The Journey

Discussion in 'ROLEPLAY GRAVEYARD' started by LastCinder, Dec 10, 2014.

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  1. ((This Roleplay has been moved from another site to be continued c: Currently, the full original is saved on a Doc for members. So we're just going to start off from where we left off~ Thanks!))


    Currently on The Journey:

    Besides the commotion of the early morning, the caravan took off without a hitch. Aaerynn had taken the same place as before, sitting within Rudolf’s cart and listening to the clack of the wheels and the creak of the stressed wood. Absentmindedly, the wood elf played with Kai’s fur, who had squirmed his head into her lap, and her eyes kept watch along the tree line. She looked content and silent but her mind was a flurry of nonstop thoughts. She couldn’t get over the morning, which was absolutely pathetic. It upset her that a little girl’s words could impact her so deeply. It had just come at the wrong time. She had felt good for once in a century, and of course one thing came to ruin it for her. The wood elf was more upset at herself than she was of the smug little brat.

    Aaerynn grit her teeth, before leaning back against the rigid railing of the cart. She looked up at the pale blue sky and took a deep breath, willing herself to calm down. She decided to preoccupy herself and stuck a hand into her bag to grab her dagger and the vial she had placed the dried purple flakes in. But instead her fingers brushed against a curved glass bottle and an eyebrow quirked as she lifted it out. It was the bottle that Lysander had given her and upon further inspection, it wasn’t glass at all. It was a phial made of crystal. In all honestly it looked like something perfume would be held in with its decorative stopper, and designs that had been welded throughout it. She opened it, out of curiosity but was disappointed to find it empty. The wood elf frowned at it. What was the point of it? Lysander had said it was to remind her of her family, and with that thought she nearly pitched it over the side of the cart.

    Something stopped her though, and the elf cupped it in her hands.

    She hadn’t truly given much thought to her run in with her elder brother. It was strange to her that he hadn’t seemed to change at all. But elves were like that, unchanging. They seemed to be constantly stuck in their age and stuck in their ways. They weren’t like humans who seemed to constantly change, growing and aging so fast. Aaerynn pursed her lips as she held the delicate vial. So was it useless? Was it pointless to try and get better?

    A frown slowly graced her lips before she closed her eyes and shook her head. Lysander would have called her a coward again. After a pause, the wood elf opened her eyes and gently placed the crystal phial back into her bag.

    “I heard the bit of commotion this morning.” Rudolf’s voice suddenly invaded the elf’s thoughts and her ears pricked up to hear him.

    “Mmm…” Aaerynn answered him with a mumble, trying not to foul her mood even more.

    “I wouldn’t take it personally. Girl seems a bit too direct if ye ask me.” Rudolf took a peek at her before shifting his reins. “Practically gave me an interrogation about joining. She found out about it through Tirian, so he must have seen something in her.”

    Aaerynn watched the back of the dwarf’s head before her gaze lingered over to the little pink haired girl. Strange.


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

    The caravan had started off rather quietly. Setna had convinced his sister to rest on one of the carts as he walked beside it. But eventually his thoughts drifted towards his training and his sword. His curiosity had finally peaked and he ran ahead to Vordan. "Hey Vordan." He called out to the mercenary to grab his attention and then unsheathed his blade.

    "You were the one to unlock this, and I had some questions about it." The boy held the blade up to the sunlight, glancing at the symbols engraved on it, before turning it to show the mercenary. "Elrithos said that these are Dark Elf symbols, and he told me to ask you more about it. Do you mind?"

    The boy tilted his head a bit, a curious expression on his face. "I don't really know anything about it...to be honest."

    Vordan lifted his head from the book he was reading that had his old project he had yet to finish. Oddly enough, it was Setna that called for him and came by to the cart he was sitting in. As he came forth, Vordan set aside his book with his things and stood out of the cart, wondering what the young man wanted. When he drew the blade, it became pretty clear what he wished to talk about, but would let him speak.

    He showed the bladed and said he had some questions about it. It was weird for the young man not to know what it did. So, he looked at the blade a moment and then walked along with him as the cart went forth.“Well, Setna, it’s a Syndarean Battle Blade. A weapon only found in Syndarea and typically only used during the time of the Dark Emperor. Dark Elves and Syndarean blacksmiths would combine their efforts to enhance the blades capabilities the symbols are words that represent it’s effect and the binding of the magic to its blade.” Vordan was speaking very casually about, as he knew very well what this item was. He looked over to the young man once more.

    “It's main property is that it cuts through magic like a hot knife cutting through butter. Hence why you killed the other Syndarean without too much effort. That blade would just run through like nothing for those barriers. It can also project a barrier itself. A pretty nifty tool used by the soldiers who could not use Syndarean magic.”

    "I see." The boy looked at the blade for a long while before sheathing it once more. Eventually he began to frown as he thought it over. He vaguely remembered his father talking about it, how it was passed down the generations and how it was always given to the men of the family. His father had always been the type to lecture though, so usually Setna would end up tuning him out, for the sake of his sanity. He was beginning to wish he had listened more often, especially now, when the chances of seeing his father again was a big fat zero. Although most of it wouldn't have mattered, the Syndareans never talked of the war. The fact that his father was even able to hold onto the blade and keep it in pristine shape was a bit strange, when he thought about it. It wasn't like it mattered anymore though. It was a tool with a very helpful ability and he was going to put it to use, no matter its history.

    But the mention of killing the executioner, was still a bit of a sore subject. He hadn't even told Serna about it, and the sudden memory of it made him turn somber. The boy shifted his weight a bit before looking back up to the mercenary. "Thanks for telling me."

    Vordan looked upon the young man, wondering what he could be thinking of. This was some information he was unaware of and usually seemed pretty impressed with new things. Right now, he showed nothing of it. It wasn’t an insult to him, but it made him think that the blade had some history or odd value to the young boy. He wouldn’t ask him for now, but he certainly would want to know if they altered anything on it. The symbols looked like the ones they typically put on those blades, so there was nothing he needed to worry about yet.

    He smiled and nodded back to the young man.“Please. It’s your weapon. You should know what it does… Oh, and as a sign of warning, only Syndareans can wield these blades without suffering a hidden kickback these blades have. They suck the energy of anyone without Syndarean blood… Which is why my pathetic state was worse in the alley.” Not many people knew about his one, because the blades were so rare to find now. “But hey, if you have any kind of question on magic, I know my fair share of secrets."


    Setna nodded before rubbing the back of his head and giving the mercenary a lopsided grin. “Yeah…my dad knew a lot about it. I’m sure he probably told me most of it, but I wasn’t the best listener. Back then, I didn’t really see the importance of an old sword.”

    The boy looked down, his hand still on the back of his head as he seemed frozen in thought. Finally he looked back up. “I’ll be sure to come to you with any other questions, I really appreciate it.”

    He nodded his head gratefully before running off back to his twin.


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

    Aaerynn had shifted around a bit as the hours went by and she focused on different tasks to keep her rot at bay. Her head picked up though as the caravan began to head into a small settlement. The wood elf picked herself up a bit as she looked around. It seemed that it was new. Houses were still being built, and the most surprising sight was that dwarves and humans were working together. The whole settlement smelt like wood and sawdust.


    Rudolf seemed just as surprised as she was. “This wasn’t here last year. To think a town like this could suddenly take bloom so quickly.”

    Aaerynn looked around and watched as the town’s people noticed them. Many of them waved, and curiously came around to see the caravan as a whole. Children laughed as they attempted to run along with the oxen. Others welcomed them, and gave a hollering “Good day!”

    It wasn’t until an older dwarf suddenly broke through the crowd that Rudolf pulled to a stop. The dwarf raised his arms up to Rudolf’s cart. “Is that my good cousin Kirtschein!?”

    “Varic!?”

    The balding dwarf jumped off his cart and proceeded to complete some type of greeting ritual that made Aaerynn turn away from sheer second hand embarrassment.

    In a matter of minutes the two were talking at the speed of light. Aaerynn frowned as she tried to understand them. Rudolf explained where they were heading, while Varic informed him that the dwarves had found a great ore deposit close by and have been working closely with a group of human miners in order to excavate it. It’s the first time the races have worked together so closely since the war. The deposit is large enough that it’ll keep everyone busy for years, and thus the settlement was under works.

    Varic of course offered them a place to stay, and Rudolf looked back to his group with a large cheesy smile and said, “We’ll stop here for the night everyone! A nice place to relax before we hit the mountain pass!”

    Aaerynn frowned as she jumped off the cart with Kai at her heels. Something about this place irked the wood elf and she looked up toward the mountains. No, something didn’t sit right with her at all.

    Varic’s voice broke out to the group, forcing Aaerynn to look back as he called. “Come come! We’ll get you all something to eat and a place to rest!”

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

    Setna looked around the happy town, unable to hold his own smile back. The houses were cute and small, and he watched as little kids played and helped their parents with chores. It was a really nice place. He turned to his sister, about to comment on it to her, when he noticed that she had gotten noticeably pale. Her lips were brought into a small frown and her eyes were wide and frantic as she looked over the little settlement. "Serie...you alright?" Setna finally asked her, and the girl looked up at him as if she was broken out of her thoughts.

    "Yes! Um...I'll be right back." The girl clambered off the cart as she spoke and like that she was off, leaving her brother with another confused expression and raised eyebrow.

    Serna quickly found her way towards the towering red head, and as she came upon him, her small hands grabbed at his cloak for his attention. "T-Tirian...it's...it's.."

    Tirian's muscles felt alive as the journey forward continued on. The air was brisk even as the sun belted down upon the land without the slightest cloud to block it. His injuries from the previous days’ nightmare seemed to be just that, a dream. His body had been healed and energized from the last week of peace and it would seem that peace would continue as the caravan came upon a settlement just outside of the mountains. At a first glance Tirian did not noticed any similarities between this town and the one from his nightmare the previous day. However as Serna came running over to the red-haired prince it dawned on him. This was one and the same as the town from the dream. Tirian gently grabbed the Syndarean’s tiny hands with a firm grasp and simply smiled as his words came out as a whisper.

    “It seems like that dream was real. Just keep your eye out for anything unordinary. Everything will be fine. I promise.”

    Serna's small hands shook in his larger ones. She nodded though as she tried to calm herself down. She looked up at him with her large eyes. "W-We should t-tell? Shouldn't w-we?"

    The young woman looked around the settlement, completely unnerved. Now it looked happy and busy, but during that dream state all of the houses had looked caved in. It was strange looking at them now, now that they weren't dilapidated and falling apart. The girl shook her head, trying to wash away the memories of that night.

    Tirian’s answer came firm.

    “No. Absolutely not. Wait for something to show itself otherwise we look like crazy people. Ok? Play it cool and do your best to enjoy what we have.”

    Serna nodded, but she couldn’t help the frown that filled her face. It didn’t feel right.



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

    After everyone was settled, the group was led into the largest building of the town. It was a giant hall, kind of like a mead hall if Aaerynn were to guess. It was long and large, filled with wooden tables and benches.


    “We don’t have an inn yet! But we’ll bring in some cots and blankets for you all to sleep in. It’s rare for us to get some visitors!” Varic said and Aaerynn peeked over to the corner to see some of the women folk already unfolding cots and piling blankets. She had to say that at least it would be better than sleeping on the ground again.

    The two dwarfs led them over to some wooden tables to sit down, and the wood elf watched as Varic beckoned to some ladies about food and drink. Eventually a young woman came around to ask each one about drinks and Aaerynn paused as the young woman came to her with a smile and a tilt of her head. “Would you like something to drink?”

    “Wine, please. Red would be preferred if you have it.” Aaerynn finally answered, hoping that a bit of alcohol would help loosen her up and let her shake off the feeling that she was forgetting something.

    Rudolf and Varic immediately began conversing about this and that, answering questions and filling in everyone about the small settlement. Aaerynn leaned her chin on her hand as she tuned them out through sheer boredom. But that’s when the doors opened to reveal a large group of males covered in soot and dirt. Seemed like the miners were done with their day’s work. They filled up tables and that’s when the wood elf noticed that the hall was also used to feed all the men as well. Not a bad set up when she thought about it, and it was interesting to see men and dwarves getting along so well.

    That is until she noticed a group of younger men looking at their table with interest, well more like giggling like children. She didn’t blame them of course, the group certainly looked like a rag tag team of strangers, a mix of elves, a dwarf, and different types of humans. But as she observed them, another observation became clear. With the men returning back from mining, it was becoming quite obvious that the men outnumbered the women. All the women were married or mothers, and it had probably been awhile since they got to see single young women. Their chance of getting their own wives was probably based on snagging a traveler.

    Oh, great.

    She watched them out of the corner of her eye and then looked around at the group. Who would be the first target? She ruled herself out, since short hair would at least make them second guess if she were a male or female elf. Let’s see, Serna would be out too, tucked between Setna and Tirian, it wouldn’t be likely that anyone would be able to sneak in there. The pinked hair one…..she didn’t give a rat’s ass. In fact hopefully they would latch onto her, and then all problems would be solved. But if she was being honest, Lillith would probably be the best guess. Quiet and elegant, she was an exotic beauty that would surely turn heads. Her bet would be placed on the silver haired beaut.

    An arm suddenly came down on the table top beside her and a male voice piped up. “Mind if we sit with you lot?”

    Aaerynn turned her head to see the miners already crowding around the free space of the table. Fuck. Really? All inclination of fate and luck were obviously against her today.

    A man sat flush beside her and smiled wide. He was large and muscle-bound, the perfect body type for his occupation. He looked over the group, a grin still on his face. “It’s rare for strangers to stop by! Where you all off to?”

    Aaerynn grimaced as the man leaned against her to get a good look of the group as a whole. Placing her arm on the man’s shoulder, she forced him back a bit. “The next continent.” She answered for the rest.

    The man lit up as he noticed her, well not really her, more like noticed her chest and then her face. Gods, human men were so predictable and simple. If she felt like it, she would con every single one of them for extra money in her bag. But she just wasn’t in the mood for it. The whole day had been shitty, she just wanted some wine and to be left the hell alone.

    “The next continent, really? Well we’re honored to have you then! This is the new Bresbin!”

    Aaerynn suddenly stiffened at the name, her eyes widening.

    The man nudged her and grinned again. “You know, it was my ancestor that really found the ore!”

    “Oh not this story again!” Varic’s voice called out to him but the man just leaned closer to Aaerynn.

    “You know, my great-great grandfather was the greatest leader that old Bresbin ever had! He was the one that found the ore deposits and knew he could make a huge profit for the whole town. He thought it was best to keep it a secret for the safety of everyone though. But old Cromerth got wind of it, and thought Bresbin was up to no good.” He leaned closer to Aaerynn to create dramatic effect but the wood elf only tightened up. Her hands bunched up into fists on her lap.

    “Cromerth rallied up their farmers and boys and some say they even paid mercenaries to come and burn down all of Bresbin. My great-great grandfather William Rand fought for his life! He downed twenty three men by himself! Sadly the town was lost, but thanks to my grandfather’s hard work he was able to escape with his knowledge, never allowing it to fall into Cromerth’s hands!”

    At this point he had slung his arm around Aaerynn, who had stiffened up completely. Her head had been down during the story and she finally looked up. Although her cold eyes were not what the miner expected. “Do you honestly believe that idiotic story?”

    Her voice was cold and the man raised his eyebrow. Aaerynn suddenly stood slamming her hands on the table. “You truly believe that’s why Bresbin fell? Unbelievable!”

    “Let me tell you something.” She pointed her finger at him accusingly. She was absolutely infuriated after listening to that bullshit. “Bresbin was run by idiotic morons who believed they knew how to run a town. They couldn’t even figure how to keep themselves alive! They didn’t even know how they kept fields fertilized and rich, and they wouldn’t ask for help! It had nothing to do with fucking ore. It was because Cromerth was succeeding as a farming community and Bresbin was failing. It was old Bresbin that attacked Cromerth for their land! They pillaged, assaulted and attempted to burn and kill everyone. They thought it was their best option, to take other people's land over completely because they were so fucking stupid they couldn’t figure out how to live on their own! It didn’t matter if they hurt men, women or even children! Cromerth retaliated in order to defend themselves from this moronic town. Innocent people died and suffered just trying to save their families and defend themselves..."

    Aaerynn was livid, completely fuming as she breathed hard. “And I knew William Rand, and let me tell you something else. He was a fat, cowardly, son of a bitch who didn’t care about anyone else. The only reason he survived was because he fled! He didn’t fight anyone! He ran away and left his people to suffer! He was so fucking stupid he couldn’t tell his mouth from his ass!”

    The wood elf reached out and the miner flinched, but Aaerynn only brushed off some dirt from his frock. Her voice suddenly became sweet and gentle as wind chimes, as she ended with, “So next time you decide to tell a twisted version of history, I suggest you ask the 280 year old elf if she knows of it, or better yet, if she was there. That way, instead….” She brought him in closer, her voice turning icy. “You can fuck off properly.”

    She was done. She was absolutely done with this entire day. Now she knew why it had felt wrong to be here. Now she knew exactly why it was making her sick. Memories of that night were burning beneath her eyelids, and Aaerynn finally shoved off and away from the table. She held up her hand to Rudolf as she passed by him, her voice turned back to its usual softness, “I’m sorry… I’m getting some fresh air.”

    The wood elf plucked the bottle of wine from the young waitress’s arms before heading out into the evening air.

    The miner just stood there with a slacked jaw and wide eyes. His buddies behind him didn’t give him any mercy as they burst out laughing. Even Varic who sat beside Rudolf couldn’t help a slight smile as he looked back. “Good. Now he won’t tell that bloody story anymore.”
     
    #1 LastCinder, Dec 10, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 11, 2014
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  2. Tirian hung back from the group and opted for his keen eyes to scan the surroundings. There was something about this place, or possibly the environment that seemed to be odd. His nerves seemed to be riled up as that normally calm demeanor was nowhere to be found. The soldier felt paranoid and even somewhat fearful of what was truly in store for this group as the proceeded forward. Thoughts of doubt fluttered into his mind, though only for a moment as the warrior regained his composure by quickly shook off the feelings entering the large hall to regroup with Aaerynn and the others. It wasn’t long before some unruly drunks swarmed around Aaerynn as to swoon her to their sides. Tirian felt a bit of anger seep into his heart watching the ‘leader’ toss an arm around Aaerynn.

    Idiots might just get themselves killed.”

    Tirian whispered under his breath with a solid shake of his head, leaning towards a far way wall to observe rather than intervening. The seasoned elf would be able to handle herself, however, that was the worry Tirian was having. The red-haired warrior knew her temper could just get the better of her especially after those words from Lucille this morning. Lucille herself had taken a table to herself, keeping away from anything breathing for some odd reason. Tirian’s azure eyes met Lucille’s in an awkward stare down that ended with the pink-haired brat sending Tirian that patented smug smile and a half-assed wave. Not long after that engagement was the inevitable Aaerynn meltdown that ended all noise in the mead hall for a good minute. The warrior wasted no less time in the silent hall as he exited the large doors to find the angered beaut. His eyes spotted her in the distance, far enough away from the mead hall to give her and Tirian much needed space to talk. He approached the wood elf with a slight wave, his words coming off gentle and caring.

    You okay?

    -Upon exiting the hall, the wood elf took a swig of wine and walked all the way back to the carts trying to cool her head. What the hell was her problem, exactly? She hadn’t meant to be so volatile, but to hear that idiocy spewed out as fact pissed her off to the point she had to say something. Still, acting like that really wasn’t proper, and it wasn’t what she was trying to obtain. Instead of changing, she fell straight back into her old habits. The female elf pushed her hair off of her forehead for a second as she sighed and tried to collect her thoughts.

    Kai came barreling out from underneath one of the carts and stopped beside her, panting and looking eager for her touch. Aaerynn knelt down beside the wolf and scratched behind his ears, happy to see that at least one creature was happy to see her. “I wonder what you see in me…”

    The wolf merely tilted his head and the wood elf sighed. She picked up a stick and waved it in front of him for a moment before tossing it, and watching as he immediately gave chase. Aaerynn took another swig of wine before she heard Tirian’s voice. She turned in slight surprise. If anything she thought that Vordan might seek her out. But she immediately squashed that idea down with a sudden feeling of terror. Just because she had had a night out with him, and knew a few details about him, didn’t mean that they were friends, right? She wasn’t entitled to be sought after and Vordan obviously wasn’t obligated to talk to her. If anything her nagging presence was probably a bit of a nuisance to him and his goals.

    The wood elf shook her head at these stupid and cumbersome thoughts. She finally looked at Tirian for a moment, before answering, “I’m fine.”

    At this point Kai excitedly approached them with the stick in his mouth, dropping it at Aaerynn’s feet. The wood elf picked it up and tossed it for her companion once more. She then took a swig of alcohol before her eyes returned to Tirian. “Did Rudolf send you out here? I said I was sorry before I left.”-


    Believe it or not, I don’t care for large gatherings. I came out to you on my own will, to make sure you’re okay.”

    Tirian closed the distance between the two of them with his eyes straight forward. The sun had begun to set across the horizon, giving off a beautiful mixture of orange and red hues that cast out towards the heavens. Something about being with Aaerynn gave Tirian a calming sense of self-awareness. The soldier felt safe in the elder elf’s presence, even though he needed no protection from anything but himself. It was a truly odd feeling but Tirian embraced all of it as he continued to speak with a kind tone to his words.

    I don’t say this much. I haven’t in years, call me mushy if you want. But I like you. I don’t want to see you throw away life as if it meant nothing. I know what you’re experiencing. I watched my mother suffer to it. I distance myself from people as bit too much because of my trust issues. I mean this when I say it.”

    Tirian paused suddenly as his body and eyes turned to face Aaerynn with a serious look upon his face. He finished the monologue with a small smile on his face.

    If there is anything I can do. Anything I can say to make it less painful. Tell me. Please.”

    -Aaerynn raised her eyebrow at the Durandal's ramblings. This was rather...surprising. They hadn't conversed much over the journey thus far. She didn't really see how she had earned the red head's favor, seeing as before he had chided her rather harshly about playing horse shoes. But perhaps it was over what had happened with the Syndarean. She helped save him, he saved her. That was that, favors repaid. She took a sip from the wine bottle as she looked him over, scrutinizing him. Maybe he was simply warming up to her because she reminded him of the culture he missed. Aaerynn paused in her thoughts. She didn't know why she was trying to find excuses for someone to like her, it wasn't as if she disliked the red head anyway. She should be grateful for that fact that anyone gave a shit about her. But the fact that he suddenly offered her anything.... Anything, huh? She tucked that fact away, looking to see how she could have it pay in her favor later.

    The elf turned away though as Kai returned, and this time she gave it to Tirian to throw. "You're strange Red. You should leave the mushy talk for your pupil. But...thanks, I guess."

    She looked over at the Halfling, reveling in the fact that she was glad he looked far more like a human than a half elf. Now that she had him alone though, she could ask him about what Rudolf had told her earlier. "What's your deal with the pink haired brat? Rudolf said you invited her."-

    Tirian shrugged to himself, turning his neck to look back to the large building, then finally turned his attention back to Aaerynn.

    People like me can sense certain magical qualities. She’s a healer. I figured that kind of ability would be useful. Don’t worry I’ll keep her in line.”

    Tirian shook his head with a small laugh as he changed the subject subtly, avoiding any more talk of Lucille to upset the rotting elf any further.

    Your right, people might get the wrong idea about me if they could hear what I was saying. Just goes to show that my outward appearance doesn’t exactly match the real me.”

    The soldier rubbed the back of his head with a slight hint of embarrassment entering his face in form of reddened cheeks. Why was he opening up to Aaerynn, and even more why did he care what she thought of him? Talking to her and being in her presence seemed to just be natural and inviting, disregarding her nasty attitude to just about anyone and anything not willing to make her a couple gold pieces here and there. Tirian had a natural attraction to her. Not the kind of loving attraction, but rather a friendship bond that Tirian yearned for after being forced from his home all those years ago. He was deep in thought once more and it showed as his eyes seemed to simply gaze off into nothingness. It wasn’t until the sound of Kai returned to Aaerynn snapped him back into reality.

    If you don’t mind I’d like to hang out here for a while, large groups tend to make me nervous.”

    -Aaerynn stared at the warrior, growing slightly more suspicious of him. Perhaps he was being honest, perhaps he did like her after all this traveling. Even so... it was still strange. Why was he opening up to her? Why was he even bothering? It was becoming obvious that he had a softness for the Syndarean girl, so why wasn't he opening up to her instead? Aaerynn swirled the wine in its bottle as she contemplated her observations. She threw the branch for Kai once more before hearing his last sentence.

    The wood elf turned her head to look at him for a moment before taking another swig of wine. "You can do as you please Red. I don't care."

    She watched Kai trot back towards her, proudly holding the stick in his jaws.-

    Tirian could tell the elf was apprehensive, and rightfully so. Anyone would be after seeing the ruthless aggression the warrior was more than capable of, and then suddenly acting sweet. There was a good reason, and Tirian just had to open up and say it before anything else progressed.

    A lot of people see the bad side in people. The traits, actions and words. Rather than finding good things people do. They allow the world to taint their vision instead of finding the good qualities and throwing out the bad.”

    Tirian looked up to the opening in the sky, reveling in the beauty of the hues cast out by setting sun.

    You’re not as mean as your actions set you up to be. You constantly put yourself in harm’s way to protect others. Maybe no one else has seen it but, I do. You’ve save Serna and Setna. Vordan. Myself. You’re pretty selfless when you need to be. That’s a trait not many people have.

    - Aaerynn's eyes had widened as she listened to Tirian. Her body had stiffened up completely. Selfless? Her? It...Even her thoughts became flustered as she thought it over, attempting to argue against it. She was greedy, mean, selfish, and self-centered. But...she couldn't deny that she did her best to protect others. It was just something she did, something she didn't necessarily think about. Most of those incidents were for her own gain as well...she couldn't exactly grasp that she was altogether selfless. Yet, being told that she had some goodness in her, that others didn't have... The wood elf bowed her head and rubbed her face with a cold and shaky hand. She didn't know what to think. In this moment, Tirian reminded her a lot of her brother Demetrius, and the sudden feeling of nostalgia and fondness filled her chest.

    "Thank you." Her voice failed her, breaking a bit in emotion. She had to cough to keep it together. It was this same emotion that she had felt when Vordan had said he would help her with her rot. These humans...they were really surprising her. "I...I appreciate it."

    She played tug of war with Kai a bit as she tried to deal with this sudden overwhelming emotion. Eventually she spoke, filled with ever present nostalgia. "You're really strange but... very kind yourself. You said that your people's elves were kind, I bet your late mother would be very proud of you."-

    Tirian smiled as Aaerynn took his words in, smiling even wider with the compliment about his mother.

    I’m the strangest person you’ll ever meet.”

    Tirian paused for just a second as a thought came into his mind.

    If we make it to Thialea, I would like to show you Imladris. If that’s okay. The empire was a beautiful one when I was last there.”

    - Aaerynn nodded at that. She personally wouldn't mind seeing the Elven kingdom of the different continent. She wanted to know what the similarities and differences were. She knew deep down that she'd never be able to stay there, from her own personal guilt. Nonetheless, Aaerynn certainly wanted to see it for herself, someday.

    The wood elf continued playing with Kai, until suddenly the wolf dropped the stick. His ears perked up and the canine suddenly lifted his head as if he smelled something. Aaerynn couldn't help looking confused as the wolf suddenly turned and then stopped. "Kai?" She called out to him, hoping to get a better understanding of what he was doing.

    After finding whatever it was he had sensed, the wolf suddenly bristled. His ears flicked back and his lips pulled away from his teeth as he growled at something unseen. All sense of fondness and nostalgia dissipated from Aaerynn's face as she inched over to the cart to retrieve her bow and arrows. She looked at Tirian as she readied her bow. "Something isn't right."

    She slowly approached Kai, her steps soft and silent as she tried to discern whatever the wolf had seen or smelled. She nocked back an arrow, pulling the string taut as she attempted to follow Kai's line of sight. The wolf let out a loud bark in between a sharp growl as he crouched and Aaerynn finally saw it. It seemed to be an average crow, sitting by itself on a dead branch. Something was off. She had begun to realize that the nature around them had turned silent. For Kai, a child of a God, to react to an animal like this....something wasn't natural at all. Aaerynn aimed, watching it. It tilted its head at her, and squawked, which only made Kai bark loud-

    Tirian watched the emotion drain from Aaerynn’s face just as Kai began to act strange. Those feelings of nervousness began to surface once more. The soldier nodded to the wood elf, drawing his blade and tightly gripping the hilt as he walked behind her. The crow in the distance seemed normal, but it struck Tirian suddenly. The pulsating sound ringing in his ears was more than enough reason to raise his senses to the highest alert. Tirian whispered to Aaerynn to transfer his knowledge.

    The crow is made of dark magic. Take it out.”

    - Aaerynn didn't have to be told twice, especially as the crow seemed to lock onto them and finally swooped. The wood elf let the arrow fly, but her eyes widened as the arrow seemed to slide straight through the creature as if it were intangible. Was she drunk? Were her eyes fooling her? Either way, the crow seemed to be sliced in two as it hit the grass, a part to the right and a part to the left. Her arrow, however, struck into the tree behind it. There was no blood either, and there had been no death cry. What in hells name was going on? Aaerynn stared warily at the black blobs until suddenly they shot forward with unnatural speed. The wood elf brought her arms up as protection but her eyes widened further as the dark creatures passed straight by her and towards the red head behind her.-

    Tirian watched the arrow slice through thin air and the darkness split into exactly two parts. The faux crow wasted no time in Aaerynn as it rocketed past her and straight for Tirian himself. The soldier snapped instinctively into his ruthless mode, his eyes fading from happy to an extremely emotionless distanced look. Both balls of magic stopped dead in front of Tirian and quickly expanded into something completely unnatural. The bodies where spherical in shape with several spider-like legs protruding. The most disturbing part, was the thousands of leech-like creatures covering every square inch of the beasts. The soldier sheathed his weapon just as two towering limbs crashed down. Tirian did an agile back flip off of his hands into a quick roll just as he called to Aaerynn.

    Right now would be a good time to help!

    - Aaerynn fell back at the sudden eruption of magic, and her eyes widened with horror as she watched the bits of crow suddenly transform into something monstrous. It was covered with dark worm like extensions that quickly burst out into appendages. Two bright red eyes beamed out from each creature and the wood elf couldn't describe the sudden feeling of absolute dread that filled her chest. She sat frozen and transfixed as they headed for Tirian, and as he called out to her, she suddenly came back to her senses. She quickly jumped onto her feet, aiming another arrow as she moved in a single fluid motion. The arrow flew but only remained tangled in the monster's continuously moving skin and body.

    "What in the Gods names is it!?" She called out to Tirian as she continued to let arrows loose, trying to give the red head some type of cover.-

    Tirian’s mind began calculating, from all of the knowledge he had gained from the elven lands. Nothing of this diabolic nature had ever been spoken of in the scrolls, and yet it was real enough to touch right in front of the soldier’s eyes. The monster seemed to have a solid goal in mind, strike down the Durandal warrior. Tirian racked his brain on enemies he had made with this sort of power and nothing but one man came to mind. Had Tyrande finally found his long lost son? It was a surefire possibility, however the monsters at hand would need to be dealt with. Most dark magic needed some sort of control object that would allow the caster to feed it commands.

    Let’s get to it.”

    Tirian’s face drained of all thought when his body lunged forward into a straight on sprint. The soldier slid in between both monsters into a quick roll to begin his assault with only his hands. The soldier displayed crisp fluid movements and volatile quick strikes, however just as his firsts reached its targets flames erupted shielding him from the darkness covered monsters at the very last moment. Tirian moved from one beast to the other with unbelievable speed and accuracy throwing a collection of hooks, haymakers and uppercuts molded into spins to increase the speed and power of his attacks. Tirian spun around slamming the beast on his left with a crushing haymaker followed by a massive spark of flames propelling the dark beast backwards. The warrior snapped around in time to duck the worm-covered ligaments. Tirian exploded upwards with all of his might and crushed the beasts head with flames hotter than the sun. The beast flipped backwards and crashed down into the mud. Something was off, the beasts got up without even a scratch and began their assault. Tirian threw up his guard just in time to block four massive extensions that blew his body backwards, stopping just in front of Aaerynn. Legs flipped into the air as Tirian rolled back to his feet and exhaled with a heavy sigh. A small trickle of blood leaked from the corner of his mouth, hitting the ground just as he dusted off his shoulders.

    Magic is making them stronger, and they are invincible. I can’t find a weak point…”

    - "You can't be serious..." Aaerynn remarked beside the red head. She was trying to understand what the hell was happening. She had never seen anything of this nature before. They looked like creatures straight out of hell.

    People were coming out of their homes to get a look at them, wondering what was happening. One man was getting to close, and Aaerynn already found herself moving towards him. She ran as the monster reeled back. "Get away! Go back inside!"

    They were all fucking idiots, did they have no sense of self-preservation at all? The wood elf shoved the man aside as a twisting appendage came towards him. Aaerynn grimaced as it ripped into her back. She felt her flesh cut open and burn as she hit the ground. The slice was shallow but that was all she could guess at, as she felt her back turn wet with dark blood. She grit her teeth as she curled up on the ground, pain searing across her back. Her limbs trembled as she made an attempt to get back on her feet. The man she had saved looked at her dumbly, and the wood elf screamed orders at him. "What the hell are you doing!? Get the fuck out of here! Tell everyone what's going on at the hall!"

    The man shook and scrambled to his feet as he took off towards the grand hall. Aaerynn finally got back up, breathing hard through the pain as she nocked back another arrow. One of the monsters had finally turned towards her, suddenly interested, but the wood elf wasted no time in shooting out one of its bright red eyes. The monster let out a scream and Aaerynn quickly tried to nock another arrow but an appendage of the dark worms shot forward and wrapped around her forearm. The wood elf dug in her heels as the creature tried to drag her forward and she bared her teeth as the dark and slimy arm burned against her skin. What the fuck was this!?-

    Tirian’s eyes widened at the sight of Aaerynn struggling against the grips of one monster, and yet the other half of this deadly duo turned bright red orbs towards the civilian that was now running towards the large hall. The soldier would have to make a choice, save the elf or block the pursuing beast. However the man whom Aaerynn had saved began to yell for help and ultimately Tirian’s choice much simpler. Surely the group in the hall would hear the man’s plea for help. Metal sung into the air as Tirian drew his elven blade and sped towards Aaerynn with a vicious glare in his eyes. With two powerful swipes the beast had detached from the elf and screamed in pain. Tirian turned his head towards Aaerynn with an emotionless stare. The man before her no longer seemed human, the rage beneath his skin bubbling through to his heart. The warrior stepped forward slowly, eyeing the beast down. There was no more fear, nor was there any nervousness in the man’s heart. Nothing but rage and lust for pain. The beast slammed forward on two leech-covered extensions and lunged forward with a third limb screaming towards the red-haired warrior. Tirian side-stepped the blow and moved with ferocious intensity, spinning furiously into devastating vertical and horizontal slashes that severed several pieces of the beast.

    It’s me you want. Fight me. FIGHT YOU FUCKING COWARD!”

    Tirian increased his strut forward, somehow backing the beast down in his approach. The sound of metal cutting through the air pushed the beast back until it could go no further. Tirian jumped high into the air, crashing down unto the beast with his blade piercing deep into the beast. The sword seemed to hit something solid, there very something that was allowing this beast to roam the world of the living. In one motion the soldier pulled the sword out and flipped off of the beast, hitting the ground and in one more stride sliced clean through the beast’s eyes. Tirian slammed his right foot down and began to spin and slice. With each whirl of the warrior’s blade another piece of the monster fell away. Tirian sliced faster and harder until finally reaching the center of the monster where a small wooden doll resided. One final slice and the monster crumbled into nothingness.
     
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  3. Much of the early journey was quiet, until the loud and raspy voice of a dwarf rung out through the air. The exotic beaut paid no attention to the following conversation and pushed ahead of the group into the mead hall. Her stomach called out for food with a fierce rumble audible enough for those close by to hear her hunger. Lillith sat on her own, waiting for some sort of food service to make rounds and take orders as they were supposed to do. Not long after seating herself did a stout dwarf hobble over and take her order, not without a bit of lollygagging of course.

    “What brings such a beautiful…”

    “Your biggest serving of meat, please. Keep the change.”

    Lillith interrupted the server quickly and immediately flipped a single golden coin into the waiters palm while setting back into the chair with eyes closed. The faraway female displayed an uncaring and calm attitude, keeping to herself not because she was conceited but because she was used to that lifestyle. Friends and family were luxuries not given to those gifted enough to be named Electus. As such, she grew to be familiar with the sounds of quietness, the peace of nature as well as the serenity of one’s own mind. As she indulged on the massive serving of meat in a rather unladylike fashion, something seemed off with the environment. Everything around her seemed to grow dark as if the presence of evil had surfaced. This feeling grew stronger and stronger as the time passed on until eventually the screams of settlers and the hustling of onlookers made everything apparent. Lillith stood from her table and calmly walked outside to the sight of a man running from sort of dark and twisted vision of a beast. The slender frame of Lillith disappeared into the air and crushed down onto the beast with a ferocious palm. The hit caused minor cracking in the Earth’s surface and distributed enough damage to allow those on looking to run away.

    Lillith rolled off of her landing with an agile spring back to her nimble feet. Her expression never changed as she took a battle stance with two open palms ready to strike their marks. The beast began its assault with furious limbs leaping forward with intense speed. Lillith sat, waiting patiently until the final second and quickly deflected the blow while using the weight of the monsters attack as momentum to strike once more into the beasts face with enough force to send the beast reeling backwards. The sensation of burning began to draw the female’s attention, nevertheless see was still focused on her opponent. The dark magic would only curse what was touched and even then Lillith knew multitudes of holy prayers to force back that magic, a simple price to pay for vanquishing this evil beast.

    The embodiment of darkness recovered easily from the first two blows and wasted no time rushing forward with more anger bellowing out from its’ leech-like limbs. Lillith continued to stand strong in the very same position as before and once more waiting for the last moment to execute her moves. The exotic female threw her hands up as she side stepped and quickly smacked the first limb into the ground then lunged forward kicking the beast backwards. The assault continued as Lillith twirled and kicked once more, and then again and finally into a jumping triple kick that knocked the beast back enough for Lillith to thrust for a double palm strike. Lillith had grown incredibly weak from the cursed darkness and had to resort to her prayers. She only hoped the beast would be stunned long enough for her prayer to work, or for someone to possibly step in and take over. The beast began to rush forward as Lillith closed her eyes in prayer, hoping and wishing for some sort of divine intervention. That was when something shoved her to the side and the beast came to a halting stop.

    -Lucille stood between the bundle of leech’s and Lillith with her red blade drawn and the expression on her face completely changed. This was no longer that smug girl from before, but a fierce warrior with a drive stronger than anything before. The pink-haired girl attacked with lunges so fast that the beast simply could not keep up. Her onslaught was not to end the beast but to drive it back far enough for her to retreat and helped the silver-haired broad. A quick swipe from the beast was dodged and consequently sliced away with a quick counter from Lucille.

    “Not so tough now, you ugly ball of bitchery.”

    The girl dropped the smuggest of smiles and continued striking forward and countering with incredible vision and accuracy. In a single instant she vanished with a ball of smoke and hit a nearby roof. The beast was confused enough for the healer to retrieve Lillith and disappear once more with yet another ball of grey smoke. In the distance, the duo hid behind the massive mead hall and Lucille quickly took the female’s hands smiled.

    “You’ll live, be more careful next time. Kay?-
     
  4. Their arrival in the small, new town had actually surprised the desert elf as he too hadn’t seen any of this last time he passed by the main roads. It had been over a year ago for sure, but to have all of this built during that kind of time was simple impressive. Needless to say, Elrithos was always surprised by the cultural differences and diverse behavior this young-lived race had. These people could just built something out of nothing, so to speak, and not suffer from what most elves have to suffer through. Their use of magic, in the times before the Dark Emperor, was also truly impressive. Learning so much in so little time was something most elves try to conceive but never figure out.

    As they were brought into the large building, they all took a seat, Vordan placing himself beside the desert elf on the other side of the table from Rudolf and Aaerynn. The tall mercenary ordered some ale, Elrithos simply having some water. As they were served, the people started gathering and the both of them took a look at the group coming into the building… Immediately, Vordan smiled as he knew what would come next. Elrithos was oblivious and simply went back to drinking some of his water.

    Eventually, one of the men tried themselves onto one of the group’s ladies, which would have made the mercenary laugh, but they chose the wrong woman to lay their moves on. Vordan was curious to see how Aaerynn would handle this. He could already tell that the poor wood elf didn’t want to be a part of this scene. It did amuse him, but a hint of worry still hid in the back of his conscious, knowing this could also mean an angered comrade with bad results. Then the story came, one that wasn’t anything like he had heard before. He wondered if this was an actual true story… But Aaerynn snapped and Vordan became wide-eyed. The whole story the man had just told, completely torn apart by the wood elf. Vordan couldn’t help but laugh at what happened with the others. Oh how beautiful that was… Except that Aaerynn left, which took away the laugh quickly.

    Oh come on Aaerynn…” Vordan was about to stand up, but the desert elf firm grabbed his arm. Vordan looked down at him... He wondered how Elrithos could remain so passive and act like he was acting. “Why are you st-“ Again, he couldn’t finish and was quickly retorted with an answer he was not prepared for. “You’ve already done enough to help her Vordan. She needs to decompress… Let Tirian go.” Tirian? He raised his head and saw that the red-headed warrior ran off to join her. “The more acquainted she is with the entire group, the better the chance she will get over her Rot.” Vordan was amazed… The desert elf knew much more than what he would ever seem to say or share. Why? Vordan took a seat once more, not questioning the man of over 300 years of age…

    The two just stayed at the table, enjoying whatever food was being brought to them. Vordan was very appreciative of the serving they were given and Elrithos too. A few came around to ask them questions, both of very different nature. The most reoccurring themes seemed to be if they knew the ladies pretty well. Easy to say that the both of them kept quiet and said they didn’t know much more than what they had learned the past few weeks.

    Everything was actually going fine, up until the uproars outside could be heard. It took Elrithos seconds to reach for his double bladed staff and run off to go find whatever the problem was. Vordan, for his part, took his time as he had taken a little too much ale and couldn’t exactly walk in a straight line. He went over to get his sword and load up his six-shot crossbow.

    Once Elrithos reached outside, he instantly froze in shock by the sight. The dark creature made of hundreds of leeches, just waddling around and trying to get to the red-haired warrior. It was one of those creatures… He had seen the likes over two hundred years ago… How could it be standing here, now? This kind of magic hadn’t been used in years… How could it resurface? Meaningless question for now as the new recruit to the caravan had advanced to confront the creature… Elrithos didn’t dare approach the thing yet. He needed to remember how these things were brought down.

    As the battle went down, Vordan came out stumbling, his crossbow at hand and ready to fire… He also was shocked by what he saw. Not only that, but he could feel the dark magic radiating from inside it. He knew what it was, but he had no way to get inside it safely… Even with what the new lady had done, which was quite impressive. Elrithos looked up at the tall merc, speaking strictly. “I’ll try to open him up. Shoot whenever you see the opportunity.” He said as he rushed forth, right after the intervention of the pink haired girl. Vordan held up his crossbow, awaiting his chance.

    The large monster eventually caught sight of the charging elf, swinging his large limbs towards him. Bending down and evading the first limb, he then did a quick jump into the air to avoid the other, closing in to his chest and swiftly sliced along it. It did nothing really, the open wound closing immediately. It was something he could predict and he tried cutting down multiple times before the limb came for him once more. Rolling back, he stood up straight from his tumble and saw that there was no way he could actually pierce through with raw power.

    Vordan had taken notice with the first strike and though it would be best if he just came in with his own sword to brute himself through to the core… But unlike all the others who fought, he wasn’t so nimble. He would get hit and thrown back like a ragdoll. After that, he would be able to do much… He contemplated these options a moment, conscious enough of his surroundings to see someone running TOWARDS the danger. He averted his eyes from Elrithos’ fight and looked on to see… A woman charging in? Not only that, but she held a sword that was about as large as his own, but on a much smaller frame of a being. The long, dark hair hid her facial features and the simple leather outfit hid most of her features, but he could tell it was a woman.

    Elrithos had tried his best to get to the beast, but he simply did not have the physical strength to do much. He could hold it back and that was it. He did his best, hoping that Vordan would eventually see it and try to help… Instead, he got a spectacular surprise. All he saw was someone move beside him and run forth, a sword coming down to slice the thing from his shoulder all the way down to its mid-section. Whoever had hit had put a lot of strength and power behind the blow… It revealed the section Vordan was looking for, the core. He took aim and slowly pressed on the trigger. The bolt ran across the air with blinding speeds, hitting the wooden object inside and splitting it in half. The leeches detached themselves and melted into the ground, steam rising from its disintegration. Vordan lowered his weapon and sighed, going back inside to get something.

    Elrithos backed away and sat down, a little exhausted after this fight… It wasn’t a long fight, but the fright of it was enough to get himself going and pushing himself harder. At least now, it was done. He looked up at the one that had aided him, surprised to see a thin framed woman holding a greatsword. She eventually turned and looked at the desert elf, their gazes interlocking. Red eyes? Elrithos stared into them, mesmerized. He remembered only one kind of culture that held that gaze… But they were dead many years ago. Last time he had seen someone with that was over fifty years ago. The two of them simply looked at each other, both as curious as the other.

    When Vordan came back, he had bandages at his belt and two jars. He quickly picked up the pieces of the wooden idols and each place their parts into their own jar. He would have to look this up for sure… He then went around to see if everyone was alright.
     
  5. The twins had taken a table close to the others as they sat down and ordered some water and something to eat. Both teenagers were marveling at the construction of such a large hall. The community itself was extremely interesting, neither twin had ever seen anything quite like it. Although Setna was spending most of his time watching the female dwarves and wondering how they had even greater beards then the men around them.

    Both young adults grew cautious however at the sudden breakdown of Aaerynn and Serna shifted in her seat, wondering if she should go out and help the elf. She was surprised however, to see Tirian briskly follow the wood elf out of the hall. That was strange. Serna had never seen the Durandal warrior ever go out of his way to talk to the elf. Although, she supposed it wasn't too fair of her to think like that. The Syndarean girl sat with her shoulders hunched, a mix of emotions across her face. Setna merely smiled beside her and nudged her as food was placed in front of them.

    The twins ate and listened as the others talked and Varick told them a bit more about the settlement. Then came the uproar of noise from outside of the hall, followed closely by screaming. Setna watched as Elrithos immediately jumped to his feet and headed straight out the door. The Syndarean boy was not far behind him, as he pushed himself from the table and hurried after his teacher, with his hand on his hilt. Serna quickly followed after him, and as the twins exited the safety of the large hall, they were met with a horrific sight. It was a monster that looked as if it had come straight out of a nightmare. Covered in leeches and blackness, its red eyes were the only distinguished feature on it. They watched as Tirian immediately ended one of the monsters by himself while Lillith rammed into the creature with her fists alone. Elrithos was soon to run in as Lucy took the silver haired woman out of the fray. Setna immediately grabbed the hilt of his blade and stepped forward. He lurched suddenly to a stop and looked back in surprise to see Serna holding tightly to his arm. His sister's eyes were filled with fear, her face had gone white and her hands trembled as they held him still. She shook her head, her eyes wide in horror and panic. "Don't...Don't!"

    Setna stilled in surprise and watched as Serna's eyes finally focused on him, her eyes began to water as she pleaded with him to stay. There was something going on with her. It was as if she had seen something like this before. The boy took his hand off his blade and instead embraced his sister, feeling her shudder in fear. "I won't."

    The Syndarean boy held onto his sister as he watched both Elrithos and Vordan attempt to take it down. Rudolf suddenly appeared at the boy's side, and Setna looked at him for some type of explanation. The dwarf's face was hard as he spoke, "It's a summon from a powerful dark mage. What you see before you is a physical form to pure magic. It is able to manifest due to a small wooden token or doll within its core. For something like this to appear..."

    The dwarf turned silent and Setna looked out over the battle, and watched with surprise as a woman came out of nowhere to land a powerful hit. One shot from Vordan, and the fight was finished.


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

    As the fight ceased with a stench and bout of steam, Rudolf immediately waddled out from his cover of the hall and was followed closely by the twins who rushed towards Elrithos and the woman who had seemingly come out of nowhere to help.


    "Is everyone alright!?" Rudolf called out as he approached the Desert Elf and the womanly stranger.

    The dwarf paused however as he caught sight of the woman's bright red eyes. Rudolf found himself slightly slacked jawed at the sight. A Mountain tribe woman, it was almost inconceivable. The last time he had heard any news about them was the massacre, and there were supposedly no survivors. The elderly dwarf got his act together as he cleared his throat. "Are you alright miss? Thank you for your sudden service and help."

    The twins kept their distance, obviously still in shock from what they had seen. Yet Setna soon approached, holding a hand out to Elrithos in case he needed the help up.

    The tribeswoman raised a brow at the desert elf and leaned her head to one side. Elrithos hadn’t seen any of them for a long time and wondered what happened to those who were left. Most of the tribes had died years ago along with their curse. He eventually broke their stares as Rudolf approached, asking for everyone’s condition. He looked around, seeing how people were doing… There didn’t seem to be too many injured, apart from Aaerynn’s burns. With a sigh, he kept quiet for a moment, letting Rudolf speak with the tall tribeswoman.


    The lady looked down at the dwarf, nodding lightly. “Me fine.” You cloud clearly tell it wasn’t her native language. She sheathed the two handed blade on a specialized holster on her back, aligned with her backpack. She looked down at the Desert Elf. “You messenger of Sand People.” At that moment, Elrithos had looked at Setna and took his hand to stand back up, thanking him before turning back to the lady. “How did you know…?” He wondered a moment, never remembering seeing this human being.

    The lady spoke again, but in Elrithos’ native tongue. Again, it surprised Elrithos and the two had a short conversation in this rough, dry language. Elrithos became wide-eyed… He turned to Rudolf. “She’s a descendent of Ysander the Savage.” Ysander, the one tribe leader who had convinced the tribes to turn against the Dark Emperor when they realized they would get nothing out of their contract… And also what cost them the curse. Elrithos looked back at her. “I fought alongside that man. A true, fearless hero.”

    "Ysander?" Rudolf looked amazed as his face turned to the woman by Elrithos' side. He could see it now, the slight resemblance. Her ability as well proved the heritage she bore. The elderly dwarf bowed his head slightly in respect. "Your ancestor was a great warrior, one of the best! I see he has blessed you with his skills."


    Rudolf grinned happily but it slowly faded as he remembered the fate of this woman's people. "What brings you here, my dear? Is there anyone else?"

    Although Rudolf and Elrithos obviously knew what was going on, the twins had no idea. They held the same confused expression as they looked over their older companions. Eventually Serna squeezed her brother's hand as she spoke quietly, "I'm going to check on the others."

    Setna nodded to her, and watched as his sister briskly headed over to where Tirian and the rest were before looking away. The boy listened in quietly to the conversation between the Desert Elf, dwarf and new comer, but his attention was focused on the rotted grass where the creature had fallen. Rudolf had explained a bit as to what they were, monsters made up of magic. But that's what bothered him. Magic had to have a caster, right? Dark magic especially had awful kick backs...for someone to be able to create something like this, and be able to maintain it for so long...What exactly was going on?

    The boy knelt down and gently touched the dead grass, watching as the broke apart in his hands. It was absolutely frightening.

    Elrithos simply still couldn’t believe he was standing in front of the blood of Ysander himself. He had known very few human warriors to be skilled combatants for their young age. Already, Tirian had proven to him how strong he was, Setna ad still a lot to learn but was a promising one, Vordan was an oddball but a solid one… It was all to say that these people had proven the contrary to his typical views.


    The young lady looked at the dwarf as he spoke, hearing the name of his ancestor. It was good to hear that the messenger remembered the man, a blessing in her accursed life. Even the dwarf seem to know about it, which was odd. How old was the small man? Not that it mattered, but it would be interesting to know. She paid attention to every word he said, since she still had a hard time with that language… He came to ask about why she Was around in this place and immediately, she turned he eyes away and towards the ground… She whispered a few words in the Desert tongue and Elrithos nodded. He then turned to Rudolf. “Her tribe died. She doesn’t want to say the rest.”

    Elrithos sighed. “I would suggest for her to join us… But I fear for her curse.” He looked back up at her and they exchanged a few words again. The lady seemed a little disturbed and offended. Elrithos was still like before, simply surprised. She eventually grew up to be irritated, but then, Elrithos seem to ease up and the lady look at him in surprise. With a gentle smile, he turned back to Rudolf. “If you agree not to judge her… state, she’d love to join.”

    The dwarf lit up with a rowdy laugh and smiled at the young woman. "It is safe to say, she will clearly be of help to us. If she can take care of herself, I don't see the harm."


    The elderly dwarf held his hand out to the woman and gave a kind smile. "Welcome aboard. What's your name, dear heart?"

    Setna had picked his head up at that, suddenly interested in their conversation as he stood up. It was strange that Rudolf wasn't overly flirting, though the boy guessed the situation wasn't the best for that. Setna tilted his head at the mention of a curse, and finally he got a good look at the woman's bright red eyes. He didn't really understand what they were talking about, but it was obvious the young looking woman would be of help to the group as a whole. She practically took down the monster herself, able to open it up when the others failed. Setna was glad that something good had come out of this evening.

    The boy scuffed his boot against the rough patch of grass though, sulking a bit that he didn't have a chance to fight it himself.

    At first, she stayed confused at what was happening, as the conversation was not going the way Elrithos had spoken about it. She never said anything about joining the group, more about losing her whole family and tribe and how passive the desert elf was staying. His last words had been odd, speaking about bonding with a new “family”. And then, he said what he said to Rudolf and there she was, wondering why the sand elf had said such a thing… Deep inside though, it was something that she wanted; people to travel with. And so, he looked at the dwarf with a small smile, shaking his hand and speaking in a thick accent. “Esredia.”


    Elrithos kept his smile, looking over the woman once more. It didn’t look like it, but she definitely held herself, even with the light frame she had. He remembered what that family had for spiritual strength and knew she could manage herself during hard times. The only worry was the desert and the lack of… bodies she could find for herself. He guessed that they would find a way to deal with it. For now though, he also shook her hand, knowing it would probably be best to present her the rest of the group. “Let’s present you to the others. I already know someone that is going to know a lot about your kind.” By that, he meant Vordan and most definitely Aaerynn, since the tribes people were sent to attack he elves at the beginning of the war.

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

    After departing from her brother, Serna ran over to where she could see the red headed warrior. She paused a little bit away from him, breathing hard with her eyebrows knit in concern. "T-Tirian?" She called out to him.

    She was worried that he was still in his fighting type of phase. She had watched him take down one of the monsters by himself. She was scared he would show her the same frightening face he made when he was killing.


    Tirian sheathed the weapon of his ancestors with a sullen expression plaguing his face. The appearance of such a beast meant but one thing. His father was onto him and things would be getting much more dangerous ion the future. This simply could not be assumed as just a coincidence. Tirian snapped his head over to Serna had called out to him from, a small smile coming to his face for the briefest of moments. The soldier simply waved to the Syndareanas he closed the distance between the two of them.

    "You look worried."

    Tirian teased with his tone as the normal smile Serna was looking for returned to the man's face.


    Serna smiled brightly as Tirian revealed his own smile towards her. She flushed a bit at his tease and looked a bit bashful, but that quickly faded into concern."A-Are you alright? I s-saw you use magic. H-How are your hands?"

    The girl came closer and gently took the warrior's hands into her own. She had seen the way fire affected him within the dream world. It had left him brutally burned. The girl bit her lip in concern as she carefully turned the man's hands over to inspect them. "Rudolf s-said those monsters w-were made of magic. S-Someone had the strength to c-conjure something l-like that...Th-The dream too...d-do you th-think it was the same source?"

    The girl looked up at him with her large dark eyes.


    Tirian looked down to his hands, scanning over his rigid and calloused knuckles. Tirian's face warmed up as the gentle touch of Serna took those hands into her own for a personal inspection.

    "The trick to using fire is to limit the duration. They are a bit sore and that's about it."

    Tirian took his hands from Serna's only to bring them to his chin in contemplation. Her question was spot on, yet who had this kind of strength.

    "I believe you're on the right track. We have no evidence however, let's keep that to ourselves for awhile longer."



    Serna was glad to see that Tirian didn't seem injured, but she frowned that he wanted to keep their experience a secret still. The young Syndarean girl didn't know how much longer she could keep it from her twin. The young girl looked at the dead grass and shuddered still. She hugged herself tightly. The monsters had terrified her to the core of her being. To think that there was such a thing in real life. The experience in the dream state was able to be placed aside as not being real. But these monsters...they were able to hurt people and destroy things. It scared her.

    Tirian could see the distraught within Serna and sighed to himself. Without another moment of hesitation the warrior quickly placed his right hand atop the Syndarean's head and gently ruffled the silky hair beneath his fingers.

    "Everything's going to be okay. Got it?"


    Serna looked up in surprise and flushed a bit. However, she wasn't truly convinced by Tirian's words, she closed her eyes for a moment before looking at the ground. Eventually she rubbed her arms and nodded to Tirian in agreement.

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

    Vordan had only found one injured person, and it was Aaerynn… And the wound she had taken was one that had to be dealt with right away. Seeing the burn marks, he knew he bandages would be useless. He set the two jars with the idols onto the ground as he knelt down to check up on her. “Do you feel anything else than the burn in your arm?”

    Aaerynn had been lost in her shock. The face that Tirian had shown her, had absolutely terrified her. The young man, only moments before had been kind and even embarrassed. But that face, and that brute strength, it was as if he was a different person entirely. There had been no emotion, except rage and his own lust for blood. He had taken down that creature through his own brute strength alone. It was absolutely fucking horrifying.

    The wood elf jumped slightly at the familiar voice of Vordan and she was brought out of her thoughts as he asked about her arm. She looked at her burns for a moment, moving her hand and wrist to feel the skin tighten with the burn. It felt normal, just the usual pain. Her back too, although her shirt was sticking to her skin from her own blood, it felt like a usual cut and burn. "No. It feels alright, besides the usual. But I suppose that doesn't mean that something isn't there."

    She knew what he was asking. When Tirian first cut her free, the burn had been covered with black and dark purple, but as the beast was killed, that same darkness had seeped away. Aaerynn wasn't entirely sure if it disintegrated like the beast, or simply seeped into her own skin. The wood elf sighed and frowned. "I'm alright."


    Vordan looked the wound over, not daring touch it. Vordan knew that exposing himself to dark magic was a bad idea, especially with what he had experimented with. There was a possibility that whatever he had done years ago with the dark arts would get to him still today. He didn’t want to take that chance… The items he had picked up were dangerous enough, but he needed to study it to see if he could get anything off of it. For now, he would have to take little chances.

    He reached for his belt, hoping he had what he needed… He would have spread some holy water, but with the rot, it wasn’t a mix he wished to try. Bandages? Again, mixing magic with dark magic residue what a terrible idea. And so, he looked up at her and nodded briefly. “You’re going to have to heal naturally… I would dare mix any magic with what could be dark magic residue still on your skin. If you have any medicine that would take away the burn and help the cut, it would be a good time to use them.”


    Aaerynn nodded in agreement to his conclusion. She couldn't help a slight teasing tone as she said, "I'm not completely useless. I got it."

    She slowly got to her feet, dusting off her trousers. She had already decided she wanted to deal with it herself. She really didn't want to undergo the pain from his bandages unless it was a dire situation. Plus, she had enough scars going for her...and the last thing she wanted was a scar across her back. But that was for her own vanity.

    The wood elf softened a bit though as she looked at the human beside her. "Thanks for looking it over. I appreciate it."

    Aaerynn rolled her shoulders and grimaced as she felt the cloth of her shirt stick and unstick across her wounded back. What was with her shitty luck? One thing after the other...Her eyes drifted over to the circle of dead grass. It felt like the gods were after her.

    Her ears pricked up though as the rest of the group came closer to them and Aaerynn turned to immediately see the new arrival. The bright red eyes caught her attention first and Aaerynn instinctively stiffened up and took a step back. Rudolf raised his hands and smiled. "It's alright, this is Esredia! She'll be joining us on the journey! She's a descendant of Ysander."

    Aaerynn seemed to still a bit as she looked over Esredia's face. Her body refused to relax though. She had bad memories of those types of eyes. She had heard of Ysander of course, but it didn't help her to calm down.


    Vordan only smiled as she replied with her tease. Of course she wasn’t useless, why would he think so? He was about to help her back up to her feet, but she got up by herself… One thing he had to say is that she was a tough one for everything she was living. Not easy living a life of solitude. He knew with the little experience he had of being alone as a mercenary. Not an easy thing to do to let go of everyone. Yet, he felt that at least, it wouldn’t stay that way for her.

    “Please. I can’t let a comrade be injured if I can’t help it.” He simply said as he turned to face the group of that approached… And immediately, those red eyes just pop for him. Oh he has seen those eyes before, and it wasn’t from people he exactly appreciated, The cursed ones of the mountains, their link to blood. He was actually surprised ANY of them were still alive to this date. He stiffened as he watched Rudolf do the introductions… Descendent of Ysander. It meant that she… It was interesting. He looked back at her, his eyes fixed on her.

    She looked at the both of them, slightly confused by their reaction… What did she do to them? It seemed the red eyes weren’t something they were used to. And so, she spoke. “Hi. No fear me. Me only kill bad thing.” Elrithos looked at both the wood elf and the Merc who were clearly uncomfortable. He sighed lightly and looked back at the tall woman. She approached and showed her hand for whoever would grab it first.


    Aaerynn shifted her weight, she looked at Vordan for a moment before sticking out the hand of her uninjured arm in order to shake Esredia's. "I'm Aaerynn."

    She let their hands fall and watched as the taller woman looked to Vordan. The wood elf knew she had no reason to truly be afraid. Besides their curse, the Mountain tribe had been good people, well...for the most part. They had turned against the Emperor, and received their curse because of it. Aaerynn shuddered slightly and back stepped though. She couldn't help shaking her unease. She had still been considered a child when this girl's ancestors struck the home of the wood elves. Even before their irises were red, their eyes had been frightening. But it was unfair of Aaerynn, to peg the atrocities of her ancestors onto this girl alone. It wasn't right, so she did her best to shake off that uncomfortable feeling of fearful nostalgia.

    Besides....

    The wood elf turned slightly to view the other circle of dead grass where the second creature had fallen. It was a good thing the red eyed woman had come around. The second creature had been dealt with quickly and efficiently, before it could do any more damage to the town or the party itself.


    The woman was pleased to know people’s name… It was the first time in a while she was able to communicate with people without immediately being dismissed or put aside because of her scary appearance. And gentle smile rose on her lips, revealing a kind of softness barely visible from the shine of her eyes. Vordan shrugged and put his hand up to shake hers… And like he predicted, she had a firm, strong handshake. “Vordan.” Again, she was pleased… And so was someone else. Vordan looked up above Esredia’s head, a look of surprise on his face as he saw a small figure forming around the woman. A tall man, by what he could see, with a wide smile. “A spirit walker…” He said to himself. He let her hand go and the form disappeared.

    Elrithos was glad to see the introductions went well and immediately dismissed himself from the group, saying he had something to do. He waved and walked off… not even in the direction of the meal house. He seemed to be going for the outside of the city. Vordan found it odd, but did not question it. Instead, he looked at Rudolf then went to pick up the jars. “I’ll be studying the wooden dolls… I’ll try to figure out where they came from.” He said, a slight lie slipping into his words. He wanted to do a little more than study them because he knew of a use for them. It was a little dangerous, but it could be worth it.


    Aaerynn was surprised to see that Esredia seemed to be a gentle spirit. In a way, it helped to soothe her own fear and she was able to stop the uncontrollable shuddering. That wasn't all of the surprise, as she watched a figure appear behind the woman for just a moment as she shook Vordan's hand and then it disappeared. She was certainly going to be a strange addition to the group as a whole.

    With everyone dismissing themselves, Rudolf looked to Aaerynn and she held up her arm. "I have to go clean myself up."

    The dwarf nodded before turning to Esredia and leading her back to the hall to rest and possibly speak of where they were going. The wood elf watched for a moment as the dwarf pointed out towards the other members of the party and told the woman their names before they were out of ear shot.

    With that done, Aaerynn looked back over to Vordan and caught up to him. She reached out to him, and touched his arm to get his attention. When he looked at her, she spoke. "Vordan, don't mess with those. Just because they were sliced in half, doesn't mean they don't have magic built up. Those monsters can be re-animated."

    He probably knew this already, and if Aaerynn knew him at all from the time they had spent together...No, maybe she didn't have the right to even think that. But still, he seemed likely to mess with them, and the last thing she wanted was to see him hurt because of it. The dull thrum of him telling her about his experience with dark magic made her more worried. Which was kind of surprising, if she was honest with herself.


    Vordan turned to whoever had grabbed his arm. Aaerynn? He blinked and stopped, wondering what she wanted. He had already done what he could for her, at least for now. He could maybe find something to possibly cleanse anything that might have penetrated her skin. He let her say what she had to say and laughed a little, a gentle smile on his face. “I am fully aware of this Aaerynn. It is one of the reasons I’m taking a look. I can find out where it came from or its source, possibly reverse the burns it has done to you, destroy it, or even possibly make it useful for later. I’ll be careful with it.”

    If he was honest with himself, he would know that it would be extremely dangerous. Yet, he wasn’t afraid of it. It wasn’t like dabbling with dark magic was impossible to consider as viable, just didn’t have very often. He patted his shoulder. “It’s not the first time I deal with this kind of thing.” It was true, it was not the first time he dealt with tracking back dark magic. It wasn’t a great success last time, but it made it possible. “I should be fine.” He said should because he wasn’t sure about it.


    Aaerynn crossed her arms in front of her chest as she looked at him. "Should isn't good enough. You're still recovering from your own magic and now your dabbling in something extremely dangerous. I don't care about my burns, they'll heal. Whatever is there, I'll deal with it. But there is no reason for you to do this alone, where more than likely it'll backfire in your face and you'll end up even more sick, or worse."

    She sighed and closed her eyes for a moment before finally looking at him. "I'm not your keeper, I know you can do as you please. But I'm asking you to put it away until you're better able to handle its consequences. There are other ways to find its source. That's not your responsibility anyway."

    It felt like she was just rambling on by this point, and her shoulders slumped slightly. She was trying to find words for what she was feeling, and it was frustrating her. She looked away as Kai made his way over to her. "I don't want to see you hurt."

    She finally admitted it, and looked up at him for a final moment before placing her hand on Kai's head. She didn't really have the right to say he couldn't do it, or that he shouldn't. He was his own person. No matter her feelings, she could at least offer him help if he needed it. "But if you're dead set on whatever it is you're going to do...at least call for me if you get injured and need help, alright?"


    Her initial thoughts had hit the Maker pretty hard, as it seems his mind started to deviate from his curious nature and to the seriousness of the situation. It had slipped his mind for a moment; he still was under the effects of his other magic. Anytime a situation like this presented itself, Vordan had always overlooked his own personal health for the sake of research and progress in his work. His smile dropped as he looked into the jars… It was something his people called the Maker’s Madness. It wasn’t a curse, nor something they couldn’t work on. It was simply the human nature with mysterious things.

    It seemed to have set into him as she continued to make him think it wasn’t a great idea right now. It’s true, it could possibly kill him, and now wasn’t the time. Vordan knew how he overlooked such things, and sometimes, he hated his inventor side of himself. He brought his eyes back up, just when she said she didn’t want to see him hurt. That’s really all it was; getting hurt uselessly. He looked down at the wolf a moment, seeing her join her side… He lifted his head back up, letting her finish before shaking his head.

    “No… You’re right. I shouldn’t be playing with this until I can deal with it…” He spoke quietly, almost to himself. He let out a soft sigh. “Thank you Aaerynn… I think I’ll wait it off.” He smiled lightly as he looked down on the jars. It finally got to him. He knew exactly what would happen if those things backfired. It would have been an ugly show, one he probably wouldn’t have survived. “I’ll go put these away… You going to join back in the hall or are you still going to wonder around?”


    Aaerynn's face softened and she even looked a little surprised that the Maker was actually heeding her advice. The wood elf turned very pleased, her face taking on a gentleness that he was going to put them away. In fact, she couldn't really describe her relief. She had a bad feeling about those jars, and to know Vordan could have seriously injured himself messing with them, scared her. She blinked though as he asked her what she was going to do, and the wood elf instantly looked at her burned arm. "There's a river not too far from here. The best thing I can do for these wounds is submerge them in cold water for a little while before dressing them. I'm going to head there first before coming back to the hall."

    She looked up at him with what appeared to be a small smile. But it faded to reveal a sly face as she teased him. "Can I trust you to actually put those away without messing with them? Or would you like me to take them for the moment?"


    Vordan could finally see some relief from the young wood elf. It put things in perspective of his work and he soon realized something very important that had slipped his mind for a few years now. It was easy to do what he did when he had no one being close to him, no one who actually cared for his health. He could remember when he experimented at a young age, with his parents around. When he got hurt, the parents were horrified and scarred for his life… That expression of fear and worry had almost stopped him completely from continuing in that path. When no one depended on you, you were free to do as you pleased.

    This thought rushed out of his mind, still glad to see a smile on her face. She wouldn’t be joining them right now, but at least she would be joining back after. He trusted Aaerynn could take care of herself for now. So, he was about to simply nod and walk back to his pack, but she slipped in a few sentences which made him shake his head. He looked at her a moment before replying. “I won’t, don’t worry. Just needed someone to remind me what could happen. I won’t start screwing with this until I can handle it…” He started walking towards the hall, but turned to say something before resuming. “… Don’t get yourself killed out there… Seems like our caravan is good at attracting bad news.”


    Aaerynn nodded and held a hand up, a gesture that she would be fine. She felt a bit better that Vordan had listened to her. She just hoped he would heed her advice, trusting human word was still a bit too hard for her. Especially after seeing how his curiosity certainly got the best of him. Ah, well she would put her faith in him, for the time being.

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

    The wood elf had grabbed her bag and her bow as she readied herself to head over to the river. She certainly wouldn't leave her bag here for strangers to pick through, and she'd keep herself armed just in case. Although by now, the only real threat would be a certain perverted dwarf trying to get a look. Kai wagged his tail beside her and the elf scratched his ears for him. She'd have to find a way to reward the young wolf, without him those monsters would have likely ambushed them, and there would be a hell of a lot more injuries. "Good boy..."

    The sound of small footsteps made the wood elf look up, only to be slightly surprised by the sight of Serna. The girl looked troubled and Aaerynn raised an eyebrow. Serna finally spoke, shifting her weight anxiously. "A-Are you leaving?"

    Was that what she was anxious about? What a strange girl. Aaerynn shook her head. "No. There's a river close by. I have to wash my burns."

    The girl looked surprised, and then anxious again. "C-Can I come t-too?"

    Alright, this was weird. Aaerynn placed a hand on her hip as she looked the young girl over. Something was going on. The wood elf sighed softly, before nodding. She picked up her bag and her bow and motioned for the Syndarean girl to follow. "Come on then."

    Aaerynn gave her thigh a pat and began walking, Kai following her. The two women and the young wolf entered the forest as Aaerynn led the way. Serna followed silently, doing her best to keep up with the taller elf, until finally they found the river bed. It seemed pretty deep although the current was slow and lethargic. Aaerynn set her bag down, followed by her bow and arrows, and then promptly lifted her shirt over her head. Serna squeaked in surprise and the elf merely lifted her eyebrow as the teen-aged girl quickly turned around as the elf continued undressing. This amused the wood elf greatly, they were both women, she didn't see the shame in it, but she didn't say anything. Left in skimpy underclothes, the wood elf simply dove straight into the water. It was still just as deep as she remembered it. The cold of the water was shocking at first, freezing her lungs as she swam deeper. Eventually she resurfaced, wading in the water and feeling the cold liquid wash over her burns. It felt nice. Her rot too seemed to be freezing up. She hadn't really taken a notice to it yet. The adrenaline of the fight had kept it at bay and now the water seemed to soothe it for her.

    Serna on her end, sat down on the river bed. Occasionally she would cup her hands into the water and wash her face and hair. It helped to calm her down somewhat as she waited for the wood elf to return to shore. She didn't have to wait too long as the wood elf finally returned, running a hand through her wet hair and ringing out the longer pieces. She finally sat on a rock to dry off, as she reached into her bag to retrieve her medicine and some clean bandages. Aaerynn then began rubbing her arm down with a handmade ointment, wincing slightly as the irritated skin burned. Serna watched her for a moment before looking out over the river. "R-Rudolf said th-those monsters w-were dark magic..."

    Aaerynn nodded, yet still kept her head down as she began to wrap a bandage tightly around her arm. Serna looked up at her again. "Do you...ha-have you s-seen it before?"

    The wood elf finally stilled and looked over to the younger girl. There was something going on with her, something she knew or something she had seen. But as to why the Syndarean girl had sought her out for information or advice, was interesting. "I haven't seen those before. But dark magic..." Aaerynn paused as she thought over her memories. "Long ago, magic like that was the norm. It's how the Dark Emperor kept his control. Dark magic is a sinful arte, extremely powerful and capable of almost anything, but for a heavy cost."

    Aaerynn's fingers on her bandaged hand wiggled a bit as she tested the tightness of the bandages. Then she attempted to move onto her back, which was a bit of a struggle. Serna approached and offered to help, and Aaerynn handed over the ointment. She tilted her head down as she felt the young girl apply the ointment across the burn on her back.

    Serna couldn't help being slightly surprised. The wood elf's skin was remarkably smooth. She was much more of a woman than the teenaged girl could even imagine. Serna bit her lip though as she smoothed in the ointment for the elf. "C-Could...could dark magic m-make nightmares r-real?"

    Aaerynn stilled, listening intently to the young girl. "What do you mean?"

    Serna became quiet and she shuddered slightly. Tirian had told her not to tell, but she couldn't hold it in any longer. It was frightening, especially now where the monsters had invaded the real world. Especially because it could harm the rest of the party. Serna had picked Aaerynn for a reason. Her brother would probably fly off the handle and make a big scene if she told him. Aaerynn was cold sometimes, but Serna felt closer to her after everything that had happened. After the fight with the Executioner, and the scene in the grave yard. Perhaps the wood elf didn't feel the same, but Serna felt she could trust her. "W-Would a dark mage...b-be able to send p-people into a nightmare...except...th-the nightmare is r-real. M-Maybe it has r-really scary monsters th-that can really hurt you. M-Maybe it s-sends you into a-a bad w-world...wh-where everyone is gone and wh-where everything is d-dying...or d-destroyed...C-Could it have th-the power to s-send two people at the same time?...I--"

    At this point the elf had turned and gently grabbed the younger girl's wrist. Serna immediately shut up and looked at the ground, Aaerynn softened a bit, seeing the fear and pain in the girl's face. "Calm down, alright? It's ok. Where did you hear of something like that?"

    Serna stilled and looked up at Aaerynn's face before looking away. "I um...n-nevermind...it...it w-was just a thought."

    Aaerynn furrowed her brows. It was obvious she was lying, but it seemed she was unwilling to say anything more on the subject. The wood elf remained silent as the girl finished applying the salve, and Aaerynn quickly wrapped some bandages around herself, covering the wound on her back. What Serna had said was a little too specific, especially for someone who seemed a bit naive for the world around her. Something had stuck out to her aswell, the fact that she had asked if two people could experience something like that at the same time. The wood elf pondered over it for a moment, before her thoughts closed in on the fact that the dark magic had targeted Tirian specifically. The monster hadn't even looked her way until she had shot its eye out. Aaerynn frowned, as she formed her own hypothesis.

    She finally clothed herself in some new and clean clothing and she sighed as she felt the tear in her old shirt. Serna stood as well and offered her service. "I c-can sew th-that if you want. I'm p-pretty good at it."

    Aaerynn looked at the girl and softened again. For some reason, Serna seemed to be able to tear down walls between people. She was soft and sweet, yet the gods had given her an awful fate. A girl like this shouldn't be wrapped up in thoughts of dark magic and fear. The wood elf assumed that by now if the girl had lived a normal life, she would be courting the boys she liked, perhaps sewing out of pleasure and not necessity. The things Aaerynn had 150 years or so ago, would have been her's. It was sad to think that such an innocent girl was trapped with all of this. The wood elf finally handed over the old shirt and nodded. "Thank you. I appreciate it."

    Serna smiled brightly and Aaerynn was slightly glad to see it. The wood elf finally picked up her things and whistled for Kai to come with as the two ladies finally headed back towards the settlement.

    -----------

    Upon reaching the camp, the two women finally returned to the mead hall where it seemed the group had gathered once again. Aaerynn watched as Serna immediately returned to her brother, holding the elf's shirt and asking for some needle and thread. The wood elf set her things down, as her face hardened a bit and her light blue eyes locked onto Tirian. She quickly headed over to him with a displeased look on her face. "I need to talk to you."
     
  6. The battle ended shortly after Tirian had slain his own beast, yet there seemed to be another fighter amongst the group in the distance. Vordan and Elrithos questioned her, leaving Tirian to himself as Serna returned to the rest of the group. The soldier turned towards the forest with keen eyes twitching against the wind. Something seemed devious with the recent attacks, including the ominous feeling he had been feeling upon reaching this town. Only a handful of souls were capable of such powerful dark magic, with at least one of those being an ally. Tirian furrowed his brow in thought trying to reach some conclusion as to how the other person he knew had found him so easily. That was when a gentle hand tapped the shoulder of a pondering warrior.

    Don’t worry yourself too much mister super soldier. I am sure everything is fine.”

    Tirian turned to Lucille with a warm smile and a quick nod. Lucille gave the soldier a stern thumbs-up and turned away. Tirian watched the odd female strut away with such confidence in her strides, and decided to do the same as he headed towards the mead hall to regroup with the rest of the town. However, just as Tirian made the distance to the entrance Aaerynn stopped him cold with an unpleasant look in her eyes. Tirian looked towards Serna and then back to the inquisitive wood elf with a serious look on his face.

    Is that so? The let us walk.”

    Aaerynn nodded and the two left the hall. The wood elf urged him to a more private place as she collected her thoughts. Eventually she got straight to the point. "This wasn't your first encounter with dark magic, was it?"

    Her light eyes observed his face. "Someone powerful is after you alone, aren't they?"

    Tirian knew this very question was coming, at some point or another. Tirian sighed as his thoughts of Serna telling Aaerynn became very clear and true. Tirian looked around to make sure there would not be another pair of ears listening to his next words.

    If I tell you this you will not speak of it to anyone. Rudolf knows this already, and I would like these words to be from my mouth alone. Got it?

    Aaerynn crossed her arms in front of her chest as a frown graced her lips. She nodded once to his words before answering, "I'm listening."

    My father is the King of Durandal. Maybe you’ve heard of Tyrande the Tyrant. My mother was the Queen of Imladris. Durandal is a society of magic haters. The hang anyone even affiliated with magic for public comedy. My mother saved me and took us away. My father found us and forced my mother to use her last breath to send me over to this continent. I watched my mother die, and I knew from then on my father was dead and power had corrupted him.”

    Tirian took a breath to settle his rage.

    My father commands a special unit the hunts and captures the most dangerous criminals. Their leader is pretty unknown but as far as I know they haven’t found me. So to answer your question no this isn’t my first run in with dark magic. The only way they could have found me is if we have a spy in our group or someone recognized me and wants the money.”

    Aaerynn stilled as she listened intently. She took the information in stride. "If your father and your country is so hell bent on hating magic, why would he use a force that includes a dark mage?"

    Because he controls that empire. Everyone fears him and his power. Remember when we first met how I told everyone my father was aiming to become the next Dark Emperor?”

    Aaerynn shifted her weight, cursing herself again for not paying attention to most of the group during the first stretch of the journey. She didn't remember that at all. She had remembered the princely bit, and never truly cared about it. Yet now as the information was laid between them, as well as experience, she gave Tirian her verdict. "You have to tell the rest of the group. They are here to escort Rudolf, and that is what they are being paid for. The Syndarean twins let us know of their pasts so we could deal with it. But you...Dark magic is some deep shit. The people after you, if they include others besides that mage, people can be killed. You have to let them know what they are up against, and let them decide if they wish to continue. For some of us, this is our only chance to get to the other continent. And I'm sure they, like me, want to know what they are up against."

    Ye of little faith. The thing is, we can’t be sure who or what it is. I’ve killed thousands of men. It could be any widow with money to hire someone. The most obvious choice isn’t always the first one. It could even be the Syndareans as we have already ran into them as well. This attack from the distance shit isn’t my father’s style. Trust me I would know. When the time is right and I’ve decided this is a group after me then I will tell them.”

    Tirian held out his hand extending a pinkie forward to the wood elf.

    But remember something, if they are after me. It doesn’t matter if I leave or you leave. They will find you and kill you.”

    Aaerynn couldn't help looking a bit disgruntled as she stared at his hand extended towards her. Perhaps he was right, but that didn't explain the occurrences that were surrounding him explicitly. She looked up at his face before finally remarking, "If you want me to keep quiet about this, you need to do something for me in exchange."

    "Name your price."

    Aaerynn looked down for a moment, the gears turning in her head as she tried to figure out what she wanted. Finally she looked back up as she said,"You're an heir of two thrones, right?" She paused before continuing. "I just want a small piece of property. A bit of land that I can own and use on the other continent."

    Tirian smiled, nodding at the offer.

    "Deal. When this is all said and done I will personally pay for any piece of land you desire. Deal?"

    "Deal." Aaerynn held out a hand for him to shake. "Another thing, don't worry your little pupil like this. She didn't tell me anything straightforward, but she obviously isn't the type to hold secrets."

    Tirian took Aaerynn's hand with a smile at the comment about Serna.

    "I wouldn't worry about her too much. She trusts you and I'll make sure to calm her down."

    Tirian poked the wood elf's cheek with a small smile on his face.

    "Try not to worry too much, if anything happens I've still got a trump card up my sleeve. I won't let anything happen to anyone here without giving my all first."

    Aaerynn flinched at the sudden poke and rubbed her cheek. What a strange individual. There were obviously two sides to this red headed man. One of a vicious killer, and the other of a smiling happy face portraying fake innocence. The problem was, which one was the true Tirian? Aaerynn looked over the red head once more before taking a step back to the hall. She spoke with a softer tone as she said, "Well, come on then. We should head back."

    The wood elf didn't agree about keeping this all a secret, but if she got a reward for it, she'd do it. With a piece of property, she could do as she wished, and now she'd have something to call her own in a place unknown.

    Tirian nodded and followed closely behind the elf, hoping that everything from here on out would be calm... Hoping...
     
  7. Vordan had gone back to the mead hall with the others, his eyes wandering off to where Elrithos had walked off too. There didn’t seem to be anything special down there other than the entrance of this small town… Was he leaving them? It couldn’t be so. The Aavikkanian didn’t seem to be the type to just wonder off without saying anything. He, at least, knew he could trust the words of this desert dweller. He had heard a lot of their people, especially their magic, or their lack of. The Aavikkanians also had a natural connection to magic like the wood elves did, but some, like he suspected Elrithos of being, had no connection whatsoever. It is just that their people never developed it for practical use, preferring to rely on themselves and their talents. That being said, it also meant that their sheer physical and psychological prowess was beyond most other races… It is quite rare you will see one of them losing their temper or lacking any manual skill. Their smiths too were amazing; never heard of better than theirs except for the dwarven blacksmiths.

    In his thoughts of these odd but capable beings, Vordan had marched back to his bag, opening the top flap to set those jars inside and secure them between a few vials. His curiosity picked at him again, wondering what kind of things he could make with them, tempted to just take on out and examine it… But he quickly snapped out of it, remembering Aaerynn’s word quickly. He didn’t need to do this now. So, he left the things there and went to join the others at the table. He got himself some mead, noticing the others around looking at them after this whole ordeal. Of course this would happen. They were attracting way too much attention. Vordan didn’t like having those eyes set on them, but, at least, many of those eyes were on their new arrival; the tribe woman. She didn’t look like one, but Vordan knew better than to let her attire say otherwise.

    Esredia had a kind, gentle smile on her face as she joined the others. It was the first time she was genuinely given a chance to interact normally and it felt weird to her. It wasn’t that she was shy, but she didn’t exactly know what to say. The language barrier was a big factor too. She could understand them, but she couldn’t form any long sentences or use big words. The only one who seemed to know how to speak her language would maybe be the desert elf who wasn’t there right now. And so, whenever she was asked a question, she would answer as she could, otherwise would stay quiet and listen, as she did while hunting down poor travelers.

    Serna and Aaerynn had come back, although the wood elf had left with Tirian just as quickly. Vordan knew people here had their secrets, all of them. It would be poisonous if they can’t communicate on this journey. With what just happened, it clearly meant that there was trouble for them, but from where or for what? Who’s situation was catching up to them? He could guess Tirian and his king, dark emperor thing, Aaerynn’s rot, the Twin’s escape, Rudolf’s merchandise and maybe even old enemies of Elrithos from the war. What could it be? Something, that was for sure.

    Vordan and Esredia were enjoying their time with the others, Vordan going back to light drinking while Esredia… Well, she was drinking alright. She could hold her mead, but it was clear she was enjoying this too much. She seemed to be having the time of her life really. Red cheeks, a light side to side sway and a wide, generous smile. She had a little too much maybe.

    Eventually, Aaerynn and Tirian came back, but Elrithos had yet to do so. Surprisingly enough though, he came back a little after them, a clay jug in his hand. He looked… exhausted? That wasn’t typical of him. Long, deep breaths and sweat. But, he still had his small smile. He approached them, Vordan noticing a small scar on his cheek. He had seen action, but didn’t seem too disturbed about it. What had he gone to do? He came to Esredia and put the jug in front of her. He spoke a few words, but in her native language. Her head lifted up from her mead, the wide smile wider when he heard those words. She jumped into his arms, laughing. Elrithos just laughed, helping her to her seat and took one of his own. Esredia opened the jug and started chugging the liquid down… But Vordan smelled whatever was in there and knew exactly what was going down her throat. Blood.
     
  8. Lillith watched the rest of the group from a distance. The second monster disappeared from existence leaving a silent settlement to wonder what and why. This exotic beauty had seen things of this nature before, and yet even she wondered why something so evil would ever attack innocent people. Her iced eyes closed for a moment followed by a sharp sigh to quell negative thoughts of the situation. Without hesitation in her steps, Lillith entered the mead hall and once more sat by her lonesome in a dark corner. It wasn't long before a certain pink-haired female took a seat, with an odd look on her face. The smugness of her smile and the confidence held deep in her eyes were no longer visible, rather sadness and a hesitant glaze covering her once confident eyes.

    -“Can I ask you something Lil?”-

    Lucille’s voice came as a shock, the low tone of desperation covering words displaying a hurt and lost soul. Lillith leaned in to make their conversation more personal.

    Please call me Lillith. And yes you may.”

    -Lucille nodded, turning her worried eyes to Tirian and then back towards Lillith.

    “I’m a terrible person. I’ve done things that no god could forgive. Once upon a time I was at peace with myself. Yet, lately I find myself sleepless and unable to even forgive myself for what I have been forced to do.”-

    Lillith held up a petite hand to stop the girl in her words.

    The only person who can forgive your sins, is yourself. It’s up to you and you alone to find that peace. Maybe you should begin by opening up to Tirian about whatever it is you are hiding. That is my suggestion.”

    -Lucille nodded at the exotic beaut, turning her eyes to Tirian who had joined Serna with an odd on his smile. After a long moment of awkward staring Lucille stood from the table as she regained her confidence.

    Thanks. I owe ya one. Kay?”

    Lucille walked from the table and left the mead hall to walk on her own thoughts for the time being.-

    Lillith watched the odd girl leave and wondered what her demons were on the inside. She seemed tormented much like Tirian. In fact their pain seemed too similar to overlook ad the possibility of them knowing one another was starting to become blatantly clear. This would be something to capitalize later on. Lillith slouched in her chair with her eyes closing once more to thoughts. An odd group for sure. Yet she seemed at peace with them. Each member had their special qualities that would surely aid the entire group until the very last hoof-beat of the oxen. Lillith smiled to herself slowly, silently thanking each one of the group's members.
     
  9. Serna immediately noticed the red head making a beeline towards her, and she quickly ducked her head, looking anywhere but at the Durandal soldier. She was so nervous, her hands were visibly shaking as she attempted to stitch together Aaerynn's shirt. It wasn't like she actually told Aaerynn anything. She alluded to it, sure. But she didn't really tell her, right? Serna's shoulders hunched as he came closer.

    Tirian could see the Syndarean hunching over, perhaps due to the fact she was nervous. The soldier laughed to himself before sitting down next to Serna with a warm smile. Tirian turned to the Syndarean poking her cheek to get her attention.

    "Relax. You didn't do anything wrong."

    Serna immediately flushed and looked up in surprise. "R-Really? I mean...I d-didn't really tell her...s-so..."

    She paused, looking nervous again. "I'm s-sorry..."

    "I told her. It's between the three of us. You can tell Setna but that is as far as I'd like that to go."

    Tirian placed his hand on the back of Serna's neck for some reassurance as he spoke once more.

    "Don't apologize. You did nothing wrong. Just have a bit more faith in me."

    Serna seemed to calm down with her relief, her shoulders sagging. At the mention of putting more faith in him she nodded vigorously. "I-I promise!"

    Tirian laughed to himself, even blushing a bit at the obscenely cute stuttering of the Syndarean girl. His hand returned to his own lap as smile continued to grow wider and warmer.

    "Try to have some fun and make sure you get plenty of food for energy. We restart training tomorrow!."

    "Yes!" Serna smiled brightly, glad to know she hadn't angered the red head.

    "What can you tell me?"

    Serna turned to the voice to see her brother holding two plates of food that he set down on the table in front of her. The young woman looked at Tirian for a second before returning her gaze to her brother. "I had a bad nightmare the other night...it had monsters a lot like the ones we saw today. That's why...I didn't want you to fight them. I'm sorry Set..."

    The boy didn't look too perturbed as he rubbed his sister's head. "It's alright Serie. Probably best I didn't join in, it got handled anyway. You need to eat though."

    Serna nodded and smiled causing her brother to smile back before she began to eat. In all honesty, Setna was a bit pissed. He had wanted to join in with the rest, to really see how Elrithos' training was going for him. He knew he was just sulking by this point, but it irked him that he had to stand on the sidelines. Still, his sister's well-being was more important this time around. He had to be grateful that she was alright, as well as most of the caravan. He'd get his chance another time. Hopefully.

    His eyes drifted over to the newcomer. Her red eyes were a bit bewitching, but she seemed kind. She had opened up that monster as if it were nothing too. If it weren't for her, things would have gone a lot different. If anything good were to come from this incident, Setna would have to guess it was her addition to the group.

    ---------

    Instead of returning to the tables with the others, Aaerynn headed over to the cots set up for them. She tossed her bag down beside her bed of spare blankets and sat down, running a hand through her wet hair. She thought over everything Tirian had said, and she sighed. They were going to get into some deep shit, she was sure of it. She looked up to watch the group for a moment. It seemed that Vordan had listened to her, he sat at a table, his bag nowhere near him. The tribeswoman too, seemed happy and content with a wide smile on her face. She seemed to have had a bit too much mead though, as Aaerynn watched her sway back and forth. The twins as well looked comfortable as they sat with Tirian. Finally her eyes looked toward the corner where Lucille and Lillith were talking for a moment before Lucille walked off.

    The wood elf ran her free hand across her bandaged arm, it still felt as if it were burning, but that was a fault of the rot more than anything else. The elf pursed her lips as she thought everything over. No matter what happened, she wouldn't leave this group. This was her final chance...her only chance really, for a dash of freedom. Not only were they getting a free ride to the next continent, but they were getting paid to get there. She couldn't pass up this chance. Plus now with this promise of Tirian's, Aaerynn would have a plot for herself. Her own property. Well, if his word was to be trusted.

    Aaerynn sighed as she began to braid the long strands of hair that hadn't been cut. She wanted to leave everything behind. Her family, her past, her old life. Everything. If she didn't, it wasn't likely that she would last much longer.

    The wood elf looked up as Elrithos suddenly entered, carrying a jug that he approached the tribeswoman with. He was thoughtful, wasn't he? Her hands slowly fell to her lap as her braid was finished. She looked over to Rudolf who was providing damage control, paying for alcohol, lightening the mood, calling out about how this all was a strange accident, a strange occurrence that his group had nothing to do with. Even with him buttering people up, they'd have to leave early in the morning before the whole town turned on them. Even now she could hear the whispers, and the men that had been so eager to get to know them, now kept their distance.

    The wood elf frowned before suddenly laying down and turning her back to the group. She was exhausted, both from her injuries and from the new information. It wasn't long for her to find sleep.

    Her dream however, was something she didn't expect.

    ----------

    She was small again, clutching a large book to her tiny body. She was running, the heat of fire and ash underfoot as she ran through her burning village, the screams of her people overpowering her sensitive ears. Tears filled her eyes as she cried out, "Ada!! Nana!!"

    Her mother and father didn't answer her, and the young elf tripped on her skirts. The book flew from her arms, sliding across the dirt. Aaerynn tried to scramble up to her feet but stilled, her eyes turning wide as a boot planted firmly on the leather book cover. The little elven girl looked up, quivering at the sight of white hair and white eyes, the only discernible features of the Dark Elf within the night. She ducked her head and screamed, only to quiet at the sound of arrows plunging into flesh. The Dark elf fell and Aaerynn looked up with wide eyes, trembling in fear. She was suddenly scooped up and carried, hearing the thud of boots across the ground. The young girl turned in surprise to see the face of her eldest brother Demetrius. He quickly held her head into the curve of his neck, attempting to shield her from the sights around her. He smelled of the woods still, and of bright green grass, the scent of metallic blood hadn't covered him yet. He muttered something in Elvish to her, but she couldn't hear him as more screams erupted from beside them. Aaerynn looked up from her brother's shoulder, only to watch in horror as elves were beaten into the ground, shackles latched onto their limbs. Bags were placed over heads and they were dragged off into the darkness by huge orcs and smiling Dark elves whose white teeth beamed from the shadows.

    "Av-'osto, Ryn...Don't be afraid! Hold tightly." Her brother's words were strong and in a single motion Aaerynn wrapped her arms around her eldest brother's neck, as he unsheathed his blade. He took down an orc in a single swipe as he continued to run. He was fast, she could feel the power as his muscles twitched underneath her and twisted before arrows could land on their mark.

    He reached a small hideaway within the trees, and quickly handed her over to Lysander, who was still lanky and filled with adolescence. Aaerynn could barely hear them now. Lysander began to argue in elvish, begging his brother to let him fight. Demetrius assured him that everything would be fine, and he would best serve protecting the family. Aaerynn could only watch with fear as her eldest brother reached out to her, placing a large hand on her head before turning his back on them and returning to the battlefield, where the fierce eyes of a human could be seen, rushing towards them. Lysander didn't wait a moment longer before he rushed into the woods, holding Aaerynn tightly to his chest. It didn't take him long to find the group of refugees waiting for any last survivors. Lysander quickly found their parents, where he handed her over to her mother. Her mother smothered Aaerynn into her chest, the elven child could feel her mother's rapid heartbeat and the desperation in her voice as she muttered, "Let me keep this one...Gods let me keep this one."

    Her father urged them forward, but the sound of an explosion and the heat of fire caused people to scream. Aaerynn was held close to her mother as her family began to run through the woods. She could only look back at some of the elves caught up in the inferno, burning alive.

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

    Aaerynn jolted awake, breathing hard as she quickly sat up with wide eyes. Sweat dripped down her face, and the wood elf quickly wiped it away with the back of her hand. What the hell was that? Her breathing turned heavy as she held her head in her hands for a moment, trying to collect herself. It had been a long time since she had thought of the war. Most of it had been forgotten as the centuries had drifted by. But the fact that a memory like that could sneak up on her was a bit disturbing.

    The female elf finally looked up, seeing that the hall was filled with darkness. There was the sound of a few people awake and going about their business, while the others were still asleep. Aaerynn rubbed her bandaged arm, feeling pain begin to resonate as her rot riled up at the nightmare. She'd have to change the bandages soon, she could already feel the black blood seeping from her burned flesh. The wood elf eventually stood, staggering a bit as she made her way outside into the fresh air. It was just a few moments before dawn and the cold air felt nice on her hot skin. She could hear the sound of a sword swinging and she looked over to see that she wasn't the only one awake and outside.

    Setna stood tall as he practiced by himself. He had undone his cloak and most of his armor as he swung his blade against invisible enemies. Sweat glistened across his face as he shifted and dodged, finally swinging as he saw his invisible chance. Aaerynn watched him for a few minutes before heading over to a tall and sturdy tree. She took her time as she began to climb it, only stopping at the highest branch that could still hold her weight. She kept a hand on the trunk as she sat and looked out over the horizon. The sun was only just beginning to rise, a few rays peeking out from the tree line. Aaerynn watched the sunrise as her thoughts slowly tried to mend themselves back together.

    Why did that memory come to her in particular? She couldn't even remember what the book she had been carrying was or why she had felt it so important that she had to take it with her. The vision of the Dark elf had unsettled her the most though, and the wood elf felt herself shudder. Perhaps she was over thinking things. The addition of the tribeswoman had probably stirred up some long lost memories she had chosen to repress, that was all. Aaerynn sighed and rubbed her sore arm again as she kept her eyes on the sunrise.

    It wouldn't be too much longer until Rudolf would be ready to go and they'd be on the road again.
     
  10. Tirian stood from the wooden chair leaving Serna to her brother and moved towards the cots just as Aaerynn had done earlier. The soldier collapsed onto the bed feeling the effects of the day’s battle and just as like a light, he was out for the count. His mind faded into the darkness of a forced sleep even through the loud bantering of the mead hall a stone’s throw from his resting place. From the distance Lucille watched the sleeping red-head wondering exactly how she should approach him about everything she had been hiding. Tomorrow, before the caravan set out for the day. Lucille nodded to herself and picked a cot of her own to sleep on for the night. However her rest did not come easy as her body began to sweat and she tossed throughout the rest of the evening. After a long struggle against her own rushing mind the guilt ridden female finally found serenity in losing consciousness.

    Tirian stretched himself awake in the wee hours of the morning, before many of the others had decided to grace the morning with their presence. Lucille had been awake for a few minutes waiting for the red-head to stir from his sleep. Lucille approached Tirian calling out to him with a silent tone as to not wake the other sleepers.

    Tirian… Can I ask a favor?”

    The soldier turned to face the smug female who’d done nothing but cause drama thus far and yet her tone seemed oddly innocent. Tirian shrugged to himself and decided on the spot to humor the girl and maybe get some information out of her as a bonus.

    Sure. What do you need?”

    Lucille rubbed the back of her neck nervously fumbling to find the right words, while not coming off as a total clutz. After a moment of silence the shaking female presented her question.

    Would you… like to train with me…before everyone gets up?”

    Tirian gave Lucille and odd look, trying to decipher where this was coming from. Her question and attitude was completely different from before. Even her tone was oddly different. Tirian just smiled at Lucille as he spoke.

    Sure grab your stuff and meet me at the carts. “

    Tirian turned from the pink-haired girl with a wave and exited the mead hall. Lucille followed quickly behind with only her sword. Tirian waved once more to Lucille as she motioned for him to move away from the rest of the settlement. Without a word Lucille drew her blade and attacked the soldier. Tirian drew his blade and clashed with her own sending beautiful sparks wildly into the distance. Tirian stepped backwards into a defensive slash which met cold steel of his opponent’s blade. Lucille stepped in with a thrust of her own, leading into a horizontal slash that sent sparks exploding from their weapons. Lucille pushed off of the elven blade and lunged forward for a kill shot. Tirian’s eyes narrowed as he easily parried the blade away using the momentum of his opponents attack to slam the hilt of his weapon into Lucille’s stomach with ferocious power. Lucille screamed in agony and hit her knees with blood trickling down the corners of her mouth.

    You’re an odd girl Lucy.”

    Tirian sheathed his weapon while kneeling down to eye level with the suspicious girl.

    I’m sorry.”

    Lucille coughed up more blood as tears streamed from her face. Tirian sat on the ground while waiting for the girl’s explanation. Lucille rolled backwards with another grunt of pain. A long moment passed over until finally the pain lowered enough for the pink-haired Lucille to explain herself.

    We know each other Tirian. We were in the same group during the Ring of Blood.”

    Tirian’s eyes narrowed as his brows furrowed.

    Prove it.”

    His tone was cold, as his inner beast began to boil over. If Lucille chose the wrong words then her life would be cut short. Lucille looked up to Tirian who had grown an entirely new face. She swallowed down the fear she felt and proceeded forward.

    Your last opponent was your best friend. Ezrael. You beat him to death with your bare fists.”

    Tirian’s mouth opened in shock as Lucille inched forward. Tirian froze in place as Lucille touched his cheek with her right hand. However she retracted her hand to her lap as she sat in front of the red-haired warrior.

    I’m an assassin. I was sent here to take you out. I don’t know who ordered it but I can tell you they paid five thousand gold coins with Durandal markings.”

    Tirian finally regrouped his emotions and sighed to himself. Lucille meant well, that he was sure off. Otherwise he wouldn't be here breathing as he was now. This peculiar girl had many opportunities to end his life as she was instructed to do and yet she did not take them. The soldier believed everyone deserved another chance and that was what Lucille would be given. His tone changed to kinder and warmer as he spoke softly.

    I figured that much. I appreciate the honesty. Where do you plan on going from here?”

    Lucille shrugged to herself.

    I can’t return home without proof you’re dead.”

    Tirian nodded to himself.

    Then stay with us. You’ve seen just as much war as I have. Anyone that survived Durandal has a spot in my heart. But you have to do a few things for me.”

    Lucille looked up to Tirian in complete surprise.

    First you apologize to Aaerynn, and take whatever she gives you. Second, you cut ties with whatever group it is you’re working with. Thirdly you give me any information you have on my father and the Durandal war. Got it?”

    Lucille quickly nodded to the prince and stood up just as he did. Tirian threw the girl’s blade over to her with a smile on his face as new beginnings began to unfold right before his very eyes. Lucille sheathed the weapon and extended her hand forward, meeting Tirian’s in a firm handshake to acknowledge their newfound deal.

    Don’t worry about today. It’s between us as long as you want it to be.”

    Lucille nodded and then turned away to head for the carts without a word to the soldier behind her. All the talking was done and she needed to prove she wanted to live without guilt. Tirian followed behind her while noticing the others were starting to wake up to the beautiful atmosphere. Tirian entered the mead hall looking for Serna and decided to wait for the resting Syndarean to wake for her training.

    Setna had walked into the hall, preparing hopefully for another lesson with Elrithos if he had the time. He noticed Tirian however, and smiled a bit before wiping the sweat off his forehead. He approached slowly, calling out to the red head, "You'll be waiting all day if you don't wake her yourself."

    He then walked over to his sister and gave her a vigorous shake. "Serna!....Serna!!...Serie!"

    The girl finally woke up, whining a bit as she rubbed her eyes. Setna grinned and gave her a small shove to motivate her. "C'mon Serie, you're making Tirian wait."

    That finally gave her the push to sit up, looking a bit frantic until her eyes focused on the redhead. "S-Sorry!"

    Tirian smiled to himself., giving Setna and Serna a small wave.

    "I'll be at the carts, come out when you're ready!"

    Tirian turned from his spot and exited the mead hall once more.

    Serna gave her brother a stern look and a small push making Setna laugh as she hurried out of the cot and got ready. She quickly followed out of the mead hall in the direction of Tirian and stopped at the carts to catch her breath. "R-Ready!"

    Tirian nodded, reaching into a sack and pulling out two solid stones that were spherical in shape. Tirian gently tossed both stones to Serna with a warm tone.

    "Today we are going to work on bending the shield."

    Serna caught the stones, trying carefully not to drop them. She looked at Tirian curiously before hearing his explanation. She nodded in agreement, her determination coming through. She looked at the stones though, curious as to what they were going to be used for.

    Tirian sat on the ground with his back against the cart.

    "Pick one of the stones you feel more comfortable with. Then try melding your shield around the stone to cover every little crevice and crease in that stone."

    Serna nodded before sitting down herself. She looked at both of the stones, feeling the weight in her hands. She looked over their shape, careful of the cracks and different edges. Eventually she chose her favorite, placing the other stone on the ground, she nervously looked at the one she had chosen. She took a deep breath, concentrating on the subtle hum of her magic. She exhaled before finally hovering a hand over the stone, working the small barrier to the best of her ability. By this point she was able to wrap the magic around the stone completely, but it still looked stiff. There were odd angles, and places where the barrier couldn't conform to the rock's shape. It was like wrapping it in something thick and solid. Her brows furrowed as she struggled to shape it better.

    Tirian watched the girl's progress as the barrier covered the stone completely. Even with all of the odd angles and imperfect coverage Tirian was thoroughly impressed with the Syndarean's quick progress. She was without a doubt a natural with magic and was practically teaching herself. Tirian scooted closer to the girl to observe in finer detail.

    "You're doing well. When you're comfortable try doing both stones at the same time."

    Tirian had great confidence in the Sydarean, showing it in his face and smile as she continued forward with her training.

    The teen was startled by the man's voice and the barrier dissipated with a rush of light. Serna flushed at the compliment and nodded, doing her best to get better. She tried once more, focusing solely on the task at hand. She wanted to make it perfect before moving onto a second stone. It had to be just right. From the spar between Tirian and her brother, she had found a way to quickly provide barriers, and to bend them so that fists could be deflected away. But conforming her magic to something so small as a stone, was incredibly difficult. She hadn't yet figured out a way to make her magic more fluid, but that didn't mean she would stop trying. Sweat broke out across her brow as she concentrated.

    Tirian leaned in and poked Serna's cheek softly.

    "Don't over work yourself. Take it slow."

    The girl jumped again, startled to the point that she dropped the stone. Serna sighed softly and wiped her forehead before picking up the little rock once more. This time however, she merely played with it with her fingers, getting a better feel for it. "I want to get b-better."

    Tirian nodded at the Syndarean preparing for advice to give her.

    "You don't have much confidence in yourself. You let your mind get the best of yourself. Have confidence in yourself, not only in magic but everything. Have confidence in your speech, your walk and your appearance. That's the best I can offer at this point."

    Serna looked at him in surprise, before slowly withdrawing within herself. She looked down at the small stone in her hand. For most of her life, this is what she felt like, just a small stone, getting kicked along. It was hard having confidence, when she was given a gift she wasn't suppose to have. The nuns had taught her modesty, to only speak when being spoken to, to know that her life wasn't her own. How was she supposed to have confidence in an ability that shunned her from her own society, that took her away from her mother and family? That caused her brother and father shame even if Setna didn't want to recognize it. She couldn't have confidence when she wasn't supposed to be alive anymore. Nor could she have confidence when eventually the gods would punish them for running away, when their own people would hunt them down, merely because she had this stupid magic when she wasn't supposed to. What exactly was confidence? Why bother when everything came to the same end? She was on borrowed time that would soon come to an end because it had to, that was the way the world worked.

    The tears came before Serna could even recognize that she was crying, a few droplets dripping down onto the stone itself. That made her mad, for a reason she couldn't recognize anymore and the girl concentrated even harder on her magic. This time it wrapped around the stone fluidly, matching the small girl's rage at herself, and masked the stone completely. This surprised her, causing her rage to disappear completely with mild wonderment, only for her magic to dissipate as well, leaving only a subtle headache in its wake.

    Tirian watched the girl's face stream with tears, and just as he was about to console her a iridescent purple barrier wrapped around the stone with perfect precision. Tirian smiled and reached for Serna's cheek.

    "Good job. Take a break and talk with me. Tell me what you're feeling. Just let whatever comes to your mind out without thinking."

    Serna wiped her face, feeling the dull thump in her head from her use of magic. She looked back at the stone, rolling it in her palm. Eventually she shook her head, not feeling much like talking, but she let him into some of her thoughts. "I'm...mad..." She spoke slowly, trying her best not to stutter, and to have some confidence in what she is saying.

    "Why?"

    Tirian responded quickly trying to capitalize on the moment.

    Serna turned quiet before looking up at Tirian. "Because..." She paused, holding her breath for a moment, letting her thoughts simmer in the back of her mind. "Because I have to die for something I didn't want, I didn't ask for. Be...Because I was t-...taken from my mother...my family f-for this. Because...I'm here be...because of this. This...stupid magic."

    The girl looked down, struggling to not stutter while speaking her mind. She shook her head. "Why was it me? ....My brother and I, we're the same. Why did he not get it? If he had this...everything would have been fine. I would still be home. I would be happy. We would be happy. My father would be proud of my brother and we would have been a happy family. But now we're here! We've already almost died! I can't even learn this right! I keep failing and failing and failing!"

    At this point, Serna was beginning to stand overcome with anger, and her voice rose in pitch. "I can't do anything right! You tell me to have confidence but how can I? I was born to die! Born to die for the sake of my people....for what? For stupid, uncontrollable magic....We're twins, the gods made us twins! How could this have happened!? I was taken away from everything and everyone! I wasn't allowed to see my mother, or my friends! I wasn't allowed to continue my life like a normal girl! Instead both me and Setna are stuck here, trying to reach the other continent, trying to find someplace to live because our home can't be our home anymore. But then of course there is the chance that we won't even make it! They'll find us and kill us both and that's the last thing I want to happen. My brother sacrificed everything for me....for me that can't get it right...for me that can't even use this magic properly....for me that should be dead by now...If he had just forgotten me, if he had just left it alone, he would have been happy! But no...now we're both probably going to die! If not by our own people, by monsters, or bandits, or dark magic, or something else....because there's always something else! That's why I'm mad...I'm so mad I can barely stand it."

    By the end of her long rant, Serna was left breathless and teary eyed. She had gone off on a tangent, everything she had felt since her and her brother had left home had come spilling out of her. She stood there, suddenly incredibly vulnerable and extremely sad as she tried not to cry. "I-I-I'm s-sorry..."Her voice turned quiet now as she held in her sobs.

    Tirian stood up and flicked the girl's forehead.

    "Fate is what you make it. No one is born into anything. You have little faith in yourself and everyone else around you. I can understand why, from where you came from."

    Tirian got closed to Serna and his tone softened.

    "They may find you but I can promise you that no matter who they send or what they send at you, you nor Setna will die. You speak of gods and yet I don't see any of them smiting you down. If the 'gods' we re so angry at you abandoning your so called fate then wouldn't they have taken your life already? These gods you speak off are either weak or incompetent. Or maybe even both. How do you think Setna would feel if he had to watch you burn at the stake? How could you even begin to explain how he feels? That boy has a love for you that no one but he could ever understand. Take life for what it is. Make your own fate rather than blaming everyone else or accepting what you've been told."

    Tirian took in a deep breath calming his tone that had risen slightly.

    "You're a smart girl Serna. You're beautiful and believe it or not you don't fuck everything up. You have some amazing qualities anyone would kill for. Besides. You've got me to protect you, and I'd bet there isn't very many people in this world that will stand toe to toe with me."

    Serna looked up at Tirian with wide eyes, surprised by her answer to her outspoken thoughts. Tears slowly blossomed and the girl's nose scrunched up, her face becoming blotchy as she listened to him. She bowed her head as she cried and nodded in agreement with him. "Mmm!"

    He was right, she needed to have more faith, both in herself, in her brother and the others too. She had to keep working hard. She wanted to live. She wanted her brother to live too. Everything would work out, she just needed to work hard. She held her hands in front of her face as she cried softly, letting go of her thoughts and of her anger. She would keep pushing through, no matter what. For everyone, because she had to. But mostly, she would fight for herself.

    Tirian smiled, bringing a hand to the girl's chin to lift it up.

    "Let's get ready to go, I am sure Rudolf will be ready to leave any moment now."

    Serna nodded, wiping away the remains of her tears. "R-Right...Thank you."
     
  11. The morning was like any other really, except for the conditions they were in. It didn’t bother Elrithos that much, being someone who travelled constantly in the past 200 or so years. It was allow the presence of so many people in this large building that made him uncomfortable. He didn’t know why, but large gatherings like this when people were weary of them didn’t help his conscious a lot. He still found enough sleep for that night, but he wished it was at ease and not stressed out about what possible outcomes could come of this.

    Gathering his things, he checked out if Vordan, Setna and Esredia were awake or not. To his surprise, Vordan and Setna didn’t seem to be in their cot, although Esredia was snoring in like a hibernating bear. He couldn’t help but smile as he geared up and then walked across the hall to go outside. He looked around, seeing if any of them were near, and actually found Setna quite easily. The young man was practicing against “invisible” enemies. That brought a large smile on his face, knowing how he went through the same thing when no one was around. It was great practice if one had a good imagination.

    He slowly walked towards him, knowing he’d have to go through to get to the cart anyway. He waited until he was done his maneuvers before interfering, nodding once he got his attention. “Early and already at it. That is great to see Setna. You ready for this morning’s training? I have something special. We are going to work on what you lack most.” He said as he motioned to follow towards the cart. He quickly unstrapped two quarterstaffs and handed one to Setna.

    No sword training today. We are going to boost you confidence in combat this morning, work on staying committed and judging your opponent.” He said softly, still a smile on his face. “It’s going to be a lot to take, but I think it will prove my point for what you need to improve on. Your combat skills with a shield and weapons won’t be a bother after you learn this.

    -- Setna sheathed his blade at the voice of Elrithos and smiled wide at the praise. He eagerly followed the Desert elf to the carts, wiping a bit of sweat off his face. He may not have had the opportunity to fight yesterday, but a good training session would definitely help raise his spirits. His excitement quickly turned into confusion however as Elrithos handed him a quarterstaff and then implied that they wouldn't be using swords. This...would be rough.

    The Syndarean didn't waste time though, he unlatched his sword from his waist, setting it on the ground as his eyes took in the staff in his hands. It looked more like a stick, but it was sturdy, with a lot of weight. He ran a hand along the staff's surface before squaring in front of Elrithos. "Uh... I'm going to be honest, I have absolutely no idea how to use this sort of thing."

    It was a little embarrassing to admit, he had a little bit of training in a wide array of weapons, yet a wooden staff had him defeated. Still, he would learn, and that's what mattered. He looked eager enough, shifting his hold on the staff and feeling its weight.—

    Elrithos was astonished to hear that he had never used a quarterstaff before. It was the first he heard someone who trained as a soldier without using one of these. How could it be? If they learnt by themselves, like Vordan, he could understand. Yet this was not normal, at least, from an Aavikkanian’s point of few. Although it was more steel quarterstaffs they had in the desert, the principal remained the same. So, he laughed lightly, giving a good tap on the young man’s shoulder. “Do not worry, young man, this is probably the most intuitive weapon you can get your hands on.

    He moved them away from the carts so they had space, bringing along a spear. Then, when he found somewhere with enough space, he planted the spear into the ground and walked away from it. “This spear represents your sister. I represent one of those Executioners.” He said, turning to face Setna. Yes, he was going into delicate subjects, but it would pull out what he needed to see from the young man. He started twirling the stick around and paying it no mind, a sort of show of skill to get the man’s moral down. “Protect her. Buy her some time. Do as you wish, but if I come close to the spear, she’s dead.” He stopped his maneuvers and held the stick like a spear. “Think you can do it?

    -- Setna's face had hardened as soon as Elrithos made mention that the spear would represent his sister. His focus tightened as he took a deep calming breath. There was no way in hell he was going to let Elrithos close to the spear, no way. He'd fight until he was beaten into a pulp if that's what it took. The boy moved the staff in his hands to get a more comfortable grip as he readied himself. "I can do it."

    He took another slow breath as he watched the desert elf. The only thing he had to do was remember the lessons from before. He needed to be confident, strike hard, and not hesitate. He could do this. Setna wouldn't question himself like before. –-

    There, he got the reaction he wanted. It was a soft spot to hit, but he needed to make Setna understand that you cannot hesitate in combat or it will cost him much more than his own life. He would make it through though, he could see it. So, he put a foot forward, his hands still holding the quarterstaff like a spear. “Don’t be afraid to actually hit me. I can take a beating. Just don’t aim for the head or the ankles.” He said, taking one step forward, a firm grip on his weapon. Being the attacker, he dashed forth and immediately saw Setna putting himself between him and the spear. He wasn’t going to let him any chances and it was exactly what Elrithos needed to see.

    The first few charges, Setna did exactly as he needed, not hesitating on putting himself in the midst of attacks and maneuvers. The quarterstaff had the advantage to be used in various ways, allowing for a more unpredictable combat tactic, but Setna was holding it like the typical staff. Not a bad thing, but when he realizes he can do so much more with it, he’d realize how diversified his own weapons could be also. Elrithos started simply circling around for a moment. This time, he’d be harsher on him. He’d use what he could to pass him. Once he falls, Elrithos would move towards the spear, hoping for a quick comeback even though Setna would hit the ground.

    -- Setna was struggling a bit, he was doing his best not to hesitate, and kept placing himself between Elrithos and his target. But it still felt like it wasn't enough. Just as he thought this though, Elrithos suddenly outmaneuvered him and Setna was left on the ground. His eyes widened as Elrithos moved past him, and the teenager immediately got back up to his feet. Fuck, fuck, fuck. It wasn't enough though, he had to move fast. Think. Think.

    He did the first thing he could think of and threw the staff, pegging Elrithos straight in the back. He wasn't done though. He knew that wouldn't be enough to strike the elf to the ground so he had been sprinting, as soon as he let go of the staff, hoping the peg would stall Elrithos' motion for just a second. He kept his head down and weight low as he then tackled the Aavikkanian, sending both of them into the dirt. Setna breathed hard for a second, realizing he had landed the hit, before springing back up to his feet. He held his hand out to Elrithos, looking a bit embarrassed for his rushed tactics. "Sorry...I couldn't let you get to that spear."—

    There, the maneuver was done and Elrithos could start going for the spear. He wondered what the young man would do, as there was very little distance to close for him to actually grab the spear. Setna had done and amazing job at keeping him at bay, now it would be to see if he would go beyond what he thought he would. He picked up the young man stepping to his feet, but nothing else… That’s when he felt something hit his back. Elrithos turned, stopping in his tracks to see what had hit him from that distance. He saw the staff hit the ground, surprised he had THROWN his weapon towards him… And yet, it was exactly what the young man seemed to need.

    The tackle brought the both of them to the ground, Elrithos unable to stay on his feet. Elrithos was impressed that Setna ditched his weapons in favor for pure raw force to take him down. Not bad. He probably did not think about his size, because something like that on Vordan or even Rudolf wouldn’t have been as effective. Nonetheless, the young man got to his feet swiftly. He looked up at his hand and his pardon, shaking his head and smiling. “Don’t be sorry… but…” Elrithos quickly grabbed his hand and pulled him down, his feet pushing up against his stomach and flipped Setna over him. He rolled with the motion and finished flipping back on top the young man, a hand grabbing at his collar. “I never said it was over. And, you never finished me off. Don’t stop until you KNOW your enemy is down. And don’t accept mercy if it is someone that threatened your life or those of your comrades… Otherwise, nicely done. You didn’t hesitate a second and followed through with your actions. Did you notice a difference when you lacked confidence or drive and now?

    -- Setna's back hit the ground hard, knocking the air from his lungs as Elrithos flipped him over. He was too stunned to do anything as Elrithos flipped on top of him and grabbed his collar. The boy wheezed a bit, trying to catch his breath before grinning wide. He took a moment before answering the elf's question with a bit of a cocky response, "Yeah, I notice a lot more opportunities and options."

    For instance, Elrithos still hadn't said it was over and he had taken the elf's words to heart. Setna grabbed Elrithos wrists and drove his elbows into the crook of the Aavikanian's elbows to unlatch them and give him some more wiggle room. He was hoping to take the elf by surprise as he tried to dig his knee into Elrithos' side, using his hips and core as a source of power to hopefully roll, or better toss, the Desert elf off of him. As soon as he could break free he'd go for his staff again. He'd keep fighting this time, until he was beaten or the elf decided to stop. He wouldn't take a lesson for granted.—

    More opportunities and options was just the beginning of it… Yet there had been no time for the desert elf to explain it. His grip failed to stay grasped onto the young man’s collar, completely removed with a swift maneuver. With another strong push, Elrithos was tossed a little further, letting him roll on the ground before he got back up to his feet. Impressed by the action he had taken, Elrithos knew he couldn’t grab a quarterstaff now. Setna would grab his and the other one would be out of reach… Things were getting interesting.

    The two went at it for a little while, Elrithos eventually breaking the training when the both of them needed some water and a breather. Although not as exhausted as Setna, he had a good workout from that. He went for the water skins he brought and tossed one over to the young man. “Good work. Finally got that hesitation out of you. Now, do this with a blade and a shield, you’ll go a long way my friend.

    -- Setna fell back on his butt as he breathed hard, covered in his own sweat. He caught the water skin and chugged down a good bit of water. He finally sighed in satisfaction, wiping his lips, and giving a weary yet accomplished grin. "I'll get better and better. Thank you for taking the time to teach me."

    With that, he laid back a moment, taking in the fresh air. His body was aching all over, a few muscles burning from the strain he had put them through. But he felt good, and a lot better. He could feel himself getting a bit stronger each day, but he still wanted to push for more...because there was always someone better and always another goal to reach. Finally the boy sat up, just as Rudolf called out that the caravan was set to move.

    The boy struggled to his feet a bit, willing his aching muscles to continue doing his bidding. He smiled again at Elrithos, "More later?" –

    Elrithos had turned his head towards the carts when he heard the old dwarf call out that it was time to go. They would be going on, even after the events of the other day. He wondered if Vordan had actually worked on those things like he said he would. It was unlikely, he was pretty sure he had not touched it that whole night. It was probably for the best.

    He looked back at the young man, that small smile of his still pinned onto his lip. “We will if our travels are uneventful. I’ll get the thing back to our carts; meet you there with the others.” He started gathering their training supplies and headed for the cart that held all of the weapons he had purchased.

    -------------
    Vordan had been up early that morning, before the sunset. He wanted to see that sun come up that morning. After everything that had happened the day before, he needed a little reminder that life had to be taken day by day. He wished he didn’t have to worry about too much, but it wasn’t the reality of things. With the people gathered and whatever past they had, things were going wrong. Dark magic, the Rot, the Syndarian executioners; all of this meant life was much more dangerous than before. Besides, these people needed help, ALL of them. Vordan didn’t have any issues per say, but hell, he liked helping out when he could. So, he would… and this morning, he wanted to talk to one of these troubled people that morning.

    He stayed to see the sun rise, a smile on his face before getting up and going to get the person he needed to talk to. It took him a little while to find him, oddly not with Serna. But there, he was, at the carts, sitting down on the ground. He seemed to be a very light sleeper. Can’t blame him either, especially with all the crap that was happening.
    He made his way towards him, a loud whistle echoing through the air to catch their attention. “Hey! Tirian! Need to talk to you. And no, this isn’t to share some secrets of anything like that.” He said, a smile on his face. A lot seemed to be passed on in terms of secrets lately and really, he wasn’t too much into that. He knew that most, if not everyone know about his magic anyway, so there was nothing to worry about. He came closer so that he didn’t have to shout. “Need to talk about some possible… side-effects of magic.

    - Tirian had finished up with Serna and resided by the carts. The soldier sat against the splintered wood allowing the wind to cool his face, attempting to gain some peace in the recent events. As the silence fell onto his ears his mind began to place everything recently passed together. A constant image of his father flashed in his mind as a constant reminder, he nor anyone in this world was safe from the coming darkness. He knew his fate was set, and only he could break the evil grip on the citizens of his beloved home. Tirian gripped his fingers together into tight fists until a loud whistle broke his rage inducing thoughts as Vordan approached him from the distance. Tirian stood to his feet and dusted his thighs off from the dusty floor of the earth, giving Vordan a kind wave and speaking in an easy and warm tone.

    "Sure, I'm all ears."-

    Seeing that red-haired warrior didn’t mind, he knew this would go done much more easily than he would anticipate. He wondered how much he knew about magic and its complexity and everything. Since he was teaching someone to use it, he wanted to make sure they he wasn’t given her any faulty lessons. He seemed to be doing quite well with her, but he wanted to make sure nothing would happen to the lot of them.

    Leaning up against one of the carts, he set his bag and equipment down on the ground. Taking in a deep breath, he turned to look at the red-haired warrior, a light smile on his lips. “You seem to be teaching Serna quite well there. I imagine your magic is in your blood and not learnt or taken from other entities? Rare things for humans to have that aren’t Makers, Sorcerers or descendant of a magically inclined race. Self-trained I would imagine too?” He was going to ask all the questions. He needed to know what he could. HE already knew quite a lot about Sern’a magic and how everything worked. Tirian’s magic looked like natural elemental connections to fire and lightning, although it could be anything.

    - "You're correct. I inherited my magic. And no I am not self-trained. Believe it or not my mother taught me everything I know."

    Tirian leaned his back against the carts, deciding the time for secrets was gone and past with everything that happened in recent times. Somethings were better kept hushed but everyone in the caravan needed a big leap of trust to keep things consistent with their fights. Tirian stretched his arms outwards before continuing the answers Vordan were seeking.

    "My mother was elvish. However that would only be half of my magic inheritance. My fire element comes from my father and I couldn't honestly tell you what ancestry I have on that side."

    Tirian smiled towards the distance before adding his own comment.

    "I imagine yours is learned, meaning you know more about magic than I do." –

    Inherited from his ancestry. That much, he could now confirm that his magic was manipulated by will and emotion, by the strength of his person and not the precision of his knowledge. That was probably a good thing, considering that magic’s complexity when it wasn’t natural went into things that were completely ridiculous. He brought his hand up to scratch his chin, just as he said that his mother was an elf. His lips parted in surprise, his eyes wide. An elf he said? Well that changes the game completely. He considered what he just heard a moment, his eyes now lost in the horizon.

    Elven mother… That explains the high potency to releasing the inner magic of Serna… You must have inherited mostly from your father. You don’t have any traits of an elf.” He wandered off the topic a second before snapping back into this whole magic thing. “Anyway. How much do you know about the workings of inner magic? You seem to know more than enough for teaching others…” He sighed a moment. “I know, I sound like a jerk right now. I’m doubting your knowledge of magic. Sorry for that… It’s just that most beings that have this magic that they are born with don’t typically study what their getting into and… Just trying to make sure you and Serna will be ok with the magic you have.” Vordan wasn’t great at being telling people he had lots of knowledge that could help other magic users.

    - Tirian quickly shook his head and shrugged as Vordan began to explain himself.

    "I wouldn't say you're being a jerk, but rather careful. Teaching magic is dangerous and one false move ends up with a severely injured person or even death. I appreciate the concern you show and I can tell you confidently that I know enough about inner magic that Serna will learn well. I can also tell you I know my magic inside and out to the very finite limit my body can go. I also know every person is different, and every person's limits are based on their body. Natural magic is like blood to that user. It builds up and needs releases over time, like a haircut but with more dangerous consequences."

    Tirian trailed off for a moment as his eyes wandered towards the mead hall.

    "I care for Serna, she's an innocent girl who can have a bright future. The world has given her a terrible start and I'd like to see it through she gets what she deserves in life. Her and Setna both."

    Tirian turned to Vordan with a more serious gaze in his eyes as he continued.

    "My outside appearance is mostly human, however my muscles are elvish. If you've noticed the fights I can move faster than humans and I have more strength as well. I don't have the hearing or the outward appearance of an elf."

    The soldier took in a deep breath before continuing the pleasant conversation.

    "I don't know much about magic. I know enough to teach someone how to find their magic and to find their limits, which is exactly what I'm doing. I've made it clear Serna is to not use this magic unless absolutely necessary. Until we can get Thialea to someone that can teach her better than anyone else alive right now." –

    The message he wanted to convey actually went through smoothly, which was a little bit of relief for the mercenary. He could relate that magic of all kinds were extremely dangerous if used improperly or simply abused by its user. Vordan knew a thing or two about abusing of it; almost came close to taking his life more than once, especially when he tried to dabble with Dark Magic. He wished to never use it again, but in the back of his mind, it was clear that it would happen again eventually. It was simply when it would happen that he couldn’t tell yet.

    The man went on about Serna and her innocence. Yes, Syndarians were crazy, he’d give him that. Those idiots hadn’t evolved like others did and stuck to their roots like an ancient tree in the forest of elves. It was actually pleasant talking to the guy. He wasn’t what he had expected from the beginning of their journey. Not uptight, not a young fool like he expected. No, the man had a brain and a heart behind all of his… grandness? He couldn’t word it for himself, but he knew what he meant. So, he looked back in front of him, towards the other carts, having heard that he didn’t know much about Barrier magic. Scratching his neck, he couldn’t help adding a few details that might help him.

    Well, it’s not as dangerous as people think Syndarian Barrier magic is. Yes, it takes a good amount of energy and a strong body to maximize its potential, but a proper use of it can also maximize. What kills most of the idiot warriors out there is sustained use. The actual amount of energy to create the barrier is barely anything, it’s keeping it up that drains you. Strength of will also determines how solid it is… That’s one thing with inner magic that kills people. If you are not determined or hesitant to use it, the backfire can be worst… But you must already know that.

    It was apparent Vordan was rambling on stuff he seemed to know. He knew Syndarian barrier magic in and out. It was maybe the fourth or fifth type of magic he studied. He tapped his chin with his fingers.

    Oh! Right, the thing I wanted to say. Now, I don’t know how you are teaching Serna to release her magic, but if you are using your own… Energy? No, that’s not the word… Your own “vibration” of magic to help her seek her own, be careful. Inner magic as some weird side effects, since it is linked to our own bodies, energy, emotion and will. Seeing the little I saw, I’m worried you’ll create a bond, or more simple, matching or similar “vibrations” that might start linking your… souls together. They are rare cases, the effects are both positive and negative, but it is a bitch to handle. If you ever start feeling her feelings without warning, or feel her magic at work when you aren’t supposed to, or even start dreaming in the same consciousness, I’d be careful. I’m sure you already know all this. Elves typically make great teachers of Inner magic and learnt magic. Especially elemental magic and nature’s magic. Their instinctive connection makes it soo much easier… I’m rambling on, ain’t I.

    He laughed a little, realizing he said a lot for so little.

    - Tirian listened to the man's speech, appreciating his concern and marveling in his knowledge of magic. The soldier laughed with Vordan as his long monologue came to a subtle close. Vordan's knowledge was vast, and his attitude was much different than what Tirian had judged in the beginning. A long moment passed before Tirian replied with a quick sentence of assurance.

    "You would be right, I know most of what you're saying, not to the extent you do obviously but my mother made sure to warn me of all the nitty gritty details."

    Tiriain replayed a distinct female voice in his head, not one of his mother but someone else very close to his heart. Her icy tone warned him of his magic and what could happen to him if he wasn't careful. What Vordan had described, Tirian knew. Perhaps he knew too well from his training with the elves of Imladris. Some would say magic is gift and others would call it a burden. Tirian looked down to his hands that had been covered by special gloves made to slightly protect him from the heat whenever necessary. These hands that have caused so much damage, and so much death. The soldier shook his head at the thoughts of his actions and once more turned to the mercenary next to him with a warm smile.

    "I misjudged you Vordan. I apologize for that. You're a good man with impressive knowledge and a quality member of this caravan."

    Tirian turned to face Vordan, extending a hand towards the man as he spoke. Continuing on as his hand remained forward for the mercenary with a bank of knowledge to shake his hand.

    "I will be sure to keep tabs on myself and Serna as well. I expect you to heed your own words and be careful with magic as well." –

    Well, Vordan now thought he was getting worried for nothing. Tirian obviously knew how to teach Serna what she needed to know about releasing and manipulating her magic. There was nothing better than have the young man teach her right now. He couldn’t help but put on an almost embarrassed smile on his face. It was stupid to think the man couldn’t do it. He turned his head back to the man, just in time to see him look at his gloves. Hmmm... Fire magic… something sprung in his head and he knew some ingredients for something that might be interesting. He then caught on to the man explaining that his misjudged him. Who didn’t?

    As he presented his hand, Vordan took it in his own and gave him a firm handshake. “I misjudged you Tirian. So were even. You aren’t the prick that I thought you would be. I believe you story now… And that has to be a lot of damn weight on your shoulders.” He let go of his grip and pushed himself off the cart, reaching for his things. “I do my possible to keep my magic in check… But like you and Serna, Maker’s magic is inner magic at the base. So once in a while, when something is wrong in my head or too weak, things go wrong.” He wiggled his fingers and laughed. “I do my best to balance intense work and being alive. And I see you do too.” He bought his pack on his back and the rest of his things on him. “I’ll see you when we leave, ya?

    - Tirian listened to the mans reply, laughing to himself at their first meeting. Anyone would have disregarded the story Tirian told, and thought the very same as Vordan had done during the meeting. Tirian smiled to himself as Vordan reassured him of his magic and knowledge once more. After the final words were spoken the red head turned towards the mead hall while readjusting his blade and listening to the sounds of nature around them. There was peace, and oddly through the hustle of the early morning settlers there was a calming quietness.

    "There's more weight and worry on my shoulders than I'd care to admit, but I have a job to do and people to protect. Everyone has their own problems and their own demons to fight."

    The warriors eyes gazed off into the distance as his mind began to run with memories of his father's evil actions began flood over. Tirian allowed a moment of silence to pass between the two men before ending the conversation with a warm smile.

    "Absolutely. Thank's for the talk and advice." –

    Please, what kind of man would I be if I couldn’t help others with what I got.

    He walked off, now knowing that he didn’t have to worry about anything. Tirian got what he needed to teach Serna. There no more worrying about that. Now, the others. For another time certainly, but for now, he would just need to go get a few things from this place and collect some bars to load into the cart.

    -------------
    Esredia eventually woke up, her eyes opening slowly. The mead had gotten to her that night, the blood seemingly having added to the effects. With a slight headache and still a little dizzy, she still was happy though. Stretching herself out, she rose out of her bed and looked out, seeing the mead hall nearly empty this morning. Something told her she was probably the last one to wake. Oh well, it didn’t bother her too much. She got herself ready, putting back her leather armor and strapping along her equipment.

    She proceeded to go outside to find the… leader of the caravan? Well, not leader but the one who had gathered these people to travel with. The small man, Rudolf, was leading this small group and she wanted to know a little more than what she was told the other day. She thought he was probably where their cart were, so she looked around there, hoping that he would find the him. Maybe she could even help him out.

    -- "Hello dear heart!" The dwarf called out to Esredia as he saw her roaming about the carts. He was standing a top of some canvas, tightening a few straps before sliding down the side and heading to a pair of oxen. For an old man he was pretty energetic and chipper. He worked as he spoke to her. "Did you sleep well? Hope the mead hasnt't given ye a nasty kick!" He made a guffaw of a laugh before patting one of his oxen. –

    Esredia’s smile grew as he saw the dwarf working on the cart and getting things ready. She approached slowly, looking at whatever he was doing. Strapping down his things? She thought he might want a little bit of help. He was, after all, an old man. Or so it seemed. Anywho, she nodded back to him, laying her hands on the cart. “Head hurt. Dizzy gone. Still happy.” She said, looking at the oxen a moment. “Need help? Me strong!

    -- The dwarf looked up and smiled at the pretty young woman. "Of course, of course! I could never say no to such a beautiful face."

    Rudolf waggled his eyebrows suggestively before laughing and handing her some straps that she could help tighten, as he readied the harnesses for the oxen. "What brought you out here my lady? If ye don't mind an old man asking." –

    Beautiful face? Really? She was slightly surprised by this. Never had she really been complimented on her beauty for other reason than to get under her clothes… Those memories of her time as a freak made her smile fall a little, but ti didn’t last too long. At the strap was thrown, she grip it firmly and started doing what she could for him. It was her first true interaction in a while and she quite enjoyed it, although her words were very simple in their language. It was enough to get a conversation going.

    The old small man asked a question that frankly, no one was brave enough to ask before or people were simply terrified by her gaze. She thought about it, running her hand through her hair before looking up to the dwarf, a more neutral look on her face. “Family tribe all dead. Me captured. Young slave. F-fr…Freak all say? Free from… leighteen? reightreen? Hum… no… two and one. Now wander, survive… Lonely.” She wasn’t sure she would get her message across, but she tried. “Where go? Long? Others, friend?

    -- The dwarf had stilled while listening to the young tribeswoman's story. It was sad, indeed. Rudolf finished putting on a harness before waddling over to the girl's side. He watched her for a moment as she finished tightening straps for him, before answering her questions. "We're heading to the next continent, Thialea. It will be a long journey, but both continents are vastly different from the other. I was hired to get some supplies to Novan, a large imperial city looking for some goods that are frequent in Furus, yet rare in Thialea. Thus I have hired everyone here to help me get all this stuff over there in one piece! You too, shall be paid for your service."

    The dwarf gave the woman a wide happy grin. He gently took her hand, and gave it a soft pat. "Don't worry dear one, if you decide to stick along with us, I promise you won't be lonely anymore! I'll make sure of it!"—

    Esredia was quite glad that someone actually listened to her story. It had been quite a while since she was able to share her story with anyone really. Elrithos had also heard the story, but he knew that the Desert Dwellers had their own sorry past do deal with. She already considered Elrithos as a good friend, being he knew her ancestors quite well… Having someone else listened to her story that wasn’t already someone related to her family seemed more enjoyable, so to say.

    He approached her and told the story of this little group. It was interesting. Not only that, but they would be visiting the large island too. She had wondered what was there ever since her mother talked about another world. She heard of getting paid, but she really didn’t understand what that was all about. She looked over that point and instead looked surprised at his next action… His words had struck a chord with her. Won’t be lonely? A promise? She was almost without words, barely able to talk. “…R-really?...You… p-promise?” She seemed a little shocked and a little confused… But she then put on a small smile on her lips. She bent down and reached around the small man’s body, lifting him off the ground like nothing and simply hugged the man. “Thank you…

    -- The dwarf was taken by surprise by the sudden hug, but he quickly relished it. The woman's strength was still noticeable in this simple of an action and it made the dwarf laugh happily until the tribeswoman set him down. He was glad to see that his words truly meant something to Esredia, and he hoped the tribeswoman would find a better life and purpose on this trip. Once the group warmed up, surely the tribeswoman would make a lot of friends. Things would be alright in the end. "There, there dear heart! A promise is a promise! An old dwarf like me can't afford to break them."

    He gave a goofy grin and gave a pat to the woman's arm. "Come then, mind helping with the rest of the carts? Your strength is a gift!" –

    Yes!” She was happy, really happy right now. She would finally have a chance to be with people and maybe be useful for those she might start to care about. It was a wonderful feeling and she couldn’t help but do whatever she could to make the dwarf’s life easier for the carts.
     
  12. Lillith was among the last to choose a bed and sleep. The exotic girl had odd tendencies to stay up during the night and sleeping most of the day away. Something about the silence of night and the color pallet with the faint glow of the moon was intriguing, and even calming in some sense. However every person needs sleep and without any trouble Lillith fell into a light slumber that would only last a few hours. Lillith awoke to the sounds of bustling settlers doing their best to fight off the early morning drowsiness. Her eyes scanned for members of the caravan and noticing most of them had already gotten up, perhaps she was late and left behind? She began to worry only until Tirian entered the mead hall followed by Setna who proceeded to wake Serna for her training with the red-haired prince. Lillith decided she too would warm her muscles with a calming session of meditation. She would wait for Rudolf to proceed forward with the carts, and she wondered what new dangers lied ahead for the caravan. However her peace came to a swift end as the voice of none other than Lucille calling out with a new tone to her voice. Lillith opened her eyes with an odd smile on her face, patting the ground for her conversing partner to take a seat.

    "You seem to be in a much lighter mood today."

    -Lucille had a smile one her face. Not one of her normal smugness but one of unique happiness. She had confronted the demon eating her away and now had some chance at a life without chains around her throat. Her mind wondered off with thoughts of Tirian, and just how he could be so kind and forgiving one instant and then within a moments notice a cold-blooded murderous monster bent on destroying anything and anyone in his way. She shuddered for a moment and then snapped back to reality as she caught sight of a meditating.

    "Ey! Lillith!"

    Lucille shot the exotic girl a smile, and gladly took a seat next to her.

    "I took your advice and confronted my demons."-

    Lillith smiled with Lucille and simply looked forward.

    "Good, good. I'd say things are about to pick up for the caravan. Hope you're ready to leave."

    -Lucille nodded doing the same as Lillith and looked forward.

    "Ready as I will ever be I guess."-
     
  13. After watching the sun finally rise, Aaerynn finally leapt down from the tree. She rolled her shoulders a bit, feeling her muscles stretch and warm. The nightmare had disturbed her, but at least she would have time to think it over. It had been a long time since she had processed that past. There wasn’t much to think of in the first place, she wasn’t like Elrithos or her brothers, she never fought. Her time was spent in a refugee camp, hidden away with her parents. Much of the war, she had lived a sheltered existence, but that dream had brought up something incredibly significant. Especially with her discovery of mixing rot and Syndarean blood, there had to be a reason for something like that, and she’d figure it out.

    The wood elf returned to the mead hall while the others decided to train or use their morning to prepare for the journey forward. Aaerynn spent most of her time scrounging around for food both for herself and her two animal companions. By the time she had them fed, it was finally time to get a move on.

    Aaerynn had decided to walk alongside the carts, having placed her bag on one of them. Exercise would surely help her head. Kai and Baineth eagerly followed behind her as the creak of the wooden carts gave her some peace of mind. She bit the nail of her thumb as she went over all the information she could. Stabbing the Syndarean, with the same dagger he had stab her with, provided a mix of her blood and his. It had left a violet film that dried to coat the dagger completely. The color didn’t make any sense even if it were simply a mix of colors. There was no true way of testing what the substance was capable of unless she could reproduce it. Perhaps the best way would be to ask the twins for a few samples, but she’d rather know a bit more about what she was doing before requesting such a thing.

    Then that dream…Lysander had told her about the Emperor’s guttural desire for elven hearts, but that couldn’t have been all. They had taken elves alive. If he merely wanted hearts, they would have gone out of their way to perform a complete genocide, and collected all the organs that way. Aaerynn looked up at the blue sky above her, pondering.

    Who would know what he would have been up to? No one truly knew the identity of the Dark Emperor, his findings, his research, his goals and writings…they had all been lost, whether accidentally or intentionally. The wood elf’s eyebrows furrowed. What could she do?

    The caravan had finally begun to hit the mountain pass. It was a bit of a steep climb as they began to walk on the road carved out by the dwarves over a century or two ago. Aaerynn placed her hand on Kai’s head who had faithfully stayed by her side. For the moment, she let go of her thoughts and looked forward to where they were going.

    The Dwarven city of Durngan was probably her favorite place out of all of Furus. It was always packed with life, filled with all races since it was the central hub between the North and South of Furus. The dwarves themselves were always alive and hearty, it was hard not to enjoy your time there. It was something to look forward to.

    As the wood elf thought over the city fondly, things began to click in place. Lord Farin! If he could grant her visitation to his library…perhaps there she could do some research. Everyone knew the Dwarven lord’s library was the most vast in all of Furus. Since his city was smack in the middle of the continent, he easily picked up information, books, news and all sorts of things to bring to his collection. That’s what she would do. She’d just ask to see it and perhaps she’d get a better grasp of what she had stumbled upon.

    Her plan set, Aaerynn felt her gain a bit of peace of mind.

    -------------​

    After both of their training sessions, the twins decided to sit in a cart, both preserving their strength as the carts ambled up the steep incline of the mountain road. Serna was steadily working on repairing Aaerynn’s torn shirt, but her mind kept repeating what Tirian had told her. Fate is what you make it…

    No one had ever told her that before. Syndarean culture and religion was based entirely on fate and the Gods. The life you get is what the Gods decided. For someone to tell her the opposite…it was refreshing. It meant that what they were doing, escaping fate, wasn’t a sin. She wanted to believe in that. She didn’t want to think any longer that running away like this was wrong. She wanted to live, and she wanted Setna to live.

    The girl smiled as she finished the last stitch. Using her teeth, she cut the thread and then held up to see her work. Perfect. Confidence…she should have more confidence too. Serna would certainly try. She would keep working hard, she wanted to make both Tirian and Setna proud of her. That’s what mattered.

    “Serie, look at this!”

    Her brother’s voice cut into her thoughts, and Serna crawled over to her brother’s side. She looked out with him and her face lit up. It was an absolutely gorgeous view. The path they were on wound alongside one mountain, while providing a view of more large mountains covered in green trees and plants. The sky was the bluest she had ever seen it, and it felt as if she could look out for miles, the higher and higher the caravan traveled.

    “It’s beautiful…” Serna mumbled under her breath and Setna looked at her with a smile.

    The boy placed a hand on his sister’s head and gave her a wide grin. “We’re gonna see even more sights just like this! Mountains and deserts and the ocean. It’ll all be pretty, I promise.”

    Serna looked to her brother with her own happy smile, and nodded. They would live, that much was true, for the both of them now. They would put more faith in themselves, in each other, and in the rest of the group.

    ---------------​

    Eventually Serna climbed down from the cart she was sitting in and hurried ahead to Aaerynn, holding her shirt. “A-Aaerynn!”

    The elf turned to the voice and Serna caught up to her, holding up the shirt. Aaerynn took it, inspecting the stitching. It was incredibly well done, in fact it looked as if it hadn’t even been torn. The wood elf’s face softened up as she looked at the teenager. “Thank you. It’s very well done.”

    The Syndarean flushed and shook her head. “N-No!” She paused, trying her best to hold her stutter at bay. “It’s…a thank you. For…listening to me.”

    The wood elf’s eyes lit up a bit in humor, seeing the girl trying her best to speak normally. “It’s alright. I’m glad everything was settled.”

    The girl’s face continued to redden as she nodded happily. Finally she looked out over the ravine between the mountains they were traveling on. Serna hadn’t realized how high up they had gotten. She walked over to the edge, taking in the view. It was absolutely breathtaking. The sun seemed to light up the entire ravine, and it felt like the girl could see for forever. “It’s so pretty up here.”

    Aaerynn watched her, turning a bit wary as she spoke. “Move back from the edge, the road is old.”

    Serna had continued walking along, not hearing the elf for a moment. She turned to ask what Aaerynn had said but that’s when the elf heard the audible crack. She instinctively moved as she watched the Syndarean’s eyes widen and her body began to pitch backward. The wood elf increased her pace, reaching out to grab the girl’s wrist before she fell completely.

    Aaerynn had shot out a hand without thinking about it, and the sharp pain of her bandages squeezing, made her realize she had used her injured arm. She cursed and grit her teeth, feeling pangs of pain shoot up her arm. She felt her body lurch forward as she became responsible for Serna’s weight. The wood elf quickly dug her heels into the earth, attempting to pull the teenager back up, but the sound of more cracking, and the earth below her feet unsettling made her eyes widened. She twisted her body to grab hold of something before it was too late, only to find her free hand grabbed by Setna.

    “Hold on!!” The boy had grabbed hold of the elf’s hand, almost allowing it to slip away as he suddenly felt the weight of Aaerynn and his twin. All of his muscles tensed as he focused completely on not dropping them. One hand grabbed the elf’s wrist as the other kept a death grip on her hand. He started to pull them back up, but it was obvious he needed help as his body began to shudder.

    “Rudolf!” Setna called out to the dwarf and the caravan stopped completely.
     
  14. Tirian spent the rest of his morning inspecting every inch of his gear, from boots to the finest cloth of his cape. As he always did, his weapon was the last thing inspected and the warrior always made sure to take extra time to make sure the priceless blade was in the best condition possible. Tirian ran his finger across every single part of the blade hundreds of times, then did so once more with a fine cloth to shine his blade. With a certain satisfaction he sheathed the weapon and joined the rest of the caravan as they exited the settlement and headed onwards deep into the mountains. Lucille let Lillith to hear own quiet and rejoined the red-head she had opened up to earlier. Neither person spoke for the longest time, allowing the silence between them to settle into a comfort before opting to speak.

    Where we going next, smart one?”

    Lucille gently punched Tirian’s arm with that signature smugness finally returning to her face. Tirian drew in a sigh while simply shaking his head at Lucille’s returning attitude. However he replied with a smile on his face knowing she had taken a huge step forward for her own good.

    Durngan. It’s a wonderful dwarven city, simply beautiful. Lots of life and certainly an asylum from all this fighting we’ve went through recently.”

    Lucille nodded with her hands behind her neck supporting the back of her neck as she walked forward.

    I suggest you do well to make sure you apologize to Aaerynn there as well.”

    Lucille nodded again, this time adding words of her own to the conversation.

    Don’t worry y’self too much there. She’ll get the apology. Kay? Kay.”

    Tirian sighed again as the pink-haired, self-righteous girl walked away and climbed into one of the carts to rest. The rest of the morning, and well into the afternoon remained rather quiet until an odd noise sounded out near the front of the carts. Tirian didn’t react until Setna called out for Rudolf with despair and struggle in his voice. Tirian sprinted forward, leaping off the cart in front of him and landing within sight of Serna, Aaerynn and Setna on the verge of disappearing over the cliff. The red-head moved forward but was cut-off by a blur of pink. Lucille slid into place grabbing Setna by the waist and pulling backwards with all of her might.

    C’mon toothpick. Pull!”

    Setna grunted but with the additional strength holding him, he started to back-step, slowly dragging the wood elf up the cliff side. Aaerynn for her part was baring her teeth in pain, sweat dripping down her face. Her bandaged arm holding onto Serna was becoming darker and darker as black blood seeped through the folds and dripped down her fingers. She was losing her grip through pain so she looked up at the Syndarean trying desperately to get them back up.

    "Setna. Call someone now. Someone has to take her!" Her voice was strained with pain as she attempted to get a better grip on the girl below her. Serna's eyes were wide with fear, and Aaerynn grunted. "I can swing her up."

    Setna looked around wildly, his eyes landing on Tirian, while still trying to pull them up as fast as he could manage with Lucy as a support. "Tirian can you reach her!?"

    "Swing her up now!"

    Aaerynn gnashed her teeth together as she swung back and with the forward momentum, she placed all of her strength into tossing the Syndarean girl up above her.

    Tirian shifted his weight and exploded forward towards the cliff as Serna's body flung through the air. The warrior dug his feet into the ground and slid perfectly into place as he snatched Serna by the arms. Tirian bent his knees and torqued his waist to spin away from the cliff, bringing his arms inwards and hugging Serna tightly. Serna's weight slammed into the soldier sending the both of them into the ground, safely. Lucille felt the difference in the weight and quickly stepped back to bring both Setna and the wood elf safely on to the cliff. The pink-haired girl hit the ground with a heavy sigh.

    "Y'know for a toothpick and a skinny elf, you sure weight a lot."

    "Fuck!" Aaerynn cursed as she hit the safety of the ground, and rolled onto her back holding her injured arm to her chest.

    Setna had followed suit, falling back on his ass. He breathed hard, his hands still shaking. He looked at Lucy though, and murmured a soft. "Thanks."

    Serna merely shook in fear, still in Tirian's hold as she tried to process what exactly had happened. It was the voice of Rudolf though, that broke through as he waddled to the little group with concern in his eyes. "Everyone alright?"

    Aaerynn finally sat up, still nursing her injury. "Fine. But I hope this serves as a lesson for everyone, stay the fuck away from the ledge, alright?"

    Her eyes surveyed the group before she managed to get back to her feet.

    Tirian released Serna and attempted to stand, feeling a sharp pain rise in his chest. The man hid the pain but one person caught it with keen eyes as an assassin should have.

    "Broke something did ya?"

    Tirian looked over to Lucille who wasted no time slamming her hands into the soldier. He struggled but suddenly a pale glow began to light around the girls hands and within seconds his pain disappeared. Lucille's face quickly shifted from happy to agony as her breathing grew heavy as if her ribs had been broken.

    "Don't... worry about... me... Magic and all."

    Lucille struggled forward until climbing into the carts and curling into a ball to fend off the agony she had been feeling. Tirian felt around his ribs, no pain and no sight of broken bones in the slightest. His eyes widened as they turn towards Lucille with amazement striking his face.

    Rudolf looked around, feeling the unease of the group. Finally he shrugged his shoulders and sighed. "Perhaps a good break will do us good, get us some food in our bellies before continuing on!"

    The dwarf waddled into the food cart to see what he could grab.
     
  15. Aaerynn walked over to her bag, nursing her injured arm and rummaged around for some bandages and salve. She finally sat on the ground and began to undo her old patch job. She frowned once she saw the wound. The skin had been attempting to heal, but everything that had just happened caused it to tear up. The wound itself just looked black, and disgusting. The elf really couldn’t tell if this was normal or not. The color of her blood made it hard to dictate what was and wasn’t normal. All she could do was apply more of her salve, hope to clot it, and wrap it back up.

    As she was wrapping it up again, she felt the presence of Serna approach. The elf only looked up for a split second before continuing what she was doing. “You don’t have to apologize. It was an accident. You’ll just owe me a favor next tim—.”

    The elf was silenced as Serna had suddenly embraced her, tightly. Aaerynn’s eyes widened and her breath got caught in her throat. She didn’t know what to do, and her body tightened up. Serna merely buried her face in Aaerynn’s shoulder as she murmured, “Thank you…”

    Eventually the elf seemed to calm down. Slowly she brought her uninjured arm up and placed a hand on Serna’s back. She gave it a gentle pat, feeling a bit awkward at the sudden physical contact. She wasn’t used to it anymore. But Aaerynn held the girl until Serna finally collected herself and pulled away.

    The Syndarean girl rubbed her eyes, holding back tears and Aaerynn gave another pat to her arm. “It’s alright. You’re alive, you’re fine. Just be careful. Ok?”

    Trying to help someone to stop crying was certainly not her strong suit. Yet, Serna seemed to calm down, rubbing her eyes and finally giving a soft smile. “Thanks…”

    Aaerynn waved her off as Rudolf waddled over to hand them some bread and cheese.

    ----------------
    There was a sense of calm as Rudolf found some snacks to hand out and help quell nerves. Serna had returned to her brother, but they both remained mostly silent. They stood close together though, their silence speaking enough. Both also held guilt in their faces for putting everyone through that fall.

    Setna soon stood up though and walked over to the cart that Lucy had ran off too. He hadn't seen what made her ill, but he took a peek at her to see if she was alright. He wanted to thank her, for coming so quickly to the rescue. To be honest, the boy didn't really understand why she helped. Ever since she joined, she had shown a complete disregard and smugness towards the rest of the party. He peered over the edge of the cart, a slight frown of concern set in his lips.

    "Hey...you alright? Do you want anything to eat?" He shifted his weight, slightly uncomfortable.

    Lucille had settled into a tight ball wincing as the pain radiated throughout her entire body. The words caused her to twitch with surprise, followed by another grunt of pain.

    "I'm fine. Thanks."

    She obviously wasn't fine. Setna frowned and continued to set a piece of bread beside her if she felt like eating it later. "Uh..." The boy was at a loss of words, but finally continued. "Thanks, for helping me and my sister... If you need anything just let me know, I guess. I hope you feel better."

    He was lame. He was really lame. But he was still trying to figure this girl out, as he stood there awkwardly, waiting for a response.

    The girl waved Setna off without looking at him in the slightest.

    "Don't mention it."

    Setna stepped off with a sigh, and finally returned to his sister to eat his own food. He was still a bit shaken from what happened. He was glad he made the effort to thank people, but eventually he ended up secluding himself in one of the carts.

    ------------------​

    As everyone finished up the makeshift lunch, the caravan was off again, slowly meandering up the slope of the mountain. Aaerynn walked along a cart, tenderly rubbing her newly bandaged arm. She knew the wound wasn't healing well, and with the sudden weight and twist ripping through the newly healed skin, meant she'd probably have to get it checked out by someone more experienced than herself. Especially if there was dark magic stuck in there. That pissed her off a bit. But as long as she could keep it clean, and stop using it, hopefully the skin would heal properly and she wouldn't have to worry about it.

    The elf had been lost in thought as she wandered around the carts. In all honesty, she just wanted to sit next to someone for a moment. The sudden fall and surge of emotion made her desire for someone's presence. It would be a nice reminder that she wasn't actually dead, or alone, when the rot was inching its way across her. Plus, the company of her wolf or horse wasn't very fulfilling. But she wanted to be comfortable, and there were only a few options.

    Aaerynn's feet unconsciously took her to Vordan, who was the best choice anyway. Even if he didn't wish to talk, he was usually tinkering or scribbling, and just the sound of activity would help to keep her at ease. She looked at him for a moment, holding her arm before asking. "Do you mind...if I sit with you?"

    --Vordan, the whole way to this stop, had been in one of the carts fiddling with his flasks, vials, equipment and everything. It was to wonder what he had in that large bag of his, as the things kept piling up. He seemed focused too, as he rarely rose his head, only really to look at Aaerynn or the twins, sometimes Lillith. The rest, he seemed to ignore. Those who would come and watch him at work would see a chaotic mess of closed vials and scattered materials. It didn’t seem to bother the mercenary at all, completely zoned out.

    Even in the near fall incident, Vordan had been slow to react. By the time he had gotten to his feet, it was already all over. He had seen little of the event, only the aftermath with Lucille’s healing and Aaerynn’s displeased reply. These mountains were definitely not a safe place, Esredia staying away from the cliff face. Elrithos, well, didn’t give a damn in the world. He was walking right by the ledge, looking down once in a while. Of course, he kept his horse away from it.

    Once settled, Vordan had actually stayed in the cart, switching flasks, vials and a lot of simple things over. He had barely noticed Aaerynn talk to him. His head rose, a little bit in surprise. He looked around himself, seeing he had made quite a mess. Vordan scratched his head and then nodded, putting some things away to make some space. “Of course, of course!” As he put things away, he looked up to her arm. “Your arm doing any better?”

    Aaerynn gingerly sat down, not realizing he had his things well...everywhere. She helped to place some vials close to him before they could roll away from him. "You've been busy, I see."

    It made her crack a small smile at the sight of it. He certainly was a Maker, there was no doubt about it. This level of overwhelming curiosity and desire to create would probably follow him all the way to his dying days. The elf leaned her back against the railing of the cart and tried to take up as little space as possible, she didn't want to impede on the inventor's space.

    At his question though, Aaerynn merely held her injured arm to her chest and rubbed it a moment. "Not at all, recent events certainly haven't helped either." She was honest, although she joked a bit before continuing. "I'll get it checked out when we make it to Durngan."

    She watched him for a moment, taking careful inventory on what he was working with, but she was glad to see that the dark magic dolls were still tucked away. "How about you? How's your stomach?"

    --“Always busy at work yes!”

    He laughed a little, manipulating up to five vials at a time. For someone missing some digits, Vordan didn’t seem to have lost his manual dexterity. He was definitely clumsier with larger objects, and he had proved to not exactly be the best warrior with a sword. Yet, he had proved that with smaller and more complicated objects, he was very keen and precise. A few liquids and some red powder were set into an empty flask and slowly swirled it, finally letting most of the stuff on the cart floor.

    His eyes turned to her, catching her rubbing her injured. He couldn’t help but give her a wide smile and almost laugh at it. Her days have been bad so far. Really, Lady Luck wasn’t on her side at all. At least she seemed to be making progress with herself. She had clearly changed in the little time she had joined the group. Vordan now believed that people were wrong when they said “People don’t change in a day.” Aaerynn had proven to do so very quickly.

    “Durngan… I’ve heard so much about that city, but never had time to visit it. My kingdom said that if any missing knowledge about magic isn’t within our libraries, they would most definitely have it. I hope they are telling the truth…” She then mentioned his stomach and he rubbed gingerly. “Much better. I hate forgetting that magic has kickbacks sometimes, especially instant magic alteration… At least these projects for the group are easy and nearly harmless… Although, Setna’s new shield is going to require some help from… Sorry, I’m rambling on again about my things.” He sighed lightly as he set the new mixture down, grabbing a few pieces of steel and slowly starting to alter its form with his magic of the Makers. It seemed to be extremely slow, but it also seem to have little to no strain of Vordan.

    “I’m also almost figured out how to get any dark magic mark out of you, I just need to figure out something with one of the dolls… Not now, but maybe before we reach the city.”

    Aaerynn had raised her eyebrows at his rambling as she watched him. It seemed like he had multiple things he was trying to figure out. What surprised her most though was that he was working hard on things for other people. He had told her he had two main projects and had been dedicated to them for over ten years...and yet for him to put them aside for a moment for other people...was slightly remarkable to her. Sure, perhaps it was simply taking a break to do other things, yet it still surprised her.

    The wood elf continued to watch him and listen. She observed his face for a long while, seeing his eyes light up a bit with concentration, while still taking the time to glance up at her every so often as he spoke. She didn't know why, but it made her comfortable, being in the presence of such a busy body. He had done a lot for her, even if he didn't realize it. She felt like she could put down her walls just a bit.

    Aaerynn stopped her thoughts and shook her head. No, that wasn't fair of her. He was simply a human she had opened up to, and for once, he was a being that hadn't mocked her. She was on the tipping point of change, and was clinging on to the things she shouldn't. She'd be selfish though, and soak up this feeling of comfort while she could.

    As he finally made mention of figuring out how to get any residue out of her arm, Aaerynn shuddered a bit and shook her head again. "I'd rather you not."

    Her memories shifted to the things he told her and his subtle hint towards him working with dark magic in the past. "You're better off not touching those things."

    She had a bad feeling about it in general, and looked down at her arm as she spoke. "Durngan has a few good healers, who will probably be able to take it out without messing with those hell spawned dolls. I have to worry about the rot as well. I don't need it to worsen right now, especially by magic means."

    The wood elf frowned in disgust, her grip tightening on her bandages. She continued speaking though, changing the subject to a lighter one. "If you want to get into Lord Farin's library, I hope you are prepared to kiss some dwarf butt." Aaerynn gave him a teasing look. "The dwarf lord doesn't let just anyone into his private collection...Buuuut, if you're a good boy I could potentially sneak you in. If it's that important to you, of course."

    Vordan would also not want to use or manipulate the dolls too much, but she clearly needed help with her wounds and might just be too dangerous to let it linger. He could understand her concern with playing with this kind of magic, and Vordan knew the consequences of screwing up what he had planned. It was quite disgusting what would happen if the magic seeped back into her or worst, if it mixed with his creation magic. It was a chance that Vordan was actually willing to take, but only if Aaerynn allowed it, which she seemed to refuse immediately.

    She mentioned the healers and he nodded back, putting down the piece of steel he was warping in his hands. “If they can handle it without using the dolls, then I’m satisfied. Might throw the things down the cliff really… I thought about turning them into bolts. I know exactly how it would react to flesh once shot. Gruesome, but effective.” While he spoke, he unconsciously reached for one of the jars, and when he realized it, he let go almost immediately.

    He now started putting some stuff away and opening new vials and flasks. But, he kept his eyes away from his work when she spoke about the private library. His smile grew, the man clearly excited at the idea of possibly sneaking in. He looked at her, quite amused. “Sneaking in or kissing ass to a dwarf… I personally don’t want to bend down that far, might hurt my back.” He laughed lightly. “I have some interest in his library. It has all the knowledge Ellahur is missing in terms of magic. I believe he owns a few books that would help me with my main projects, one especially.” He said as he let everything go and settled it down, reaching back into his bag to pull out one of his books. This one was old and clearly worn out by time. “I am so close to finishing this one. Just a few more details and I’m good to possibly make it!” He handed her the book. “Interesting read, although it’s all in the Maker’s language. The pictures pretty much tells the story though.”

    Inside the book, the first few pages were sketches of humanoid arms and legs, from the bones to the muscles, the tendons, the joints, all quite detailed and precise… Then, it turned into something complete different: small pieces of some kind of metal, from page to page, seemingly having no connection, pieces of armor for arms or legs, chains, blades, odd mechanisms… Everything seemed to not make sense, except for when a page showed what seemed to be an arm or a leg, but completely made of metal. Many versions followed many sketches and odd words surrounding them. Only a few pages were left to write in this notebook.

    Aaerynn's eyes lit up as she skimmed through the pages and his drawings came to life in front of her. She couldn't understand the language at all, but the final set of pictures... She looked up at him with large eyes. "Would this really work? Could people without limbs be able to use these?"

    Her utter excitement was completely genuine, especially as a healer. She may be a con artist to many, but it didn't mean she didn't take the time to create good medicine or lacked an interest. Seeing something like this was absolutely mind boggling. To think of all the people it would help...war veterans, children born without limbs, people who had suffered gruesome accidents or diseases. She hadn't seen anything like it, besides the standard wooden appendages that acted more like pegs. The other side of the coin was that surely Vordan could get rich completely off this invention alone, as long as he could produce enough of them. Aaerynn looked back down at the pages, flipping one back and forth. "This is amazing... Vordan, you're amazing."

    That reaction… Was simply amazing to see. She hadn’t shown this much surprise since the beginning and it was heart-warming to have Aaerynn to show it. She questioned if it would actually work and Vordan just kept his smile as she continued to flip through the pages. He wouldn’t answer her right away, simply let her go through a few more pages, simply looking at her. There, these emotions she was having showed she was still someone filled with life. He reached over to his bag and pulled out the book with both small padlocks. He reached into his gauntlet and pulled out both keys to unlock it.

    “Don’t call me amazing yet. I still need to actually MAKE it… But all my research leads to the conclusion that it is more than possible without even using anything that had to do with the Dark Arts nor killing anyone. It takes a lot of specific ingredients, some time and patience for the process to work, but I can do it. I’m just missing a few details.”

    He pulled out his ink bottle and a feather, starting to right down in his own notebook.

    Sure there was the fact he had to make it... But even the probability that something like this could exist, it was unbelievable, incredible even. She couldn't get over her own excitement. "Just the fact that this idea exists is amazing... If you can do this and if it can be repeated... It would change the whole world of medicine. Do you have any idea how monumental this is?" She looked up at him, her eyes alight with the idea. "You have no idea how many people could be helped with something like this... It's crazy, I'm at a loss of words."

    She set the book down, noticing he had begun to scribble. Her head was still buzzing with the new information. "If Lord Farin won't let you in, I'll get you into that library. It'll be easy."

    She knew she'd be able to get in. Lord Farin owed her one. Plus the dwarf was amicable; she'd be able to convince him to let Vordan peruse it as well. It wouldn't be hard, and his invention and idea held a higher purpose than her own.

    Vordan couldn’t help but keep his smile as she spoke about this invention he has been working on for years now. She was clearly excited about this new discovery… It actually reminded him of himself when he discovered it was even possible with the magic of the Makers to do it. Although, those words weren’t what clung to his thoughts; she spoke about revolution of medicine and how it would help the world. That was his own surprise from all this. She spoke about helping the world, about progress… She was changing, or at least, it was what he thought.

    “I’ve been working on it for a little less than ten years… Trust me when I say I was excited when I discovered it was even possible, just like my other project. Hopefully… I’ll be able to share it once done without having Ellahur on my ass to rip my magic away…” His writing slowed down, a slight glint of disappointment in his eyes. He knew that if he went back after his projects were done, he wouldn’t have his magic anymore. Truly, that terrified him… But he let the thought linger off as Aaerynn said she would get him in. He stopped with his notebook, locked it and put it away.

    “That’s all I need to know. You get me in, were good!” He said cheerfully, now returning to his things. He didn’t take back the book, preferring to let Aaerynn look over it as she pleased.

    Aaerynn's mind was a flurry about the idea. It was a two sided coin, help a lot of people, and make a lot of money. Gods, people would probably come all over with all types of cash just for the opportunity to have something like this done. Vordan would be an incredibly rich man if he kept it up. She didn't know why she was so excited by it, wasn't like it was her getting rich from it, but the elf just wanted to see it come to fruition. To see it actually work...that would be something.

    The wood elf set the notebook down though as she listened to Vordan, and she looked up to watch him as a bit of disappointment crept into his face. It faded though as he became eager at the notion that she could get him into the library. She would do it for a favor from him, but she'd let that be known later on.

    Instead, a forlorn look came over the elf's face as she watched him, and then turned to look out over the scenery. "Do you intend to come back here, after visiting Thialea?"

    Vordan turned to face the scenery with her, his hands slowly coming to a halt in his crazy mixes. The question she had brought up was a hard one to answer. Vordan was actually perplexed by it, as it was the conflict of revealing who he was to this continent and getting persecuted for it, or hide and never have his inventions help the world. It was one of his greatest dilemmas in his life. Take the chance or let it slip? Vordan had no clue, but he would answer her question. He sighed loudly, lowering his gaze.

    “I have no idea… Maybe to visit? I have some friends I’d like to see again, but I couldn’t live here anymore. If I succeed with my inventions, I want people to know. Here, if people knew, I would have my magic taken away… I want to help my own Kingdom, but how can I if the very gift that could help them, they would take away?”

    Vordan had crossed his fingers together, his thumbs moving nervously. He didn’t like to think of it. He did his best to ignore this fact in his life. Yet, it always caught up to him once in a while. It was something that actually drained his moral when it came up. With another sigh, he looked back to the scenery before going back to his inventions.

    “I don’t think this is my place anymore… I don’t really know. I’ll figure it out once Rudolf has his merchandise carried over.” He simply added, trying to distract himself.

    Aaerynn soon realized she had asked a very heavy question to the mercenary. She was used to him being a bit of a smartass and even too positive for his own good. He had spoken of sunrises, the meaning of life, enjoying each day. Yet now she watched him crumble a bit, uncertainty in his face and actions. She hadn't realized she had intruded on a sensitive topic. The wood elf watched as he attempted to distract himself from thinking about his answer for too long. She knew that expression and that pain.

    Her face turned a bit gentle as she nudged his leg with her foot, seeing as it was the closest thing to reach him. "Hey..." Her voice turned soft. "It'll be alright. I've lived longer then you have, and I can tell you that humans are always changing. To the point that I'm trying to be like them." She gave a teasing little smile but it quickly faded as she got to the point. "The world is consistently changing. Your home is going to change too. There will be a time that you will be able to come back and share what you know without prejudice or punishment."

    Aaerynn turned and picked up the notebook again, flipping through it. "In large groups, humans are absolutely stupid. But...they learn, and they get better. They also have the capacity to realize when something is inherently good and needed for progress. That's how they evolve and grow. Vordan, they are going to see something like this and realize that sometimes magic is good, and that it can be used to better a community. If anything, something like this can be the basis for more."

    She looked across at him again as she set the notebook down. "One human has the capability to change an entire community for better or worse. Of course it comes with struggle, as all things do, but eventually people will turn to your findings, realize the potential, and will support it."

    Aaerynn looked away, realizing she had rambled far too much, but she gave the mercenary another gentle nudge before continuing. "Besides, you made some pretty decent friends, whether on this journey, or on your own. They won't let your magic be taken from you that easily. I know you'll find support and they will fight for you. Everything will work out."

    Had it not been for his lack of concentration in his work right now, Vordan probably wouldn’t have felt that nudge to his leg. Again, he stopped what he was doing and turned his head to face the young wood elf. Her expression had changed again, something a little reassuring and comforting. He gently laid his things down as she started speaking of the human kind. Ever changing; that was definitely a good description of their kind. He could just compare it to the elves that have traditions they still practice after thousands of years. Such an odd way to go too… He could just see how Elrithos and Aaerynn acted.

    Vordan wanted to laugh at how true everything she was saying was. Humans were an odd bunch compared to the elves. Even Vordan held a certain prejudice against them, although Elrithos and Aaerynn were slowly killing it. He wasn’t going to think about it too much, instead paid attention.

    His inventions might change their minds… Or it might make it worst. He glanced at his bag a moment. His first project, the one he had initially started as a plan for riches had turned into something else entirely. If people saw what that first one was, he’d probably get hung. It was the down side of Makers: they didn’t always create good things. That was what the Kingdom of Ellahur was afraid of, and Vordan couldn’t blame them. He sighed and looked to the sky a second before he felt himself be nudged again. She ended with the making of good friends. That, he could not deny a second. The twins, the Prince, the Messenger, the Old Dwarf, the Cursed Elf, the Mysterious lady and the Tribe Lady; he could feel they were all good people in the end.

    He smiled when she mentioned her last bit, nodding lightly. “You are right… Things will change, or so my soul be damned if I didn’t try.” He started putting his things away, except for a few items. He put away the books and pulled out the other old book, the one of his first project. He leaned onto the inside wall of the cart. “Thank you, I think it’s what I needed to hear… I think I need a drink when we get to Durngan. And a lot of supplies for the next coming projects. Hopefully, I can actually finish all of them the time we are over there.”

    All of them.

    "I hear you on the drink." Aaerynn agreed, in all honesty, she wouldn't mind a night out of drinking. Just to get the past couple of days out of her mind. Not even the days, weeks needed to be wiped out. But Durngan was certainly the place to have a good time. It was likely that Farin himself would put up a decent party.

    The wood elf shifted her shoulders, leaning into a more comfortable position in the cart, suddenly feeling worn out from everything. "Just don't push yourself too hard." Aaerynn warned him lightly, knowing that it wouldn't really matter. He was a Maker, and had already proven that he'd go beyond what he could do, even if it meant blowing off some fingers. The elf laid her head against the railing, trying to get comfortable before her thoughts returned to what she had said. She'd do what she could for him simply because she wanted to by this point. "But the markets of Durngan should have all you need."

    -------------------​

    As the group got to their camp ground for the night, things settled down easily. The fire was made, and some of the group bustled around to help prepare for the meal, or do their own thing. Setna however, was still a bit unnerved from that morning. He didn't really know why. This feeling of nervousness and paranoia was plaguing him. The constant thought that even if he trained hard and worked hard, he could still lose his sister in a split second. Her falling like that had been something completely uncontrollable, and it happened so quickly... If he hadn't of been watching her and Aaerynn, they would have been gone. Just like that.

    He would have lost Serna in seconds flat, and not even know it.

    It was making him nervous, that thought, and he found himself sitting with his hands nervously clenching and unclenching. He watched Serna, seeing her busy herself around the campfire with different kitchen utensils. She seemed to have gotten over it, for the most part. But Setna couldn't...it was nearly driving him insane.

    The boy finally picked himself up, and headed towards Elrithos, hoping they could do something and he could keep his mind off it. Setna paused before the Desert Elf and finally asked, "Hey Elrithos, do you need help with anything? Or could we do something? I just need something to do."

    He was fidgety. If the Desert Elf had nothing to give him to do, he'd find some sort of activity to try. Maybe more practice swings...or pushups...Gods know he wasn't strong enough.

    ---Immediately following their stop at the site they would be taking the night at, Elrithos had disembarked and checked on the weapons, wondering what weapon he could pull out for the young man to train against. Mountain people were often seen using spears and axes; swords and such were not popular because they couldn’t be used as tools either. Elrithos was used to the simplicity of axes, and with how they were made to chop down wood, not a very good thing to use. Yet, it was something lethal someone could use. So, it would probably be their next combat training.

    Before that would happen though, the Aavikkanian found the closer thing he could climb up to, rather it be a tree, a rocky wall or anything of the sort, and rose from the ground floor to see the horizon. These mountains were a beautiful place he had set his eyes upon, one of his favorites, next to the lush forests of the South Elves. He loved traveling through this place every time… He even wondered if he would meet his old dwarven friend in Durngan. Haven’t seen that old man in a while, even wondered if he lived.

    Elrithos had noticed Setna coming over and quickly descended his viewing point to go join him. As soon as he got down, he saw that something was off on the young man. He wasn’t excited like he typically was… He seemed more disturbed, worried, maybe even disappointed. Curious, he listened to his demand and nodded back, motioning him to follow.

    “You seem distress and disturbed, Setna… I can’t train you if you aren’t all there. What is on your mind, if you do not mind me asking?”

    Setna looked surprised for a moment before looking away, and then to the ground. He hadn't meant to be so transparent. He ran a hand through his messy dark hair, processing what exactly he wanted to say. "It's stupid...well not stupid just...really stupid?"

    His lips pursed in thought as the boy grabbed at his hair, trying to find his words. "I guess I...well..."

    Setna groaned as he struggled to find a way to describe what he was feeling exactly and his hand tugged at his hair. "It's bugging me...the fact that even if I get really strong, and I'm able to protect people...they can still be taken away from me by uncontrollable...things...I guess is the right word I..."

    He felt tongue tied like his sister now, and it made him turn red with embarrassment. "I just can't get over it. It's bugging the shit out of me. I guess I never thought about it, until it happened. You know? Like...if I hadn't been watching my sister...she would have been gone, Aaerynn too. In seconds."

    At this point he paused, his hand falling from his hair. "That upsets me the most. A life can be cut out so quick...in just a few little seconds and...then I have these thoughts like 'What if I'm not strong enough to handle a situation?' or 'What if I get really strong and I still can't do anything about it?'"

    Setna finally looked up at his companion, as he rubbed the back of his neck. "I'm just being stupid again...I'll get over it."

    The desert elf listened to Setna’s words, walking over to the cart that had the weapons and started untying them. He rummaged through all of it, finally stopping when he understood the reason as to why he was so giddy. Elrithos looked up from his things and simply gave Setna an odd, almost confused look. Then, he smiled lightly, pulling out a battle axe and a small shield.

    “You are not being stupid Setna. You are being young. You still have many things to realize about how life works…” Elrithos strapped the shield to his arm, securing it properly.”… I have lost dear friends and family in mere seconds during the War against the Emperor. It is not an easy thing to realize, but we are only mortal beings. We are but one person and we have to accept the fact that there is only so much we can do.”

    Elrithos approached the young man once he had what he needed, grabbing his shoulder. “It is a scary reality, but, we can’t save everyone Setna. The only thing we can do is try our best. As a warrior, you will realize that there is only so much you can do and that the only thing that you can do is carrying on what your friends and allies would want you to do. You’ll come to be at peace once you have gotten some experience.”

    Elrithos had lost a lot of people, of good friends to the war. Not only that, but he had lost a lot of human friends simply because of how they aged. Death was natural, a part of the cycle. It isn’t something easy to live with, but Elrithos could now live with it. He could only carry one their dreams and their desires. Elrithos stopped not too far from the carts and turned. “You sure you want to train Setna?”

    Setna took in Elrithos' words, processing them slowly. It was just something he had to learn and live with. He didn't really want to accept that, but it wasn't like he had a choice. It was life. Gaining peace though, seemed far away for him. Still, Setna found himself feeling a bit calmer, becoming less fidgety and more earnest.

    He nodded his head at Elrithos question, a smile returning to his face. "Yes, please. I've had enough contemplating life for a day...I don't think my head could take much more."

    “You can’t contemplate life but you can learn how to take one away?” Elrithos laughed lightly. It was a very dark, somber joke, but Elrithos didn’t seem to care too much. He had proven to show no remorse in killing someone in all the other encounters. He wasn’t thrilled and excited either, but he has always shown to accept what he has done and move on. Aavikkanians were known for their lack of morals, so to speak. They always did what was best for them and for survival. “Now, axes…”

    Elrithos showed all the basics of axe combat with the young man, from how to deflect the blow and never have it do a direct hit on the shield to showing the short reach and advantages of being against an axe wielder. It continued on to more of that confidence training, wanting to suck out what Elrithos called the Youthful Minds of New Warriors. With that, Elrithos was still in pretty good shape and really pushed Setna to his limits. Elrithos let the man lay on the ground.

    “Did I go a little too hard this time?” The desert elf laughed a little as he set the weapons to the ground

    Setna had grinned a bit at the Desert elf’s joke. It was the truth though. Life was a hard concept to grasp. But learning to take one came with a different set of rules. Mostly the fact that he didn’t care. Perhaps that was heartless or even selfish, but so far the boy had learned that enemies don’t think much of his life, so he shouldn’t think much on theirs. His life, his sister’s life, the lives that are important to him are the only ones that mattered. His enemies wouldn’t show mercy, so neither would he. He had enough grasp and morality to make decisions though, but learning to protect himself and those important to him…well, that would always have the highest importance.

    The training went harder than usual, Setna brought to his very limits, and by the end he barely had enough energy to pick up his head. At the question from his teacher, the teenager only had the strength to raise a lazy thumbs up. “I’m fine…totally fine…I’m just uh…gonna lay here for the night. Thanks.”

    He smiled wide though and laughed. It felt like his body had gone through absolute hell, but he felt better. He would be lucky to be able to walk tomorrow, but it felt good, felt as if he had accomplished something.

    At the sound of dinner being ready, the boy groaned and attempted the long and draining process of trying to sit up.

    -----------------​

    Serna, on her end, was trying hard to give everyone something good for dinner. She felt horrible for what she had put people through. So if she could make some good food for everyone, she'd feel a bit better about it.

    As the girl set up the pot for cooking, she noticed the newest addition to the group. Rudolf had introduced her as Esredia, and the Syndarean girl had never seen a person quite like her. Well...to be fair, she hadn't seen many of the types of people that made up this caravan. Still, it was her eyes that caught the most attention. The bright red was so stark against her pale face that it was hard to look away from her. Even so, she seemed nice so far, nicer than most of the people had been at the start.

    The girl had been lost in thought before she noticed that Esredia had come within talking distance. Serna found herself fumbling for something to say. Tirian had told her to have more confidence...and she could only do that if she tried...right?

    Swallowing a bit of nervousness, Serna spoke up enough for Esredia to hear her. "Uhm...Miss Esredia, what do you like t-to eat? If there's s-something you like in p-particular, perhaps I can m-make it for you?"

    All of Serna's concentration was placed in trying not to stutter, and she was a little proud of herself for making a slight improvement.

    --Esredia was excited now. Even with the previous event of the fall, something she could have warned them beforehand, she was still lit like a brilliant light. She very well enjoyed the company of the odd dwarf; he was a funny man indeed. He had yet to really talk to the others, especially Vordan and Aaerynn that seem to be very weary of her. Elrithos was also really nice. The red-haired one and the twins, well, she simply didn’t have time to talk to them. The mysterious girl and the pink haired ones were people she would appreciate to talk to, but again, didn’t have time.

    So, when she went looking for something to do, she decided that maybe she could help with the food. She approached the young, blue haired girl with a kind smile. Her reaction? Esredia found it odd that she was nervous around her… Although, with the eyes and her demeanor, maybe it was a little intimidating. None the less, she heard the question and smile widely. “All meat! Eat all, just need fill.” She said with her broken accent. “Need help? Me hunt.”

    Serna lit up at the woman's smile and eagerness, it immediately helped to ease her nervousness. The Syndarean girl found herself giggling and smiling as she replied, "N-No no, it's ok! We have a lot of meat. R-Rudolf likes it too. I can make you some! Is putting it in s-stew ok?"

    The Syndarean girl felt a bit more accomplished, able to have a conversation with someone she just met while Setna wasn't around. What else could she talk about? Serna looked at Esredia for a moment before smiling again. "Y-your eyes are really pretty. D-Did it run in your family?"

    She had never seen red eyes like that before. But she also had never seen pink hair or silver hair on a younger woman. Being a part of this journey also gave her first encounter with elves and their pointy ears and pretty looks. Perhaps Esredia was also part of a different group that had those eyes normally.

    --The young tribe woman nodded in response to her question. Food was food really, and with the amount of blood that Elrithos had brought her the other night, she would be fine for at least another day. Although she was disappointed in not being able to help, it would shoot down her joy. Then, she gave her a compliment… On what? Her eyes? Esredia was a bit shocked. His lips were slightly parted and her eyes wide. It was the first time she had someone genuinely compliment her eyes. She then smiled again.

    “Thank you. Color from Curse to Tribe. Mark of Evil Emperor… People all scared color. Not you?” She said as she approached her and gave her a hug. “You friendly. Me like… Blue hair? Beautiful…” She had really taken notice of the hair with the light of the fire. So unique! She couldn’t help but run her fingers in it. Might be slightly invasive of her personal space, but Esredia didn’t seem to understand that notion at all.

    Serna's eyes widened as Esredia explained what the color was from. A curse? The dark Emperor? The Syndarean girl frowned, hoping she hadn't brought up an awful subject. But she was soon caught by surprise as Esredia seemed to light up and engulfed her into a hug. The Syndarean girl immediately turned red in surprise, pressed against Esredia while feeling the tribeswoman run a hand through her hair.

    It took quite a while for the girl to actually process what was happening, but soon she returned the hug and stuttered out an explanation. "N-No, I'm not s-scared. I th-thought they are v-very pretty!"

    Serna blushed again at the compliment to her hair and smiled. She had never really gotten a comment about it before. The dark navy strands, almost black in normal light, were pretty common in Syndarea. "Th-Thank you...um..."

    The hug was going on for a bit too long and finally Serna spoke up with a soft laugh. "Um...I do h-have to cook Miss Esredia."

    Esredia was surprise to see this blue-ish hair. It was quite unique and really, quite beautiful… She continued smiling as Serna returned that she was really not scared of her eyes. It was very pleasing to hear and she couldn’t help but feel happy. She had been lost in this hug and when Serna advised that she had to go back to cooking, she realized she still had her arms around her.

    “Oh. Sorry.” She said as she let her go, backing up. “Me no miss… me wild!” She laughed a little, wishing she could help, but could probably do something else for the time. “If need help, call!” She said as she ran off to do something.

    Serna smiled wide in happiness as she watched Esredia run off. She was certainly interesting and a tad odd, but it was obvious she was extremely kind. It was nice to see. The Syndarean girl found herself humming gently as she returned to make dinner.

    -----------------------​

    Serna finished the dinner and this time was more present in handing out servings. She was working on her confidence little by little, like Tirian had told her. Plus, she wanted to apologize for the scare she had given to others. She wasn't able to provide flowers as thank yous this time. The Syndarean girl took a bowl to Lillith directly, but once again, became a bit shy as she handed it out. "Here M-Miss Lillith, I hope this is...ok."

    She was doing her best not to stutter, but it was obvious she was nervous. "I'm s-sorry, for not talking much before. Um...but I was wondering if th-there was any specific d-dishes that you like. I'm t-trying to ask everyone, so that I know what everyone likes and doesn't."

    ---Lillith kept to herself after the events of the mid-morning, relaxing with her eyes cast out to the beautiful view presented to her by the mountains. Her peace was soon interrupted by the female twin who had pushed forth a bowl of food that smelt more than pleasant. Lillith took the bowl with a semi-smile and placed it in front of her to allow it to cool more.

    "Thanks."

    The twin spoke once more, stuttering her words with clear nervousness in her tone.

    "Food is food. One cannot be picky with what they are given, but rather accept that which is placed in front of them."

    Lillith smiled, and then followed with a small chuckle of sorts.

    "But since you asked a question allow me to ask you one."

    Lillith eyed the girl over for a long moment before continuing forward.

    "It's obvious you are of innocence, you've not a mean bone in your body. How is that someone of your nature is attracted to someone like Tirian?"

    The girl immediately turned red, not expecting that type of question at all. She stuttered and felt her tongue swell in sudden nervousness, but then she processed the question. What exactly did she mean? That she was kind and Tirian was not?

    The girl slowly calmed down, mulling over her thoughts. Eventually she looked up with a large smile and flushed cheeks. "Because...Tirian and I are the same..."

    Serna realized this would sound odd, so she tried to word it better. "Tirian is...extremely kind. More so than myself. He's gone th-through a lot. Yet...he's alive and k-kind. He may not s-seem like it, when you w-witness what he can do but..."

    Her foot dug into the dirt a bit as the Syndarean thought over her wording."He always g-goes out of his w-way to help people. I d-don't know if you meant to say that we're opposites...but I d-don't think we are. Not by much, anyway."

    "I see."

    Lillith took the bowl and began eating gingerly as she pondered the female's answer, taking into account her body language and tone as well.

    "I would suggest you look into who he is more before labeling first. I assure you he's a good person, if he takes after his mother."

    Lillith stopped to enjoy more of the delicious food before her.

    "He's a man of vengeance. It may corrupt him to the very core of his existence."

    Lillith finished her bowl and sat in front of her once more, taking her eyes away from the emptiness and towards Serna.

    "Revenge is a nasty desire and if he's taken such a liking to you, then maybe you can be the one to keep him grounded."

    Serna blinked in slight confusion at the woman's words. Vengeance? Tirian? He had told her a bit of his past but...Tirian didn't seem the type to be controlled by vengeance. He had told her bits and pieces of his past but... She wasn't certain of it. Serna was quiet as she asked, "H-How do you know?"

    Lillith shrugged to herself before answering simply.

    "Call it intuition. Just be careful."

    The girl blinked in confusion once more, but slowly nodded her head. "I-I'll take your advice th-then."

    Serna didn't really understand the information given to her, or to believe it. But for some reason, Lillith just seemed wise. Perhaps it was merely because she was quiet and kept to herself, that Serna felt it best to take Lillith's rarely given words seriously. But...

    The Syndarean shrugged her thoughts away, not completely sure. Before walking away though, Serna thought of something she wanted to ask. "Is it ok if I um...ask you something?"

    Lillith nodded at Serna with a small smile on her face.

    "Go for it."

    "Y-You're from Thialea t-too, right?" Serna shifted her weight back and forth, shyly. "D-Do you like it? Are y-you happy to be heading home again?"

    "Indeed I am. However, Thialea is a place that has seen many days better than what it is currently. Durandal has ravaged the country in search of domination against the Imladris Elves. I would not suggest it as a place to live currently."

    Lillith shifted her weight as she stood to a full posture that was not much more than Serna's.

    "Why."

    Serna completely deflated at that. Surely things were different...right? Otherwise, there was no hope at all. "Um...n-no reason ...just... wondering."

    The girl's shoulders were hunched a bit, hoping things were different from what Lillith said. "Why are y-you going back then?"

    Lillith pondered the question for a long while, leaving Serna in total silence. It was a question no-one else had ever asked her after hearing all the troubles her country had gone through in recent times. However the answer came easily as her smiled faded and her tone sharpened.

    "My home is secluded and the Tyrant Tyrande would never dare to step foot on such sacred land."

    Serna flinched slightly at Lillith's tone. But the name was familiar... The girl's dark eyes shifted over the campsite towards Tirian. The stories from the beginning. Tirian's father was truly, a tyrant. Perhaps that was what Lillith was alluding to when she mentioned Tirian's vengeance. The girl frowned gently, hoping that things would work out in the end. Everyone was hopeful for new starts, just like her and her brother. Serna just hoped that everyone would reach them safely.

    The Syndarean girl took a look at Lillith's food bowl before returning her eyes to the woman's face. "Th-thank you for talking with me. Um... If you want any more food, there's a lot."

    Lillith lightened up with a small smile at the sincerity of the girl before her.

    "Thank you. Don't over work yourself."

    Serna bowed her head slowly, with a small smile, and then scurried off to her brother to eat her own meal and get ready for the night.
     
  16. The day drug on into night with silence falling onto the soldier's ears. His chest felt heavy with dread as if something evil was ahead of his days. The man spent much of his day staring out over the horizon with a haze in his eyes and his mind numb to his surroundings. Tirian was completely lost in himself with the overpowering presence of evil. It was as if something or someone was breathing down his neck with devilish intentions. It wasn't until Serna brought the troubled man food that he snapped out of his daze. Tirian took the bowl with an emotionless gaze and simply sat the bowl down at his feet without touching it any further. Tirian was not aware that Serna had remained next to him even as he descended further into a distant world of his own.


    -Serna immediately knew something was wrong with Tirian. It was as if he were looking straight past her. He wasn't the type to set food down either...usually he was the first to finish, and the first to ask for seconds. The girl's face turned troubled and she gently reached out to touch his shoulder. “Tirian?..."


    She turned silent, her brows knitting in worry. Perhaps it was her fault with what happened early. Had she hurt him? Did she make him worry? Had she upset him? Serna bit her lip before continuing to say, "
    I'm s-sorry...”-


    Tirian twitched at the female's touch, finally turning to her with acknowledgement. His face continued to look pale and without emotion as he spoke in a tone laced with dread.


    "
    It's not your fault. Just a bad feeling."


    -Serna sat down beside him, slightly relieved it wasn't her fault, but his answer didn't negate her worry. "
    A bad f-feeling?"


    She looked at his face, trying to understand where he was coming from. He looked as if he had seen death itself. Perhaps he was growing ill... The Syndarean bit her bottom lip again, wondering if she should get something or someone to help.-


    Tirian nodded his head slightly as his gazed once more returned to the horizon. A stiff wind came through the mountainside that blew his wind upwards to reveal his entire face. His face was without scaring and nearly perfect in complexion. True to elvish heritage the warrior's entire body was without a single scar or battle wound. How many would he have, the number would be too great for one person to recount. Especially with the live Tirian had been given. After a long moment of thought the red-haired man turned to Serna with a warming smile.


    "
    You're worrying too much."


    Tirian sat down next to the Syndarean and turned his eyes to the night sky. Without warning the man took Serna's hand and held it to the sky at a very bright dot.


    "
    That is the star my mother always looked at. She called it Galu. That's good luck in elvish."

    -Serna looked surprised as Tirian seemed to return to his old self after a moment of contemplation. His smile was warm, and it put the younger girl at ease. He was alright, and that was a relief. She immediately flushed though, as Tirian took her hand and held it up to a bright star.


    "Galu
    ?" Serna repeated the phrase as she looked up to where Tirian was pointing, although her pronunciation was off. "Good l-luck..." She whispered softly to herself.-


    Tirian released Serna's hand and stood to his feet with a heavy sigh.


    "
    I'm sorry for acting weird. I'll see you in the morning. No training so sleep easy. We'll resume after our first night in the city."


    -The flush slowly drained out of Serna's cheeks as Tirian changed the subject and brought it to training. She felt somewhat disappointed, both for the lack of training, and the ending of the conversation. But she stood up anyway, dusting off the dirt from her dress. Eventually she looked up at Tirian and smiled softly. "
    It's alright and...that's fine. Um..."


    She was doing her best not to stutter. Although it was becoming easier with Tirian, it was still a struggle. Serna tucked some of her hair behind her ear as she thought over what to say, before she responded, "
    Thank you for this morning...and you sh...should eat something. Ok?"


    Tirian smiled to himself and took the bowl with him as he walked into the darkness only a slight distance away from the camp. The soldier gulped down the food quickly and returned to the camp only to return the dish and suddenly he crawled into one of the carts and fell into a troubled sleep. His recurring nightmare returned with more intensity than usual. It was as if he could feel the screams of the rotting bodies that approached him. The field of blazing white flames grew higher and higher until finally the soldier snapped awake to the sound of nothingness in the early morning. Tirian slipped out of the cart and waited for the rest of the group to join him within the living world. It did not take long before the bellowing dwarf called for the carts to move forward. The rest of the journey was silent for Tirian even as the mountainside slowly turned from barren into a marvelous collection of masterly crafted buildings. Most of the buildings were carved right from the mountains and others were built away from the mountains. In the distance was a pair of massive doors that led into the mountain itself. With a sudden yell the carts came to a stop and the dwarf spoke to the group.


    -Rudolf looked back to everyone with a wide grin and he stood up onto his cart so he could be seen. "Welcome to my home, to Durngan! It's still early, feel free to explore and sight see! You will find that my home is welcoming and filled to the brim with sights you've never seen before! We'll be staying a few days here, since the mountains and deserts ahead of us will be quite treacherous! So I ask that you rest, prepare yourselves and be ready for the road ahead!"


    He made a guffaw like sound, crossing his stubby arms across his chest with pride. "As for where we are staying...."


    He turned and suddenly shot his arms out to emphasize the giant doors attached to the mountainside. "My nephew has made arrangements for us to stay with him! Plenty of room, plenty of room! Just come around when you're done, tell the guards you are with me and that's that! Enjoy yourselves! I'll get the caravan settled up tight!"


    He then promptly turned, sat down and with the crack of the whip they were moving again.-


    Tirian moved past the dwarf as he spoke into the distance. Lucille who had spent the entire travel in the carts found his actions odd and followed him to the best of her ability. The soldier moved deep into the town towards where his feelings where growing more and more dreaded. Tirian had been to Durngan a few times before, so his navigation of the city was rather easy. The red head continued forward until the liveliness of the dwarves’ dwindled down into silent nothingness. Suddenly in a somewhat abandoned portion of town, a deep voice called out.


    I figured you would seek me out, though I never thought I’d see the bastard son again.”


    Tirian’s entire body froze in fear, his hands began to tremble as the voice came closer. Lucille immediately hid in the shadows to allow whatever was happening to play out. This voice was too familiar, too evil for him to simply brush off.


    Such a price on your head. Daddy sure misses you.”


    A massive man built on muscles and killing stepped forward from the shadows. The man had a slender blade attached to his waist on the right and donned polished silver armor. Tirian felt every nerve in his body scream at him to run, not to fight. Yet he was frozen in position with a human fear he hadn’t felt in a very long time. This man was the head general of Durandal’s army, the very man who trained Tirian as a little boy into the monster he was deep down.


    Surely you’ve heard the stories. How I’ve slaughtered thousands of magical kids like you.”


    The man grabbed Tirian’s neck and threw him with such a ferocious force that his body flipped end over end crushing into a nearby building. Tirian struggled to his feet and immediately took off into the distance as fast as he could. The massive man let out an evil cackle and began to count to ten.


    “Ten seconds boy! Better make the best of it!”


    Tirian lunged over a bench with a quick roll and bounded off a railing into a high jump that allowed him to run across the rooftops on the lower level. Heavy footsteps soon followed behind him until eventually Tirian was slammed into the ground and his face was dragged along the rugged roofing. Blood immediately covered the left side of his face as he struggled against the force but it was not enough as his body accelerated forward into the mountainside. Lucille watched from the shadows in complete awe. Tirian was no match for this guy, yet she had no idea what to do. Tirian screamed in agony as his left eye forced itself shut to prevent the stinging of blood pouring into it. The man grabbed Tirian by the hair and quickly pulled him up to his own level.


    You’re weak. Just like your mother. Her screams were the best. After we tortured her lifeless body we burned it. No tree for that bitch. Ha!”


    The man’s gruff voice pierced through Tirian’s very soul. His blood began to boil as his anger rose up and gave him confidence in the face of danger. Tirian brought his hands up and quickly shoved the man away with all of his might. Tirian stood with a stern posture as his teeth clenched together.


    There ya go boy! Get mad. Get angry!”


    Tirian lunged forward with a hefty punch that was easily caught by the man before him, leading into a knee in his sternum followed by a vicious elbow into the crook of his neck. Tirian fell to the ground once more, picked up by his hair and thrown into the wall again. The man stepped forward and slammed his right boot into Tirian’s face.


    When I am done here I’ll be sure to visit that pretty Syndarean. I’m sure she’ll scream just like your mother!”


    Tirian exploded from beneath the man’s boot and slammed his fist into the solid stomach of the man. Tirian spun around with the back of his hand thrust forward and catching the Durandal general square in the jaw. The man spun around with the force of the blow and stopped with a simple smile. Tirian stepped forward and engaged his once trainer in an intricate battle of the fists. Tirian landed a quick succession of jabs and straights but was quickly caught off guard by a wide haymaker that sent him to the ground once more. Tirian stood with a quick spit of blood to the side and continued his engagement with furious punches. The man blocked each blow with ease, using the force given to give back a more powerful blow. However the soldier never faltered, pushing forward with every strike. Tirian continued on even though his body screamed for a release, urged for him to expel the building anger and pulsing magic.

    Tirian connected with a solid hook that gave him an opening to try and end the fight. Tirian ducked into the man’s guard and quickly jumped into a massive uppercut that landed solid with his opponent’s jaw. The man was hit with such a force that he left his feet and hit the ground with a solid thud. Tirian’s breaths came heavy and rustled. The battle was not over however as the General kipped to his feet and slammed Tirian with a massive punch which sent him flipping backwards. Tirian got to his feet once more with a crack of his neck. The soldier drew his blade and took a stance. The general let out a laugh as he drew his simple blade and held it snug with a single hand.


    "Have you forgotten who trained you boy!"

    Tirian rushed forward with his blade swinging to clash with his opponents, a group of sparks exploding forth from their cold steel. The two struggled against the others' blade as Tirian smiled to himself and spoke with confidence.

    "I was trained by the strongest elf to grace this earth. I was taught how to be humble and to appreciate by the smartest elf to ever live. But most importantly."

    Tirian pushed off with his blade into a blazing spin that caught his opponent off-guard and sliced a clean line into his chest. The General took a solid step back with a wild grin as the pain flowed through his body, surging his adrenaline to new heights.

    "I was also taught, in the face of danger I have to be stronger than ever. No matter how much stronger you are Rowand, I promise you the victor will be me."

    The general let off yet another cackle as his grip tightened and he engaged forward with calculated slices. Tirian shifted his weight into an elvish defensive position and simply parried the blows. Tirian was a natural swordsman, given his training he was among one of the best in this world with his knowledge and expertise. The general became frustrated as his attacks hit steel only to be pushed to the side, however he was no stranger to swordplay either. Tirian parried a mistimed attack and shifted his weight forward to began an offensive flurry of his own. Tirian's moves were much quicker with harder angles to read. Tirian's agility began to sway the battle into his favor with every strike that clashed against Rowand's. Tirian ducked under a wild slash taking the opening and slammed his hilt into the mans stomach, spinning around with a vicious haymaker sending Rowand to the ground. Tirian took in heavy breaths as the battle seemed to head towards its climax. Tirian stepped forward until he was positioned above the man.

    "This is the end for you, Rowand."

    The man suddenly moved up and tossed dirt into Tirian's eyes, causing the red-head to drop his guard long enough for Rowand to connect with Tirian's jaw and sent him to the ground. The general retrieved his blade and stood above Tirian with a wild smile.

    "No. This is your end, halfing."

    -The twins had stayed within the carts as Rudolf meandered towards the large doors with his caravan of oxen, mostly because Setna was so sore he barely had the ability to keep himself upright. They peeked out though, looking around the city with wide eyes filled with awe. They had never seen anything like it before. The entire city was attached to the cliff side, with buildings sprouting out everywhere. The most interesting sight though, was the fact that the city itself was filled with all kinds of races. Dwarves, elves, humans, orcs, even trolls. They seemed to be from all wakes of life, travelers, mercenaries, merchants and so on. The diversity was incredible.


    Serna’s face was completely a light, she wanted to explore and she nearly leapt off of the cart when it came to a stop in front of the large double doors. She turned to her brother with a large and excited smile. “
    Set! Can we go? Please? I just want to look around.”


    Setna groaned in pain and mild annoyance, but his sister’s eyes welled up with earnest desire to the point that the boy couldn’t look away. Serna hadn’t really gotten the chance to explore Cromerth, between being bedridden or training, so she certainly didn’t want to pass up on the chance to look around Durngan. Her twin brother sighed, but slowly picked himself up and out of the cart. If anything he just wanted to get to a bed to lie down, Elrithos had certainly worked him hard enough, but he couldn’t say no to his sister’s whims. Serna giggled with excitement, and immediately led the way before Setna could even inform the rest of the group that they’d be off sightseeing for the moment.


    He finally caught up to her, wincing as his muscles stretched and warmed. But Setna finally smiled as he watched his sister’s face turn bright. There was a wide happy grin across her lips as they walked up the carved roads and looked into shops. That was worth it at least.


    But then she stopped.


    Her face turned pale and Setna immediately frowned. He watched as her eyes turned wide and her head snapped toward a different direction. Setna turned to look at whatever she had turned to, but couldn’t see anything. His forehead crinkled in confusion as he asked,
    “Serie?”


    Something’s wrong…it’s bad.” Serna whispered, and then suddenly broke out into a sprint.


    Setna was caught by surprise, nearly tripping as he immediately attempted to follow her. “
    Serna!!”


    He called after her, trying to get her to stop, but she was booking it. Setna grimaced as he picked up his speed, dodging some by-passers as he attempted to keep up with her. He had never seen his sister run so fast.


    Eventually the district seemed to change, filling with older buildings and poorer conditions. At some point Setna had lost sight of his sister, but once he caught up to her, skidding to a stop…he sucked in his breath as he turned to look up at what his sister was staring at.


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


    The general had lifted his sword, and as he shot down to pierce the red head below him, the blade was deflected by a light barrier.


    Serna stood below, her eyes wide in fear, and her hands up. She was trying desperately to catch her breath, with sweat running down her face. She couldn’t process what was happening. Tirian was lying on the ground, half of his face covered in blood. A larger armored man, stood above him, blade drawn. The Syndarean girl didn’t know what was happening…


    But there was no way in hell she’d let him hurt Tirian any longer.


    She hadn’t even registered that her brother had caught up to her. All her focus was on keeping her barrier up and strong.-


    The General slammed into the barrier only once and then laughed to himself as he sheathed his weapon.


    "
    Like lambs to a slaughter!"


    The man jumped down from ledge where Tirian lay nearly lifeless, and he continued towards the twins with a wide devilish grin on his face.


    -Setna immediately stepped in front of his sister, shoving her behind him as he quickly drew his blade. "
    Serna!! I need you to run!!"


    The boy's eyes widened however as the large man was suddenly upon him. He had never seen such speed before; he didn't have enough time to even register the blade coming at him.


    The general pierced forward, intending to slice through the boy completely. But a barrier had lit up again, attempting to deflect it. However, this time, it wasn't strong enough and in a matter of milliseconds Setna watched as the barrier shattered, and the man's blade sliced straight into his abdomen.


    Serna screamed in agony, holding her head as blood gushed from her nose. She tried to keep conscious, her vision blurry as she watched her brother shudder in front of her. There was the slick sound of metal leaving flesh and Serna screamed again, watching horrified as the larger man backhanded Setna, sending him rolling across the ground from pure strength alone.


    Tears streamed down her face, mixing with her blood as she tried to comprehend what was happening. Everything was happening too fast. Her eyes viciously tried to keep sight on Setna, whose blood was quickly blossoming from his stomach. "
    SETNA!!"


    The girl screamed again, but just as quickly, she found herself without air. The stranger had grabbed her by the throat and lifted her off her feet. Her small hands attempted to scratch and pry off the larger man's but she only felt it constrict harder. She gasped and struggled for air.-


    That scream… Tirian’s eyes suddenly shot open with a ferocious gaze his body suddenly stood on its own. Tirian cast his gaze out towards the general who had Serna by the throat in mid air. His rage boiled over and his internal demon burst from the depths of his soul. The switch that should never be touched was slammed on and Tirian’s entire body exploded with anger and rage. The man let out a scream as magic began to crackle all over his body. Sparks shot off wildly as the lightning magic began to surge at such an uncontrollable rate. The ground beneath Tirian crackled and eventually splintered opened as Tirian’s conscious completely faded and his killing instinct took over. His face drained of all emotion except an evil glare that burned in his eyes. Tirian moved forward at near impossible speeds. The General turned his head just in time to catch a ground breaking punch that immediately sent his body crashing into the mountainside with enough force to break the rock. Lucille’s face drained as she saw Tirian’s face, a face she hoped to never see again. Tirian gave his opponent no time to breathe and jumped forward with another fist driving into the General’s stomach, driving him deeper into the mountainside. Durandal’s caged monster grabbed the massive man by the throat and without any slight hesitation crushed his larynx.


    Nobody gets to hear your begging as I shred you limb from limb. This time, I will be the one to enjoy the looks of agony
    .”


    Tirian leaned forward with a twisted smile as the man struggled for breath beneath the loosening grip of the monster before him. Tirian dropped the general but before his body hit the ground it met a spinning kick of Tirian. The kick crushed the general’s stomach and sent him back into the mountainside with a loud crash that echoed out into the abandoned city. Tirian's body began to feel the devastating effects of his unfiltered magic and yet he continued forth slamming the General's head into the mountainside with kicks and punches. Lucille had seen enough, and jumped forward behind Tirian and placed her hand upon his neck and squeezed. Like a light, the monster was out, falling to the ground only to be caught by the pink-haired female and just as quickly as she arrived she disappeared with a leap into the air. Lucille landed next to the Syndareans and quickly assessed the situation. Serna was scared and scuffed up but Setna was bleeding profusely from his stomach.


    "Serna I need you to watch over Tirian. Setna... You idiot..."

    Lucille lifted the boy's shirt doing her best not to blush and placed her hands over the pool of blood. Just as he ginger hands touched the wound a pale light covered the area and like magic, the wound was healed. Lucille grimaced in pain, but only for a moment as the man struggled forth from the mountainside. His face had been beaten in and both of his gouged completely blind. Lucille stared at him with disgust as the damage Tirian had caused would be irreversible.

    "Looks like we've got some company, Setna are you OK to fight with me?"

    -Serna hit the ground, struggling and gasping for air. She started to cry, mostly from fear and from pain. Her head felt as if it had been split open, and blood continued to gush from her nose uncontrollably. She couldn't feel the twitching of a seizure yet but she held her hand to her nose as she looked up and tried to assess the situation through blurry vision. All she could see was Tirian consumed by a blind rage. He went after the stranger like a feral animal, attempting to rip him apart. Serna could only watch in despair, but then another worry focused itself.

    Setna!!

    The teenaged girl struggled to her feet in a panicked flurry and hurried over to her brother. The side of his face was completely bruised and blood covered his stomach. Serna felt tears fill her eyes as she pressed her hands down on the wound, hoping to stem the bleeding. Setna clenched his teeth at the pain."I'm...alright..."

    Serna shook her head vigorously, trying to hold in her wails. He would bleed out soon if they didn't do anything. No...no...no...this wasn't happening!

    But then silence filled the area and Serna looked up to see Lucille dragging an unconscious Tirian over to them. She barked orders and Serna could only nod dumbly, watching as suddenly Lucy lifted her brother's shirt and placed her hands on the stab wound through his stomach. Serna's eyes widened as the wound suddenly closed into a tight scar. Setna was able to sit up, he touched a bare hand to his stomach, feeling the scar and looked up in surprise at Lucy.

    She merely asked him to fight, and Setna's eyes focused on the large man that pulled himself out of the mountainside. The Syndarean picked up his blade as he stood, his anger rolling off him in ways. "Of course. He caught me by surprise, I won't let it happen again."

    There was no more hesitation. Everything he had learned with Elrithos so far, he would use.-

    The general struggled forward gasping for air as blood dripped to the ground from the several lacerations received from Tirian. Lucille drew her red blade and stood strong with her eyes narrowing. This man was still a threat even with the damage caused to him. Her best guess was that this was Rowand, The Magic Slayer and he was not a person to take lightly. Even in his condition Setna and Lucille were outmatched, they would have to use everything in their repertoire to survive this man.

    "Don't get cocky Setna, this man is the head general of Durandal's army and has slaughtered thousands like Serna and myself. Calm your nerves and use the advantage of sight to our advantage."

    Lucille's eyes widened as the man was upon them with incredible speed with cold steel drawn to end the lives of his opponents. With an agile step backwards, Lucille brought her blade into Rowand's, clashing with beautiful sparks. The smug girl shifted into her weight and slammed a kick into the back of the general's leg, causing him to stumble. Lucille released one hand from her blade and shoved a powerful palm into the mans chest with force enough to send him reeling back.

    "Serna, try to get a safe distance away, no magic either. Your kickbacks will be too strong. Focus solely on Tirian. Setna and I will fight him off."

    Lucille turned to the young Syndarean with a smile of confidence.

    "Two to one odds kid, we need to let him attack us, defend and allow him to make mistakes. Got it?"

    -Serna took in what Lucille said and nodded quickly. She wiped the blood from her nose and sniffled, before slipping her arms under Tirian's armpits in order to drag the red head further away.

    Setna moved to stand in front of them, providing a block that he wouldn't let this stranger pass. He scowled angrily at Lucille though. He wasn't stupid. Obviously this man was beyond any expectation. Just the fact that he was still standing and still fighting with those injuries....it was unreal.

    The Syndarean felt a bit naked without his shield, but it didn't matter. His hands tightened on the grip of his blade's hilt. This man would pay...he would pay for what he had done.

    He waited though, everything Elrithos had taught him reeled through his head. Survival and protecting his sister was the most important thing to him right now. It would be stupid to rush in without any knowledge. He needed the man to attack him, make the first move, access the situation.

    No hesitation. Find an option. Keep going. It's never over until the opponent stops breathing. No mercy.

    The boy waited with baited breath as the general charged again, Lucille moved to intercept him but she was blown back this time, through brute strength alone. Setna called out to her, but that only made the stranger turn towards him instead.

    The Syndarean prepared himself better this time, and as the man came upon him, Setna easily met his blade with his own. The pure strength of his enemy nearly made him falter but he pushed back. He refused to blink as the man began a series of quick slashes that Setna immediately parried. Sparks shot off their weapons, as the clang of blades filled the air. How could this stranger fight like this with everything his body was suffering?

    Setna watched with hard eyes as the general's lips pulled back from his teeth into a vicious grin.

    The boy grit his teeth as the man's attacks grew faster and stronger. Setna dodged a swipe, stepping aside, and then stepped in, moving into the offensive. He couldn't continue just parrying swings anymore, eventually the man's strength would overwhelm him. The general merely smiled wider.

    Setna's eyes widened as the man easily dodged his swift swipe from above. The boy then switched strategies, striking up to catch him off guard and then go straight for his neck. Setna could only suck in air as the general first parried the initial strike and then dropped below. His blade came fast as it slashed across Setna's chest. The boy could only watch as his blood spurted, and then the man's foot met his rib cage and shot him backward.

    Setna stumbled back but remained standing as the stranger in front of seemed to want to burst out in raucous laughter, but only wheezing came out. Blood began to seep through his shirt, but Setna merely tightened his hold on his blade, breathing heavily. The general approached him more slowly, his grin wide. How? How could he do that? The man could barely even see and yet he dodged as if he could read the boy's mind!

    Setna felt his anger rile up in his chest. His breaths came in with a struggle, but all of his concentration centered directly on the man in front of him. He remained silent as he waited again, and the general didn't keep him waiting for long as he charged. Setna reverted back to parrying and dodging. This time he'd look for an option, something, anything. It didn't matter!

    Setna watched the way the man's arms swung. He knew he couldn't get close enough for a deadly shot. He'd have to find some unconventional way of taking him down. Eventually he saw it...he waited watching and dodging a swing of the general's blade, then Setna moved, twisting his body and slicing his blade cleanly through the general's arm. Blood sprayed across Setna's face as he detached the general's arm clean from his body. It was enough of a shock for both of them as Setna finally called out, "LUCY!"-

    Lucille rolled on the ground to a stop, on the brink of unconsciousness. She could vaguely hear the clash of metal and slicing of flesh but it wasn't until he Syndarean called for her name in shortened form. She shot up and erupted forward with blade extended, stabbing deep into the mans chest right where his heart was. The fight was over as the general's body grew limp and lifeless, without another breath being drawn. Lucille turned to Setna, sheathing her weapon and once more lifted his shirt and placed her hands upon his chest.

    "Try not go get hurt anymore. This will put me at my limit for awhile."

    A few seconds later and the wound was no more, leaving behind a fresh scar. Lucille fell backwards with a grimace of pain upon her face, yet she still made light of the situation.

    "I guess we showed him the light huh..."

    -In a few seconds it was over. Setna watched as the man fell to the ground in a pathetic heap. The boy was breathing heavily, on the verge of hyperventilating, but then suddenly Lucille approached again. Setna winced as she touched his wound, but soon it was gone with nothing more than a scar.

    The boy watched as Lucy then grimaced and collapsed. She made light of the situation, but Setna remained silent as he walked over to her side, and helped her stand. The injury on his chest and stomach was gone, but all Setna could feel was pain. His face, his ribs, his body...but if Lucille hadn't of been here, he would have died today.

    Setna's dark eyes took in the sight of the dead man. Although Lucille had joked about it, Setna didn't match her humor. He supposed he should feel happy, another enemy vanquished. But really, he felt nothing at all. He looked at the girl beside him, and murmured. "Are you ok?"-

    Lucille shrugged at the question before answering.

    "Depends on how you define, 'Okay'. For now I am good. But we need to get back to that mansion and get ole' red some medical help."

    -Setna nodded as he helped Lucy walk over to Serna who looked worse for wear. The blood seemed to have stopped flowing from her nose, but she looked weary, and one of her hands was twitching. Setna frowned as he crouched down to embrace her. If she was going to have a seizure, this was the wrong place.

    But how exactly were they supposed to get back? None of them were in shape enough to carry Tirian, let alone themselves. The boy looked up though, as he heard the sound of light footsteps.

    "So this was the...ruckus."

    He was a tall elf, covered in light clothes and bits of golden armor. His hair was long, blonde and with a few braids that tied to the back of his head. His features were clean cut and...pretty. If it weren't for his voice, Setna would have probably marked him off as a woman. The man stepped towards them and surveyed them, his blue eyes serious. Then they shifted away towards the dead body.

    There was a moment of silence before the elf turned back to them. "Where are you from?"

    Setna was at a loss for words, he looked at Lucy before answering. "Uh...We came from the north...We've never been here before...We're just passing through when that man attacked us."

    The elf seemed to stare him down and Setna began to sweat. Were they in trouble? Had he seen the magic from earlier? Was he another enemy? The boy kept a wary eye on the blade at the elf's side.

    But that's when the elven man seemed to soften up. "Well, you are quite lucky. I have been keeping an eye on that man for some time. His reputation from the other continent had been...formidable." The elf looked over the party one last time before asking, "Would you like some assistance? My daughter and aids are not far from here. We can get you back to where you belong."

    Setna looked to Lucy once more, for some kind of reassurance but answered anyway. "Yes, thanks...We could really use it."-

    Lucille watched at the femine elf came forward, with an elegant and formal tone. She eyed him over, allowing Setna to talk for the group of them. If this had been any other situation her smugness may have gotten them in more trouble, but she knew well enough to keep quiet. She let out a sigh as the elf offered assistance and immediately turned to Tirian. His body was cut, bruised and surely broken from the reckless magical outburst. It would take a couple of days, even for him, to recover from this event. Before grabbing Tirian the girl staggered back and grabbed the mans blade, sheathing it for him and then returned to his body. Lucille knelt down and shifted her weight to pick the limp man off of the ground.

    "I've got him don't worry. Let's go on."

    -Setna was about to protest but he looked over to Serna who was surely out of it. To his surprise the elf went over and gently helped to support Tirian as well. "You do not appear to be in the greatest shape either." He spoke to Lucy. "We should get you all to some healers."

    Setna had walked over to his sister, persuading her into a piggy back ride, even though his body protested. He shifted her weight, making sure she was supported before leading the small group. "We were traveling with a caravan, we should go back to them. They'll be able to help."

    "A caravan? ...Would its owner be Rudolf VanKirtschein?" The elf asked.

    Setna looked surprised and quickly answered. "Yes!"

    The elf smiled warmly. "I know where to take you then. I have known Rudolf for quite some years. His nephew has been worried about him, he was supposed to be in the city a few days before."

    Setna relaxed, calmed by the fact that this man was a friend of Rudolf's. The small group traveled back into the livelier parts of the city, and up to a young elven girl surrounded by a few guards. The girl was looking pensive until she caught sight of the group, and the elf. She soon came running towards them, but halted at the sight of the beaten up group. "Ada?"

    "I am sorry, this is my daughter Nellas." The elf explained before then speaking in Elvish to the girl, who nodded nervously. The guards approached, and again they spoke in elvish. Setna couldn't help wondering just who this guy was. He watched curiously as two of the guards began walking back towards where they had come. The other guard offered to help take Tirian from Lucy if she wished.

    The elf let the guard take his place and instead he took the hand of his daughter. But he spoke to the group as he said, "Come, we'll take a short cut and will get to Lord Farin's estate much quicker."

    Lucille watched as the events unfolded, shaking her head to the guard who offered so kindly. Lucille tightened her grip around Tirian, wondering who the hell this guy was...
     
    #16 Ikari, Jan 24, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2015
  17. Durngan, the native city of their employer and the trade way between both sides of the continent. Vordan wondered why he had never been here before as the place itself wasn’t that hard to find and was relatively well known. It was true he had never come close of the mountains for the simple raison of the Tribe people who were rumored to still live within it. With Esredia still alive, it proved that there must still be a few of them out there who had survived the curse of the Dark Emperor. There was no way to lift the curse either, as he knew how the contract went and those tribesmen couldn’t complete their side of the deal.

    The caravan eventually stopped and Ruldolf told them instruction to how to get to the place they needed to rest. Good, then there wasn’t much else that needed to be said. And as quickly as this was said, everyone seemed to have dispersed themselves and Vordan wasn’t any different… Although, Esredia approached him, awe still in her face. She was struck by the amazing city, that was for sure, but why had she made her way towards him? Vordan simply looked at her, waiting for her to say something… But she was clearly lost with the whole thing. So, Vordan proceeded to greet her instead, but this time, spoke in her own language.

    Esredia… You going to be alright?” She stopped in his tracks, her eyes as wide open as it could be. She was completely confused and astonished at the same time. A human from the northern continent knew to speak her native tongue? She was left without words for a second, but then answered back to him. “Hum… Yes, I will be fine. I’m just impressed by everything. It is so… different than what I am used to see… How do you know how to speak my language? She was curious to know the answer to this question.

    Studying from books, legends and my natural smarts… You want to join me for a while? I have to go to the market place anyway. Probably the most lively place you’d want to see.

    Esredia smile and simply nodded, not needing words to express the joy of his offer. Vordan motioned to her to follow him. Although he didn’t know the city that much, Vordan knew markets. All of them. He knew where to find what he wanted and differentiate the scammers and fakers from the real merchants. It was a plus to being a Maker; once you start making things, you took careful notice of what you are using and how you used it.

    The both of them marched through the streets, people seemingly not minding Vordan at all, but many eyes had turned to the lady with the red eyes and long black hair. Why were people like that? Vordan turned his head towards her… She was walking around like an awed child really, wavering around and her gaze lost in everything. It did look a bit odd and quite off for someone of her stature and her wears; weapons and a bow, some good, sturdy leather armor, athletic physique. Her red eyes too must have had its effects on them.

    They were not bothered however as they eventually reached the busy market place… And boy, Vordan thought he found heaven. There was an amazing amount of stalls and wears for sale, fruits and vegetables, plants he had not seen yet. Clearly, there was a lot for the Maker to produce his items… And he knew exactly what he was looking for. He turned to want to say something to Esredia… But she had disappeared. Vordan looked all around himself, but she was nowhere in sight. Had she gotten lost…? The mercenary wondered if she would be alright. Chances were that she’d still be in the market. So, time to trade and search for her…

    ----------------------------------
    Elrithos had separated from the group as soon as the instructions were said. It isn’t that he didn’t want to be with the rest, but he had some good friends to go see. Being a city he has to go through every time he crosses the mountains and the first large one before the northern continent, it was imperative to know a few people. It was more imperative to be known by people… In a good way. Elrithos knew too well that someone here was going to name him by the legends and stories. The question was who would dare? Well, those that knew him, but only by name, he couldn’t blame them. But the others…

    Elrithos paid no matter to it after a quick thought about it. It was just a name, name with a lot of history behind it. He instead directed himself to the house of a noble dwarven family that had ties with the Aavikkanians even during the war and the retreat of the Sand Warriors. It was now Lord Vauk Norad at the head of the family, the son of the man he knew well. He would also have to visit Lord Farin. Although the man would probably bring up the war and everything around it, he didn’t mind that man much. He was a good willed dwarf; he couldn’t hold it against him.

    Elrithos made his way to the manor of Lord Norad, not minding the rest of the people around as he walked. Aavikkanians weren’t common in this city, but they knew about them pretty well. So he wasn’t going to get eyed by the people. Getting to the steps of the Lord, he quickly ascended them and knocked at the door. A young dwarven lady answered, initially had a gentle smile, and now excited to see him. “Elrithos! You’re here!” She said as she quickly ran off. Elrithos smiled and slowly walked in, closing the door behind him. It didn’t take long for Vauk to present himself with his daughter and wife.

    Elrithos! By the gods! What brings you here? Another message for the north of the continent?” He said as he approached and shook his hand. Elrithos shook his head. “No, my friend. I have an entire story to tell you. I imagine you have time?” Elrithos laughed lightly and the daughter was quite excited to hear another story from the Messenger of the Sand people. Vauk smiled widely. “Of course I do!

    -------------------------------------
    Vordan had eventually found Esredia in the market, although it seemed like she had had an encounter with the guards. The story of what happened was almost hard to believe. Some men try to get to Esredia, maybe persuade her to bed them. She was offended and literally picked up and threw one of the men into a stall with enough force to break some bones. She had made a “show” of herself and she tried to run, but the guards caught up to her. Vordan, having been at the right place at the right time, just paid for the event to have never happened. It ended there and the story and didn’t go any further.

    Thank you… I didn’t mean to make you pay…” Esredia was a little disappointed in herself. She was causing them trouble already and she had just joined. Vordan laughed a little, making her confused again. “Don’t worry, you did the right thing. Best way to deal with those men is a swift rejection. Esredia lightly… She didn’t know what to say. Her master had… not been too kind to her when she would act out on these kinds of things. Hearing it was alright was great. Esredia noticed the large bag Vordan was dragging around. Without any clue of what she was doing, Vordan felt the weight of the bag just disappear. He turned and saw Esredia just throwing the bag over her shoulder like it was nothing… How in the hell could she manage? A good question he would need to have answers to.

    Thank you? Vordan said, trying to get a guard so that they could go to wherever they were staying for the couple of days they were there. Fortunately, they had met up with them and walked with them for the time before they would probably separate.
     
  18. The mountainside changed in landscape as the caravan came upon a massive city filled with life and love. Durngan, one of the few cities Lillith encountered on her pilgrimage, was a city she loved through the brief interaction within it’s’ walls. Rudolf boasted on their resting place before allowing the group to disperse and do as they please. Lillith watched Tirian moved past the group without any hesitation in his step, as if he’d been moving on total auto-pilot. She closed her eyes and listened to the world around her, finding a slight hum in the distance. She came to the conclusion that the red head was maneuvering towards that hum, for whatever reason. However, it was his business and not hers, so she moved on through the streets.

    Everything around her was lively and bustling, a melting pot of people moving past one another with smiles on their face. It was an odd sight after seeing so much pain and suffering lately, especially through that of the caravan. Her eyes came upon a granite structure in the distance, this was her destination. The smooth stone was carved into something similar to a temple, and one that spreads the religious studies Lillith had been engaged with. The exotic and cautious female entered through the stone doors and smiled lightly as a short statured man came to acquaint himself with the newcomer.

    Welcome, welcome!”

    The man extended his right hand forwards and Lillith took her hand to meet his in a gentle shake of sorts. As hands retracted to their respective owners she spoke for herself.

    Excuse me for intruding. My name is Lillith Zhao, electus of Terraria.”

    The man took a step back and immediately got to his knees in a bowing formation. Lillith eyed the man over, a curious haze over pupils. The man got to his feet after a long and awkward moment of bowing to the exotic woman. He spoke in a respectful and almost fearful tone.

    Forgive me for my insolence. I did not know.”

    Lillith held up her hands with a warm smile on her face as she responded to the sudden change of tone and posture of the priest.

    Please, I am just a normal person. There is no need for formalities. I was just curious if I could pray for a safe trip home, my pilgrimage is complete and I am on my home.”

    The man dropped his shoulders to relieve the tension and even put a sheepish smile on his face to hide his nervousness. The priest simply shook his head and turned towards a poor carving of an entity. Lillith nodded to the man and moved past him towards the statue, getting on her knees and closing her eyes in private thoughts.

    ‘Hear me, O’ mighty one. I am a child of your will, calling for safety and guidance. May your power shield us from the darkness and may your hands lead us to green pastures and blue waters. May you hear my calls for thanks and forgiveness through my mortal sins.’

    Lillith sat in silence even as her prayer had ended, taking in the smells and sounds of silence. Something ticked however as the presence of magic rose to a frightening heights and quickly dissipated. Tirian must have found that source and quashed it, with her assumption in mind she decided to exit the temple with a hearty wave to the priest. Lillith smiled as she entered the markets for some careless shopping, she deserved to enjoy herself once in a while. Right? Just for now, until nightfall at least.
     
  19. Aaerynn had remained with the caravan as they reached the royal residence and the guards opened the gates. Lord Farin’s home was still as grand as she remembered it. Intricately carved pillars held up a broad ceiling that sparkled from unknown metals and stone. The first room was practically a ball room with a large marble staircase that led up to the upper level and rooms.

    The elf exited the cart with Rudolf as a few guards led the oxen and other animals down a long hallway. If Aaerynn remembered correctly it would pop up to the Lord’s private pastures. Damn she had missed this. If there was one great thing about traveling with Rudolf, it was certainly the royal treatment of Durngan. Not only would they be given their own rooms but large comfortable beds, perhaps even some new clothes. And the food….Durngan was probably the most favorite place for the elf.

    Aaerynn caught up to Rudolf who had already begun his waddle up the marble steps. The dwarf gave her a wide grin as he spoke, “Looks like it’s just you and me, aye? Just like old times…I bet lil’ Fari will be happy to see you again.”

    The elf’s face softened a bit as she responded. “I was here only a few years ago. Durngan is a comfortable place, I used to come here a lot after you showed it to me. I’m hoping to cash in a favor this time around.”

    Rudolf gave a bit of a laugh. “A peek at the library, right? You were a bit of an old book worm when we first met!”

    Aaerynn shook her head, although a small smile came to her face. “I have a specific interest this time.”

    “Oh, an interest?” The dwarf looked at her and gave another grin. After a pause, his face seemed to soften and his grin turned into a gentle smile. “I’m glad you’re on this journey Ryn. You seem to be doing a lot better.”

    Aaerynn blinked in surprise before giving a slow nod and a small smile. “Mmm.”

    The duo finally made it up the large stairs and down a long hallway to the throne room. Rudolf didn’t hold anything back as he immediately burst through the doors, shouting. “FARIN!!”

    Aaerynn shook her head in mirth as she entered after Rudolf, only to watch as the lord of the dwarves, jumped up like a child and came running. He leapt into Rudolf’s stubby arms with an equally loud voice of “UNCLE!!”

    The elf sighed, but kept her small smile, that is until she turned to take in the rest of the room. A long dinner table was set up where Farin’s wife sat looking entertained and on the other side was… Aaerynn’s eyes widened as the bright green eyes of the Northern Elves most distinct noble locked onto her. Lady Ieowyn immediately made a look of displeasure, taking in Aaerynn’s body as a whole. A sinking feeling filled the wood elf’s gut, and Aaerynn could feel the pulse of rot pound in her chest.

    “Lady Aaerynn! It’s so good to see you!”

    Aaerynn turned to Farin, feeling stiff; she granted a small smile and lowered herself to shake hands with him at his level. He took her hand and pumped it eagerly up and down. He then turned rushing back towards the table. “I’m sure you’re acquainted with Lady Ieowyn Elm! Right Uncle, Aaerynn?”

    Rudolf bowed his head as he spoke loudly. “But of course! The loveliest of the North Elves Nobles! I’m blessed to be of witness to such great beauty!”

    Ieowyn’s gaze had not left Aaerynn and Farin looked back and forth between them before saying, “Come now Aaerynn! You’re a North Elf yourself aren’t you? Say hello!”

    Aaerynn stiffened as she met Ieowyn’s gaze, and the elven lady gave a cold smile before answering for her. “She won’t speak in my presence, unless given my permission. It’s a central rule for the banishment she is placed under. She isn’t supposed to exist. Good for you Aaerynn, to remember after all these years. How many has it been 170? 175? I suppose it doesn’t matter, but if you speak I will gladly grant your punishment myself. Although I must say I’m surprised to see you still alive. But I suppose the same astonishment can be said about vermin too.”


    Farin looked a bit sheepish and held up his hands. “Now now, this is Durngan, and Aaerynn is a friend of mine. As lord I wish not to see any such punishments or anymore insults.”

    Ieowyn glanced at Farin before returning her gaze to Aaerynn. “I understand Lord Farin, please excuse my language. It is simply hard to even stand being in the same room as a traitor of my people. A wood elf, who after given such mercy, continues to soil her name and the name of her people. My husband has suffered much due to her. I will not share her any kindness.”

    Aaerynn’s hands had tightened up into fists at her sides. It was hard to breathe in this room. The wood elf lowered her gaze, feeling her chest tighten and pain wrack across her torso. Why wasn’t she surprised? Of course something like this would happen. Of course. Why should she expect any differently? Luck or promise would never be on her side until she was dead. The elf had paused though, at the mention of Ieowyn’s husband. Since when had she been married, and to who? Aaerynn had made sure that throughout her entire banishment she had avoided the North Elves as much as possible. Hell, she had ignored all elves she had run into. She couldn’t have caused trouble for anyone, besides the rumors of her chosen career, but even then, it wasn’t any of their business.

    Aaerynn flinched slightly as she felt a warm hand cover her own, she looked down to see Rudolf at her side. He squeezed her hand as a silent support before dropping it. The old dwarf gave a smile before speaking, “That is fine my lady, we don’t ask you to do anything you don’t wish. Perhaps we’ll merely change the subject! Farin, was it you that initiated the town that our cousin is leading?”

    ----------​


    Setna and the group followed the elf toward the large double doors that Rudolf had pointed out earlier. He spoke quickly to the guards and soon the doors opened to reveal a palace of some sort. Setna’s eyes lit up at the sight, taken aback from the sight of the ceiling. It looked as if it were made of jewels. They were soon accosted by maids and servants who flocked around them.

    The elven man stood out, standing taller than everyone else. He spoke quietly to the servants before turning to the group, “They will take you to your rooms. Healers will be on their way to survey your injuries.”

    “Ah...Thanks!” Setna called out to him, but they were soon led away up the stairs and down a few hallways. As a servant opened the door, again Setna was taken aback with surprise. The room was huge, and well furnished. The Syndarean boy watched Lucille take Tirian over to the large bed before gently setting his sister into a comfortable arm chair. Setna was glad to see that the girl had already fallen asleep. He brushed his twin’s hair away from her face before being startled by a dwarven servant who handed him a towel.

    “Perhaps the young master would enjoy a bath?”

    Setna looked confused but then he stood up and caught his reflection in a nearby mirror. He was covered in blood. The Syndarean boy took the towel nervously and looked over at Lucy, “Do you mind watching over them?”

    Lucille had been lost in a world of her own, nothing but the chair offering her comfort as her mind ran wild. The destructive force of Tirian, the sheer ruthlessness he showed... It reminded her of a time long ago she would rather not remember. Her thoughts were broken by the distant voice of a young boy. Her eyes cleared of a haze and a smile came to her face.

    "Sure. No need to rush."

    Setna nodded, he looked at his sister one last time before following the servant out of the room. They walked down even more hallways before the dwarven man opened up a few doors. “The young master will be able to bathe here. The manor has natural hot springs that will help to relieve your body of aches and pains.”

    The teenager blinked in surprise. To think Rudolf knew someone who owned all of this. Setna stepped forward, looking around. The room looked more like a miniature cave. Large rocks lined the pool of water where steam was piling out of it and filling the room. The dwarf spoke up before exiting, “I’ll leave the young master to undress.”

    Setna looked back. “You don’t have to call me that.”

    He was too late. The servant had already shut the doors, leaving Setna standing alone. The boy rubbed the back of his head and sighed. Eventually he began to unstrap his equipment, and finally pulled his clothing off his body. He approached the steaming pool, testing the water with his toe before proceeding further. Eventually he submerged himself, pausing to get used to the heat, before beginning the process of scrubbing blood off him.

    The Syndarean didn’t really know what to think as he watched the swirls of blood dissipate in the water, after splashing his face. He sat in silence, thinking over everything that had happened. He finally sunk further into the water and placed a hand on the new scars that adorned his abdomen and chest. Gods, he was so stupid. He could see the bruising that was beginning to develop across his ribs and he could already tell half of his face was beginning to swell.

    He gripped his hair. How could he be so stupid? How long had he been working and yet he had still hesitated! How could he face Elrithos after that piss poor fight? The frustration was riling up in him. He should have known, he should have done better! Having to rely on someone else for the kill…How could he do that? What if he was put into the same situation, with no help? He wouldn’t have survived!

    The boy grit his teeth in self-hatred and anger. Eventually he turned and slammed his fist against the closest rock. He did it again, and again, and again, until his knuckles were left bare, red and bloody. He let out a scream of frustration until he finally collapsed into the water. It was so pitiful…so pathetic. He cursed under his breath.

    He didn’t know how long he sat there, before he finally picked himself up. What could he do? He had to get better. He was still alive wasn’t he? He had been given another chance. He had let out his anger, now he needed to improve. Setna took a few deep breaths before slowly rising to his feet. He took a stance in the shallow water, imagining the man again, imagining the moves he had made. The boy shifted his feet, imagining the man coming at him one more time. How should he have responded? What could he have done differently?

    The boy splashed the water as he moved, his hands holding onto an imaginary blade. He’d figure it out before returning.

    -----------​

    The conversation had shifted around to different subjects, yet Aaerynn had remained silent. It felt like she was suffocating. There was no way she’d be able to converse with Farin the way she wanted. Not here and not with Ieowyn. But she wasn’t allowed to excuse herself. The wood elf placed a hand on the scar on her chest, rubbing it as some form of comfort. The rot was building up in the back of her throat, and it was taking everything she could to swallow it down. Perhaps she could nudge Rudolf and he’d see she wasn’t feeling well because this was fucking torture. The doors to the room suddenly opened, and Aaerynn turned to see the intrusion, hoping she could find a way to get herself out of there.

    Instead, she found her breath getting caught in her throat.

    Demetrius stood in the door way, holding hands with a young elvish girl. He looked just as she had seen him in her nightmare. Aaerynn felt her eyes go wide as Demetrius paused to look at her, before swiftly looking away. He came into the room and passed her without a second glance. The female elf watched him before her gaze was taken by the little elvish girl running to Ieowyn with an excited, “Nana!”

    Ieowyn opened her arms to her daughter, as Farin grinned wide. “Ah Uncle, I know you’ve met Demetrius before! Have you Aaerynn? This is Demetrius Elm, my godfather. My father and he were great friends back in the war.”

    Aaerynn merely stood there, dumbstruck. Elm? He had changed his last name to… Her eyes shifted to Ieowyn, and to her daughter. She felt her knees falter beneath her but she remained standing. Pain pulsed beneath her scars and Aaerynn found herself gripping the bumpy skin tightly, an attempt to hold herself together. What was going on? Her mind couldn’t wrap around what was happening. Perhaps…perhaps this was her retribution.

    She watched as Demetrius glanced a final time at her before looking away and changing the subject. “It’s good to see you again Rudolf, but I am afraid members of your party were injured in a fight earlier.”

    Rudolf’s eyes widened. “Who? Are they alright?”

    The male elf nodded simply. “Yes, a red head was the most severely injured. I suspect a lot from kickbacks. There was also a set of twins, and a…pink I suppose is the word, haired girl. The female twin seems exhausted, and the other two merely seemed fatigued and perhaps suffer from some bruising.”

    Rudolf turned to Aaerynn. “You should go check up on them.”

    Demetrius answered for her, without looking at her. “That is not necessary. I requested some healers to see to them. They will be fine in their capable hands.”

    Farin broke into the conversation with defense for the female elf. “You shouldn’t knock Lady Aaerynn’s skills! It was she that helped my son through a bitter illness when he was only an infant.”

    Ieowyn scoffed as she held her daughter close. “You should be more careful my lord. Her reputation as a con-artist speaks enough for her. Her skills are merely the gift for gab and the ability to pick a pocket.”

    Aaerynn was going to vomit from pain. She felt her stomach contort with rot and her lungs squeeze the air out of her. Yes, perhaps this was her punishment. Perhaps she deserved this. For her betrayal, for her back stabbing, for her disappointment towards her family… But she still couldn’t believe it. Her brother and Ieowyn…and a child… The wood elf lifted her face to look at the little girl on Ieowyn’s lap. She looked just like Demetrius…no…she looked like her grandmother. It was like Aaerynn was staring at the face of her mother. It was making her even sicker and the wood elf returned her gaze to the floor.

    Demetrius continued to speak, changing the subject immediately. “It seems Rudolf’s companions were able to deal with your worry Farin. General Rowand was killed, although magic was involved.”

    Farin leaned back in his seat. “How bad?”

    “Not bad.” Demetrius answered. “The fight seemed to have taken place in the poorer section of the city. Any witnesses can easily be paid off as if it never happened. My guards have picked up the body and we will take whatever measures need to be done.”

    Farin relaxed again, giving a smile. “Thank the gods! Last thing I need is Ellahur and the other human kingdoms to be breathing down my neck again for more magic incidents. Looks like your companions are a real life saver Uncle! But what shall we do with the body?”

    Rudolf held his hands up. “Now, now. I don’t believe this is the kind of conversation to be having with a child in the room.”

    Ieowyn merely brushed away some hair from her daughter’s face, tucking it beneath a braid. “It is quite alright master dwarf, we decided against teaching Nellas human word. As you know, my husband’s family is tarnished by sin and rebellion. Incase my daughter was born with the same impulses and shortcomings of that relative, I decided the language barrier would help to hinder such an event from happening again. The last thing I would want is a daughter like that.”

    Crack.

    Ieowyn’s eyes had lifted to Aaerynn, and Aaerynn met them. The pain was unbearable now. She had had enough. The rot churned in her chest, burning her from the inside out. Ieowyn merely frowned, and tilted her head as she spoke once more. “Perhaps you should be excused Lady Aaerynn, you’re bleeding.”

    The wound on her arm had ruptured again, the last of her clean bandages turning black with the seeping of rot filled blood. Aaerynn slowly bowed her head at the permission, and immediately exited the room as fast as she could.

    -----------​

    Aaerynn had no destination in mind. She was simply moving as fast as she could to get away. She made it to the stairs, but had to catch herself as her legs failed on a few steps. She was left to sit on the steps, a mess, while breathing hard until her lungs finally gave out. A coughing fit grabbed hold of her and Aaerynn held a hand to her lips, retching slightly.

    Her throat was left sore as the coughs faded away and she was able to breathe again. A black substance had filled her palm, and she shuddered with pain. Gods, why? Why now? All she wanted was the key to the library, that’s all. She closed her eyes tightly as pain wracked her core, she could feel the injury on her arm cracking further and bleeding more. She brought her knees up and buried her face in them to try and settle her mind.

    All she could think of was her nightmare, the way Demetrius looked at her then, to how he looked at her now. He had a family now, a child even. He had changed his family name because of her. She had inflicted such pain on him, what did she expect? What did she think would happen? Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

    The elf held her head as her mind swam with painful memories. She could see her mother’s face, John’s face, Demetrius, Lysander, her father. It felt as if she were sinking, falling, not existing.

    “Aaerynn?”

    The sudden interruption of Rudolf’s voice brought the elf back to reality. She lowered her hands from her head as she looked up at him. The dwarf made his way down to the step she was sitting on. “Looks like you could use a drink.”

    “A drink?” The elf snorted, wiping her lips. “More like a keg.”

    The dwarf smiled softly, and began to rub her back in soothing circles. “Well, seems like my nephew would like a drink himself. How about it? Get away from some elves, have a good time, and you’d get to ask your favor.”

    Aaerynn’s eyes turned wide and slowly she looked down, covering her emotional face with her hand. “Thank you… I really appreciate it.”

    Rudolf grinned wide and gave a solid pat to the elf’s back. “Well come on then! We’ll see who else is around, get us a party and a good time going!”

    Aaerynn nodded, and watched as the dwarf returned to the top of the stairs. “I’ll check on Tirian and the others first. You get ready Lady Lightweld! You’re about to receive a dwarven homecoming! There’s nothing quite like it!”

    The old dwarf gave her a wink and Aaerynn snorted, but her face softened as she watched the dwarf waddle away.

    Yes, she could certainly use a drink.
     
  20. -Setna had to ask a few times how to get back to the room his sister and Tirian were occupying. The inner workings of this place was like a labyrinth, one wrong turn and suddenly you're lost for all eternity. Eventually he found it, and knocked on the door once before entering.

    He ran a hand through his wet hair as he made his way into the room and sat down in empty chair. His knuckles were scraped and red. Without the blood covering his face, the bruises from being hit were obvious. Half of his face was a bit swollen and dark from purple bruising. He sighed softly before connecting his gaze with Lucy. "Thanks for watching over them."


    He shifted his gaze to Serna, who seemed to be sleeping soundly. Her throat still looked red and raw, and occasionally her body would twitch. It was a mild seizure, at least it showed that she had improved a lot in the little training she had gotten so far.-


    Lucille stayed behind in the room, the sound of silence crashing over her still ringing ears. Her eyes moved from Tirian to Serna with a heavy sigh to relieve the worry and anxiety within her stomach. Crusted blood covered much of her face and clothes, though it didn't bother her much. What did bother her however, was the monstrosity that Tirian reverted to after hearing Serna scream. Thinking about even now, sent shudders down the girl's spine. Setna broke her nightmarish thoughts as He spoke and then looked towards Serna with some comfort in his eyes.

    "Tirian has been teaching her well. I see Elrithos has taught you well too."

    Lucille stood from her chair to stretch her sore limbs.

    "I'm going to change out of these garments, if you don't mind."

    Lucille's normal armor pieces had already been left with the caravan, yet her dress was tattered and covered with blood. The girl turned on her heels and removed the dress with one motion revealing her undergarments, and something even more astonishing. Her back was covered in long, straight scars similar to that of a whip cracking against her back hundreds of times. Lucille grabbed the nearby shirt and pants, quickly throwing them over her tarnished skin and turned to Setna with a sheepish smile.

    "Life can be rough where I'm from."

    -Setna suddenly sat up straight in his chair at her stating she would undress. Here? N-Now? The boy began to blush furiously, the red reaching the roots of his dark hair. "D-D-D-Don't just do th-that out of the b-b-b-b-blue!"

    The Syndarean swiftly turned around as the pink haired girl completely ignored him. He tried to look anywhere but at the female, yet the sound of swishing clothes piqued his curiousity too far....Just one look. He took a slight peek out of the corner of his eye, but was left shocked from the sight, the blood draining from his face.

    Her back was littered with scars. Lines from whippings. Setna found himself frowning and looked down at the ground as he played with his hands. Where he was from, that was a typical punishment. It was cruel, and meant to make an example for the rest. But her back...it wasn't punishment, it was torture. "I'm sorry..."-

    Lucille shrugged to the teen aged boy, taking a seat once more to allow her limbs some well deserved rest.

    "I am from the same place as him."

    Lucille directed her eyes towards the resting Tirian with a sigh in her breath.

    "Well not really. I'm from a small village right outside of Durandal. But with the army attacked and my family was killed I was taken in as a prisoner."

    Lucille slouched back into her chair with yet another sigh.

    "I was kept for about a year. I was tortured every day just for fun, but I got my out when Tirian disappeared."

    Her eyes wandered over towards the halfling prince with a bit of sympathy in them for the first time.

    "I made it to this continent and joined an assassination group. Ever since then I've been training and killing people preparing for this job. To kill this man right here."

    Lucille closed her eyes, wondering just why in the hell she was telling this kid all of this. And yet it felt comfortable, as if she could trust Setna in some sense. Setna probably had some wild idea about her and would more than likely be upset at this news.

    -Setna jolted up and out of his chair, his eyes wide. His hands went to his hip, but he realized he had left his blade on the other side of the room. He had taken it off before his bath. Shit. So he paused instead, turning still. "Why would you tell me that? Are you going to kill us now!?"

    He didn't get it. What was she after? Was she telling him the truth? Then why? ...Surely she had tons of opportunities to kill not only Tirian but anyone that witnessed it. Instead...

    Setna finally began to relax, his shoulders dropping at a sudden realization. "Why did you save him today then?...If it wasn't for you...all of us would be dead by now."

    Lucille watched the boy get worked up and start shouting like an idiot. She couldn't help but to blush and let out a small laugh to herself. Then Setna began to reason with himself and asked the question she was looking for. The pink-haired girl stood from her chair and closed the distance between her and the Syndarean so that only the two of them could hear the answer.

    "While you're right, I would've killed everyone peacefully in there sleep. That isn't in my contract. When I met Tirian I wasn't impressed and I was sure he would turn out just like his father. But after watching him. After seeing his care for your sister. Seeing him defend everyone here without hesitation I saw through is lineage and decided to open up. I told him and we came to an agreement. If he doesn't hold a grudge, why should I. The past is the past, and that's where it should stay."

    Lucille turned back towards her chair and seated her bottom once more, taking in the boys feature more keenly this time. He was relatively virgin to the battlefield, having no real scars to show his experience, minus what was given today. Yet she found his features to be appeasing, and maybe even took a liking to him. However she shook her head to force away such thoughts and continued the conversation forward.

    "I admire what you did for Serna. You've taken her from a hostile environment and yet you give her freedom in this world. Let me ask you this. Would you trust her life in Tirian's hands?"

    -Setna slowly sat back down at her explanation. He ran a hand through his hair and scratched his scalp. This was just...weird. But that was putting it mildly. He listened as she changed the subject, and finally he looked up as she asked whether he trusted Tirian to take care of Serna. He answered without hesitation. "Yes."

    The boy looked down again, and rubbed the bruise across his face. "If anything, I trust Tirian to protect her more than myself... He's proven more times that he is willing to protect not just my sister but the others. And he's done a lot for her...more than I can ask."

    Setna paused, thinking over everything. "I trust everyone in our party, really. Would I ever want to leave Serna alone? Or make someone else responsible for her? Never."


    "But..." The boy looked up at her, and finally shrugged. "I suppose I trust Tirian and Elrithos the most, if it came to my sister's life."-

    Lucille smiled with Setna's answer, as it was honest and true to the word. He was still an odd boy that should have just stayed home and yet, she found herself admiring his courage to stray away from such a horrible way of life. Lucille waited a moment before weighing her own thoughts on his answers, allowing everything to settle in to her mind.

    "Serna is her own person, and I wouldn't say she's supposed to be somebody's responsibility. But what I cay say is that she is having an impact on Tirian's life in a weird way. He's not exactly what he portrays on the outside."

    Lucille looked over to the sleeping monster, the image of his twisted smile burned into her memory from just a few hours ago. How could one person be so demonic and still care as he does for Serna? Lucille shuddered for a moment and turned her attention back towards Setna.

    "What will you do when this is all over?"

    -Setna blinked at her explanation and then her question directed towards him. He turned silent, mulling over his thoughts. "I don't really care..."

    He spoke honestly again. "I just want to find a place that Serna can live. Somewhere the Syndareans can't find her, and where her magic won't get her into trouble. I suppose that's impossible to hope for but...it's all I got."

    This time he looked up, his dark eyes taking in Lucille's face. "What's with you, anyway? You say you weren't impressed with Tirian earlier....but I don't really buy that. You said you changed your mind after watching him, but why? You could have killed him the first time you saw him, couldn't you?"-

    "No."

    Lucille's face grew incredibly serious as her explanation came out.

    "To be honest, I owe him my life. Being a prisoner in a country built on war and hate and having the king's son be the only person to ever visit you..."

    Her voice cracked for a moment, trying to push back the sadness that had balled in her throat. A long moment of silence came over the room until Lucille could finally resume her end of the conversation.

    "Tirian often ordered the guards to push back torture times and would spend much of his time watching over me. He would bring me food and fresh water. He was a good kid that was being twisted by a tyrant in armor."

    Her eyes gazed into Setna's with a burning passion within them.

    "I wouldn't expect you to know what that's like. And truthfully ask yourself. Would you be able to kill him?"

    -Setna bowed his head at the explanation, unable to keep looking at her face. No, he wouldn't know what that was like. He wouldn't know at all. Besides everything with his sister, he had lived a pretty cushy life. He had parents that loved him, friends he enjoyed being around. He loved every bit of training and working hard, pushing himself to be better.

    No, he didn't know the hardness and suffering that other people went through. Not at all. His hands bunched into fists, tightening his scraped skin. He was upset for her. Upset that she had to live that life.

    Her question caught him off guard though, and he looked up at her again. "No. Are you kidding?" The boy grimaced, his face turning sour. "Were you watching at all today? I could barely beat a guy who was on death's door as it is. I could have died twice today. You really think that I would believe I could take down Tirian?"

    He was angry now, slouching in his chair as he leaned against it.-

    "That's the difference between us and someone like Tirian. And a big reason why I couldn't do it."

    She paused for only a moment to explain herself.

    "We were trained with certain goals in mind. I was trained to kill silently without emotion, and I am sure you were trained for defense While Tirian was trained for everything, a perfect soldier."

    Lucille scooted the chair forward to allow a more personal conversation between the two of them.

    "There's no need to get upset. We got the job done and killed someone way above our league. Regardless of the situation it was in. You put yourself in harms way for others against someone that was inches away from killing our favorite red-head. So chin-up and keep practicing."

    -Lucy's words help to simmer Setna's anger down, and he finally smiled a bit. "I guess that's true...thanks."-

    Lucille slouched back into her chair and allowed the silence to take over the conversation. A comfortable silence is something few people share together, if ever at all. It takes certain combinations of traits and levels of comfort for this phenomenon to even occur. So many people feel it necessary to talk constantly about random nonsense, and Lucille found herself tired of constant talking. So these moments of silence were golden for her.

    "When this is all said and done, I hope we can stay friends."

    -Silence filled up the room, and Setna leaned back against his chair. This whole day had been exhausting. His body felt like he had been run over by a cart. Still... He placed a hand over his stomach. Lucy had been able to heal his severe wounds as if it was nothing. There was no pain like what he had seen caused by Vordan's bandages. Instead, the pain seemed to transfer to Lucy. Strange. He should feel thankful for it though, either way.

    Perking up a bit at Lucy's words, the boy looked over to her. Friends? To be honest, were they friends to begin with? He never really had the chance to talk to the pink haired girl before, although after her explanation he could see why. But after everything that had happened... Lucy would be a very good friend to have. Setna gave a wide toothy grin as he held his hand out to the girl. "Friends, then?"

    He waited for her to take his hand."It'll be a promise."-

    Lucille watched the boy give a wide smile and extend his hand forward, and yet she found herself hesitating. Lucille took Setna's hand after a moment of waiting and finally flashed her own smile. His hands were in the middle ground between boy and man. There were subtle signs of roughness and just a hint of softness. Lucille tried her best to hid the colors of pink coming to her cheeks, immediately changing the conversation to something more interesting.

    "So you've seen my magic. I hope you aren't magically racist or anything."

    -Setna gave a wide cheesy grin when she finally took his hand. Her hands were softer than he thought they would be. He then burst out into loud laughter when she spoke again.

    Magically racist?

    He kept laughing until tears came to his eyes. Setna hiccuped as he slowly began to calm down and wiped his eyes. "Hahaa...No no, I hope that's obvious." He laughed again.-

    Lucille watched the odd boy laugh at her comment, taking in his odd physical ticks and adapters. She smiled to herself and allowed him to finish his cackling before continuing the conversation.

    "Now for a serious question. Are you scared of Tirian?"

    -Setna was still wiping away tears of mirth when she asked the next question. He was still in a good mood as he responded, "No...Should I be?"-

    Lucille looked into the boy's eyes with a more serious look.

    "Imagine Tirian get's out of control like he did today and turns on us..."

    -The joy from before was gone, as Setna matched Lucille's seriousness. "Why would he? He's not an animal and he's not insane. He went too far in order to help us. In order to keep fighting...Just because he didn't show mercy, doesn't mean he's not able to see who's an ally or not... Right?"-

    Lucille quickly shook her head in response.

    "That's only the initial assumption. If he lost himself to rage, anything could happen. That's just my opinion."

    -Setna crossed his arms before shaking his head as well. "I don't think he's that stupid."-

    Lucille sat up in her chair with a sheepish smile, her eyes wandering over to the man of the subject. She eyed him over once and returned judgement to Setna.

    "I don't think it's a matter of stupidity, but rather emotions."

    -Setna merely tilted his head. He followed Lucy's gaze over to Tirian, before looking back at her. "I don't get it." He told her blankly.

    Lucille looked at Setna, sighing to herself before trying to explain to the Syndarean. Yet the words never came, and instead the smug girl shrugged.

    "Oh... don't worry about it."

    Lucille slouched back in her chair reveling in the fact of her superior intelligence. However she felt the grip of exhaustion and the need of sleep grew heavier. Her eyes looked towards Setna as a yawn passed through her body.

    "Let's get Serna into bed and call it a night. Kay?"

    -Setna nodded in agreement as he stood and walked over to his sister. Carefully he picked her up and carried her over to the bed where Tirian remained unconscious. He tucked Serna in, making sure there was enough room for her.

    A knock on the door made Setna pick up his head though, and Rudolf's bald head poked through the doorway. "Hope you don't mind an interruption!"

    The teenager shook his head as Rudolf came in and waddled over to the bed. "I heard about what happened, well a bit, is everyone alright?"

    Setna nodded, although he grimaced a bit as Rudolf looked up to observe the bruising across his face. "We're alright. Got knocked around a bit but...I think we're fine."

    Rudolf nodded solemnly, taken in Tirian's face. Setna just now noticed the bandages that were applied and he looked to Lucy. "Did the healers come?"-

    Lucille watched the dwarf come into the room, hearty as ever. His face seemed to focus on Tirian first before questioning everyone, to which Setna replied. The Syndarean boy turned to Lucille with a question of his own. Lucille nodded at the boy before adding words of her own.

    "In and out as fast as you'd imagine."

    Lucille shifted the chair to the side and laid her tired, beaten and exhausted body down on the ground, taking one of the spare blankets and covering only her face with it. From beneath the cloth came a muffled voice, followed by a loud yawn.

    "Don't mind me. I am going to get some rest."

    -Setna gave her a blank face, although he supposed he didn't blame her. Rudolf gently patted the boy's back, gaining Setna's attention. "Perhaps it's best you all get some rest. I'll pry ya for information in the morning."

    The boy nodded, and the dwarf gave him a smile. "Some of us will be headed out tonight, I imagine you'll want to stay here. But don't feel shy asking for anything. You're my guest and therefore my nephew's guest, everyone will take care of ya."

    "Thank you..." That's all Setna could really utter as he watched the dwarf head for the doors.

    Rudolf turned back once though, and gave a slight nod. "I'm grateful you all are alright. Get some rest, I'll see ya in the morning."

    Setna nodded numbly again, watching this time as the dwarf finally exited and left the room.

    The boy didn't really feel like sleeping, so he lowered himself into an arm chair, mulling over his thoughts and his conversation with Lucy.-

    Lucille found herself in a twisted plain of sorts, an ethereal dream world taking over her mind. She appeared as a young girl in this dream, transparent bars holding her captive. She could not speak, she could not run. Screams broke the ambient silence, screams of distorted demons and agonized souls. The adolescent Lucille fell on her back an attempted to cry but nothing came from mouth. Tears steadily streamed down her face until finally her body awoke to the real world, sweating and shivering vigorously. The girl paid no attention to the surroundings and simply buried her face into the fabric of her blanket and forced herself to sleep once more. This time her dreams were darkness and would remain this way until the morning called for her to awake. She was oblivious to the door opened to a hooded figure of feminine traits. Without noise the character stepped forward until reaching bedside where Tirian rested peacefully. A loud slap broke the peaceful silence, snapping Tirian's eyes awake to meet a pair of familiar eyes. The figures presence gave of an icy feeling to the rest of the room as Tirian simply sat there ready for the oncoming belittling.

    "How stupid are you, boy? I taught you better than that."

    -At some point Setna had fallen into a dreamless sleep. It was the sound of a sharp crack that made the boy open his eyes. He blinked a few times, his blurry vision clearing to see a hooded figure standing above Tirian. Setna immediately jumped up, stumbling a bit to his feet as he said, "What's going on!? Who are you!?"-

    Tirian looked over to Setna, still feeling sluggish and drained from the prior days endeavor. The hooded figure did not take kindly to Setna's sudden outburst. With one quick motion the hood fell and a hand extended out towards the Syndarean boy. A female elf stood in front of Setna, with a sharp icicle poking into is throat. Tirian watched with a sigh, she sure hadn't change over the years.

    "Quell your tone boy, before I make an example out of you!"

    -Setna held his hands up, his eyes wide as he felt the ice press into his throat. He swallowed his spit and looked at her. She was an elf, but different from the elves he had seen so far. He couldn't really place it, although right now probably wasn't the best time to think of these types of things.-

    "Relax Auriel. Don't take your anger out on him."

    The elf turned towards Tirian's voice with an evil glare in her eyes. The icicle dissipated and it was as if Setna didn't exist anymore. The elf stepped towards Tirian and once more let forth a slap that broke the silence within the air. A long, long moment passed before anything else was said. The two simply looked into each others eyes. Tirian held sympathy and understanding while Auriel, the newcomer to the situation, held sadness and fury. Tirian could not blame her, and decided to accept what was coming. Tirian looked over to Setna, a frown coming to his face as he spoke.

    "Setna, this is my sister. Auriel Demeria. Excuse her if you will."

    Auriel intensified her gaze at Tirian, but only for a moment. A softer look came to her icy-eyes as she turned towards Setna and extending her hand.

    "Please forgive me."

    -Setna could only stare in complete surprise. What the hell was going on? Suddenly a hand was extended towards him and the boy wondered if it was actually safe to take it. He finally mustered the courage, and shook her hand. Yet he couldn't help waiting for another icicle attack.-

    Auriel gave a wicked smile as the boy's hand took her own. She could easily cause harm on so many levels to this boy, but in her iced heart she knew he did not deserve such pain. Not yet at least. The elf dropped the boy's hand and once more turned to Tirian. Her tone changed and suddenly it was as if she was speaking gibberish.

    "Mother would be do disappointed. I hope you know that."

    Tirian finally found strength to struggle his body up, placing his back against the wall to give him leverage as he spoke, in the same tongue as his sister before him. Though it was obvious his skill of the elven language was not as good as Auriel's.

    "She would be more disappointed in her daughter giving in to rot. What would she say to you now?"

    Auriel gave Tirian a serious gaze, to which he responded with a gaze of his own. Lucille finally woke up to the noise and turned towards the new figure within the room. Lucille shivered in her presence as her magical prowess seemed to pour out. The pink-haired girl knew this elf was not someone to piss off. Tirian sighed to himself, the same stuff that always came up when she was around. Disappointment, why are you doing this, why are you always wrong. Auriel slouched her shoulders before returning comments of her own.

    "You worried me Tirian. I can not lose you, you know that. So please. Please. Be more careful."

    The red-head nodded with a returning smile as he spoke in a human tongue again.

    "Don't worry. I've got a great supporting group. Plus you're always around the corner right?"

    -Setna took a few side steps so he could stand by Lucy. He didn't understand what was going on at all. Suddenly they were speaking in a completely different language. Setna rubbed the back of his head and looked at the pink haired girl. "Are you getting any of this?" He whispered.

    There was a knock on the door and Setna looked up with a slight groan. What else could happen this morning? The teenager was surprised though, that no one popped in immediately after knocking. So instead the boy walked to the door and opened it. He was taken aback to see the elven man from the day before. The man smiled softly. "I was wondering how you all were doing?"

    Setna didn't know what to say so he just opened the door wider so the elf could see what was going on. The elf looked a bit surprise as he walked in and spoke, "Auriel?"-

    Lucille poised herself for an answer but before she could do so there was a knock upon the door. Setna moved past the elf and opened the door to the male elf from yesterday, who spoke with a kind tone. He immediately recognized the female elf and even spoke her first name. Auriel turned to Demetrius with a warm smile on her face and wasted no time in embracing her old friend. The elf dropped the embrace before returning kind words.

    "I hope you don't mind Demetrius, I was just check in on my brother, the red-head over there."

    -Demetrius smiled wide and returned the hug. He followed Auriel's inclination to the red head sitting up in bed. "Ah, so you're Tirian. Your sister use to gush about you all the time!"

    Setna slowly returned to Lucy's side, looking extremely confused.-

    Tirian looked up to his sister, who gave him and Demetrius evil glares. Tirian couldn't help but to laugh, suddenly stopping as the pain in his chest rose. Auriel gave her brother a quick look of worry and sympathy before turning her gaze to her old war buddy.

    "I'm sorry to leave on such short notice, but I have a tight schedule to keep."

    Auriel hugged Demetrius once more and then turned to Tirian, simply placing her cold hand upon his cheek.

    "Be more careful, please. Our kingdom needs a King."

    Tirian hung his head for a moment, weighing his recent choices before lifting up once more with a smile.

    "Right. Do me a favor. Send a message to the smiths and ask them for three ingots of Orichalcum. Have them send it to Novan."

    The elf nodded to the man's request and just as she came, she left, leaving the room to a silence. Tirian eyed Lucille and Setna, yawning to himself before addressing them.

    "I'm still worn from yesterday, I am going back to sleep."

    The red-head curled under the blanket and found himself pressed against the rock that is Serna. Within moments the man was asleep as if nothing ever happened.

    -Setna stood there, still reveling in just how fast everything had happened. Eventually he said, "What the hell just happened?"

    Demetrius turned to him with a slight smile. "I apologize, Auriel is like that. In and out, she's always on the move. How are you both doing?" He motioned to Setna and Lucy. "I'll go see if anyone is up to provide you with some breakfast."

    Then the elf was gone, not even staying long enough to hear the answer to his own question. Setna just groaned a bit, realizing the elf's explanation hadn't really been that helpful either. Perhaps he should go back to bed too, then maybe he'd get a better understanding of what was going on, or better yet maybe this was just some weird ass dream.-

    Lucille sat in a chair, laughing quietly to herself. This whole morning was just too much for her to handle.

    "Sorry Set, you're on your own here. I'm going out for a walk. Try not to go insane."

    And like everyone else that morning, Lucille exited the room and leaving nothing but silence behind.
     
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