to the contrary.” Darren knew besides business contacts, enemies, there would be names of family and possibly other useful tidbits. He wasn’t positive since he’d only glimpsed the small book once before as a child. Hopefuly Irvin would prove successful because Darren knew interaction between his father and himself would only lead to out right conflict and trouble, and he needed to keep things easy going.

“So whatcha think Irv? Sound fair? I mean, in addition if all goes well I can definitely throw business your way...maybe even return the favor. I’d like to think I'm an honorable kind of guy.” Darren’s eyes glistened, bits of violet flecks prominent against the icy blue.

Irvin listened carefully to Darren's description of what he wanted from his father. It seemed simple enough for someone like him to get his hands on a ledger. "Alright mate, I take it I can have it for you within two days time. I like to observe my targets and I'll probably hold on to it for a day as well, I assume your old man will look for it once he knows it's gone, no? If you like I can even make a copy for you just in case, you know, something happens to the original." He offered with a light shrug. Irv wasn't what one could call and honorable man or even a reliable one, but when there was pay involved, he would be as thorough as possible. "Aside from that, anything I should know about? Is he enlightened, booby traps his pockets, sleepwalks, anything? I'd really hate to be caught off guard." He said, lazily laying back on the bed again, as if he owned that spot. "And then maybe we'll see about fresh air, bud, but I'd be quick about it if I were you. Offers as good as this tend to expire rather quickly." He said, giving a playful wink. He wasn't meant to speak a word of it to anyone, that's what he promised Jake, but he knew getting out wouldn't be very easy and allies wouldn't be easy to find in there as most were more than happy to stay down there forever. Hell, Irvin himself wouldn't mind living the rest of his days in that little city, wasn't for the fact he wanted revenge on the Alpha for what he'd done to his family.

Darren smiled, hopping to his feet in a final accomplished nod. “Sounds good friend...make a copy and we’ll figure where to stash it for ....insurance..and Yes....the old geezer will probably start with me first when it goes missing.” Walking over to Irvin he extended his hand waiting politely for Irvin’s in exchange to close the agreement. “Sounds like a deal then.” Darren’s grip was firm, the palm of his hand rough and dry as he gave a steady shake, staring into Irvin’s eyes, his own flashing a violet glow for a second, causing him to withdraw his grip suddenly. Darren let out a small groan, his fingers finding his temples as veins pulsed painfully along his forehead before it dissipated. He glanced aside for only a second, but in that moment his eyes faded back to their blue and violet detail, a smile breaking through the fading pain. Motioning towards the bruise on Irv's face he nodded slowly, the vision of a woman on a cot slugging Irvin already scattering into reality. “...No sweat friend, I wouldn’t want to hit a pretty lady either, even if she did clock me good.”

Clearing his throat he went back on the conversation. “Don’t worry about the old man...no enlightenments. But he’s not a sound sleeper...and he sleeps with his eyes open..so be careful. I don’t know for sure where he keeps this item on him.”

“Darren! Some fool thinks he can pin you in under 30 seconds. You ready?” A voice echoed from down the hall.

Darren shook his head comically and shrugged, “We’ll continue this at another time, no? Excuse me, but I need to acquire the rest of your payment.”

Irvin had gotten to his feet to shake Darren's hand and seal their deal, but as soon as they did so the man seemed to withdraw his hand as if he had been stung. Irv didn't quite understand what that was about until Darren pointed to his face and made a comment on his run-in with the sleeping Lady. Irvin scracthed the back of his head in confusion only half listening to Darren said next, only breaking out of his confused trance when the man turned to leave. "She was in my bed!" He stated. "And what are you, a freaking telepath?"

The setting changes from blackpond to Valcrest

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Jake Turner Character Portrait: Sean Fletcher

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[Newhaven/Forest]

Sean rushed out of the Inn without looking around, so he didn’t see who was sitting there until he heard a familiar voice. His only reaction was to stop, let out an annoyed growl, and continue to walk with the words. “Piss off.” That was the most of his attention he was willing to offer Ella in that moment. He had enough problems of his own to take care of; he wasn’t going to be a part of whatever crazy that girl had going through her mind. So he simply kept walking the fastest way out of the city, chewing on the apple he had gotten and not stopping to think until he reached the forest and Franklin’s voice shattered the silence. “There is something else you need to know…”

[Blackpond]

Jake flinched slightly at Rita’s immediate reaction to his words; perhaps he’d gone a bit too far in his anger. He didn’t know Hastings, and it was clear that Rita was close to the man. When she apologized he simply nodded. “There is no need for apologies, Rita. You don’t know me, and I can see that you and I have different views on what loyalty really means, so I have no reason to resent you questioning my honor. I can honestly say I never betrayed Dani Rivers, I can also honestly say I have not betrayed the Black Knights, but while I believe that to be the truth, I understand how you might not see it that way.” He said absently, with a little smirk. “It’s a matter of perception, I suppose” He added.

He listened that what Rita told him about Rory’s death and Rick in silence. It was nothing different from what he already knew, as he already expected it to be, rather he paid close attention to her expression and her tone. She didn’t seem too comfortable around him, but she also seemed to be honest in her words, which told him that she probably had no one she trusted to say those things to; she had no other reason to be telling him anything. “If I said I want to help, then, would you believe me?” He asked her with a slightly amused smile. “I have my personal reasons to be going after Rick, of course, but that doesn’t mean I can’t help you. I have nothing against Blackpond, only its ruler. Surely, I’m not the only one.”

As she asked him whether he believed in the Gods, Jake stopped to think a moment, going over the question in his head for about two minutes, before replying: “I think, I believe in what they represent, I’m not sure I believe they walked the Land.” He chuckled, and gave a light shrug. “I’m not sure what is real or not, if there is any reality to it at all. I’m not sure if I believe in Heaven. Sometimes I’d much rather not, because I might not be allowed in. Have you ever thought of that? Now, there’s a crazy thought, huh? I do like to believe in what the myths represent, though. I like to believe that no being was ever perfect, not even the Gods, I like to believe that there is balance in the world somewhere, or that it can be achieved somehow. It comforts me, and that’s just reason enough to believe.” He then paused for a moment, before shaking his head and adding. “I think I might have spent too much time with the Healers, but here’s the difficult question, in my opinion: Do you believe in people? Now that’s something I can’t make up my mind on.”