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Shadows of The Forgotten



a part of Shadows of The Forgotten, by Blackbird26.

City of Newhaven

RolePlayGateway holds sovereignty over Newhaven, giving them the ability to make limited changes.

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City of Newhaven


Newhaven is a part of Valcrest.

4 Characters Here

Sean Fletcher [10] Leader of the Wolfpack: "Keep your enemies closer? I think six feet under is just about close enough." (DECEASED)
Allison Blake [6] "The world becomes such a beautiful place once you learn to close your eyes."
Lamya [5] "When there is more than one side to the moral coin, there is no morals. Blackpond is just one of those examples."
Alisa "Temeți" Mare [0] "Pain... s-sister?"

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7 Characters Present

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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The canopy of the wood completely blocked the sun from reaching the floor. It was a place that was constantly in a state of night time, which reflected itself in the way the wildlife had grown. There wasn't much foliage and that which did exist used their vines to climb the tree trunks and reach the light. Other plants worked in an opposite way. They would root themselves at the top of trees so they could take advantage of the sun's light. These plants would then create bioluminecient vines that would hang from the canopy—the only constant source of light in these woods—that created the appearance of low lit chandeliers. These vines, which glowed in a low blue light were used to attract incests which appeared to get stuck to the vine's fine hairs if they got too close. Other sources of wildlife were scarce in these woods. They did exist, but the woods didn't produce ideal conditions for any large animal to live in. The one animal that seemed to exist in abundance were birds, which ate the fruit produced by the vines.
Because of its almost surreal appearance, many people avoided it. Most people in general didn't have much reason to even travel near the woods. It was a small area across the waters east on Newhaven. It wasn't even on most maps as many people didn't actually know of the woods, but historically, they were famous.
In the final couple of decades of the Twins' life on Valcrest, many people feared what would happen when they were actually gone. In preparation for the separation, many people looked to the Twins to fix as many problems as they could before hey were gone forever. The Twins, however, couldn't handle so many requests and isolated themselves completely from the people to live their last days harmoniously. Each of them found their own place to hide away. It was believed that Moon found herself these woods to hide in. Only the oldest of histories had maps that actually placed this kilometre stretch of woodlands on them.
The Moon's Woods was the place that Simon found himself residing in the past two months. It was a fair distance from his target, but it allowed himself a safe haven from anyone else who may have been looking for him. It was his continuing effort to track Rick down and figure out exactly what he was up to.
It was finally time to leave the woods however. He had settled down for long enough and it was time to actually take some action. It seemed like Rick was about to take action of his own. There was that and then there was Ella, who was due to give birth any time now. He wanted to be as close to the political world of Newhaven as possible to be able to place Lazurus in a political advantage. He hadn't exactly followed the politics of Newhaven too much in the past couple of months as he slowly isolated himself from the rest of the world, but he knew that with all of the recent corruption and the civil war, a possibility of a coup d'etat was more than realistic as long as he could get his opinion out there. Technically, Ella was still a living member of House Page.
It had been a while since Simon had attempted his powers. He was getting rusty so it would seem and with all this enlightenent scare, he was worried that he was experiencing it too. With some people symptoms weren't as sever, but they seemed to die just as quick as all the others had so far. Simon didn't spend much time worrying of the unavoidable. He had no control over it, but he did have control over Rick and the goings on in the political world of Newhaven. Simon was going to attempt it though. He had to. He needed to be in Newhaven as quickly as possible and if he could use his powers to take advantage of a quicker way to Newhaven, he was going to go right ahead and do it.
Simon closed his eyes out of habit and attempted to find the mind he was looking for. It was a force of habit to close his eyes. Most of the time, when he was looking for a mind, he was able to tap into it without the need of anyone attacking him and closing his eyes allowed him to really focus on his task.
He was looking for a specific person. Someone he had contacted several times before with ease, but now that Rick's mind skating on the edge of crazy, he wasn't sure how easy it would actually be to find him now. On top of that, there was the illness, but again, Simon couldn't think about that.
It only took him about ten minutes to find Rick, but the moment he did, he didn't even bother to let him know that he was in his mind. He just compelled the insane man to follow Simon's will.
What Simon willed was rather clear. He wanted Rick to transport him from the woods to into the council room of Newhaven. What better way would there be to make a grand entrance than to just appear out of nowhere? And how would the council react? Simon didn't concern himself with that. He could escape if need be. The council wouldn't attack him on sight... but given the way that Newhaven was at the moment, any threat to to sovereignty of Newhaven would probably be an immediate risk to them.
Let's see how this goes.
And with that thought, Simon was able to compel Rick to transport him. In an instant, he was flashed from the dark woods to a dark corner of the council room. Somehow, Rick was sane enough to actually put him in a relatively safe spot. It allowed him to get over his initial nausea that was associated with Rick's enlightenment. The entire council wasn't there; only the important ones it seemed. That was all that mattered. Simon a justed himself to look presentable to the council and then took the first steps out of the shadows.
“His name is Rick.” One of the councillors said.
Simon stopped himself before anyone could see him. He crept back into the shadows very slowly and listened into the conversation.
The man who spoke was older in his years, but seemed sharp enough in his wit to be able to keep up with the rest of the council. “No last name.”
“Lowborn?” Another of the members said.
“Quite the opposite actually. He—”
“Then he's an assassin.”
“Not all assassins are Lowborn. I also wouldn't call a meeting about a Lowborn assassin. Now let me finish.” The gangly old man slowly took his seat around the table and out of sight from Simon as the man's chair was behind a pillar in the room. “The man who was found wandering the halls of the Black Knights' chambers was Rick, the King of Blackpond.”
The entire room became heavy. Many of the councillors looked around at each other, exchanging looks that would only be able to be interpreted by a person fluent in the nuances of Newhaven nobles. An entire conversation of subtle facial gestures made its way across the room. Maybe it was more than one conversation? Everyone member in the room that Simon could see helped in this conversation and made the heavy room even weightier.
“Then he isn't a Lowborn, he's of a Royal family!” The man blurted out again.
“Do you ever shut up? During our first session of torture, despite the fact that he was laughing the whole way through, he revealed to the torturer that he was not a member of the Gallach family through blood or marriage. He passed out before we could get many more answers out of him.”
One of the council members spoke up. A younger member of what seemed to be mostly senior members. “What could we do with this information?”
The room remained silent. No one, it seemed, had an answer. They all sat and stood there with the same dumbfounded expressions as they did before the blabber mouth had broke the tension before.
Simon himself was dumbfounded. Rick was roaming through the halls of the Black Knights. He understood why, but it just seemed reckless the way he went about it. A man who could teleport anywhere he desired could have just gone right into the exact room that he wanted. Why risk a hallway which would have likely be busy?
“Now is our chance to take claim on Blackpond. They are week.”
“So are we.” Pipped up Thomas. “And personally, taking care of Newhaven is work enough.”
“We should do what is right. There are still people who wear Gallach's crest. Rory had blood relatives still living. We could attempt to bring a rightful King back on Blackond's throne. We may even see an end to war if we could unite the two cities under a single fact.”
“What is that?”
“If we could show the people the weakening quality of royalty through war. Both Newhaven and Blackpond have seen false Kings in recent years.”
“And show the criminals that they could easily manipulate the royals if they continued to fund the war? It is already obvious that Newhaven is weak, we cannot afford to show the people how weak.” Thomas said, again.
“If we do help to place a Gallach on the throne, we may improve relations between Newhaven and Blackpond regardless.”
Another member spoke out. “We are jumping to conclusions here. We are assuming that the living members of the Gallach family know that Rory is a pretender without a proper claim. It is possible that we will just create new enemies if we go about with this option.”
Thomas stood from his place in the table to address everyone in the room. “We will adjourn to allow some time to think about it. Please look over the documents we discussed in that time and we will meet back in three hours to pick up where we left off. I'll see you then.”
All the men silently began to stand from the table. Simon took this as his chance. He didn't move from out of the shadows. He just tapped into the people's minds and said, “Please, sit back down. Ah! Don't worry, I'm not here to hurt anyone. I'd just like to talk. You spend time talking of planting the rightful king in Blackpond, but you seem to refuse to do so in Newhaven. Ella Page is still alive. You recognize her as alive as you seem to believe that her son is the rightful heir to the throne. You cannot bear a child from the grave. You have usurped the throne from a living member.”
“What do you want?”
“All I want is to see in Newhaven what you want to see in Blackpond.”
“Ella no longer has faculty over her own actions. There is someone else who is under her control. While she is alive, she is barely living.”
Simon examined the room of people. Some of them had left. The guards were on edge, some even holding their swords. The ones who were actually interested in his proposal respectfully payed attention. The rest didn't bother to pretend to care about the crazy man in their head.
Simon smiled and walked out of the shadows. The guards jumped to attention, drawing their swords in a challenge to Simon. “Relax. If I was going to attack anyone I would have done it from my hiding place. I want to make a deal. I want to directly help you get the right people back on the throne.”
“How can you help? Who do you think you are?”
“My name is Simon of Blackpond. I am 4th in command of the group who is directly involved in the continuing control of the city of Blackpond. Formally a personal assassin of King Rory and directly involved in the assassination of Commander Hastings, the man responsible for the murder of the King. The new King, Rick, has gone mad, due to a battle of minds between an attacker and I that battled with in Rick's mind. He is no longer valuable as a King, but he is valuable for reasons which I can respectfully not indulge. All I want is the immediate and safe return of Rick. I will leave it up to you to make a decition about Ella or I will make the decition for you.”
The council member who had been quite vocal in the meeting before was quick to speak out to Simon. “This is in no way a help to Newhaven. It is only beneficial to Blackpond.”
“Ah, but you are wrong. You see, most of these people who have placed Newhaven in civil conflict are doing so under the direct orders of the real person in charge of Blackpond. You see, Rick, even before his decent into madness, was merely a puppet. A new ruler could stop this civil war.”
“We will need some time to think about this.” Thomas said.
“There is no time.” Simon scorned. “I could do this all my own way and continue to watch Newhaven fall into descent. I, however, believe I am a decent man. I want to see Newhaven to be as healthy as I want to see Blackpond, but I don't have time to wait for diplomats to disagree. This is why I like monarchs. They know what they want.”
The council fell silent again. They did that a lot. They seemed to enjoy their facial conversations. All of them seemed to come to the same conclusion. They all looked at Thomas expecting him to have the answers. It seemed that even the council preferred a single leader. Thomas let out an audible sigh.
“I believe you when you say that you can free Rick by yourself and if what you say is true, he is no use to us. You can have him as long as you follow some rules. I will speak to Mageria and arrange for a Black Knight to accompany you around the city. You will not be allowed to leave the city as long as I say and you will check in every day at three in the afternoon to report personally to me. If I am not available, I will arrange for you to speak to someone else. There is no compromise.”
“You are thrifty indeed. You have a deal.” Simon said quite contently.

Woods-Just Outside the Wolfpack

Evin had thought about visit the White Shadows like Crys had suggested, but he just couldn't. He had to keep on going. He had to make sure that everything that needed to be done was done. The White Shadows might have been able to help Evin slightly, but all that they were going to do was contain him in a tent and ease his pain until he peacefully passed. Evin didn't know how to peacefully pass by anything.
Despite Evin's fight, he was really sick. His bloodshot eyes were shadowed by dark rings, only to be accentuated by his ghostly skin. His hair was course and brittle, greying nearly to the point where there was no longer any black left. He no longer carried any fat on him. Everything was muscle and bone. Although, people who never saw him before would not be able to tell that he had lost weight. People who had seen him would still be quite frightened of his appearance.
He needed to figure out what to do with himself, but there was something about the air that was unsettling to him. He sensed this inevitable, impending sense of helplessness in the air and it reflected in the way that the Wolves interacted, whenever he took the time to go see what they were doing. He needed to be there when things blew over. He needed to know what was happening.
This made Evin think. What was it about the Wolves that made him keep coming back? Why did he see the need to obsess over it? He could have been doing better things with his time. He could have gone to help Crys in Blackpond. He could have gone to Newhaven to assist in the ongoing war. He even could have gone to the White Shadows, not to ask for help with his sickness, but to see if he could figure it out for himself. All of these were far more productive then sitting around the camp and doing nothing because he had a feeling. Maybe the sickness was effecting his mind too.
Today, Evin was going to get closer to the camp. Not to get a sight on the things going on in the Camp, but to attempt once more to gain some peace of mind like he used to.


The morning air was clean and the sun, strong. The birds chirped in the surrounding trees. Each of them making their unique sound to add to the music of the morning. It was going to be a nice spring day, but everything about the day also warned of an unusually warm spring day. Being well aware of all of that knowledge, Rita stood in front of her lines, looking towards the lines of the enemy. Surprisingly, at the head of the lines, Lamya stood proudly on top her horse. She looked just as good as ever—bitch.
There was no afflictions to her body, no deterioration or anything of the likes that would indicate sickness, but she had to be sick. Everyone else was sick. How could she get away with it? Just like everything else in her life, things just seemed to pass her by.
“Sargent.” Rita shouted. A burly man rode up to him on a horse and acknowledged her. “Move the cavalry behind the lines and use the cover of our men as away to get to the line's left flank. When our men start charging in on the cavalry, run into their flank and intercept them. Got it?”
“Yes ma'am.” The sergeant answered and then shouted orders to his cavalry fleets.
Hopefully, if things worked out to plan, the opposing army out suspect something, but not enough to be concerned. Rita's second line consisted of pikemen, which could hold their own against Lamya's horsemen. Pike men usually wouldn't charge against the cavalry, however. This would be what was odd. Rita was about to see if her plan would work. As she could see from her aerial view of the battlefield, her cavalry was almost in position.
Rita turned to her armies. “This battle may not be one that will turn the tables of war, but it isn't without purpose! Today's battle is a message to those who wish to see Blackpond fall completely into the shadows! We will not be forgotten!” Rita turned and pointed her sword towards the opposing army. “Charge!
With near immediacy, a wave of bodies flocked past Rita. She could feel the cool air as they ran by and the warmth of the bodies when they would hit her. It was a unique feeling when coupled with the knowledge that this sensation was being caused by something hat was going to end in blood. All the while, she watched things from above. Her pikemen moved forward while the cavalry on the other side waited. When the pikemen got close enough, Lamya's cavalry charged. But it was too late by then as Rita's cavalry caught the flank of Lamya's off guard, allowing them to charge five men into the line before the men on Lamya's side could prepare themselves. It also made enough of a dent that the pikemen were far more effective when they finally reached the front lines. So far, things were going according to plan. However, after the first few moments of a battle, like a game of chess, anything could happen. It was clear, though that Rita had momentum and she didn't want to give it up.
Rita turned around to face her next line of men. With one swoop, she moved her vision to about five feet above her head, in order to see he entire group of soldiers. They mostly consisted of men carrying heavy and light swords, mace and axes. “Follow me! We shall try to take their other flank!” She yelled loud enough for the first few lines to hear. The rest would follow.
She turned back around and began to march her men, not too quickly—there was no need to tire out her troops just yet. They marched to the left. They started to move around the battle and into the flank of the enemy. If she could get Lamya surrounded o three fronts, she might be able to finish this battle quicker than even Rita expected.
While Rita arched, she heard a small whistle from her side and almost from out of nowhere, a swarm of men came from the trees and began attacking Rita's foot soldiers. Rita hadn't even anticipated such an attack. She was caught completely off guard as two men rushed her, one slightly in front of the other. Rita, parried the first attackers sword right into the second attacker so that it would penetrate the weakness in the second attacker's armour. This only left Rita with the one attacker standing. The second one was still alive, but he'd be lucky if he could stand.
Rita took the moment, it took for the attacker to take his sword out of his friend to make her counter. A series of swings centring around the waist. She just needed one could strike and she would have him. One false move and the man would be dead. With her third swing, she got just that. He had over predicted force which she swung her sword. His sword deflected just a little more than he was expecting, giving Rita the chance to get her sword in.
When he fell, she finished him with a sword through the throat. The gurgling and splashing blood that came up made her know that she didn't hit the jugular like she intended, but rather the wind pipe. There was nothing worth doing for the person now. He was either going to bleed out or choke on her own blood and she had no time to be merciful. Rita observed the battlefield from where she was. She didn't bother changing her point of view yet. She wanted to see if she was any immediate danger When it didn't look like it, she swung her view up to the sky to get a good view of the entire battle and see where things were.
Before she got a good look, she felt something hit her side with incredible force. She hit the ground and stumbled for what felt like several feet. She immediately changed her view to see what was going on to her. All the while, she attempted to gather breath back into her chest, but all in vain. It was as if she had a whole in her chest or she was breathing through a small hole. Nothing she did allowed her to get any breath into her. When she somewhat got her bearings and her vision wasn't so blurred, she could see the culprit. It was the only person on the entire battlefield who wouldn't have immediately went for a killing blow. For whatever ridiculous reason or possibly for no reason at all (she didn't really know), Lamya didn't just kill her.


Simon had been waiting outside of Thomas' office for a long time now. Mageria and another Black Knight accompanied him in the room. It had been nearly an hour now, but it seemed longer. Any time when Simon had to wait on other people, he found that he would tend to get frustrated. He hated the incompetence of most other people in almost every aspect of living. No one could ever truly live up to his standards. Maybe his expectations where too high, but without high expectations nothing would ever get accomplished. Things like a simple meeting to discuss how to deal with something that had already been discussed before seemed pointless to Simon.
About half way through his meeting, he started o play games with himself to pass the time. At first, it was a game he was playing with a fly he found wandering the hall. He watched it and gave it tasks to do. If it flew to different places, it would gain points. He knew that the fly had no idea it was plying the game, but it was still enough to entertain himself. Eventually, however, the fly was killed by one of the guards standing about the hallway.
The next game he played was with the guard who killed the fly. He would get into his mind and say things to him. At first, he made it seem like they were just intrusive thoughts like crude thoughts about a woman walking by or a desire to just do something that would probably get himself in trouble. Slowly, he made the thoughts even more intrusive until even the most evil of men would be scared by the thoughts. The entertainment of the game came from watching the poor guard contemplate his sanity. Once that game was over, he was out of ideas for games. That didn't matter. It was only another minute or so after he stopped playing that the door opened. Mageria was the first to leave. She continued down the hall with the guard, not even taking a moment to look at Simon. Then the Black Knight and Thomas came out. They both looked at him.
“This is the Knight who ill be accompanying you until the Knight that we've agreed upon next visits the city. When the other Knight arrives, you will be given a few more liberties. We'll discuss them when he arrives. I'll see you here tomorrow. Dominic here will show you to the dungeons.”


4 Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sean Fletcher Character Portrait: Evin Bana Character Portrait: Lamya Character Portrait: Dominic Adams
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Simon could easily get to Rick himself, but respecting the will of Newhaven, while not necessarily simpler, was tremendously more beneficial. This pact with Newhaven gave Simon added protection from the people who may wish to stop him. It also meant that Newhaven would have to try a lot harder if they wanted to be one of those people who wanted to stop him. As f they even knew what he was doing though. The number of people who even knew of what Simon was after was so insanely minimal that the fact alone made protection that much more important.
“They didn't tell me much about you.” Dominic, the White Knight said. “Think they thought it'd be fun for me to figure it out myself. Not fun if ya ask me.”
The two continued to walk through the courtyard and around to the back of the castle. Despite Dominic's attempt at conversation, Simon didn't speak. He wasn't as up to the conversation as the White Knight. Yet he continued.
“You know, when I first became a White Knight, I thought I'd be understanding a lot more of the things that go on in this city. It has more than enough surprises. I probably understand less now than when I was infantry. Though, I didn't have the job for very long. It wasn't soon after that that I was taken in by the Knights and taught their ways...” Dominic stopped to mull over a thought. “Not much is different between the Knights training and all other training. We're a little more specialized and put more hours into the work we do, but overall, I guess, its just a matter of talent. You either have what it takes, or you don't and if you don't, it isn't really your fault. Well, maybe it is.”
Dominic stopped, Simon stopping right behind him. The Knight turned around. He lifted his helmet and looked down at Simon. His vacant stare read like a story about a questionable reality. “You don't like to talk?” That was it? The face of a thousand questions, confused about a simple observation? It was no wonder that he went on about the little he understands. “If I'm going to have to follow you around for the next few days I expect to at least be graced with a small conversation from time to time.”
Simon rolled his eyes and opened his mouth as if to say something. He raised his hand inquisitively, but quickly shot it back down and closed his mouth before letting any bit of air escape. As if he could actually say anything to Dominic anyway. Being telepathic mute had its advantages. Being able to play pranks like this was one of them.
Dominic shut his helmet with a loud clanking and turned away from Simon to continue the walk towards the dungeons. “That's alright. If you don't want a conversation, you'll just have to deal with me speaking to ya all day. Where was I?” He continued. “Oh right. Training isn't all that diff—”
“By the Twins, I'll speak with you if you promise to shut up after!” Simon exclaimed.
Dominic stopped in his tracks. Simon knew why. The man of confusion was confused once more. This time, however, it was for a fairly good reason.
Simon said, “I'm a telepath. I don't speak because I can't speak. I was born without vocal cords. Now quit mulling over this discovery of yours and bring me to the dungeons. I'll talk to you along the way.”
“Interesting. Never stops being amazing, the things you see on this job.” Dominic spoke.
“You do realize that you don't actually have to say things aloud. You can speak to me in complete private through thought.”
“I'll speak aloud. I'd prefer it that way.”
“Suit yourself... what do you ant to talk about?”
“I don't know. Got any ideas?”
Simon cuffed his shoes as he walked along the cobblestone. “I wasn't the one who wanted a conversation.” He remarked.
“That's alright. I can keep talking to myself if you've got nothing.”
“No!” Simon quickly jumped in. “No! Please”
He looked around the path to give himself inspiration. The dungeon was a little ways away from the far side of the castle. It was a part of the city that had seen better days, but had also managed to avoid poverty. This made for an interesting little dynamic. Being close to the castle, it was pretty well kept and beautified. A privilege that few part of the city probably had. Its people, weren't as well kept. They were nothing like the slime of the earth either. The people's mostly wore things in the brown ad grey hues, with a few more fortunate adding simple colours such as red sashes or green-feathered hats. Nothing extravagant, but rather, humble.
“I've got a question for you.” Simon finally said. “You've got a duty to uphold as a White Knight to remain lawful. Surely, like all good men, you lose your way sometimes. What's the worst thing you've done as a White Knight?”
“As a White Knight?” Dominic chuckled. “I'll tell you right now that I follow the duties assigned to me by Newhaven perfectly.”
“No one is perfect.”
“I'm not calling all my actions perfect, but as a White Knight, I do my job properly.”
“Don't play games with me.”
“Do you want the truth. Not that observant I guess. When I walked into Thomas' office, I was wearing my Black Knight armour. Guess you never saw me change.”
“So the White Knights are Black Knights in disguise?”
“No. Just me. Both the White and Black Knights saw interest in me for the job and they didn't want to fight over me. They just decided that it would be useful to have an ambassador of sorts. The two roles have never been useful though... Now, as a Black Knight, I've done things that are questionable, but not beyond my call of duty.”
“By the Twins, you are annoying. Just tell me what in the hell are you least proud of?”
“Killing children. Only had to a few times, but never gets easy.” Dominic stopped. They were at the entrance of the dungeon. “Now hold on a second. I've got to speak to the porters.”
Dominic motioned with a hand to for Simon to keep put. He then walked away towards the porter to speak with them. In the meantime, Simon had a chance to reflect on what he was just told. A knight that was both Black and White. It almost defeated the purpose of his White Knight title all together. And what actual purpose could a “Double” Knight actually serve. No matter what, if the need arose for a Black Knight while in a White Knight uniform, Dominic would still have to change into his Black Knight armour or risk spoiling the image of the squeaky clean White Knights. Maybe, however there was an administrative purpose or someone was too frugal to want to have to pay for ten Knights and opted for a loophole that would allow them t pay for only nine. Maybe it was the doing of the False King as a way to weaken the infrastructure of Newhaven's front line of defence against its enemies; namely, himself. Although, that possibility was only really viable if Dominic had joined the Knights during the False King's Reign. There were so many possibilities that it was almost pointless to mull over every single one of them.
Simon looked around at the place. It was a door built right into the ground. A little rocky cliff that had been reimagined. It was probably a cave before and was just expanded upon. There was nothing near it, save a few shops farther down the road. The reason for that was probably how cold, damp and musty it was. He wasn't even in the dungeon yet, but the entrance almost radiated its reluctance to welcome people near it as if it were a warning to people. Whether it was intentional or not, it was very effective.
“Come.” Dominic spoke from the entrance. The large, iron caste door had been opened and the two guards standing at the watch moved aside to let them through.
They stepped through the doors, which were quickly shut behind them. “If anything remotely bad happens down here while we're under, we might be stuck here for a while. Be prepared.” Dominic said as they passed though the first corridor. “Seeing as you are being supervised by a Knight while you stay in Newhaven, I reckon that you aren't so perfect either. You must've done some things that's made a reputation of yourself.”
“I've got a story for you, but don't be alarmed by how I tell it to you. Being telepathic has its advantages when it comes to telling stories. You'll be able to see it exactly as I remember it as if it were your own memory.”
In an instant, Simon started to plant the memories into Dominic's head.


Blackpond- Eight years ago

Alone, Simon sat at the base of a large rock. From what he'd been told, the rock had been there for several hundred years. It had been moved from a battlefield and into the castle on orders of one of the many kings that he had neglected to study. Legend had it that a great enlightened man sat on the rock, much like Simon was and killed an entire army using just his mind. He had made heads explode, made caused people to kill themselves instead of suffer the mental torture that they were experiencing. Some even became convinced to murder their fellow men.
It was all exaggerated tales though, and Simon knew that. There was never an enlightened man that powerful. If there ever was, one of the two cities would no longer exist and Valcrest would be under one ruler. Never the less, stories had to come from somewhere and that meant that there was someone, once with rather impressive amounts of enlightenment that were later embellished on to encourage the troops. To give them something to aspire to.
“What are you doing?” A voice said. It shocked him and he looked around. He couldn't see anyone. He couldn't even pinpoint the voice. “What are you doing?” It said again. This time, however, he realized it wasn't a voice, but a thought. “You don't actually believe those stupid stories, do you?”
Simon ignored the thought. Ever since discovering his enlightenment, he never used it to speak with other people. He had lived his entire life before without ever being able to speak. He didn't see the need to speak to anyone still.
“I understand. Poor Simon was so hard done by without a voice and doesn't want to speak, even to another telepath. For the Twins, I'm speaking your damn language and you wont even speak with me! Don't say I didn't at least try to help you hone your skills. You'll end up like all the rest of them. Your useless without your enlightenment.”
“So you think.” Simon finally replied.
“And finally, I prove that Simon actually has intelligent thoughts. Everyone always thought that you were like a dog. We could tell that you understood us, but couldn't tell if you were just doing tricks for us. But finally—”
“Have you ever considered finding a hobby?”
“Observing humans in their natural state is hobby enough for me. All he other guys like to pretend to be animals and play games around that. I don't get the fascination with simple animals and the way they act. Humans are far more interesting.”
“Its all about wish fulfilment you dumbass.”
“Ah, it knows how to swear.”
“Fuck off.”
“You know, with only 30 of us left, you might want to start making friends.”
“I said fuck off!”
“Ok! ok.” Suddenly, Simon could hear where the voice was coming from. He looked over to pinpoint the voice and noticed it was coming from the next room over. “I was just trying to help.”
As he listened to the footsteps go on, he grimaced. Some help that was. Insulting Simon and then telling him what was wrong with him. For someone who claimed to 'know' how humans worked, he had little sense on how to actually apply his theories.
Ural was one of the several kids who had been picked to be in the Royal Assassin Program. Like Simon, he had the gift of Mind and as always, Ural felt superior to Simon. It wasn't hard to feel superior to a mute, but Ural always liked to push it to the next level. Out of all the kids, Ural was the most pushy and annoying. Never leaving him alone, even before they were aged enough to be enlightened.
“You should kill him.” Another voice. A girl. “Or don't. It doesn't really matter, but if it matters to you, I think you should kill him.”
Simon jumped off the rock and looked around the room. Around him was a plethora of different mythical objects. Claims of magic and unbelievable abilities from armours, chandeliers, cloths and objects. It was the hall of phantasm. Again, he couldn't find the voice. This time, however, he new it was a voice. He walked towards where he thought it was though. As he walked, he covered his eyes as the twinkling glare from the sun passed through the chandelier.
Instead of looking for the person, he pinpointed he thought. “If you don't think it matters then why even give the advice.”
“I'm not giving advice. I'm just telling you what you should do. I'm just evaluating your values and telling you what the best course of action given those values are.”
“That sounds like advice to me.” Simon turned around to the other end of the room. That was where the voice was really coming from.
“Call it what you will. I'll call it what I will. Thought that someone knowing more than you could be helpful is all.” The voice emerged fro behind a cabinet, only a foot away from him. She sounded so much further away.
Simon blinked and cocked his head backwards as if he's just been spritzed with water. He placed one foot behind him, but didn't follow through and back away. Instead, he crossed his eyes to look into hers. Their breath just reaching one another to be shared. “Lamya. Uh... hi. How are you?”
“A telepath stuttering. Interesting. Anyways, I was spending my free time listening in on the conversations of Rory and Hastings. Turns out they're cutting you... your throat that is. That's what they do with the kids that don't make it, you know. They don't want anyone to know about the program, you know.”
“I uhh... wait! Why me?”
“There are two telepaths. They only need one.”
“They picked Ural then? It figures that they'd pick that degenerate.”
“You do nothing to prove yourself to them. At least, that's what they say.” Lamya winked.
Simon ignored the word and just looked at Lamya, really looked at her. Her face was a calm lake that washed across her smooth almond skin. With Hazel eyes looking to him; long dark eyelashes waving at him with every blink. The dark lips that exhaled a candy aroma as if she'd just eaten something sweet. All of which was framed by her red hair. Along with her curvaceous body, which he dare not glance at for more than a second, she seemed perfect.
He put his escaping foot back under him and grabbed Lamya's waist. Simon leaned in and closed his eyes. A warm fleshy stick stopped him. Confused, he opened his eyes and crossed them to the point of strain to see Lamya's finger reaching above the horizon of the view of Simon's nose. He then looked up at Lamya, who was closer to him than ever before. Even up close, her features were perfect. Simon heard a ting and then a whistle as something flashed past the corner of his vision.
Lamya looked over to her free hand. Simon followed her gaze to see she had flipped a coin.
“I would love to Simon, but luck isn't on my side today.” She said in a tone longing to defy the coin's decision. She removed her finger away from his mouth as Simon backed away a step to be at a more comfortable distance.
“Is this why you warned me? Because you have feelings for me?” Simon said softly.
“No. I flipped a coin and it made the choice to tell you for me. Do what you will with what I said.” Lamya kissed her index and middle finger and placed it on Simon's lips and then ran off to the room opposite her.
Simon felt a sudden rush. He felt light and overwhelmingly happy. His face heated up and he let out a large sigh. Then he quickly looked around to see if there was anyone else in the room with him. He didn't want anyone to know about what had just happened.
Simon then went to the next room over, where Ural had been talking to him from. Whether it was from a coin flip or not didn't matter to Simon. His life was safe only if Ural was dead. They saw him as the better asset to the Conflict and therefore, he had to be eliminated. Soon, Simon would be the only choice and it would guarantee him a chance at being one of the chosen fifteen.
Through the next few halls, Simon looked inside every room to see if Ural was there. Eventually, he was lead to the hall of the castle where the potential assassins' bed quarters were. A hall full of fifty rooms that was once cramped with hundreds of kids. Now, only left with thirty, the halls were much quieter and now that there were so few, there was a room for everyone. Ural's room was the second on the left, marked by his favourite coat sitting on the coat rack outside the room.
Simon stepped into the room. He was caught by a stale stench as he walked in the room. Scrunching his nose, he tried not to think about it. At initial look, it didn't appear as if he was there, but he heard a sniffle and looked closer. He walked further into the room and saw Ural under his desk. Rotting food—likely the cause of the smell—, papers, quills, books and other such items were scattered about the floor. One such item: an ornate letter opener.
He picked the letter opener up. It was ivory with a stained sandalwood handle that had been carved out to look like a person's head. It was so detailed that the scars and each individual hair could be made out. An impressive work of art finer than anything that he had ever seen before. Not even the King had such beautiful art made for him.
Simon felt that the letter opener would be as good as any weapon. Better than most improvised weapons too. It was practically a blade. He gripped it as best he could and approached the desk, but heard a loud snort and stopped. Looking down under the desk, he noticed that Ural was crying. He didn't even notice that Simon was in the room with him.
'You idiot, just end whatever misery he's feeling and get this over with.' He thought to himself. He gripped the blade even tighter and took another step forward. Despite his desire to slip under the desk and plunge the letter opener through his heart, his body compelled him to sit atop the desk. 'Your so weak.'
“What's up? Why are you crying?” Simon asked.
“I don't want to talk Simon.”
“Just let me know.”
“How about you follow your own advice and fuck off!” Ural blurted.
Simon thought about it for a moment. 'Fuck off or kill the poor guy. It's that simple.' “I'm just taking your advice and trying to make friends.” 'Now you're lying to the man your going to kill. Great.”
For a moment, Ural was silent, but he soon said, “Fine. If you really need to know, I'm crying about my parents.”
“I get it. We all had to kill our parents. But it was kill or be killed.” Simon said remorsefully.
“It's not only that, Simon. It's about the life I could have had. The life I left behind was so much better. I come from out of Valcrest. My Father was the High King of Terra and my mother, the Duchess of the three cities Duchy in the Kingdom of the Crescent Islands. I, as their child, was a symbol of their trade alliance and Heir to the Empire of Terra. My life could have been that, but now I'm destined to be a glorified sell-sword.”
“Wow.” Simon said. “I can't even imagine. My parents were abusive slummers.”
“Do you know how hard it is to kill a High King and Queen-Duchess? Even when they are your own parents, it isn't that easy to assure that you will escape with your own life. It doesn't help that most of the time, they are on two sides of the continent. After being gone for several years, they'd thought I was dead. When I returned, the entire Empire celebrated. Even dignitaries from the Three Cities came to send their regards. It was such a big deal. Little did they all know, I'd just returned to betray every last one of them.”
Simon had to hold back tears of his own. He couldn't handle how sad his story was. How guilty the guy felt for what he had done and what could have been. It was truly heartbreaking.
“When I finally brought myself to do the deed, I went up to their room and quickly finished them in their sleep. I broke down almost instantly, but knew I had to get out of there before anyone found out. I had to leave for Valcrest immediately. The only thing I took with me was the clothes on my back and my father's letter opener. It's on the ground somewhere if you want to look at it. Do ya see it?”
Simon looked down at the High King's letter opener. He loosened his grip after realizing he'd nearly been crushing the head. “Yeah... I see it.”
“The face on it is my father. I'll always remember what he looked like. So relaxed, so stoic, even in his sleep, the moments before I murdered him, he looked like that. A blessing and a curse, that letter opener is.”
Simon's eyes were damp. He placed the letter opener on the desk, gently. 'Simon, you sympathetic bastard! Just do it! It's him or it's you.'
“How about you come out from under the desk?” Simon said. Ural did as Simon asked. Slowly he emerged from the desk. Looking at Simon with his swollen brown eyes. “How does some fresh air sound?”
“That sounds good.” Ural said.
Simon grabbed Ural's hand and lead it towards the door. On the short walk to the door, he thought about what he had to do. How could he do it? Take a life of someone while in such a miserable state. That was the job of the assassin, but this wasn't going to be an assassination. It was going to be murder. It was only for Simon's personal gain and nothing else. He couldn't swing it any other way. There was no contract, no target. No one to sneak by; no skill required. It was nothing but murder. It had to be done.
When they reached the door frame, Simon grabbed the back of Ural's head and smashed it as hard as he could against the stone wall. This only dazed him and so Simon took the chance. He looked for the closest thing to him, the coat on the coat rack, and tied the sleeve tightly around Ural's neck. The other end of the coat, he tied to the rack which in turn was bolted to the ground. Ural flailed uncontrollably, trying desperately to free himself from the deadly bind that the coat had on him. He flung until he found Simon's shirt and he grabbed onto it tightly and pulled. It was as if Ural thought that he could take Simon down with him, but a strangled man never thought straight. Slowly, his face turned deeper shades of red and eventually blue. Simon had never seen such a thing. He never thought it to be possible. Ural's grip began to weaken and he flailed far less. With his last moments, Ural looked at Simon with his fading, swollen eyes. A look forever burned in his mind, much like Ural's dead father to him. The look which silently said, “I trusted you,” and then he was gone.

Newhaven- Present time

“That is the type of thing that keeps me up at night. The only time I've ever killed for personal gain. Ever since then, I've only done it for duty. A man like you must understand.” Simon said to Dominic.
“What happened with you and the red head?” Dominic asked.
Simon took a moment. “I tell you a story of murder and betrayal and you're interested in the dame? Anyways, I'm too tired to talk any further. Whatever it is that is getting the enlightened is started to get me too and I need to save my energy for talking with the crazy that we're releasing, so if you don't mind, could we spend the rest of our short trip in silence?”
“As you wish.”
The rest of the journey to Rick's dungeon room was spent in a peaceful silence. This gave Simon a chance to rest. He used to be able to send several memories to multiple people and not even sweat. It was no longer the case and it gave Simon perspective that he didn't have before. He was inevitably fallible. He was going to die one day and it was going to come about sooner than he was hoping it would. Simon finish what he was put on earth to do. It didn't matter how long he had to do it, he needed it done.
“Stand aside soldier.” Dominic said, interrupting the silence. “Direct orders from the highest authority require me to release this prisoner.” It was the most well spoken the White Knight had sounded since Simon met him.
The guard stood aside as ordered and handed Dominic the keys. Dominic fumbled a little with the keys before finally getting the right key. He unlocked the door and opened it, making an ungodly screeching sound as he did so.
Rick sat at the very back of the room, over top what appeared to be old, rotting hay. It was cold, damp, completely unlivable. The walls had a tinge of green and black from moss and mold and moldy moss. Was that even possible?
Rick had fresh wounds across his naked body. Some other wounds looked to have been festering and possibly infected. None of these wounds had to be a problem, but they became problems due to improper care. Rick didn't know any better. Not anymore. He probably wouldn't even be able to recognize himself in a mirror anymore. Not because he was so badly mutilated, but because he was no longer capable of coherent thoughts. Rick was an animal that could speak human now. He was only useful in the sense that his animal tendencies allowed him to pursue what he wanted without any distractions that hindered humans. The only problem was that he couldn't be tamed.
“Go get clothes for this man immediately and when you bring that back, fetch a medic that will meet us at the entrance of the dungeons who will be prepared to care for him. Be quick about it. I'm a busy man.” Dominic order the guard. He immediately followed the order and rushed off.
Simon walked up to the beaten down man sitting in front of him. “Its time for you to prove your worth.” He grabbed Rick's arm and pulled him up. “Now come with me.”
Simon started leading Rick to the exit. Dominic chimed in. “We have to wait to clothe him.”
“You might want to wait, but I don't. You can follow your orders and supervise my stay in Newhaven or you can stay here and wait for clothes like an idiot. Take your pick.”
Simon didn't bother to look back to see if the Knight was following him. He assumed that he probably was.


The pair stared each other down as the battle waged on around them. One with a vendetta to settle and the other, an agent of chaos. Rita had little to gain besides satisfaction from a kill such as this. She knew well enough that even with Lamya dead, there would be someone to take her place. Maybe they wold have a more direct motive, but in a way, that could prove to be even worse. At least a woman without reason could be clouded by other thoughts. A woman with a direct goal, like Rita's, would prove to be more effective.
“Lady death doesn't have all day, Lamya. Choose to be the first to strike or not to strike at all!” Rita yelled over the roar of battle.
“The void doesn't work in binaries.” Lamya replied rather calmly. Rita had to strain herself to hear it.
“The offer still stands.” Rita's reply was simple, but she felt it was appropriate.
The two stared each other down. It wasn't a matter of who was going to strike first anymore. It was Rita's choice to walk away or not. A choice that was important to decide. She could move on, hold the vendetta back and fight the fight that would properly depose Lamya. However, the fight might take too long and with Lamya's unpredictable nature, there was no saying what she would do if left in control of Blackpond for any period of time.
Patience was not one of Rita's virtues. She knew what she had to do. It was more about what was best than it was for the vendetta. That's what she told herself at least as she charged towards Lamya. Her sword raised high in the air as if to call upon the Twins to give her strength in the fight that was about to come. But as she neared, the sky grew dark. At first, only mildly, but it quickly became nearly pitch black as if the light of the world had completely gone out. Lamya, who was only about two meters in front of her was now a very undefined outline. She swung into the space that she thought she saw her. Rita's sword dug deep into the shadow. It didn't feel like flesh. In fact, she couldn't even pull her sword out of what she had just dug into. With a few tugs at the sword, she gave up. Letting go, she heard a thud right in front of her. Something heavy had just came down exactly where her arm was only moments before. Even at such a close distance, she couldn't tell what it was, but she didn't take the time to analyse. With such a big reliance on her sight, she was almost helpless, she had to back away. And she did so as quickly as possible, stepping at a brisk pace to give herself some distance. Her line of sight shifted from side to side, behind her and adjusted to make sure she was catching as much information as possible. Despite the death of the Sun, Rita could still hear the waging war going on. Not being able to tell what way the battle was going was even more unsettling to her than knowing that in her individual battle, she was at a significant disadvantage.
Without a weapon, for the time being, she was going to have to play it extremely defensively. Rita did all that she could to settle into her new environment, but despite all of that, her muscles just couldn't relax. Never did Rita think that sensory deprivation would be a problem for her. She couldn't ever be properly trained to deal with it because her enlightenment allowed her to see even when she was blindfolded. Quickly, what had been an advantage for all these years was her worst nightmare as again, she was knocked right off her feet by a blunt object. The wind completely knocked out of her, she struggled at the ground to compose herself, but with the onslaught of attacks that rained down on her with such little time to react, she couldn't even do that. In the struggle and with each shaking thud on the ground, Rita decided to pinpoint exactly where the attacker must have been coming from. With one strategic doge, she laced herself right around where the legs were probably placed. She swept her legs around and was met with a hard, muscley wall that barely even stumbled. The surprise was enough to allow Rita to get back on her feet.
Now that she knew where the attacks were coming from, she listened carefully; a skill she had let slide past her as something not as necessary, but now that necessity called, with the adrenalin kicking through her veins, she was hyper aware. A shift in the attackers position. It was enough to indicate the attack would be coming from her left most likely. She jumped out of the way of what she believed was most likely a war hammer and dived towards her attacker. With nothing but her hands to attack with, she quickly frisked the body in search of a weapon, but was pushed away before she could find any. A shift, this time from behind. Another attacker was closing in on her. This one had to be about five meters away from her. Rita side-stepped two paces to avoid whatever was coming from there. She heard nothing, but knew that something had to be beside her by now. As she reached her arm out, she came in contact with a pole of sorts. She quickly grabbed the pole and tugged the attacker towards her, causing the attacker to let go of the pole and stumble towards Rita.
While he did that, she heard the first attacker come closer to her as well. The second attacker's body hit Rita's and Rita, with her free hand grabbed the body and threw it towards the first attacker.
Then relief as the Sun started to appear again in the sky. At first, a crack of light, but quickly cascading into a warm glow across the bloody field. Now Rita could see her attacker. The first attacker was a man about twice her size, holding an equally large war hammer. The large man's eyes quickly changed colour as the sky came back to its original glow. It was obvious to Rita that this man had an enlightenment that allowed him to see in the dark. Nothing else could explain it. The second person who had attacked Rita with a pole—which she now realized was a spear—was Lamya, smiling contently as if she had won a prize as she lay in the arm of the enlightened attacker.
Rita adjusted her spear to allow her to properly use it and with a fast step, lunged towards the man. He dropped Lamya on the ground with a thud and parried the blow, breaking the wooden pole attached the spear. Rita took the opening that the perry had given her to run right towards the man. When she got lose enough, she grabbed the back of the man's head and jumped in the air, ploughing her knee right into the man's chin. A loud crack could be heard as the man's jaw shattered like glass. The man screamed, splattering blood across the ground in front of him.
Rita turned to face Lamya, who had managed to crawl away from the area she'd been dropped. A small scrape on the back of her hand was all that was visible. Rita tried to move towards Lamya, but her knee was stuck. The impact from the jaw on her armour had made it impossible for her to move the knee joint of the armour. Upon further inspection of her armour, she noticed that her chest plate had sunken in from the blow to her body she'd taken from the war hammer. Luckily, it wasn't significant enough to cause her pain, but she did wonder how hard it was going to be to take it off later.
“You might want to look at the battlefield, Rita.” Lamya said. Rita's view soared to the sky. “Isn't t funny how something as predictable a solar eclipse can create chaos. Chaos out of order... how strange.”
The battlefield was riddled with hundreds of bodies on either side and all semblance of battle formations had gone to hell. The entire battle was now a clump. A clump of scared men and boys. Men and boys who wanted to escape. Escape from the mess that they created. There was no sense of who would win or who would lose. In the end, no one would win. It was a cascade of death from people who didn't want any of this to happen, but didn't know what else they could do. They were the blood of War gone wrong. A stark reminder of what Valcrest had become. A clump of scared men and women fighting for an escape. No ideals, no principals. Just escape.
Rita couldn't let this fight go on any longer. She needed to cut her loses and head home for the day, with a head held low in mutual defeat. What a shame.
Rita brought her view back to see Lamya, who just stood there, staring blankly at her. Rita let it go and grabbed for her horn to call the retreat.
There would be another battle. Hopefully that one would hold less of a surprise for her.


Evin had spent his entire morning waiting for Sean's meeting with Crys. The entire reason he had woken up that morning was to wait for this meeting. He'd made a promise to Dani to keep her daughter safe. He'd done a pretty bad job at it until this point and he wasn't about to let the last four years of his life go down in smoke because he decided to let Crys deal with the Wolfpack problem by herself. There was no use in trusting Sean and anyone who wished to support him.
The way Evin looked at it, the meeting between Sean and Crys would go one of two ways. The first, and most likely scenario in Evin's mind was that Sean would use this as an opportunity for an ambush. Allow him to finish what he had started and gain even more control among those loyal to him. Surely Crys would expect such a thing, but Evin knew from experience that taking on an entire Wolfpack wasn't an easy feat.
The second scenario involved a deceptively peaceful atmosphere where Sean and Crys would talk out their differences and come to an agreement only to have whatever agreement they make come crashing down on both of them and causing even more conflict. The tendency for this to happen was potent among the Wolfpack and those who associated with them. Evin didn't want that to happen. He had to make sure for himself that this never happened.
And so Evin found himself sitting atop a tree branch, overlooking the lake he had once saw such beauty in. Those days were gone now more than ever. With the stark reminder of his last meeting with Sean so palpable to his mind. A stark reminder that no matter how hard Evin fought, the unexpected would always come to bite him in the ass.
Evin stared down to Sean, who had been there for a while. Obviously, he was preparing himself for whatever was to come. As far as Evin could tell, Sean believed he was alone. The poor bastard didn't even know that a single misstep could cost him his life. Not a single thing would stop him from protecting Crystal. Beyond his obligation, there was the knowledge that Crystal intended to do what her mother did. Crystal would make an impact much bigger than Sean's in the world. The only thing that was still n the way of making that impact was Sean.
Then, the light went out. It was as sudden as a candle being blown out. Evin and the surrounding area was darkened into a pitch blackness...

... It was true. He was really dead. No longer did he have to carry such a burden on his shoulders knowing that the man who tore part his life was still living. Evin's life would never be quite the same, but the slightest bit of satisfaction came from knowing that the thing that once consumed him was gone. He could no longer be consumed by it. He could no longer be haunted by it.
Yet an emptiness was put in its place. A chasm as deep as any cave and as dark as once blotted out sky. Was this what victory truly felt like. What was won after a game of chess? Most games come down to a major piece or two and a few pawns at best for the winning side. All the winner is left with is an empty board. No moves can be taken back and no pieces can be regained. All that Evin was left with was a bitter condolence.
He knew that this was the feeling he would have. He always dreamt of the tingly feeling that such a death would bring, but he always knew. It just couldn't come to that. Such a big art of anyone's life, the moment it leaves becomes like a chess board at the end of the game. Nothing else matters and then it is on to the next game, if you are lucky enough to have a next game.
Evin wondered if anyone had found the body yet. He contemplated staying and speaking to Crystal when she arrived, but the area would be too dangerous to sneak around by the time she arrived. A person walking into the camp, even under the aid of shadows would be walking in there with a target placed right on their head.
Now that Sean was dead, he had other business to attend to. More important business that would keep him away from the Wolves for good. As well as spread the news of Sean's death, he had to figure out exactly what Helena was up to in the mountains and that meant heading to the Whites for some answers. Hopefully Helena's daughter would be able to shed some light on the whole matter. If Evin was right, Lena's final works before her death would lead to something interesting.
In late afternoon, as he arrived in the White's camp, he went to the nearest White he could find.
“You look sick sir. Come this way and we'll do our best to assist.” The White Shadow said.
“I'm not here to await my death. I need to speak with Annie. I have urgent news from the Wolf camp regarding Sean. I need to speak to her right away.”


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Character Portrait: Evin Bana
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There was only one thing in the entirety of Valcrest that Evin wished for. He wished for nothing more than to have a better memory. He had known that he was going to be waking up later in the morning and had wished to put out his shoes so that the morning sun could dry them. He'd forgotten, however, and now his path to Newhaven was accompanied by the uncomfortable squishing sensation as if walking through wet moss.
Given time, his mind would begin to wander. Evin would start thinking about where he needed to go and the people he needed to speak to. He also had to think of a way to keep safe while in Newhaven. It was no longer safe to just walk the streets of Newhaven. With civil unrest in the city walls, riots could pop up in a matter of minutes and suddenly one could find themselves stuck in a conflict that they don't want to be a part of. Even worse was the fact that the city guard was outstretched and if someone needed their assistance, they were likely too busy somewhere else to even notice. This meant that crime rates had gone up exponentially; along with that, the number of vigilantes. The city was no longer being run by those in power.
Those who were in power, while they were attempting to do their best, were merely placing the pawns. All the big players were being moved in random succession by several players. The one thing that the powers of Newhaven could be thankful for was that there was not a semblance of order in the revolution. If the factions within the city could work together, Newhaven would be lost, but the commoners were no military strategists. Instead, the common people—much like the nobles—were stuck, trudging through the unorganized battlefield much like a horse trudging through a swamp.
Shit! Evin caught himself thinking about his wet shoes again. He knew the inevitability. He could not forget about the reality of his shoes forever, but it was good to forget about it for a moment, just to ease the discomfort.
It was alright though. The discomfort would be hidden soon. He rounded the bend and saw the spires of Newhaven's great wall. At the entrance to the city, a small band of merchants were squabbling with the guards. Evin saw it and guessed the guards saw it too; the way the merchants dressed forebode an unpleasant air to them. Evin decided to hang back behind the wall of a building that was probably once a farm house and wait for the dust to settle on this quarrel.
He was still too far away to hear anything that the men were saying to one another. Every once in a while, he would catch the tail end of a sentence by one of the shouting men. None of the words he did catch were in any way useful. He couldn't piece together what they were saying. He could only guess. Evin's best guess was that the five merchants were trying to enter the city, but the guard didn't trust them and wasn't allowing them access. The argument started to become even more heightened and the shouts got louder. Finally, the climax. The most heated guard stepped forward, grabbing for his sword. The fight took an odd turn at that moment and the ground began moving around the guard with his sword. A wall of rock enclosed the man. A terrified scream came from inside the rock formation, but was abruptly muted. The other guards quickly reacted, including the guards atop the wall formation who began nocking their arrows. Bellow, the guards approached the clearly enlightened men with an ere of caution. They drew their swords and approached the men, but nothing was going to stop the men from being engulfed in flames. As the guards bellow spontaneously combusted around them, the arrows from above were released. However, a big gust of wind picked up from bellow redirecting the arrows back to their recipient. The guards who dodged the arrows and avoiding being knocked off the wall from the wind were quickly engulfed in flames themselves from the wind whipping the furious flames from the dead corpses bellow upward.
This big display alerted nearby guards to the issue, but the band of mercenaries had made it through the walls and into the city with their caravan before anyone could get close enough to stop them.
At this point, Evin left his cover and approached the doors, but not before the guards got there.
“Stay back. Any closer will be a signiture of your death wish.” The sergeant shouted at Evin as he got closer.
Evin stopped in his tracks. “My name is Evin Bana: Deposer of the False King, former Wolf, associate to Crystal Rivers, and close friends with Mageria of the Black Knights. I have incredibly important business to attend to in the city and come with no malintent.”
“I don't care who you say you are. I can't let you through. The city is under martial law. No one comes or goes without direct permission from the Knights or generals”
“Martial law be damned! I've made a career of entering and exiting this city without being seen by a single person during my visits. In fact, I can tell you that there are about seven secret passages into the south side of the city alone. At least, these are the ones that I know of. I'll make a deal. Let me through the walls and I'll show you the most well known smuggler's route into the city.”
“Sorry. I can't let you in.”
Evin, with his smug look said, “Fine. I'll meet you at the Foxhead Inn. It'll only take me ten minutes to get there, but I'll wait for you so I can show you how I got into the city.”
With that, Evin turned back around and started to run the way he came at full speed. When he was out of view of he guards, he turned right into the forested part on the west side of the southern wall. From there, he walked into a small hunting shack. It was a small room with a rug. He lifted the rug to reveal a trap door and he went into the passage.

The Foxhead Inn was an immaculate hostel in the south western side of the city. What made the place so desirable to most anyone in the city was that it transcended all of the social barriers. The criminals sat along side the nobles and peasants without judgement. Everyone who entered the Foxhead were looking for a way to sit back and relax. Nothing was more important to the owners than to make sure everyone could enjoy an affordable for everyone. In order for the Foxhead made it so affordable was by making it a hub for debauchery in the city. It was one of the few places that anyone in the city could turn a blind eye so they can enjoy the sinful pleasures of life.
Evin had been banned from the Foxhead for nearly half of his life. In his first years of as an assassin, he found the place incredibly useful for gathering information, but even better for finding people. He would wait for his targets at the Inn, waited for the to leave and then follow them out. He'd use the time they'd take, drunkenly walking through the city at night, to find the opportunity to perform his duties. Eventually, the owner of the Inn started to catch on to Evin's game. He could never prove that Evin was actually an assassin, but the evidence seemed to lead to the fact that he was.
It had been nearly seventeen years since Evin had been to the Inn. He wasn't even sure if the old man would recognize him anymore.
“What are you doing here.” The scratchy voice of a man who had not seen a day without his pipe popped through the crowd as Evin walked towards the bar. The old man was not anywhere past the age of 55, but he looked like he could pass at any moment. “I'll kill you if you don't leave my establishment!.”
“Good to see you too, Julian. Now come with me to your back room. We need to chat.” Evin said, unfazed by the Julian's aggressiveness.
“Why shouldn't I just cut your throat and throw your body out of here.”
“For one, the sergeant I've told to meet me here would be pretty suspicious of my dead body, wouldn't you think? Secondly, I'd probably kill you before you could even think of grabbing your knife. Finally, I'd say—given the state the city is in and the type of people who come to the Foxhead—it would be pretty easy to incite a riot. So, either way, you're in a pretty bad position here. Especially since the sergeant will be here in the next five or so minutes.”
Julian glared Fire at Evin. With a grunt, he spun around, and began walking. Evin pushed through the crowds to keep his sight on the hunched back that was leading him to the back room. Julian opened the door and walked through. Evin followed by shortly. As he walked through the door a couple in their late teens scurrying out of the room, covering their half clothed body with the clothes they didn't have on. He shut the door behind him and said, “Young love.” He chuckled, “Can't say I haven't been there.”
“Ah shut up and get to the point.” Julian's voice grated.
“Fine... fine. I'm looking for someone who may be involved in suspicious activity.”
“The Foxhead is the house of suspicious activity.”
“I'm not talking about regular suspicion. I'm talking about things that even the most suspicious characters of the Foxhead would find suspicious. A person or group of people who don't conform to the normalcy of the crime syndicates. They be doing more than not playing by the rules. They wont even be playing the same game. I don't know if you know anything of it, but think of something along the lines of the Shadow.”
“There is one person. A fellow by the name of Wyatt. While there's no reason for me to believe he's a criminal of any sort, he doesn't fit into any group or social class that I know of.”
“The thief.” Evin whispered.
“I don't know.” He must have heard. “Like I said, I don't know if he's involved in any crime.”
Evin didn't bother saying anything more. Not even a thanks. Julian didn't deserve it. He just pulled away and walked out of the room. Weaving through the crowd, he looked for a spot that would allow two people to sit. Walking through the crowd, he slipped his hand onto a table and swept a half drunk mug of some sort of alcoholic beverage. The man sitting there didn't even notice. Soon he saw a table that was free. He rushed to it, knowing that other people would take the opportunity to steal it for themselves just as quickly as he wished to.
Just as he took a seat, the front door opened and the sergeant stepped into the room. After a quick survey of the room, he caught Evin, who appeared to have been sitting there for ages, waving the man over.
“I could have you arrested.”
“But you wont.”
“Oh no, I will. But first finish your drink. Afterwords, you will step out with me without conflict and I'll send you to the dungeons where you'll be held until Martial Law has been lifted.”
“And what about our deal. You'll never know about the smuggler's passage into Newhaven.”
“The Foxhead Inn? Even if it is true, I can't do anything about it. This place defines the culture of the city. I don't want to be responsible for the one thing that keeps this city unified.”
“You think too highly of this place, really. But who's to say that this is actually the entrance to the city? Who's to say I didn't just walk into this place, right before you did, grab some guys drink and sit, pretending to have been here for a while? It takes ten minutes for me to get into the city from the passage. It takes you nearly twice that time to get here. That means there's a radius of ten minutes worth of walking around this Inn that I could have come from.” Evin slouched back into his seat and grabbed his mug, but didn't drink from it.
“It wont change a thing. I'm still going to arrest you.”
“Okay then. While I wait upon my arrest, could I ask a few questions?”
The sergeant huffed a sigh of frustration. “I guess.”
“Thank you. There's a pretty prolific thief in this city. From what I understand, he frequents this place from time to time, but doesn't exactly follow the established thieves guilds and crime bosses. I've met him a few times. The most notable time being in Newhaven's castle at the tomb of the false king. It seems he knows his way around the city and doesn't get caught easily. Does this guy sound familiar to you?”
“Yes. In fact, he was caught in the market square on the day before the ball in Blackpond. He was to be contracted by some mercenary by the name of Alexander, but was intercepted and arrested before he could follow the contract through. Been in the dungeons ever since.”
Evin's eyes widened. “I never imagined the guy would be caught. If it weren't for the fact that I know he isn't, I would have believed he's a Wolf. The way Wyatt works is very akin to the way the Wolves worked.”
“His name isn't Wyatt. Couldn't tell you what it was, but I can tell you it isn't Wyatt.”
Evin didn't speak for a moment. This revelation was a surprise to him. He genuinely believed the guy's name was Wyatt. This man became much more interesting to Evin than he already was. He felt a need to conceal his real identity. A need to hide one's identity was usually out of fear of what one could do with his identity. Was it possible that he was more than a thief? Was the thieving just a front for his dubious affairs? Evin tried his best to hide all of this from the sergeant, deciding to change the subject to distract from the whole affair.
“How about you take your helmet off, so I can see who I'm talking too.”
“I'd rather not.”
“Come on!”
“We aren't friends. Now stop distracting me and finish your damn drink.”
“Oh, this drink isn't mine. In fact, I don't drink.”
“Let's go.”
The sergeant kicked his chair back as he stood, then waited for Evin. Evin leisurely placed the mug, which he was still holding, down, and methodically stood from the table. Taking his time to push his chair back and then push it into the table. He then walked past the sergeant, who followed behind him. He followed Evin out the door, where the sergeant immediately shackled Evin's hands together.

The last light of the day shone across the ever darkening skies as they approached the dungeons. Evin made no thought of conversing with or even running from the sergeant. There was no point as he was taking Evin exactly to where he wanted to be. If this thief was in fact in the dungeons, it saved him several days work attempting to find the guy.
Reaching the door, the sergeant spoke. “Commander Josephs here. I have this prisoner to be detained until further notice.” The two guards at the front door simply nodded and let them through.
When they were finally alone, Evin spoke. “Conrad Josephs? The guy that managed to impregnate my recruit. Didn't know you could get promoted to commander for such an act.”
Conrad stopped dead in his tracks. He didn't turn to face him, but Evin felt as though he could read the boy's reaction. “You're Evin from the Wolfpack?”
“The only. Kinda young to be a commander, wouldn't you say?”
“When you've the skills that I do... there's not many people who can stand up to me.”
“And yet you let the Queen out of your sight long enough for her to get herself killed.” Evin scorned.
“You don't understand!” Conrad shouted in return.
“Maybe I don't, but I'm guessing that I do. I spent a good portion of my life raising that girl to be able to handle things on her own—”
“Let me tell yeah. You did great.” Conrad sarcastically quipped.
“SHUT UP!” Evin closed his eyes and clenched his fists. When he opened them, he had calmed a little, but his voice was still shaky. “Unfortunately, I didn't have enough time to fully train the girl to fend for herself. That's when I hoped her personal guard would come into play. I just find it odd that after an incident like that that the one responsible for the Queen's death would be promoted to commander. At the age of 20, no less.”
“Gods you are a real ass. How in Hell do you know so much about me anyway?”
“I do my research.”
“Well she's still alive. If you really need to know. She trapped somewhere inside the mind of the guy who's controlling her body.”
“Yes, I know. As good as dead if you ask me.”
“Let's go.” Evin interrupted and started, again to walk down the corridors.
It was only another hallway before they reached Evin's room. It was hardly enough time for either of them to even begin to get over the conversation that they just had. They had merely had time to reflect and Evin could only hope that it would be enough when he said. “We both shared Ella in some way. We both failed her in some way, but there's noting we can do about that now. Valcrest is sick and there are people who might have some answers as to why that is the case. I'm just in the city looking to do something right for this country. Can you please just show me to this thief’s cell?”
Conrad appeared to have nothing to say to the comment, but it seemed that Evin was convincing enough to persuade the young man to make the smart choice. It seemed to surprise Conrad as much as it did Evin. When he turned Evin to uncuff him, the look on the boy's face was that of confusion. A conflict in his mind that even he couldn't figure out.
After, Conrad pointed further down the hall, stuck up to fingers and then another three. After he motioned his hand slightly to the left. Why the guy was only talking through actions anymore was odd, but Evin didn't question it. He knew the message that Conrad was attempting to pass along with these hand signals. Evin would find the thief two corridors down; the third door on the left.
As Conrad started his way out of the dungeons, Evin turned around to him. He wanted to shout a friendly 'thank you' to him, but instead: “Keep on fighting for her. She might be lost, but she's still worth fighting for.”
Conrad stopped for a moment, but whatever it was that he wanted to say didn't come about. He started to walk again. So did Evin.
Down two corridors Evin went and with him, an overwhelming sense of discovery followed him. It brought him back to the days past, where he only worried about what was next to e discovered. Back when he was still a simple assassin for the Wolves and nothing more. After his acceptance of his friends death, but before he knew anything about his friend's secrets. When a dynasty of good friends still stood atop the hierarchy of the Wolves. Well before the fall of the Pack into what it had now become. It was those days where Evin could feel like his place was as a humble tool of Mind and Heart and he could be used as a resource. One that could keep a fair balance in an unfair world and who could make sure that the powers at be were always in check.
Now that the Wolfpack had fallen, he was able to feel that way again. Evin was no longer a wolf hunter. He was a wolf again. A real wolf with a real purpose. Excitement overwhelmed him as he reached for the handle to the eye hole of the third door on the left.
There he was. The thief, in relatively good health for a man stuck in the dungeons. They had been treating him well, that or he was finding a way to treat himself well. Either way, he was well kept.
“Hello Wyatt.”
“Why, if it isn't my good old friend from the Castle. What are you doing here?” The thief greeted Evin as if he were welcoming him into his home. “Come on in, the door's unlocked.”
Evin stared at the door for a moment. He reached for the latch and lifted it without any resistance. The thief wasn't lying. Evin walked into the room and closed the door behind him.
“If the door is unlocked, then why not leave?”
The thief let out a small chuckle. “The dungeons are the safest place to be in the city. It is nearly as hard to get into this place as it is to get in. With a few bribes, I've allowed myself the luxury of being able to come and go as I choose. This is merely a second home to me, if you will.”
“Interesting.” Evin took a moment to contemplate. “And you can afford such bribes? Where do you get the money?”
“When you are as good a thief as I am, you don't need to worry about money.” He said.
“But even the best of thieves aren't rich men. Sure, thievery is dirty work, but it is only the dirtiest of jobs that reap the benefits of good wages.”
“True, true. A thieve's job is not as dirty as say... a mercenary, but I'm not exactly a thief by trade.”
“You're a smart man. With the guise of the thief you can hide a lot of things, I assume.” Evin spoke suspiciously.
“It is true.”
“Such as a name?”
The thieve's eyes darted towards Evin. “What?”
“Your name isn't Wyatt. I spoke to Conrad about you. He didn't know your name, but he knew for a fact that your name wasn't Wyatt.” The thief lunged at Evin, revealing a dagger from his coat pocket. The man, however, lacked proper fighting skills and was quickly disarmed as Evin grabbed and twisted the man's arm. He then threw the thief back to the other side of the room then said, “What's your real name and what are you up to?”
“I'm Lionel. A spy for the criminal syndicates who are willing to hire me. They're foolish to trust me though. I use this job as a way to get closer to the crime lords' coffers. I embezzle the money from them and then blame their enemies for it. It keeps violent crimes up and in the end, produces more money for me to embezzle and then I start the cycle all over again.
They recently discovered my trick and sent their men after me. I decided that the safest place to hide would be in the dungeons so I gathered a group of mercenaries and branded myself as a leader of this new group. A man named Alexander was the first one to approach us with a contract. I tipped the guard off about this illegal meeting within the city walls and purposefully got myself captured on the day were were supposed to fulfil the contract. That got me in here and I've been here ever since.”
Evin was amazed at the lengths that this guy went to to keep up a simple lie. Even to go as far as giving Evin, an apparent nobody a false name for no apparent reason other than to lie to him. “So why give me the fake name? Where did that come from?” Lionel said, “That is the name I'd been using for a while. I was sent to spy on a man named Xypher. He was a war lord with a record in the criminal underworld. When outside of his door one night, he was speaking to a man named Wyatt. I decided to adopt the name for a while.”
“What was Xypher talking to Wyatt about?”
“I don't know. It didn't concern me. Apparently he's somewhere in the dungeons too. Why don't you ask him yourself?”
Evin nodded and turned out of the cell. He wondered for a moment if he was going to ever see Lionel again, but realized that he didn't really care and moved onto other thoughts.
Where was he going to find Xypher? The dungeons were a big place and to find a single person in them would be a challenge, but not too challenging. The dungeons, while they were large were most likely laid out in a way that the high profile criminals would be in a common area in much the same way that they kept all of the violent offenders in the deeper regions. If this were the case, Evin would just need to find the region where these high profile criminals were being kept and it would narrow down his search tremendously. The search radius was limited even further when Evin realized that the high profile criminals were likely going to be heavily guarded, but not as well guarded as the deepest parts where the most violent people were kept. It would also be safe to assume that those violent people would not be placed in the vicinity of the high profile people. Within only about ten minutes, these factors allowed him to narrow down his search to a section of the dungeons not to far from the second entrance.
Carefully, Evin snuck around the guard patrols. Even with his expertise in stealth, he did come across troubles. Hiding in a well lit hall, even if it is practically just a cave, was difficult enough with just a few guard patrols. This area was about had about three times the number of guards as any other area in the dungeons. Eventually, though, he made his way to the far crevice of this section of dungeon. A dead end and the last place where Xypher could possibly be. There was no guards in this last area and a single open cell to the far end of the room. Despite Evin's logic telling him otherwise, he figured that he'd start his search for Xypher with that room as it was the most accessible of them all.
Walking into the room, Evin was met with a shock. Xypher's bloodied corpse lay on the rock floor of the cell. Along side him was two guards whom Evin could only assume came to Xypher's aid before succumbing to the attacker as well. Evin stood for a moment in disbelief as he figured what to do next. He walked over to the body. The poor old man's throat had been slit and left a puddle of blood on the floor which now covered Evin's shoes. Great. Evin thought as he thought about his wet feet. He couldn't even remember if his shoes had completely dried off or not before he stepped into the bloody puddle. It didn't matter much now. His feet were wet either way and now, they weren't just wet from lake water. He sighed as he reached over the old man to see if there was any clue as to who might have killed him. Xypher was still warm. He couldn't have been dead for more than a few minutes at most. With the rock floors, the body heat would escape him pretty quickly and it felt as though Xypher could have still been alive.
Evin's suspicions of who might have done it were quite clear. Who ever this Wyatt figure was seemed to be desperate. He didn't want to be found.
Evin's eyes widened beyond what he imagined that they could and he ran. He ran faster than he had ever run before, ignoring the guards who each made an attempt to stop him along the way. Evin was going to look like he was the one who murdered Xypher and the two guards. It was an inevitability, but it was too late to go back now and he needed to make sure he made it to his destination before the real killer did.
By this point, Evin knew his way around the dungeons relatively well and in no time, he was back to the more than memorable room that he was in no less than twenty minutes earlier. He would just need to run down two more corridors and reach the third door on the left. But as he entered the second corridor and noticed the cell door wide open, he knew he was too late. The thief was dead. He didn't even bother checking to make sure. He knew it as a fact and Evin already had a fair number of guards not to far behind him. Instead, Evin ran off through the dungeons until he was sure he'd evaded his chasers and then made his way outside.

Back at the Foxhead, Evin stood again in the back room with the old shopkeeper, Julian. On the floor beside him was his blood-soaked shoes. On his feet, as a replacement, he had a pair of red slippers that he had borrowed from one of the patrons of the Foxhead who'd left his slippers in his room as he enjoyed the evening activities within the bar.
“Wyatt was here when I speaking to the guard, wasn't he?” Evin asked the old man in as calm a tone as he could keep his tone bellow that of the patrons who were shouting in the next room over.
“Yes he was. Sat in the table right beside you. Thought I'd tell you, but then I thought about how your an ass and decided not to.”
“For someone who has some sort of moral integrity to kick ban an assassin from his inn, you sure are bad at saving lives. Two lives could have been saved today if you'd have just told me. Who knows how many more lives are at risk now.”
“I'm no moral person. I'm just a businessman and I don't like it when people kill my business.”
Evin couldn't contain himself. His fist smacked hard across the old man's face, making a satisfying cracking sound from his jaw breaking. He always hated Julian, even before he had kicked Evin out of the Foxhead years ago. It was nice to finally get a little bit of revenge on the man. He'd probably never be able to talk again. To top Evin's satisfaction off, he kicked his bloody pair of shoes into Julian's face.
With a smug look, Evin walked out of the Foxhead. He was going to stay at the Wolve's Inn that night. The Inn wasn't technically a place for him to stay anymore, but he figured that it would be safe enough for him to stay there.


6 Characters Present

Character Portrait: Allison Blake Character Portrait: Dastan Character Portrait: Jake Turner Character Portrait: Mageria Talsheir Character Portrait: Annie Turner Character Portrait: Indrani Nayar
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[Blackpond - Some time ago]

Jake assumed it would take a bit more waiting to find the guy; mostly because he’d be forced to lay low for a while to treat his wounded stump, or maybe he’d be just too scared to go out after what happened to Ebony, but even with the bit of wait involved in tracking him down, Joffrey was out in the open a lot sooner than Jake had expected, which was a good thing; his time was too precious nowadays to spend so much of it waiting on this guy. Jake had made sure to leave a description with every single one of his contacts before he left Blackpond the day the party ended, and now, only five days later, he had gotten word of the man’s whereabouts. It was about time they had a little chat.

Jake smiled under the hood of his cloak as he watched the man wander out of the shady looking establishment he had entered a few hours prior, stumbling a bit in a drunken haze and seeming quite pleased with himself. The night was warmer than most previous nights; a sign that spring was on the rise, but the thin and constant rain brought a bit of a chill to the air nonetheless. The rain also made it harder for Jake to hide from his target, but his enlightenment was only a tool, he knew very well to stay out of sight without it and even if he didn’t; the man seemed too distracted to notice even the most obvious stalker.

Slowly Jake followed the man named Joffrey through the alleyways of Blackpond as he seemed to be going to a specific location. Soon enough the man stopped at another establishment; this time Jake gave it about half a minute and entered after him. The place was much like a dimly lit bar, the air inside was warm and smelled pleasantly sweet, like flowers and vanilla mixed in with cigarette smoke, and it didn’t take Jake much more than a quick look around to know exactly where he was. “Of course...” He mumbled under his breath, pulling back his hood and heaving an annoyed sigh as he watched the man quickly make his way upstairs with a pretty brunette. Slowly he approached the bar, ordered a drink, tossed some extra coin at the barkeep and asked a few questions, soon enough he was heading up the stairs himself pacing a straight path to a particular door, and quietly cracking it open, just enough to peek inside and see the man with his back to the door, kneeling on the bed as he clumsily struggled to undo his pants with his one hand. Jake opened the door a bit further, now making himself visible to the semi-naked brunette on the bed. Holding out one golden coin in between his index and middle fingers, he rose them to his lips in a silencing gesture; Joffrey too distracted to notice the faint nod the woman gave in return.

Jake slowly sneaked into the room, slightly amused at the man still fiddling with his pants and growing more and more annoyed. He removed his cloak, holding it in his left hand as he pulled a dagger with his right. Calmly he approached Joffrey, quickly wrapping his arm around the man’s neck, pressing the tip of the dagger to his throat. “Do you know, Joffrey, how common it is for a man to be killed with his pants down? I know enough assassins to know it’s pretty damn common... Gladly I was in no mood to wait for you to give the lady something to laugh at.” He whispered to the man, extending his cape to the half naked woman, who immediately jumped off the bed; clearly not wanting any part in whatever was about to happen. She covered herself with the cloak seemingly just for Jake’s benefit as she didn’t seem to care one bit about being exposed. “Has he paid for your services yet, miss?”
“Not to me, he hasn’t.” She responded with a shrug.
Jake nodded, pulling a small coin pouch from his belt. “Does the door lock from the outside?” He asked, holding onto the gold.
“The key is in the hole, over there.” She said, indicating the door behind Jake.
“Take the key and lock the door when you leave.” He instructed, tossing the pouch onto her hands. “I’d like to be alone with my buddy here.”
The woman giggled taking the gold and immediately going for the door. “Whatever works for you, love.” She stated, closing the door after herself and locking it shut.

Jake didn’t mind the woman’s teasing and simply shook his head a bit amused, searching and finding no hidden weapons on the man before putting his own dagger away.
“What do you want man?” Joffrey asked, turning to face him. “It’s clearly not money, and if it was just to kill me, you would have done it by now, so... What?”

Jake sighed softly, staring silently into the man’s green eyes and noting that he didn’t seem to be that much older than Ess; feeling his stomach starting to twist and turn in disgust thinking back on the things he’d said to her in Blackpond. Without a word to the man in response to his questions Jake punched him hard in the gut, causing him to fall back onto the bed clutching his stomach and gasping for air. “Breathe.” He muttered. “Enjoy the fact that you can... At least for now.”

“I... Don’t... Even... Know you...” Joffrey gasped, breaking into a coughing fit.

“It doesn’t matter, buddy... I know you.” Jake stated. “The company one keeps tends to say more than enough about who they are. And your choice of company doesn’t speak too highly of your character.”

“What the... What’re you talking about, man?” Joffrey questioned, sitting up with a groan, looking up at Jake in a bit of a confused daze.

“Ebony... Jasper... What was the other guy called... Vincent?” Jake listed. “What do you suppose they say of your character, pal?”

Joffrey sighed. “Oh, I see...” He smirked. “Am I to disappear now too?”

“First you give me answers, then we’ll see.” Jake muttered.

“As much as I would love to buy myself some time.... I don’t see what I could say that you wouldn’t already have gotten out of Jasper... I’m assuming you didn’t end him quickly.” As Jake didn’t answer a look of understanding spread across Joffrey’s green eyes. “Oh, I see... That wasn’t you... That’s quite clever... What a clever little whore... How many is she screwing for the sake of wiping us out? Or were you not aware there were others?”

Jake snorted, his face contorting with rage, both at his words and the fact he knew damn well who had gone after Jasper. “You better mind your words, friend.”

“Oh, I’m sorry... Does she have you thinking you’re special? They’re very good at making guys feel special, you know.”

Jake didn’t say anything else, he just snapped and punched the man; violently and repeatedly, until it seemed as though he was slipping out of consciousness, at which point Jake managed to will himself to stop, pushing Joffrey from the bed onto the the floor. “I said MIND YOUR DAMN WORDS, you piece of shit. Speak of my sister that way again and you’ll lose more limbs.”
“Sister?” Joffrey spat, wiping some blood on the back of his hand. “Is that what you kids are calling it these days?” He muttered, still somewhat cowering as if expecting more blows. “She’s got a brother, yes, but I know you’re not him.”

Jake flinched at the man’s words, curiosity calming his temper, at least for a moment, as he knelt beside Joffrey, pulling a small dagger from his ankle. Gripping the man by his hair, Jake pulled his head back so Joffrey was forced to look at him, pressing the tip of the dagger to the corner of his left eye, his tone perfectly calm as he questioned. “Pray tell... How would you know that? He’s dead.”

“He’s not... Least he wasn’t back in the day... I’ve seen him once with Jasper... He was with one of the red people.”

Jake flinched slightly at Joffrey’s words, not only for the mention of the same ‘red people’ Irvin’s brother had mentioned, but also for all the implications of Ian being seen alive and in their company. For a moment he wondered if he could find and murder the guy before Ess found out about his involvement, but then he decided it wouldn’t be fair to keep this from her especially after everything he was already keeping from her.

Some amount of shock must have showed in his expression because Joffrey chuckled seeming amused by his reaction. “ Yeeah... Stand up guy, ain’t he?” He asked, trying a bit carelessly to struggle against Jake’s hold with no success. “Everyone should have a brother like that.”

Jake pulled the knife away from Joffrey’s eye, sheathing it, but kept his hold on the man. “I’m her brother.” He muttered out. “Who are these red people you speak of?”

“They stopped by once in a while, everyone was always scared shitless of them, but I never knew who they were. I never bothered to ask any questions, wasn’t my business.”

“I see.... And what exactly was your business then?” Jake questioned crossing his arms as though challenging the man to try and get past him somehow.

“Quality control.” Joffrey muttered in response. “Hey... Someone’s gotta make sure the product’s worth the price before you put it on the market, you know? And when your customers are different people with different tastes.... It takes some... Thorough.... Extensive... Repetitive... Testing. You know what I mean, bud?”

Joffrey’s voice was sounding faintly in Jake’s ears behind the loud and persistent ringing of pure rage. He felt his skin, his veins, his bones, his heart, burning from the inside out as though hell itself was trying to fight its way out, but on the outside he was steel. On the outside he was impenetrable steel; cold and unbreakable steel staring down at a pathetic and insignificant shit of a man. “Stand up.” He commanded, his tone remarkably steady. Joffrey didn’t move at first, but Jake didn’t repeat himself. The silence lingered, broken only by painful grunts as the older man started to push himself to his feet. Joffrey was almost as tall as Jake, but not quite, it took him some effort to stand straight after the blows he’d been dealt already, and to anyone else it would probably be easy to spare such a miserable life, the man’s blood was barely worth spilling.

“Now what?” Joffrey muttered, his tone was aggressive, but to Jake it sounded like the yelps of a tiny little mutt cowering in a corner and trying to act tough.

The question actually caused Jake to hesitate a moment and he stood there staring at Joffrey as though trying to find an answer, but after a while it became clear he was trying, and failing, to keep from laughing hysterically at the man. He turned his back to Joffrey, not seeming to mind what he might do, and continued to laugh uncontrollably as he stripped himself clean of his weapons, one by one; except for the little golden dagger, he tossed them in pile of leather-coated metal in a corner of the room.

The only weapons left in him were his needles, and the sword Bastian Rivers had given him, the golden dagger was carefully set aside. He held the sheathed weapon in his hand as he turned to face Joffrey, sick amusement crossing his expression as he stared into the man’s eyes. “Now what, you ask...” Jake coughed through another small fit of laughter, shaking his head. He pulled the sword from the sheath, the metal shining perfect and unblemished as though it was new as it caught the faint flicker of candlelight. “You must have felt like such a big man, back then, right?” He asked, pointing the sharp steel of the sword to Joffrey’s face in a somewhat playful manner, swaying the blade so that it alternated between the man’s left and right eye. “Answer the question, Joffrey. Did you think you were a man, back then, because of the things you did, huh?”

“Yes.” The man muttered.

“Yes...” Jake repeated after the man. “...but you’re not a man, are you, Joffrey? A man doesn’t stand before Death and asks ‘what now?’ like a pathetic little puppy, does he?”

“No. He doesn’t.” Joffrey replied, closing his eyes as if he couldn’t stand to watch the sharp metal dance before them for another second.

“No... You’re not a man, Joffrey. I don’t blame you for that though. That... I’ll excuse you for. I get it... You probably didn’t have a father to teach you... Your mommy didn’t pay you much attention or something... So you were taught by those who were available to you. I’m lucky, because my father wasn’t around much, see... but I had my sister... I had my sisters... I had girls in my life who were ten times the man you thought you were. Who would stand in front of Death and fight to their very last breath without cowering like a little bitch... And later on I found a tutor and he was... A great man... Joffrey... He was. He gave me this sword here....” Jake snorted another laugh as he smacked Joffrey in the cheek with the flat surface of the metal. “Look at it.” He commanded coldly, waiting for Joffrey to open his eyes before speaking further. “He gave me this sword so I’d remember... Always... Who I am. So I not lose myself again... and... When you feel Lady Death’s touch for the first time... In that moment before you leave this life forever... Remember to thank him a thousand times for that.” Jake warned the man, abruptly withdrawing the blade and burying it in its leather sheath. “Because if not for him, I would make it a point to show you how easily I could make you into a little bitch before I finally let you die in a pool of your own piss. As it is though...” He calmly set the sword aside with the golden dagger, apart from the other weapons piled on the floor, and hid his right hand behind his back. “... I feel I should at least give you the chance to die like the man you weren’t all your life. Strike me.”

Jake’s expression had changed from its former, nearly manic, amusement, and was back to a severe and emotionless glare. He watched Joffrey’s eyes move frantically, locating the locked door, all the blades on the floor, the window, and realizing that everything involved getting past the enraged assassin standing right in front of him. Finally the man gathered whatever was left of his strength to take a clumsy left-handed swing at Jake’s face, which was easily dodged. Jake didn’t strike back he simply waited for Joffrey to try and hit him, again, again, and again, to no effect. Finally the man screamed out in frustration and half-stumbled, half-bent forward, charging at Jake in an attempted tackle, succeeding to push Jake back against the wall, but not knocking off his balance in the slightest. Jake responded by gripping Joffrey’s hair and kneeing him hard on the face, the man crying out as his nose cracked with the impact. “Get up.” Jake muttered at Joffrey. “Get up, you pathetic piece of shit!” He looked down at the man and waited for him to fight, for him to try and save himself, but apparently not even Joffrey seemed to think his life was worth fighting for anymore. Jake felt sick at the sight of that man, at the thought of how many good, worthy, people he had seen die while he was allowed to breathe. He knew that ending his life wouldn’t make up for any other, nor would it erase the despicable things he’d done, but he didn’t really care either; this wasn’t about that.

More than enough time passed and Joffrey remained on the ground, lying on his side and curled up into a ball in protection of his broken nose as if that counted for something. Jake kicked him hard on his back and the pain forced the man to straighten up somewhat. “Get up.” Jake repeated.

Joffrey obeyed this time, slowly pushing to stand and again trying to punch Jake with his left hand. Jake dodged him easily, but this time he countered with a punch of his own, knocking the man down again. Jake patiently waited for Joffrey to stand once again, and only one more time after that before he allowed his idea of a fair fight to fully escalate into a brutal beating, his fists slamming into Joffrey’s skull until the man had stopped moving, stopped breathing... Eventually everything just stopped and faded into an empty stillness. Jake was then left staring at what used to be a human face now barely recognizable as such. He snorted, as he was now able to hear the rain falling on the roof of the building once again. At least he wouldn’t have to meet Crys with blood still on his hands.

[Present Time - Otium 14, close to sundown]

Jacob sighed heavily at his own thoughts. He clenched and unclenched his fists, faintly remembering Deidra’s curious prodding as to what he had done when he arrived at the Nest the following day. He hadn’t even noticed the state of his knuckles until the woman decided he needed bandages. Try as he might, he couldn’t remember now what excuse he had given Dee at the time, but it was far from relevant now. Ess knew he’d gone after Joffrey. She knew what had become of him. Although the circumstances of his death were not a part of that discussion. He felt guilty for what he’d done. For losing control. Everything he’d done and put himself through over the years and in the end he was no different from the angry boy that ruined Irvin’s family. The kid was his responsibility now; and he was failing him as well.

“He’ll come around,” Annie had told him once he explained to her how he and the boy had a falling out. He left Irvin in the White Shadows camp, with a bruised eye from their altercation, and decided he wasn’t ready to finish that discussion just yet. Instead he had asked Annie to keep an eye on the boy once she returned. Jake didn’t know if Irvin would come around and a part of him wish he wouldn’t. Maybe the kid would be better if he just forgot Jake and the horrible past they shared. Sean was dead. There was nothing of that story left unburied. “The kid’s sister is still out there though,” Jake muttered to himself. If she was even still alive. They took her because they wanted her for something though. Jake knew the odds were she was still out there. He mumbled under his breath at his thoughts, patting Shadow as they rode along the forest paths.

In truth, what Jake wanted was to go back to the Nest and talk to Ess about this. Crys had been the one to convince him that the attack on the Crimson was something Newhaven should be made aware of. Jake disagreed; or at least he disagreed that he should be responsible for bringing the news, but he didn’t argue. So there he was: riding towards the city gates.

“We’re almost there, bud. Just bear with me,” Jake responded when Shadow seemed to grow more and more uneasy. The horse was tired, Jake was tired as well, but once they reached the city he would made sure he got his rest. He’d earned it.

The Sun was lowering by the time Jake reached Newhaven’s gates. He wasn’t too surprised to find them closed. Dismounting, he led Shadows by the reins as he approached the guards. “I need to deliver a message to the Castle.”
“We have our orders, no one is allowed in or out of the city until further notice. And we’ve had more than our share of trouble today, so if you don’t turn around now I’ll...”
“I came all the from the desert, buddy; I’m tired and I don’t have time for threats or bullshit. I’m a Black Knight; you’ll let me in. If you raise your sword to me I will make you eat it.” Jake could easily sneak into the city on his own, but sneaking Shadow in through any secret passage was an impossibility.
“Can you prove what you say?”
“How dense are you? Of course I can’t. You can of course call for my Captain and ask her, but you’ll be wasting her time as well.”
The guard seemed doubtful, but before he could agree or refuse a voice called from atop the wall. “Oy, let the pretty boy through; he’s one of us.”
Jake grinned at the voice, glancing in the direction of the woman who shouted. “Soph,” he greeted. “Where’s your sidekick?”

The gates opened and Jake passed the guards without paying them another ounce of attention, Sophie came down from the wall to join him as he walked across the city streets. “Bran went to the Nest, did you not see him there?”

“I must have missed him,” Jake shrugged, not making much of the information. “Since when does the Black Guard man the walls, Soph?”
“We don’t, knucklehead. I was waiting for you. If you missed Bran, I assume you weren’t informed that Captain sent for you then. That’s not why you’re here?”
“Captain sent for me personally? When? I left the Nest a day or so ago, I’ve been in the desert.”
“Yeah, seems like we just missed you entirely,” Sophie smiled, nudging Jake playfully. “Happy birthday, by the way. I hear the party was quite impressive. Sorry we couldn’t attend.”
Jake snorted a laugh. He’d forgotten the party completely by now; it was another lifetime. “It was quite the party.”
“Listen Jake, there’s something else I need to talk to you while you’re here... Remember you asked Bran and I to stick around Ess’ former residence? I have some information to share.”
“Oh? Well, if people have been chasing me around for over a day, maybe I should go see what Captain needs from me. Can we talk afterwards?”
“Sure thing, pretty boy. So how’s Matthew treating you lot without the Cap’n there?”
Jake chuckled. “As you’d expect. If Bran’s not careful he’ll get himself caught in never ending training drills and you won’t see him again.”
“Oh, I don’t think Matty would dare...” Sophie smirked. “He’d have to compensate me, you know.”
“I’d love to hear that conversation.” Jake sighed as they neared the castle. “How’s her mood lately?”
“What’d you think? The Queen is... You know... She was fond of the girl, Jake. This hasn’t been a good year.”
Jake nodded. Sophie gave him half sentences at best, but it was really all that was needed. “Well, I don’t think my visit will be helping with that,” he told her, smiling sheepishly. “Would you take Shadow to the stables for me and make sure he doesn’t bite anyone in the face while I go find the Captain? I promised apples if he behaves, but he’s a bit grumpy today.”
“Sure, but you know... I don’t think the horse quite understands the concept of bribery.”
Jake snorted. “You’d be surprised.”

Sophie led Shadow to the stables and, much like Jake had warned, the horse was less than pleased with the idea. It took some doing, and further promises of treats, for the animal to settle under the care of the stable workers. By the time she reached the castle Jake and Mageria were conversing behind locked doors and the hallway outside the Captain’s office was occupied by a small group of guards. The men were standing around awkwardly shooting apprehensive glances at the door.

“What are you...?” The woman’s question was cut short by the voices on the other side of the door. They weren’t loud enough to be intelligible, but they were unmistakably angry. “Bloody Twins.” Jake was a hot head sometimes, that wasn’t much of a secret, but Mageria was one person the man had never rose his voice to before. Sophie hesitated, but eventually curiosity spoke louder and she came closer to the door to try and listen to what was happening.

“...Dangerous!” Jake was shouting. “How long was he alive in the dungeons? Alive! And now he’s free! Twins curse this stupid city and its politics!”

“Are you through? For what it’s worth, we don’t exactly disagree on this, but there still needs to be some semblance of order in this ‘stupid city’, if we are to keep it from falling apart completely. If you recall, this is what the Black Knights are supposed to do.”

“I also recall eliminating threats to be somewhere in the job description, Captain. Keeping that man alive, even if he were the real King, is a mistake. In fact, anything that comes from the mouth of any of those people is a bloody mistake. I remember being quite vocal about that the very day I came back to the castle. After Lamya paid us her visit. Had it been my blade on her instead of Sham’s we would have one less worry.”

“You may also want to remember how I accepted you back without a moment’s hesitation, Jake, because I trust you. I also assumed that you in turn trusted me. If those circumstances have at some point changed I ask that you’d be so kind as to inform me.”

There was a moment of silence that felt disturbingly long. “Of course not,” Jake answered, his tone seeming to calm just a bit. “He is under my authority once outside the castle walls, and that means you trust me to decide if and when he becomes a threat and to deal with that scenario as I see fit?”

“I think you made very clear what you see fit, haven’t you? But I see no reason why I shouldn’t trust you with this. Do you?”

“I could think of a couple, to be honest.”

“We’ll just have to take our chances then, won’t we?”

Sophie stepped away from the door and shrugged at the guards staring at her as if expecting gossip; eavesdropping was one thing, spreading it around was another. A couple minutes more passed before the door opened and Jake exited the room. The young Knight glanced from Sophie to the other guards with suspicion, but didn’t make comments on them hanging around the door, he forced a smile to one of them men. “Could you find Dominic for me and tell him I’ll be taking his... charge... off his hands within the hour. I’ll find him.”
The man nodded his agreement and wandered off as quickly as he could. The other guards took the opportunity to disperse as well before anyone could question them being there. Sophie chuckled and nodded down the hall. “You look like you might need a drink or two... Come on... Let’s discuss that information I have to give you.”


What Allison remembered most about the moments leading up to the actual attack were small details: how the air was always cooler near the water, how the earth’s scent was stronger there than anywhere else, how the occasional fallen leaf would cause the smooth surface of the lake to ripple in tiny waves that seemed to go on forever. That was her favorite spot, that lake; her special place. Her village was the closest to the river and being near water made her feel more at home in the forest before a time when she finally did feel truly at home. One way or another, sooner or later, Ali would return to the lake. Everyone in camp knew to find her there. Being predictable could be a huge mistake for an assassin, but then again; this was home.

She remembered the smile still playing on her lips, amusement leftover from whatever the conversation had been between her Vilen. Wow, hong long since she last thought about that guy, or Gloria? Felt like a lot longer than simply four years. The other girl; the one who went missing, Ali couldn’t even remember her name anymore. One moment there, gone the next; that could have been her too

She remembered the first blow; she knew it was coming, but was too late to react. A fist struck the side of her face with full force, her attacker intent on knocking her down. Ali ignored the pain and willed herself to react, drawing the first blade she could reach for; a throwing knife and slashing in the man’s direction without even looking. The blade cut him, but he barely seemed to mind it at all, continuously attacking her with bare hands. She managed to avoid his fists somehow, but to Ali it was clearer than ever that she was in over her head with this fight. She knew who her attacker was, she knew he had killed Bastian and Ali herself was barely a full assassin; she knew she didn’t really stand a chance.

The man kicked up dirt, a small cloud lingering in the air between them, specks of it flying into her eyes and blurring her vision. Ali heard the familiar sound of steel sliding off a leather sheath and it caused an involuntary shiver down her spine. She drew one of her daggers with her free hand as she threw the bloodied throwing knife at him, drawing her second dagger and lunging at her attacker. She might not survive this, but she sure as hell would fight. Her first dagger met only metal, but the second found flesh; barely. All she managed to achieve was a superficial cut to the man’s arm. He pushed away and kicked her high, hitting her on the chest. Ali heard something crack and figured he’d broken a few ribs; least of her concerns at this point. She took the opportunity given by her lack of response to what would be debilitating pain, and used that moment to jab one of her daggers to the man’s leg. This time she caused some damage, blood poured into her hands and if Ali had time for such things she would have smiled, but that was when she saw the ring. The ring of a Wolf in her attacker’s hand. She yelled at him, she knew that much, but the words had long escaped her memory. She did remember how it enraged her, how the betrayal stung even if by this man she had never really met.

The fight escalated to confusion: anger on her part, urgency on his due to the serious bleed on his leg. Ali attacked with absolutely no regard for her own life, she just wanted to hurt him somehow for what he had done. For those he had hurt. She wasn’t going to be able to keep this up much longer, her enlightenment was exhausting her and she simply lacked the skill. She almost flinched when she felt the man’s hand grabbing her wrists to push her away, not knowing if he dropped his sword on his own or had lost it in the confusion somehow, the flinch didn’t last and Ali pushed against the man’s hold, the tip of one of her daggers having found the man’s left eye. For a few moments everything seemed slowed down as The Shadow tried to push the young assassin away, Ali focusing all the fight she had left in her to the one act of burying the dagger into the man’s skull. Nothing else mattered. It could all be over right there, if only she was strong enough...

In hindsight, in her mind’s eye, Ali could see the exact moment when the thought crossed that killer’s mind to do what he did. It played to her in slow motion, the change in his expression that came with the decision. In that moment, fighting for life and Twins only know what else, the signs went unnoticed and Ali was caught completely off guard when Perry spat in her face. That momentary flinch was more than enough to tip the scale back in the man’s favor. When Ali recovered from her momentary lapse she was already looking down at the blade running clean through her abdomen. Her own blades had slipped from her grasp and fallen to the floor. The killer was already drawing his dagger and about to finish her off when he suddenly halted.

Someone was coming.

Ali was very aware now that she was lying on the floor. It was raining, or had rained, the ground was muddy. She could smell the blood mixed with wet soil, she could feel it in the back of her throat, she could taste it. The pain had returned, but it would probably leave her soon.

No more pain. And maybe she’d see her family again. Maybe. Maybe Death was a good thing.



No. No. No.

Ali felt her fingers clench around a fist full of dirt. She coughed up the blood that had been filling her mouth. She struggled to breathe. She found herself praying to every single Twin regardless of belief, she could hear her own voice screaming in the back of her mind that this couldn’t be the end. It was a shock to find herself having these thoughts. She wanted to live. Needed to for reasons she didn’t quite understand. If she made it out of this, by every God in Valcrest, she’d figure it out somehow.

[Desert - Otium 14th, Sundown]

“What are you thinking about?”

Dastan’s voice brought Allison back to the present. The sky outside the temple window was orange and the sun was about to descent on the horizon. Once it was gone there were only be the pyre left to light the area; if it was lit by then, that is.

“The Shadow. I hadn’t thought about him in a very long time.” Ali half smiled, watching the unlit pyre. “He did me a service in a way; when he almost killed me. That was the moment I realized I still had something to live for. That I wasn’t alone in the world no matter what I told myself. I felt guilty, angry, and whatever else you may think of... Because I was alive and they were gone. Our house was on fire and my brother had a choice between saving me or our little sister. I would have burned trying to make such a choice, but not Alex... My brother was a hero.”

“He chose you over your sister.” Dastan mumbled.

“She was just a baby, barely a year old. The village was on fire and filled with soldiers, or whoever they were... She stood no chance. I had a chance. I see that now. Back then I didn’t, of course. I fought him all the way out of the house, he was carrying me over his shoulder and I could see the flames swallow it whole. I knew she was dead by then, but I could still hear her screaming in my head and I hated him for it... I told him so...”

“And he died.”

“He died. He died because he was standing in place telling me to run and I wouldn’t listen. I felt guilty for that too. I didn’t deserve to live if my brother was dead. He was so much better than me... A lot of people died that day who were better than me.”

“It’s not the same thing as this.”

“No, no it’s not. See, my brother chose to save me and at some point I had to choose to accept that and live. Dani Rivers chose to spare a Wolf Hunter and take him home... She had to live with the deaths caused by that choice; they both had. It’s a difficult thing to live with the consequences of choice... But you didn’t choose this. You didn’t cause this. Everyone knows that now. Sitting here and clinging to what you feared would happen as if it was real; that’s the choice you’re making. Unlike me at the time my village burned, you’re not a child Dastan; it should be clear to you what happened. Your anger would serve a better purpose if aimed at those who are truly culpable here.” Ali silenced for a few seconds, eyes still fixed on the orange rays of sunlight. “I remember when Sean knocked Crys to the ground and she was lying there bleeding and I wonder, if I hadn’t been there, if anyone else would have stopped him. What would have...”

“You’re a ray of sunshine today aren’t you Blondie?” Dastan groaned as he got on his feet. he had been sitting on the stone ground for a very long time. “I thought all this talk of Death was supposed to get a reaction out of me, but there’s something else... What’s the matter?”

“Night is falling.” Ali stated, ignoring his implied question. “The pyre should be lit soon.”

“Jackson can light the pyre.”

“Jackson has done more than enough for you, don’t you think?”

“I will go if you tell me.” Dastan insisted.

Ali shook her head, hands gripping the window frame with excessive force as she leaned against it. “Lena is dead, Katelyn... Ella... I liked Ella. She was just a kid like me when we brought her to the Pack; orphaned, confused... She’s walking dead now. Valcrest eats good people alive and spits out empty shells... And we’re always fighting so hard to save it... What kind of dysfunctional are we exactly? How much more can we take?” She inhaled a deep shuddering breath, falling silent.

Dastan sighed walking up to his friend and enveloping the woman in a tight hug. “Alright, now you’ve managed to scare me,” he said, resting his chin on her shoulder and following her gaze to the darkening skies. “Tell me what’s going on.

“I’m dying, Dastan.” Ali mumbled. “That’s what’s going on.”

“We’re all dying.” Dastan mumbled. “We’re all sick.”

“Yes, we’re all dying, but... This, illness, or whatever it is, has been causing me a lot of pain; physical agony, and it’s only been getting worse. Annie told me some time ago that the sickness is attacking my nervous system and that’s apparently not a very good thing.”

“Wh-... How long?”

“Months at best; if the medication continues to work effectively. I’ll probably be incapacitated a while before I... I... It’s... Not a pleasant death.”

Dastan didn’t seem to know what else to say. It was one thing to know everyone was sick, everyone was dying, it was a whole other thing to hear something this real. “Have you told anyone about this?”

“What would be the point of that?” Ali sighed softly. “I don’t want them to know. I especially don’t Crys and Jake to know. They don’t need this in their heads right now.”

“After how she lost her mother, you don’t think you should let Crys know what’s happening to you?”

Ali chuckled. “She knows I’m sick, enlightened are dropping dead every day... I’m pretty sure it won’t be that much of a surprise. I just don’t want them to think of it until it’s absolutely necessary.”

“We still have months to figure this out... Maybe...”

“Don’t. That’s what Annie keeps saying, and I let her because she can’t be discouraged right now, but... Realistically speaking, I don’t have that long.” Ali shook her head. “Night is falling,” she repeated.


The scene was eerily familiar. To those who had followed the chain of events for the past five years there was a certain cruelty to the ways history repeats itself: the lingering sense of loss, the locked door of the Alpha’s cabin, and the white clad figure being allowed through the door. The week following Katelyn’s burial happened almost exactly as the days that followed Bastian’s death. And if Lena’s presence had done something to pull Dani out of her depression, maybe there was some miracle her daughter could perform this time around as well. Annie very much doubted it would be as simple as that, but she could feel the hopeful thought lingering in the mind of every Wolf she passed.

In all honesty the girl couldn’t understand, out of all people, why Sean would call for her now. It had been stressed to her the significance of his request, seeing as he hadn’t spoke to absolutely anyone once his sister’s body had been laid to rest, but she was given the choice to refuse. “I won’t blame you if you say no,” Donovan had told her. His tone, however, was pleading. It was not as if Annie would have denied anyone, even her worst enemy, in a similar situation. There was no question as to what her answer would be.

The cabin door was pulled open violently to let her in, as if it had been slammed shut so hard it had stuck that way for days. From the doorway it could be felt that the insides of the wooden house were unhealthily stuffy and the darkness was almost tangible as if it were in itself a sentient being; a monster lingering in the air around them, hiding behind Sean’s eyes. That house had become the living embodiment of a shattered soul.

In the time it took Annie to walk past the threshold Sean had already retreated further into the dark, mumbling a request that she shut the door after herself. She did as he asked her, carefully stepping further into the cabin and over broken bits of furniture. Sean sat by the table, on a little stool, leaving the only intact chair for her. “I didn’t think you’d actually come.” He muttered. “I think that was stupid of me really... You healers never turn down a desperate cry for help. That’s what my life is, in its essence... An act of desperation if there ever was one.” He snorted bitterly in what could have been an attempt at laughter. “I’m sorry, I’m being awfully rude, aren’t I? Please sit. I’d offer you some tea or something but... I’m afraid I’m all out.”

Annie sat down across from Sean, she could barely make out his expression in the the dark. “Why did you call me, if you thought I wouldn’t come?”
“I remembered something... Something your mother said to me when I last saw her. I didn’t give it much attention then, but...” Sean trailed off for a moment as if trying to gather his thoughts. “I asked her what was on my father’s mind when he died and she said ‘your sister’. I thought, you know, I thought she meant Katie, but now I see... I see... It couldn’t have been, right? The last thing you see when you die, you know that well... It’s always a regret. It wouldn’t have been Katie. He was always there for her. You though... He failed you.”

“Failed me?” Annie shook her head, leaning forward and against the wooden table. “No one failed me, Sean. I had a wonderful family growing up. My mother gave me everything. This... The truth of this was not sought because I felt something was lacking in my life. Some truths just need to be spoken a lot more than they need to be heard. I didn’t do this for me..”

Sean shook his head silently for a few moments before leaning forward and pressing his forehead against the tabletop. “You did all this for her?”

“I knew my mother well, Sean. I’m one of maybe four people who would ever be able to honestly say that. She kept his ring all those years. For months after he died. If she didn’t, on some level at least, want me to know, she would have gotten rid of it. If he didn’t mean anything to her anymore, she would have gotten rid of it. I honestly believe that the longer you live the more you accumulate regrets. I know I have mine and I’ve not really lived that long. If there is one bit of closure I could provide for her... Why not?”

Sean pulled himself up, sitting up straight to face Annie. “You’re going to tell me that you honestly don’t resent them, not even a bit? It doesn’t even bother you that you never knew him. That you had a brother you never knew... What kind of fucked up are you that these things just bounce right off of you? What do you spike your morning tea with that nothing seems to even touch you?”

“Is that how you see me then?” Annie snorted bitterly. “Am I more fucked than you because I don’t sit around in my own filth feeling sorry for myself? Yes, I wish I had known my father. Yes, I still think back to day Lionel died. I remember very clearly seeing him dead on the ground. I remember how meaningless his death felt to me just then. I remember, Sean, and I’m never going to forget that for as I long as I live. It will haunt me to the end of my days to know that I saw my brother dead and it meant nothing. At least I can tell myself I didn’t know. Can you?”

Sean pressed his palms against the table as if he meant to stand up, but changed his mind. “It wasn’t like that.” He muttered.

“I don’t care how it was. You asked me a question, I’m answering it.” Annie sighed, leaning back in her seat. “As I said, Sean; I had a family growing up. I had, and have, my own brothers and sisters, I was very much loved from the moment I was put in this world, and I was happy at almost every step of the way here...” Sean made a sound as if to interrupt, but at this point Annie slammed the palm of her hand against the table; the sound echoing a lot louder than expected and causing the man to actually cower in his seat and fall back into silence. “Not done talking, Sean.” She spoke softly. “I love Doni, and I love you... I love Katelyn and her death hurt me more than I could possibly get across that thick stupid skull of yours. I’m willing to accept that pain, just like I’m willing to accept the pain of having to sit here and look at the sad... pathetic... shattered man you’ve turned yourself into. What I will not do is erase everything that was good, simple, and pure in my life in favor of some made up past that I could never have lived. If our father believed that he failed me, then that was between him and his conscience, because all things considered; my mother was right and I was better off. Are we clear on that now, brother?”

“That’s fair, I suppose.” Sean answered. “You believe in fate, don’t you?”

“To a certain point, yes.”

“I keep thinking, it had to have been her... that day, coming across those intruders... It wouldn’t have been anyone else. I told her once that one way or another we all pay for our actions, for our mistakes... When it’s your time to pay; it’s your time to pay. Now it’s my time to pay.”

“And just like that... Her death means nothing more than punishment for your crimes...” Annie forced out a laugh. “You are such a child, Sean. A stupid, spoiled, little brat. I don’t know if you’re unwilling or just unable to take anything out of life other than anger and self-pity. Unwilling to learn even now... Maybe you’re right... You’re just hopeless.”

[Desert - Otium 14th, Night]

“Waking up to the sight of a crying healer has to be the worst possible sign...” Indrani spoke, weakly.

Annie startled at the woman’s voice, casually wiping the tears trailing down her face and snorting a laugh. “Don’t flatter yourself now.”

“Ow... Now that hurt.” Indrani chuckled briefly, her laughter ending in a painful groan. “Seriously now, are you alright?”

Annie smiled and shrugged. Indrani didn’t know Sean had died yet and she had been reluctant to tell her. The fever had subsided and the woman was in much better health, but she was far from fully recovered and more upsetting news beyond what had happened to her own kin might be the thing to change that situation. “It’s been a long couple of days, nothing more.”

“Things are not looking up for enlightened people, are they? Dastan has been unwell for quite a while, and he’s not the only one I’ve noticed.”

“No, they are not.” Annie admitted, offering Indrani some tea.

Indrani sighed as though she wanted to refuse, but drank. Despite having had more tea in a day than she had in a lifetime, she couldn’t deny that it helped. “How long until I can... Get out of here... Rejoin the living.”

“At least another week... You had a hole through your body and lost a gallon of blood.”

“A week is too long...” Indrani complained.

“Ideally it’s four, but I know you wouldn’t do that. So it’s a week or I’ll have you restrained.”

“Fine, a week it is.” Indrani muttered. “Where’s the pretty boy?” she asked, looking around the infirmary. “You know, the one that hovers around you like a puppy dog?”

Annie laughed out. “Don’t say that. I don’t know where Darren’s gone, probably out helping your boys. Things have been quiet around here for a little while... and I was supposed to be sleeping still.”

“Ah, so he does not hover while you sleep then?” Indrani smirked. “I’d like to sit up, if that’s alright, I’m getting a bit uncomfortable.”

Annie nodded in agreement, helping the woman up slowly. “I’m not into that, no,” she answered the question.

“Oh, so you’re into him.” Indrani chuckled, drinking some more tea and raising an eyebrow.

“I didn’t... Say... That.” Annie mumbled, nervously glancing at the doorway. “Are you hungry? I’m hungry...”

“Alright, alright.” Indrani laughed. “I am a little bit hungry, yes.”

“Night has fallen.” Annie pointed out, suddenly taking notice of the darkness outside the temple. “It’s possible the pyre has been lit by now.”

“It has to be lit before the sunrise, so the Gods will see the light from the beyond...” Indrani explained. “Dastan is supposed to light it and stand by it until the ashes scatter... One of us at least, but I can’t be there.”

“You won’t make it... If you can stand you wouldn’t be able to walk that far in your state. I’m sorry.”

“Then he’ll have to do it. He needs come down or... There’ll be nowhere there to see them off...”

Annie gripped Indrani’s shoulder in a comforting gesture, but before she could say something to the woman they both heard the sound of boots landing in stone in the back of the temple. Dastan came strolling out to the makeshift infirmary as though he hadn’t been refusing to leave his room for the past two days. “Ladies...” He mumbled, passing them both and exiting the temple.

A few minutes later Ali turned up and Indrani looked at her in awe as though she’d had just taught a pig how to fly. “What did you say to him?” She mumbled.

Ali simply shrugged and forced a smile as she continued walking towards the exit, but Annie could tell the young archer’s eyes were red as though she’d been crying. “Hey,” she called after Ali.

“I’m fine.” She answered. “Get some more sleep or I’ll tell Darren on you. You were barely out for a full hour.”

Annie glared at the woman as she crossed the doorway, mumbling something about not needing a caretaker before starting to fix herself and Indrani something warm to eat.


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Hey, guys! I decided to remove my fake post just because it was taking up space and messing up the sequence of events a bit.

If you want to re read it, it can be found here.



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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Otium 15- Early Morning

Newhaven was a city that relished in its glory. The glory of the Sun and Moon living harmoniously in perfect bliss to bring light to Valcrest in its brightest and darkest of days. The light of Valcrest, its true King, had gone out years before and the shadow of that past had finally caught up to them. Newhaven was falling. The system was breaking and young revolutionaries wished to find the light again. But the young were foolish. Time hadn't allowed them the pleasure of learning the intricacies of Life. They didn't understand the struggles that the older, more experienced had been trudging through in the past several years to make things right. They all just saw an endless war, an unknown disease, and a continuous struggle for balance. These kids didn't see what was happening deep within the shadows. How could they ever understand? They tried to, but failed.
Evin understood. He understood more than he ever wanted to know. It wasn't by choice, but rather by nature. He could blame it on Dani or on the Wolf Pack for getting him involved in things that were beyond even his full comprehension. Rather, he had to blame himself for his continued search for the apex of the shadows. Maybe it had all started when he was still young and foolish. Maybe he still was young and foolish, yet here he was, wiping the blood off his sword while the young fools around him regarded him as a war hero.
What the kids called bravery, Evin called self defence. There was no bravery in killing a man. He'd learned that years ago. He wasn't sure what true bravery was, exactly, but he expected that even War would agree with Evin's analysis. No, Evin just managed to do more to protect himself than the other's in the room at the time of the fighting.
But the kids regarded him with too much respect now. A level of respect which deserved a party, or so they insisted. And before even the earliest of birds had started chirping, the celebrations in the Inn had begun.

“I hate parties.” Evin said in an annoyed tone to Piccolo, the one who had been in charge of the initial rebellion.

Piccolo stood tall, despite his short stature and jovially explained, “Its time to celebrate Life, good friend! Reports are coming in from all around the city. We've taken several strategic points. Destroyed many military supplies and have essentially annexed the city. It is ours now.”

“And what of the castle?”

“Who cares!”

“There are strategies to insure that Newhaven doesn't fall under rebel control. Newhaven Castle has never been taken by rebels in any other rebellion. Historically, during a rebellion, Newhaven armies fill the castle barracks to the brim and defend for long enough, until Blackpond comes to take advantage of the in-fighting. Then the castle pushes Blackpond out of the city and cuts their losses. What measures do you have in place to make sure this doesn't happen to you.”

“Blackpond is too busy fighting their own civil war to concern themselves with us.”

“Yes, but Blackpond is home of War. The people there don't see War in the same way that most people do. They see opportunity before personal conflict. If the opportunity arises to come out victorious in the great Valcrest war, it is quite possible that the civil war will be put on hold and Newhaven will be crushed. So again, I ask you what measures you have in place to make sure this doesn't happen?”

“We'll wait for word from the castle. But for now, enjoy the party. Life is short we don't know how much time we have left.”
“Exactly.” Silence. “Now quit wasting away on your drink and actually commit your life to something.”

Evin finally realized it. That was what made him different. He couldn't sit idle because otherwise his life would be wasted on the world. He didn't push himself into the world to sit back the moment things seemed to be going right. Evin would never find anything right. He didn't fight against anything but the fight itself.

A man burst into the room that Evin and Piccolo sat. A few of the men who'd volunteered to guard Piccolo stood up, ready to draw their weapons, but calmed down as soon as they realized that it was one of Piccolo's men at arms who'd burst in.

“Word from the castle.” The boy said under heavy breath. “Fighting continues, but we've managed to capture the Queen.”

Piccolo's eyes brightened. He averted his gaze to Evin, with a sharp grin as if to tell him, 'I told you so', before asking, “Where is she being taken?”

“She's been taken, under heavy guard to the Church of Sun. There is a clear path that is under our control in that section of the city and our fortifications in that area are at the strongest at this moment. It would take a sizable force to get to her.”

“Good. Now to celebrate. Evin, will you join us now?” Piccolo offered Evin the bottle. “Wait. Where are you going?”

Evin tensed as he reached for the door. He tilted his head to one side and softly let out a steady breath. Turning around, he didn't look over at Piccolo, but the soldier that had come to bring the news of Ella. “The castle, soldier. Tell me how the fight goes.”

The boy tightened up, planting his feet and erecting himself to become as stiff as a board. “Fighting is slow, sir. A Black Knight and small contingent of guards has been holding the Knight's Quarters for the past two hours.”

Evin didn't say anything more. He glanced at Piccolo for a moment. Trying to read his thoughts. His face remained stern and attentive. Despite what Evin thought of his complacency, he seemed to be a good leader. For a rebellion, he was exactly what the cause needed. Before Evin could get caught staring for too long, he walked out the door. After shutting it, he began his pace quickened as he pushed through the celebrating crowds to exit the building. These rebels were going to cause so much more trouble than they were worth. Something that to be done to prevent them from holding any true position of power.


Blades sang their horrific tune through the halls of Newhaven Castle leading to the Knight's corridors. Each song telling a talk of grief. Starting with the high pitched percussion of of first contact. The song's end would only come in the moments that the families were told the news of untimely death at which point the song would crescendo with the guttural cries of grief and finally, denouement into the last whimpers of the final time someone would cry over them.
What Dominic hated over all of that was the sound that a dying man made. Most hardened soldiers that he spoke to seemed to say that they didn't even notice the sounds anymore. Dominic couldn't help but hear it. The sounds of gurgling after opening a chest cavity. The wheezing. The dull thud of metal on bone. The grunts and moans. All of these sounds were things that Dominic would hear in his dreams and after every rough battle. The sounds of this battle would never leave him.
There must have been upwards of a hundred dying and dead bodies across the long hallway. Dominic was the only defender left. The rest of his friends were laying across the floor, dead or soon to be dead. Among the castle guards were the revolting citizens who were also strewn across the floor.
Only about a dozen attackers remained.
Dominic gave strength to the word “knight” in his fighting. His ferocity outpaced even the bravest of soldiers in history. Yet, there was only so far that he could push himself and he was close to breaking. He could no longer lift his claymore and instead, opted for a decorative sword that had been hung on the wall. The attackers had noticed this and saw it as a sign of weakness. This only added flames to the attackers and they fought with more strength.
Dominic eyed the attackers as they seemed to move into a formation. Only about three or four could attack at one given time, so they formed lines. When one man fell, the next could easily take their place. It was simple and it was smart. Of course it was. The only ones who survived a battle as horrific as this were the ones who were smart enough to understand how to survive. Even the lucky ones couldn't survive in a fight that had drawn itself out for so long.
The first four attacked in near unison. Dominic had expected it, but it wasn't until that moment that he realized how unfavourable his position was. A block would defend against maybe two at the most and a dodge would protect against three. Instinct kicked in at that moment. He stumbled backwards, protecting himself for another moment. It was enough to open the big wooden door behind him, swinging to block one of the oncoming attackers. Now he could dodge. He huffed and jumped his lumbering body back, just grazing his head off the high frame as he passed through the door. Now there was a real choke between the two of them. The first man barged through without a single thought. And was quickly mowed down. Dominic shuddered for a moment as he heard the man's face smack against the black marble floor.
Dominic made the next move. A feint backwards, welcoming his next attacker through the door. He followed with a lunge forward, perforating the man's stomach. He collapsed right in the doorway, shaking violently and slowly drifted off.
After that, no one moved on Dominic. One of the rebels stood just at the doorway, only meters away from Dominic. Dominic stared at the guy through the thin holes of his helmet. He looked around thirty years old. One of the older men who he'd encountered in his fights that night. He looked just as withered and tired as Dominic was feeling. Sweat was pouring down his beat red face and blood covered his clothes. Nothing in the man's face told Dominic that the man wanted to pass the precipice of the door frame, but another look spoke of wishing he could.
The man behind him couldn't contain himself. He pushed the other man out of the way and rushed through the door. In his excitement, however, he missed the fact that there was a body on the floor and tripped over it. It was almost too easy, but Dominic showed no mercy or remorse. Again, he couldn't help but cringe as the sound of the man's skull cracking under his boot attacked his ears. It was cruel, but it sent a message to anyone else who stepped through that door. Hopefully no one else would. Hopefully it was enough.
He looked back at the man who had been standing at the door frame. He wasn't looking at Dominic anymore. He couldn't look at Dominic. How could anyone look at him after doing such a monstrous act. It didn't bother him, though. Only the sounds really bothered him. If it meant that Dominic would live to fight another day, then so be it. Dominic slowly backed away from the fight, praying to War that he had seen victory in this battle.
When Dominic was a safe distance down the hall, he turned into his room. Instantly, he fell to his knees. He ripped off his helmet and let in one big breath, but quickly coughed it out. His body opted for smaller breaths. He tried to sigh, but coughed again as he looked at his helmet. Its once shiny ebony polish was now a dented and scratched mess. He always liked to keep his Black Knight armour clean and polished.
He lifted himself off the floor with an unreasonably loud grunt. His aching bones cracked as he stepped towards his bed.
Then he heard the footsteps. Nearly inaudible, but moving towards his room quickly. Dominic let in as deep a breath as he could muster before snapping the leg off a chair. When he turned around, arms fully cocked and ready to attack, he stopped. “Conrad.” Dominic said. “If I didn't recognize the crest on your shoulder pad, you would be dead right now.”
Conrad took his helmet off, showing an equally battered warrior underneath. “Sorry Dominic, but there's no time. The rebels have stolen Ella. My child is in danger.”


The parade was a morbid one. A possessed queen being touted about a street covered in bodies and blood. Revolutionaries, merely peasants, touting their stolen weapons and armour and harassing any poor villager that even dared to look out their window. Each step brought them closer to the stronghold. Lionel, the youngest of the revolutionaries could nearly see it.
Above the rest of the city's rooftops was a spire. Not too far in the distance. Only another three hundred meters or so away. It marked the centre of the district's square. It wasn't anything special or ornate. It was merely a beacon that allowed the city folk to know which direction the square was. Newhaveners took pride in those beacons, often saying that one could never get lost in Newhaven because of them. You could always tell where you were in the city based on the colour of the spire.
Lionel could remember the several times he would race to these landmarks with his friends as a child. A game that ever Newhaven child could relate to. The thing that was uniquely 'Newhaven'. He would often look for ways to cheat at the racing game, but never really found an effective method. The closest he ever came to it was by causing a tar spill down one of the streets where his friends would often run his race. Lionel had done it the night before, but by the time the race began, the city had managed to band together to clean up the spill. He ran down a different route, splitting off from his friends before he could see the spill had been cleaned up already. His friends for years would tease him for the look of shock he had on his face when he saw his friends had arrived at the finish a whole minute before Lionel did.
Now the spire meant so much more to him and his comrades. It meant a new beginning. A beginning that would end the war and fighting once an for all. A beginning of a new ruling class in Newhaven. One that was more competent than the one that had ruled for nearly five hundred years now. The era of Pages was nearly over. In a few days, the public execution in the square would solidify that truth for them.
Only two hundred meters were left to travel. The roads were so familiar to Lionel. He could walk down them blindfolded. He was sure of that.
“Hold!” The group stopped at the order. Lionel looked at the leader, who was looking down the road. He followed the gaze of his leader until he saw it. “Some old beggar on the streets. Lionel, Carry! Shew him off so we can pass safely.
Lionel rolled his eyes as he and carry jumped off the cart that they'd been protecting. It was only some old bard, out to survey the damage of the battle to inevitably write some poem about the Newhaven revolution. The man simply sat in the middle of the rode, tuning his viol. His ashen hair the colour of the soot from nearby fires that burned around him. As he got closer, however, he noticed that the man looked a lot younger than his hair would suggest. Still old, but not old enough or wrinkled enough to have the hair in such a colour. Stress must have taken its tole on the musician.
“Come on, buddy. Time to go. There's nothing to see here.” Lionel said as kindly as possible while still attempting to exert his authority, but the man ignored. He just continued to tune his viol. “I'm serious. Please don't make me force you out of here.”
This time the old bard looked up at Lionel, then back at the cart protected by the soldiers down the street. Then, just as before, he continued with his viol. Carry reacted this time, pointing his stolen sword towards the bard. He didn't say anything, but the action suggested the threat of the situation that the bard had placed himself in. Lionel gripped his sword a little tighter, readying himself to be more forceful too.
Again, the bard looked up, this time at Carry. He looked behind them again, but then looked back at Carry. The bard raised his hand slowly towards the sword in the least threatening way possible. Gently, he poked the tip of the sword with his finger and looked at it. He didn't draw blood. Then he looked at Lionel's sword hand. Could the bard notice that he was gripping it tighter? He looked down at his viol again, just twisting the top most nob slightly before looking back at the two of them again.
That's when Lionel noticed something wrong. The bard's hands were covered in soot. Everywhere else was clean, but as he gazed closely at the man's face, he noticed that there was soot where his hairline brushed against his forehead. The hair had been purposely rubbed with soot. At an even closer look, he noticed something wrong with the viol. The strings on the instrument weren't attached at the bottom like they were supposed to. In fact, they extended to the ground and slithered in every which way across the cobblestone.
Lionel reached out to the bard, attempting to take away his instrument, but the bard instinctively pulled the instrument back, causing the strings to go taught. The bard's eyes sparkled a deep black and in a motion faster than he'd ever seen a man move, he plucked each of the strings. Behind him, he heard screams as the men protecting the waggon fell, knives sticking out of their necks. When Lionel turned back around, the bard was no longer there. He shot his head in both directions and saw Carry, lying beside him with his throat slit open. He hadn't even heard a struggle!
Before Lionel could even react, he felt a cold steel blade cut cleanly through his neck. He didn't even feel the sharp blade's cut, but knew what had happened when he could no longer breath. He fell over, slowly fading out. Right in front of him, the viol crashed to the ground, splintering as it shattered. All he heard was the man's footsteps growing further away as Lionel slowly drifted off.


Dominic arrived at the odd scene. All of the bodies had fallen perfectly in formation, except for two which were down the road a little further. There was not a single sign that a fight even took place. The only markings were single penetrating wounds to various vital parts of the men and woman’s bodies. Even stranger was the fact that not a single one of the bodies were of any enemy. Whoever had killed the convoy was precise and deadly.
He walked closer to the carriage to see if the Queen was hidden under anything. A crow flew from out of the cart, but all that was there was the body of yet another soldier.
“These are the people that you saw taking the Queen away?” Dominic turned around to ask Conrad.
Dominic turned to see Conrad nod and then proceeded to look around the carriage to see if he could find anything.
They were too late. That was for certain. The Queen and the only surviving heir to the throne was gone, without a trace. The city was falling apart and while Blackpond had it own problems, a chance that everything that Newhaven ever had managed to accomplish seemed further away than ever. His life's work to protect the City and its interests would never be achieved. Dominic wouldn't see Peace in his lifetime. It was the nail in a coffin intended for the grave that Valcrest had been digging for its entire lifetime.
Dominic shook his head a few times and leaned against the waggon. His feet planted heavy in the ground and his shoulders hunched over as he placed a hand against his forehead. The steel plates of his gloves scraped against his helmet in contemplation. Nothing.
“We should probably get back to the castle and—”
“The woman you're looking for is with a man named Evin Bana.” The voice came from behind them.
Dominic didn't turn around to see who it was. He simply looked at Conrad, who frantically looked out into the night to see the figure. If Conrad couldn't see the man who was speaking, it was likely that he wouldn't be able to see him either. Instead, he displayed his sword, ringing out through the empty streets as he unsheathed it. Holding it in a passive position, he leaned against the carriage.
The voice continued. “He killed the entire convey in a single attack and then took off with the woman towards the west gate. I'd suspect he's headed for Blackpond.”
“Seems like a tall accusation. A single man killing an entire group of soldiers trusted to protect the ransomed Queen.” Conrad shouted out. Then his gazed focused on a single point to Dominic's left. The man had revealed himself.
Dominic shifted his weight over the carriage to look at the unremarkable man. He wore unremarkable clothes and seemed to just ooze mediocrity. Even his unusual trait of cherry-kissed blond hair seemed unremarkable. An average man with a far from average story.
“You sound like a man whose never actually become acquainted with Evin Bana. He's a man filled with tall tales. Tales just as tall as a woman being kept alive by a man who can bring back the dead.”
“Who are you?” Dominic interjected.
“I'm Wyatt. You could say that Evin and I have been aquaintences for a while. Not sure if I'd consider that a blessing or a curse.” He smirked, but looked away when he realized that no one else understood the joke.
“And why do you think he went to Blackpond. Leaving from the west gate isn't uncommon. Everything is west of Newhaven.”
“Because Crystal Rivers is in Newhaven and she is the only living person that Evin would trust to help him protect the girl, Ella.”
“Blackpond isn't the safest place to be bringing the unborn heir of Newhaven to.” Dominic said. He contemplated looking back at Conrad for a moment, but he figured it best to avoid making eye contact with him after making comments regarding his child in any way.
“If you haven't noticed, nowhere is safe anymore.” Dominic didn't reply to Wyatt's comment. He just sat in the silence until Wyatt decided to continue. “I can assure you that the safest place for Ella is where ever Evin takes her. His protective nature is almost unnatural at times. You probably still want to be close to her, though. That is understandable. Twins save the Queen and all that nonsense. I'll help you too, but there is one thing I need from you.”
“Here we go...” Conrad said.
“I need to find Jake Turner.”

Blackpond: Otium 17- Midday

Rita patiently waited at the gates of hell. She knew that her actions were likely leading her towards her death. But there she stood, with all the bravery of an army. She had no weapons and wasn't even wearing armor. None of that would have saved her anyway. All she wore was a simple shirt and pants representing all the worth of the person that she had come to meet.
Slowly the gate, but there was no one on the other side to greet her. She had waited nearly forty minutes at that gate, expecting at least some form of greeting. Then again, for Lamya, this was a greeting all its own. The whole emptiness of the castle courtyard made it all the more terrifying. No sentries, no porter, no stable boy. In fact, there weren't even any animals at the stables. Rita took a deep breath and slipped into the castle.
Lmaya's theme continued. Not a single person was seen within the castle either. If there was one thing that woman actually cared about, it was the aesthetics of her way of life. She made her way towards the throne room, only to find that there was nothing there. No art, no throne. Not even a spec of dust was left in the room. The paint had been stripped from the walls, leaving the light wood walls scratched. Only one of the walls had been sanded down. It was the path that Lamya clearly wanted her to take. With no other choice, she went through the door that had been sanded down for her.
The corridor that the door lead her too was the same as the throne room. Perfectly clean and bare with nothing of interest to keep her attention as she wandered down the path. This forced her to think about what would be at the end of the path. Rita already know where the path lead. That bitch. Her chest tightened and her breath went shallow.
Rita couldn't let this get to her. She had to stay composed. She had to find the reason to keep pushing forward. Her crusade had been an emotionally fueled trip of vengeance and pride for her city. What was it getting her? A drawn out war. There was enough of that in Valcrest.
She climbed the stairs up to the third floor. She was just above the castle's barracks now. Only one more left turn. Before she turned the corridor, she leaned against the wall. Rita slipped to the floor and hit the ground with a thud. The wall had been so perfectly polished. She'd expected more resistance. It shocked her and she let out a sheepish yelp. She braced her hands on the floor—also perfectly polished—and her arms tensed as she sucked in a deep breath. Her hands clenched, nails breaking on the stone underneath them. Her head dipped forward. Hair cascaded over her face. Her next breath came shuttering through her lungs. She quirked a momentary smirk; she really had to wash her hair. The next breath was even deeper, but had even less control. At this point, she lost control completely and exhaled. Everything.
Hell opened in its full fury a wayward shriek. It was a sound so sullied by its own creator that she didn't even hear it come from her. Rita's world voided out. From her head to her toe, she was unfeeling. It was only when the world came back to her in a stark white light that she realized what had just happened. She looked up through strands of hair to see that she hadn't moved. She felt warm and she was drenched in sweat. Or was it tears? She couldn't tell. Her hands hurt. Looking at them, she realized that she had clenched the stone floor so hard that her nails had broken. Some nearly completely off, and now her hands were bleeding.
It had been such a long time since she had let anything go. The entirety of the last three and a half years had been a lesson in self control for her.
Pushing herself up, she made the turn down the final corridor. She opened the final door at the end of the hall and was welcomed by what she'd expected.
The room was not much different than it was the last time she was in there. The only thing that had changed was the curtains. They were now a dark blue velvet that blotted out the sun. The room, as usual, was mostly lit by torch, leaving it uncomfortably hot during the summer months. Thankfully, it wasn't a hot day and the room was a comfortable temperature.
Lamya stood in the corner of Hastings' room. Her expression was far different than what Rita had ever seen on her before. The meticulous, heartless expression of content wasn't there. Rather, a far more human expression—A longing of sorts—filled the center of her eyes and across the lines of her face. Rita's rage towards the woman subsided, but the tears continued to flow.
“Come here, lovely.” Lamya said, reaching her arms out for an embrace.
Rita slowly stepped towards the woman. Lamya was standing there, stoic yet maternal, emotional yet sincere. Or was she? Rita stopped mid stride, just out of reach of the woman and took a step back. It was all a lie. It was always a lie. Lamya didn't have an ounce of honesty to give towards anyone. There was everything to gain from allowing Rita, in her vulnerable state, to get close enough to Lamya. It almost sickened her knowing how close it had come to working.
She took yet another step back and then reached for her belt, forgetting that she'd left her weapons behind. How foolish could she be? This was why Rita could never wear her heart on her sleeve. She was just too reckless when she did.
“You look upset.” Despite trying, there was no way Rita could convey in that sentence, the hatred she felt with her running nose.
“To be rejected is hurtful. I know you understand that feeling.”
“Shut up!” Rita shouted. “Stop trying to hurt me.”
“I'm just relating my—”
“You know exactly what you're doing. I don't need a weapon. I'll kill you right now. Haven't you broken me enough? All those years you've been torture… I'll do it! I'll fucking do it! I strangle you and watch as the panic sets in and the life in your eyes slowly fades out. I'll show you how much you actually care about Life!”
Lamya's brows furrowed and she slightly pursed her dark red lips. Then, she relaxed them for just long enough to bite down on her bottom lip. The calculated Lamya had completely disappeared and revealed humanity underneath the cloak she'd been hiding behind this whole time. Then, it all shifted, like she had been softly touched by a feather.
The tone Lamya spoke in was one Rita hadn't heard from her. It was soft and relaxed, but not intentional. It was silvery. “You can kill me if you really want, but I promise you that you won't see fear in my eyes. I don't fear escape from Life. I don't fear the embrace of Death. When you finally come to realize that the worth of the Twins. How meaningless even their existence was to our world. You realize then, that caring about anything that can be attributed to a god is pointless. Why spend my days pondering Death? Why spend them embracing life? Why even spend the day to begin with?
“So yes, kill me because you feel like I've in some way impeded on your life's journey and that it is me who you can blame for it. Say I broke you. The only thing that broke you is yourself. You broke yourself by choosing to care about the things that I decided to destroy.
“I'll tell you what broken really is. On an island south of Terra, there is a nation which believes in a single god. They believe all other gods of the world are false and only this one is real. They call this god, The Broken One. This god is who they all attribute magic to. It was created out of three parts. Beauty, thought and soul. The Broken One was perfect in all three of these aspects and so, she had perfect mastery of the divine, as any true god would. The Broken One could call upon the very fabric which made up the world and will it to do anything and everything.
“Despite this, the Broken One became terribly depressed with the world. This god went recluse until appearing again, in a display that even the most balanced of intellects have gone crazy trying to describe. This god became broken. The three pieces which made up the very fabric of existence, Beauty, thought and soulfulness, were split apart and broken. The entire balance of the world fractured that day. Painters who were there to witness the event spent the rest of their lives mixing colors, trying to recreate the colors which they saw. A futile attempt as the colors created by this event don't even exist. Many also said to have seen the very essence of humanity. These men attempted to connect to their fellow man once more, but failed because they couldn't find people who connect with them on a level as deep as they could connect with others. Finally, there were the mathematicians, who, in an instant, saw, for a moment, the entirety of existence in numbers. Only, whenever asked about what they saw, all they could say was 'nothing'.
“This was the Broken One's attempt at killing itself. Only gods don't exist in the same way people do and death doesn't come naturally to them. It is said that the three broken pieces of the Broken One still remain on the world, even to this day. A broken body, a broken mind and a broken spirit. These three broken pieces of divinity search for a release. And to me, that is what broken really sounds like.
“So kill me. See what good it does you. How your life becomes so much better than before. Or, we can talk. Either way, nothing will really change.”
Rita stood in silence. She had been so engaged in what Lamya had said to her that she'd barely even noticed when she was finished. She had gotten too caught up in her own head. Why did she even tell Rita this story? What purpose did it pose? Did it even pose any purpose? This was the conundrum that always seemed to come up when around Lamya.
“Why do you do all this?” Rita finally asked.
“Why not?”
“Let's not act like kids, now. You Know why you do this.” Rita said.
“Then maybe kids live closer to the truth than we will ever care to admit.”
Rita sighed, knowing she was wasting her time here. “Okay. What are we doing, now?”
In a stark, matter of fact, sort of way, Lamya said. “You can have it. Blackpond is yours.”
Rita was taken aback. There was no reason for Lamya to give up a position like this. She still had months before Rita's forces could even make a solid attack on the city. This was not a secret to either side. Rita was going to ask, but she was stopped before she could even lift her lip with the only answer that she should have expected from Lamya. “Why not?” She said.
“And just like”
“I figured I'd keep this room the way it is. I might not care, but I know that you do.”
Lamya began to walk out the door.
“I'm not letting you go. You must understand that. Rita said. Lamya stopped at the door. “You've committed so many crimes that a regular execution doesn't seem like it is enough. Hell, I don't know if anything is enough for the number of things you've done to this city and its people.”
“I understand.” Lamya said. “However, I'm going to continue on my way. There are things that I've set out to do. I will be back, maybe, but in the meantime, there's a rumor going around about some fun little games to be played in the Blackpond underground and I'd be sore to miss out of the explosive fun.”
Rita knew it was futile to try to stop her. She was going to leave and Rita was going to let her. This was just how it would be She would have to trust that Lamya would be back to face her crimes. Only Time would tell.
Lamya walked right up to Rita. Rita didn't flinch despite every instinct telling her, begging her to react. Bowing forward, Lamya brought her face in close to Rita's and she kissed her on the cheek.
“Until next time.” Lamya said with a wink.
She spun herself around from the hips and quickly strode out the door and out of sight.
Rita was now alone in the only decorated room in the entire castle, yet it felt so empty. She looked around and took in a big breath. Her head dipped down and she went to sit on the bed. She had hoped that the familiar smell of Hastings' room would still be there. Instead, she smelt nothing.
She wasn't sure what to do now. Ruling an entire city had never been something she was interested in, but she knew that she wouldn't be able to trust anyone who sat on the throne. No one would oppose her rule. Blackpond had a lot of respect for those who overthrew the current rule and had a long history to prove it. Another favorable point was her extensive military background. Blackpond loved a military rule.
The bed shook as she heaved her entire body to lay on it. “I hope this was all worth it, Al.” She said as she closed her eyes and slept, alone in the lonesome castle.


The forest at night was always an uncomfortable place. Many of the more ferocious of things came out at night; and it wasn't only the animals that one had to worry about. An assassin knew it best. The night was the best time to strike. Even an expected attack could come as a surprise at night. With the crackling fire betraying their position and blinding him to the light, Evin kept a closer eye than usual.
The fire was something that Evin didn't particularly want to have, but it was necessary. Usually, he would suffer through the cold, the presence of Ella necessitated a proper fire. She was nearing her due date and her baby needed the warmth.
He looked over at Ella, who was sleeping so peacefully in the makeshift bed he'd made of pine tree and dead leaves. She was the only student Evin ever had during his time as an instructor. He'd failed to reel in her impulsive behavior and it got her killed. Dani probably should have never let him teach. Even he knew that having miniature Evin's running around the camp would have been disastrous. He couldn't have ever taught self control to Ella. The type of impulse that Evin possessed couldn't be taught. It worked for Evin because he knew, by instinct when an impulse would work. Ella, with just one year of experience followed by three years without practice, couldn't have known. In a dimly lit ballroom, filled with dangerous people who were all on edge, it wasn't a good idea to be doing anything impulsive.
Despite the morbid thoughts of Ella's death passing through his mind, Evin chuckled. He knew that he couldn't blame his training for that one. Rather, he had to blame an impulsive choice that he'd made several years back. There was no denying that leaving his friend Perry to die was a terrible idea, both in the moment and after reflecting on all that it caused. Perry had been the cause of almost all of the troubles that he and everyone he knew had faced over the years. Yet, it was only now that he was beginning to realize how drastically the one impulse decision he'd made had changed the entire melody of Time.
Evin jumped to his feet when he heard a small rustle in the bushes. A rather hefty racoon scurried towards him. In the glow of the fire, its eyes beaded a creamy green. He kept cautious as it approached in fear that it may be rabid. It didn't look it, but caution was always a good option with unknown animals. The raccoon got within five or six feet of him and stood on its hind legs. It reached its arms out and beckoned for food.
Evin reached into his pocket and grabbed a few crumbs, tossing it towards the raccoon. It caught the food with its hands in mid air and instantly began to eat its free food. Evin let it enjoy its mean while he continued to watch the shell of his former student in the glow of the fire.
He wondered if Ella was still in the body somewhere or if it was just the parasite, feeding off the life of the baby within the body to sustain his old on the mortal world. If Ella was there, how aware was she? What would happen to her when the baby was born? The questions were endless, and they just continued to become more disheartening. Evin decided to stop thinking about it.
He looked back at the raccoon, which was now finished its meal and lying by the fire for some warmth.
“How long will it be before you decide to show me your true form? Or do you just some hermit who tricks campers into feeding them by pretending to be a raccoon?” Evin asked.
In tha moment, the raccoon transformed from animal to human in the blink of an eye. The man was dressed in the markings of the Ravens; a former member of the Black Guard.
“You had me tricked,” Evin said, “up until you caught the food like a human would. Then I realized that your eyes weren't glowing from the fire, but from your enlightenment. Don't you find it useless to sneak up on me like that. Last I checked, I had no issue with the Ravens. What was your plan anyway?”
“I've never met you, but I've heard stories about you. You don't come across as the most approachable people, even to your friends.”
Evin chuckled. “I'm glad Mageria thinks so highly of me.
“I'd rather not have emerged from the bushes as a human in the presence of an assassin who is known to ask questions later.”
“Good point. Why are you here?”
“I didn't come looking for you, but I feel as though this is my lucky moment. I was sent out to recruit for a raid. I wont go into detail, but there is an extensive network in the Blackpond underground that the Ravens intend to dismantle.”
“So this meeting has nothing to do with her?” Evin gestured towards the sleeping Ella.
The Raven looked over Evin's shoulder to get a look at the sleeping girl. His eyes widened and he looked back at Evin inquisitively. A question formed at the tip of his tongue, but he swallowed it. Evin tensed a little as he saw a thought form in the man's eyes.
“Does this meeting have anything to do with her?” Evin repeated.
“Why is she with you?”
“It doesn't matter. All that matters is that the Page legacy is safe with her. I would help you, but I can't protect the Queen and fight at the same time.”
“She would be safe at the Nest while you were off with the raiding party.”
“Ella doesn't leave my sight.”
“At least come to the Nest. You'll be safe among friends.”
“I'm not so sure about that.” Evin stare at the Raven was now cold. He really mean to be as brash as he was. He'd never really been this way before.
The crow got the message. His voice seemed to disappear within himself. Very quietly, said, “You know where to find us.”, before his eyes glowed in the light green. He transformed himself back into a raccoon and jumped back into the shadows of the bushes.
Evin didn't sleep that night He spent the rest of the night setting up an ambush. The rest of his night was spent atop a tree, carefully watching his surroundings. No one, person or animal, disturbed his campsite for the rest of the night. The next night was spent doing much the same as the next.
On the next morning, an hour before dawn, he woke Ella and the two of them traveled to the Raven's Nest. No one questioned his arrival or the arrival of his unexpected companion. They just showed him to a camp site which Evin would claim as his own for the duration of his stay.

Raven's Nest: Otium 17- Evening
Ella felt something unfamiliar to her. It was something she had never really experienced in her life. Now in her quasi-state between life and death, she recognized something that no living being could recognize fully. Life. Sure, she understood the concept of it, but there was a difference here. She fully realized the presence of life. Not her's but of others. She experienced this other life that was present with her and she felt an unbelievable sense of connection with it. It was almost as if it were a part of her, yet it had freedom. It was completely autonomous of Ella, and even the sick man who had taken her body from her.
These two lives, her's and the unknown one, felt as though they were in an embrace that transcended the very fabric of reality itself. If she could express herself in any form, all she would be able to do is yell and wail in a way that wouldn't really reveal any sign of an emotion. In this moment, she felt realer than she'd ever felt before. Before she had gotten herself killed and after she'd been taken from the real world. This is what reality truly was.
Then a wave of clarity washed over her. This connection she was feeling with this other being was more real than she could have ever imagined. It was her child. But wait. There was another. Twins?
She'd been attempting to fight her host all alone this entire time. The will of one against the will of one other. Was it Lazurus' hold on the mortal realm that made his will stronger than that of Ella? What would happen if she fought back with the will of three? A mother and her two children. Was there a bond stronger than that?
Ella connected to her children again. It was a boy and a girl.
Stephen, that's his name. Ella thought. It didn't even take any consideration. The girl, however, she didn't know yet. My children.