Reralae Dreamer of Bladesong Karma: 142/12 2506 Posts
Black as pitch
"Morgana," Spiderlily walked up behind the witch, placing a hand on her shoulder, "Morgana, wake up."
Morgana didn't stir, still curled up underneath a number of blankets.
"Morgana," the woman repeated, giving the sleeping witch a light shake.
Finally, the witch stirred, giving a small yawn that she covered by her hand.
Spiderlily gave a bemused smile, "Wakeful dawn, my dear. Are you rested well?"
"Yes, quite so," Morgana replied, sleepiness lingering in her voice, "Has something happened then?"
"They're on the move."
Morgana immediately sat up, fully awake, "Where?"
"If I read your looking glasses right, they are already within the walls of Adedre's manor," Spiderlily replied.
"What a bother. How am I supposed to do a delivery when they're already at the destination?" Morgana rolled her eyes, getting onto her feet.
Holding a hand over her nightdress, Morgana rewove the threads into her usual attire, a modest, woven dress that trailed threads from her arms to the ground. She crossed her arms with irritation, tapping one foot idly.
"What will you do, my dear?"
"I suppose I am forced to make a move. It just wouldn't do to let the necromancer feel that I've abandoned our deal."
"Will you show your full hand?"
Morgana shook her head, "No. I think not. Things may go sour very quickly. A dead woman cannot pay the debt owed. Perhaps I should let her know to expect visitors..."
Posted on 2019-12-09 at 13:28:21.
Eol Fefalas Keeper of the Kazari RDI Staff Karma: 465/28 8567 Posts
Game plan: part 2
Following the kazari’s nods, Kithran turned her eyes in the direction of the patrol that would be approaching. Just at the limit of her vision, she spied the faint, bobbing silhouettes of the guards as their steps brought them closer. “I’ll take this side,” she said, glancing over her shoulder, “Probably best if the one’s you deal with don’t see you coming.”
“Probably,” Ch’dau nodded, adding a wink before he turned and began hauling the rope up from the wall’s outer side and repositioning it for use on the inner. When he finished, he looked to Aranwen and Mosic. “When the guards hit the ground,” he said, gesturing vaguely to the milling throng of skeletons below, “make your way down as quickly as you are able. Do not wait. Kithran and I will not be far behind.”
((OOC: Anything from Ara and/or Mosic, here… ))
The Silver Cat nodded, rested a hand on Aranwen’s shoulder, and, then, absently touched her cheek before letting the hand fall away and turning his eyes to Kith. “Shall we, Little Kitten?”
“Just waiting on you, cat-beast,” she quipped, the mischevious grin playing about her lips and eyes, again, as she slinked a few paces in the direction of her planned targets, “let’s go.”
Ch’dau grinned, too, though he didn’t bother to pull his hood back up as he turned in the opposite direction. “Drop the bodies and meet back here, yes,” he confirmed as his near silent footfalls led him away.
“That is the plan,” Kithran shot back. With that, the pair set off in opposite directions along the wall; Kith slinking along, prepared to meet her targets, and Ch’dau racing quickly but quietly the other way in hopes of catching up with his.
As chance chose to have it, both the warrior and the rogue came within range of their respective objectives at roughly the same time. Kithran positioned herself behind a rough outcropping along the battlement and readied an arrow just as her targets came into range and, simultaneously, at the opposing stretch of the palisade, Ch’dau raced stealthily toward the other pair of guards.
From where she was crouched behind the parapet, Kithran thumbed the fletching on her arrow, aimed it at one of the approaching guards’ knee, and sighed softly… He’s more likely to fall forward than over if I hit him from this angle, she decided over an internal sigh. As such, she adjusted her aim, raising the point of the arrow just so, now, and pinpointing a spot on the man’s neck where, typically, she might slip in a dagger. She drew back the string, held her breath for an instant when the arrow’s nock touched her cheek and, just as the guardsman turned his head to gaze at the unholy minions stalking the yard, released both breath and bolt. The arrow whistled acorss the distance and struck true, catching the guard just under the upsweep of his jaw and toppling him inward with the impact. F*** yeah, Kithran cheered silently, already reaching for another arrow in her quiver as the second patrol unit reacted to the first listing over the wall. She put two quick, unaimed but effective shots into the second man as he watched his partner spilled over the wall and then, without bothering to watch the second fall, turned and raced back for the rendezvous.
Along the opposite stretch, the kazari closed all too quickly on the pair of guards that were his quarry. So silent were his footfalls that the pair didn’t hear them coming until he was practically upon them. One turned, hearing a faint thunk as a clawed foot hit the cobbles lining the walk, but was greeted by the sight of a humanoid tiger turning his friend’s head backward and shoving him over the parapets before a blade ripped savagely through his belly and, then, he, too, was tossed over the walls edge and found himself plummeting groundward. Even as he fell, he watched the silver-furred shape race back in the direction form which it had came and, as is body hit the ground and his bones cracked from the impact, watched as the silver shape met with another darker one just before the skeletons set upon him and he saw no more.
Ch’dau returned to the rendezvous to find Kith, excited and antsy, awaiting his return. “I didn’t know if I should go or…” Her eyes flicked to the rope down which Aranwen and Mosic had already climbed.
“You did well, kibibi,” Ch’dau grinned, glancing over the wall’s edge to see the skeletons separating to investigate the bodies that had just fallen into their paths. He reached down, slipped the knotted rope from it’s mooring, and held out an arm, inviting the thief into his embrace. “Come,” he rumbled, “let’s not waste time.”
((OOC: Assuming Kith doesn’t question things and allows Ch’dau to wrap her up… ))
The kazari’s powerful arm secured Kith against him and, even as the rope fell, he launched them both over the wall. They landed, seconds later, Ch’dau’s powerful legs absorbing most of the force of impact, before the rope reached the ground. The kazari nodded toward where the shapes of Aranwen and the little Cid raced across the lawn toward the manor-house. “Go,” he chuffed, tipping his head in the direction of Mosic and Aranwen as he sheathed a blade and began to gather up the rope, “they’ll need you once they are inside. I will deal with whatever comes from the bone-creatures and be at your side, again, soon.”
Once again, with an impish grin, Kithran nodded and, with not a word spoken, tore off in pursuit of the Syl and the Cid.
Posted on 2019-12-09 at 20:09:44.
Edited on 2019-12-09 at 20:17:18 by Eol Fefalas
2nd Day, Bre Uthan, 442 E.R., the road from Settlestone to Calestra
The wagon rocked gently as she laid there with her hands behind her head, staring unseeingly up at the herbs thrashing about from the ceiling, the jars lightly clanking, strapped as they were to the shelving lining the walls. She hummed a tune she had been working on, and watched as the sun breaking through the cracks above her illuminated brief clouds of dust, swirling about the cabin.
She stopped her humming suddenly and tilted her head back to look at her father as he drove their cart toward Calestra. A small smile formed at the corner of her mouth, "What are you chuckling at up there?"
Randel looked back briefly at the shadow of a young woman behind him, "Your song, Kithran, it's um . . . It's very beautiful."
She narrowed her eyes suspiciously, "Thank you. Please answer my question."
He grinned at the road ahead of him, "You just seem very happy, is all."
"And this is funny to you?"
"Not exactly," his grin widened regardless of the daggers he could feel her glaring into his back, "It's just, well, I created and hummed a lot of beautiful songs too, when I met your mother."
Kithran scoffed and returned her gaze to the flecks of light above her, "Are you sure you don't mean tragic songs?"
He chuckled again, “I regret nothing in my life that lead to the privilege of having you as my daughter, Kithran.”
She smiled up at the swinging sticks of cinnamon, “Well alright then. You have quite a way with words, old man.”
“Where do you think you learned it?”
Her smile wavered briefly with thoughts of a blonde-haired woman teasing her in the streets of Calestra, but returned with several more of her father and her in intense and exhilarating verbal bouts, and grew with images of an orange-haired Sylvari boy driving her crazy, “I suppose you’ve played some part.”
“It has been an honor.”
“The pleasure is all yours, I’m sure.”
“Hmmm . . . .”
She tilted her head back again, “‘Hmmm?’” she mocked aggressively, “‘Hmmm?’ I know that ‘hmmm’.”
“You’ve never heard such a hmmm, Kithran.”
“You’re thinking of some vegetable to call me.”
He gasped, offended, “I would never, my stringy little celery, never ever.”
“‘Stringy little celery’?” She scoffed, “My, I called you 'old man', but I had done so in order to be silly. I hadn’t really thought it to be true . . . but ‘stringy little celery’?” She shook her head, “You are losing your touch, father.”
Randel fell silent, allowing her to wallow in her insult for a moment, biding his time. Kithran was quick, in her sticky little fingers, as well as in her mind. She was brash and full of all of the confidence a seventeen-year-old young could muster, and then some. But she was also incredibly easy to fluster, if one knew how to get to her.
He heard her rustle uncomfortably behind him as the silence lingered, and still he waited.
“Well,” she said finally, “perhaps you are not all that old.” She reached up and poked him in the back, “Father?” He remained quiet, “Clever, handsome, Father?”
“It is alright, celery,” he said, the lightness evident in his voice, “I forgive you.” She gave him a long, heavy sigh, and he laughed whole-heartedly at the sound of defeat in it, “Don’t fret too much, you are right. I do seem to be running out of good foods to call you.”
“Good,” she mumbled quietly so as not to hurt his feelings again.
His laughing softened, “I apologize, I interrupted your song, and I had truly been enjoying it. Would you mind starting over for me?”
“Will you not call me celery again, or compare it to your love songs to the creature who left us?”
This time he sighed, “I will agree to one of those things, celery.”
Kithran smiled back up at those cracks in the roof of the wagon, “Very well.” And she sang.
Kithran bowed elegantly in her new black leather armor before the young Sylvari man, where they met in an alleyway in the southwest quadrant of Calestra, as the sun fell beneath the horizon, “Thank you, good sir, it cost a fortune!”
Castien smirked at the cocky young woman, “Cost who a fortune, exactly?”
She waved his question away, “That is neither here nor there, Cast. Shall I tell you of our mark tonight?”
He shook his ponytailed head in dismay, “Always business with you, Kithran.” He stepped toward her, his arms extended, “But I haven’t seen you in months and you reappear like this. I’d much prefer to speak more on how incredible you look in-”
A dagger suddenly appeared, pressing into his stomach and pushing him back, “Easy, Sylvari,” she grinned, “No one will be swapping out their Marriage Blossoms tonight. And we are on a timeline, so pull yourself together.”
Castien sighed and stepped back, pouting, “Fine, fine. You are right. Another time, then.”
She rolled her eyes, “Okay, well, this one is pretty cut and dry. I could probably do it on my own, but I didn’t want you to feel left out beca-”
“Because you wanted to show off your lovely-”
“Because last time you sulked for three days until I obtained a new contract for you to join even though I could have done that on my own as well.” She attempted to maintain a frustrated look, but the amusement she felt by his wanting to spend more time with her was clear on her face as she looked back up at him. She had grown to be fairly tall for a half-Syl, but he was an even taller full one, “You'd better be careful, Castien, I might start to worry you’ve fallen in love with me.”
He grinned, “Fallen in love with you, discovered a love for fitted leather on a beautiful woman, who can say what it is, really?”
She looked down at her outfit, “Is this all because of my leather?”
“I am afraid so," he replied very seriously, "please take it off.”
She snorted and shook her head, “Incredible. Castien, I need you to concentrate.”
“On the mission.”
He sighed, “Fine.”
Castien watched from above as Kithran agilely slinked down from the roof and into one of the windows of Lord and Lady Dordern's manor. She hadn’t joined the Lovers of Fortune on any of their reckless adventures around the city for a few years, but she had never lost the excitement or exhilaration she felt in doing these kinds of stunts. Learning how to find jobs and execute them seamlessly had taken up the portion of her life that the Lovers had filled. Castien began tagging along after she had described some of the more ominous deals and meeting places she had been drawn into. He wouldn’t impose on her work other than to offer her information on her clients or marks if he had it and she was interested. He simply had a promise he intended to keep.
The Dorderns had left for the night, and the only ones patrolling the estate were their multitudes of house servants. Another Corian trait Castien could not understand among the wealthy was their propensity to flaunt a wildly unnecessary amount of servants. They collected them like precious gems, regardless of whether or not they had anything for them to do, even in a smaller manor like the Dordern's. He expected they would be the only potential threat to Kith’s mission: just a bored servant wandering listlessly into her path.
Kith was smart though, and so fast. He was sure she would be able to evade anyone who came her way, especially if they weren’t looking for her. Even he was having difficulty keeping up with her these days. Though if he were honest, that she would not stop becoming more beautiful every time he saw her, or stop being so unbearably charming all the time, often made it difficult to spar against her. She liked to tease and throw insults at him to confuse and distract him while they trained, and she was getting better at it. He could hardly keep up with her in that area anymore either.
Tara would have been so proud.
His job tonight was simply to be Kithran’s lookout, as well as a backup in case she needed it. However, she was likely right, she could probably complete this mission well-enough on her own. Even if she were caught, none of those servants would be able to match her. If they were smart they would let her walk with whatever it was she was contracted to obtain, and save themselves the embarrassment.
Castien’s ears perked at the sound of shuffling inside, but he jumped to his feet when he heard Kith cursing from the southern side of the house. He jogged along the roof and looked down at the window through which he could hear her whispered threats. There was more shuffling and then a loud banging noise, followed by Kith’s footsteps fleeing out of the room. Castien ran back to the spot she had climbed down. Kithran was in the window a second afterward, nearly leaping out of it, but kept her balance as she crouched on the ledge. Instead of climbing up on her own, with a frantic look in her eyes she met his, and jumped up toward him.
“Hey!” A man’s voice called from inside as Castien caught her arm and helped her up, “HEY!” he shouted again, hanging out of the window, but Kith and Castien were already sprinting away on the next rooftop over.
“Smallclothes? You were contracted to steal smallclothes?” Castien asked as they exited the dark cellar of another nobleman Kithran had collected her dues from.
She shrugged, “They’re relatively harmless, Cast, and it isn’t like I went rummaging around in her soggy laundry.”
“Why must you word it like that?”
“She likely won’t even miss them.” He glanced down at her because her tone had suggested there was more she wanted to say, and the corner of her mischievous mouth curled up in his favorite way, “She would likely miss those pearls of hers much more, should something have happened to them.”
“Oh really?” He leaned forward to examine her gleefully guilty face as they walked along the dark streets toward the Huck and Plum Pub, “Did anything happen to happen to those pearls?”
She did not make eye contact with him, “What? What pearls? I am sure I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“What did you do with the pearls, Kith?”
“What pearls, Cast?”
She finally met his eyes and grinning, pulled down her collar, revealing a lovely strip of pearls resting on her collarbone, “Castien Castien.”
He laughed for just a moment before realizing, now that he saw part of her other cheek, that both it and her neck had blood caked scratches along them, "Gods, Kith, what happened in there? Are you alright? Should we go to Serah?"
Kithran gave him a tight smile and shook her head. It had been more years since she had spoken to Serah than she had ran around with the Lovers. She would of course spy on their group whenever they came to a town Kithran and her father were visiting. Their composition had changed a bit in the last five years, but the core of them remained. She had no desire to speak with them either way.
"No," she said now to the young Sylvari man, "I'll be alright, they aren't very deep."
The streets were quiet, save for those that surrounded the Huck and Plum. This pub resided far away from the wealthier districts Kithran liked to sneak around in. She preferred the anonymity and density of this place after a successful night to wind down and get lost in the sea of creatures who also frequented the pub. The two found the end of a table to hunker down at and ordered their drinks--wine for Castien, an ale for the half-Syl.
The two talked about their lives over the past few months they had been away from each other. Castien’s obedient lifestyle was rather consistent, though he had been traded off to Brevin much more often, now that the elder Cinderfell was becoming more and more reluctant to leave Coria City. Lord Brevin was just so lovely and charming and easy to look at that he seemed to flourish anytime his father lent him more of the business to manage. Even Kithran had been taken aback by his personable personality the few times he had been at the stall when she arrived to fetch Castien. Their conversations were brief, as Castien was always so eager to throw knives at her, but he always seemed kind, despite his reputation.
Kithran’s time away tended to be a little more colorful, as the work she found tended to vary quite a bit. Her father still thought she was off running around with her friends, but in reality she would either be working on a small contract she found, practicing with her blades in all the ways Cast had taught her, or practicing with her sticky fingers in all the ways Tara had taught her. Sometimes she would stay with her father to help him sell his wares. Randel enjoyed this because she was a natural merchant. She could sell almost anything to anyone, and even on the days where it seemed like he had made many more sales than her, her pockets would somehow be bursting with coin.
Her father had also begun to push her to pursue the lads around each town they stopped in, who were clearly so smitten with her. Kithran had donned the Marriage Blossom in her hair for two years at this point, and still seemed to have no desire to settle down and begin a family. Having watched her grow, Randel could understand her hesitation--it would be rather difficult to run around town wildly when you had a husband and children waiting for you. She had just seemed to never fully recover from the loss of Tara. Yes, she laughed and teased and found trouble wherever it loomed its disastrous head, but she was never quite the same after finding her mentor like that. It had all seemed so pointless, snuffing out such a bright light for no apparent reason at all.
Randel didn’t know what to do, but he loved his daughter. She had brought so much happiness and meaning to his life when he didn’t know if he would ever have either again, and he hoped that perhaps having her own family would bring some of that happiness and meaning she had lost back to her as well.
And so, Kithran had gone on several outings with several different gentlemen who were not ready for her. There wasn’t much less interesting to her than someone trying to impress her with their business plans, or the secure future they had in store for her. And those who persisted would soon find that there wasn’t much that frightened them more than a bored Kithran. They were hardly ever impressed with her blade work, and did not find it funny at all when she magically produced their coin purse from her pocket.
Kithran now slumped back just a little as she relaxed with her third ale across from the red-haired Sylvari boy who was chuckling as she recounted her story of the poor merchant’s son who had courted her up until his great-grandmother’s ring suddenly went missing. A shame about that fifty-seven gold worth of ring. Real shame.
Calestra was and always had been her favorite city of all those she had been to, even more so than the beauty and mystery that was Felarin up in Ertain. Technically Stone’s Hollow was her home, but the only reason she could see for that was because they had a house there. Coming to Calestra always felt like coming home. It felt good to be here. And it felt better to be here with Castien.
“Well, aren’t you two the pair!”
Kithran tilted her head over the back of the chair she was slumped in. All she could see from this angle was the bottom of a large bosom as a woman hung over her in her flattering crimson dress, “May we help you?” She asked as she sat up and turned to see the woman, her voice a mix of irritation and curiosity.
The black-haired woman was perhaps in her forties, voluptuous, and oozed of confidence in her finely tailored, plunging dress, and expensive perfume, “Perhaps. Shall I order us a round?”
Kithran glanced at Castien, whose face was already a bit flush with color from his wine, and he shrugged back at her. She gestured to the seat next to her, “Be our guest, ma’am.”
“It’s ‘Madam,’ actually,” she said brightly as she waved over a server to get another round.
“Madam?” Kithran asked when the server dismissed herself for their drinks.
The woman laughed pleasantly, and both Kithran and Castien wondered if she would fall out of her red dress, “I thought it was obvious, but you two are still very young. Just look at you! Adorable. I am Jacquelyn, and I run the Silken Favor in Ethryn.”
“Oh, traveling from Ertain?” Castien asked from across the table, “What brings you to Coria?”
“Coria? Well Coria is lovely, but I am here for Calestra. They say you can find anything here, isn’t that right?”
The server returned with their drinks and the Madam handed the server her payment and a very generous tip. All three took large sips of their drinks of choice before Kithran replied.
“It is true, they do say that. Whether you’re looking for something or not, you’ll find it here.” She gave her a small smile, but it was mostly for herself. Calestra was truly the greatest city in Antaron.
“Is there something you’re looking for in particular, Madam?” Castien asked, his face slowly becoming more red, and Kithran wondered if it was from the wine, or that the lovely woman had leaned over so far to listen to him.
“Oh, I am on a little vacation of sorts, though I am always interested in recruiting new clients, and employees, for that matter,” she then turned pointedly to Kithran, causing the young thief’s face to flush this time under her very blatant scrutiny.
“Ah, no . . . I . . . I’m n-not . . . I don’t . . . Um . . . .”
Both the madam and Castien burst into laughter, the Sylvari hitting the table, “Madam Jacquelyn, please, whenever you are ready for another round, let me pay. I have known this quick little half-Syl for ten years, and never have I seen her so speechless. I didn’t think it was possible!”
Kithran glared at him and chugged her ale as the madam regained her composure and replied, “Well, if you are ever in the market for some easy gold, you know where to find me in Ertain.” She looked the thief up and down again, a more inviting look in her eye, “Of course, I’ll be there if you are looking for something else as well.”
The half-Syl swallowed another gulp hard before answering, “Thank you, Madam, that is . . . very generous.”
Castien nearly spat back in his cup as the madam rose from her seat, “I suppose I should get back to my party. If either of you think of me, I am staying at the Minstrel’s Song Inn down the street for a little while longer. Alas, all vacations must end, so I do hope you’ll think of me soon.” She gave them a wry smile, “Oh, I didn’t catch your names?”
“Ah, I am Kithran,” she nodded to the giddy Sylvari across from her, “Castien.”
“A pleasure, you two, have a good night!” And she disappeared into growing sea of patrons at the Huck and Plum.
“Cats?! They were cats?!”
Kithran sighed as they walked alone in the cool evening air, “This is why I didn’t want to tell you.”
His happy red face was laughing too loudly to hear her, “I was worried! I thought you were in real trouble! The way you were cursing at them!”
Her tone was frustrated, but the grin on her lips as she looked at the road ahead of them gave her away, “They were very large cats, Castien, and I had been given no warning about them. How was I to know Lady Dorden would have three massive cats lurking around her room, preparing to strike the moment someone reached for her smallclothes?”
“You couldn’t have Kithy, you couldn’t have. Oh,” he sighed in contentment, “I am so happy you are back. My life is so dull without you around to be attacked by large cats while stealing smallclothes, or being propositioned by a wonderfully-endowed woman in the span of only a few hours of your return to Calestra.”
“If only she were wearing leather.”
“Oh, wow,” He went silent for just a moment, as if deep in thought, “Kithran, I love the places your mind goes.”
She rolled her eyes and chuckled, “I never realized you were so into big breasted women, Cast. Shall we turn and head to the Minstrel’s Song?”
He laughed again and threw an arm around her shoulders, “No, no, no. I am actually into lovely, deadly, thieves.”
Tara. She pushed his arm off of her, “I actually did know that.”
“Oh,” Castien started, realizing where her mind had gone, “I didn’t mean . . . I meant y--”
“It’s okay Cast,” she gave him a small smile and shrug, “I know what you meant. It’s just been a long five years.” And it had been. So much had changed, so much was different. She often wondered what Tara would think of her now, if she would still be her darling, if Kithran would have become a maiden by now and traveled around Antaron with Tara and the others. There were so many things she would never know because of that senseless murder. It hurt and angered her to think about.
The two walked the short rest of the way in silence before stopping in front of the Long Gamble. While it was late, the jovial and outraged sounds of gambling floated out to them and Castien took her hand.
Kithran looked down at it in confusion at first, then in amusement as he began to speak, “Kith, I had a really good time tonight. And . . . every moment I spend with you is fun. And . . . .” he trailed off, a lump in his throat keeping back the rest he wanted to say, as well as memories of the last time he had been in love with someone.
The little thief looked like she was on the verge of laughing, which was both encouraging, and made things all the more difficult. “And I look forward to spending more time with you soon!”
“We are training tomorrow, Cast.”
The light in her dark eyes was almost unbearable, “I know, I’m just saying . . . ” he dropped her hand and stared at her for a long, strange minute before it looked like she was going to say something snarky back at him and he continued, “Good night Kithran!” And he turned, running into the shadows back toward the Cinderfell estate.
“Good night, Castien,” she shook her head and turned toward Shinara’s temple. She hadn’t been back inside since Tara’s funeral, but Castien still believed she lived here. Or at least, he had told her that if that wasn’t the case, he did not want to know. So at the end of every night, Cast would part from her, and she would wait a few minutes before heading back to her father’s stall.
She looked at the imposing picture of the temple against the night sky. She hadn’t wanted to enter it again at first because of all of the memories, and all of the people inside she knew would ask her how she was doing. She had been afraid to see everything as it had been, everything where it always was, just without Tara. She didn’t want to see that. Now she didn’t want to go in because she knew everything would be different. Different people, different smells. Someone else would be in their room. She didn’t want to see that either.
When she was finished taking in the outside of the temple, Kithran slunk back into the shadows and headed home.
Castien hit his head on his door two more times for good measure. She was right there, she was so close. He could have just leaned down and . . . have her laugh him away? He sighed heavily, and wished only for a moment that he could have half the charm and bone structure of the younger Cinderfell, or the confidence that madam had at the Huck and Plum.
He opened the door to his small, cool room beneath the Cinderfell manor, and lit a candle.
He was sure she thought he was still in love with Tara. He was also sure that he always would be. And he was absolutely positive that he did not deserve to even think about the maiden.
Nightmares of that night still haunted him. Kithran’s sweet, naive face still haunted him whenever she grinned at something he had done or said. If she only knew what he had done . . . she would never look at him the same way again. No more mischievous grins or witty verbal jabs from her. She would just be gone from his life forever, of that he was sure.
He sighed again and fell face first onto the bed he had outgrown years ago, groaning at the thought of her knowing he was Tara’s murderer. He groaned louder reliving the murder for the billionth time in his head.
He would never deserve Kithran. He deserved to be served to her on a spit for what he had done. But he loved her, despite what loving someone had brought him the last time. Tara had died simply because he loved her, what if Brevin guessed his true feelings toward the little thief? Not that Castien had done anything in the last five years to warrant such a punishment, but Brevin was cruel and emotionally sadistic beyond measure. He knew they were friends, and he was already relentless with his brilliant smile and banter whenever he was near the stall when she came by.
Castien rolled onto his back and searched his pockets for the one that carried the dragonfly pin, holding it up to the candlelight so that it glittered back at him. All he truly deserved were the creatures known as the Cinderfells, not the beautiful half-Syl who looked incredible in leather armor. What sort of fairness was this that he let her go on enjoying the company of the person who murdered someone she loved so much? No, for his crimes, he deserved only the Cinderfells.
He tucked the dragonfly pin away once more and tried not to think about that mischievous smirk of hers, and prepared for bed.
“Oh, wow, Kithran, give us a twirl!”
Kithran grinned at the young lord and spun around in her yellow dress. It was in fact new, but the amount of new dresses her father had had to purchase for her dropped dramatically after she had stopped running around with the Lovers. As dresses became so much more expensive the older a young woman became, Randel had welcomed the change.
Presently, Lord Brevin leaned against the large Cinderfell wine stall, settled now in the center of the marketplace. He laughed an encouraged one or two more spins before she laughingly begged him to let her brain spin back into place, and he granted her reprieve.
“Will Castien be by soon?” she asked, grasping at the side of the stall to help stabilize herself.
Brevin reached out before she could take hold of the wall and placed her hand on his well-defined forearm instead, grinning roguishly back at her as he set his other hand firmly atop hers, “There you are! Far more sturdy here, don’t you think?”
Kithran chuckled, “Oh yes, my lord, if ever there were a sturdier arm, I’ve never heard of it!” She generally did not care to touch or be touched by those she did not know well, but he seemed to be enjoying the small amount of harmless attention she was giving him, so she allowed herself to remain his prisoner for now. Instead she looked beyond him, around the stall, “Is Castien busy this morning?”
The young lord’s free hand went to his chest in faux pain, “Oh, am I not entertaining enough to maintain the young lady’s attentions?”
“Don’t let her fool you, my lord,” a Sylvari lilt spoke up before them, “if one does not constantly toss sharp words or edges at her, she has little time for them.” Castien grinned at the two as he approached, actively avoiding staring at Kithran’s hand on the young lord, or how quickly she had withdrawn it as he made his way toward them, “I apologize for keeping you waiting, my lady,” he bowed low and could almost feel the half-Syl rolling her eyes at him as he stared at the ground.
Kithran sighed, “You have earned yourself two more sharp edges, Cast.”
He bowed again, “I shall bear them with honor, my lady,” he replied with more bravado than the statement could possibly need.
Lord Brevin observed the two as they greeted each other with more teasing banter, as though they hadn’t just spent the entire night running the little thief’s errands atop the Calestrian rooftops. Brevin had had them watched for a while now, as rumors among his wealthier constituants sometimes fluttered about of a shadow and her orange-haired lookout. Apparently a Dordern servant had caught a glimpse of such a pair the night before, as they scrambled up the side of their manor with a set of the Lady's pearls. Even after being attacked by the Lady Dordern’s massive cats, they had managed to escape.
Castien would really need to learn to be more careful with his manipulative little minx. There were plenty of shadows lurking around Calestra, but not many orange-haired, Sylvari-sized lookouts. And should he be caught and bring that embarrassment to his masters . . . well, a lesson regarding such an event would likely be in order sooner or later.
He laughed suddenly, just as Castien was about to do in response to another biting remark from the half-Syl. The two looked at him, almost surprised, as though they had forgotten he was there, and it made him laugh even more.
“Kithran, you truly are a charming little one, aren’t you? You remind me so much of your Laughing Maiden, Tara.” He looked to Castien whose mouth immediately tightened into a line, and clapped the young Syl on his back, “Don’t you think so, Castien? Look at that grin of hers, that wit, and of course,” he gestured to all of her, “That blonde hair of Tara’s was radiant, but so is the smile on your lovely face, darling, even though you seem to have met your match with a mountain lion or two recently.” He pouted and indicated the scratches on the side of her face and neck, “Castien, come, agree with me before she thinks I am being insincere!”
Castien watched his friend as the young Cinderfell ranted. He watched her maintain that sweet grin of hers, even as the light left her eyes and the color fell from her face, “Yes,” he said evenly, trying to appease his master’s son and hoping Kithran knew he understood her, “She is clever and a very lovely target to throw blades at. Speaking of which,” he said, pressing a grin back onto his face and looking at Brevin, “we should get to it! Thank you for your time, my lord, I shall see you later tonight,” he looked back to the half-Syl, still maintaining her forced grin. “Kithran,” he said, getting her eyes to focus again on him, “Shall we?”
Her grin turned genuine with relief, “Yes! Thank you Lord Brevin, have a good day!”
And the two ran off into the growing crowd as the young lord watched them flee.
“Just don’t tell him, Castien,” Kithran called from the bushes, tying up the last bit of her armor.
Castien shook his head from where he lay in the grass, waiting for her, “If he asks me, I won’t lie to him, and he loves hearing the things you say about him.” He frowns, “There is nothing enjoyable about it for me.”
She walks out of the treeline, adjusting the dagger sheaths at her hips, “Then don’t do it. I could have said nothing.”
“You said he was slimier than a toad’s butthole.”
“That doesn’t sound like me.”
“That sounds exactly like you, Kithran.” Castien jumps up to his feet when she finally appears ready, “I’ve told you, thief, loyalty means many things here in your world, but there is only one meaning in mine, and I’ve pledged it to that family.”
Kithran scoffed at him as she pulled out her daggers and flipped them around in her hands to warm-up, “You pledged it to someone who had supposedly risked his life for you many years ago. I understand loyalty, Casty, but I am loyal to people, not the ideas of them. And people change. When that person has gone and become someone else, one must assess the loyalty they have for them, don’t you think?”
He eyes her in her form-fitting leather gear, “Your words are as lovely as you are, Kithran, and they cut just as deeply.”
She nearly fumbles with the intensity at which she rolls her eyes, “Only skin deep? Do you think you are clever, Sylvari?”
He shrugs and grins at her as she brings the daggers back to their sheaths, “I used to. Can we just stab things please?” he asks in the tone of her younger, whinier self.
She shrugs back at him, “I suppose so. Forms first?”
He nods and begins first, running through each of the fighting forms he had been taught from childhood, when the idea of raising a personal bodyguard had first entered the elder Cinderfell’s mind. Kithran watches and assess him as he goes. He had ten more years of practice on her, but in the last five she had perfected the stances and movements just as well as he had. At this point their criticisms were largely aesthetic, as well as another chance for them to tease each other, and practice ignoring outside noise in order to remain focused. Kithran was much better at ignoring Castien than he was at ignoring her, but he supposed that was because he was wildly in love with her.
When they finished with their form practice and warm-up, both pulled the blades from their places at their hips and assumed their fighting stances, slowly circling each other as they moved closer.
“Let’s do something a little different and try not to accidentally nick me this time, shall we, thiefy?”
Kithran grinned, “You know I have never ‘accidentally’ nicked you, Syl.”
Castien sighed, “I do know that.” he struck out at her suddenly, but Kithran stepped to the side, easily dodging and lunged at him. Castien parried away her attack and kicked at her. She jumped back, but even before both her feet were back on the ground he was racing at her. She prepared a block but he disappeared, dropping down into another kick, this time to sweep her legs. She was able to get one of hers out of the way in time, but she was off-balance and he caught the other before she could catch herself. She was laughing even as she hit the soft ground, and jumped back up an instant later.
“It is like you are asking me for a nick or two, Castien.” They both crouched back into their fighting stances and continued to bout for the rest of the afternoon, stopping once to consume the bread and dried fruit Kithran had packed, before jumping right back into fighting each other.
As the shadows began to grow across their clearing, the two sat sweaty and panting for breath, finally calling it a day. Kithran leaned back against a tree and closed her eyes, while Castien leaned back on his hands at her feet.
“It is ridiculous,” she said, her eyes still closed, “how much of an advantage your long Sylvari extremities give you.”
Castien snorted as he caught his breath, staring at the new nick on his thigh that had finally stopped bleeding, and patted her calf, “Oh yes, how vulnerable you must feel next to me, you teeny, tiny, little, itty bitty, helpless half-Syl.”
She playfully kicked at him with the leg he had grabbed, “Truly, Castien, I am defenseless against you. Whatever shall I do?”
Castien laughed, looking that the second new nick on his forearm, “I’ve honestly no clue, Kithran.” He looked up at her, her head back against the tree, that mischievous curl at the corner of her mouth, her face flush from their fight, the sheen of sweat on her brow . . . she was perfect.
He scooted up closer to her. He wanted to touch her again, but he refused to disrupt her. Instead, he simply watched as her breathing evened and she seemed to relax. Finally, she opened her eyes, and seemed genuinely surprised he was so close to her, but smiled back at him as she always did, “I thought I smelled something.”
He chuckled and leaned back on his hands again, “That song from earlier, what was it?”
She looked genuinely surprised again, “Song? What song?”
“You haven’t sang this one for me yet, but you were humming it as we were walking over here this morning. I think it was something like . . . .”
And Castien began to hum perfectly the song Kithran had been working on while she thought of him on the way up from Settlestone. She hoped the flush from their workout covered the new one rising to her cheeks as he sang the tune back to her, “Oh, yes, okay, stop, I got it, yes, okay, okay, okay.”
He raised an eyebrow at her, “Is it not finished yet or something?”
She looked down at her hands, “No, it is finished. I just . . . sometimes forget that music is the only Corian tradition you enjoy.”
He pointed to the Marriage Blossom on his chest and glanced at the one in her hair, to which she smirked, “I said the only one you enjoy, Cast.”
He shrugged, “You are a terrible people, I wish it were not so, but you are.”
“Wow, it is almost as though you did not want to hear me sing for you.”
“I take it all back.” he said immediately, “Sylvari are a garbage people and Corians are the true artists and musicians of Audalis!” Kithran laughed and he patted the thigh next to him, “Come now, my great conductor, I have heard all of your old, tired tunes over and over again, I am ready for new Kithran music.” He crossed his legs and leaned forward, “Please?”
Her rolled eyes and grin were the only cover she had for the nervousness she felt, but she closed her eyes and cleared her throat as she brought the first note up in her mind to match as she began.
The tune was playful, steady, and sweet in her warm alto, and over much too quickly for the young Sylvari. She opened her eyes and thought he may have moved even closer to her, but wasn’t able to think too much about it as he poked and coaxed her into singing it again. She closed her eyes once more and began, though opened them halfway through as Castien had caught the tune and began to harmonize with her. The simple song became more difficult for her to manage through the smile she couldn’t push away as they stared at each other, singing her song together, and finally she missed a note and Castien leaned forward to kiss her.
Kithran jerked back in surprise, hitting her head on the tree, and Castien worriedly stumbled over his words in order to apologize, “Oh no, Kith, I am so sorry! I--we can pretend I didn’t--you were just so--and I love you so--I didn’t mean to--”
“Castien, stop,” she said, rubbing her head, “you just surprised me and . . . .” She didn’t really know what else to say, so grabbed his collar instead and pulled him back to her for another quick kiss before pushing him away, “You love me?”
The worry was gone from him now as he grinned and without looking away from her, ripped the Marriage Blossom from his lapel and replaced it with a Star’s Light he pulled from his pocket, “Yes.”
Kithran stared at the braided flower, thinking of the last time she had seen it on him, the night before Tara had been murdered. And she thought of the following night, after Tara’s funeral, when he had changed it back because he had not loved Kithran then as she had thought and hoped.
Castien’s hand on her chin brought her back to the present, and she raised her black eyes back up to his violet, “I love you, Kithran Ikhari.”
He leaned toward her again, but she pushed him back as she raised herself up onto her knees. She leaned over him now as she took his face in both of her hands, “I love you too, Castien Castien,” and she grinned as she kissed him.
The Sylvari could hear the laughter in her voice as he peeked around the corner and whispered, “I can visualize that little smirk of yours, Kithran, and I am going to kiss it right off your face the moment we get to my room.”
“Well if you are trying to get me to stop, threatening me like that is not the way to do it.”
Castien lurched forward and she followed quickly after him in the purple dress she had purchased for herself with some of the gold she had made off of Lady Dordern’s pearl necklace.
Any day Kithran and Castien could spend time together mostly went the same way: they would meet at the stall, hurry to their spot in the woods, try to focus on their practice, and then one of them would kiss the other and it would devolve from there. Unfortunately, Fall was making their days shorter, rainier, and much colder as it began its descension into Winter. On days they could not make it out of town, they would often end up wandering Calestra for a warm place to eat and drink before separating once more. A few more times they had ran into Madam Jacquelyn, who continued attempting to recruit Kithran, both to the madam and Castien’s amusement and Kithran’s consternation.
The 14th of Bre Uthan was the first day of the Time of the Horn, and Brevin would be out for a few days hunting the lands that had not been touched for a year. With his overbearing lord gone, Castien felt more confident in bringing Kithran to the Cinderfell estate, though there were still plenty milling about that he would prefer did not see her. The loyalty to the Cinderfells was as unwavering for several servants here as it was for Castien.
That being said, for the second time in his life, Castien disobeyed a Cinderfell order: he would not wear his Star’s Light inside Calestra, not after what it had brought him the last time he had worn it. He told Kithran it was because he did not want Brevin to have anymore leverage in their relationship than he already did, and he would most certainly use it to mess with Castien. Kithran had simply been overwhelmed by his willingness to go against his strict code of loyalty for her, and followed suit with her own Star’s Light.
Presently they padded through the Cinderfell estate, their silence broken here and there by Kithran’s amused jabs, but even those came to an end as they began to descend below ground. The air became stagnant, and the amount of wandering servants they had to hide from became fewer and fewer, until finally they made it to the small room behind a plain wooden door.
Castien shut the door behind him and lit the candle on the small table beside his small bed. He watched her look around the nearly bare room and wondered what she must be thinking. Castien was only just able to stand up straight in the room, and she must already have noticed the bed was too small for him. Books lined the wall in small piles on the same side as the door, and one lay bookmarked with a letter opener on the small table with the candle. An unremarkable wardrobe stood at the foot of his bed, and that was all there was to it.
Kithran turned back to him and pointed at the corner of her mouth, where it curled up in his favorite way, “I believe you had threatened something for the moment we arrived?”
He smiled back, but hesitated, “Are you sure you’d like to go on with me, Kithran?” he gestured to his mediocre room, “I’ve not much to offer you. Sneaking around to my tiny hovel whenever the master is away . . . it is the most I can give you.”
Neither her hand nor her grin wavered, “You love me, Sylvari, yes?”
“Yes thief, I do.”
“Then prove it by making good on your threat against me.”
“Well, who is being romantic now?” He finally made his way to her, wrapping his arms around her waist as hers slid around his neck, and he kissed her.
Castien smiled up at the ceiling, as he stroked the thick black hair of the naked woman sleeping, and slightly drooling, on his chest. He had never felt contentment before. He knew the word, but any thought of if for himself had seemed utterly unattainable. As he felt Kithran’s deep breaths now though after she had draped herself across him, he imagined this was what contentment must feel like.
He wished they could stay this way, but as long as Brevin lorded over him, there was no chance of that happening. However, humans only lasted so long. Castien would live for several centuries, and though he would outlive her, Kithran would live for a couple as well. It might not be such a stretch for him to hope that one or two down the Cinderfell line would not be so harsh as those who ruled him now. These human lifetimes might be nothing for them, in the larger scheme of things. Perhaps the time they would have to wait for a kind-hearted Cinderfell would feel like nothing to them. A drop in the ocean. Perhaps one would even allow him to marry her.
He laughed softly to himself as he looked at her, trying to imagine anyone but her allowing someone to marry her. If she ever wanted that of him, he would simply and happily oblige.
Castien shook his head now at the places his mind had wandered, trying to plan the centuries they would have together while he had her right there and then.
It struck him that while it was still early in the morning, he would have to wake her soon. The master may be away, but there were fewest servants about before the sun rose. He frowned now, hating the thought of her moving away from him.
He sighed and nudged her shoulder until he heard her groaning over the assault, “Wake up, Kithran,” he buried his face in her hair and kissed the top of her head, “Time for you to go home, my love.”
Her face scrunched irritatedly as she rolled off of him and wiped her cheek.
Hating the immediate chill that ran up his stomach as she moved away, Castien rolled to follow her, wrapping his arms around her and pressing his face into her neck.
“Go or stay, Castien,” her groggy voice was tinged with both sleep and joy as she too wrapped her arms around his shoulders, “Make up your mind.”
“Staaaaay,” he mumbled into her neck before raising himself up on his elbows, “But you will have to go before the others start milling about.” He kissed her quickly on the corner of her mouth, “But I want you to stay,” and another kiss, “but you have to go.”
He tried to pull away again but Kithran had her hands around the back of his neck, “But I want to stay.” She pulled herself up to kiss him
“But you have to go,” kiss.
“But I want to stay,” kiss.
Castien moved to position himself between her legs, “You need to go, Kithran.” And his kiss became longer.
“I’m staying, Castien--”
The door to the Sylvari’s room suddenly burst open, and the tall, imposing figure of the jovial Lord Brevin walked in, flanked by two of his personal guard, “Oh my, Castien, I had heard you had company, but I thought you would have finished up by now.”
Castien pushed Kithran behind him as he reached for his pants on the floor beside the bed, “My lord, I did not think you would be back so soon. I--”
Lord Brevin held up a hand, “We were quite lucky on our first day, as it seems you have been as well. That will be all for now, Casty.” He leaned to the side, trying to get a better look at the naked little Kithran attempting to cover herself with the blanket behind the Sylvari boy. He gestured for Castien to stand, his eyes still trying to find the beautiful half-Syl, “Leave us now.”
Castien turned to Kithran, her eyes wide and searching for a way out, “I am sorry Kithran, I will gather your things for you to--”
“No,” Brevin said, finally looking back at Castien, “You, leave. I would like to have a word with your friend.”
Castien's stomach lurched, "What?"
The young lord's smile grew in irritation, "I apologize if I was unclear, Castien. I told you to leave the room. Or shall I dole out another punishment for you? It has been some time, hasn't it? Five years, if I'm not mistaken?" He glanced at the girl behind the Sylvari, "You wouldn't want that, would you, Casty?"
Kithran watched Castien's back as he struggled with the command. And she watched as her hopes dropped along with his head and shoulders.
"Kithran . . . ." The orange-haired Sylvari began as he turned to her, and she had never seen anyone more helplessly broken as he stepped back toward the door.
"If we do as he wishes. . . It will all be over quickly . . . Nothing worse will have to happen." He took another step back and the guards in the doorway stepped aside for him.
"Castien, wait." She urged him, now having to lean to look around the putrid lord to see him. Her voice rose as the door began to close on him, "Castien!"
"I love you, Kithran." And he disappeared. She was alone with Lord Brevin, and he slowly and hungrily took in the disheveled sight of her.
A lazy smile played on his handsome face while he unbuttoned his shirt, "It is true, little Kithran, that this will be over sooner with your eager acceptance of the gift I am about to give you, but I do plan on taking my time." Any distress that may have shadowed her face quickly gave way to a sneer the longer he spoke.
He knelt on the bed before her as he tossed his shirt behind him and began on his pants, "I have waited for you for so long, longer than I have waited for anyone,” he pulled one of the ties free, “biding my time with you, watching you, knowing you would be a wild one to tame. You have no idea what it has been like. I have f***ed you so many times, Kithran, in so many ways in my mind already, since you were much smaller than you are now,” and with another tie free, he reached into his pants, “I plan on enjoying myself quite a bit with you today. Finally."
The handsome, disgusting, dark-haired man pulled his member free of its confines, and sat back on his heels, gesturing toward it cheerfully, “Come now, Kithran, you heard my obedient little monkey. Do as I wish and this will all be over soon.” And he laughed, as though he had just heard the most hilarious joke.
Kithran’s first heel caught him then, square in the jaw as his head was thrown back in laughter. He choked as he stumbled back off the bed, but caught himself on his feet. His hands went to his throat and rage filled the sick grin now spreading across his face, “Aw, you little bitch, so you do want me to take my ti--”
Kithran’s second heel caught him mid-sentence and right in his testicles. He bent forward in pain, and just within reach of another kick. She struck him on the side of his face, and as he crashed into the small table, Kithran launched herself off of the bed, the blanket falling away as as she raced to the door.
Brevin was too quick to recover and reached out for her, grabbing her long black hair and pulling her back to him. Kithran spun around and tried to strike out again, but with his fist full of her hair, he yanked her head to the side, throwing off her aim and the force of her punch, then he smashed her face down into the bed, letting go of his grasp.
Kithran slid down to her knees and turned around to find his crotch in her face before his hand wrapped around the front of her neck and squeezed, “Ah, no, you will have to earn my trust again, little Kithran, before you are allowed such an honor.” He lifted her nearly off her feet by her neck and threw her back against the wall, her head bouncing off the stone as she fell to the bed.
Brevin crawled onto the bed after her again, and Kithran’s eyes scanned the room. There had to be something--she kicked out again but he easily protected himself. She punched again but he caught her wrist and held it tightly in his hand. His sneer was wide with joy at his victory as he leaned in to finally feel her lips on his, to see if they were all he had imagined.
Kithran slid down the wall, becoming even more prone in her attempt to avoid him for every small second she could . . . and then her free hand touched something in the blankets. She glanced over quickly to see the book that had been on Castien’s table had flown to the bed when she had kicked Brevin into the small piece of furniture. What she grasped now was the sharpened, silver letter opener he had been using as a bookmark.
Brevin’s salivating mouth finally found hers and in his distraction, Kithran stabbed the letter opener into the space between his neck and his clavicle. The young lord shouted in shock and pain, drawing the hand that had held her wrist up to block the flow of blood. Kithran’s knee jolted up into his stomach and as he gasped for air she used all of her strength and weight to shove him onto his unsupported side, straddling him and driving the letter opener down into the same space on the other side of his neck. He shouted again in pain and she slashed down again as he twisted away so that she cut only the side of his face. Kithran was about to shove the blade into his throat when four gloved hands ripped her off of him, wrenching the opener from her bloodied hands and held her back.
“My lord,” one of the guards holding her spoke, “are you alright? Do you need us to fetch the medic?”
Brevin stood up slowly, dark blood dripping down both sides of his body, red with anger as he fixed his pants. “I will seek the priest myself.” He walked up to Kithran, who spit in his face as he approached. He smacked her with a palm full of blood and all the strength he could muster in that moment. Kithran would have gone soaring had the guards had not held her firm. He made his way to the door, through which Castien faced away, his forehead plastered to the opposite wall.
“You are truly pathetic, Castien.” Brevin berated, “Couldn’t fight for your family, either of the women you loved, or even keep your simple oaths to the family who saved and raised you.” He walked past him, heading to their priest, ”Have those two clean up the mess after you’ve killed her and meet me in my study.”
Castien looked up from the wall, his mouth dropping agape as he stared at the young lord’s back, then tightened into a line, turning to the naked woman restrained in his disheveled and bloodied room. He walked in and jerked his head towards the door, glaring at the guards, “Leave us,” his voice was hoarse has he drew his blades, “Do not allow this door to open unless you hear my command to do so.”
The two guards in the Cinderfell vestiges nodded and made their exit, closing the door behind them.
Kithran looked at him desperately, beaten and streaked with the dark blood of that monster. She glanced at his drawn blades, then back up at his vacant expression, and took a step forward, trying to force the grin he loved so much back onto her lips, “Castien, it’s just us now.” She took another small step forward, “We can figure this out. We can leave. Together we--” She took one more step and was halted by the point of the blade in her belly. She looked down at the trickle of new blood there, then back up to him, “Castien, what have they done to you?”
The orange-haired, violet-eyed Sylvari pushed the blade further, forcing her to back up against the bed, before backing up himself and throwing the dagger at her. She had hardly to move for it to miss her thigh in their close proximity, the point lodging easily into his bedding.
“Take it, Kithran,” he ordered, and crouched down into his fighting stance.
Kithran looked back at the leather-wrapped hilt of his dagger and back to him, shaking her head she bit her lip, “No, I won’t.”
He took an aggressive step toward her, “Take the blade, Kithran, or you will die as you stand.”
She shook her head again at him, “No, you won’t kill me,” and she took another step toward him, wanting to believe her words.
Castien struck at her, nicking her thigh, scraping her forearm as he came back up. Both immediately began slowly dripping blood. Kithran pressed forward, her hands reaching for him, but he knocked them away, instead trying to shove her back at the bed. She too shoved his arms away from her as he tried to deflect her advances, remaining persistent in her attempt to get to him.
“Damn it, Castien, stop! We can leave!”
He grabbed her by the throat, just as the other creature had, and held her face up to his, “No we can’t, Kithran, I cannot. I’ve told you, I am loy--”
“Be loyal to me!” she choked as he squeezed her neck and tossed her back onto the bed, “You are better than this, Castien, you are better than them!”
He snickered at her words and stepped up onto the bed above her, “Am I?” he pressed a barefoot to her chest and pushed her back, pretending to take aim at her head with his blade as he did before tossing it easily into the bed beside her.
He dropped to his knees over her and grabbed his other blade from where it still stuck in the bed behind him. He traced her clavicle with it before bringing it to her throat. Tears now openly and silently fell from Kithran’s eyes, and through them she could see they were welling in Castien’s as well.
“You need to fight me, Kithran.”
“I won’t, Castien.”
“You have to or you will die.”
“You are trying to make me kill you!”
“This miserable plane has taken everything else from me, what more is my life? Take the dagger, Kithran!”
She shook her head, “It hasn’t taken me from you, Castien. Even now.” She brought a hand up to wipe a tear that had fallen down his cheek but he pushed it away.
“Hasn't it?” Castien reached down into his pocket and pulled out a pin, holding its glittering, dragonfly shape up to her face, “Does this look familiar to you?”
Kithran’s eyes went wide. She wiped them, but the shape of the pin did not change. The colors did not change. The way the glittering beads reflected the candlelight back at her was unmistakable. Her voice was a whisper even as her breathing quickened, “Where did you get that?”
“I think you know.”
“No,” she said, her voice softer than she had ever heard it, “No. No. No, no, no, no. Castien?” She looked back up at him, “No, where did you get this?” She asked again, her tone and volume escalating, “Where?! Why do you have this?!” She reached for it but he tossed it nonchalantly to the ground behind him.
“I took it after I killed Tara.” He tapped her nose with the flat of his blade, “This one was the first to hit her." His voice was anguished and mocking as he continued forcing the rage out her, "She had thought I was you. She was laughing when it struck.” His breathing became ragged as well as he spoke, “She only thought of you, Kithran.”
Kithran squeezed her eyes closed, uselessly trying to get away any way she could, “Stop! Stop! You just want me to kill you! Stop saying this!”
“She asked me to protect you, since she could not, and I told her I would,” a sardonic laugh escaped him, and he sat up, wiping the tears from his face, “She just wanted you there with her as she passed, Kithran, but I made sure you weren’t.”
“She wanted you to be the last one she saw and spoke to,” he continued, “but it was me. She passed staring at that door, hoping you would come through it to see her one last time.”
“Castien, please stop.”
“But you didn’t, Kithran.”
Castien raised his blade above his head, “She may be the one you wish were here with you now, but I will be the last you see as well.”
In her pain and hatred and anguish, Kithran grabbed at the blade stuck next to her head, and spun it around, lodging it into Castien’s gut as he struck the bedding just beside her. “Oh, god!” she cried as he fell to his side beside her, “Oh god, oh no, Castien, I . . . .”
“It’s okay, Kithy.” he coughed.
“It’s okay?! This . . . ” she looked at the hilt sticking out of his stomach and sobbed, “I’m sorry Castien.”
The young Sylvari could feel a weakness begin to take him, ”I love you, Kithran. I am sorry I made you . . . I wanted to spend my . . . ” he coughed again and this time blood splattered down his chin, “they wouldn’t have let me.”
Kithran wiped his chin and kissed his bloodied lips, “I love you, Castien.”
“K-Kithran?!” she began to fade before him and he tried weakly to grasp for her.
She took his hands into hers, “Castien?”
“I am glad you stole from me that first time.”
She pressed her forehead to his as the light faded from his eyes, “I am too.”
Kithran allowed herself only a moment to grieve before forcing herself up from the bed. In a haze she threw her dress back on as best she could, grabbed the bag filled with her equipment and moved toward the door. She turned back to Castien, and sobbed once more, before taking notice of his blades. She could not leave them to these vultures, and so steeled herself to go back to his body, remove his sheaths and tie them to her waist, then put “Debts Paid” in its place. “Debts Owed” took her a few tries before she could finally bring herself to wrench it from the pool of blood in his stomach. More sobs escaped her as she wiped his the blade off on her skirts. She sheathed the second dagger, pocketed the dragonfly pin waiting for her before the door and listened to the guards outside it talking.
Sure that one was leaning against the door, Kithran shoved the dagger through a crack in the thin wood and pulled the handle open. As the stabbed guard fell back into the room, she jumped out, catching the other guard by surprise as she hurled the beautiful dagger into his throat. Retrieving her blades from the second and third person she had killed, Kithran fled.
Kithran ran, and ran, and ran. She could not run to her father, because she could not be sure she would not be followed or sought after, after what she had done to a Cinderfell. As a grace and a curse, it was still maddeningly early, so she was able to make ground quickly, but there weren’t enough people for her to escape into to feel safe.
She let her legs guide her aimlessly and eventually found herself at the edge of an alleyway, facing the Long Gamble. Her breathing was ragged, her lungs burning from the sprinting mixed with sudden stops in which she could scream in pain, or let cries uncontrollably burst out of her. It was hardly inconspicuous, not that it mattered. Not that anything mattered. She stood huffing now, before the large entrance hall to the gambling tables, the boisterousness, and the worship within. The Long Gamble was alive no matter what time of day it was. These walls had once protected her for so long, until she had abandoned them . . . until they had allowed a broken, brainwashed boy to sully them.
She took just one step closer before changing her mind, and stepped back into the shadows, turning her back on the Long Gamble once more. There was nothing left for her the--
“Oof, well pardon me.” An amused voice called to her.
Kithran had backed right into another woman--another blonde-haired woman in the crimson robes of a cleric of Shinara, “Serah?”
The grin on the woman shifted, as she regarded the half-Syl up and down for just a moment before recognition painted her face, “Kithran?!” Her expression altered unstoppably between happiness, relief, and concern as she took in the mussed hair, the undone clothing, the scratches and bruises, the mass of dried blood caked on her cheek, and the marks forming around her neck, “By the Scarlett Mistress, Kithran, are you alright? Can I--”
Kithran fell into the priestess, wrapping her arms around her and crying uncontrollably into her collar.
Serah held her tongue for now, as she hugged the young half-Syl back, who was now somehow so much taller than her. She had only caught glimpses of the little shadow here and there after Tara had passed, but since then either the girl had given up watching them, or she had become much better at watching them undetected. She had a feeling it was the latter, her being the protege of a master skulker, after all.
As the sobs wracked her body less and less, Serah stroked her thick hair, and cooed comforting words to her, until finally she was able to catch her breath.
Kithran did not want to let go, “I’m sorry, Serah,” she said finally.
Serah leaned back and took her tear-soaked face in her hands, giving her a small smile, “You’ve nothing to be sorry for, dear. I told you we would be waiting for you whenever you needed us, and here we are.”
“Here you are.”
Serah shrugged her small shoulders, “Yes, well, as you know I do not drink as the others do, and so am cursed with incredible sleeping habits. Alas, that means I must wander along on my morning walks all alone, and before most of this wild town has awoken.”
Kithran chuckled through the tears that still fell from her face and sniffed, “So you love it then?”
“Yes, of course I love it.” Serah takes Kithran’s wrist in her hand, the laughter falling from her face as she truly examines the young woman, including the gashes in the arm she holds now and the bloodied hilts of the sheathed daggers on her hips, “May I?”
At Kith’s nod, the Shinara priestess grasps the symbol of the twelve red stars hanging from her neck and begins to chant. Feelings of hope and joy and laughter wash over Kithran as the healing consumes her body. It was a familiar feeling she had not received in five long years, and it felt incredible. It felt more like home than even Calestra itself.
“There you are, my dear. Now,” she looks her up and down once more, “will you tell me what has happened to you, and who I should send Danmar and Serena after?”
Kithran smiled, weary despite the physical relief she felt, and leaned back against the building, feeling the cool stone on her back where her dress had not yet been secured, "You would send them after a family of Cinderfells?"
Serah's eyes grew wide at the name, "Cinderfells? Cinderfells?!" She shook her head, "Of course it's the Cinderfells, why wouldn't it be them? You are so much like her, Kithran, still her little shadow. You know that, don't you?"
The corners of her mouth turned down once more, but she nodded, "I do . . . have two requests, Serah. First, would you mind?" and she turned around, lifting her hair to reveal her exposed back.
Serah chuckled as she moved forward to assist her, "Of course.” Tying you back together after a terrible night? The parallels are astounding. “All done.” Kithran turned around, but Serah had not moved, placing her hands on the half-Sylvari’s shoulders, “Will you tell me what happened, Kithran?”
Castien waking her up so sweetly. Castien telling her he loved her in a pool of the blood she had wrenched from him.
She smiled sadly back at Serah and shook her head, ”I looked worse off than I truly could have been but . . . .” She shook her head again, wanting to hug the blonde priestess longer and sob forever in the comfort of her arms and healing spells, but she took a step back.
Serah saw the flight in her eyes and sped on ahead before she lost her again, “That’s alright, you don’t have to tell me, Kithran. Tell me instead of your second favor.”
Her eyes refocused on the maiden, “Ah, yes. Please tell my father that I love him, and that I am okay.”
The clerics eyebrows went up, “Where are you going?”
But Kithran was already backing away from her, “I’ve missed you, Serah.”
She wanted to tell the girl to stay, join the maidens and allow them to help her heal as they had for Tara, but it would have been for naught. The half-Syl was already gone, despite her standing just a few feet away, “I’ve missed you too, Kithran. Please, find us if you need us. We will always be there if you call for us.”
And the shadow disappeared.
“Oh, Kithran, here to see me off, are you?” Madam Jacquelyn chuckled as the dark-haired girl appeared near her carriage in a lovely but tortured purple dress, “I almost didn’t recognize you all dressed up and your hair down like that. But that scowl, I could pick that out of a sea of thousands.” She gave her a wry smile, “You do look rather stunning still, darling, if you’ve come here for more than to say goodbye, well, I’d be happy to find some time for you.”
Kithran sighed to herself, beginning to see where her worth truly seemed to lie in the world. She drew a blade as she walked toward the black-haired madam, “First, please do not call me that. Second,” and with hardly a glance, Kithran chucked the blade into a rat, scurrying through the street.
The madam laughed and clapped her hands, looking back to the tall, young woman, “Oh! Incredible, Kithran! You really are something!”
“Third,” Kith held up her hands, now filled with the bracelets that had adorned the madam’s wrists.
“Why, you little thief!” Jacquelyn grinned, taking her jewelry back, “Alright, well now that I know what those fingers of yours are truly capable of, I will be doubling my efforts.”
Kithran ignored her comments, retrieving her blade, and wiping it on her skirts before setting it back into its place, “I would like a job. Not as one of your girls, but as your bodyguard, or thief, or both, I don’t care. I only ask that you take me away from here.”
The joviality fell slightly from the bright woman’s face, but she nodded as understanding replaced it. The half-Syl would be far from the first young woman fleeing to her for an escape, “It’s worth leaving everything, Kithran? Friends, family, Castien?”
Kithran closed her eyes tightly and grit her teeth at the name, but kept herself together enough to open them again and nod.
She nodded back, “Very well, but I would like your story,” Jacquelyn noted her uncertainty at the request, and the smile returned to her face as she opened the carriage door and tilted her head inside, “Ah, ah, consider this a part of the job. Take it or leave it.”
Kithran stared at the shadowy insides of the carriage, and tried to imagine where she would even begin to tell her story. Nonetheless, she did not hesitate, disappearing inside as the madam followed, closing the door behind her.
Posted on 2019-12-10 at 18:40:45.
Eol Fefalas Keeper of the Kazari RDI Staff Karma: 465/28 8567 Posts
Game plan: part 3
Mosic was agape at just how quickly the makeshift plan had come together and, even moreso, how quickly it had been acted upon. The little priest watched in something close to awe as the kazari warrior and the half-syl thief whispered off along the parapets and disappeared into the dark. When his eyes could no longer pick either of them from the gloom, his attention turned back to the bladesinger at his side. He opened his mouth to speak but, as the Syl’s golden gaze fell upon him, his words failed and he offered a fractional shake of his head, instead, as his eyes panned along the darkened tops of the wall and, then, to the horde of animated skeletons below…
“Something troubles you, Mosic,” Aranwen murmured. It was more statement than question.
…The Cid’s gray eyes came back up, finding Aranwen’s face again, as a sigh blew past his lips. “I’ve been in the service of Falloes a long time,” he almost whispered, “and, in those years, The Helping Hand has led me to fight on occasion, when it was necessary, but only rarely have I ever had to kill. In the hours I’ve known the three of you, though, I have been party to more killings in the past few hours than can be counted in, perhaps, my last ten years…”
The bladesinger arched a brow and nodded faintly, understanding how a cleric of his particular order might be more than a little upset by these goings on. “If you are having second thoughts,” she said softly, “I doubt any of us would hold them against you, good priest. You’ve rendered us aid and we thank you for it…” her eyes flitted along the battlements and over the yard, “…and, I imagine, we may need it, again, but, if Falloes deems our venture unworthy, you may go and worry on us no more.”
Mosic shook his head, the twin pony-tails bouncing from his shoulders. “No. That’s not it,” he said, an almost sad smile on his lips, “I was led to you for a purpose and, until that purpose is fulfilled, it is with you that I will stay.” He sighed again and shrugged. “It just happened to strike me, rather profoundly, just now, that the world is, more often than not, a bad and cruel place.”
A smile that closely mirrored the Cid’s crossed Aranwen’s features, then, and she offered another nod that may have been meant to lead into a reply but, before her mouth could open, the faint sounds of steel scraping stone carried through the night from both sides of their position. Almost immediately after, the dull, wet thud of bodies hitting the earth sounded from below. Her words abandoned, the bladesinger peered over the wall and watched as the throng of skeletons below split apart into two separate groups and, drawn by the sounds, moved off to investigate. “It is time,” she said, kicking the rope from the wall, “We’ll need to be quick.”
With that, the bladesinger took the rope in hand and made a hasty decent into the now clear swath of lawn below. Her blade came free of its sheath even before her feet touched earth and she stood on guard, eyeing the skeletal tides warily, until Mosic thunked to the ground behind her.
“When we are finished, here,” the priest huffed, tugging his mace free of the ring on his belt, “perhaps we can make our exit some other way besides climbing?”
The Sylvari woman smiled over her shoulder, gave a noncommittal nod, and then, with the point of her sword, gestured toward a squat, brick building some fifty yards away. “Go,” she whispered.
The Cleric of Falloes glanced left and right and, seeing the skeletons on either side still engrossed in their searches, sprinted as quickly and quietly as his legs could carry him toward the outbuilding with Aranwen close behind. As he reached the shed, he pressed into the deeper shadows under its eaves. His back pressed to the brick, he, once again, swept his gaze to the divergent groups of bone troops before allowing them to turn back to the wall where, it appeared, the rope had been cut loose of its anchor above and now fell in a disordered heap onto the trampled grass and mud. A larger, darker mass followed the rope earthward, landing with a surprising silence considering its size. Then, that larger shape broke into two; the smaller, darker part of it raced quickly toward where Mosic and Aranwen clung to the shadows whilst the larger figure seemed to occupy itself with gathering up the rope.
“If nothing else,” he quipped, glancing up at the bladesinger, “at least I’ll be able to say I’ve seen what kazaari are capable of.”
Posted on 2019-12-11 at 10:52:01.
Reralae Dreamer of Bladesong Karma: 142/12 2506 Posts
When he finished, he looked to Aranwen and Mosic. “When the guards hit the ground,” he said, gesturing vaguely to the milling throng of skeletons below, “make your way down as quickly as you are able. Do not wait. Kithran and I will not be far behind.”
Aranwen nodded, "Do not worry about us. I will protect Mosic. Focus on your targets, and be silent and swift, both of you."
The paw at her shoulder then, she didn't think too much of as she returned her gentle smile. As it lifted to brush her cheek, however, her eyes widened just slightly in surprise, before softening around the edges, and the faintest hint of a blush remained even after Ch'dau had turned away. It was sudden, and short, but she found herself wondering...
Just how long had it been since she had shared in someone's touch like that? Even if it were a brief, innocent touch. Would it even share the same meanings across the cultures? She couldn't be sure.
Aranwen shook her head, thinking of the stones beneath her feet, the very faint evening breeze tugging at her hair. She brought herself back to the here and now. The present. She needed to be alert. Atop the wall, Aranwen kept watch of the movements below on both sides of the wall, her head tilting one way then the other. In her scan, she saw Mosic's mouth open as if to speak, but no words came, and as she looked to him, he looked away.
"Something troubles you, Mosic," She murmured.
As she shared his thoughts, she couldn't help but feel that he was out of place. That he should perhaps be yet on the streets and seeing to others like the elder he had treated earlier that morning. Why choose them? Yet, she didn't dwell on it. If he was resolved to see this through, she would likewise be resolved to protect him, whether it was to protect him on their shared path, or protect him until he left to go where it diverged.
Little time to share her own feelings on that, however. Her gaze once more scanned her periphery, and she nearly swore as she looked to the streets below. A cloaked, unsettling shape investigating the garden where they were but a few minutes ago. Simultaneously, she heard the thuds of bodies striking the ground, even from this distance.
"It is time," Aranwen quickly grabbed the rope beside her, "Let us be quick."
Scaling down the wall, she was pleased to see that it seemed none of the skeletons remained to be in their direct path. They didn't have the intelligence to remain undistracted, it seemed. She drew her blade regardless, to have it ready. Then, as she followed Mosic, she watched and listened for any to approach them. None did, but she didn't relax even as they took refuge in the shadow of the exterior building. She kept looking to both sides, to be ready should they turn and advance. She motioned for the small shadowy Kithran to come towards them, while keeping her blade behind her in a reverse grip. All the better to keep some light from reflecting off of it and catching the attention of any of the skeletons.
“If nothing else,” Mosic quipped, glancing up at the bladesinger, “at least I’ll be able to say I’ve seen what kazari are capable of.”
"He is certainly impressive to see," Aranwen smiled, her eyes looking to the larger shadow still at the base of the outer wall, "And yet, despite how different he appears to our eyes, his heart is not so different. The very first words he spoke to me were in concern of a life not his own."
Perhaps, in some strange way, that is why I never saw him as alarming as others might, Aranwen thought to herself.
Kithran skidded to a halt back at the top of the rope. Aranwen and Mosic had begun their run, away from the majority of clacking bones now examining the piles of flesh Kith and Ch’dau had prepared for them. Kith reached for the rope, her immediate instinct being to slide down and catch up to them, but they had a plan. She was to meet Ch’dau here, and then they would join the others. On her own the plans were always to just not be seen, nothing real like these she had made with infiltration companions, and she supposed she should stick with it.
A silver gleam finally caught her eye and she looked up in time to see Ch’dau sliding to a stop on his padded feet before her.
“I didn’t know if I should go or…” she nodded to the rope, and to the lithe and small figures racing away from them.
“You did well, kibibi,” Ch’dau grinned, and she returned the favor.
“I did do well, it is a shame you missed it, though any chance to eye the carnage you wreak I am also reticent to miss.”
He gave her an appreciative chuff and slipped the knotted rope from its mooring, and held out an arm, inviting the thief into his embrace, “Come,” he rumbled, “let’s not waste time.”
Kith looked below, then to the arm extended out to her, and her eyes lit up once more, “Thanks for the warning this time,” she grinned, jumping eagerly into his arm and wrapping her own around his neck for support, while his secured her close to his side.
He leapt off the side of the wall and that stomach twisting feeling of falling engulfed her once more as they dropped to the lawn below. Kithran tightened her grip to brace herself as the ground rose up to meet them, but the impact was far less jolting than she had imagined it would be, and even the Kazari seemed hardly affected by it.
“Next time we fly out of a window, Samuel, do that instead.” Kith hopped away from him and he nodded to the figures of their compatriots, “Go, they’ll need you once they are inside. I will deal with whatever comes from the bone-creatures and be at your side, again, soon.” She nodded back and threw the dark hood over her head before bolting low and silently in the direction of the others.
Their plan to distract the skeletons had worked even better than she could have hoped, though how long they would be distracted by the corpses, only time would tell. Kithran spied the two in the shadows of an outbuilding ahead, and picked up her pace at Aranwen’s gesture to join them.
“. . . despite how different he appears to our eyes,” the bladesinger was saying as the thief approached, ”his heart is not so different. The very first words he spoke to me were in concern of a life not his own.”
“No,” Kithran whispered, “they were for a far greater life indeed,” and her bright grin in the darkness told the Cidal all he needed to know regarding that comment, “The kind-hearted kitten will be on his way shortly,” she added moving to examine the building they had found their brief refuge beside.
“Kitten?” Mosic pondered as the thief slinked by him in her hooded examination, “I thought you were the kitten, Kithran?”
Her face tilted back as she looked up toward the top of the building, Kith’s only response was the briefest scrunching of her face before leaning around the corner. She leaned back and into the other two, “There is a door on the side wall here,” she whispered, pulling her lockpicks from a small pocket, “Shall I?” And before either could respond, she was around the corner, crouching down so as to be as small as possible in her long frame, before slowly and methodically placing her picks into the lock and getting to work.
There were many things Kithran enjoyed and things she was good at, but this was at the top of both lists. Always. She had grown up in Coria taking everything she could; she had made her way around Ertain for years reliant solely on her ability to swipe precious and unsavory items; she was here in Sendria to steal the lives of wretched people. And now, click, she would be taking whatever might be interesting inside this outbuilding.
Kith looked around, ensuring there were no bone-addled monstrosities ready to leap onto her, and nodding to the bladesinger glancing at her from around the corner, she subtly pulled the door to the dark room open and slipped inside. It was crowded, with racks of weapons and various tools lining the walls, and scattered abandoned about the floor. Upon first glance it was all much less interesting to Kith than she had hoped, until her eyes settled on a chest at the far end of the room.
"Kithran," the Sylvari voice called from behind her in a whisper, "please be quick, they are losing interest with those bodies."
"Not to worry," she said, her eyes steady on the chest as she pulled the lockpicks free once more and bounded over to it.
((OOC: I'll leave the skelly sitch to yous for now, but she'll hop into the fray when it starts to get hectic))
By now it was all instinct. There were few locks she had not seen or felt by now, and even fewer that could make her sweat. This one was no different. In general, locks safeguarding chests could be a little more tricky than a standard door lock, but that only meant a little more time and care was needed to coax them to her will. If she had patience for anything, it was the thrill of that last, click.
Kithran lifted the heavy lid, while the sounds of shuffling around her began to fill her ears. Inside the chest were some rags she could not discern and did not want to touch, using the tip of her new dagger to remove for her. The chest contained more weapons: daggers, shortswords, a pair of interesting blades she had never seen the like of, but nothing truly to pique her interest. Though perhaps the others would find something worth their while..
She left the lid of the chest open, the rags disheveled beside it, and made her way back to the entrance to see what the others had gotten themselves into.
Posted on 2019-12-12 at 10:39:42.
Reralae Dreamer of Bladesong Karma: 142/12 2506 Posts
A Lost Child (no, not that one)
378 E.R, Uialfinde, Londelirinen
Delegation to patrol held something of a mixed feeling to Aranwen. On the one hand, she could understand it - by having new hands aiding where they could along the paths through the Three Kingdoms, it gave them experience without entrusting them to dangerous ventures, as well as greater familiarity with the place they sought to protect and keep safe. But on the other hand, Aranwen was impatient; she wanted to prove herself, as she always had since first arriving at Megilindor Nost. Her drive to succeed which had seen her through her training, now was a hindrance in her mind.
And yet, as she walked the trail with Saeriel beside her, she felt herself relax. She watched as the scattered sunlight passed over Saeriel's hair, the red catching the light and giving her an almost ethereal glow about her. As if feeling her eyes, Saeriel turned, amethyst eyes meeting gold, and gave a gentle smile.
"Just relax, Ara," Saeriel offered, giving Aranwen's hand a gentle squeeze, "There's no rush, and it's a lovely day for a walk."
Aranwen nodded, returning the smile, "Yes, it is," She replied, leaning in to give Saeriel a kiss.
They continued their border patrol, and the two bladesingers found themselves in the town of Uialfinde. Saeriel tensed her shoulders, and as Aranwen looked to see the Sylvari of the village in a haste, moving back and forth, looking this way and that, she could feel the apprehension as well. Aranwen nodded to Saeriel, and they quickly approached one of the villagers.
"Excuse me, excuse me! What's the matter here?" Aranwen asked.
The woman turned to look at Aranwen, panic at the edges of her eyes, "Oh! We can't find 's child anywhere!"
Aranwen leaned in, placing a hand on the woman's shoulder, "Take steady breaths. Be calm," She offered, before she asked, "Where were they last seen?"
"'s garden. They were helping out tending the flowers."
Aranwen looked to Saeriel, mouth open to speak, but paused as she saw Saeriel with her eyes closed and a hand at her forehead. She instantly recognized that posture, and moved over to embrace Saeriel, holding her steady in case she fell, feeling how she shook on her own legs, "Sae, what is it?"
"So many lights. I can't see," Saeriel whispered, "It's all blurry... I can't... see."
"Are you alright? What ails you?" The woman asked.
Aranwen shook her head, "Don't worry. It's alright. Please, tell us of them. Do they carry anything with them, always? If not, what are they wearing?"
"They have a pendant they wear, oak carved in the shape of a leaf."
Saeriel nodded, her brow furrowing as she leaned into Aranwen's arms. After a moment, she took a breath, and opened her eyes.
Aranwen quickly looked over Saeriel, breathing in relief to see her violet eyes focused and alert, "Did you see anything?"
"I think I know the direction. We need to hurry."
Aranwen nodded, giving Saeriel a gentle nudge, "Lead us there, Sae."
Taking a glance around to get her bearings, Saeriel drew a deep breath and started along a path, with Aranwen following close behind. They moved at a brisk pace through the foliage and trees, moving further and further from the village.
"Did they really go this far out of the village?" Aranwen asked.
Saeriel nodded, "I think so. But to them, they never left."
They came to an opening in the forest, and there, not a few paces away from them, was a young Syl walking slowly as though in a trance.
"Wait!" Aranwen called, "Stop!"
As Aranwen drew the attention of the child, Saeriel darted forward, her blade coming clear of its sheath as she swung over the child's head. There was a few sharp, startled cries, and a few shapes obscured by light dove out of the way of the steel blade, swerving away quickly into the forest.
The child looked around in shock, "W-where am I? Where's mom!?"
Aranwen approached slowly as Saeriel sheathed her blade and knelt down beside the child, her violet eyes lingering on the leaf pendant they wore, "Shh, shh," Saeriel hushed the child, before replying, "She's still at Uialfinde."
"Where am I? Who are you?"
Aranwen gave a gentle smile, "You're not too far from the village. We're bladesingers on patrol. Come on, let's get you home."
After retracing their steps back to the village to see the child safely returned home, Aranwen and Saeriel both shared a sigh of relief. Though they were offered to share dinner, Aranwen and Saeriel declined, and returned to their route, walking once more on the woodland path.
"What did you see?" Aranwen asked, after the village had begun to be obscured by the foliage behind them, "That seemed different for you. More intense."
Saeriel nodded, "I saw small creatures of light dancing around me. It was as if the world moved beneath my feet while they were leading me somewhere," she sighed, "It was all I could do to stay standing, even with you beside me. When you asked about what the child wore, things became clearer. And then I could see where they were headed, and I could vaguely feel the direction it was in. To their eyes, they were still in the village, but that was only an illusion held by those creatures."
"Where were they headed?" Aranwen asked.
"They were headed to a ring of mushrooms, just a bit further in that clearing," Saeriel's violet eyes were distant as she recalled what she had seen.
"You mean..." Aranwen's eyes widened, and she took a breath, "Thank goodness that didn't happen."
Saeriel nodded, "It's strange. We've both heard those stories and proverbs when we were very little, but to see it actually happen... it's a bit surreal. Like something out of a nightmare."
Posted on 2019-12-12 at 22:23:40.
Eol Fefalas Keeper of the Kazari RDI Staff Karma: 465/28 8567 Posts
Back where I do not belong
Ch’dau looked up from coiling the rope as Kithran raced away, his eyes sweeping the lawn and the skeletons that populated it, now, and he smiled and growled all at once. This place should be long behind me, he told himself, long behind US. Why are we here? For some damned book? For some sense of vengeance, years past?
He shook his shaggy head as the last coil of rope looped around his arm and he spied Kithran pressing herself into the shadows alongside Mosic and Aranwen. None of us should be here, he mused, slipping the coil of rope over his shoulder, checking the positions of the bone horde and, then, charging off to where the others waited, and, yet, here we are… His gaze ticked to the turrets of the manor house… if only to kill you, bitch. I suppose that will be better than nothing.
In moments he was in the shadows under the shed’s eaves, standing beside Aranwen, his back to the bricks. “Well done,” he rumbled softly, his gaze flicking between the Syl and the Cid but finding no trace of Kithran, “where is the girl?”
Even as the skeletons started to abandon their inspection of the bodies they had toppled from the wall, Aranwen’s golden eyes rolled in the dark and she jerked her head toward the corner of the building. “Inspecting the interior,” she said in a hushed tone.
“Bak’chu’s balls,” Ch’dau cursed, “I begin to wonder if that little kitten has not seen a lock she dare not test.” His gaze danced left and right, assessing the skeletons as they began to wander away from the diversion they had created and, once more, began to spread out across the estate’s grounds.
The kazari sighed, then, and nodded to the slowly encroaching creatures even as he handed Aranwen back her rope. “Mind these,” he chuffed, “or make for the house. I shall fetch the kibibi and be close behind.”
((OOC: Up to you what course Ara and Mosic take, of course, Butterfly))
With a soft grunt, Ch’dau pushed himself away from the wall and quickly rounded the corner Aranwen had indicated. He had scarcely turned that corner when he saw the door which Kithran had opened and made his way to it, meeting the dark-haired half-syl just as she sought to exit.
“What are you doing, kibibi,” he huffed from one side of the threshold as she blinked her dark eyes at him from the other, “We do not have the time for this.”
((OOC: Assuming a “Says you, cat-beast. There’s some stuff in that trunk you might be interested in. Don’t imagine it’d fit a human.” Or something like that… ))
A quizzical look wafted across the kazari’s face, then, and he looked past the thief to the chest she had indicated for a second before stepping out of her way and jerking his head in the direction of Aranwen and the priest. “Go,” he chuffed, “keep to the bladesinger until you reach the house. I am just behind.”
At first, he had thought to ignore her invitation but, as she shrugged and slipped past him and back into the shadows, Ch’dau’s eyes were drawn to the open trunk and Kith’s words echoed in his head… Don’t imagine it’d fit a human… Surpressing the irritated growl that welled in his chest, the Kazari stepped into the building and strode toward the chest, chastising himself at the stupidity of it with each step. Then, as he peered into the thing, he couldn’t help but chuckle. He saw his falcata and dak’tar carelessly tucked amongst the rags and refuse that filled the thing. “That girl,” he snorted, reaching for the weapons he thought he would never see again…
There was no time to overthink it. He pulled the bone-worked, leather bandoliers from the trunk, making quick work of replacing the stolen short-swords with them, and, with a glance over his shoulders as three shadows passed the doorway, snatched up the leather-strapped skirt of a dak’tar, as well. He tore off the uncomforatble pants he had been wearing, then, and buckled the dak’tar quickly around his waist, securing his gear and his pride all at once, before turning for the doorway, ignoring whatever else might have been nestled in the trunk’s fetid interior.
…As he crossed back intothe outside world, he tugged the hook-bladed falcata free or their sheaths and grinned before his gaze caught sight of a bone-legged warrior staggering in his direction. A low growl built within him as he turned his gaze, briefly, from the approaching skeleton and toward the three shadows that were charging for the manor house. “Quickly, t’mbili’i,” he barked, moving to cut the femurs from under the bone warrior as his comapnions sprinted for the manse, “our distraction is finished.”
A single swipe of the falcata had served its purpose and the skeleton collapsed into a heap of still bones as Ch’dau backed away in slow pursuit of his tiny clan. Still, more moved to replace it, and, with the determination of the approaching undead, the growl in Ch’dau’s chest rose along with the press.
Posted on 2019-12-13 at 21:39:36.
Edited on 2019-12-14 at 11:55:52 by Eol Fefalas
Reralae Dreamer of Bladesong Karma: 142/12 2506 Posts
The kazari sighed, then, and nodded to the slowly encroaching creatures even as he handed Aranwen back her rope. “Mind these,” he chuffed, “or make for the house. I shall fetch the kibibi and be close behind.”
Aranwen nodded, “Be swift,” She returned, “We must be sure not to let ourselves be surrounded, or separated.”
With a soft grunt, Ch’dau pushed himself away from the wall and quickly rounded the corner Aranwen had indicated. He had scarcely turned that corner when he saw the door which Kithran had opened and made his way to it, meeting the dark-haired half-syl just as she sought to exit.
Aranwen beckoned to Mosic to follow her, “We still have some time, and are undiscovered as yet, best for me not to join battle as of yet. Bladesong is not exactly subtle.”
She crossed the path from the separate building to the larger keep, not at a swift pace, but slow and methodical, as if she were meant to be there, another guard or someone in Adedre’s employ. She didn’t want to move too far ahead of Ch’dau and Kithran, not when the risk of being surrounded was great.
And on that thought, she saw skeletons noticing her approach to the keep, their clattering bones and chittering jaws growing louder in recognition of a target. She swore under her breath, “Mosic, stay close!” She repeated, not that she expected Mosic to need reminding.
Righting her grip on her blade, Aranwen began her song and flipped the edge around so that she sliced with the dull of the blade, rather than the edge. Thankfully, the skeletons were arranged in a marching pattern for securing the perimeter, not the interior, and that made their approach staggered.
Though the dull of the blade resisted the air more, and made the blade give a flat note as it sliced, Aranwen matched the note with another that give it a harmony, weaving about Mosic in her footwork as she smashed one skeleton, then another. An arrow flew past her, nearly grazing her hair, to embed itself in the socket of another skeleton. Looking to the source, she could just make out the gleam of Kithran’s grin from where she stood in the shadow of the detached building.
“You picked that up fast,” Aranwen complimented Kithran, “But I don’t think arrows work too well on these things,” She called back, bringing her blade down upon the one Kithran struck, which had been staggered but not felled, “Get to the door!”
Kithran stowed her bow and sprinted for the door, glad that someone was finally able to admire her bowmanship. Not that she had meant to shoot that close to the bladesinger, but she hit her target . . . it had been some time, after all.
You though, she thought as she reached the door and rummaged once more for her lockpicks, her eyes locked on her target, you are mine. Kith crouched before the door, and at the continued sounds of sword on bone behind her, she went to work.
As Kithran rushed past her, Aranwen bit her lip, concerned for Ch’dau for a moment. But just before she could voice her concern, she heard the deep growl of the Kazari, and felt the rush of air beside her as Ch’dau landed in a leap beside her.
“I was just about to check on you,” Aranwen smiled up at the Silver Cat, seeing Ch’dau looking significantly more comfortable with the equipment he had come to be used to for a long time.
“Worried?” Ch’dau asked with a smirk even as he cut down another skeleton that had approached.
Aranwen shook her head, “No, but even so, I refuse to leave anyone behind.”
As they made their way towards the door, Aranwen suddenly stopped several paces away from where Kithran was working the lock.
“Mosic, it will be soon,” Aranwen cautioned the priest, “Ch’dau, focus on any that get near Kithran; I’ll stand here to protect Mosic.”
“I’ll want my cloak back, cat beast,” Kithran said, her eyes still focused on the door.
Mosic nodded, and with shaking hand brought his holy symbol to his chest as he began to pray. Aranwen wove around him, with her blade, almost weaving an elegant dance with the flashing silver of her blade. In contrast, Ch’dau leapt from target to target, almost crushing each skeleton underfoot, but finishing them with a swipe of either blade. Together, they kept safe Mosic and Kithran as each worked at their respective task. She could swear she could hear Kithran muttering in irritation under her breath.
Just when they were about to be overrun, Aranwen nodded, “Mosic, now!”
A ripple of divine energy spread outward from Mosic as he finished his prayer, and one by one the skeletons immediately around them collapsed upon themselves into inanimate piles of bone. Aranwen took a breath, and looked over her shoulder to see Kithran get the door open.
“Inside!” She called, taking up position as the rear guard as they entered.
Once they had crossed the threshold, Aranwen kicked the door shut, into the skulls of the skeletons that had begun to pursue them inside.
Posted on 2019-12-17 at 20:03:21.
Eol Fefalas Keeper of the Kazari RDI Staff Karma: 465/28 8567 Posts
Of Deals and Dolls
A red haired, felt doll of a Sylvari walked up towards the door before Adedre’s chamber of its own accord, skipping from one foot to the other as it was tugged along by Morgana’s threads. The guard stationed there didn’t notice the doll, it being so far below his peripheral vision.
You there, boy… be a dear and inform Adedre that I must speak with her
The guard jumped, his hand immediately going to the sheathed sword at his side as he looked around frantically for where the voice had come from, “Wh-who goes there?!”
Morgana sighed, the doll crossing its arms and tapping a foot impatiently, the sound of a pointed shoe tapping the ground echoing up from where the foot touched the ground, Normally, I’d find amusement in your antics, but this is an urgent matter. Stop gawking, boy, and do your job.
The young guard’s eyes were drawn down by the tapping of a distinctly pointed toe shoe and blinked in wonder at the little elfin effigy… Whaaaa… I’ve got to find a different job… I knew Mistress Undolithe did some strange things but…
Now?! The little doll demanded, its arms uncrossing from its chest and settling impatiently on its hips.
The guard blinked once more and, then, nodded in compliance and turned to rap on his Mistress’ chamber door.
“Oh! What is it?” Adare’s voice sniped from the other side.
“Forgive me, Mistress,” the guard called, “There’s someone… something...” his gaze flitted nervously back to the felt figure at his heel and he seemed to contemplate for an instant before letting loose a disbelieving sigh and finishing; “...There’s a doll demanding to speak with you, ma’am.”
A short sigh and a faint rustling sounded from Adedre’s side of the door, then, followed by the soft fall of bare feet on the floor, before the door-latch clicked and the slab was pulled open. Across the threshold, a masked and robed Tecla bowed respectfully to the little red-haired doll and, stepping aside, silently invited Morgana’s vessel to enter. The doll twirled on one foot, floating into the air to drift across the threshold into the chamber, as if carried by invisible threads, before it landed once more on the ground.
To this point, Adedre had been lazily reclining in the high, wing-backed chair but, as the doll floated past Tecla and pirouetted to a perch on the floor, once more, the witch’s yellow eyes skimmed past the felt-worked vessel, past the mask shrouded girl on the one side of the door and the young, gawking guard on the other, and saw no sign of the Kazari or the shadowy little bitch that had stolen him. She sighed, her eyes narrowing only slightly and coming to rest on the little doll’s face. “I had expected… something else, Thread-witch,” she smirked.
The doll, otherwise impassive as it seemed, seemed to darken as if shrouded by the shadow of a hand for a moment, but the shadow lifted quickly, as it gave a curtsy to Adedre, I am… aware of that, she voiced, irritation slipping underneath her usual detached words, But a few more seconds… and I could have made him dance by my threads… Rest assured, normally I would not be here less the pact were complete… But that is not why I am here.
Morgana sighed again, I do apologize for my intrusion, Adedre, but the situation has changed… quite drastically so. She voiced with genuine concern, It seems that those who would be our prey have decided against fleeing. Even now, I expect they are within the walls of your estate…
Adedre’s hands clutched the arms of the chair and she hauled herself forward, her eyes hardening a bit more but, at the same time, widening just a bit in surprise. “What?!?!” She tried not to screech.
Her gaze tore from the doll and fixed on the guard; “Rouse the house,” she snapped, one hand lifting from the arm or her chair to click fingers together, “and loose the spider from the dungeon!”
One moment, if I may, Morgana suggested, Our prey have taken such efforts to enter here otherwise unnoticed. If they remain unaware that you know they have entered, they may yet be able to be brought to a situation more… advantageous to us.
Adedre turned her hand, forestalling her previous order to the guard, then, made a waving motion which prompted Tecla to shut the chamber door…
“I will let you know if you are needed,” the masked girls muttered to the guard as she pushed the door to.
“As you say, miss,” the guard returned just before the latch clicked.
...Adedre’s eyes returned to the puppet. “I am listening, dear Morgana,” she said, sweet and bitter all at once, “but… we may need to revisit the terms of our contract. It seems that your efforts might have been less than half of what drew them back here.”
Morgana’s doll shrugged its shoulders briefly, And yet, it is me who is here to tell you of their arrival, where you otherwise wouldn’t know. I am still prepared to follow through with what I said I would do. Two lives, two gemstones. Let them into a place where the web of threads, bone, and spell may close in on them, and, in that way, we may turn their aggression to our favour.
The yellow-eyed witch regarded the doll a moment longer… Have you seenKazari aggression, she wondered to herself, Do you know how many men I lost capturing him in the first place? How many I lost when that little half-breed let him loose, again?... and, then, after seeming to think better of her challenge, waved her boney hand again and slumped back into the chair. “Tell me your plan, dear one,” she sighed, “and I will consider keeping to our original accord.”
The Syl doll lifted a felt hand, and the sound of fingers snapping echoed from that point. She shadowed silhouette of Morgana faded into view above it, one hand outstretched over the small doll, blood red threads connecting her fingers to the doll as a puppet’s controls. The lips of Morgana’s mask curled into a sly smile, “Very well, what I propose is thus…”
((Pause... cause we're antoginizing Bree! Come home, kibibi! We miss you!!! ))
“Goddamn it, door,” Kithran whispered as the bladesinger’s song and the Kazari’s battle rage filled the air around her, “You’re embarrassing me in front of the prie--”
“Mosic, now!” Aranwen suddenly shouted among the chattering of bones and a wave of positive energy pushed against her back. “Guh,” she grunted as her hand slipped out of place, but that clicking sound she heard when it did was just what she had been listening for.
Kithran jumped back up and rushed in through the now unlocked door. She turned to see the others surrounded by collapsed skeletons, while still more pressed forward.
“Inside!” Aranwen called and they hurried in after her, the Sylvari kicking the door closed behind them as Kithran ran ahead to check the rooms before them.
“The rooms ahead are clear,” she said softly as she jogged back to them through the short hallway, “the kitchens are beyond the corner there, but I don’t expect they will be too full at this time of night, however, I wouldn't doubt that the slitch has padded her guard since last night.”
The bladesinger nodded, “You two should take point,” she said, looking at the half-Syl and the silver cat, “as you both know the layout best and will likely be the most silent moving forward. Warn us of any guard heading our way, and take care of them quickly if you can. If not, fall back and we will dispatch of them together.” She turned to the Falloes cleric, “I will bring up the rear, so you will travel between us. Try not to expend too much of your energy until we face the witch or her bone spider.” She looked each of them over, “Ready?”
Kithran drew her blades and grinned up at Ch’dau, “I am ready, cat-beast. Try to keep up, yes?” and she trotted up ahead, slowing to a stop as she reached the corner and pressed her back against the wall. She felt more than heard the Kazari catch up to her as she slowly peeked her head around to check the occupancy of the kitchen.
Unlike the hallways, this room was dark. A warmth and the smells of whatever had been made earlier that evening still lingered from it, however, there didn’t seem to be anyone about. Kithran slid into a crouch and moved forward into the room. She veered off to the left and wound around counters and racks, until she came to the door on the opposite end, the Kazari meeting her from the other side of the room. She tilted her head toward the door, and at his nod, slowly pulled it open to gaze down the next hallway.
Like the previous one, candlelit sconces lined either side of the hall, leading to another open room--the rarely-used dining room, to Kith’s recollection. Beyond that would be more hall and doors to sparse rooms until they were once again in the entry hall. From there they would simply need to climb the staircase to the third floor, turn a few more corners, and there they would finally find that study.
Currently, however, there were two immediate issues in need of being dealt with.
Kith softly closed the door and motioned the bladesinger and priest over, gesturing that there were two of those skeleton creatures heading in their direction. Ch’dau switched places with her near where the door would open, and Aranwen and Mosic stood close behind him, the Cidal holding his mace at the ready. At the sound of the eerie skeletal footfalls on the runner just outside the door, Kithran flipped her knives around, as pummeling them with their hilts seemed to produce slightly better results thus far than stabbing at them.
The door began to open and Kithran yanked it toward her, causing the creature to stumble in surprise for just a moment, but it was enough for the Kazari to pull it into the room for Aranwen and Mosic to hack away at. The other skeleton hopped back at the sudden departure of its companion, and at the enormous silver cat who replaced it. The ungodly creature turned, making a run back down the hall, lacking the capacity it took to scream as any normal being might have wanted to at their first sight of a ravenous Kazari, but it did not get far. Ch’dau leapt, catching it easily and barrel-rolling into a dark room nearby. Snarling and snapping soon followed, and Kithran sprinted to the doorway of the room, slipping inside in case any other guard up the hall decided to make their way down here as well. He had made short work of the thing, standing as she arrived in a pile of rubble.
“Thanks for the help,” he rumbled mockingly at her.
“You are very welcome,” she replied with a bow before spinning on her heel and checking again for anymore guards, and for the other two to signal their readiness. At another of Aranwen’s nods, Kithran drew her lovely new dark blue cloak over her head once more and hopped back out, sliding along the wall on their path forward.
It was almost odd, how easily they made their way through the manor. While they did come across a couple more sets of the skeleton patrols, none had given up much of a fight. Then again, there were more alongside them this time, and she and Ch’dau weren’t on death’s door. At least, not metaphorically, she thought, gazing up now at the top of stairway. Kithran’s book would be up there, but so would the slitch, her bone spider, and any number of her undead horde--as well as her not-all-dead legion of guards. They hadn’t come across any of those at all. In fact, the last Kith remembered seeing were those they had shot on the wall.
Kith ushered them into the shadows beside the stairwell. This would be the most difficult place to stay stealthy, as the stairs simply cut back and forth to the third floor. They would have to go from the bottom to the top in one hasty move, completely exposed until they found cover in the hallway passed the landing.
Crouched low now, Kithran turned to the others, also crouched in their partial cover, among the oddly unoccupied entry hall.
She pulled her hood back enough so that the others could see her face as she whispered, “We will have to hurry straight to the top from here. The study I need to search will be down the hall, around the corner to the right, and the second door on the left. Last time, that bone monstrosity attacked us as soon as we hit the third floor landing.” She paused a moment and looked at Aranwen, “I don’t know about you, but I had also really expected for us to find more of a fight once we got in here--much like the fluffed skeleton patrols outside, but it has not been much different than it was last night, save that those we fought last night were still breathing. Perhaps she wasn’t prepared for us to get this far? Or . . . .” She trailed off for a moment, weighing the cost of her quarry versus the likelihood that she would be attacked once more by that nightmare creature.
“Either way, I don’t mind keeping point with this one,” she tilted her head to the crouching Kazari who was still a bit taller than the rest of them, “as long as you two stay a little closer. Especially you and that holy symbol, cleric.”
“Of course, Kithran,” the Cid replied matter-of-factly, instinctively grasping at the Falloes symbol at just the mention.
“Thank you. Now, unless anyone has a better plan, I am ready to draw out this terrifying creature. I suggest watching out most for the dagger feet.” She brought her hands to her hood, ready to pull it forward once more, “Ready?”
Posted on 2019-12-27 at 00:23:28.
Edited on 2020-01-04 at 20:05:09 by breebles
Eol Fefalas Keeper of the Kazari RDI Staff Karma: 465/28 8567 Posts
Stick the landing!
“…I am ready to draw out this terrifying creature,” Kith smirked, bringing her hands to her hood, again, “I suggest watching out most for the dagger feet…”
Dagger feet, Ch’dau chuffed, recalling being impaled by the spider’s appendage, More of a spear if you ask me.
After a quick glance at their surroundings and another toward the door, the kazari grinned faintly and nodded. “Right behind you, kibibi,” he rumbled.
With that, Kithran scampered ahead, Ch’dau close behind and the Cid and Syl following. The door opened without Kithran having to fiddle with the locks and, had he considered it, Ch’dau might have thought it much too easy. He didn’t consider it, though, and, as the doors were thrown open, he followed his little shadow-girl through without thinking. As they entered, the heads of both the half-Syl and the kazari were on swivels, their eyes skimming the room they had just entered…
Nothing, Ch’dau chuffed inwardly just as the soft pat of Mosic’s feet drew to a halt behind him. This… does not feel…right…
Admiring my handicraft, a disembodied voice queried even as the hinges of the doors creaked in their wake.
At the creaking of the hinges, Ch’dau’s eyes flicked back to the doors and, in a moment of confusion, blinked at the small, felt effigies of himself and Kithran as they pushed the doors shut. Mosic had made the room, of course, but Aranwen was still beyond the threshold and, at the speed the dolls were shutting the doors, would likely not make the crossing before the way was barred.
“Aranwen,” Ch’dau growled, “Quickly!”
It was too late, however, and the doors to the hall were shut and secured by the little dolls, separating the kazari, cleric, and thief from the bladesinger. So easily distracted, the voice almost snickered then, I’d look up if I were you.
Even as he backed further into the room, warily eyeing the puppets, Ch’dau paid heed to the ethereal voice and lifted his gaze to the ceiling. Suspended there by a tangled web of threads hung the horrific bone-spider that had chased he and Kith from the manse the night before. “Uj’nga!” the Silver Cat hissed just as the sound of snapping fingers resounded through the chamber.
“Away, kibibi,” he snarled, “we have walked into a trap!” As the monstrosity fell away from its web, Ch’dau reached out to shove Kithran out of the way with one hand and tore a falcata free with the other. As that first kazari-crafted blade spun into a reverse grip and the Silver Cat reached for the other, the bone spider crashed down atop him. He grunted from the impact that drove him to a knee; then, as he ripped the second blade loose, Ch’dau roared with rage and lashed out with both blades, batting away the spear-tipped legs of the bone-spider as he sought a way from underneath the thing.
Posted on 2020-01-04 at 12:36:24.
Reralae Dreamer of Bladesong Karma: 142/12 2506 Posts
"I am ready, Kithran," Aranwen nodded. By her description, it was certainly a creature to be wary of, its size and strength a major problem to overcome.
Yet, as she prepared to for battle, she blinked when Kithran opened the doors; empty. Unlocked. Aranwen frowned. It was true that they had dealt with every pair of skeleton sentries up to that point before an alarm could be raised, but certainly something would have happened when the live patrols on the walls had failed to report in? Were they really that fortunate? Aranwen felt a chill along the back of her neck, and knew deep down that something was wrong.
She had no opportunity to voice that, however.
Admiring my handicraft?
Aranwen swore under her breath. She knew that voice that haunted her nightmares.
“Aranwen,” Ch’dau growled, “Quickly!”
Aranwen tried to rush forward from her position at the back, but she couldn't make it before the doors closed in front of her. She pushed and pounded at the seam where the doors met each other, but what little give the doors seemed to have at first was quickly reduced to none as the doors were secured from the other side.
"What's going on in there?!" Aranwen tried to call through the doors, stepping back to try and see if she might find an alternative solution to breaching the barrier before her. She winced as she heard the loud thud of something very large hitting the ground. She needed to get to them.
Why so concerned? They didn't need your help before, and they don't need it now. They don't need you. Morgana's voice mocked the bladesinger from down the stairs.
Aranwen tensed, turning towards the stairs down and holding her blade ready for whatever mannequin had approached them from behind, but she saw none.
Morgana's tone shifted, and there almost seemed to be pity in her voice as she spoke again, Someone else, however... she does need you...
Aranwen's breath caught in her throat as she saw the felt doll with Saeriel's likeness a few steps below her, positioned with its hands together at its chest as it looked up at Aranwen. Forcing her jaw open to speak, Aranwen's eyes narrowed and burned as she looked at Morgana's doll, her blade shaking a bit with her hand, "What did you do to her?"
Rest assured, this is not her. Follow me, and I can bring you to her. Morgana replied, her voice silken and calm, That is what you want... isn't it?
Admiring my handicraft, a familiar, chilling voice spoke as the door creaked behind them.
Kithran turned in time to see a small doll version of herself and Ch’dau closing the door on Aranwen.
“Aranwen, quickly!” Ch’dau called as the bladesinger rushed forward. Kith leaped around the Cidal and raced toward the door to pull her through, but they were all too late. The doors closed and their bladesinger was gone.
“Damn it,” Kith growled, drawing her blades as the puppets began securing the door, but before she could act the disembodied voice returned around them and she spun around.
So easily distracted, it snickered at them, I’d look up if I were you.
Her head jerked back as she looked up and all thoughts of the dolls behind her and the Sylvari beyond were briefly wiped from her mind as she realized the horrific creature she had been dreading hung maniacally just above her by a tangled web of the witch’s threads. “Gods . . . .” she whispered as the sound of snapping fingers echoed through the room and the thing began to tumble down toward her. Her breath caught just as a kazari paw shoved her away and the monstrosity crashed down atop Ch’dau.
Kithran stumbled back against a high-backed chair, which crashed into the bookshelf behind her. She watched as Ch’dau batted at those terrible bone-dagger legs with his blades, while the laughing skulls throughout its body chittered away at him, stretching as far as they could on what was left of their spinal cords for another bite.
Kith shook her head and looked back toward the doors, the handles of which the puppets had wrapped in that webbing, very much like the threads she cut Ch’dau out of. She took a breath and leapt forward, “Mosic! Help Ch’dau! Do something magical!” and she rushed once more to the door. She fell into a slide and kicked the kazari doll back, stabbing at the one on the handles that looked similar to her.
This doll was more difficult to hit, jumping and dodging her strikes, then leaping at her face.
A sudden flash of powerful golden light drenched her, and a familiar wave of warm energy jolted her forward, smashing the doll on her face into the door and allowing her to grab it and toss it aside. Kith looked behind her to see the Cidal priest standing before the demonic creature, his breathing heavy and his palms outstretched before him. One of the middle legs of the bone spider hung more limp than the rest, and the entire creature shimmered in a golden light.
Wasting no more time, Kith turned back to the door and started cutting at the threads, and another lighter feeling of that Falloes energy surrounded her.
She had hardly began to tear into them when something tapped the side of her leg where she knelt. She looked down at the Ch’dau doll, having finally recovered and beginning to tug at her. Kith spun her blade around in her hand and made to strike down at this thing, but as she swiped another small weight hit her in her opposite side. The miniature version of her clung to her torso, a stabbing pain beginning to throb there and she could feel blood dampen the inside of her shirt as the thing began to crawl up her. Kith grabbed at it, but it easily jumped away from her grasp, and as it leapt from her back onto the handle, she could feel the kazari doll begin to crawl up her other side as well.
The Kithran doll crouched, ready to leap at her again, and as it did, another form manifested just beside it. Indistinct but for a mask, it lunged and struck out at Kith’s gut as the doll struck at her face. Kith surged backward away from both, watching the mask impossibly frown as its strike missed, before fading away once again.
She landed on her back just below the skeletal spider and a real kazari roar filled the room. She looked up in time to dodge the spearlike leg, and almost missed another as she spotted Ch’dau take a hit across his chest, blood immediately soaking his silver fur. Kith managed to dodge a fatal strike from the second, but not before she too was hit by its razorlike leg, right through her shoulder.
As the leg retracted to strike again, Kithran rolled out from under it, to the opposite side of the room from Ch’dau. She winced, holding her dripping shoulder and backing up against the bookshelf, as the creature, a little more worse for wear than when it had first fallen atop them, turned back to Ch’dau.
The door would have to wait.
She hoped Aranwen could as well, as she turned toward the bookshelf and began to climb.
Grasping onto the wooden shelf, she turned around, pulling and kicking books away to get as much a grip and footing as she could. Ch’dau struck fiercely at the creature, and Mosic mumbled to himself as his hands formed different symbols in the air before him.
Alright, just have to watch out for the back leg sneak attack, and this should go much better than last time. Just one more second an--
Kithran squinted, noticing a third doll in a white dress near Ch’dau’s feet. It didn’t seem to harm him, but instead gathered something at the floor beneath him and moved on to another splotch on the floor. Our blood.
She was about to call out to Mosic once more to do something about the thing, but a beam of golden light shot down through the ceiling at it. The doll just barely hopped out of its way, and the priest instead took out his mace.
Good priest. Now--oh s***.
The creature reared up, two of its legs poised to strike at the kazari from above. Kithran launched herself off the shelf, bringing her feet out in front of her, and crashing with all of her weight into the back of what accounted for the creature’s head. Ch’dau ducked and spun out of the way as it fell forward into the opposite wall. Kith grasped onto the sinewy bones, forcing herself not to comprehend what she was grabbing, and pulled herself up to the top of the abomination once again. She leaped over the clacking jaws, toward one of the weaker-looking legs.
“I can’t think of anything witty right now,” she called, striking at the crumbling joint and kicking away at one of the skulls reaching out from the body, “just move, cat!” and she heard Ch’dau growl in return.
Posted on 2020-01-04 at 18:28:53.
Edited on 2020-01-04 at 21:35:00 by breebles
Reralae Dreamer of Bladesong Karma: 142/12 2506 Posts
A Desperate Deal
The tip of Aranwen's blade wavered in the air. All of her feelings told her to cut down this false felt effigy Morgana was taunting her with, but Morgana had not attacked her, and she could guess that it was Morgana who had separated her from the others.
"What I want, right now," Aranwen replied, forcing herself to keep her voice calm, "Is to look after those that are alive. Sae is... gone. I know that. But I can do something here and now, for those people that I can help here."
Such uncommon resolve... Morgana paused then, But what do you propose then, o bladesinger? You will not breach those doors, nor do you sound as if you will follow me. So then we are at an impasse, and time, as you are all too aware, doesn't stop for you.
Aranwen winced as she heard the muffled sounds of battle crashing in the other room, seeming to accentuate Morgana's point. In frustration, she turned to the door, and brought her blade about, swinging it at the divide between the doors. Though she succeeded in marking the door with her blade, even slicing into the wood, the doors still seemed as strong as if she hadn't struck them. She grit her teeth.
"I suppose everything's going just grand for you then," Aranwen growled beneath her breath.
Hardly, my dear, Morgana replied, not even attempting to hide the irritation in her voice. Aranwen whirled about at how close that voice had become, to find the Sae-doll sitting at her shoulder. Aranwen froze, looking unsteadily at Morgana's vessel.
"It's... not?" Aranwen asked, her voice cautious.
Circumstances are... not ideal. Morgana sighed, Adedre may be too... frustrated... by all these... complications... that she may, unwisely, not follow through with her side of our pact. As far as I'm aware, she doesn't even have the payment in hand as yet. Easier to simply... delay a debt, indefinitely, if you haven't the payment to give. Though I certainly have the means to make her pay for such a transgression, it would take no small effort on my part. But I must at least act in good faith to continue to uphold my end, even if it will give me far less than I would have liked with respect to the effort I've expended thus far.
Aranwen frowned and she paused, tense with the doll far too close for her comfort, "Then, if you were offered something you actually wanted..."
If Adedre were outbid with a... conflicting deal... Morgana's voice returned to a silky tone, Then... Perhaps... I might forego an advantage in this battle. I would still need to put some effort in regardless, you understand, but in such a change in circumstances, I might put in... less than I would.
Aranwen sighed. I can't believe I'm considering this... she thought to herself, "What do you want, Morgana?"