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Luckas

"There's nothing to fear... Except maybe reality." *snickers*

0 · 1,578 views · located in Raven's Nest

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

Groups

A brotherhood of people who aim to cleanse the land from enlightenment.

Description

General Information


Full Name: Luckas Yurin (real first name unknown)

Nicknames/Aliases: Luke, Lukey, Sweetness (only by Ess), Freak/Vermin/Maggot (only by Jake), Stupid Boy (by Lena), Mr. Luckas (by the children of the Raven’s camp)

Age: 20-ish (birth date unknown)

Gender: Male

Sexual Orientation: Straight

Place of Birth: Unnamed village nearby Blackpond, Valcrest

Affiliation: The Order (officially, but not at heart)/Independent

Rank: Branded/Psycho Killer

Important Associates: Essence Talon (his... uhm... Lady), Stalker (wolf companion/best friend/snuggle beast) Annie Turner (friend/adopted sister figure), Sam ‘Johnson’ (Mistress of The Order/manipulative obsessive stalker bitch), Amber (Order minion/frenemy)

Known Family: Andrej Mikael Yurin (father - deceased at age 25), Clarice Layla Jensen (mother, currently age 35; whereabouts unknown), Matthew (identical twin brother; deceased at age 15)

Main Theme: Cold - With My Mind

Theme Song 02: Alice in Chains - Down in a Hole

Theme Song 03: Slipknot - Dead Memories

Theme Song 04: Noel Gallagher - Wonderwall

Theme Song 05: The Devlins - Waiting

Skills And Talents

Magical Imprint: Luckas is a gifted telepath. Not only is he capable of commanding others with his voice, but he can manipulate their memories through eye contact or even cause them horrifying and deadly hallucinations with a simple touch.

The most frequently used and most convenient of Luke’s skills is mind control. The ability ranges from a slight suggestion (what Luke calls a ‘whisper’), to an actual command (a ‘shout’), which will drive the target to do what he's told no matter what stands in his way. Despite the terminology Luke uses, the actual volume of his voice is not a factor on the intensity of the command, a whisper soft enough to barely be heard by a targeted victim may be powerful enough to subdue even a fellow telepath if Luckas puts enough force behind it.

Through direct eye contact he can access, alter, or even erase a person's memories. His eyes usually mimic the person's eye color when this happens, and the person usually finds it to be impossible to break the eye contact. It takes only a few moments for Luckas to retrieve one single memory and if Luke knows what to search for he can get information out of someone in a glance without them noticing. A more thorough look into someone’s mind would call for a secure environment, seeing as Luckas becomes unaware of his surroundings for the duration of this process.

Luckas can also cause sensorial hallucinations, which will make an individual not only see, but hear, feel, smell and taste the darkest, most terrifying corners of their own minds. These hallucinations can not be dispelled; not even by Luckas himself, usually causing the victim to be trapped in them for as long as they are able to live. Most victims go into distress and die of natural causes within minutes, others end their own lives after the first few hours... Luckas claims to have made victims last for days, however those are rare cases. Survival is possible, in theory, if the victim has developed a strong resistance to telepathic attacks and/or is a telepath themselves. Luckas can ‘activate’ this at will, but this ‘lethal mode’ may also trigger on its own should Luckas lose control of his emotional or mental stability, making it so Luckas may pose as a threat even to those he does not wish to harm. His eyes turn red when this ability is active, in which case the slightest contact with his bare skin will be enough to take away a person’s sanity.

Other Skills: trap making, tracking, stealth, ranged weapons (crossbow/throwing blades), extensive knowledge of anatomy, mythology, and magic.

Appearance

Body type: Luckas is a considerably short guy; standing at only 1,66m tall (around 5’,5’’) and slim. Despite being small and appearing quite fragile he has always been stronger than he let on, being able to withstand a good deal of physical punishment without being phased and walking for extended amounts of time without rest. Combat training (which he does not excel at to be honest) has more recently helped him develop some muscle, but not to an extent that would be noticeable with clothes still on his back.

Face: Luckas has what one may call a baby face. He could easily pose as a teenager despite the fact he must have passed his twentieth birthday at some point in the past year. He tries his best to not let his true emotions show, his expression usually alternating between mocking and stoic. However he does relax and let the facade fade around the few people he’s most comfortable with, proving quite charming not to say adorable when he allows himself to act natural.

Eyes: Luckas’ eyes are unusually dark as an effect of the magic imprinted into his blood; both the irises and pupils sharing the same deep black most of the time. However they change to mimic his victims when looking into their memories, and turn a bright red when in ‘lethal mode’. His natural eye color is supposedly a dark grey.

Hair: Luckas has black straight hair. It is usually just above shoulder length. Being rather careless about his appearance, Luke rarely combs his hair, giving it an almost constant ‘just got out of bed’ look. He also occasionally neglects to have it trimmed, but gets annoyed and takes care of it once it reaches a certain length and starts going into his eyes.

Scars/Tattoos/Birthmarks: Luckas has claw marks scarring his chest that he claims were caused by a bear attack, even though they are visibly larger than a bear’s would be (actually caused by a huge demon creature, but he doesn’t like to talk about it). Luckas has the sigil of The Order branded into the back of his left shoulder; a sword stabbing through an eye (image). Luke’s only tattoo (as of yet) is of a fist holding an eye engulfed in flames, the eye color a curious mix of violet and a dark smoky grey color. It was given to him (and signed by) Essence as a gift that he would always carry with him. He also has teeth marks on his left forearm from a wolf bite, even though they are not easy to notice due to the tattoo covering the area of the bite.

Reference image: THIS - I do not own this image, nor was it created for this specific character. It is simply one I found similar to how I picture Luckas in my head. All credit belongs to the artist.

Actual character drawing: Here (drawing by gaiadarkstar)

Personality

Overall: In great part due to his past, Luckas has difficulty empathizing or forming meaningful emotional attachments. This emotional numbness combined with a talent for inflicting mental and physical torture led to the development of a very deep rooted sadistic streak early on in life. The fact that killing was the only way for Luke to feel some level of connection to others has given him a need to hunt, like an itch that occasionally needs to be scratched and despite enjoying it, Luke is adamant in not hurting just anyone. He treats his nature as an addiction, one he will never overcome and as such, makes sure to choose victims that are (in his eyes at least) deserving of the punishment.

Despite the fact he takes joy in his acts of violence, Luckas is not usually aggressive, tending to act childishly curious or even playful when meeting new people, even if most of the time he grows bored of them quickly. This contrast in his personality can make Luke very hard to read, and all the more dangerous since he may be smiling one moment and stabbing someone’s eyes out the next with little to no warning.

Luckas has a considerable amount of people he respects, or even admires, but only a rare few he could sincerely call friends or admit to caring about. While he’s not outwardly warm to those he does care for, and has trouble initiating or accepting any physical affection, Luke does his best to be a comforting presence when and where he is needed (noting that his best is... not... really all that great...).


Likes: His Lady, cake children, inflicting fear, cake, blood, hunting, puppies, fiery fun, alcohol, silly hats, cake, cake, cake, all the cake.

Dislikes: Arrogant people, authority figures, lies, being told to behave, enclosed spaces and cats; he absolutely hates cats.

Equipment

Weapons: Luke doesn’t currently own or carry weapons, but isn’t picky about what he uses to hurt or kill someone, usually picking up whatever he can find. He’s good with a crossbow, but considers the weapon to be too bulky and slow to fit his needs beyond hunting for food.

Other Items: Luckas carries with him his favorite pair of boots (sometimes on his person, sometimes on his bag; depending on circumstances), some drawings (some by Ess and a couple by Miss Lily) the occasional black feather picked off the ground, and not much else.

History

Early Life

Luckas was born in a simple house, on a village surrounding the city of Blackpond. What little he knows of his parents is only what he could investigate and piece together from memory fragments. His father was a criminal, although Luke is unsure what his activities entailed exactly; something along the lines of petty thefts and small cons, his mother spent most of her time in the house and Luke’s strongest memories of her involve being ignored or punished for some made up transgression.

When Luckas and his brother were somewhere between three and four years of age their father was brutally murdered in their home and the boys were disposed of by their mother; given away to the man in charge of The Order. The boys were taken to the city of Newhaven where they were each imprinted with a strong telepathic ability and kept in a dark isolated room underneath one of the city’s shops. There they underwent what the Order calls ‘conditioning’. For close to six years several handlers caused the boys severe physical and psychological abuse in an attempt to strip them completely of their will, but once it became clear that their abilities were too powerful to control they were considered a liability and the Master at the time commanded they be disposed of.

The details of how the two boys’ lives were spared are hazy at best. The city guard of Newhaven found them once the corpse of their latest handler began to stink up the abandoned shop, drawing the attention of passers by. The boys were malnourished, dehydrated, and wounded, and despite the open basement door had not moved from their respective spots curled up against the basement walls. After several weeks of medical care they were placed in city orphanage, where they terrified most of the children and some of the caretakers until they escaped at age thirteen.

Dark Mirror

Luckas’ brother, Matthew, lacked the same level of control as Luckas when it came down to killing. He killed so often and caused such devastating effects on his victims that he became known amongst the population as Dark Mirror. The only times in which he was able to feel anything was as a side effect of his enlightenment: He was able to feel the pain of his victims as they relived their darkest hours. Even if unpleasant, it was better than nothing, so the boy began attacking more and more often, anyone who crossed his way.

While Matthew drove anyone in his path into insanity, simply for the thrill, Luckas became fascinated with the effects of his brother’s gift on people, stalking the victims and taking pleasure from watching them squirm until they eventually killed others and/or themselves. At first Luke did his best to cover his brother’s tracks, but as Matthew became more and more uncontrollable Luckas allowed the Newhaven guard to seize him and lock him away in the deepest levels of the city dungeons. He continued on his own after that, hunting down ‘worthy’ prey and killing for himself.

Despite initially claiming that he never cared for his brother and that Matthew was ‘too far gone’, Luckas later expressed remorse for not killing Matt, recognizing that allowing him to be locked away in the dark alone was a fate worse than death itself. Matthew died at the hands of the Captain of the Black Knights during a prison riot a few years later.

Meeting Essence

Luckas met Essence Talon at age fifteen in Newhaven, when she came across him and one of his victims in an alleyway late at night. Luckas was spent from using his gift on the man (which drove him to suicide almost on the spot), and had just enough energy left to go into her mind and erase any memory of their meeting. Or so he thought.

The White Shadows

At age fifteen Luckas’ activities drew the attention of Lena Turner after the healer managed to retrieve the memories of one of his dying victims. When Luckas became aware of this he tracked her down and attacked her, but the woman’s telepathic abilities were too strong for Luckas and his ability backfired causing him severe agony. He got away, barely, but Lena tracked him down in a matter of days and dragged him in shackles to the White Shadows’ encampment in the Plains. There she pointed out to him the gaps in his memory before his time in the orphanage and offered to help him remember his childhood under the conditions that he stay in the encampment and allow her to study his abilities. Luke refused at first, but the woman managed to sway him and in the following years Luckas remained in the healers’ encampment. Under Lena’s guidance the boy learned to read, learned to better control his telepathy, and gained a great deal of knowledge of mythology and anatomy; almost as much so as any of the healers in the camp. The newfound knowledge and focus, amongst other things, actually served to make Luckas into a better killer and while he tried his best to keep out of trouble in his time with the healers there had been incidents here and there between him and a few patients. Enough to cause tension between him and some of the healers in the camp. Still, Lena persisted in working with him and attempting to retrieve his memories, without success.

When tensions began to rise between the White Shadows and the city of Blackpond, which led to the city’s army attacking the healers’ camp and imprisoning several of them, Lena included, Luckas allowed himself to be dragged along into the dungeons, eventually aiding a group of Newhaven soldiers and Wolfpack assassins sent to rescue the healers and the heir to Newhaven’s throne that had been caught in the commotion.

After the rescue Luckas separated from the group, but Lena caught up with him to inform him that she was leaving Valcrest for a while, but that she would be back to keep her promise to retrieve his missing memories and would know if he hadn’t been behaving.

Return to Newhaven

Luckas wandered Valcrest aimlessly for a few years after Lena’s departure, camping in a different spot every night, hunting small animals in the forest for food and only going into the cities for the occasional human prey. During one of his hunts he came across a giant demonic beast. The beast attacked him on sight, nearly clawing his chest open, but when Luckas used his telepathy he discovered the demon still had enough of a human mind to be controlled for just long enough to allow Luckas to flee.

In the Beast’s mind Luckas so persistent thoughts of the Black Knight captain, Mageria, whom he had met in the Blackpond dungeons. Still intrigued at the knowledge the woman had survived being attacked by Matthew, Luckas took the opportunity to seek her out in Newhaven.

So begins...

Luckas'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.

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

“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.

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

“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.

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

[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.

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

“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.

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

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.”

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

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?”

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

[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.”

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[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?”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Crystal Rivers Character Portrait: Luckas Character Portrait: Allison Blake Character Portrait: Sean Fletcher

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"Why aren't you and Allison in the woods with the pack?"

Theron had touched a subject Ali knew Crys wanted to avoid. She didn't mind waiting on her friend to sort things out; she had adapted to the desert fairly well. She actually enjoyed the company of the Crimson most times, it didn't take much for the desert ruins to feel much like home; more than the forest could at this point. Even so... Many assassins had been questioning when they were going home, or at least how they would make Sean pay for his betrayal... They were still waiting for Crys to wake up and do something. Ali knew that she was struggling with ideas of revenge, hanging onto to thoughts of what she could have done or should have seen to stop this from happening. It was pointless, and Ali had told her so, but in the end it seemed Crys was going through some strange grieving process of her own. Evin had taunted Sean for not being able to properly kill Crys, but the man had said he wanted her to suffer... And he had got that part just right; no matter how much Crys tried to pretend he hadn't.

After a while of dead silence, Ali and Dastan exchanged a look, and Ali extended that look to Crys; her expression clearly stated that she would handle the questions if Crys wasn't willing to talk and, even though Crys couldn't see it, it was clear that she caught the meaning behind it, because she finally spoke up after that. "A lot can change in four years." She stated simply, lifting her head to face the man. "I'll start from the beginning: About a year after you left, my mother... Died. The exact circumstances of her death is something we don't speak of anymore. The only thing that matters is that she was ill. She had been ill for quite a while, she was probably already ill the last time you saw her." She made a small pause and after a moment continued. "I took command of the clan, and made Evin Second. Not so long after that, weeks, maybe a month, Blackpond attacked the White Shadows and Newhaven at the same time. That night I decided to leave camp and come here, because I knew that the healers that managed to get away would come this way. Halfway down the path I was attacked by three or four assassins that weren't from our camp. I was stabbed and left bleeding on the trail. I was too far away from anything and even if I had the strength to crawl somewhere, I couldn't reach any kind of help." She fiddled with the Katana and for a moment seemed to be lost in thought, but then she carried on. "I would have died there, but Dastan was moving his people back into the desert and they found me. They carried me here and one of the healers treated me. I was very close to dying from the blood loss and, I was told, my heart stopped a couple of time, I don't remember any of it though. A month passed and everyone, aside from Dastan's people and the healer, thought I was dead. I was kept guarded so that I wouldn't get out of bed rest, but I managed to escape the camp as soon as I could walk." She gave a half smiled and added. "Now, it was foolish of me to go back knowing I wasn't in perfect health, but I knew that the person who had ordered the hit on me was from the Pack, and I had been gone a month, not knowing what had happened in the meantime. So... I went back and I exposed the little bastard for what he did and then he revealed the biggest and baddest secret ever kept by my family..." She said, sarcasm clear in her tone for a moment before fading. "He told the clan who my father really was when my mother so foolishly brought him to the clan. He told them the truth that what happened that damned night when so many of our people were killed was a consequence of that. Oh, yes, of course... The worse part of it: My mother didn't execute you in front of the whole clan, like they wanted her to." She stated with a frown. Then she heaved a sigh. "Well, he challenged me for command. I almost defeated him, but I still wasn't well and all it took was one good hit to bring me down. He would have killed me then, but Ali intervened and managed to get some actives on our side. They followed us here and we have been here ever since."

Ali nodded in agreement. "Evin is here too, although, I'm not sure where he's gone, it's been a while since I last spotted him..."

Not long after Ali said that, the man's voice sounded in the building: "What's going on?"

Ali chuckled. "Huh, speaking of which." She said standing up and heading towards where the voice had come from. "I'll be back." She said over her shoulder walking towards the entrance and finding Evin rather quickly. She grinned and tilted her head to one side cheerfully. "You're not allowed in here, you know?" Then her expression turned a little more serious as she noticed some drops of blood on the ground. Looking back up, she walked around Evin and notice a slash on the back of his clothes and a cut on his back that seemed to have been caused by a throwing knife. "What kind of trouble have you been causing this time?" She asked curiously. "You're bleeding a little bit. Don't know about you, but the first thing I was told as a recruit was 'never turn your back on a target'. I also suggest you hide that from Crys, at least for a while, she's not in the best of moods." Then she turned towards the hall were the others were gathered and added. "Theron's back. Everyone is this way." She informed casually, beginning to walk back.

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

[Assassin's Camp]

The active named Eric was lying in his bed on his stomach when Sean entered his cabin unannounced. The man had his face buried on his pillow, the wounds on his back covered with bandages. Sean stood for a moment watching the man carefully, before pulling a chair to sit next to the bed. "I'm very sorry things had to get to this point." Sean told the man. "But you do see that this is your fault, right? I could have you accused of treason for letting that traitor sit beside you while you violated the clan rules."
Eric simply nodded in agreement. It had been his fault, he knew that. If he hadn't been drinking, if he hadn't let his guard down... Maybe things would have happened differently. "I know that." He mumbled. "Won't happen again, sir."
"Oh, I'm sure it won't. Sean agreed. "As a matter of fact, I know exactly how you can redeem yourself. If you are willing, that is. It's a risky assignment, to say the least."
Eric raised his head from the pillow to face his leader. "How? What can I do?" He asked, visibly eager to make up for his mistakes. Even after what he had just been put through.
Sean smiled at the man. "Good. I'm glad you are willing to take a risk for the clan, but for now you should rest. We'll discuss it better in the morning."

Leaving the cabin, Sean gathered the active and announced Avius as his new Second. He also reinforced the fact that any Crimson that crossed the limits of the desert into the forest should be killed on sight. No more warnings. "One more thing..." Sean added to the end of his instructions. "Any of the traitors seen in the territory is to be immediately killed... Except Allison." An angered expression darkened his features as he spoke the former Instructor's name. "I want her brought to me, alive." He ordered, before dismissing the assassins to their duties. He had a score or two to settle with Allison, especially now. If Evin had attacked his sister because of Ali's recruit... Only fair that she paid the price for what he did. Sean would make sure of that.

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[Forest - Near the Newhaven walls]

Luckas waited for the effects of the medicine to decrease a little bit, but as soon as the chance presented itself he had sneaked out of the White Shadows' camp. He still wanted to see the files, but Annie was hard to convince and he would rather keep her trusting him, for whatever odd reason. So first he decided to follow a different lead. He could always come back to the plains if needed... Newhaven was better to visit now while things were quiet, or at least appeared quiet. Wandering distracted through the trees, not minding where he was going, as long as it was in the direction of the city, he only noticed that maybe he had crossed some boundaries when a man approached him. "Hey, kid! What are you doing here?" The man asked. Luke turned to him and grinned, this man, who looked like some sort of mercenary, believed that he was lost probably. It was usual for people to assume he was harmless, a scrawny, weak looking, boy who walked around visibly unarmed. What threat could he possibly pose to an armed warrior? "Whose encampment is this?" Luckas asked, still grinning as if he had just been offered a huge bag of treats.
"I asked you a question first, boy. Why. Are. You. Here?" The man retorted, now letting one hand rest on the hilt of a sword.
Luckas tilted his head to one side in curiosity. "I'm passing through, not that it's any of your business. Now, tell me the truth: Whose encampment it this?"
"This is the Salamanders' encampment." The man responded immediately, eyes widening in shock as he realized he had no choice but to tell the young intruder the truth.
"Salamanders?" Luckas scratched his head. "Huh... Never heard of it..." He mumbled, thinking over the information. "Hey, freeze!" He ordered, as he caught sight of the mercenary drawing his sword. He turned his attention to the man fully, letting out a slightly psychotic giggle as the man was now unable to move. "Now, now..." Luckas said with a small chuckle. "You had to go and do that? I thought we were just chatting... Getting to know each other... No pointy objects involved. But, if you insist..." He started, snatching the sword off the man's hands and examining it carefully. "I can take time off my busy schedule to maybe play for a minute or two, even three if you last that long." He looked at the man's eyes and could see that he was probably desperately trying to move. "It won't work. Doesn't matter how hard you try, you'll only be free again if I allow it." He shrugged. "I might, but then I might not..." He said tapping his chin and pretending to think about it. "Decisions, decisions..." He chanted, cheerfully, pressing the tip of the blade against the man's cheek. After a another second he slid the blade down his face, grazing his skin, but not yet breaking it. "I'm in a good mood, and you have amused me, so... I suppose I'll let you live." He stated, putting the man's sword back in its sheet, before grabbing him by the collar. He turned the man's face to his and, staring him in the eyes, he erased any memory of the encounter. Once done, he sent the man on his way, waiting a few minutes before continuing to wander into the encampment, whistling to himself.

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.

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

[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?”

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.

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

[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.

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

[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.

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

[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.

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

[/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

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Sham was humming softly to herself as she sat on the roof of the Inn, waiting for Jake to come back out. While Mageria might have accepted him, she herself had reservations, especially once she followed him to a building that was well known to be a meeting place for those who wanted to contact the Pack. The fact that he was here was interesting enough, but she wasn’t close enough to hear what was being said, even with increased senses. Instead she contented herself with watching the people coming and going along the street below her, ordinary people living ordinary lives and not thinking about the evil that could ruin their lives at the slightest chance, and not a single one of them who had the wit to look up, even if she hadn’t been dressed in drab colored cloths.

She sighed and propped her chin in her hands. She had never had the chance to be one of them, growing up rough the way she had. Her gang had been her family as long as she could remember and then it was a constant struggle to keep safe, to keep ahead of the City guards that tried to catch them. And then three years ago, almost all of them died when Blackpond attacked. She didn’t blame anybody for that, it was simply a fact of life; when the City’s fought, it was the people like she had been who were going to die first.

It was a group of three men walking toward the Inn that drew her attention. They moved like dangerous men, not with the relaxed stroll that most of the people around them used. They went in together, which meant that Jake was now alone with a group of potential assassins without backup. Even if she wasn’t sure about how much she wanted him in the Black Knights, she wasn’t going to leave a shield-mate alone in a fight. So she summersaulted forward off the roof, entering the common room of the Inn just a few seconds after they did. She was in time to catch most of what was said, the important bits being that they considered Jake to be a traitor, someone that was generally hated enough for them to break the neutrality of the Inn. Jake looked like he might actually have things under control, but she hadn’t had a chance at a really good fight in a very long time.

With an easy grin, she pulled her batons from their sheaths, holding them down at her side.
“Ah now, this isn’t the way to do things, mates.” Her soft street drawl carried clearly through the silence. “This be a place of peaceful discourse, it is. I don’t think anybody is going to care to have that mucked up.”

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Sham shuddered just a bit at the memory. “That’s one woman I’d not want to meet in a dark alley, for sure. She . . .” Sham squinted and tried to recall exactly what had happened. “She didn’t care wether or not she got hurt, she just did what she wanted, when she felt like it. Her eyes . . . I do believe that she was touched by the Twins, and not in a good way. I don’t think that she cares about aught but herself.” Sham pulled out one of her batons and nervously fiddled with it. “She grabbed the blade of my scythe with her bare hand and pressed it to her chest, she dared me to kill her and then threw the lives of our men at me. If twas me, I’d not trust her for a moment. She’s poisonous, that one.”

She pushed her baton back into it’s sheath and tried to smile. “And I don’t know you well enough to ask questions, not yet. I get the feeling you’d not walk a straight road if it was the only choice before you. But if you plan to do something to queer Blackpond’s plan, I’m all for that. If that’s who they choose to send . . . what must things be like over there?”

-Back at the Castle-

Mageria left her horse at the stables and used the back ways to get up to her room, not wanting to speak with anyone just right now. It was so good to see Grim again, and the idea that he would be available to help gave her hope that she hadn’t had earlier. She had made it almost to her room, walking past the children’s day room when their caregiver Sarah happened to be walking out.
“Captain? There’s somebody here who wanted to see you.”
Mageria turned and raised one eyebrow. “Yes? Why aren’t they in one of the waiting rooms?”
Sarah snorted just a little bit. “Well, Lily has him trapped in a tea party. Do you want to go rescue him?”
Mageria tilted her head to the side and fought down a smile. “Anybody who’s enjoying a tea party should have some fun, don’t you think?” Still, she walked with the other woman to the doorway of the room, looking over to the corner to where Lily sat. She couldn’t tell who it was, with their back to the door, so she crossed the room and knelt down next to the little girl.
“Lily, who’s your new friend?” She looked up and saw a face out of her nightmares. She had to fight the urge to draw her sword, the man that had forced her into the hell of his making was long dead and by her hand. She had survived, that was what mattered. Drawing a deep breath, she faced the young man squarely and looked him in the eyes.
“Hello, Luckas.”

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-At the castle-

Luckas opened the most delighted smile at Mageria's reaction when she saw him. It was fascinating to him that she still reacted that way even knowing that he couldn't possibly affect her. Of course it had more to do with what his brother had done, the only thing he had ever done to the woman was try and get her to stop, but it was funny nonetheless. After a moment of simply smiling he tilted his head to one side and spoke. "Hello there Captain. I'm flattered that you remember me, after all it has been three years since we last saw each other. I hope you don't mind that I kinda dropped by unannounced, but I wanted my visit to be a surprise." A small giggle escaped him and he added. "After all, it's just too funny sneaking up on you. You still make that same face you made last time, before you reminded yourself that I can't be him. It's a split second, but it's there." He heaved a long sigh, before standing up from his seat and stood with his hands in his pockets, shifting his weight from his heels to the tips of his toes like an overexcited kid. "I always wandered what it is you saw. Seems like it was unpleasant. I mean it's always unpleasant, but that face you make... You don't seem like the kind of person that makes that face for any reason. So it must have been REALLY bad." He concluded, seeming absolutely thrilled with that fact. "And yet... Here you are." He stated, firming his feet on the ground. "Now, did you really expect me to know all this and simply forget about it without even trying to understand how it's possible?" He shook his head. "Sorry Captain, I just don't function that way."

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Character Portrait: Mageria Talsheir Character Portrait: Luckas

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Mageria’s gaze grew distant as she looked inward for a moment, remembering the events of three years ago. Luckas’s brother had pulled out every moment of pain that she had ever experienced to the front of her mind and forced her to relive it all at once. And she had killed him for it. But he had left behind a parting gift, a sort of mental ghost in the shape of her former Captain that had tortured her for weeks before she had broken free of it. And that had taken her right into the hands of Lady Death before she had recovered. After what had happened between the two of them . . . was it any wonder that the darkest parts of her soul wore the face of Captain Morgan?

Returning to the present, she gently hugged Lily, receiving a strangle hold around her neck and a noisy smack on the cheek in return. Standing up, she left the room, knowing that Luckas would follow her. The children didn’t need to hear what they were talking about and she wasn’t sure she could stay calm. A couple of steps from her room, she finally stopped and turned back, leaning against the wall and smiling wryly at the young man following her.
“What did your brother show me? I think you already know enough about what he did to people to guess at that. As for why I’m still here,” she shrugged. “Apparently I died. And then got better.”

She crossed her arms and tried to ignore the past. “Why are you here, Luckas? It’s been three years as you pointed out, so it couldn’t be because you wanted to see the look on my face when I saw you.”

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Luckas followed Mageria out of the room, giving Lilly a friendly wave as he crossed the door to the hallway, patiently waiting for the woman to respond. He shook his head at her words. "I know enough about what my brother did to people to know that I can't really know that unless you tell me. And of course I can't make you tell me, so I suppose I'll just have to be persistent. I'm quite good at that." He stated, leaning against the opposite wall to her and giving a little shrug. "And I have done a lot more than traveling from Blackpond to Newhaven simply out of boredom. I would have come sooner, but then Lena made me promise I would give you the precious gift of time." He explained, a slight tone of contempt crossing his words. "I did also get a little distracted at Blackpond. The city looks beautiful, you should visit it sometime." He said cheerfully. "It got boring there after a while though. Not much of a challenge when everyone is already about to break. Still fun to watch though."

After saying all that really, really fast, there was a quiet moment during which Luke simply hummed a tune to himself as he considered just how much he wanted to disclose for now. Then he stopped humming and added. "Besides... Aside from the fact that you have the urge to kill me the moment you see my face, I don't see a reason why we can't be friends, right? Who knows, maybe we can help each other."

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Character Portrait: Mageria Talsheir Character Portrait: Luckas

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"Besides... Aside from the fact that you have the urge to kill me the moment you see my face, I don't see a reason why we can't be friends, right? Who knows, maybe we can help each other."

Mageria closed her eyes and sighed, leaning back against the wall. “No offense Luckas, but it doesn’t quite work that way. It’s not seeing your face that causes me to have the urge to kill, it’s that you wear a face that has haunted quiet a few of my nightmares for the past three years and is the cause of most of the rest of them.” She crossed her arms and leaned a little harder against the wall. “I suppose that in a way your brother did give me a sort of gift, but it was one of those that either destroys you or saves you. The fact that I survived . . .” once more she looked somewhere else. “I think it was because someone wasn’t done with me at that time.”

A hundred memories whispered through her, reminding her of the good she had done, the people she had helped. All because she was strong enough to do so, embraced the fact that she was capable of violence and bloodletting in order to protect those weaker than her.

Twisting around, she saw a patch of light above her. Fighting closer, she could almost believe that she could make it, except she was still so very cold and weak. She was so close, she reached out and was just a little bit too far away. But out of nowhere an arm clad in Black armor plunged down and grabbed her hand, pulling her out.
A voice seemed to whisper in her ear, “You have things to do yet Captain. Get back to work.”


Mageria drew herself back to the present. “Anyways, Luckas. What help would you need from me?”

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Luckas laughed softly. "Well, if anything I do appreciate the honesty Captain. I suppose the question there would be: did it destroy you or save you? 'Cause being alive can mean either one of those things, but perhaps the answer is yet to be seen, no? And you can't quite blame my brother if everything you saw and felt is simply a part of you, he didn't choose your nightmares; you did." He stopped laughing and let his eyes wander off to the ceiling, his fingers drumming on the stone wall behind him. "I don't actually need your help, but, I think maybe you might need mine and just don't know it yet. I mean... I wander around, most times unnoticed, and I see things most people don't bother looking at. One thing I've seen, I'm sure would interest you, however... I'm not one to do favors, or least not for just anyone." He stated in an fake innocent tone. "People might want to take advantage of me if I'm too helpful."

He looked down and smiled like a child that had gotten away with something truly mischievous, then pretend to think for a while, tapping his chin with his index finger. "Hum... I probably shouldn't tell you... Should I?" He mumbled, grinning. "Fine, as a token of my appreciation Captain, I'll tell you what I saw: I saw something I didn't knew even existed, and I might have gotten a little too close to it in my curiosity. And when IT tried to kill me... I found out IT is in fact a HE. Because, see... My ability only works on people, and it worked, thankfully. Even though it sure didn't look like a man, he thought like a man, at least momentarily... And you were very much on his mind the whole time Captain. On his mind, on its mind... Both, I think." He leaned further into the wall and looked up again. "As it occurs to me that you might not believe me, if you like I'll gladly show you proof. The little mark he left on me is still quite fresh." He said, reaching for his chest, where he had been bandaged the day before.

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Character Portrait: Mageria Talsheir Character Portrait: Sham (No Last Name) Character Portrait: Luckas

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Mageria watched as Luckas pulled the bandages aside to reveal a set of slash marks across the width of his chest. Gently, she touched the edges, nothing the red puffiness that indicated infection. "You need to have those looked at again." she said absently. In her mind she was reliving the siege of the Lower City, moments after Daniel had used his spell to transform himself in a desperate effort to save Newhaven.

A chill ran it's way up and down her spin. Those marks, that description . . . could it be anything else? Almost without realizing it, she brushed her fingers across the scars running down from her left temple. Abruptly she turned and strode to her room, crossing to her bookcase and pulling a leather bound journal out. It was the sum total of three years of research, put together only with exhausting effort. She snapped it open the the first page, which contained a sketch of the Beast that she had fought. Walking back out, she brandished the open book at Luckas. "Was it this?"

She was waiting for his response when one of her scouts ran up to her at full speed. Skidding to a stop, he grabbed her shoulder and started to whisper harshly into her ear. “Salamander camp . . . attacked . . . Warlord was outnumbered . . .” She really didn’t hear much more than that.

The book that she had worked on for three years slipped from fingers suddenly gone numb. A sense of foreboding ran it’s way up her back; as if she could feel Death taking an interest. Taking off at a dead sprint, she followed her scout down to the stables.
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Sham had rather enjoyed watching the quiet guy take apart the new toughs, it was obvious that he was a professional of some kind. She had moved out of the way, leaning against one of the windows and privately making bets about what was going to happen. It was about halfway through when she noticed a few Black-clad riders galloping down the street. She thought that she recognized the Cap’n at the front, and there were few things that could cause her to rush like that. Looking over her shoulder, she saw that the fight was over.
“Jake? I’ve got a bad feeling about something. Com’on.” She pushed out of the Inn and saw that a second group of riders were following after the first. Reaching out with one hand, she grabbed the arm of one of the passing Guard and swung up behind him. With a few minutes of frantic riding they reached what must have been the camp of the Salamanders. Sham swung down and shook her head . . . there was so much blood . . .
-------------
Mageria scarcely noticed the ride from the Castle to the camp. The report hadn't been clear, just that there was something appearing to be a coup and that Grim was involved. She just got him back, he couldn't . . . . she couldn't even think it. She just held on as her horse galloped out of the gates and into the forest where she had walked just hours earlier.

Swinging to her feet as the horse slowed, she looked around and was nearly sick to her stomach. A couple of her Guard walked into her line of sight, she hadn't even noticed them following.
"Fan out, search for survivors." But she didn't think that there would be any. She had seen battlefields often enough to read the signs of this one . . . Most of the men must have been drugged somehow, they lay as if they had been killed in their sleep or taken unawares by someone they trusted. Heart in her mouth, she started walking though the carnage, searching for that one familiar, beloved face. But Grim was nowhere to be found. She almost dared to hope when she was hailed from a path that took a winding way back to Newhaven. She followed at a lope as her scout lead her to a second battle scene. This one bore the familiar sign that Grim had been there, body parts lay about as if a child had ripped their dolls apart in a fit of rage. And leading away, a steady trail of blood.

Numbly, Mageria followed the blood trail. There had been one last fight, it seemed. Two bodies lay crumbled not far from one another. Chandos, recognizable only from the scars and eyepatch, had a spear through what remained of his head. She wouldn't mourn that overmuch, because it was obvious that the other man had caused that injury.

Grim.

Her friend lay in a pool of his own blood, a gaping hole through his stomach and an eerily peaceful smile on his face; scarcely breathing. Her mediocre healing knowledge had no hope to offer her, only one of the Twins could save him from a wound such as this. Anything she could do would only prolong the pain, and he wouldn't thank her for her efforts. Even if she could save his life, he'd never be the man he once was. Carefully, she knelt down next to him and ran her fingers through his hair before pulling his head into her lap.
"Ah Grim. What has the world done to you?"

Behind her she could hear some of her people starting to gather the bodies of the Salamanders together; she gladly left them to it, grateful for just a moment of peace to say goodbye in.

The edges of his fingers crept over her hand, what once possessed such strength could hardly hold her now. Meekly clinging to Mageria, he carefully lay down chuckling just under his breath. What voice he had carried just beyond his lips. The emeralds of his eyes watching as they drifted toward a distant horizon refusing to focus.

“You came- back for me.. I-I somehow knew you would…I’m afraid it’s- … I got in over my head Th- this time...”

The touch of his hand was ice and every breath was far too labored. His body shakily rising and falling, wincing as it did, but holding fast for his friend. Still smiling as blood dribbled from the corners of his mouth. It wouldn’t be much longer.

“T… the beast is gone. I am free.. The gift is spent and I am just another man.. What I always- hrk.. Wanted…
P-please do not- blame yourself..’

Mageria gripped his hand tightly and leaned over him, tears glinting in her eyes but refusing to fall. "But I'm the Captain. I'm always in charge, you know that."

He had forever been nagging her for trying to control the world, for fretting about things that were out of her reach. How many times had he pulled her away from her plans in the middle of the night, telling her; "If you don't rest Captain, how are you going to order the Twins around?"

Gently, she brushed some of his hair out of his eyes, taking a trembling breath as she did so. "Of course I came back for you." A choked laugh forced it's way out of her throat. "You always did have to bite off more than you could chew." A deep breath. "You know, I never got the chance to tell you how much it always meant to me that you believed in me. I sometimes think it was the only thing that let me hold on for so long." Leaning over, she brushed her lips against his forehead. "Thank You, my dearest friend."

The lights of his eyes dimmed and the lids grew heavy sinking over the green orbs. The pacing rhythm of Grim’s heartbeat slowed, drawing air shallowly. The old familiar darkness edging it from all around his mind.

“.. I-I’ve seen.. The Black Sea… and I’ve- spo- spoken with the Moon. I must go now.. But- will wait for you..
M-mm… My dear sister… I love you too.”

The Black Knight’s hand gently sank from Mageria’s and rested on the earth never to rise again. That night in the black skies of Valcrest, the Moon would show her face in full brimming down over the land. A light when all else is in shadow.

Mageria felt something in her break. “My brother. I will always love you.” She tried desperately to take a breath but a wire had wrapped itself around her chest and she couldn’t breathe right. Gently she brushed Grim’s eyes closed and looked away. Somewhere she could hear birds calling . . . it sounded so normal. So unfair . . .

She didn’t know how much later it was when footsteps approached her. Mageria didn’t look up, just kept holding Grim as if he might wake up at any moment.
“Captain?” It was Sham, kneeling down next to her with a worried look in her eyes. She looked over her shoulder where several of the Guard waited. “You need to get up now . . . They’ll take care of him.” Gently she reached out and shook Mageria’s shoulder. The blank look on her Captain’s face worried her. Always in the past when someone she knew had lost a friend, it was crying and tears and threats. Not this . . . emptyness.

Mechanically, Mageria laid Grim . . . laid Grim’s body down on the ground and followed Sham back to where the horses were. They had only taken a few steps before Mageria turned and looked back at where the Guard had started to pick up Chandos as well as Grim. “Not him. He betrayed his brothers. Leave him for the dogs.” The look that they gave to the body mirrored what she felt. To a group such as theirs, nothing was worse than that. Already she could see where her men were putting up a funeral pyre. It would be put to use tonight; but first there were duties to be seen too. Slowly, she started to ride back home.

Setting

Characters Present

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.

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

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.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Luckas Character Portrait: Annie Turner

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Luckas’ mind was racing a little with thoughts of death, eternity, and a million other ironies that just had him torn between laughter and frustration. He had gone to the funeral, and he had also gone over the book Mageria had dropped, over and over and over. He’d read that journal front to back at least five times throughout the night, finding things to become more and more interesting every time he read, confusing and frightening in a way, but that was the most interesting part of it all. He was particularly fascinated with one bit of history contained in there; it was similar to something he’d seen before on the Shadows’ archives, although, told as being only a myth.

All of it got him thinking of Death. Luke thought that if he would ever worship one of the Twins, he would worship Death. He didn’t understand how people failed to see the beauty of Death, the beauty of being compelled to make every moment count before you reach the end of the line… The beauty of the moment when you accept it’s finally over; so silent, so peaceful, so… Perfect. Luke had been so close to it, he stared it in the eyes, and it had left him with a very itchy wound as a reminder. He really should have that looked at again…

Finally he moved from where he had been lying, looking around the room he had chosen to spend the night in. Light was slipping through the curtains. It was morning… Did he sleep? He must have slept, but he wasn’t sure if he had or if he simply lost himself in thought. As he sat up, he felt an aching in the back of his head, he also felt a bit of pain in his left forearm and, as he rolled up his sleeve to examine it, he discovered the word ‘STOP’ scratched onto it. He tilted his head staring at it. So, he must have slept, he certainly did dream. “Am I in your head, or are you in mine?” He mumbled. Ever since that thing almost killed him, Luke had heard and seen things that didn’t seem to quite belong in his mind. He didn’t know why, nor did he actually care for it much anymore, he just wanted it gone. Finally, he reached for the book he had dropped in his lap, opening it to the same bit he had been reading, and rereading, the night before.

I've figured it out. Gods help me, it can be done, but it will require a sacrifice; bait. Good of Newhaven and all that, right? I just hope I'm strong enough to do what must be done when the time comes.

Just below it though, there was something written that just wasn’t there the night before, something written in Luke’s own handwriting, although he had no memory of writing anything.

Time has come.

“What the…? Who are you?”

Luke sighed, not turning towards the man that had just entered the room, probably released from night shift and looking to get some shut eye. “Don’t worry about it, pal. I’m just leaving.” He stated, standing up.
The guard eyed him suspiciously, he had snatched uniforms, but he didn’t really look like a castle guard in one bit. “I asked: Who are you?” The man repeated.
Luckas nodded. “I’m none of your business. Now, go to sleep. You look tired.” He stated.
The man let out a yawn and began to drag himself towards the bed, dropping down on it and immediately falling asleep.
“Good boy.” Luke told him with a snicker. Turning to leave the room, however, he stopped, noticing a piece of paper in the guard’s hand. He took the note from the man and read it over. “Huh, now this sounds important… I should make sure it reaches its destination.” He stated, stuffing the note in his pocket and walking out of the room. “First though, I think I’ll go have a look at the festivities.”

[White Shadows encampment]

Annie had woken up before sunrise again, this time not greeted by the usual silence of the healers, but with a level of excitement only seen in that camp once each year. She wasn’t all too fond of excitement, to be honest, but she couldn’t help but smile at how happy everyone was for a change. Since she had taken command of the Shadows, things had been rough, it was noticeable, but this date seemed to have the power to make all troubles be forgotten.

“I knew you would be hiding out here.” She heard a familiar voice behind her. “Suppose not everything changes in time.”
Annie didn’t quite believe her mind wasn’t playing tricks on her even when she turned to face the owner of that voice. It took a good moment of staring before she was even able to speak. “I can’t believe this.” She mumbled, taking a step forward. “Alistair? I thought you said you were never coming back.”
“I wasn’t, but…” Alistair heaved a sigh. “She made me swear I wouldn’t say this, but what the hell… I ran into your mother a couple of months ago and she… suggested, it would be a good idea for me to check up on you.”
Annie raised an eyebrow. “Check up on me?”
He chuckled slightly. “She didn’t actually say that, but I know that’s what she meant. I told her that there was no way in hell I was coming back here, but lately I just couldn’t get the idea out of my head. So… Here I am.”
“Where did you see her?” Annie asked him.
“I saw her in the mountains, but she wouldn’t tell me why exactly she was there. She looked pretty tired too, as if she hadn’t been sleeping.” He said, attempting to hide a concerned look. “She said not to worry though.”
“She always says that. It’s hardly ever true.” Annie replied. “Never mind that though, are you staying or just checking up on me?” She asked with a smile.
“Oh, I’ll stay for a little while, see some friends and maybe visit Newhaven, but I will be leaving again soon.” He stated, pacing around one of Annie’s favorite gardens, which was now covered in white snow, and enjoying the ‘crunchy’ sound of his footsteps on the frozen grass. “I can’t say I don’t miss this place, but I don’t think I still have it in me to do this kind of work anymore. I hope you understand that.”
“Sure I do.” She said, walking past him and dragging him along with her to the encampment. “Come on, I’m sure Isaac will be happy to see you.”
Alistair nodded in agreement, walking after her. “Is he still having outbursts?”
“A few, but nothing… Too troublesome…” Annie stopped walking as she noticed someone who was waiting by the entrance of her tent. Usually, Evin’s presence wouldn’t bother her, but she was sure Sean was still around somewhere. “Al… Do me a favor: Find Isaac and tell him to keep Sean Fletcher as far from my tent as possible.”
“Sure, no problem.”Alistair said, walking past Annie’s tent to look for Isaac.

Annie simply walked over to Evin and offered the assassin a smile. “Hello Evin, to what do I owe the pleasure of your visit?” She said, walking into the tent. “Come on in.” She asked, taking a seat and waiting for the man to enter as well. “Is there something I can help you with?”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Luckas

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Luckas wandered around the city for a bit, watching curiously as people laughed and danced around to the music of several street performers. It was amusing how people just tossed their troubles aside for one day every year, even the healers who seemed to be the most uptight people in the world. They seemed to just give meaning to the most meaningless things sometimes, simply for the sake of believing something. They way he saw it, most people lived off those little illusions, never really looking to find the truth of things in fear of what they would find. Luckas was still unsure of whether he thought that was pathetic or clever. After all, no one wants to feel pain, and knowing the truth often means nothing, so why really bother? So, was it stupid or smart to pretend not to know? Was it stupid or smart to not want to know?

He walked without paying much attention to where he was going, he hadn't been in Newhaven in almost five years, and he couldn't really say he knew his way around anymore. Eventually he found himself in front of the city orphanage, stopping to take a good look at it. It seemed it had gone through some serious work, he almost didn't recognize it as the dump he lived in for five years of his life. He was still standing in front of the building, wondering if he should go have a look inside, when someone collided with him at full force, knocking him down. Looking up, he caught a glimpse of a bunch of people rushing towards the castle, one of them shouted a "Sorry, friend." as he ran along. Luke jumped to his feet and started to follow the crowd until he caught up to someone. He caught a man by the shoulder and asked where they were all going.

"We're going to see the snowball fight!" The guy answered, excitement clear in his voice.
"A snowball fight?" Luke asked a little confused.
The man chuckled. "You're not from around here are you, kid? Not a snowball fight, THE snowball fight!"
With that said, the guy ran along. Luke hesitated for a moment, but then decided to follow them and see what made THE snowball fight so special. Didn't take him long to realize what it was.

The 'snowball fight' was actually more like a massive tournament. Rules were given and teams were being formed and organized by size. The whole thing seemed like a great deal of fun, so Luckas managed to get himself on a small team with some of the city folk. They weren't bad, but not the greatest of strategists. While Luke managed to sneak around and hit some people on the head from behind, eventually he found himself cornered and bombarded by another group of city folk, most of them teens, but they seemed to be led by a retired castle guard. Needless to say it was a bit of a massacre and when Luke managed to get himself out of the mess, he was covered in snow from head to toe. It had been incredibly fun though.

One of the guys from his team, who had also been cornered and 'killed', chuckled at him. "You are lousy at this."
Luke simply grinned. "Well, what can I say? I guess I'm not much of a killer, huh?" He said with a small shrug, heading towards the castle to find a fireplace, and maybe see what interesting things he could come up with there, thinking of it though... There was something he could do that was always interesting; it just required a little bit of searching.

It didn't take long for him to find a servant who knew where maybe he could find the Captain of the Black Knights, out of the couple of options the man had given him, the archives were closer, so he headed in that direction. The snow that covered his clothes had now melted, and he was soaking wet. The water had sunk into his clothes and also the bandages he had underneath them, which was causing an annoying itch, to which Luke only responded to by absently scratching the infected wound over his clothes. Finally, after a little bit of walking he spotted Mageria walking in the direction of the Archives. "Hum..." He mumbled, deciding to follow her from a short distance just to see if she would ignore him, and for how long.

The setting changes from newhaven 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 Newhaven

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Luckas

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Luckas had been in the Archives through most of the afternoon, absently searching for things that would distract him. He didn't tell the Archivist what he wanted, and declined the man's help repeatedly, until eventually he got annoyed with the man's persistence and commanded him to leave. It proved useless though, there was nothing in the files that gave him answers to his questions; he would have to visit the orphanage after all, maybe some records or employee there could give him an answer, or maybe even a clue... Rubbing his eyes, he finally gave up on the search and put the books back in their places; it wasn't that important anyway, nor was it the reason why he was there, but he needed to do something with his time.

He wasn't sure what time it was, but it seemed the night had fallen upon the city. Such a wasted day.

As he walked the halls, aimlessly, the seriousness in his expression was unusual; it was far from his habitual grin. It was the first time, for as long as the young man could remember, that he was truly concerned with something; and the worst part was that he didn't even know what the something was exactly.
As he went over those, and many other, thoughts in his mind, a female voice provided him with a much needed distraction: “I haven’t met you before, have I?”

Luckas stopped, quietly examining this new acquaintance, his eyes lingering on the armor the woman was wearing before looking up and locking on hers. A grin spread wide on his features as he answered to her question. "Well, how am I expected to know who you do or do not know, Miss? I know who I know, but then I'm not sure how well I can say that I know them, or that they know me. I can't quite know how well one can truly know oneself either, so perhaps no one really knows me or themselves, or each other for that matter. It is all very confusing, if you'd ask me." He said, shaking his head. After having said all that really, really, fast, he simply awaited the woman's response. That was what would tell him how he would truly act towards her.

Sure, he had promised to behave as much as possible, but as much as possible wasn't really all that much. Looking at this woman, he almost hoped she'd give him an excuse to misbehave.

The setting changes from newhaven to Valcrest

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Luckas

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#, as written by Caelus
The woman smiled as she walked towards the young man, after a whole day of nothing more than tedium the fun finally started. “It’s been quite a while since someone gave me a complex answer to an incredible simple question...” Veronica was less than one meter away from the pale skinned man, she blinked as she raised her left hand and held his chin, trying, somehow, to analise him. Veronica’s hand made a slight movement to the left, bringing the man’s head together and visibly making him uncomfortable in the act. She broke eye contact, watching now the windows “and still. . . the ones than did it were incredibly determined people or. . .“ she took a few steps away from him, the noise from the boots sounding again in the corridor “extremely confused men, and by the look in your eyes, I’d say than you fit in the. . .”

She giggled as she walked past the black haired man, covering the mouth with her right hand than still held the envelopes, after a few steps she turned, looking over her left shoulder, only to meet again the strange gaze from the man’s eyes “Doesn’t matter, as you can see, the simplicity in my question was nothing more than actually acquire the usual words than you react for when you’re called even in the middle of a vast crowd, in other words, I was asking for your name” she still smiled, definitely that was the best part from her day until now. Veronica showed the envelopes than she held to the man, “As you can see I need to do somethings, I sincerely hope it won’t matter if we continue this. . . conversation as we walk.” She emphasized the ‘we’ as she turned and restarted to walk, Veronica needed to be sure than the message would be dispatched as soon as possible. She started to speak, somehow inviting the man to follow her. “You look like someone than knows how those words can be dangerous, with them people can do amazing and horrible things pretending than they are others,” she finally started to heard steps, and they were heading in the same direction she was “but as a way to show my intentions aren’t so vicious, I’ll tell you mine, and by that I’ll assume you will tell me yours” Veronica once again looked at the windows, focusing on the incredible view. “Veronica Zein, but you may also call me Zein, and what brings you to the Newhaven’s castle, or even better, who allowed you to enter?” She didn’t actually cared about that, she knew than he would be long dead if he didn’t had important reasons to be inside the walls. . . or, at least, strong contacts inside them.

Veronica closed her eyes, entertainment was great but she also had important things to do, the curiosity from what happened in the Desert between the mercenaries and the assassins grew inside her every second. She wondered, and that thought somehow managed to scare her for a small amount of time, if that unofficial conflict could reach the city and start the bloodbath again. Veronica bit her lip as she opened her eyes, she fought against Blackpond, she saw many dying, including many from her former friends. She tried to giggle, she shouldn’t resurrect those thoughts, they wouldn’t help her. She saw things, she lived them, and she survived them, that’s all Veronica needed to know, the sound from the man’s voice brought her back to reality, he sounded a bit more calm, or at least less confused, her mind for some reason thanked him for that.

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

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Luckas Character Portrait: Annie Turner Character Portrait: Sean Fletcher

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"I don't know why she was at the mountains. She wouldn't tell me." Alistair said with a shrug. "I honestly thought Lena had come back to the Shadows a long time ago. Never occurred to me that she had been away all this time."
"That's odd, even for Lena, isn't it?" Sean asked, a slightly intrigued expression on his face. He had been intrigued about Lena's disappearence for a very long time, and speaking to someone who had seen he recently had brought that feeling back. She couldn't have left for absolutely no reason; there had to be something more to it.
Before Alistair had a chance to respond, however, an all too familiar voice echoed through the encampment. "Hey Sean! It's good to see that your sister is alright! Maybe I'll try the same trick on your new right hand man the next time I decide to show up in camp!"

Sean froze for a split second while Evin's voice reached his ears, before he instictively pulled a dagger out of hiding and began to move towards the voice. However, he was caught by Alistair on a choke hold. The man had moved to stop him, before he even took a step.
"Relax, now." The man whispered to as Sean tried fight the hold. "Give me that knife."
Sean didn't let go of the dagger, but he stopped fighting Alistair's hold . "Let go of me, please." He muttered.

As soon as Alistair released him, Sean walked a straight line to Annie's tent, finding her standing right outside of it. He stopped in front of her, pointing the dagger to her face. "I trusted you, Annie!" He shouted. "You let that maniac near my sister!"
Annie shrugged. "I'm not a bodyguard, Sean. And I can't keep track of who goes near who in here. Hence the rules about leaving weapons outside. Which now leads me to the question: Is this a knife you're pointing at me? Because that's surely a problem."
"You have got to be kidding me!" She exclaimed.
"I'm not kidding. And please, keep your voice down, there are sick people in this camp, you know." Annie replied in her calmest tone. "Now, please lower your weapon, Alpha. Let's talk."
Sean shook his head. "I'm getting so tired of your crap Annie. Really, really tired!"
Annie tilted her head to the side and grinned. "I see... You are going to use that, then?" She asked innocently. "Because you know, if you're not, it just makes you look stupid."
Sean was furious, but he flinched; Annie wasn't the one he was truly angry at, harming her wouldn't do him, or anyone, any good. He needed to stop himself now. Slowly, he lowered the dagger, and sheathed it. "Fine." He stated finally. "Talk to me, Healer."

Annie sighed. "You and your men have disrespected the laws of this encampment one too many times, Sean. As much as you trusted me, I trusted you. Perhaps we are both equally foolish since we cannot maintain that trust for a full day."
Sean nodded. "Perhaps we are." He agreed. "What measures will you take, then?"
"All of them." Annie replied simply. "You and your people are no longer welcome in my camp as of now."
Sean snickered. "Wow, are you sure this is what you want to do?"
"You pushed me into making a choice I didn't want to make, Alpha. This is my decision." She told him.
Sean frowned slightly. "I have no reason to move against the Shadows, Annie. Don't give me one."
"Don't do that." Annie smiled. "Don't threaten me, or you might have to fulfill those threats, and believe me; you'll regret it if you do. Maybe not now, but one day."
"Who's threatening who, now?" Sean asked raising an eyebrow.
"It's not a threat... It's just what I know." She said with a small shrug.
Sean sighed. Looking over Annie's shoulder he saw his sister watching him from inside the tent, a disapproving look in her eyes. He turned his gaze back to the leader of the White Shadows. "Is that all you have to say to me, Healer?"

"No, Alpha. It's not." Annie stated. Cutting the short distance between herself and the assassin, she gave the man a hug, and added. "May the Goddess light your path."
Sean simply stood, sincerely shocked by the gesture, as Annie released him and turned her back. He didn't really know what had just happened there, but the other healers seemed to understand, because they looked just as confused and shocked as he did.

"Please remove yourself from my territory, Alpha. I won't ask you again." She said, as she walked past Katelyn and into her tent; she whispered something to the girl, but Sean couldn't hear what it was. Katie seemed pleased with it though, as she walked to join him.

"Come on. I want to go home." She said, pulling him by the hand towards the gates.
Sean let Katie him lead him to the exit of the camp, not understanding what had happened to make her suddenly less angry with him. He noticed some healers were moving out of their path as they walked, it was all just very strange to him. "Kate, what... What did Annie say to you?"
"She just said that I'm still welcome at any time." The girl replied simply. "Funny, I thought you'd ask about Evin first." She smiled.
"What did he want with you?" Sean asked, turning to look at his sister.
"He apologized for poisoning me, and then he offered to... Take me somewhere safe." She answered. "I said 'no, thank you' and that was pretty much it."
"Why?" He asked. "I mean... You're not happy. I know you're not."

Katie was silent as Sean retrieved all of his weapons at the entrance of the small camp, and remained silent until they were entering the forest. Then she replied to his question. "I'm not happy." She stated. "I wouldn't be any happier anywhere else though; I would just be unhappy and ignorant." She chuckled. "No... I'd rather stay and keep an eye on you."
Sean heaved a little sigh. "You know, if you ever... If you ever want to, you can leave. It's alright." He told her. "I mean... You don't deserve to be stuck in the middle of this. You deserve a better world than this. I'm just sorry I can't give you that."
"Are you really? Sorry?" Katie asked him. "Sometimes I'd love to think that you are, but I have trouble believing you."
Sean stopped walking and turned to face her. "I am sorry, Kate. I never wanted things to have to get this far, but now they have. It's too late to just turn around now."
"You talk as if you had no choice!" She replied. "I just can't understand why you had to do this in the first place. Was it all because fo mother? All of this just because of what happened that night?"
"No!" Sean shouted. "It's not all because mother. Not all! I could have gotten over her death if only there had been justice, but no... Dani wouldn't let me have that. She forgave the Shadow Hunter as if the whole thing didn't concern the rest of us; as if the lives he took meant nothing. That woman had looked me in the eyes and sworn to me that she would make him pay. She betrayed me, she betrayed the clan!"
Katie shook her head in disbelief at his words. "She wanted to end it, Sean! She wanted this to be over."
"It wasn't over for me! Sure, maybe he was sorry, maybe they were both sorry, but it just doesn't change what they did; and it doesn't mean they paid for it. It's not justice."
"When will you pay, then? For lionel, and Owen... And whoever else is still about to be killed in this mess you creted?" She asked him, tears beginning to form in her eyes. "What's the price for this revenge of yours, Sean? How much are you willing to pay?"

Sean faltered under his sister's gaze; Katie always had a way of making him feel ashamed of himself, mostly because she knew that he could stand anything, but he couldn't let her hate him. "I'm already paying. I pay a little every time you look at me this way. I pay a little every time someone dies in that camp. I pay a little bit everyday and I don't think I'll ever be done paying even after I'm dead, but you know what? I made a choice, all I can do now is keep going."
"What about me and Donovan? For how long will we have to pay? Father is dead, Lionel is dead, and you..." The girl's voice broke as the tears finally began to roll down her face. "I want my brother back, Sean. The one who used to tell me stories when I couldn't sleep, the one who used to make me laugh... I loved him, I miss him. And I hate this stranger you've turned yourself into."

Sean sighed heavily and pulled the girl into a hug; holding her tightly as she began to sob against his chest. "I'm still your brother, Katie." He whispered to her. "I'm still here."
"You have to stop, Sean. Please. I don't want to see you get killed." She begged. "I don't want to lose you too."

"I know, sis. And I'm so sorry, but I can't turn back now."

[Assassins' Camp - Few hours later]

Sean was immediately bombarded with a thousand reports from different scouts and messengers, the moment he stepped foot in camp. Looking around he could tell something wasn't quite the same in the air around the camp. He could catch glimpses of people talking amongst themselves in whispers. Somewhere along the way to the Leaders Cabin he lost track of Katie's movements; the girl disappeared somewhere in the camp, its crowds and noises. Perhaps Sean had disapperead in there as well some time ago, but it was useless to think of these things now.

He took his time to sit at his desk, rub his temples and focus his eyes on the reports he was handed; very much aware of the messenger that had followed him into the common room, but paying the man no attention. "Hum... Salamanders attacked, aparently no survivors... Smaller mercenaries caught wandering around again..." He mumbled to himself as he read the messages, not showing much interest in any of it, until he reached Sheila's report. "I see..." He muttered out, anger burning in his eyes at the words. He had warned the Captain of the Black Knights that there would be trouble if they were associated with any traitors, but apparently the woman didn't listen, or didn't take him seriously, because Sean was now being informed that Jake had rejoined the Black Knights.

[Flashback - Newhaven, approximately 3 years ago]

It was early morning and Mageria had already dealt with half a dozen problems. She had to figure out what to do with the captured Blackpond soldiers, now that there was no one to exchange them for; she had to deal with the holes in her chain of command that occurred from losses during the fighting; someone had just realized that some of the children living in the Castle were now orphans and just what was going to happen to them? Normally this would all have been dealt with by someone else, at the very worst it would have been the Captain of the White Knights who had to figure all of this out. But he hadn't been seen for quite a while now, and if she ever caught up to him . . . . Thomas was doing the best he could, but he was mostly occupied with trying to smooth over difficulties between Lady Sarris and the Council. That didn't even begin to cover the fact that they now had an heir running around that needed to be protected whether she liked it or not.

Mageria had assigned two of her most discrete Guard to watch over the girl and told everyone else that they would get their answers when she had answers to give them. That being done, she escaped up to the bell tower, where she could have a moment of quiet, locking and bolting the door behind her. There was no one else around and so she leaned against one of the windows and just looked out at the land stretching out past the walls of Newhaven, one hand idly gripping the hilt of her sword.

It was early morning in the castle, an unnamed shadow roamed the halls,unseen. He had a message to deliver, and very specific instructions regarding what he was supposed to do: "Deliver this message to the Black Knight Captain. Don't kill anyone. Don't let anyone see you." That was what the young man had been been instructed to do. Might seem like asking too much, but for a Wolf... Not really. Well, except maybe for the fact that he was meant to make sure that the message got to the woman directly, that could pose as a problem.
The young wolf did managed to keep a watch on the woman at a distance until see finally entered a room alone, locking the door behind her. A little bit of a setback, but fine.

"Hey, you there! Who are y-" The soldier didn't have the time to finish the question, and before the answer became clear as the man, who he assumed to be a servant, had turned and hit him in the face. Having started a commotion and knocked out a guard, the young assassin had to leave fast, but he still needed to deliver the message. "Aw, screw it." he thought, pulling a dagger.

When the woman on the other side of the door, reached the hallway, she would find a passed out guard and a note pinned to the door, with a dagger, saying: "Meet me outside the city gates at noon. Don't be late."

[Noon]

At exactly noon the new leader of the Pack reached the walls of Newhaven. Sean had been strongly advised against this, but he thought it was an opportunity he simply couldn't let slide. After all, the Pack needed some breathing room, Newhaven needed some breathing room. A truce, even if temporary, would give him room to organize the clan better.
Of course, Sean didn't plan on telling Mageria any of this. If she wanted him to play nice, he was going to ask for some things in return. After all, Newhaven had a rightful ruler, that would have been killed by the Shadow was it not for the Pack, and the clan had taken many losses in return. It was only fair that they got a little bit back.

This was the point of this meeting after all: Not what the Pack had done or the Knights had done... Only what was fair. Plain and simple.

Mageria spent the time waiting for Sean by picking out the right spot for them to meet. Out of sight of the ruined gates, in a clear enough spot that he didn't think it was an ambush, but close enough to cover that it wasn't suicide for her. It was a delicate balance. After she found the right area, she found her attention drawn by the work of the people rebuilding the walls. Among the townsfolk were a number of men dressed in bright orange tunics. They were the captured soldiers from Blackpond. Given that there was now no chance to trade them for Newhaven soldiers and the fact that she wasn't willing to execute them or house them in the dungeons, she had chosen to put them to work. From now until Newhaven was rebuilt or they were traded with Blackpond for some favor, they would work rebuilding what they had destroyed. It was fair, she thought. And more merciful than what her own men had received at the hands of Rory and Hastings.

A scuff of leather on stone drew her attention to the side. It seemed that Sean was being as careful as she was about not provoking the other person. She leaned against a bit of stone and looked over at him.
"I appreciate your restraint on delivering the note. Not elegant, but effective; and no one was permanently hurt." She turned and face him squarely. She was still fully armed, but kept her hands carefully away from her blades.
"We're telling people that the Wolves that killed the King have all been brought to justice. So there's no more need to continue to attack the Pack." She tilted her head just slightly to the side. "Are you going to give me another one?"

Sean snorted slightly as Mageria mentioned the note, he should have never sent a inexperienced active deliver it. However he said nothing until she finished talking. He shook his head slightly, with an amused grin, his arms were crossed underneath his cloak, however he wasn't in one bit tense. "Far from me to want to complicate things captain. However the Pack would have more than enough reasons to attack the Black Knights. I would have let the trespassing go, but you provided aid to a traitor, after he killed our second in command, and kidnapped one of our recruits. So, are you sure you want to be asking that question?" He asked her, raising an eyebrow. "You asked me for a truce, remember?"

He stopped to look around at the people rebuilding the city walls. He always did like Newhaven, it was such a lovely place once upon a time. Finally he heaved a sigh and looked back at Mageria. "The Wolfpack had an Inn established in Newhaven, the Shadow had it burnt down. We would like to rebuild it. We would place workers there, and it would be a neutral zone. A safe place for my people to sleep when away from. Like it once use to be." He leaned against a piece of rock. "You give me the Inn back, and you can consider the past erased."

Mageria thought for a long moment then shook her head regretfully. "We don't have the resources to build an Inn at the moment. We have people sleeping in warehouses and corridors in the Castle and even in the streets. We have to rebuild the walls and then homes first. At least using city workers. Private businesses don't really tell us where their workers come from."

She idly stretched the muscles in her neck. "Here's the thing, Sean. Right now the nobles are busy doing other things; they don't give a damn about the Pack right now. Give them a reason to stay awake at night, and they'll be looking your way again. So much as you and the traitors are going to be at each other's throats, keep it out of the city. No knife battles in the middle of the road, no corpses missing their guts showing up. If you want a neutral zone, it's going to be truly neutral."

Sean nodded, listening to the woman's concern with care. He honestly didn't care for the people of Newhaven right now, but when you are a leader, you have to learn to give a little for what you get. "I never asked you people to build it. We will tear down the burnt down construction and rebuild it ourselves. I can also put a few workers at your disposal to help rebuild civilian homes. Aside from that, once the Inn is functional we will be paying taxes." He smirked. "What your city council does with it, is your concern, but we will be paying nonetheless."

He made a small pause to let the offer sink in before continuing with the next point he needed to make. "A neutral zone, is a neutral zone. Which also means I won't have your soldiers knocking down any doors or asking any questions. Once my people are within those four walls, they are not to be touched. In return, no one else who enters the Inn will be harmed, not even Evin Bana himself, after all he did. In the future, should someone from Newhaven need to contact the Pack for any reason, it should be done through the messengers there; no more sneaking into our camp." He took another glance around, then looked back to her. "It's the best deal I can offer, and if anything I'm being too nice."

Mageria lowered her eyes for a moment then flicked them back up to Sean's. "Fair enough. I'll pass the word. Anyone that I can order or terrorize will stay away from your camp. Anyone stupid enough to head your way when there's a safe alternative will have to face the consequences of their actions on their own." A brief smile crossed her face as she turned and looked back at Newhaven. "And I'm sure that the Council appreciates your future buisness." The slightest trace of sarcasm leaked into her voice. "I certainly appreciate your altruism."

She held one hand out between them. "If that concludes things?"

Sean hesitated for a moment, did making a truce with the Knights made him feel slightly sick to the stomach? Yes. However, this was for the best. At least in this moment it was the best for the clan and for him. Anything personal could wait. Finally he pulled one hand from under his cloak and reached to shake Mageria's hand. "I say we've reached an understanding Captain. There is one thing I should warn you of, however." He crossed his arms over his chest again as he continued. "As promised, I will not hunt for traitors in your city, but if I suspect Newhaven, or the Black Knights, of helping one of those rats, we will have a problem." With that clarified, her turned around to leave. "I will have my workers in the city by nightfall. I trust that they will be fairly treated."

Mageria inclined her head. "Of course, Alpha." Her tone left it uncertain as to what she was replying to, however. She would make sure that the workers weren't harmed; however, given that she was on much better terms with Crystal and those that followed her, there was no doubt in her mind that there would be trouble in the future between the two groups. It was as inevitable as the sun rising in the south. She watched Sean turn to leave.
"I'm glad we could come to an agreement."


[Reality - Wolfpack Camp, present time]

Sean was still staring at the report, rereading it one more time. Actives were attacked, there had been damage to the Inn, although the traitor was kind enough to pay for the troubles... Jake was provoking him into making a move. Fine. He would do just that, but not they way he was expected to.

Standing up, he walked to a bookshelf and pulled a book from it; a book of myths, nothing much, but inside of it there was some vital information on a sealed envelope. "I'm so glad I removed this from the archives before Evin torched them all." He said, now addressing the messenger that was still staring at him at the doorway. He turned towards the man and extended the envelope to him. "See that this makes it to the hands of the Head of the Newhaven Council, with my compliments. I know hoe badly they have been bothered by the Black Knight Captain, I think it's only fair they have something to defend themselves with."
The messenger blinked, holding the envelope with shivering hands. "The Newhaven Council, Sean? Are you sure?"
"Absolutely." The Alpha replied. "And one more thing..." Sean mentioned, scribbling down a note and folding it neatly. "Deliver this to someone of the Black Guard, tell them to deliver it to their Captain." Sean smiled wickedly as he put the note in the messenger's hands. It read:

I thought we had an understanding.

Instead of a signature, there was simply the symbol of an alpha to mark who had sent it. Sean nodded towards the door to get the messenger going. "Be on your way now."
The man left, still a little bit wary of his assignements, but Sean was sure that he would get it done no matter what.

As the messenger left, Donovan stormed into the cabin and slammed his fist on the table. "She was here, Sean!" He shouted.
Sean raised an eyebrow at his brother. "Shut the door, lower your voice, and tell me who you are talking about." He said calmly. "Sit." He said montining towards a chair.
Donovan didn't sit, however, he closed the door and took a breath. "Crystal was here. She spoke to Avius. He just let her go!"
Sean sighed. "Why am I not surprised?" He mumbled. "Don't worry about it, Don. I'll talk with him."
"How can you be so calm, Sean?" Donovan asked. He was furious, it was noticeable.
"Well, I've been wanting to drive her out hiding... There has to be a reason why she showed now, of all times. Something changed." Sean explained. "It could be good or bad for us, we just need to find out what it is."
Donovan finally seemed to calm himself and sat down. "How?"
"First, I'll talk to Avius, but I have other means of finding that out. I think it's time I use them." He smiled. "Relax, Don... She'll pay for what she did, be patient. Now, go tell Avius I want to see him."
The boy nodded firmly and stood up, leaving the cabin to do what he was asked.

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

[Blackpond]

Jake kicked down the door and, as he did so, he immediatelly felt the cold steel of a dagger on the back of his neck. He could be dead now, but he wasn't yet. A male voice sounded in his ears. “I hope you don’t expect me to pay for the door. Its real agar wood. Almost three hundred years old.”

Jake took his time looking at the inside of the room, before responding. It looked like a murder had occurred there just yesterday; aside from the blood on the carpet, which was visibly dry. He ran his eyes from the bloodied floor to the ripped curtains... That was the spot where Hastings had fallen. If only those walls could tell him what they witnessed that night...

Finally, he responded to the man holding him a knife-point. "Send me the bill if you like." He told the man. "If I live to pay, that is." He added. "Which begs the question: Are you going to use that. Mr...?"

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

[Newhaven]

Luckas was intrigued by the woman's reaction. He expected a White Knight to be, well... Boring, but no. He was even a little surprised when she touched his face. If only she knew what he could do to her with just a little touch... He snickered, but only on the inside. She seemed to be enjoying the idea of messing with his head, and he was going to play along for the moment. As she moved on, he walked after her. for a while, just letting her talk. For another simply watching her expression. She seemed like someone he could play with, someone easy to push into madness; she certainly had things in her mind that she wanted to conceal, but the fact of the matter was that his hands were still bound by that damned healer. As long as Lena Turner lived, it wasn't safe to go back to his former ways. He'd have to make good with what he had at the moment: An entertaining chat.

“Veronica Zein, but you may also call me Zein, and what brings you to the Newhaven’s castle, or even better, who allowed you to enter?” The woman had said.

Luckas finally answered the woman, if not for any other reason, simply to see how far she would go in this little game of theirs. "Veronica, huh? I'll call you Ronnie, it kinda suits you. I don't adress people by their surnames, it's too impersonal. Nicknames are far more friendly." He said with a cheerful smile. "That said: You may call me Luke. My reasons for being here are personal ones. I might tell you sometime, when we know each other better, but not now. And, this might come as a surprise to you, Ronnie, but no one let me in. I was allowed to stay though; I'm just that charismatic." He said, flashing a smile that was, at most, amusing, but not really charming. "As for my answer, I don't think it was at all complicated. It's a simple thought: You cannot fully know anyone, not even yourself. Think about it: How many people truly know what horrors they are capable of? Let's say you have to make a choice: Kill someone you love dearly, or kill an unknown child, in plain sight of said person. If you kill your loved one, you'll suffer. If you kill the child, you save your loved one, however, the person will always see you as a monster capable of killing a child. Tricky, huh? And you can speculate as to what you would do, or how far you would go... But unless you live it, you can never truly know. That's what makes the world around us bearable: Those little illusions that give us room to believe we're not monsters; that we have lines we would never cross. The truth of all matters remains unknown; buried in the back of our minds while we hope we never need to unleash it upon ourselves." He said absently as they walked. Then he chuckled. "I sound complicated again, don't I? Let me put it in few words: 'Reality', as people like to call it, is nothing but a lie. The actual truth lies within a little area of our minds we cannot reach. The only way to see it, truly... Is to allow it to shatter. So that is what reality actually is: What you people call 'insanity'."

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

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Luckas

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#, as written by Caelus
Veronica quietly heard Luke’s speech until the end, words crossing the mind ‘Yes, definitely he lived things, and apparently’ she slowly breathed ‘he made things that if he had a single moment to remember them, with the eyes from another person. . . shame, terror, fear are words than are way too small to comprehend it’ Veronica giggled as they walked through the corridor, although her laugh was silenced by the sound of her boots. "Yes, reality is nothing but how people want it to be, and maybe by that we can understand that it is nothing more than pure relativity, in the same way that feelings as happiness, cruelty and even the truth that you talk so much and, in a small guess is searching, are; you see, how can a noble child smile, when it has been created in a family that only cares about money? Gifts, but how can a poor one do the same thing when it has only known famine and sadness? Maybe with the same thing, maybe with a small piece of food or even with a place to actually sleep safe" She saw Luke’s face while the woman was speaking, she was pretty sure that his right eyebrow moved unintentionally when she spoke the last words, ‘Jackpot, this is a game that two can play friend, but maybe you will learn that soon enough’ . Veronica turned her head to face Luke, and continued "Let me expand my scenery, what would a rich individual do in the moment he would meet a real fight for the first time in his life? Oh, if he knows how to fight because someone taught him he surely would try to punch his foe, but we know that the chances are high that he will lose. But if he had the chance to tell his father that, the father would surely order to someone to hit his son’s or daughter’s offender as fast as possible. What about an individual that was alone in the world, that was only sure than he would sleep once his strenght was equal to zero, what would he do in a fight that he knew that he needed to face?" As Veronica saw the same movement again she remembered how she learned those small tricks, she faced the ground as she walked.

[Flashback - Close to Newhaven, 5 years ago]

“Let me teach you something lady” Veronica walked in the grass, the wind gently touching her face as she smiled. The city’s walls were distant, although they only walked for what seemed half an hour. The old man was a few steps behind her talked, Jon was like that, the kind of person that enjoyed to teach as many things he could to his friends, he knew those small details would be valuable some day, specially for his best friend’s daughter. He stopped for a few seconds, Veronica stopped and faced him as she heard his heavy breathing “Or I’m getting older or maybe you have been training a bit" If I recall well, the last time we walked here you asked me to take you home after we walked only a kilometer”.

Veronica laughed, “Come on, I was 16 when we did that, of course I wanted to go home, and yet, after our little-talk-that-only-lasted-a-kilometer, you managed to convince my parents” she smiled to the old man as he started to walk again “You know I’ll never forget that, and yes, I’ve been training a bit”

“Perfect! That means than I’m not actually aging!”, both laughed, those few moments that they could have a small conversation without all the army’s policy were rare and usually lasted less than a few minutes, Jon stopped and turned, so he could face the city. “Now hear me, someday you will surely need to use this. Every single living being has a mind, yes, some are more developed like other, and still, the mind governs everyone’s actions. A dog will bark to ask for food because in his mind he knows that if he barks to someone in a specific manner that person will surely give him food. Or some kind of, at least. The human mind works in the same way, but since it’s more complex than a dog’s one, it hides many things from us. Things than would throw us into madness if they weren’t hidden, and yet somehow the mind demonstrates that we lived those things, tasted them, or even somehow acknowledged them, not by some incredible stupid action, but yet through small movements, eyebrows, the mouth, the hands. Pay attention to them, and you will know many things about the others when you speak about stuff they have long forgotten.” She looked to the city too, trying to understand what he had just spoken. “And how can that be useful to me?”, the man laughed as he heard those words, “Try to be more creative lady! Look, some soldiers will play a few card games tonight, use what I’ve just told you, if you win, then half of what you won is mine, if you lose, then I’ll give you the money you lost, now let’s return to the city, it’s getting cold outta here.”

[Reality, Newhaven]

The scarlet haired woman somehow managed to smile, usually she was sad when she thought about Jon, but those small moments were. . . indescribable. She faced Luke again, the thought that she touched his weakness somehow crossed her mind. “This is a game that I can play too, mister Luke, and I never lose small games like this.” They reached the end of the corridor, a turn to right would lead to the stairs and turning to left would make them cross half of the castle, ‘Enough of this, there’s a line between having fun and hurting someone by bringing memories’. “I have a few things to do, I hope we can continue this.... little game of ours another day”. Veronica started to walk down the stairs, “It’s here where I’ll go alone, and yes, it will be better for you if you don’t follow me.” She waved her left hand as a way to end that strange meeting while she walked. Maybe she should have a word or two with Captain Thomas after she sent the letter, just maybe.

A few tens of minutes after that, she gladly found an available messenger, interrupting him as he tried to start a phrase with the formalities reserved to the White Knights. “Look, I have this letter to be delivered, I need it inside a small camp in the ruins from Brightvale, it’s unofficial, do you understand it?”. The man nodded, “Therefore, you shouldn’t pick anything than would tell that you’re a messenger from the castle, like flags or armor with signs. Travel simply, as if you were a merchant, and wait for an answer there, once you’re back I’ll pay you, understood?” The man once again nodded, Veronica heard about him once or twice, he delivered most of the letters from the castle, she vaguely remembered to have heard that he speak with a very low frequency. “Pick a horse, and go. May the Twins protect you.” She turned around after the man took the letter from her hand, she could hear that he was running. ‘Now.... where was the dinning hall?

Setting

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Character Portrait: Luckas

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Luckas felt his interest in the conversation drop drastically as the White Knight spoke; she was looking to cause reactions on him by mentioning things, he assumed, she thought might have to do with his past; he played along, but this wasn’t as fun as he hoped it would be. While at first it seemed that this woman might be capable of understanding, the only thing she caused on him was disappointment and slight amusement. Not that she had completely missed the point, but she hadn’t quite caught the actual meaning of what he was saying.

As she finished with her whole hypothetical, Luckas chuckled softly. “That whole scenario is irrelevant.” He stated simply. “If you break a child enough, said child will learn to smile regardless of what she has or lacks or cry if needed be regardless of actual emotions; happiness and sadness are two of many things that can be faked with enough practice. So is bravery, or strength, my dear Knight… If you lie to yourself well enough, you can convince yourself that you’re strong enough to take down an army. If it gets you killed… that’s a different story. A good liar can convince himself as well as he can convince others, he may even miss the fact that he’s lying because he believes so much in himself. I’ve been told I am one of those, but if I am, I wouldn’t know, now would I?”

Luckas chuckled as Veronica said she could play his game. “You’ve made two incorrect assumptions in one statement, Ronnie: This game isn’t little in the slightest and if you actually believe so, your unvoiced assumption that you can play it to my level is not only incorrect, but ridiculous.” He said, with a little snicker. “Honestly, I almost thought you’d be a challenge, but you turn out to be such a bore. So disappointing...” He smiled sweetly. “Don’t be insulted now, but it takes more that these amateur tricks of yours to read me. I have my weaknesses, as does everyone, but it takes a greater mind than yours to even spot them; even less to use them against me. I give you some credit for trying, but that’s the most you get from me at this time.” He said with a slightly evil smile. “Please, do try again sometime… I dare you.”

As the woman waved him away and began walking downstairs Luke simply shrugged and walked away without question, laughing by himself. “The arrogance on some people… As if I would follow just anyone around like a stray dog. I have standards.”

The young man shook his head as he walked. He had been tempted to follow the White Knight, just because she had told him not to, but figured it would probably just bore him further, or annoy him, which was worse. As much as it had been tempting to prove to that woman that she didn’t know who she was dealing with, he was sure that a White Knight walking around acting strange would be noticed, and at least one person in that place would know he did it. That not to mention he still expected Lena to come back. He sometimes wondered if the woman had dropped dead somewhere, but knowing that old witch, it just seemed very unlikely; so he should be as quiet as possible just in case.

As he had said: It took a greater mind than the one of that Knight to spot his weaknesses, Lena was the closest someone had ever gone to knowing him fully, although mostly against his will.

[Flashback – Healers’ camp, approximately 4 years ago]

“Kid… Are you alright?” The unknown voice sounded in Luckas’ mind as a distant echo, but the face behind it was blurred beyond recognition. Flashes of broken memories proceeded to flood the boy’s mind, although they were unrecognizable as well. And then… It all disappeared; fading into darkness.

“NO! NO! YOU PROMISED ME!” He shouted out in frustration, opening his eyes to face Lena.

“I’m sorry Luke, this is the most I could get out of you.” She explained. “Insisting would be way too dangerous.”
“I don’t care about that!” He insisted. “I have the right to know!”
“There must be another way. I’ll find it.” She told him, firmly. “I will not risk permanent damage to unlock these memories.”
“You said if I let you study my enlightenment you would help me remember! I’ve been trapped in this camp, letting you test me anyway you like for almost a year now. You OWE ME! WE HAD A DEAL!” He shouted. “GET OUT.” He added, turning towards two healers that had stormed into the tent, probably when he first yelled. The two men ran out of the tent at full speed in response to the boy’s command.

“Calm yourself, Luckas, or I’ll be forced to restrain you.” Lena said calmly, handing the boy a handkerchief. “You have a bit of a nose-bleed there, by the way.” She added. “Sit.” She told him.

Luckas took the handkerchief and wiped his nose, lowering it to see a red blood stain on the white cloth. He looked down and realized he didn’t recall standing up either. As he began to calm down he slowly became aware of the fact that he felt faint. Finally he sat back down in front of the healer and took a long deep breath. “Why? Why can’t I remember?” He asked her, holding the cloth to his, still bleeding, nose.
“For what I’ve seen, there are two options: Or these memories terrify you to a point where your mind blocked them out entirely in order to protect itself, or someone attempted to forcefully wipe your memory. Based on the bits and pieces… My personal guess would be the second option.”
“How is it that I remember bits and pieces then?” He asked, rubbing his temples to try and ease the pain on his head.
“Your enlightenment protected you to some extent, but it was still developing so it couldn’t completely shield you. It is possible that the memories will come back to you on their own, but it is also a possibility that you never really remember.”
“You promised me I would remember.”
“No, I promised I would help you. I can’t force your mind to function the way I want it to, no one is that powerful Luckas.” She sighed. “We barely scratched the surface and I was already forced to push you much further than I should have. I will not risk your life for this.”
“No one is that powerful? Not even the person who did this to me?” He muttered out the question. “And isn’t that my choice to make?” He argued.
“We're not sure someone actually did this to you, and no: Not on my watch, it isn’t.” She told him. “Now, I suggest you eat something and get some sleep. We can try again tomorrow.”


[Reality – Newhaven Castle, present time]

Luckas broke out of his thoughts as he heard sounds of a small commotion, immediately beginning to walk in the direction of the noise. He never really found out what had caused the noise, but he did notice someone watching the hall as he passed, and stopped walking as he caught sight of the woman who was peeking from inside one of the rooms.

Putting both hands in his pockets he walked towards the doorway and looked at this spy with a curious look; now that he was closer he had the impression he’d met this person before, even though her face didn’t really seem familiar. It was an odd sensation indeed. “Well, hello there Miss.” He greeted. “You don’t look much like you live here. Are you with somebody?” He asked, his tone making clear how intrigued he was.

Odd: Completely odd. Luke never failed to remember a face, but he couldn’t figure out where he knew this person from; he was sure he’d met her somewhere though. He didn’t even manage to conceal the confusion on his face as he stared at her. Who was this woman? He didn't like the sensation of not remembering, and unless she did or said something to jog his memory he would try to sneak a peek at her mind to figure it out. If he was quick enough about it he could do that and go unnoticed.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Luckas Character Portrait: Ess

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#, as written by Essence
BlackBird and Essence Combo



Ess’s deep red curls bounced lightly, tickling her skin as she turned at the sound of a male voice. Her violet orbs were dim for a moment before flashing brightly, brows narrowing at the figure as she inspected the man. His voice sent a chilling sensation down her spine. Not one that she was afraid of, but one that carried a grudging emotion;of what or why she wasn’t sure. Taking in his dark eyes and hair, she pushed aside the heavy door, letting it slam shut behind her as she stepped forward and paused.

It was as if a switched flipped inside her brain, his face triggered a vision that came and went in an instant. Deep within her dreams his raven strands outlined a familiar violet glow, similar to hers. She saw him staring close enough to feel his breath tickling her forehead. Ess remembered him whispering to her, "Don't worry, now... I won't hurt you. This might be unpleasant, but it won't hurt."

Her expression was displeased and of slight confusion, melting away as easily as it had taken over. Her ‘Professional’ persona began taking charge. Smiling provocatively, she slid her cloak over her shoulders revealing a soot black gown, tightly laced along her hour glass curves. Her lips curved into a sultry smile, her fingers twirling and twisting along her curls absently. She glanced around coyly.

“I’m here with you, good sir.” She teased, her voice soft and almost enchanting. She shrugged, her brow twitching as she thought to herself and answered, “Well, I was just talking to the Guard Captain...so I was invited.”

Essence waited for him to speak, her mind trying to pinpoint the memory.
“Do I know you?” She giggled innocently. “Or perhaps I’ve entertained you before?”
She easily kept up her flirtatious manner as if she were already in disguise. She knew her memory was not just from forgotten dreams, but something more. She got the impression he had a similar confusion and decided to use it to discover more information. Ess winked at the man as she spoke.

“Course if I had entertained you, I think you would remember....The name is Essence.” Dragging out the last syllable of her name she waited for his name in return.

Luckas blinked a few times looking at the woman; his dark eyes examining her figure and registering gestures, mannerisms, trying to find something, anything, that told him who this person was and why he couldn't remember when they've met, but he didn't find it. It would have had to be a brief encounter maybe... It was puzzling, and unnerving, that was a rare feeling for Luke and he wasn't sure if he liked it.

As she walked closer and began speaking with him he started to feel slightly nervous. She thought she knew him too. If she remembered knowing him... How was that possible? He shifted uncomfortably, trying to hide his confusion and smile as he usually did, but for the first time in as long as he could remember... He found it difficult to mask his feelings; he was forced to take a moment before he managed to open a smile and replied. "Miss... Essence, is it? I definitely would not pass on any opportunity of being entertained, however, if you had entertained me, I would certainly remember, but perhaps you would not remember me." He stated, now fixing his eyes on the woman's violet gaze, and feeling a small chill as if he had done the same thing at some point in the past. "I'm Luckas, by the way. I'm... A visitor, you might say. Like a friendly ghost. I roam the halls in search for people to scare or amuse." He tilted his head to the side, his grin widening a bit. "Say... You do look awfully familiar for some reason. You've been living in the city long?"

“ESSSsss.. Is acceptable Luckas....I have been here some time now.."Tilting her head she continued smiling, but it was in a comforting way. “You act like you haunt this castle..or this land.” She rolled her eyes, quieting almost to a whisper and leaned forward as if to approach Luckas to finish her thought, “But I think it is you, who is haunted.”

Her expression went blank, as if she saw through Lukas, another vision taking place of the castle hall.
..........................................................................................................................................................
About 5 years ago in Newhaven
http://youtu.be/0tD3Jmc96aoPan’s Labyrinth

The silence of the night was shattered by a horrid scream. The man who had been motionless on the ground had stood up, with his back still leaned to the wall, and was screaming at the top of his lungs as if he was in absolute agony. The screaming didn't last very long though, as the man began to smash the back of his head onto the wall, forcefully and repeatedly.

Finally, with the sickening sound of a crack, he stopped, sliding back down to the floor, leaving a bloody trail on the stone of the wall behind him; a blank, lifeless, stare in his open eyes.

Essence simply watched the scene in surprise and utter confusion. She could not understand why someone would do that to themselves. She stood, as if to go to the man where he lay dead and bleeding, as she recognized his face. Her lips took on a sick smile as she knew he was no one to miss, no one worth remembering. She turned back towards the street, peeking around each corner for any sign of movement. Ess knew not to stay where she was and needed to get home quickly.
......................................................................................................................................................
Ess blinked lifelessly, staring at the man before her...Luckas. She had been like a statue, pale and unmoving. Her fingers had been still wrapped around a curl, as she came to life it was still stuck causing herself to tug on her Golden Blond strands...? Ess hadn’t realized what she had just done, but she unintentionally changed before this man’s eyes.

Ess indeed was blond now, but in addition she appeared more petite, almost breakable, shorter in height. Her lips were thin, her skin actually had pigment spotted in freckles; yet her eyes remained a shade of purple. The only other color was a thin silver line, encompassing the iris.

“Was it this face you remember.” Her thin lips broke into a sly smile. “I remember you, who visits my dreams.”


Luckas chuckled slightly when Ess implied he was the haunted one, but his smile shut and he took a few steps back when her face suddenly changed before his eyes. Black eyes flashed red as they widened in shock; he remembered her now, but how was it possible that she remembered him?

[Flashback - Newhaven, about 5 years ago]

"Don't fight it. It's useless." The boy said in a soft, almost kind, tone. Luckas grinned, wiping a bit of blood that had dripped from his nose as he faced the petrified figure of a man. This man wasn't on the boy's plans, but he seemed like the perfect prey, so why not? The idiot had tried to pick a fight with him, for no reason other than he had thought him weak; he let the man throw a punch, but now he would see which one of them was truly weak. Luke's eyes were already beginning to spark at a reddish glow as he faced the poor soul; scum of the worst kind, that's what he was. "I know what goes through that feeble mind of yours." He said, his voice in a soft, mocking, tone. "You were thinking: 'Oh, a scrawny looking kid like this, on this part of town, at this late hour... Easy prey, I'll have my fun with him'." He snickered. "Little did you know that the scrawny kid was listening to your footsteps and thinking the exact same thing: Easy prey. Silly, silly you. And so the hunter becomes the hunted." Luckas taunted. "I bet you don't feel like such a big man now, huh?"

Carefully, Luckas looked around the dark alley; not the most secluded place, but it would have to do. In this part of the city, no one would have much courage to check for the source of any screaming. Plus, the street was mostly empty at the moment. Looking back to his 'companion', Luke smiled cheerfully at him. "I know what you're wondering right now: 'Is he going to kill me now? Am I going to die?' Well, my friend... No, and yes. I'm not going to kill you, but be sure you are going to die. If you're lucky you'll die tonight, but I doubt it." At this point he started to go through to the man's pockets. "Money... Cigarettes, those things can kill you, you know?... Hum... Nothing much. I'm surprise you still have money on you. Well, you ain't gonna need it now." He said tossing the man's money pouch to into a dark corner; someone would probably find it in the morning. "Now, if you were a tad bit more interesting I might play with you further, but I'm growing bored of making threats and stuff... So, nighty night, dear anonymous idiot. It's been a real pleasure."

Shortly after saying that Luckas placed his hand over the man's eyes, his own eyes lighting up in red. Within seconds the man began to shiver and fell to his knees, free from Luckas' command to stand motionless, but no longer able to support his own weight; hell in its purest form coming to life inside his mind. His eyes had widened in terror as he slipped further down onto the ground.

"Huh, you're not much of a screamer, are you?" Luckas asked absently, rubbing his eyes as he felt exhaustion beginning to set in, a side-effect he was more than used to by now. "Well, at least you're not completely a pathetic coward." He crouched down in front of the man and stared deep into his eyes. "I wish I could see what you see..." He whispered softly, a childish smile playing on his lips. "I'll let you in on a little secret: I've been called 'mad', 'crazy', and similar things, a couple of times in my life. You probably think you're mad right now. The secret, what they don't want you to know, is: This is what sanity truly feels like. It's my gift, from me to you. Too bad you'll only have a short time to live it."

.....

Luke was simply staring at the eyes of his 'victim', he never got tired of that terrorized look. All the while he thought his brother was the lucky one; he could see what his victims saw, Luke could only wonder what terrible secrets those people kept. In a way, maybe that was good. Unlike Matthew, Luckas still had some control over his actions, but he wasn't sure if he would have that same control if he actually got to see the full extent of their suffering. He'd probably lose whatever control he had left. The first hours never changed; they simply sat with that look on their faces, if they lived through that... Well, that's when it got interesting. Luke didn't think this guy would make it that far though; didn't seem like he had that much fight in him.

Suddenly, he thought he heard something and stood up straight, turning to see a woman standing near the exit of the alley. "Hold still, please." He commanded, before walking closer. Once standing in front of her, he smiled. "Well, well... Who do we have here?" He asked, pulling the woman's hood back to get a better look at her face. The color of her eyes was odd, and made it clear that she had some Enlightened ability. "Don't worry, now... I won't hurt you. This might be unpleasant, but it won't hurt." As he said that, his eyes began to glow in the same violet tone as hers and he saw several moments of her life as if he had lived them. Mere moments later, he broke eye contact with the woman and rubbed his eyes; he was worn out from attacking the idiot, who was still sitting there trapped in his own mind. "Well, I have to say, you have a pretty interesting set of memories... Wow." Luke stated casually with a grin. "Tell you what, I'm going to give you something for the trouble, that idiot won''t need it." He said, walking to the back of the alley and picking up the purse he had tossed aside.

He walked back to the woman and put the purse in her hand, closing her fist around it. "Here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to make you forget you ever walked into this alley and everything you've seen here. You will only remember walking straight home. I'm sure you understand that I can't afford having you tell anyone about this; I'd hate to end up in a dark cell so early in my life."

With that, his eyes glowed violet again. As he focused on the woman's most recent memories, the images began to blur and fade. Once he had gone over them all, he stepped away rubbing his temples. He had pushed himself a little further than he should have, he needed to find some place to sleep and fast. He walked past the woman muttering. "Go home." As he did so. He didn't even bother to look back and see if she was actually leaving or not.


[Reality - Newhaven, present time]


Luke remembered her now... She had caught him in the act, a long time ago when he was still free. The young man was feeling shivers down his spine as it all came back to him; a mix of terror and excitement burning a hole in his insides. He was so much younger then, careless, he pushed himself too far and his ability failed him. He stared blankly at the, now blonde, woman that stood in front of him. Her more recent memories that night were of a man, who she called 'Dean', and who called himself a 'Knight', but was probably neither.

Luckas had paid the man a visit a few days later, but hadn't bothered to even waste his energy on that piece of scum; he simply had the man do something so horrible that the terror of it alone drove him over the edge. He slit his own throat. Luke heard it was quite a shocking sight for his young fiancee to find as she visited the next morning; after all no one could ever understand what had caused a healthy young man to suddenly castrate himself and commit suicide. If only that woman knew what kind of life she would've had... She probably wouldn't have been so distraught.

The shock beginning to subside, Luckas continued to look into the woman's eyes as they glowed in the poorly lit hallway, thinking that perhaps she was right and she was the ghost after all... He was the haunted one. The irony was too much for the young man to bear and he suddenly broke out in laughter. Laughing louder and louder by the minute, Luke leaned his back against the stone wall and slid onto the floor, laughing hysterically and occasionally choking as he tried to stop for air. It took a bit of time for him to finally be able to speak, looking up at Ess with a slightly psychotic smile on his face, still coughing slightly from his fit of laughter. "Oh, I remember you now!" he exclaimed. "I remember it all!" He chuckled. "You are truly memorable, Ess! I, on the other hand... I'm not used to being remembered. It's rather flattering to hear I've appeared in your dreams, I have to say." He said, getting back on his feet. "You're not mad at me for that, now are you? I think we both learned to be more careful that night."


Ess quirked a brow as Luckas fell into a fit of laughter. She thought the irony was quite amusing as well as she bit down on her lip to try not to join him in his hysterics. Her facade melted away, back to her dark red curls and doll like features, the ugly scar looked almost painted beneath her left eye as it stood out so against her pale skin. She couldn’t help it and suddenly burst into her own fit of giggles. Luckas’s laughter became temporarily contagious, giving a slight ache in her chest.

Bits of images flashed before her eyes, the memory flooding her mind:

Feeling the stranger’s mind beside her own, they watched as she re-lived her father impaled to a wall; jumping through a mix of tortured moments as a child when nameless faces tried to break her time and time again. Ess saw flashes of the men she bedded since she arrived in Newhaven, in an embarrassing amount of detail. A sickening wave washed over her as she saw herself in her mirror, her features blurring amidst a constant change, never repeating. There is no telling for sure, how many faces she has taken on. She rarely copies other women, but takes lips and hair from one girl, mixing with the skin of another.

Feeling a bit awkward now, she approached Luke, lightly slapping at his left cheek. “That’s for the degrading emotions you dragged out of me...For that I am not so happy with you. In the future, if you so desire to know what is going on in my head, please just ask.” She sighed relaxing a bit. “I don’t recall everything, mind you, but you left me with a distinct feeling of being invaded...violated. I assume from the bits of memories you know my secrets, so I would then expect you to understand my request.”


She stepped back a bit and winked, “You may be cute, but I don’t like a complete stranger hanging out in my dreams, thank you very much.” She extended her hand in a formal greeting. “Please, not to sound cocky, but understand you are the only other person out of two that know what I really look like and my secret. I would appreciate discretion.” Her lush lips parted, her tongue inattentively slipping over them, “It could hurt my...business.”

She thought about one of her customers, “Tim,” from earlier that night and rolled her eyes at the thought of him knowing her true identity. Twins help her, she would never be left alone. Such a nieve puppy that one is. Ess didn’t feel he was dangerous, but perhaps a bit obsessed.

"Ow." Luke whined as the woman slapped his face, a snicker escaping soon after. "In my defense, you were not supposed to remember the violation." He stated. "That was the point, you know? Can't possibly be the worst thing someone's ever done to you, now can it?" He asked, raising an eyebrow. "Don't worry though, I have no intention of telling anyone any secrets, but I'm sure you understand why I did it, we're not all that different you and I... Or so it seems." He said stepping closer to the woman and examining her as if he could see under her skin. "A creature of habits, not proud of what you do, but knows no other ways, had little rules and codes to make it seem like it's not so bad, not get into too much trouble, not get hurt... Like me in a way. You change your face, I erase mine. Much like you, I protect my business."

He pulled back, and tilted his head in a curious gesture. "I wonder though, do you still do what you do because you accept your place in the world or because you're afraid of what greater thing you might be destined to? I think that, despite your obvious skills in this line of work of yours, that you waste your ability by fulfilling the fantasies of rich fools. Why not fulfill your own instead? Or have you been broken to such an extent that you simply have none left?" He closed his eyes and breathed in slowly as if he had caught the scent of something in the air, then opened them and flashed his usual psychotic smile. "Tell me, are you planning on ever being as strong as you can be or was I wrong to let you live that night?" He motioned as if to reach for her face, but stopped halfway through. "Are you just another disappointment, or can you actually see..." He mumbled, softly, as if speaking to himself, not saying what he expected her to see exactly.

Finally he lowered his hand and pulled away some more, chuckling as if he had snapped out of trance suddenly. Leaning back against the wall and giving a little shrug he added: "You told me to ask... Those are my questions."

http://youtu.be/w31mjtTMvRo Egypt Central-White Rabbit

Crossing her arms casually, Ess leaned back, placing some weight on her left hip. She stared at Luckas for a moment before she answered, smiling with a respectful nod.

“Thank you. I hope you realize, I did not attempt to pursue this idea of you even if I thought I would succeed. Nor did I speak to anyone about our encounter and the skum that ....died unpleasantly. Nice touch by the way. I’m impressed at your gift.”

Taking a deep breath she thought carefully at his observation. “I suppose...we are much alike. I know if I had your gift, I would proceed down a similar path. We both pretend and put up a front, not letting others inside how we truly feel and in your case you have the advantage. We appreciate truth yet we lie to ourselves. We mean well yet are hypocrites.”

Unfolding her arms she leaned in close, her curls almost touching his chest and whispered, “Why would you have killed me? Do you really see me as such a waste? Perhaps you need to justify your own existence, judging others?” Ess chuckled, her fingertips tapping along her thigh in thought.

“I may not have discovered all the answers to the questions you lay before me, but I can tell you this. I am no coward and I have not given up on life. I am still here and have done what is needed to survive...” She drifted in thought, still staring up into Luke’s eyes. “Maybe I have given up on people and that is why I continue to ‘pretend.’ Perhaps I have not found others worth my trust and friendship...or I am still figuring all that out.”

Ess leaned into him, placing her hand against his chest. “Tell me if I am lying.” She dared, knowing she spoke truthfully. “I work to better myself in my studies, in books on anything I can get my hands on. I search for a teacher or teachers of many kinds of talents, and I keep personal goals always in my thoughts. I admit we all can be weak, but our will can make us strong.”

Luckas grabbed the woman's hand and slowly pulled it away from his chest, holding back a wince caused by the pain on the wounded area. Releasing her, he replied. "I feel no need to justify my existence, the fact that I exist is not my responsibility, nor was it my choice, so why should I justify it? And we all judge others, I'm being judged for my words right now, aren't I? The question however, isn't why I would kill you, the question is: Why not?" He chuckled. "Back then, the fact that you were there would have been more than enough, yet I didn't. Funny, huh?"

Luckas scratched at his chest absently, the touch had been enough to remind him of the itchy bandages, and sighed. "And do you appreciate the truth? You have to know something to truly appreciate it, no? How well do you suppose you know yourself? No, I don't think you are weak, or a waste, I do however believe you are so used to pretending that one of these days you might just believe your own illusions. See, almost everything we do is with the simple goal of not getting hurt, physically or emotionally, doesn't matter. If a memory is to painful to bear our minds will block it out, if admitting to a particular truth is too painful we will lie to spare ourselves that pain as well... eventually it reaches a point when everything around us is built around those lies, and we lose ourselves. So tell me: Is not feeling pain worth living an illusion?" He shrugged. "Those things you seek: Knowledge, companionship, trust... They are all illusions as well in a way. The truths written in books are proven wrong and then other books are written, and then proven wrong, and so on. As for trust and friendship..." He chuckled. "Well, no one truly trusts anyone, not completely. Not really. At most people like to pretend they trust, but give them one little reason to suspect another and they will immediately find a thousand more... And then there goes the trust. If something can be shattered so easily, what is point of having it in the first place?"

Luke sighed softly. "See... I've gone through enough minds to know that, while mommies and daddies out there like to say otherwise, people are pretty much the same. There are rare people I've met who have proved themselves to be truly unique in one way or another... And while you are unique, Essence, you try so hard to be like everyone else that it just makes me wonder what's the point." He shook his head. "Suppose I'm just naive that way: I have hope that there is something other than mediocrity hidden out there somewhere. Though I may never know for sure."

Essence smiled sweetly, relaxing more as she listened to Luckas. Agreeing with much he had said, she nodded here and there as he spoke. She remained silent, politely absorbing his words. She thought about how he carried much wisdom from his journeys thus far in life, and she felt it a relief to have someone on a similar level to converse with. They both knew they had more in life to learn and discover and perhaps admit to themselves. Even the sad and depressing she felt was not worse than no feelings at all. She did realize before he spoke, that she has denied herself much throughout the years, but she slowly was changing that. Ess knew she was soon to discover another path, taking her into the exciting unknown.

In reference to Luke’s words on trust, she did not agree completely, but that did not matter. She did however dwell on his final observation of herself: “ And while you are unique, Essence, you try so hard to be like everyone else that it just makes me wonder what's the point."

Essence wasn’t sure if she fully understood that perception. She did know she wanted to be accepted, but she did not have many friends. She did not conform or deny herself in general in order to be accepted, so she therefore was alone. Perhaps she was hiding from the world. Maybe she did not wish to relieve the cruel injustices of her childhood, and therefore tried to act like it never existed. Yet, she knew that wasn’t the case. Maybe she just never found closure, and she needed to discover what that would be to take the next step forward in her life.

After what seemed like an eternity of silence, she realized he was still staring at her, as if waiting for a response. Ess dipped her head in a sign of respect, and her true smile shone through. “You have an ‘Old Soul’ Luckas. You intrigue me and I hope to have the pleasure of more of these encounters with you.” Ess’s violet iris’s dimmed in their glow, a mischievous grin taking over her expression. It was not quite clear what she was thinking, but it was not menacing towards Luckas.

“So, if you had my gift, what would you do with it?”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Luckas Character Portrait: Ess

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#, as written by Essence
Blackbird and Essence


Luckas was slightly surprised at the words Ess spoke to him. No one had ever considered him... An 'Old Soul', whatever that meant. People usually saw him as a misbehaved kid, only creepier. He wasn't sure about what that told him about her, maybe she was even more messed up than him, and while messed up people usually bored him... Something about this woman was appealing to him on some level. Not just appealing as attractive women usually were, but in the level of something familiar, which for him was simply the oddest thing.

She asked him what he would do if he had her gift. Luckas flinched at the question, it was almost as if she knew... But then there was no way she could know that, no one knew, only the Healer. Forcing a smile, not to show his confusion, he shrugged. "That's an interesting question. Perhaps I would do the same things I do now, perhaps I would do something else entirely." He snickered. "That... That is an answer I still plan on obtaining one day."

Then he sighed, realizing that a considerable amount time had passed as they stood in the hall. "Are you waiting on someone, still?" He asked. "Seems like they might have forgotten you, although I'm not sure how that's possible." He joked.

Ess glanced up and down the hallway, considering his answer to her question. She gave a tired shrug, “Suppose I was. Wouldn’t be the first time....I’m sure something came up.” Remembering her dagger she cursed to herself but thought it would be an excuse to come back here tomorrow if she didn’t run into the Guard Captain sooner.

Ess had the feeling Luckas wasn’t giving her the entire truth when he answered her, but she wasn’t one to nit pick. She understood him some what, as much as she tried to understand herself...Which was still confusing at times, so she felt they were on a similar level. It was if he was dancing around an idea in his head that he wasn’t sure he should give away just yet. His amusement gave her the impression it may be entertaining.

“Well...I don’t think I remember how to get out of this drafty Castle...” Her expression genuinly confused for a moment as she looked back towards Luckas.

“When you figure it out Luckas, let me know. Perhaps it will interest me to...entertain your idea...” A giggle escaped her lips, her chest rising and falling in a hypnotizing manner. “Or maybe we’ll kill each other one day...I’d rather keep you around though, you seem useful.” Her left eye winking at him, the scar giving the flirt a chilling allure.

Turning she picked the wrong way to exit the hallway, as she knew not what kept the man from killing her that night, years ago. It intrigued her that he would mention his pull to not kill her, but why if he cared not? Keeping the question to herself she stopped and cursed yet again.

“Can you point me in the right direction out of this tomb?” She growled, a bit disgruntled.

Luckas opened a delighted grin at her mention of him being useful to her, he observed the way she flirted, oh so subtly, while she spoke and wondered if she even controlled these gestures of if they had become so natural that she barely noticed them anymore. It was a front similar to his, only dangerous in a different way. Might even be a little more dangerous than his, thinking about it. "Well... Maybe we're mutually useful. I did enjoy myself last time I took care of one of your misbehaved 'friends', what was his name? Dean? No, it was Anthony, actually, but you called him Dean. Poor bastard." Luke said absently. "I wouldn’t mind taking care of another, if it's ever the case. Although, I expect you to be more careful nowadays."

Following that statement he began walking towards the nearest way out. "I'll lead you out." He stated. "You still live in the same address, right?" He asked with a chuckle. Of course he didn't plan on following her home, but he still enjoyed implying that he knew where she lived.

Ess began following Luckas, tilting her head in a curious gesture at his mention of Dean as she remembered:

Rubbing her wrist, she knew bruises were already forming. Course it could of been worse. Dean, as she had called the “knight,” was a classic smooth talker who decided he wanted things a little too rough for Ess’s liking. It had taken several blows to Dean’s throat for him to back away, the wind escaping him. He had been still alive when she left, and she managed to make off with his coin purse. It was quite the profit, considering she was only with him about half an hour. Ess left as quickly as she could, knowing there were dire consequences for robbing and assaulting a knight, if that’s who he really was.

“Ahh....so you were responsible for his distraught....wife? Was it?” Ess couldn’t keep the devilish smile from her lips. She had heard through the grapevine about the man’s tragic suicide. It all came neatly together, most conveniently. As they continued on, she wondered what made her so special enough to basically inconvenience himself?

“So...why do I remember some things anyways? Shouldn’t you kill me for that?” She scoffed.
“Or do you find you actually feel something other than discust for a complete stranger?” She didn’t wait for the answer, as she figured it was a rhetorical question. Ess had a similar experience before, she had almost forgotten about some days.

“Don’t think I owe you anything for that now.”

Luckas led the woman to the castle gates before answering her. "I don't do favors." He stated simply. "And my reasons are for me to know and you to try and find out if you have the time and patience. Besides, we're not completely strangers, now are we Ess? I think I came to know you quite well, on some level, you might even know me. Only time will tell if I'll have have to kill you for that, but I'd rather enjoy it for now, while it lasts." Giving a playful wink, he turned around and began to walk back, looking for a place to settle down and sleep for a few hours, hopefully.