A Battle of Wills

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  1. [BCOLOR=transparent]The constant shaking and headache inducing warm, stale air was becoming unbearable, the sun shining down from a clear sky was not as pleasant inside the carriage as it would have been outside where a breeze could soothe the heat. The steady clop of the horses pulling the carriage was a monotone sound mixed only with the occasional creaking of the wooden wheels or a snort from the large animals. Ay’leen rubbed her temple with a slender hand where she sat, wishing it was possible to open a window or any form of ventilation but this carriage was a sturdy and secure construction. While it was extravagant it was not luxurious going by the normal standard held by the nobles in Shiyam.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Traveling light as she was, something she was not used to, Ay’leen had been able to sneak down a book to read among what else had been packed for her, even she realized that carrying several books around would be foolish so she had to suffice with one. She had not gotten far unfortunately, the book lay open in her lap only a few chapters in, her headache only worsened when she concentrated on the words. Closing her steel grey eyes she rested her head against the cushioned seat and tried to hold back the urge to beg the coachman to stop for a break.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]It was barely two days travel from the capital to her destination by carriage so Ay’leen guessed that they would soon reach the small city, it was past noon on the second day then she could finally begin her task. It had sounded so easy when she was first approached about it, convince the stubborn magician to join the war so it could finally be brought to an end, and the reward would be great. Now when she had spent some time to think it over she was getting a bit nervous, although she would never show it, what could she do that had not already been tried to convince the man? But in hindsight, with the promise of raising her family’s status, she could hardly have denied their request.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Only a few days ago a representant of the royal family had arrived at her family’s humble mansion, or humble in comparison with other noble families, and put forth a request. They wanted Ay’leen to convince this magician to join the war with his new magic, so far he had refused and thwarted any attempts to subdue him. If she succeeded her family would be granted a higher status than they had now, which would greatly benefit them. Now this sounded like a request only but in reality who refused the royal family, especially when the reward was this alluring?[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Ay’leen had not considered the fact that she and her family were being used, as one of the lowest ranking noble houses and with a daughter not yet tied down by a husband they were easy to manipulate. Of course her parents were worried for her as their only child and heir but with the tempting reward and the hopeful belief that the magician would not harm a woman they did not refuse the offer.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Snapped from her thoughts as sounds carried in to her Ay’leen looked out the small window on the door just as they passed through the city gate. The city was not large compared to the capital where Ay’leen had lived all her life but it was a decently sized place, and people milled about going in the way like in any other city, only the royal insignia seemed to urge people to keep their distance which Ay’leen’s carriage lacked. Relieved Ay’leen put her book back in her luggage and smoothed out her ash blonde hair where it had escaped her loose braid and soon the coachman stopped in front of an inn, the horses whinnied and snorted but soon calmed down.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Compared to normal Ay’leen had not been escorted by a manservant to ensure her safety but the coachman was a skilled swordsman as well and this part of the land being quite safe it had been thought to be enough. The man having jumped down from the coachbox opened the door for Ay’leen letting in a breath of fresh air, a boy from the inn stables was holding the horses until the carriage was unloaded before leading them off to the stables for some rest.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“My lady,” the man said as he helped her down the steps of the carriage. He had long served her father and while Ay’leen didn’t personally know him she knew him to be both loyal and trustworthy. “Thank you Rowen,” Ay’leen stretched her back and neck as she took in the sights. “Will you see to it that my room is prepared for me to freshen up and a meal is brought up.” It was to early to retire for the night but she at least wanted to get rid of the travel dust and eat before getting to her task.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]To avoid making it harder for Ay’leen in her already daunting task Rowen would return home so as to not cause any tension with the magician, a mounted messenger could quickly summon him again whether she succeeded her mission or failed. But that would have to wait awhile until after she had eaten, then she would make her way to where the royal guards had reported the magicians house to be.[/BCOLOR]
  2. How could Lady Ay'leen know that the very man she was searching for was already in the city? The "magician" as most people were starting to call him was currently down the street from the inn, examining a goose hanging at the butcher's shop. The bird had yet to be plucked and it caused Darius to smile a little as his slapped one bandaged hand against the counter, "Hey, that bird. Might I have a few feathers?" The butcher glanced up from his cutting to see who was making such a request, but upon seeing Darius he nodded his head slowly, his eyes looking at him warily. Of course, people knew him by sight, if not by the odd requests for ingredients that he asked for. Tall and slender, his body didn't seem like those who worked the fields or fell trees for their whole life. But his emerald eyes held a light to them, and it hinted at the intelligence that hid behind his eyes. He plucked a few feathers from the wings, examining the tips and nodded in satisfaction. They would suffice as quills. He glanced at the butcher who eyed him a little with a scowl on his face. Darius glanced at the butcher's wares before setting on a small game hen, wrapped in thick paper and wrapped in twine, it joined the other items Darius secured from this visit. A couple of coins were exchanged and he thanked the butcher who continued to watch him even as he was walking away.

    People didn't trust him, he knew that. Especially when the dogs of the king were poking around the city. The first time he met the guards was when they were in town, and he knew right away he didn't like them. It was some noble man, coming to bear him a message from the king. At first, before Darius introduced himself, the man sneered at Darius, even set the sleeve of his robe on fire as a 'testament to his noble lineage'. Once Darius managed to extinguished the fire and told the messenger who he was, the change in the messenger's demeanor was as different as night and day. The rogue attempted to use his silver tongue and honeyed words to get him to answer the summon of the king. He assured him that there was no harm meant in his earlier gesture, how the king was so eager to see him, and they must be going. Darius responded by pouring a dark liquid from a flask that hung on his hip, the puddle of liquid expanding until it about touched the noble's shoes. He then threw down another vial, this one of glass onto the puddle. The fragile glass broke, the chemicals mixing and the ground started to hiss and smoke. He brought a smug grin on his face to remember the noble falling backward, scrabbling away from the growing liquid to hissed, burned, and chewed holes into the stones of the street. He then informed the messenger of his own message, "If the king wish to speak to me, he can come here and tell me himself."

    That was not his best plan. Not wanting to look weak by coming to the beck and call of this unknown magician he instead sent guards to subdue him, within the city and at his own home. But none of them were successful. People around here fear that the king might send a army to wipe him out...perhaps the city for not helping with the whims of the royal family. Darius was a little shocked that they didn't put a bounty of his head yet...but he supposed that meant they wanted him alive as opposed to him accidentally killed by a crossbow's bolt. 'Thank the Gods for small mercies.' However he wasn't sure how much longer this state of calm would last. He hadn't seen any royal guards as of late, but he knew it wasn't the end.

    He finished gathering the ingredients that he needed and was starting his trek toward his house. All seem uneventful...until he hear a loud BOOM! which made his stomach grow cold. His eyes went up to the sky, seeing a small plume of white smoke. It was one of his early alert defenses. Someone must have tripped one of the wire and caused the clay pot of chemicals to explode and smoke. It wouldn't hurt whoever tripped it, most would have backed away after something like that. But he couldn't help but to think maybe...just maybe another magician might be heading toward his home. He went into a run, his pack off of one shoulder in case he needed to lose it, his right hand freeing the hatchet on his belt. The plume of smoke was getting closer and he forced his steps to slow. If there was more than one, he might be in trouble.

    Silently he crept forward, keeping a white knuckled grip on the hatchet as he kept close to the trees. He paused for a moment when he noticed the lone figure. It wasn't a royal guard dressed in armor, nor was it a some magician noble in sweeping robes. It was a woman. A woman standing still as she was watching the plume of smoke roiling out of the clay pot, but starting to die down as the chemicals were getting used up. He kept his weapon to his side and pointed at the ground, but not out of view as he spoke loudly, "Stay still!" His glanced at the woman's hands for weapons before he took a step closer, "Who are you? Are you alone?"
  3. Up in her room Ay'leen had gladly washed up and had enjoyed a warm meal, the best of the house of course as her status demanded, whether her rank among the nobility was low or not she was still a noble and that provided her with whatever service she would need. She had been tempted to drag out this first search in favor of a calm afternoon with her book or maybe a leisurely stroll through the city but with a sigh she stood up and smoothed out her dress, she had much humbler clothing than she would normaly wear, no extra jewellery or layers of fine cotton and silk. Not that her clothes were of a lesser quility because of that, no they were still befitting of her status only a bit moderate and more practical, the dress itself was earth brown, the only decoration being thick, darker borders at the hems with stitching in silver, the neckline was round and ended just below her collarbones, the fabric fit snuggly around her arms only a little wider over her wrists. Before she left Ay'leen secured a woven belt around her waist, letting the ends hang loose down the front of her dress, onto the belt she tied a dark pouch, it contained her valuables that she didn't trust to leave at the inn.

    Well outside she sifted through her memory of what the guards previously sent here had told her, using that to locate to correct way out of the city, the exact place of where the magician's house as located were not detailed to her and Ay'leen suspected that either no one had reached all the way before being hindered by traps or the men resented that their failed task had been given a woman, she was fairly certain it was the latter. But she had not been about to lower herself into a quarrel about such trivial details, it shouldn't be too hard to find the place, especially not if there were traps all around she thought with some darker humor. Falling into a familiar stride, lifting her skirt slightly as she walked, exposing soft, well made leather boots, it didn't take her all that long to reach the city edge and the woods that stretched out on this side of the city.

    If she had though that she would get far without being noticed then Ay'leen was sorely disappointed, not many minutes into the forest she felt her foot snag on something, only a faint tug and then the pressure vanished as a wire snapped and a loud noise almost made her fall backwards over her own feet, despite her frantically beating heart a part of her dearly wished no one had seen her embarrassment. As soon as she realised the explosion was not followed by a fire or some other danger Ay'leen relaxed and stepped closer to the white smoke curling up through the trees towards the sky instead of fleeing back to safety. The origin of the sound seemed to be a clay pot but with there being no fire in the bowl how did smoke still rise?

    A voice behind her snapped her attention from the mysterious pot and Ay'leen twirled around to set her gaze on a man, judging by his build and clothes she wagered he was not a farmer or woodsman, and by him being her it was not likely he lived in the city, instead she drew the conclusion this was likely the magician that boldly refused the King's request. Her eyes were inevitably drawn the the weapon by his side and hoped he was not the type to use it easily, but when she spoke her voice was free from any doubt, and free from the normal air of superiority that one would expect in a noble. "Yes, I am alone," she replied, lifting her eyes from the hatchet and looked at the man instead. "My name is Ay'leen Serenmele, I am here to seek your aid to end the bloodshed brought by the war."
  4. Darius was still tense, his eyes flicking to the trees around him, looking up to the sky. He didn't sheath his weapon, only looked at the noble with suspicion. "They send a woman out here by herself? To march to my home without being aware of my traps?" He noticed how close she was to the pot that she tripped. He shuffled forward, kicking some loose dirt over the clay pot to smother the smoke. He glanced up at her again, and suddenly grabbed her arm. He pulled her to him, the hatchet raised to have the edge of it next to her throat. His eyes were cold as he positioned himself behind her, his back to a tree as he looked around. While people may call him a magician he wouldn't be able to sense any other magic. The woman could be a distraction while the guards closed in on his unguarded back. His breathing was a little fast as he scanned the woods. No guards shimmered into being, no power was called forth to protect the girl or to strike him down, nothing. He looked around the woods again, raising his voice so his words could carry, in case there were people out there. "If you have people out there, tell them to show themselves or I'll kill you."

    His fear and anger was getting the best of him, his eyes scanning the woods and finding no one else, only half hearing the words coming from the young noble woman in front of him. His brain was trying to think of what to do. 'Serenmele, she had said,' he thought when no one was showing themselves, 'House Serenmele?' He knew a bit about all of the courts, but of Serenmele he knew very little. He knew they were one of the lowest houses of the noble court, and that they did have a daughter. But surely they wouldn't have send the girl out to him alone. He looked down at her, seeing a bit of fear in her eyes, especially with him being this close, but she hid most of her other emotions well. He pulled the hatchet away from her throat and let go of her arm, allowing her to put space between herself and him. "I have refused the king's request before, and I refuse it now. I have no interest in joining his army. Go back and tell them that." He picked up his pack and started to move deeper into the woods, swerving and weaving between the trees to not trip any of his other alarms.

    'What was the king thinking, sending a noble girl by herself', he thought as he walked closer to his home, 'Did he think that I would feel that it was a much nobler cause if I had a woman asking me for my aid?' He snorted a little at the thought. He mulled it over in his head, deciding this would be the most ideal outcome for him. At best, Darius would have agreed and came with the woman to the kingdom and at worse, well he might have killed the girl and give more of an excuse to put a bounty on his head, leaving him in the mercy of the guards to arrest him or else get killed any time he went into town. His thought were interrupted by the sound of fabric lightly brushing against the leaves on the ground. He turned to see the noble moving carefully behind him, following his steps. He raised his voice, "Leave me, I care not for what you have to say, nor do I care what the king has to say to me. Your business is concluded here."
  5. Slightly iffed by his words Ay'leen could still not argue against them, her, a woman, being there alone was not exactly normal and she was obviously not good at seeing the traps and having received no information on them either, but that was also why the King had prepared this plan. But out of all the possible reactions to her words that she had expected from the magician this was not one of them, finding herself held securely against him the hatchet so close to her throat that Ay'leen feared a simple slip of his grip would allow it to tear her skin. Fighting against the instinct telling her to flee she stayed perfectly still, not wanting to tempt fate with the sharp blade so close to her throat. "I already told you that I am alone," she said after a deep breath allowed her voice to be stable. "I give you my word that this is not a trick, no one will come out of hiding to aid me no matter what you do." Ay'leen continued, realizing her vulnerability as she spoke the words but he did release her, whether it was her words or that no one had showed themselves she did not know.

    Ay'leen narrowed her eyes after the man as he left, having swiftly refused her like all the others that had come before, it was not just a little frustrating and she could already hear the ridicule that awaited her back in the capital should she return now. The guards would not say anything of course but their insufferable looks of poorly hidden mockery would be just as loud as any spoken words, not to mention all the other noble houses that waited to hear of her failure so that they could once and for all declare the House of Serenmele and her family unfit to their position. The politics in the capital were all else than kind, the competition between the noble houses was fierce, every alliance was short lived and promises were made to be broken while injustices lived on forever leaving hard feelings to smolder for generations. It was not a world where failure was taken in stride or easily forgotten and Ay'leen had too much to lose by giving up now, her family had too much to lose.

    The magician was still within sight and Ay'leen hurried to follow him, being cautious to walk only were he had set foot and proved it to be safe from traps, her gait was smooth and her steps light but her dress dragged lightly over the forest floor, in view of her current predicament she had forgotten to lift her dress like she would normaly do to avoid most of the dirt but her mind was preoccupied by keeping up with the magician afraid to fall too far behind and lose the safe trail. "Be that as it may," she said calmly, not stopping or even slowing down at his all else but friendly voise. "I prefer to decide for myself when my business is finished and I do not care what you think but I am not done yet." Steel lacing into her voice, her tone indicated that she would not yield on her decision. If he thought mere words might deter her from her goal then he was sorely mistaken, Ay'leen's father used to say when she was a child that she had been born with a large enough portion of stubborness to be enough for three and that had not proved wrong yet.
  6. He was slightly impressed by the bravado in her voice and her determined nature, until he remembered that she would be his problem unless he managed to convince her to leave. He didn't bother to wait for her as he continued to go deeper into the woods, the hillside starting to steadily climb around them. At a large birch tree He bend down to push a few of the shrubs out of the way to reveal a set of carved steps into the earth, making the steady incline easier to manage. One had to wonder just how many of the guards had even gotten this far. He made no effort to hide where he was going. 'Eventually,' he thought, 'She would need to know how to get down from her by herself.' But he disliked the idea that this woman would know how to get to his home after his little traps. He didn't think she could figure out where the traps were laid, but someone else might, and he could very well end up with more 'visitors' at his front door as a result of it.

    The steps climbed up until it reached a fissure into the earth. He slid himself in between it until a door came into view. It was just out of sight enough so no causal looking could spot it and he opened it, allowing himself in. His home was held up by columns of natural stone and lumber that he managed to get into the cave. The floor of the cave was all smooth stone, which was his own work and took a great deal of time. Small and practical pieces of furniture was grouped together to make a small eating area, a bed, and a work area. A barrel was nestled in one corner, collecting dripping water and a small campfire still had glowing coals, the smoke curling up to the ceiling and seeping through cracks in the cave. It wasn't much, but it was his home. He smiled a little before he remembered his 'guest'. Turning to her, he kept his voice level, "Lady Serenmele, I have no quarrel with you but I am not interested in what the king has to say to me." He paused for a moment before he added, "To get down the mountain safely...you need to walk close to the birch trees, those are the ones with white trunks. You might want to go before the sun starts to set." His head tilted forward a little, in what could have been mistaken as a polite nod before he closed the door.

    He sighed a little as he removed his pack and started to prepare his dinner. He didn't have to tell the girl the safe path down the mountain, but he couldn't let her get hurt. Anyway if he didn't tell her then she would be bothering him all night. As he worked a large black cat came out of the shadows, a rat dangling in his mouth. Darius smiled, this home wouldn't be too practical if he had rats burrowing in all of his ingredient boxes. The large tom was certainly worth the company. The rat laid forgotten on the floor as it moved over to the door and gave a loud "Mrow", Darius guessed their guest was still out there...but he thought it wouldn't be for long. A storm was coming and the small alcove where the door was hidden wouldn't do much to block the rain.
  7. Having struggled to keep up the pace climbing the hill, her dress not being the ideal clothing to wear when traversing a forest, the end came abruptly and Ay'leen would probably have missed it if she had not kept a her eyes on the magician to make sure she took the safest way. He disappeared from view, swallowed by the earth it seemed until she caught up and saw the fissure that led to a door, no wonder it was hard to find his home, not only with all the traps and alarms one would have to have a sharp eye to notice the opening unless you knew it was there. Looking past him Ay'leen saw a cave stretch out although from her position she could not see much but for a cave it appeared quite comfortable.

    "But..." Was all she had time to say after his second dismissal and closed the door on her. Ay'leen remained stock still for several seconds, a look of disbelief plain on her face and indignation burning in her, no one had ever shut a door in her face before. Granted, she had brought it upon herself since she ignored his first refusal but raised as she was Ay'leen was not used to such treatment, she was more used to people either listening to her or obeying her depending on who they were. It only served to spark her stubborn need to do the opposite of what was said, she could go back down and spend the night at the inn and come back the next day and try again. But the thought didn't appeal to her, and not only because the forest looked the same to her, the birches she could pick out but she couldn't identify any other distinguishing feature if so her life depended on it. No, now the idea to wittle down his patience and theat annoying determination of his to ignore the war had started to grow in her mind, a part of her recognized the childish aspect of her plan but Ay'leen pointedly ignored it, instead she leaned against the rock and prepared for a long wait.

    The hours crawled by at an agonizingly slow pace, by the time clouds had gathered in the sky and a faint scent of rain had settled through the forest Ay'leen had rebraided her hair twice despite not needing to, counted all the coins in her pouch, tried to count the trees she could see but lost track fairly quickly and had a staring contest with a flower growing some paces away. Now she had given up on standing and was now sitting on a relatively flat rock and was just finishing her braid for the third time. She was beginning to see the weakpoints in her plan and was seriously starting to consider returning to the city, but the small problem now was that while she had some trouble picking out the safe route the magician had taken on her own she held it even less likely that she would find it any easier in the dusk that slowly settled around her. Besides she didn't like the thought of giving up and leave after sitting here for so long, no matter how foolish it may seem to others.

    Blowing out a sigh she leaned her head backwards, eyes closed and her hands resting in her lap, the cool evening air was refreshing and for a moment it was rather enjoyable to just sit there and pretend she was somewhere else. Until a raindrop hit her forehead, followed by another and another, soon a soft rain was falling, the normally soothing sound of rain pattering against leaves only served to bring out a groan from Ay'leen as she slumped forward, elbows on her knees and head resting in her hands, her grey eyes resembling the stormy sky above.
    #7 Elflady, Oct 7, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2014
  8. Darius could hear the rain starting to fall as he finished preparing his meal, glancing at his cat which was continuing to pace near the front of the cave and meowing loudly. He had a nagging feeling but he stood up and went over to the door, opening it to see the noble woman, half drenched from the rain, shivering, and most irritatingly still there. "You couldn't have left when I told you, could you?" He was grinding down on his teeth, but while this continued to annoy him, he wasn't completely heartless. "Please come in. You can rest here for the night and I'll escort you down in the morning." He opened the door wider and allowed her to step in, looking down at the tomcat and said, "Don't be too friendly with her."

    His cat, being a cat, promptly ignored him, curling around the woman's legs, purring loudly for attention. "Traitor," he muttered under his breath. He pointed over to a small work bench where an odd assortment of bottles, clay pots, metal bowls, and chemicals were station, "Do not touch anything over there if you value your fingers." He went over to a small chest and opened it, fishing out a large blanket for her to dry herself and keep warm with. "I apologize if the accommodations aren't to your standard, milady." His emphasis on the last word seemed to point to some resentment to the noble classes. His right hand subconsciously rubbed at bandaged arm before he went about getting some food for the two of them. A wooden bowl with chicken and root vegetables was fetched and handed to her before he started to work on his own.

    Taking his own food and sitting opposite her from the fire he watched her for a little bit, mulling over his thoughts a little and eating in silence. After a while he broke the silence with a question, "Why would the king be sending one of the smaller noble house to speak with me? I already had one noble from the Chardcon house speak to me already." Chardcon wasn't one of the best houses within the noble courts, but they worked as heralds and messengers of the royal family. He eyed her a little, wondering if there was any particular reason why she was sent here. Was she representing her house, or was this something that the royal family arranged. He could see it being a little bit of both, since the noble families were always seem keen to raise their status among themselves. To get the elusive 'magician' to join their cause would certainly command a certain level of clout.
  9. Ay'leen snapped her head up when the door opened, she had not expected him to notice her still being there nor that he would actually relent and let her inside if he did. His words in now way hid his annoynace over her actions however and she did not find it neccessary to give a reply, it would only lead to further frustrations seeing as she had no plans of obeying him until she succeeded in her mission and he obviously being convinced of the opposite, getting her to leave without agreeing to the request. Moving past him inside the cave, the warmth a pleasant change from the chill that had sneaked into her body during her stubborn refusal to leave, her eyes drawn to the large cat by her feet who clearly was leagues more pleased with her prescence than his owner. Stooping down she scratched behind the feline's ear, the purring intensifying as she did so, she had always liked animals but had never had too much interractions with them unless you counted her mother's spoiled lapdogs, three growling beasts that did not accept any other person than their owner, not afraid to use teeth to show their displeasure with anyone else.

    Straightening again she took the blanket the man offered her, appreciating his kindness despite his displeasure with her prescence, he obviously had a heart so maybe she could convince him yet. "Thank you." Drying off what she could from her clothes and hair so the water wouldn't drip off of her anymore she wrapped it aroud her shoulders and relished in the comforting heat it gave her. His tone clearly told her of the magician's attitude towards the nobility, maybe it was one underlying reason for his staunch refusual to aid the King, and she once more opted to not answer. Judging by her status any reply she gave could very likely come off as snobbish or condescending to his ears and she did not need her work any harder than it already was.

    She had not noticed how hungry she was until the scent of food made her stomach rumble lightly, it may have been far more simple than her usual meals but tonight it tasted better than a royal meal prepared by the best of chefs, she had no idea sitting in the cold doing nothing could make a person so hungry. His question went unanswered at first, but this time she was contemplating her words rather than avoiding a reply. Ay'leen was not particularly tempted to share the reason but also knew that whatever she said would most likely lead him to draw a conclusion relatively close to the truth anyway. "I guess you can see it as a situation that benefits both sides," she eventually said. "As you already seem to know my family does not belong to the highest rank of nobility and my family is only glad to serve the King." Beyond the opportunity to gain more status and respect among the other houses Ay'leen had not pondered on the reason as to why just her family had been chosen by the royal family, but now his question made her suddenly start seeing the reason, and while being manipulated didn not appeal to her she could not argue against the reward. "But no matter the reason I was chosen, I believe the war has to end and from what I have been told you would be of great help." Falling silent to work on her food before it got cold Ay'leen was aware of the eyes following her movements as she ate, either the cat by her feet was interested in her food or perhaps it just wanted more attention. "If you don't mind," she said after awhile, having drawn out the question as it would no doubt highlight the fact of how little information she had been given and the conclusions that could be drawn from it. "What is your name?"
  10. "But no matter the reason I was chosen, I believe the war has to end and from what I have been told you would be of great help."

    At those words Darius couldn't help but to give a snort of derision, "Is that what they told you? I guess it would make sense." He laid the bowl on the table and leaned back a little bit in his chair. "The truth of the matter is that they didn't want me to get into the war, to help them win for the betterment of my fellow citizens and for his majesty. They want me in the war so they could learn my secrets." He glanced at her as she cleared her throat and looked like she was starting to form the words to a question. His arms were crossed over his chest, a half dozen remarks over the state of the war on the tip of his tongue, used the verbal barrage of questions that the girl could possible ask. However when she asked for him name he merely stared at her. As his talents had been brought into the light most of the city had gone to calling him "The Magician". Even the noble from house Chardcon had addressed him as "The Magician" in the royal summons. But she cared to know his name. He felt like his view of the woman had shifted slightly.

    He paused for a moment before he tilted his head forward, the polite nod a little more noticeable, "Darius. I'm Darius of Aramoor." He didn't think she would know of the town that he grew up in, a small southern village nestled in the wetlands of the kingdom. He glanced at her once more, "Do you want to know what I think about the king's interest in me?" This line of questioning was a little unusual, pretty much explaining to her why he was so adamant in refusing the offer of the king, despite the rewards that could have been brought by it. "I have no noble lineage. My parents are a seamstress and a woodsman. But I discovered a magic that I can use...and I believe this magic is possible to teach to others with no previous magical talents. Think about that...the ability to make every soldier, every knight into a magician. Your king doesn't want peace for his people, he wants a new weapon to conquer his foes." He watched her, letting his words sink in. It was a lot to take in, especially considering her. The mere idea that commoners could wield the same forces that he could must have been a shocking revelation.
  11. Was that really how it was, that they wanted his power and not his help? Was that just him being overly suspicious or had the royal family withheld the important part of her mission all the time. Ay'leen had accepted the mission not only to help her family but also because she believed in the cause, she wanted the war stopped, to end the bloodshed, and now he told her that she was wrong, that the real reason was to make even more powerful soldiers through a magic that could be taught despite lacking the heritage.

    To say that she was surprised by his words would be an understatement, magic that everybody could learn? It didn't work that way, for centuries only the nobles could use magic, it was a power you had to inherit and because of that no commoner could possibly use magic unless they were related to a noble, and that happened very rarely. But Darius, born a commoner without such power, had learned a form of magic that wasn't tied to blood. Was it true then that the King wanted to use that to rebuild the country to its former glory and power? No, the king didn't wish such violence and terror upon his people, right? The duty of the ruler was to keep his people healthy, his lands safe and to keep the peace, not wage unneccesary wars just to obtain some more ground and power over other countries.

    "Surely his majesty doesn't wish such destruction for his people," she said, although the previous strong resolve in her voice was weakened. She was not entirely convinced that Darius was right but her belief in the good of her mission, her faith that the royal family wished the best for the land, all of it had been shaken in its core, seeding doubt in her mind. "But this magic, can anyone learn it, really?" Being from one of the lesser noble houses Ay'leen didn't have particularly strong magic herself but at least she had magic in her blood, common people had nothing, until now. It would disrupt the enitre structure of the land, that much she knew despite not being overly knowledgable about politics. It would change the way of life of everyone, and far from everyone would like the changes. In her rather innocent, or perhaps ignorant, view of it all Ay'leen did not reflect over the unfair advantage the nobility had over the common people, every try to break the law would be quelled by magic, the people had no way of standing against any injustice without the power of magic, but to Ay'leen's knowledge the country wwas not an unfair one. She had seen little of the struggles the people endured, if she knew about them she would probably not have such a strong faith in the royal family, ruled more by emotions as she was.
  12. He heard the lack on conviction in her voice as she spoke the second time, "And how many people do think might believe what I said? What if someone knew the few extent of my power, know that it can be taught to anyone?" He went over to the fire, placing a fresh log into the fire and nudging a kettle close to the coals. "The least of our trouble would be the war. You could have the nobles fighting among themselves, the people uprising against the nobles, I wouldn't be surprised if at least one of the nobles family would try to use this power to overthrow the royal family." He was sure now he sounded like a madman to her, but his eyes didn't waver. "This magic...Alchemy...it changes everything. And not all of it is good."

    He poured some tea from the kettle and set some in front of her, and one for himself. "Yes, anyone can use this magic. When I was still in my village there was an elderly woman. I guess you could call her my teacher. Most in my village thought her to be mad, and I did too for a time." A ghost of a smile touched his lips, the ease of slipping into old memories seemed to ease the tension he had. "But then...I saw her do magic. A small bit of magic...but she did it anyway. No one in the village believed she was of noble lineage, nor did she make any claims of such. I was curious." He let out a sigh, "How she saw the world, the view she had on how things interact with each other...they were the foundation of Alchemy. I only regretted she couldn't offer me more insight before she passed. What I know is only scratching the surface of this power." He looked at her, his eyes looking tired, "Do you understand now, why I cannot go through with his request?"
  13. Ay'leen was not stupid enough to ignore the possibility of his words even if she was not certain he was right, and if it was indeed true then the chaos erupting would be far larger than the current war, she knew of a few noble houses on the top of her head that had little scruples to gain more power even if they wouldn't dare to openly defy the royal family. But they would most likely move to exploit any weakness, that was how politics worked, very few were satisfied with their current position and the prospect of moving up in the hierarchy was tempting. But it would take a lot to cause the royal family to loose power, its members were all powerful magicians thanks to the tradition in the country that only those with the strongest power could advance in rank, then it was no wonder that the royal family had not been challenged for a very long time, no one was strong enough to try. Unless enough people learned magic to overwhelm the royals.

    "It is a lot to take in," she said, taking the cup in her hands, a gentle blow cooled it just enough for her to hold comfortably without burning herself, she had shrugged the blanket from her shoulders by now leaving it hanging over the back of the chair warmed up by now. "But I can see why you do not want to risk such a power falling into the wrong hands." Letting it be unsaid which hands were the wrong ones. Raised in a family who held respect for the royal family it was easier for Ay'leen to hold suspicions against the greedy and arrogant nobles vying for power but even she had to admit the logic he presented. "How long can you keep away though?" The more people who learned what Darius was capable of the stronger the chance became that others might come for his knowledge as well. "I am surely not the last to be sent, nor will the King be the only one seeking you in the end, can you keep everyone at bay?"

    His life may not be in danger since any chance of learning his skill would die with him but there were many ways to capture someone without going far enough to end their life and if other magicians were sent the problem would only escalate. "It is perhaps not my place to tell you what you can or cannot do but I care for what happens to this country, and I do not want to see it ravaged either from outside forces or from the inside." She had little power to do any difference either way, she knew that, but at the very least she wanted to know if he could keep his knowledge safe from the wrong people.
  14. He let out a hollow laugh, "Make sure it doesn't fall into the wrong hands? I'm having a harder time figuring who hands it would be safe in. Mine included." He sighed a little bit, his tea forgotten as he rubbed a hand against his forehead. The cat hopped nimbly into his lap and Darius stroked it, his eyes distant as he spoke, "The best I could do is disappear, much like I did last time. Take the possessions I can afford to take, burn the rest, and hope no one could find me...but then always find me. Rumors of what I can do always manage to slip out, I'll use my magic to defend myself and they'll know where I am again."

    He didn't have any idea on whether or not he could hold out here, buried underneath the earth and hiding from his troubles. He glanced at the noble woman beside him and he slowly nodded his head, "I share your concerns, Lady Ay'leen. I do not like to see the suffering of the people, to hear the wars continue, to see young men robbed of the life they wished to live, but I cannot put the value of one man's left over another. Even if they aren't my countrymen." He paused for a moment before he thought of something. Ay'leen's house had the least amount of influence among the houses, especially within the royal family. And let they convinced the Serenmele house to let their only heir to come to him and speak to him in private. "What are the king offering your house when I do pledge my allegiance to the royal family?" Darius could provide some of his aid to the king, and not show his skills at the same time, the only problem was Ay'leen. She knew where he lived, and how to get past his defenses. His view on the woman was still one of wary caution since he didn't know her true purpose or if she would even lie to him, but maybe to keep his home and the life he had she could be the key to help him.
  15. Ay'leen sat in silence as she pondered on what to anwer, sipping on her tea as she did so, she could twist the truth or find a noble cause but besides feeling wrong it would also hinder her more than it would help if it was obvious she lied. "My family has tried to rise in status among the houses for a long time," she eventually began. "The King made it clear that if my parents could carry out his request their rank would be increased despite the lack of magic, perhaps even aid in developing our skills. Although I personally do not care much to advance in rank or gain power I will do whatever is within my abilities to help my family." To an outsider it may seem like a poor reward, a simple thing to offer someone to gain their help, but among the nobility power was everything. Power allowed you to do things, to have a better life or to help influence the country and its laws.

    "Although eager to be of service my parents, with their own duties stopping them, had no other children than me, while I do have two older cousins they are married since many years with families of their own, young children to care for. I was the only one with no obligations to hinder me." Abeit never a very powerful house the Serenmele had been a larger house in past times, during the years they had shrunk in numbers. Now the last of the male heirs, Ay'leen's cousins were out in the war, possibly never coming back, whether they lived or not the family name, and thereby the house itself was not far from vanishing entirely. "Our house is small these days, I think my parents cling to the hope that when our family name dies out it will actually be remembered for something more than now, perhaps a foolish idea but it is what they have fought for."
  16. He listened to her words, a bit surprised that she didn't try to twist the true to her favor, or else just lied to him directly. However it seemed that this woman did have noble (if but naive) views on her duty and the results it could achieve. He wished he could offer his aid to her and the other noble houses, but he had been cut off from the world for far too long. He haven't been able to keep with the coming and goings of the noble court and even less of the royal family. He didn't want to get himself in trouble by trusting the wrong people. He didn't have anyone he could trust...but he had a feeling he could trust Ay'leen if at least a little. He stood up, moving over to his work table and grabbed a sheet of paper and a quill. He worked in silence for a while, the sound of the quill scratching on paper and the crackling of the fire was the only noise to be heard.

    Finally he stood, picking up the sheet of parchment that he was working on and handed it over to Ay'leen. "Does this look good enough for the king?" His words didn't have the smooth characteristic as most noble's handwriting, but it was legible.

    I, Darius of Aramoor, have heard the pleads of both my king and his fellow countrymen. This war has claimed too many lives and I wish to help in a way that would spill the least amount of blood. However I cannot give my aid without first a show of good faith. I shall travel to the kingdom, and I wish his highness blessing and the cooperation of the noble families as I learn more about them.

    For the duration of my business, I request Lady Ay'leen of House Serenmele as my escort and adviser during the duration of my visit. I also request that my house is to be left alone as I remain with the noble families, and I will take any attempts to enter it while I'm gone as a breach of trust. As a sign of good faith, I shall provide to his highness and his army a gift of medical aid to help tend to their sick and injured.

    Darius of Aramoor, The Alchemist

    He watched her as she read over the short letter and said, "Did you have a messenger bird that we could send the message with? I would like to leave for the castle as soon as we can."
  17. Ay'leen sat in silence as Darius seemed to think over her words and while she certainly hoped for his aid in some way she was not so convinced she would recieve it, after all so many had already tried that she couldn't imagine that her words would weigh any heavier. Although she had to admit to herself that as far as she knew no one before her had gotten this far before, but there was a difference between doing well and actually succeeding. When he rose from his chair and went over to the table he had warned her to stay away from if she wanted to avoid injury, curiously she looked on biting back a question on what he was doing. Her surprise when he finished writing and gave her the parchment to read was easily visible on her face, however undignified that would have been in the noble court. "You are actually agreeing to the request?" Sure, he had not agreed to give the full aid the King had requested but he had given his conscent to come with her and at least give some medical aid to start out.

    She lowered the parchment and looked up at him, her features smooth once more as she collected herself from the surprise. "Not my own, but the inn I am staying at has a small coop with carrier birds for the guest to use, we can use one of those. Although perhaps after the storm has passed." Not eager to go back out into the rain and fairly certain even messenger birds didn't fly in bad weather. She rose from her chair as well, handing back the letter to him. "Thank you," her words were sincere and she bent at the waist in a shallow but respectful bow. "I will do whatever in my power to see to it that the noble court follows your terms and to hep you in any way I can."

    Taking her seat once more, a small frown creasing her features. "But can you leave so soon? What about your home and equipment. And your cat?" She asked, cats generally knew how to hunt of course and since Darius lived isolated like this his cat was probably not a bad hunter but it was still on her mind.
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