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Nov 04, 13 at 8:44pm ^re: Manifest Destiny - The Great Migration ("50th" Chapter!)
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Spoiler:Chapter 35 - Connections
At some point during the ride I must have passed out, because by the time I’d woken up we were already out in the country. Acres upon acres of ground-crops stretched all around us, but there wasn’t a person in sight. Couldn’t I just go back to sleep before I threw up or my head split in two? There really wasn’t a good reason to be awake right now; there was nobody here to be alert to. Besides, even the glare of the morning sun was enough to send my head spinning.
Doing all right, BrightEyes?
There was a definite note of sarcasm in his question as the remains of his question left my ears ringing. Had that confrontation last night really happened? Did Alise really tackle me, and try to turn me in? There was something a little hazy about all my memories from the Inn onward.
“What exactly happened?” I asked, rubbing the sides of my head while trying to shield my eyes from the dawn.
Mostly what you remember. Both you and your friend poisoned yourselves before staggering out into the town.
“We didn’t poison ourselves!” Ow, okay, no shouting.
Your head and stomach tell a much different story. Anything that does that to your body is nothing less than poison BrightEyes.
“I’m still alive aren’t I?”
Yes, but it was a d*mn close call. You need to be more careful; if I’d been tethered properly outside the Inn I wouldn’t have been able to come help you.
“Then I suppose it’s a good thing I can’t tie a proper knot.”
No, that would also be a bad thing.
“Going there was a bad idea.”
Going into town was a fine idea. If you’d kept your wits about you, you wouldn’t have drawn attention to your own wanted poster.
“So…?” I asked, trying to figure out what he was planning. Despite him being able to get into my mind at will, I still couldn’t respond in kind.
You still need proper food, and an actual bed wouldn’t hurt you either.
“I promise you if I eat anything right now, it won’t stay down.”
Regardless, there’s a bounty of food here with nobody to tend it. It’ll keep for long enough for that poison to work its way out of you, so get down, and choose something you’ll actually eat.
“You want me to steal?” I asked, appalled.
It wouldn’t actually be stealing, as no farmers have been here for months. Now, get down and get your food.
To emphasize his point, he stopped walking and crouched down. Clearly, he wasn’t going to go on until I’d gotten at least a handful of berries for myself. The only problem was, I had no idea what any of these berries taste like. How would I know which kinds I’d like and which kinds would make me gag? Everything still looked so foreign, berries that bulged and berries that grew in spirals littered the thorny branches of the berry bushes. Pulling an empty pouch from the pack I’d brought from the Shamman’s Village, I started filling it with berries. It wasn’t very big, and the berries probably wouldn’t last until tomorrow, but something was better than nothing.
“Can we leave now?” I asked impatiently, wanting to put as much distance between ourselves and the unfriendly town as possible.
Do you have enough food yet BrightEyes?
“I can’t carry more than this.”
Will it last you very long?
“I don’t think so; I mean, I’ve never had to live off berries before.”
Nobody’s giving you three meals a day out here, that’s for sure.
“I know that, it’s just, I’ve never done this before.”
That much is more than obvious.
“Let’s just get going all ready.”
He finally obliged, squatting down again to let me tie on the berry-bag before climbing back into the saddle. Even though I’d only just woken up, we were both beyond tired. That mug of rum had taken its toll on me, and as far as I knew, Rodromus had been on the move all night long. He hadn’t been wrong, we needed sleep. Ideally, we could find another Ranger tower to hide away in, but they weren’t really placed that close together; and I was not going to backtrack. There just wasn’t any time, without even considering the danger of getting close to that city again.
“I did have one question, while we’re traveling.”
“I think I remember, after Alise had me cornered, that you were talking to me in my head before I could actually see you.”
Indeed I was, but that wasn’t exactly a question.
“I was getting to that. I mean, before you actually said anything it felt like my head cleared for a second. Do you know anything about that?”
I was actually wondering if you’d remember that.
“So you do know. What happened?”
I’ve never seen a poison do such things to anyone’s mind, but no matter what you do to your body, your spirit is still the same. Since we’re connected, I pulled your spirit out of your dying body and into mine, so you could get into your saddle, and I could get you out of there.
“Didn’t you say you couldn’t keep it going very long though?”
Also correct. Any dealings with spirits are very tricky, and incredibly particular. As friendly as you are BrightEyes, your spirit just like any other is not meant to share a body with another. If I had held you in my body for too long, our spirits would have merged, or one would simply cease to be; and one of our bodies would be left behind, completely empty.
“That sounds really dangerous. You were really willing to risk that to get me out of there?” My own disbelief etched clearly in my voice. In all my lessons at the academy, techniques like this had never come up, never even mentioned in passing; though was probably one of the reasons why certain healing skills were so dangerous.
I didn’t see it taking so long to get you out of there, but I do owe you a great deal. Without intervention, I would still be a working-beast at the Academy.
“I still work you too hard,” I admitted, ashamed of the truth of the statement.
It’s a different kind of work, but this is more enjoyable. That was nothing but mindless labor, but this, this is History in the making.
“I’m just a criminal – I’m no warrior or scholar.”
Oh BrightEyes, you really are so much more.
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Nov 05, 13 at 8:17pm ^re: Manifest Destiny - The Great Migration ("50th" Chapter!)
I wonder who's all keeping up with me so far?
We ended up having to ride through most of the morning before we found a suitable place to rest. Just as the fields were abandoned, so to was a rundown old farmhouse. Dilapidated and overgrown with weeds it still provided shelter from the sun, and enough of a water pump to quench both of our thirsts. It seemed to work a bit better than the one from the Ranger Tower, but someone had probably been using this one more recently than the ClanWars. Either way, the water was a welcome change from run, and thankfully didn’t leave my head in a fog. For the first time since entering that teeny little town, I was finally thinking clearly again.
Is that building sturdy enough to enter?
“Do we really have to go inside?”
Unless you feel like getting up every few hours to stay out of the sun, yes we do. Frankly, I’d really rather just sleep and stay asleep.
It was a fair point, “All right, I’ll go check it out.”
For all the damage on the outside of the building, the inside seemed incredibly untouched. Unlike outside, there weren’t any weeds in here. Where it had looked like the wood was rotting out in the sun, someone had taken the time to reinforce the supports. A dark tarp stretched across the roof, effectively covering all spots where the straw has worn thin. In short, it was better than most anything I could have hoped for. Gently, I led Rodromus through the little doorway of the cottage. As soon as he had settled himself down, I curled up next to him, grateful for a moment of truly peaceful rest.
Even though we had probably been out for quite a few hours, it felt as if that moment hadn’t lasted long at all. Truth be told, Rodromus woke up before I did; and it was his growling that woke me. Standing in the doorway were two terrifying women, both copper-headed and obviously surprised to see us here. The one in front, dressed in a mixture of leather and metal armor turned her surprise into a snarl and drew a set of twin daggers before I could blink. The other, dressed in what appeared to be regular clothes and a large cloak, and decorated with the intricate red tattoos of indicative of the Archers of Moran reacted slower than her companion, but nonetheless drew was what unmistakably the staff of a Ranger.
“What the h*ll are you doing here?” Barked the first, the shine of her steel showing her clear intent should I keep her waiting.
“I- we were,” I started, but quickly got distracted by Rodromus’ movements, as if he was readying himself for the attack.
“Thera, would you get it under control?” the armored one asked to the Ranger, trying not to take her eyes off me.
As light began to blink out the end of her staff, she answered, “I’m on it.”
“What are you doing to him?” I shouted as he shifted again beneath me, lethargically settling back into the ground. It was more than the physical movement though; I couldn’t feel him in my mind anymore, not like I used to.
“You haven’t answered us yet Ranger,” she spat, the last word falling harshly on the air as if it was something to be hated.
“Wait,” I said, confused and forgetting their demands, “Isn’t she a Ranger?”
Taken aback, the first woman turned to the second, “Is she for real?”
“I have no idea,” the second answered, “This is just plain weird.”
The first advanced forward, steel still in hand, “Regardless, you still haven’t answered us. Now, what exactly are you doing out here?”
The venom in her voice was unmistakable, and trembling, I tried to answer, “We’ve been riding for ages and needed a place to rest. We didn’t know anyone lived here, honestly we didn’t!” My voice shot up as I felt him sliding further and further away from me.
“What do you think Yanna?” the Ranger asked, still apparently intent on her own work.
“I don’t know, she’s either completely oblivious or incredibly cunning, but I’m willing to bet on the first.”
“You know, I think I recognize her.”
“Oh do you really?” The first, Yanna I think, retorted, “Where?”
“The last town I think, one of the wanted posters.”
“Oh ho! That changes things now doesn’t it?”
Oh no, if these two knew I was wanted by the crown there was no telling what they would do to us. There was no punishment for killing criminals, especially ones considered as dangerous as I was. Besides, this one woman brandishing the daggers looked completely devoid of any sort of moral compass, or sanity. It already seemed obvious that they were doing whatsoever they pleased to my MindMate.
“Yanna, since she can’t exactly go turn us in, would you mind putting those down?”
“Right, apologies.” Wait, so she was apologizing to her friend, but not the girl who had been at the point of those steel pricks? “Who did you say you were again?”
Her entire demeanor had completely shifted as she stowed her daggers in her belt, and so slightly apprehensively, “I didn’t.”
“Well, introductions are in order I think,” The Ranger said, “If you can keep your Pokémon there from charging us, we can get started.”
“No promises, but I can try.” I answered, still taken completely aback by the complete and total change in atmosphere.
“Fair enough,” she answered, dimming her staff and setting against the wall, probably as a sign of good faith, “Theravada, from Shikan in the Central Kingdom.”
“This is more than reckless,” the first woman muttered.
“Oh shut up and introduce yourself; we can work from there.”
“Mahayana, same city.” She answered coldly, “Now how is this helping anyone?”
“Just wait,” Theravada said smiling, obviously more content with this whole situation, “you are?”
“Mahin,” I stammered, “I guess from Arzai’s Plantation, down south.”
“And your friend there?”
“My MindMate, Rodromus.”
“So you’re a true and proper Ranger then?” Theravada asked, still smiling a bit.
Feeling my stomach instantly knot up, I sheepishly looked down at the floor and answered, “Not exactly...”
“I had a feeling, but you and I are in the same boat then, so to speak.” She said, settling herself on the floor in front of me so we were speaking face-to-face. “Why’re you running? How’d it start?”
“Back at the Ranger Academy I think,” I said, surprised how much effort it took to remember those last few weeks, “One of the Masters had it decided that I was supposed to fail out, only another one took it on himself to keep me at the school. I didn’t know he’d done it, I think I’d gotten myself backed into a corner, where I was actually acting as a Ranger without graduating. They marked me out as a Rogue, and I had to run.”
“Is that where Rodromus came in?”
“Yeah, doesn’t exactly help my case much, but I took him from the school when I ran.”
I saw Mahayana smirk before Theravada continued, “Makes sense, Elkin from the school would draw too much attention, even if they were faster.”
I nodded, and heard Mahayana bark with laughter, “Seems like you got caught in the middle of a cluster-f*ck child.”
“A what?” I asked, never have heard the vulgar term before.
“Don’t mind her,” Theravada said, chuckling to herself, “she basically means that you got caught up in a huge mess completely outside your control. The King’s honestly an idiot when it comes to Rangers and Rogues.”
“What do you mean?”
“Tales of Rogues are so over exaggerated. I’ve been away from Moran for nearly three months, and since I know I’m essentially dead if I’m caught, but this whole time I haven’t been able to do any of the things Rouges can allegedly do.”
“Like make fire rain from the sky,” interjected Mahayana, “Rip the earth to shreds, or call the ocean to their will. It just isn’t possible.”
Oh I wouldn’t say that. Rodromus finally seemed to have gotten his head together since being forcibly subdued, the things I’ve seen you do BrightEyes.
“Oh hush you,” I whispered, knowing he was all but laughing behind me.
“Sorry?” Mahayana asked.
“Oh, talking to Rodromus.”
“He talks back to you?” Theravada asked, “I’ve never heard anyone talking to me like that.”
That’s because you aren’t listening silly girl.
“I think it’s just a BondMate thing. He’s the only one who I’ve ever heard.” I paused, considering what she had said earlier. “Why did you leave the forest?”
“Different reasons than why you left your school. We’ve been having scary problems in the Northern Forest for some time. I couldn’t make myself go in there. Rangers and civilians alike had been going in, and not making it out. In the end though, it was my own nightmares that drove me out of town.”
“A very short time before she ended up running back home, a Rayevern had gotten into the village; you know, one of those great horned beasts.” I nodded, remembering one of the stories back at the start of my ‘assisting’ at the school. “Of course, it was Thera’s job to handle the beast, and she did a blast good job at it.”
“I didn’t have any other choice but to kill it, before it hurt anyone in the village or destroyed their homes. It was whatever was happening in the north that caused it to rampage I’m sure of it, but there wasn’t anything I could do. Afterwards, they insisted on tattooing the beast’s blood into my skin, like they do with the younger warriors, but it weighed on me. I’d taken the life of another being. It took me prisoner; I could see it dying over and over again and there was nothing I could do about it. If it happened again, I didn’t know if I could do what needed done again.”
“So she decided to leave it behind. The life she had wasn’t worth the torment it caused her. We ended up ‘re-connecting’ on the way back this way.”
“Reconnecting is one way to put it Yanna, you quite nearly robbed me blind until you saw who I was.”
“So I was engaging in some good old fashioned banditry, you say that like it’s a bad thing.”
“Only with me,” she said smiling again, “But I was meaning to ask you Main, where exactly are you trying to go?”
“The far north, it’s the only place that’s safe for people like me, the only place the soldiers can’t get to.”
“That’s quite a ways away,” Mahayana said, looking down at me, “But we might be able to help.”
Edit: Nov 05, 13 8:32pm
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Nov 06, 13 at 8:54pm ^re: Manifest Destiny - The Great Migration ("50th" Chapter!)
Yes! Just finished another bonus chapter in time!
Spoiler:Chapter 37 - Sleepless Night
“What do you mean ‘help me’? Why me?” I asked, bewildered by their sudden kindness.
“Well,” Mayahana said, “the two of us have been living as outlaws out here for the past three months. It’s pretty safe to say we know this kingdom pretty well, as well as knowing how to avoid any and all trouble. Everyone either knew us back in the Central Kingdom, or had seen our faces from wanted posters, so becoming almost invisible is all but second nature.” She paused for a moment and glanced over at Theravada, “as for the why, let’s just say I bet Thera’d beat me with that rod o’ her’s if I sent you off on your own.” Theravada let out a shrill laugh, and Mahayana continued, “I’m not wrong then; she’s got this thing about helping people I just can’t talk her out of. “
“That’s a rather nice way of putting it Yanna, but yeah, sounds about right. We should be able to get you about as far as the border of the Central Kingdom, but neither of us really wants to go back there.”
It was much more than I could ask for, “Thank you! Thank you both! What should we do to get started?”
“First and foremost,” Mahayana said, stretching her arms over her head, “dinner and sleep. We’ve been riding all day, and frankly I am famished.”
That advice sounds very familiar BrightEyes. I wonder where you might have heard that before.
“I know you’ve told me that a hundred times Rodromus,”I hissed, not wanting to appear like I was talking to myself, “We just haven’t gotten a good chance to get either.”
Then take the chance now while you’ve got it. If they try anything, I’ll tear both their heads off.
Knowing I had one single, unwavering ally throughout all this chaos was probably the most comforting thing that had happened in a very long time. The two women began unpacking their saddlebags, unloading what appeared to be traveling clothes and supplies, as well as various dried fruits and meats, and blankets for the floor. Theravada passed me a strip of the dried meat and a handful of small berries for Rodromus. Honestly, having actual food (compared to berries and rum) was such a welcome change. This was something to chew, something to taste, something to actually fill my stomach for the first time in weeks.
“You look half starved to death hun,” Theravada said sitting down next to me, “I know laying low is important, and cities are big scary places, but you and I can’t live on berries alone.”
“I know, it’s just- I don’t know. It’s like I have to sleep with one eye open, and double check every step I take.”
“I’m not going to lie and say it isn’t like that, at least at first. There are some times and places where you know you’re safe, like here in our house; but there are some times where that extra eye has saved both our skins.” She sighed and stretched, stretching her arms and legs in the midst of a yawn, “It always seems like they’re stronger than we are, like they’re faster and cleverer than we are; but we have to win every time. The alternative to lose is just too terrible.”
I nodded, seeing again in my head that noose with my name on it, just waiting for the soldiers to bring me along. It had been plaguing me since this journey began, and while it still was not a pleasant thought, just knowing the fear wasn’t all in my head was oddly all right. It wasn’t all in my head, I still wasn’t going insane.
Mahayana plopped down beside us, wrapping a blanket around her shoulders and chewing on a piece of dried meat. For whatever reason, she seemed most at peace with everything that was going on. Her only worries seemed to be for her own comfort and hunger. Once it had been established that I was not a threat to her or her friend, her entire demeanor had immediately softened. She was safe here and she knew it, so why bother worrying about what might happen outside these walls? Within a few minutes, she was curled up on her side, completely asleep. Theravada didn’t take long to follow, soon sound asleep with her partner. Weren’t they going to sleep in shifts? Didn’t somebody have to keep a lookout?
Weren’t you listening BrightEyes, they know they’re safe here.
“Still, if they keep coming back here, wouldn’t the soldiers catch on to the fact that they live here?”
I honestly don’t think they come here all that often. How else would they already know this Clan so well after only three months?
“I suppose it makes sense,” I said considering how long I’d been on the road already. “I guess we just got lucky.”
You can call it luck if you’d like.
I knew someone lived here yes, though I didn’t really know when they’d be back again.
Aside from talking to the wild ones around this area, there were obvious signs. Why else would the inside of the house be kept in such good condition, despite the outside looking like it should fall apart at any second? Someone, obviously someone who was trying to hide, took the effort to make this place live-able again.
“You really do pick up on a lot of this stuff.”
I merely observe while you remain completely oblivious. If you really want to survive from more than blind luck, you have to learn to question why things are the way they are. I won’t always be able to charge in after you.
“I know that, it’s just not as easy as you make it sound.”
Yes indeed, when you’re so needing a bed or a meal, a seemingly uninhabited house looks a blessing sent from Luceatto herself; but there’s a reason everything is the way it is, and not all of them are friendly. Now, there’s one other thing I’m a bit more interested in.
That Ranger, she said she hadn’t been able to do anything typical of Rogues that she’d heard of. I know you’ve done such things more than once. Why do you think she can’t?
I had to stop to think for a second, remembering those times with Penebrae and Rhyneclous when I actually had done things that should have been impossible. “I wasn’t exactly in control of myself either of those times. I didn’t call on that power – I didn’t even know it was possible to do those things until they’d already happened.”
But you always had them when you needed them most, isn’t that right?
“I suppose, but it isn’t something I’d depend on.”
I wouldn’t depend on it either, not yet at least. What fascinates me is the fact that she seems incapable to perform what you’ve performed. It’s not that she isn’t trying or isn’t willing, she simply can’t; whereas you can. There is something different between the two of you; I can feel it. You have something she doesn’t.
“Pyry could probably feel it too; it’s probably why she ended up trying to fail me out of the Academy.”
I wouldn’t doubt it. From what you remember, she seems to be a seasoned Rogue-Hunter. It’s probably second nature to her by now, to be able to pick Rogues out of a crowd. You probably aren’t the only student she’s barred from passing BrightEyes.
“I know I’m not,” I said, mind returning to that last night at the Academy. “The night that I ran away, Takia, one of the students asked me to go talk to Pyry. She was worried that she’d be failed for her third time, even though she knew the material better than the back of her hand.”
Sounds like what happened to you.
“It is what happened to me; only in my case Master Bahme saw the actual test. He knew I should have passed, and issued me that unofficial remedial test. In truth, the questions were exactly the same as Pyry’s test, and I got every single one of them right.”
Do you know why Pyry stopped hunting Rogues out in the field?
“I don’t know, I just figured she’d gotten old enough to retire from that kind of work.”
I have another theory.
She doesn’t really seem all that old to me, at least through your eyes. No, there’s a reason she’s at the Academy. Judging by your own experience in her class, I’d wager she’s there to stop anyone with that gift you’ve got from getting out into the field.
“You think so?”
It seems to make sense. Think about how much time she had to spend out in the field hunting Rogues. Wouldn’t it be easier to catch them before they manage to get out there?
“I suppose so.”
Either way, it’s all just speculation. Get some rest while you can BrightEyes.
“What about you?”
I don’t need quite as much sleep as you do. Besides, someone needs to take care of you before you get in over your head.
It hurt. Everything hurt. This had to be a nightmare; there was no way around it, only pain usually would wake me from nightmares. Even now I was aching in places I had only been recently taught that I had, and was quickly wishing I could forget. By body was entirely spent. I had no energy to fight off the pain, no energy to even get up to walk back to my room. All I could do was close my eyes and weep when Hesodei wrapped her arms around me, and carried me away. She ran a new bath for me, and scrubbed me clean before taking me back to my room and my bed. The whole time, my head was spinning; with one single thought running through my mind on permanent repeat.
Never again; I have to get away. I can’t stay here. That can’t happen again.
“Oh Melody,” she whispered while tucking soft, warm blankets around me, “I am so sorry. I know I can’t make it right again. I know you’re hurting, and I am so, so very sorry.” She then took my hand, and started gently rubbing my hands like I had with Mumma’s, “I can’t tell you everything’s going to be okay; you wouldn’t believe me even if I told you. I don’t know what Valdovas is planning, and I likely never will; but I will try to protect you wherever I can.” She paused, maybe waiting to see if I was going to say something, but I couldn’t and she realized the fact very quickly, “Get some rest okay. I’ll lock the door so he can’t come in while you’re asleep.”
Never again; I have to get away. I can’t stay here. That can’t happen again.
I’d only actually fallen asleep for what felt like a second or two before I found myself in Hesodei’s arms again, shaking and screaming. How long had I actually been sleeping? I couldn’t remember if, or what I had been dreaming, but I couldn’t stop myself from shaking. Her arms held me fast, stopping me from thrashing away from her. Not even her warm embrace would stop the tremors.
I’d started to open my mouth, to ask what was going on, or what had happened, but Hesodei spoke first, “Shh, everything’s all right. You’re safe now Melody, there’s nothing to worry about.”
Eyes shut against the light of the room; I dug fingers dug into her dress and hoped to whatever god ruled this Region that I could get away. Back home, I’d had nightmares once in a while, but every time, when I woke up, the world around me was just as it should be. Now though, the nightmare was everywhere around me. I couldn’t pinch myself and wake up, couldn’t go sit in Mumma’s lap to find a sweeter dream.
“What’s going on in there?” The voice of one man, that man shot through the air.
Instinctively, I tucked myself in tighter to Hesodei, trying to hide myself from him when I heard another one of the girls answer, “She’s just had a nightmare sir. We can take care of this.”
“See to it that you do.”
The door slammed shut somewhere behind me. A soft, gentle hand found my shoulder, and the same feminine voice asked, “Are you doing all right?”
I had to turn to look at her. Hesodei was the only one so far I could recognize, and there were two other girls working here. Judging from the descriptions I’d gotten yesterday, this must be Lellian as her eyes were dark to the point of nearly appearing black. Her skin was clear and pale like Hesodei’s, but her face was rounder and softer.
In a tiny voice, I tried to voice the incredibly childish answer, “I wanna go home.”
“I know you do,” she said, “Hesodei, why don’t you head back downstairs and finish up? I’ve got my evening work done; I can put her to bed.”
“You sure? I was thinking one of us might stay with her tonight, just in case.”
“It’s no trouble, I can stay.”
“All right; Melody, could you let go please?” She was looking down straight into my bloodshot eyes, “I’ve got a few things I need to take care of, but Lellian’s here. She’s going to stay with you tonight, and I’ll be back to see you in the morning, okay?” I nodded, and loosened my grip on her, “That’s a good girl, up we get.” She’d taken my hands and slowly pulled me up to my feet. “Those nightmares shouldn’t last too much longer.”
She was wrong. Three days later and I hadn’t gotten over the nightmares; I’d only learned how to silence my screaming. When Hesodei stayed with me, she’d wake me when she noticed me crying or shaking, but even then she couldn’t stop it. More hours were spent in the arms of one of the women than actually spent asleep. Cold chills, cold hands and a heartbeat faster than any Elkin were more common than not, and were starting to creep more and more into my waking hours. If it were possible to get away from all this, I’d jump at the chance. Any hoop would be worth jumping through if it meant sleeping peacefully again, if it meant living a day without fear constricting my stomach and lungs. The only option was to get home again, or maybe even farther away and just keep running.
Never again; I have to get away. I can’t stay here. That can’t happen again.
There was my answer, strung up right in front of my face. It would never happen again if I could get away. If I could get home, or even get out into the country, I could finally be free. The only question left was how. There was someone around me nearly every hour of the day, and if they weren’t right beside me, someone always knew where I was (or at least where I was supposed to be). The seed was planted, and that perfect idea of freedom consumed my thoughts. Sitting at the breakfast table, I looked around to see which windows would open and which couldn’t. Once I was back in my room, I examined the space in much the same way. Every action, every person and every room was a pool of information, a piece in a puzzle that would lead to escape.
In the end, it was my own bedroom that looked like the best option. Lellian had left the window open last time she had spent the night with me, so I was sure the thing wouldn’t stick on me. It was conveniently placed above one of Valdovas’ larger gardens. If I dropped straight down from the window, I should be able to land in a larger hedge. With only five people tending to the house, I didn’t really think anyone would be wandering the garden at night. If I could just wait for my caretaker to fall asleep, all it would take is a split second of reckless insanity and a quick run to freedom.
“Do you mind if I leave the window open, Melody?” Lellian asked, settling into her usual chair for the night, “the nights have just been getting hotter and hotter.”
“Go ahead,” I replied, silently rejoicing how easy this was going to be. Now, there wouldn’t be any risk of waking her if the window creaked or squeaked on its hinges.
“Get some rest,” she said smiling, tucking the blankets in around me after I’d curled up on the mattress, “the nights will get easier.”
I nodded, and closed my eyes, trying to assume whatever position I usually took when I was sleeping. Slow and steady, don’t breathe too fast or she’ll think I’m having a nightmare. Wait! I still have to breathe at least a little bit. Nice and easy, slow and steady. No, don’t actually fall asleep, that’d ruin everything. I can’t spend another day here; never again. What was that sound? Had she gotten up? Did she know I was faking, or did she think I was having another nightmare? No, she was walking past me, maybe heading to the bathroom? That must be it! If she’d really just left the room, this was my chance!
Peeking out from under my eyelids, I confirmed my guess. Lellian was nowhere to be seen. Don’t waste a second now Melody, she could come back at any moment. Shedding the blankets in one hurried motion, I reached the window in two steps. Dear Gods it was high! I’d had a chance to sit here and look out at the garden before, but looking straight down now in the dark? I couldn’t even see the hedge I’d planned to land in. No, it had to be there. He couldn’t have guessed I’d make a break for it tonight, could he? Was it possible he could have had the hedge moved for such an occasion? He had a great deal of influence in the city; that much I knew, but no man could read minds. That hedge had to be there.
It only took one moment of reckless courage and I was over the rail, plummeting down towards the hedge that may or may not even be there. Ow, okay, the hedge was still there. It had looked so soft from my room, but here, up close and extremely personal the fluffy bush was filled with pointy branches, thorns, and all matter of prickly needles. It didn’t matter, a little discomfort here was better than a lifetime in that house. Get up and get moving; time’s wasting, come on Melody.
Getting down from the bush was hard enough. I’d already resigned myself to the discomfort of the landing, but that didn’t mean I wanted to cut myself up on the dismount. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t impossible. Who needed to take the easy path anyway? Oh well, a scrape or two was no big deal. I just had to make it to that wall and I’d be home free.
“Melody?” the question might as well have been soaked in venom for the reaction it caused in me, “What on earth are you doing out here?”
“I- I-“ I began stammering, trying to answer Lord Valdovas quickly before he realized I was really trying to run as far away from him as humanly possible.
“She needed some fresh air,” the voice came from not too far behind me, filling my heart with guilt when I heard her, “She was having another nightmare sir.” He didn’t seem to be buying a word of it, but Hesodei plowed onward, “It was worse than the first few sir. If I’d known where to find you, I would have asked first, but it seemed urgent to get her out of the house.”
“You’d better get her back inside the house,” he hissed. “Put her to bed immediately and make sure both of you stay in that room. You and I will discuss this in the morning.”
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Nov 08, 13 at 8:37pm ^re: Manifest Destiny - The Great Migration ("50th" Chapter!)
I've hit a touch of a writers block with miss Mahin, trying to figure out how exactly I want to bridge from my last planned scene to the next... so in the meantime, enjoy more of Melody's backstory. Can anyone guess who she is yet?
“Melody, wake up little one.”
The voice was Hesodei’s. She was sitting next to me on my bed, stroking my hand while the first rays of dawn crept in through the window.
“Was I sleeping?” I asked, sitting up and rubbing my eyes.
“More soundly than I’ve ever seen.” She smiled and brushed some hair out of my face, “Do you normally sleep with your eyes open?”
“What? I – uh,” I had to stop to think for a second. Never had I ever actually looked myself in the face while I was asleep. “I don’t think so.”
“Hmm.” She shrugged, “Either way, I have a message to you from Valdovas.”
“To me? Why not tell me himself?”
“I think he had to take care of some political business today, so he won’t be back until later. Anyway, he wants to make sure you understand what happens if you disappear.”
“If I, disappear?” I asked, the word falling oddly on my lips.
“It means if you run away, or otherwise vanish without a trace. Either way, he wanted to make sure you realized that if you disappeared, your family would have to pay back everything that was given to them as compensation. Do you understand what that means?”
“I-“I paused; I’d always thought the payments would just stop coming to my family, not that they’d have to give everything back.
“It means that if they’ve spent any of it, or they can’t pay it back; Lord Valdovas has every right to have them jailed or killed.”
“You’re kidding! That’s just, how?”
“Your Mother must have been very careful if you’ve never seen that side of society, especially the way I’d heard you were living before you came here.” She rubbed her eyes, and continued, “Anyone who’s in debt is at the mercy of their debtor. While it’s true most people don’t press that point for small debts, I doubt he would hesitate with you and your family.”
I couldn’t do anything more than state sheepishly at the ground. If I had really managed to get away, what would I have gotten away to? Maybe one night with Mumma if I was lucky; one night before I’d be missed, but what then? She’d probably be dragged away to jail or worse. My brothers too, if they were somehow spared from his hand, they’d still be orphaned like me. Would I even be able to stay on the street, or would I be picked up by Valdovas again and again?
“I also have a second message, this one from me.” I looked up from my sheepish staring contest with the floor, “I wanted to come say goodbye.”
“What? Hesodei, are you leaving? Why?” Even though I was still fairly groggy from sleep, I could still process everything she was saying.
“I’ve been fired by Valdovas, and I’ll be leaving later today.”
“Why? Where will you go?” It made no sense for her to have to leave; she loved it here, and as far as I could see did her job very well.
“Melody, all three of us know what you were trying to do last night. He can’t punish you because he can’t prove you did anything wrong.”
“But, you said he knew-”
“Yes he knows you tried to run away, but he found the two of us together, you had been having bad nightmares, and you went back to your room without a fuss. You didn’t turn and run the second he saw you, which probably ended up saving your skin. He couldn’t prove you did anything wrong, so he took out his anger on the only one of us he could punish.”
“That isn’t fair! Hesodei, you can’t leave! I can’t do this without you.”
She took both my hands, and looked straight into my eyes, “Melody, I’m not asking you to go through all this, all by yourself. Lellian and Aleinor will still be here; they should be able to help you. Don’t spend your time worrying about me little one,” she said squeezing my hands, “I’ll be just fine. You’ll take care of yourself won’t you?”
I haven’t seen Hesodei since. True to her word, Lellian and Aleinor had taken to hovering around me, particularly whenever Valdovas was nearby. As of yet, he hadn’t decided to repeat the trauma of that first night here. Nightmares started coming less and less often, but whenever I was wrenched from sleep screaming, there was always someone there to quiet me.
The next several weeks were devoted to my ‘personal hygiene’. Despite bathing most every day, as of yet, I had not been declared ‘fit for company’. As such, I was scrubbed down with what might as well have been metal brushes for all the skin that went missing after that bath. Scratches and scrapes I’d acquired from my failed-escape burned in the hot water, though Ranstad or Fushaw (whichever one it was) told me it was for the better. Either way, it still hurt; and he didn’t seem to have any empathy as he continued to work the wash-brushes against the tender skin. All the hair from my hands and legs was shorn off, leaving my skin feeling smooth and slimy. As if rendering me bare as a newborn wasn’t bad enough, Valdovas had gotten the idea into his head that my hair was too long; that it was tangled, thin, and overall ‘ratty-looking’. Now, hair that had once fallen all the way down to my waist had been lopped off to barely touch my shoulders. Over the course of the next week, the process was repeated and refined until Valdovas finally seemed content.
“Tomorrow evening,” he announced one evening at dinner, “we shall be entertaining guests. The four of you will eat early, and serve the meal. Melody, you will be attending; and you will not speak unless spoken to. Do you understand?”
“Yes sir,” the murmur went around the table.
The rest of the meal continued in silence. I only wish I had any sort of appetite anymore. Why bring guests into the house all of a sudden? Was this something that happened regularly? Why couldn’t I just eat with the others, and avoid Valdovas’s guests? What was he planning? Whatever it was, I wanted no part of it.
“Sir?” I started, trying not to make too much noise.
“Melody, you’re already breaking your word.”
“But sir,” I tried again, now just trying to keep my food down.
“No but’s Melody. You have to sit in silence tomorrow night; might as well get some practice.”
I tried to wait, tried to sit in silence, but my stomach wouldn’t settle. I felt like I should throw up at any second, but knew I couldn’t; knew I’d be in worse trouble if I did.
“Valdovas sir,” Aleinor spoke up for the first time of the evening, “my apologies for interrupting, but she looks like she could drop any second.” She paused, as if expecting to be chastised in some way, but when Valdovas remained silent, she continued, “Could I go put her to bed early tonight, so she’s healthy to meet your guests tomorrow?”
“Very well, make sure she’s cleaned up in the morning.”
“Yes sir.” She said, standing and bowing before taking me by the hand and leading my back to my room. “Melody, are you feeling all right?” I just shook my head in answer, knowing more than words would come out if I opened my mouth. “Here, let’s go to the washroom. You can get it all out there, and it’ll be easier to fall asleep. There you go,” she said, as I lost all of my dinner in two mouthfuls, “get it all out, no sense leaving it until you’re asleep.”
I nodded again, and gripped the sides of the bucket to steady myself, “Thank you for getting me out of there.”
“We’ve gotta watch out for you little one; it’s no trouble.”
“Why didn’t he let talk at the meal today?”
“He’s probably trying to train you.”
“Train me?” Another phrase that fell oddly on my lips “Seems like something that should happen more to Pokémon than to me…”
“That’s essentially what it is. He’s basically trying to teach you how to behave, as well as the rules you’re going to have to follow from here on out. If he’s stricter with you early on, you’ll learn a lot faster.”
“I suppose that makes sense, he just seems so-“
“Yeah, I know the feeling. He isn’t the kind for the warm-and-fuzzies, but Valdovas still has enough common sense to take care of us.” She stopped and looked at me, not really giving me any sort of message, just looking, “Did something happen to you during dinner? You seemed fine earlier today.”
“I’m scared.” I admitted.
“That’s really not something new; you’ve looked terrified since day one.”
“I meant, about what he mentioned about tomorrow.”
“Oh okay, got’cha. I was actually hoping I might get a chance to explain a bit about that before the time came.”
“It’s that bad?” I asked, stomach starting to twist up again.
“Well, maybe. I’m not exactly sure what he’s got planned, but all those nobles seem to really enjoy their dinner parties. It really isn’t all that uncommon for them to get together like he said.”
“But then, that doesn’t sound so bad; it’s just dinner right?”
“Well, I was getting to that. You see, the nobles of the city are all supposed to have the same ranking; the same amount of influence over what goes on here, but that isn’t exactly how it works. They gain status over each other in finding ‘things’ of value, things they can show off and share with each other; the more impressive, the better. Tell me, what did he first say to you when he met you?”
“I think it was something, complementing my dancing.” It was amazing how quickly the exact words faded away in only a few weeks.
“Then I suspect he’s going to have you dance for the guests tomorrow.”
“Is that all?” That didn’t seem so bad at all; dancing was more than second nature by this point.
“All I can guess, but I could be wrong. I don’t think there’s any reason to worry yourself sick again,” she said, winking at me, “now why don’t we get you to bed, I hear we’ll be meeting some exciting people tomorrow.”
I couldn’t help laughing a bit as we walked together back to my room. Really, she was probably right. There shouldn’t be anything to fear from a little party right? After all, everyone here seemed so convinced that Valdovas was good, that he was trying to help us. If I could believe them, he couldn’t possibly bring anyone into the house who’d want to hurt us, right?
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Nov 10, 13 at 5:07pm ^re: Manifest Destiny - The Great Migration ("50th" Chapter!)
Hey guys, just letting everyone know that I have to put tGM on hiatus for a little while. I know I intended to continue this story through all of NaNoWiMo, but there's a very real chance that I've given myself a concussion yesterday at my Diving meet, and as such, computer time is not a good thing to have while concussed. Until I'm cleared to be all good and healthy again, I get to be a good little vegetable and lie around and do nothing 3:
See you guys again when I'm better
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Nov 10, 13 at 5:44pm ^re: Manifest Destiny - The Great Migration ("50th" Chapter!)
Hey! Feel better, Lizz! Do try to be a bit more careful...
Come try your hand at the Monotype Challenge!
Read and critique the both the revived Umbra, winner of 11 PokéFiction Awards, as well as Chronicles of Iron, my newest PokéFiction project!
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Nov 10, 13 at 7:00pm ^re: Manifest Destiny - The Great Migration ("50th" Chapter!)
chance? theres no doubt in my mind that its a concussion. now go to the damn doctor <3
you better be a good little vegetable or imma come lock you in a dark room myself.
but yes get better twinny!!! i know how much it sucks
The Devil's Dance
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Nov 25, 13 at 5:19am ^re: Manifest Destiny - The Great Migration ("50th" Chapter!)
Ah, a two-week hiatus and you slip onto the second page :3 either way, I'm back now, head either mostly or fully healed (with more evidence pointing towards the former). I have been a little bit busy while I'm been away though; I've got the entire rest of tGM outlined and plotted, with no less than fifty more chapters in this story. (I've also outlined the mini-sequel I've got planned, with no less than seven chapters there, as well as started outlining my rewrite of ItA - told you guys I was planning on doing that ;D) Expect a new chapter either later today or tomorrow once I finish my history paper (bloody translation, evil, long, time-consuming little demon that it is).
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Nov 25, 13 at 12:05pm ^re: Manifest Destiny - The Great Migration ("50th" Chapter!)
I'd just like to say that you have a sick, twisted mind and you deserved your concussion. >8| What the HELL are you doing to Melody?!
But yay carry on. <3
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Nov 25, 13 at 10:23pm ^re: Manifest Destiny - The Great Migration ("50th" Chapter!)
Spoiler:Chapter 38 - Harvest Season
“What do we do now?” I asked as Theravada and Mahayana were starting to pack their things for travel.
“Get ready for the trip,” Mahayana said, pulling the drawstrings shut on one of her saddle bags.
“And that means more than supplies Mahin,” Theravada added, smearing some sort of powder to her face and arms, nearly completely concealing her tattoos. “All three of us have wanted posters up in nearly every city from here to Maiti Island. It’s easy for soldiers to spot us if we look exactly like our pictures.”
“You’ll also need a cloak or a cowl that’ll cover your face. Do what you will to your hair, but none of us can change our faces.”
“What should I do about my staff?” I asked, grip tightening around the teal rod, “I can’t leave it behind.”
“I wouldn’t either,” Theravada said, “but it’s easier to conceal than you think. If you can slide it in here,” she indicated what looked like an empty sheath for a rather large broadsword, “Nobody’ll look twice.”
By the time we departed the little cottage, the three of us looked like nothing more than a band of mercenaries; not exactly a rare sight by any standard. The two of them rode slightly ahead of me, each riding on one of the Plains Elkin. They were typically built to run and keep running, though were smaller, and not at all sprinters. It seemed to work well though; Rodromus could never have kept up with any Elkin determined to run.
Oh come now, you say that like it’s a bad thing.
“It isn’t,” I whispered, remembering Mercenaries didn’t really have a habit of bonding to their Pokemon like Rangers did, “until we have one of them on our tail.”
It isn’t my fault if we get caught, I’m just the transportation.
“That’s hardly the truth.”
Granted you’d be mad already if you were alone.
Says you, several times in fact.
“Either way, are you sure you’re up to this today?” I asked, “They said we’d be riding most of the day to get to Linden Town.”
You really have no idea what sort of work we did back at the Academy do you?
I can’t say I expected anything else. Just trust me when I say work there was harder than a simple little run.
I had no choice but to trust him. Farm work was always harder than simple travel. Even just jumping from tree to tree was made harder when I had to stop to gather berries the entire time, though these folks seem to have found a good way to do it. From what I could tell, their whole job functioned around teamwork, as finding a way to pick each of the stalks of amber grain individually would take longer than the crop would actually be ripe. Instead, it looked like they’d developed a sort of two-handled sickle, held by one of the young workers on either side while it hung low to the ground, they would ride on the back of a Kasikoa, a grass cat that could stand perhaps as high as my waist and popular for work on farms. It seemed well suited for carrying children though, so as they ran down the field, the scythes sliced through the stalks of the grain. As the shafts had just hit the ground, the second wave of workers came through, older this time and now on foot. They were preceded by fast little brown birds with exceptionally long beaks that I’d never seen before. They must have been kicking up quite a bit of wind, as when they passed by the air was aglow with golden grain for a moment before the stalks were swiped from the air into dark harvest bags.
“Enjoying the show?” I was startled to see Theravada right next to me; I had been sure she was a good deal ahead with Mahayana.
“I, uh- wow, this is incredible!” Really, it was a breathtaking sight, the sky alive with what, from a distance appeared to be, a fine golden powder, “I’ve never seen harvest like this before.”
“It’s hard work for sure, but it’s the little things like these that remind me that life’s more than running.” She said, still facing front on her Elkin.
“What do you mean?” I asked, still not entirely sure that she was talking to me.
“It’s so easy to get caught up in running and hiding and hiding all the time that we forget that there’s really so much more wonder in the world. We’re worth more than just the rat in a hole that the Central Kingdom’s made us into.” I wasn’t sure whether to answer or not; or whether she was just trying to fill the journey, but she ended up continuing before I had a chance to reply, “Of course we have to keep running and hiding. If we stop we’ll die; but there should be more for us in this life.”
I had no answer to that. For all I’d done since I’d left the Academy, for all I’d said and all the distance I’d traveled, I’d never once spared a thought for what life was for us at this point. Yes, I’d realized that life would get harder after I’d left the Shaman Village, but the philosophy of life, the thought of whether my life had a purpose or not at this point, had never crossed my mind.
That’s why you have me BrightEyes.
“What are you talking about this time?” I said, allowing myself to be a little louder this time, almost trying to let Theradava into our conversation.
“I know you haven’t thought much about it, or we probably wouldn’t have found you in our home.” Theravada commented.
Well I thought about it.
“I know you did you little beastie, that’s how we got there. I’m just saying I had a few more important things on my mind at the time.”
You just don’t really think that much all together.
“Oh shut up you.” I hissed, gently kicking my heel against his side.
“He’s got a little bit of lip on him, doesn’t he?” Theravada asked, already laughing.
A little bit?
“Just a bit,” I answered smiling at his offended grunt; clearly sure that he had more than ‘a little bit’ of sass.
“He seems to be a good companion for you,” she said, finally turning to look at me, “both times I’ve seen you asleep, he’s always watching over you.”
You’re more helpless than a newborn Lango out here on your own, what choice do I have?
Rodromus interjected before Theravada finished speaking, “You’re very lucky to have him, most Rangers take longer to find their bondmate.”
“Not yet, well,” she paused, and smiled, “not unless you count Yanna, but I don’t think people can share the same sort of connection one of us can share with a Pokemon.”
“Fair enough.” I thought I could hear Rodromus laughing to himself somewhere in the back of my mind, but I pushed the thought aside. He seemed to have an odd sense of humor anyway, and pursuing every little comment he made wouldn’t get us to Linden Towne any faster.
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Dec 04, 13 at 9:43am ^re: Manifest Destiny - The Great Migration ("50th" Chapter!)
Oh look, things are happening :3
Spoiler:Chapter 39 - Linden Towne
“Remind me again why we’re staying in an Inn right in the center of town?” I asked Theravada as the little town of Linden finally came into view blanketed by falling dusk.
“Because,” she answered, “Back when Yanna knew how to work an honest day’s life, she did a great service to a merchant-turned-innkeeper.”
Mahayana quickly interjected, “I still know what an ‘honest day’ is, thank you Thera; it just isn’t the work for me anymore. You make a better coin taking it in a few seconds than busting your arse in the hot sun all day, but that’s not the point. I used to work with a few other mercenaries, guarding trading caravans along their routes. I struck a chord with one man, Lineau, by cutting down one of the bandits about three feet in front of his face.” She paused, almost fondly remembering the slaughter of days long ago. “Either way, the man’s got honor more than you or I. He owes me a favor, so he’ll house us without complaint.”
I nodded, having no choice but to believe her words. Still, something just didn’t feel quite right about the whole situation. Could any man with as much honor as Mahayana said really house two Rogues and a Bandit without any qualms? Wouldn’t he have to arrest the lot of us if even one of the other guests at the Inn recognized us from the wanted posters? Even now, for once when my mind was buzzing and every nerve in my body was on full-alert, Rodromus was oddly quiet. It was usually moments like this when he came butting in, even if only a word or two.
Regardless, Mahayana and Theravada didn’t seem to share in my concerns. We rode boldly into the heart of Linden Town, playing our role of mercenaries now with an audience to watch. Mahayana led the way to the Inn she must have looked up ahead of time, a rather well kept building by the name of the Mystic Merari.
If you’re so worried BrightEyes, Rodromus startled me by finally speaking up when I’d started tying his reigns to the hitching post, leave the knots loose. I’ll be able to come to your side if you need help, and nobody would dare run away with me.
“If you’re sure,” I whispered, leaving the knots as far as I’d gotten, which really were feeble enough that any sort of wind could probably undo them.
“Ready to go?” Mahayana asked, eyeing my shoddy rope work with some suspicion.
She shrugged and led us inside the building. As much as the outside of the Inn was pleasant, the inside surpassed it in every way, most notable and enjoyable of them the merry fire crackling away in a sturdy stone fireplace. Riding through the harsh winds of dusk hadn’t exactly been pleasant, so the heat of the flame was welcome indeed; but I didn’t have a moment to spend distracted before the cinders. Mahayana led us forward yet again, right up to the innkeeper, the scrawny man who must have been Lineau. He didn’t seem to recognize her at first, turning his head to the side and scratching his ear, before nodding after she re-introduced herself.
If words could have conveyed all the emotions that swam through his eyes in the time it’d have taken her to finish her sentence, I’d have realized that the nest of fear and doubt resting at the bottom of my stomach wasn’t entirely unfounded. I know there had been more than a flash of recognition, something that might have been either greed or lust, and perhaps a shadow of a doubt before he returned to a cheerful, welcoming demeanor. He bowed, smiling a little wider than I would have considered normal, and led us up a flight of squeaky old stairs to a long, curving hallway lined with doors. We were settled into one, rather small boxy room, furnished with only a side table and a cot fit for one.
“Is there any particular reason you felt the need to introduce us to the man capable of handing us over, Yanna?” Theravada asked, rounding on her companion the second the door latched closed.
“I’m sorry hun, I didn’t ask. Do you have the coin to stay here overnight?”
“I- well… That isn’t the point! Yanna, I don’t care how much you trust this man, who might I add I’ve never met. Anyone could have heard you down there, and it isn’t like the bounties are just good for an evening meal.”
“Thera-“ Mayahana began, but got almost instantly cut off by Theravada.
“No Yanna, it was reckless and you should know that! Every man has a price, and I’d rather sleep in an alley than in a prison cell.”
The tension in the air could have been cut with a knife, and in an effort to keep the peace, if only for a night, I added, “What’s done is done. Even if we left now, your friend still knows we’re nearby. Why not take the room we’ve got, and just leave early tomorrow?”
Reluctantly, Theravada nodded. It was as good an idea as any other at this point, though I hadn’t realized how much I’d been craving a proper bed until I’d sat down. Though it was covered in a rugged canvas, the bed sagged beneath me, taking and cushioning my weight. Two, slightly different colored blankets were folded in the corner of the room. It was clear Mahayana had gotten this room on a favor; it clearly wasn’t meant to hold three people, and was probably one of the cheapest rooms available. Either way, it was a bed and a roof over our head, and that was good enough for all of us.
“You two take this” Mahayana said, tossing the bulkier of the two blankets over to Theravada, “and sleep on the bed tonight. I’ll be down by the door in case anyone comes in.”
“Are you sure Yanna, I could-“
“No. You need rest, and the best way to get that is up on that mattress. Besides, you’re too heavy of a sleeper to take watch. No buts.”
Theravada sighed, and then slid onto the bed, muttering to herself as she did so, “You can be so stubborn sometimes. I’m just as suited to this life as you are.”
“Keep telling yourself that hun.” Mahayana laughed, “Good night.”
Both the women I was traveling with were asleep before the hour was out. Though I was warm, tucked under the blanket with Theravada right next to me, I still couldn’t sleep. Yes, the bed was comfortable and yes, it was nice to rest without bother from the wind and rain, which was now taping on the tile overhead. Maybe it was the unfamiliar sound of the rain, or simply the fact of being in a foreign clan in a foreign building, but something just didn’t settle right. Maybe I was being a touch too cautious about getting caught, or maybe I just wasn’t terribly comfortable sharing a bed and blanket with someone I really didn’t know all that well. Even more troubling, if they were to be believed, both Mahayana and Theravada were wanted so criminals. Mahayana had admitted herself that she had been a bandit, and had attacked trading caravans more than once. How was I to say she wouldn’t turn on me, thinking my pockets were lined with gold? She looked like she was asleep, but she’d also mentioned something about keeping watch tonight. Despite my mind seething with worry, the length of the night won out. No matter how much I’d wanted to stay awake to see the dawn, the days had been long and hard. There was simply nothing I could do to keep my eyes open.
It didn’t seem like I’d been awake very long. Indeed, the sun hadn’t even risen yet when I was pulled back to consciousness with Theravada clutching my arm. I just about had the question formed in my throat when Mahayana cut me off, putting a finger to her lips, ear to the door. Turning to Theravada, meaning to ask her what was going on, but found her tattooed face white as a sheet.
She answered my unvoiced question in a hushed whisper that could have been easily missed in the rain, “Yanna heard something downstairs. She thinks it’s too late at night for anyone to be awake.”
So my fears hadn’t been groundless. Someone, or maybe several somebodies were moving around in the hotel at this ungodly hour of the night.
“Get your staves girls,” Mahayana hissed, drawing a dagger from her belt, “They’re coming this way.”
My blood might as well have frozen in my veins. There was more than one of the unwelcome visitors making their way up the stairs. They more than likely knew where we were, and Mahayana was brandishing a knife. She was more savvy with the world than I was as of yet, that much had been made more than obvious some time ago. If she was thinking there was enough danger that arming herself was necessary, we were about to be in a whole mess of trouble.
Theravada, who had been closer to the edge of the bed, was pushing my staff into my shaking fingers. “Get ready.”
Get ready? How was I supposed to get ready to fight an enemy I hadn’t even seen? We were cornered, trapped with but one final attack left to our names. Wait, there was a way to see how many of them there were; behind that door or not they were still alive. Before I’d gotten my head together enough to switch to the second sight and find a way to really prepare for this attack, the light of Theravada’s staff caught my eye. It wasn’t anything like what I’d done in combat before, though I hadn’t been paying much attention to the color of my staff at that point; but this was white light – healing light.
“What are you doing?”
“They’ve got a Hunter with them, and they were trying to take the fight out of us.”
“A Hunter?” I asked, knowing about people who hunted Pokemon for food, but had no idea how the term could apply here.
“A Ranger that works for the King to hunt Rogues and criminals. Keep it up Thera,; we can’t fight with their magic in our heads.”
She nodded, but was already starting to sweat. I was as well, but more than likely for very different reasons. The only Rogue Hunter I’d ever heard of (who was still alive today) was Pyry. Would she really have left the Academy to pursue me? Was she there, waiting outside with her own staff, subduing us before the soldiers would rush in for the arrest? It had to be someone strong to make Theravada struggle so much. Any graduated Ranger should be able to protect themselves no problem, but her opponent (assuming there was only one Ranger among what must be soldiers) must have been a great deal stronger, and again the only person who came to mind was Pyry.
As I was no fighter, I began to channel energy into my staff in order to help Theravada. My staff did indeed glow white at first, if only for a few moments. No, I couldn’t do this; I was useless – completely consumed with fear. The light of my staff kept getting darker and darker with every second that passed. I’d once learned to council my emotions, even been tested on the skill back at the Academy, but I’d never been tested against the anticipation of sure and certain death. Danger sure, plenty of injuries resulted from the exams, but never a death. The school was too safe for that, but I wasn’t at school anymore. I was in a room at an Inn with my back to the wall and nowhere left to hide.
“Melody baby, are you all right?” Aleinor asked as I was ushered back through the front doors early the next morning, “Oh come here little one, you look like you haven’t slept all night.”
I was barely ten feet inside Valdovas’s house when she’d found me and wrapped her arms around me. In a sense, I wanted to collapse in her arms right here and now. It was true, I hadn’t slept all night, but how could I? The evening, the night, everything about the both of them had been nothing but vile. If I could have escaped into sleep I would have in a heartbeat, but I was not as lucky as the first time I’d been saddled with that unfamiliar pain. Then, where I had passed out cold before Valdovas had finished, then, last night at the house of one of the other lords I’d remained mercilessly, pitifully awake. With my skin and innards betraying my heart and mind, I’d been able to do little else but stare at the wall as my tormentor slept the night away. It was strange that I could find comfort in her arms when it was human touch itself that had wormed its way into my darkest moments.
She didn’t bother taking me to the bath, didn’t bother with brushing out my hair or changing my clothes. Aleinor simply took me by the hand and led me up to my room and my bed; comforting now despite how foreign they’d been my first few nights here. I must have been asleep before I hit the blankets, because before I knew it I was squirming and screaming in a twisted tangle of silken blankets; another nightmare I’d forgotten already. It was stupid to think I’d be able to sleep and stay that way, no matter how exhausted I was. Turning over and hugging the blankets close to me, my mind drifted back home, not this mansion I lived in now, but my real, albeit run-down, shack I’d grown up in with my Mother and brothers. If only I could see them again, hold my mother’s hand and try to play with my brothers one more time. It was not just an ache left in my bones from the night before that weighed on me, it was loss, isolation. I was alone here, hiding from the world under a blanket that was just all too foreign; wishing the bed itself could swallow me whole.
“Melody?” A gentle, if not hesitant hand lightly brushed my shoulder, though it had been the sound of my name that’d woken me, “Are you doing all right?”
The voice was unmistakably Lellian’s, who else would talk so quietly and reach out so gently. Whereas Aleinor was more often than not rather forceful at getting her point across, Lellian was gentle in everything she said to the point of sugar-coating nearly every piece of bad news. Still, it was comforting to have her around.
I nodded in response to her question, and she continued, “That’s good. Hessie told me that you slept with your eyes open, but I’d never seen it before.” She paused while I sat up, rubbing my eyes, “Dinner is going to be ready in a few minutes; feel free to come down whenever you’re ready okay?”
I nodded again and stretched my arms over my head. Had I really been asleep? It was like that last night I’d fallen asleep before Hessodei had left; I hadn’t had any dreams then either. Whatever had happened, I did feel more rested than I had before. If it was already time for dinner, I must have been out for quite a while.
“So, how’re we doing?” Aleinor asked as I dropped into my usual seat.
“All right,” I whispered voice still seemingly asleep.
“Valdovas is out for the night, so he won’t be joining us,” one of the men said, addressing the final, empty chair at the table.
At least there was that mercy. He wouldn’t be here tonight; he wouldn’t be calling on me in the dead of night, or sending me off with one of the other Lords.
“Did you sleep all right?” Aleinor asked again, looking at me across the table, “I thought I heard you wake up at one point.”
“I’m fine… it’s just-“
“I’ve a hard time falling asleep.” I said, voice sort of trailing off as I went.
Aleinor, by the way she looked back at me, could tell the real explanation for what was going on. She, and probably Lellian too, could tell there was typically a good deal of fallout after those ‘sessions’ with Valdovas or his companions. Afterwards, nightmares would be worse, and typically more frequent.
Aleinor, covering for me in front of Ranstad and Fushaw, replied, “That makes sense, especially if you’re doing nothing but sleeping all day. Why don’t I teach you how to cook? It’ll keep your mind busy, and give you something to do during the day.”
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Dec 10, 13 at 10:35am ^re: Manifest Destiny - The Great Migration ("50th" Chapter!)
Exam week... yaaay... so I found myself a little laugh by plugging in one of my chapters into this text reader I'm using to review my Psychology. ALL OF THE BUTCHERED WORDS XD I'm also working on updating the character section on the first post, and there might be some new audio chapters in the next few days, depending on how my tests go.
Also, I promise Melody's story will turn around sometime soon... this is starting to get depressing.
“Sir,” Aleinor had just returned from the front door, “there’s a messenger here for Lady Melody. Shall I bring him in?”
For me? In the nearly three years I’d been living here with Lord Valdovas, no messenger had ever come for me. Nobody, except for my mother and brothers, and I suppose the other nobles of Rubika, knew that I lived here. Sure, Valdovas was planning another one of his get-togethers tonight, but any of the nobles would address their notices to Valdovas, not to me. Who would be sending me news?
“Bring him in here then. Let’s hear what he has to say.”
Aleinor bowed herself out of the room, and returned just a few minutes later, followed by a messenger who must have been straight from the Rubika’s Central Government.
“Miss Melody?” he inquired, slightly bowing his head.
“I must apologize then, good lady, I come with ill news. Early this morning, at an hour after the dawn, your mother was found dead in her home. We believe the cause of death is the Dapilion Plague. I am sorry for your loss. Sir.” He bowed to Lord Valdovas before leaving the room.
No, oh no. This wasn’t real. This couldn’t be real! She was supposed to have been seeing a doctor! She was supposed to be getting better! Everything I’d suffered for and everything I’d been going through was gone, had just blown away in the winter wind.
“Mumma…” My vision started clouding up as tears started to well up in my eyes as suddenly I was again the weepy, thirteen year old girl who’d just been torn away from her family.
“Get her upstairs now.” I was vaguely aware of Valdovas talking somewhere else in the room.
“Now! Someone get her out of here!”
Someone’s arms had found me, one under my legs and one by my shoulders. I was up out of my chair, held close to someone’s body as I was drawn up the stairs. Somebody was chasing up the stairs behind us, down to the hall and to my room. They were waiting for me when I was dumped onto the blankets, gently wrapping them around me. She sat there on the side of my bed once I was nearly completely cocooned; and when she offered me her hand, I clung to it like a lifeline. She didn’t pull away, even though I was probably hurting her. Instead, she squeezed back, not violently, but enough to show she was here as more than just a warm body.
I hadn’t thought it was possible to run out of tears to cry. My eyes had run dry, though it still felt like something inside of me had fallen away, leaving everything around it raw and painful. My pillow was sopping wet, and I didn’t know how long I’d been lying here, but in truth it didn’t really matter. Three hours or three months could have passed and I wouldn’t know the difference. It wouldn’t be worth lifting my head to look up at the window. What would be the point? I couldn’t leave here, probably couldn’t even leave this room. The one person I’d been living for, been suffering for and dying for had just been put in the ground. She was supposed to have been seeing a doctor! She was supposed to be getting better! She wasn’t supposed to die…
There was a hand on my back, rubbing between my shoulders and down my spine; and for the first time I flinched away from her touch. Where normally Lellian’s hands were comforting and loving, now they only reminded me of where I was, and what I had lost. It wasn’t just the loss of my mother, though that felt like it had blown a hole straight through my chest, it was the simple truth of living here. I couldn’t go home, couldn’t hold my brothers when I was sure they were grieving, and couldn’t ever see her again. This house, this mansion, was nothing short of a prison, albeit a prison of gold. Hadn’t I been shown during my very first week here that very truth? Hadn’t Hesodei been fired because I’d tried to run away? For the first time since that first week, I considered barreling out that little window in my room, despite the fact that Valdovas had long since had those bushes removed.
“Melody,” Lellian’s voice shook a little bit; had she been hurt when I’d pulled away? “Is there anything I can do for you?”
Wasn’t she prisoner here just as much as I was; just pushed into a different role than I? It wasn’t her fault that I was here anymore than she could decide whether or not it would rain. Even though I couldn’t get any words out through the frog in my throat, I rolled over, took her hand in mind, and held it close. She squeezed my hand in return as she settled in beside me, wrapping her other arm around me, with the blankets between us. It was by no means sexual; as it would have been should Valdovas have been here, but soothing like being held by a friend or a sister.
After a little while lying there together, she started humming (whether absentmindedly or on purpose I’d never know) an old folk song I was having a hard time remembering the words to. Mumma used to sing it to me when I was too young to go out by myself. Of all the verses she’d ever sung, even the ones I was sure she’d made up, all I could remember was a few lines of the refrain
And over, and over, all over the world
The White Dragon flies on her wings made of gold.
She kept humming, maybe knowing the words in her head, maybe not. All I could do was repeat those two lines over and over, whenever she hit that part of the tune.
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Dec 15, 13 at 10:57pm ^re: Manifest Destiny - The Great Migration ("50th" Chapter!)
Darn you all ;D I wasn't going to do another chapter until after my finals were over :3 too much planning and not enough written yet I suppose.
Spoiler:Chapter 40 - Arrest
The air was thick in our little room as we sat and waited for the attack we knew was coming. Even I could now hear the visitors climbing the stairs, with nothing but purposefully hushed voices humming through the wooden door. Any moment now, that door would spring open and we would be engulfed by whoever was waiting for us outside. It was foolish at this point to think it could just be another guest at the inn; only soldiers would take so much precaution approaching our room.
Without so much as a tentative twitch of the doorknob, the door itself was thrust violently open, catching Mahayana across the shoulder as she lunged forward, dagger in hand. Off balance after being hit midair, she missed her initial target, but still got one of the men across his ankle, bringing him to his knees. Within seconds, she had buried the blade up to the hilt in the gap between another’s armor, deep in his side. They seemed to be too distracted by her presence at the door to think about coming deeper into the room; either that, or they were afraid that if they took their eyes off the should-be-assassin, that silver blade of hers would find itself between their ribs. It was exactly the sort of defense Theravada needed to keep working. Now that the group had gotten closer, and the fighting had begun, even I could feel the influence of their “Hunter”. All I could imagine that Theravada was putting all her effort into keeping her partner up and fighting, as the longer I sat on the bed beside her, the heavier my limbs grew. It had started in my fingertips; a fuzzy sort of buzzing that inched itself higher and higher. At first it had almost been pleasant, warm like sitting beside the fire, but now I couldn’t feel my fingers that I could only assume were still clenched around my staff.
Even as I watched, the tingles had crept up to my shoulders and my neck. I couldn’t shake it, not the feeling like my entire body was falling asleep, or even my arms. They were as limp and useless and sacks of grain attached to my body. Oddly enough, I didn’t seem to mind. This was just a dream wasn’t it; just a little piece of fantasy? My head wouldn’t be this clouded in reality. Maybe if I went back to sleep, maybe then I could wake up. Besides, my eyelids were heavy enough as it was; there really wasn’t any point to keeping them open.
“Mahin!” I must have fallen over; someone’s hand was on my fuzzy shoulder, sending pins and needles everywhere she touched. “Mahin get up! I can’t do this on my own.”
I knew that voice. Yes, wasn’t that Theravada? Hadn’t she been in the room with me? That was it; she definitely had been here with me. For a moment, I could feel the white light more that I could see it. For a moment, all the numbness and all the shock was washed aside; I was thinking clearly and in full control of my body. She couldn’t keep it going for long, not for both of us. Then again, Mahayana couldn’t fight them out there forever. If we were going to get out of this, without going straight into the hands of our hunters, we would have to work together.
There they were, just waiting for me to call them to use. I figured there’d be some stagnant energy here, for all the people who came through here, and the Inn did not disappoint me. These were powers open to me, available for my use. Theravada had tried and failed to grasp them, and any of the Rangers would never touch them. These were the energies that I must have tapped into when I’d run from the Ranger Academy, the same energies that had fueled my attack on the Rhyneclous back in the Shaman’s Village, and the energies I’d seen for the first time when I made my escape. All I had to do was call them, pull them through my staff and we could get out of here.
With one hand already outstretched, I reached out, ready to pull my newfound power together. In a second, my stomach turned to stone and my heart nearly stopped. Those iridescent strands of power moved before I’d laid so much as a finger on them. Every attempt I made to pull them to me only made them drift farther and farther away. No, I needed them! I could feel my chest getting tighter as the influence of whoever their Hunter was began to fall over me once more. No! Why wasn’t it working? Violently, I lunged forward, trying with everything I had left to pull something, anything through my staff into our world. My staff made solid contact before I hit the floor, hitting someone’s arm and dragging them to the floor along with me. Only another second later did I realize that I was face to face with one of the King’s armored henchmen. He seemed to have the same reaction I did, only a second sooner. By the time I’d noticed what was going on, he was on top of me, knee pushing down hard between my shoulders. My staff had been ripped from my numbing grip, and despite my efforts, I was still too weak to throw the man off me. Something rough was digging into my wrists, but with the combination of numbness and overall shock, I just couldn’t tell what.
“Put her out would you; then we can get the other two.” Some male voice floated through the din.
No, don’t put me down; I’m not just some animal you can catch so easily! There had to be some weakness to these bonds, something I could use to get free and get out. Jerking back and forth, I strained whatever it was, forcing it to tell me its weakness. It however, was keeping perfectly silent, flexing to match my pulls, but never enough for me to wrench my hands free. Even so, each pull felt feebler than the last. My arms, though they had been imprisoned for only a few minutes (if that), were already burning from the effort, and a distinct, unfamiliar soreness had begun to set in. They were just so heavy, and my muscles were so tired.
“Lineau you two-faced bastard!” The shrill shout of Mahayana broke through my daze, “What the bloody h*ll are you playing at!”
From what I could tell, she had been wrestled to the floor, and was undergoing the same sort of treatment I’d already been subject to. Lineau, who I could only assume was the innkeeper, was nowhere to be found, but with how loud she’d shrieked, it’d be a wonder if anyone in the entire town hadn’t heard her. Theravada was nowhere to be seen, but with a few more of the soldiers clustered around the cot, she couldn’t be faring any better than we. It was all I could do to keep my eyes on Mahayana; the rest of my body now being practically nonresponsive.
“Hold on,” She whispered; voice dry and raspy now after that bloodcurdling curse, “this isn’t over yet.”
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Dec 27, 13 at 1:44pm ^re: Manifest Destiny - The Great Migration ("50th" Chapter!)
So I haven't had access to interwebs in about a week, I'm here sitting on a really old library computer, and all my new chapters are on my computer at home ): I do have a lot to give you guys once I hit training trip, provided the hotel has internet. So far we're up to four chapters, and I think I'll get a chance to record in the next few days :3
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Dec 30, 13 at 11:57pm ^re: Manifest Destiny - The Great Migration ("50th" Chapter!)
It's three in the morning. I'm on a bus. There's WiFi
Time for Chapters - lots of chapters
Spoiler:Chapter 41 - The Prison Cart
For the second time in my life, I found myself waking up with my entire body hurting as if I’d just fallen thirty feet out of a tree. Though I was a little more awake than the time I’d woken up in the Academy’s Infirmary, everything else felt pretty much the same. Just as before, my arms and legs were both simply too heavy to move. My head as well felt like it had been stuffed full of spores. Every thought was a little rough around the edges, and none of them would connect properly. Whatever I could see was nice, but had no bearing on the clacking of Elkin hooves somewhere in the distance, or on the musty smell of a recent rainfall. The fact that we (as Theravada and Mahayana were here with me) were dry despite the evidence the evidence of a storm held no bearing whatsoever. Obviously we were still in our room at the Inn, with their Elkin tethered outside the building. It had probably just rained while we had been sleeping. But then, were they still asleep? Wasn’t it still nighttime? If so, I’d never seen a night this dark before.
“Mahin, are you awake?” That had to be Mahayana, somewhere in this darkness.
I made to sit up, trying to get my arms or legs underneath me somehow. Neither really wanted to move, and fought me each step of the way. Mahayana must have been closer to me than I realized, or able to move a lot faster than I’d guessed. She was right there beside me, one hand on my shoulder.
“No, stay down. There’s no point; and besides, you’re still out of it.”
“What are you talking about, what’s-“
“Going on? That depends on how much you can remember.”
“I, uh-“ I started, trying to think of what really had happened last night. I’d thought at first it had been a dream, since it was still dark out. Like a dream though, the more I tried to bring back any picture of what had happened, the more it slipped away. Even so, there were blurry visions; mixed up memories. “At the Inn, I, uh- we. I mean-“
“You don’t remember much?”
“Took me a little while as well, nothing to worry about. I’m pretty sure they drugged us after they put us down.”
“They, they who?”
“Soldiers, the King’s soldiers. We were double-crossed by an old friend of mine, and so they came to the Inn late last night. As far as I can tell, you and I were put down by Ranger-Magic, by the Hunter those soldiers had with them. I’m pretty sure Theravada took a good hit to the head; she’s been out this whole time and the side of her face is sort of… well, sticky.”
“Sticky? Why would it be-“
“Dried blood more likely than anything. Either way, the lot of us are all still alive, and at this point, that’s the important thing. You know where we’re going, right Mahin?”
“I, that would be, um.”
“Rubika City, the capital of Kataya. There hasn’t been a good Rogue hanging in years. I figure they’d be glad for anyone to use at this point, not that they’ll get us that far.”
“Wait, doesn’t that mean? What are you planning?” I asked, head spinning just trying to keep up with her.
“To be honest, I don’t quite know yet; but they’re no way I’m going to just hand Theravada over to the executioner.”
“You guys really are awfully close.”
“You don’t know the half of it.” She sighed, and I could only assume she’d pulled Theravada close to her in the darkness. “We grew up together back in Shikan.”
“You two aren’t related, are you?”
“Definitely not. It’s sort of a long story, but then again I don’t suppose we’re going anywhere. Both of us grew up in the Shikan City Orphanage. The Dapilion Plague hit the city hard a while ago, and we both lost our parents, and a good chuck of the city.”
The Dapilion Plague had hit more than just Shikan City. It had even made it all the way down to my Clan when I’d been a lot younger. I’d heard that it’d been caused by toxic spores that had attached themselves to the wings of Dapilio, little violet butterflies that could live just about anywhere. Once one of them got infected, they spread like nothing else I’d ever seen. Besides being incredibly poisonous, it took some time for their effects to actually set in; meaning nobody figured out what was actually going on until people were dying left and right. Ever since the outbreak, Dapilio populations had been tightly controlled by Rangers, and any infected Pokemon were put down without a second thought in the effort to avoid another tragedy.
It had been because of the plague that I’d had to move in with Arzai, her father, and the other workers at the plantation. It had been there where I’d learned to run in trees, and there where I’d been hand-picked by the Ranger Union to attend the Ranger Academy. In truth, the plague had probably shaped my childhood just as much as it had shaped Mahayana’s and Theravada’s.
“She’s a good few years younger than I am.” Mahayana continued, “And came to the orphanage long after I’d been there. As luck would have it, my bunk was empty when she was brought in, so she shared with me.
“That first night, I’ll admit I wasn’t the best bunkmate. I was cold with her. She was young and scared and, well, constantly sobbing. I imagine she’d only just lost her parents, but I didn’t have the patience to deal with her. It wasn’t my job; I just had to sleep near her. She ended up quieting down, and I did end up warming up to her, obviously. It really was hard not to like her; poor girl just had something about her. It didn’t exactly draw people to her, but it drove her into just about every fight in that blasted old building. No, she didn’t go starting fights, but she seemed determined to end them to the point where I found myself dragging her away from every other brawl the boys found themselves in. Whenever I wasn’t around, I’d find her nursing bruises later that night. It was just; she was so compassionate, so wanting to keep everybody and their brother from fighting I found myself preoccupied with protecting her. It carried on for a little while after she was taken away to join the Ranger Academy, probably why I took a job guarding trading caravans, but those bastards only ever looked out for themselves.
“I ended up running into her again after honing… other skills for quite a few months. By that time we were both wanted criminals in the eyes of the King; it only made sense to stick together. Besides, I wasn’t about to let her walk straight into the executioner’s hand.” She stopped as we both heard Theravada start to stir. “Shh, go back to sleep Thera. Go on now, go back to sleep.”
Though there was next to no light in our little carriage, what was going on was more than obvious. True, the two of them weren’t related, but Mahayana cared for Theravada as if she was her mother, even now holding her in semi-consciousness. She couldn’t bear to see her partner hurt or scared in any way in the sense that’d she’d probably take a knife to whatever was causing the problem. It was just the way she was, she’d found something worth protecting, someone worth more than a self-centered merchant; and she clearly was going to fight to protect it.
Spoiler:Chapter 42 - Counter
“Why are we stopping?”
The question was Theravada’s. She’d woken up some time ago, but for all the conversation we’d been able to get out of her, she might as well have still been out. Aside from a sizeable gash in her forehead, she also seemed to have taken quite the hit. For most of her conscious journey, she’d been curled up in Mahayana’s arms, clutching her head, with tears of either fear or pain occasionally leaking out the corners of her eyes. I couldn’t exactly blame her. Here we were, caged up in nearly complete darkness, inside what I could only gather was one of the King’s Prison-Carts; completely made from solid iron and pulled by a team of sturdy, yet slow Elkin. Escaping from something like this took both an extraordinary amount of luck, and a great deal of help from some outside source, neither of which we seemed to have. To make matters worse, at the end of this trek, we would find nothing but our own execution. Mahayana had told me that it wasn’t worth getting afraid for something we couldn’t change, but I still could have sworn I’d seen her wiping her eyes at least once.
“They’re probably stopping to feed the Elkin. Little bastards are strong, but they can’t go on forever. Don’t worry Thera, we aren’t there yet.”
I could hear her sighing. It was strange, even though it seemed impossible to escape; there was some strange comfort in prolonging whatever time we had left. Vaguely, the sounds of crunching footsteps made their way through our iron walls. There was more to this stop than simply letting the Elkin graze; the men had to be just as tired and would inevitably need rest. Better to get both over with together, rather than wasting time. I’d heard it said, the longer they were on the road with prisoners, the higher the risk. Though I doubt bandits would really be up to attacking an Imperial Caravan, it did raise the question of what they could possibly be afraid of. Did they really expect three prisoners with no access to weapons to put up that much of a fight?
Only, I did have access to a weapon; if anyone could consider a Ranger Staff a weapon. The more I thought about it, the more this felt like a repeat of my little incident in the Shaman’s Village. Here I was, separated from my staff with near-certain death awaiting me should I not get free of my bonds (bonds in this case being a little more elaborate than ropes). What was it she had told me back then?
I couldn’t help gasping audibly I knew that voice, and it hadn’t been Theravada or Mahayana. More significant was the fact that this marked the third time she’d spoken the same word to me when I was just about stuck. Once was a fluke, twice was just sheer luck, but three times? This couldn’t be coincidence anymore. Either my mind was going a lot faster than I had expected, or there was something very real out there watching every move I made. It would be scary or creepy at the least if she wasn’t being so d*mn helpful.
“Mahin, is everything alright?” Mahayana asked, looking over at me, “What happened?”
“I’ve just had a thought,” I whispered back, now more than ever not wanting the soldiers to know what I was planning, “Give me a bit okay?”
“We’ve got nothing but time.”
I nodded though she couldn’t see anything I was doing. Relax, there was no reason to rush, no reason to panic, at least not yet. First thing’s first, I had to figure out where my staff, or any staff for that matter, was. It didn’t really have to be mine, so long as I could use it. What had it been like that first time, trying to find the pathway to the other side? For all I could see of the energies in and around the soldiers’ new campsite, there was nothing I could do with them without a way to bring them into my reality. One step at a time, I pawed over every item, every fern and flower, making sure it was not what I was looking for before moving on to the next. With so many people outside, so many people who would rather see us dead than alive, there was no room for error. If any of them noticed what I was planning before I’d even begun, there was no reason to doubt we’d be executed here and now.
There it was, held with the spare weapons for the soldiers in another ccarart. For all I could tell, it had been propped against an outcropping of rocks, on the other side of the campsite. No, it wasn’t exactly in my hand, but I was still close enough to work just fine. One at a time, I drew strands of energy out of the land, the trees, the fire, anywhere I could get it really. I’d have one go at this, one chance before they’d know what was going on; but what was it exactly I had to do? Yes, I’d found my staff and yes I was actually getting the energy to obey my command, but what now? Could I fight back, as I had back in the Shaman’s Village? Back then we’d staged the entire confrontation; she knew what she was doing and would know how to keep herself safe, but these were soldiers. They’d never had any training in the ways of Rangers or Rogues, how they worked or how they fought. The most I’d expect any soldier to know about a Rogue was to kill it on sight before they got the chance to see how it would fight. No, hadn’t I decided that self-preservation was my top priority? If I really wanted to survive, morality was out of the question. Kill or be killed, there was no room in that equation for remorse.
Taking one last breath to steady myself and cement my resolve, I began twisting the strands of energy together. They needed direction before they had the chance to float away. I needed as much as I could get, as much as I could use at once. To me, they were fully visible swirling around the air, hanging over the heads of the men, ready and waiting for a command. All together now, three, two, one.
The reaction was instantaneous. Shouts and screams of surprise, shock and probably pain were audible through the thick iron barrier. Even so, we weren’t apart from this onslaught. We were safe within our mobile prison, but a mere few feet away, it was clear that the soldiers were face to face with nothing short of hell.
“Mahin, what did you do?” Theravada asked, horror etched so clearly in her voice she might as well have been outside.
“I’m a Rogue,” I said, forcing out the words I’d been forced to accept, “Our tales aren’t too far from the truth.”
“By the Gods, I never, I mean, it’s just not-“Theravada stammered, “How did you even- I mean, I could never.”
“She could sprout wings for all I care,” Mahayana said, squeezing Theravada close to her, “so long as we don’t die here.” I imagine she turned to face me, “Whatever you’re doing, keep it up. You’ve got a weapon neither of us can use. Get us out of here.”
I nodded, and refocused on the task at hand. Without the will enforcing it, whatever I had unleashed had already started seeping back into the other side. There either wasn’t enough energy left to attack again, or I was just too drained to find it. Judging by the sounds of the campsite, too many of them had survived the initial attack for us to have any hope of getting through.
Half ashamed, half resolute, I turned back to Mahayana, “There’s nothing else I can do. The rest is up to them. Either they’ll open that gate and try to execute us here and now, or they won’t.”
“So,” Mahayana started, mulling over our situation, “The second that door opens, that’s when we fight for our freedom. Not a bad plan - better than trying to fight it out in Rubika itself; and besides, Hunters don’t typically travel with the soldiers. But Mahin, what do we do if they don’t open up for us?”
“I’ll try again once I’ve had the chance to rest. I can’t imagine they’d take us into the capital if there’s even the slightest chance we’ll burn the place to the ground.”
“You’ve got a point there.” She paused, “Get up Thera, I need to be ready to move.” After a short rustling, she asked me, “Are you any sort of fighter?”
“Not really, no.”
“Then stay back and keep them away from Thera; I’m not losing her now.”
Spoiler:Chapter 43 - A Stroke of Luck
We crouched there waiting in absolute silence. Mahayana had positioned herself closest to the door, planning on taking the whole of what remained of the guard’s attention the instant that door opened. I hid in the shadows of the corner, in front of Theravada who really was still just too slow to be any good in a fight. Whether I’d be able to protect her or not would be almost entirely dependent on how well Mahayana did her job. Aside from a few poorly placed swings of my staff, I really didn’t have any experience in a fight. Sure, it was all fine to dodge and run if you were alone, but if I ran, Theravada would be completely alone.
The three of us were almost entirely sure that the remainder of the guard was close by, deciding what to do with us. Were they going to risk more casualties, and complete the job they had been assigned; or were they going to guarantee their lives (in their minds) by finishing us off now? Either way, they weren’t letting us overhear any of their arguments. We’d only know what they’d decided once we were either moving again, or when the door opened.
By the time they’d made their decision, I could feel my heart beating in my throat and sweat trickling down my back. Slowly, we heard the footsteps come closer and closer to our cart before they were drowned out by the shrieking of iron grinding against iron. Before the door was even fully open, Mahayana had leapt forward, hands extended and toppled the man who’d opened the door before he’d had a chance to even think about drawing his sword. From what I could see through the half-open door, she’d rolled off the first soldier, and had found a rather thick tree branch to defend herself with. Before she’d even gotten upright again, swords from two different soldiers were buried in her branch, with a third not far behind. At least, the lot of them seemed focused on her, but skilled or lucky as she may be, I couldn’t see her holding off so many soldiers for too much longer.
Luck seemed to be on her side after all. She’d only just cast aside the sword-laden hunk of wood when the ground beneath us all. The soldiers were nearly all knocked off their feet, and Mahayana had only managed to keep herself upright by clinging to a nearly tree. I couldn’t credit the next series of events to luck; earth just didn’t move like that. Pillars of it came crashing up out of the ground, sending the dazed soldiers flying high into the air. Coming crashing out of the undergrowth of the meager forest came a tan, reptilian body, propped up on two tall, hooved legs. Though I had spent what felt like countless days with him, I just couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that he was here now. With a crunch, he collided with one of the soldiers who had regained his footing and had started bearing down on Mahayana. In that moment, the man fell and moved no more. The tide had turned; anyone could see that fact in that suddenly bloodthirsty grin on Mahayana’s face. Ripping a sword from one of the dead soldiers, she rushed the few remaining souls, those who had been brutally burned in my attack and were in no real condition to fight.
“In here!” I cried out as Rodromus began looking around.
He all but ripped the door off its hinges to get through to me, even though the thing wasn’t locked anymore.
“How did you-“ I started, hugging the Pokemon tight to me as soon as I was able.
I may be slower than their Elkin BrightEyes, but it doesn’t take a master to follow their trail. If only some idiot stableman hadn’t decided to fix your abysmal rope work, I would have been here sooner. I am glad you’re not hurt.
“You,” I said, still holding his neck, “are incredible.” I paused, and peeked out around him, “Is it safe to come out now?”
If it isn’t, you’ll be the first to know, and they will be the first to die.
“Good to know.” I whispered, climbing out of the cart, and helping Theravada along after me. “He says it’s clear now.”
“You,” Mahayana said, running over to me and nearly knocking Theravada over in her attempt to get the poor girl into her arms, “Are luckier than you know.” She then turned to address Rodromus directly, “Take care of her. I, no – we owe you both for our freedom and our lives. We’ve got no place where you’re going, and I’ve got to get this one back somewhere safe.”
“What’ll you do now?” I asked.
“We’ve got to lie low for a while, no doubt about it. Thera’s gotta heal up before I try anything, and I do owe a visit to my dear old friend Lineau.” The sarcasm and malice dripped from her voice, and I couldn’t blame her for wanting to get even with the man who sold us out. “After that, Gods only know. It’ll be the two of us out here in the wilderness, just like it’s been for a while. You know, a Ranger and a Warrior traveling together across the land – it might not make a bad story.”
“What about you Mahin?” Theravada asked, trying to detangle herself from her partner’s smothering grip.
“Have to keep going, there’s someone waiting for me up north. I don’t want to keep her waiting.”
Spoiler:Chapter 44 - Another Little Village
What’s eating you BrightEyes?
We’d been riding through most of the day, and there was a lot else on my mind than my empty stomach and sore legs.
“We’ve been going all day, and we haven’t seen anyone or anything since we left Mahayana and Theravada.”
You think we’re going in circles?
“I don’t see how we couldn’t have hit so much as a signpost at this point.”
With the Kingdom as big as it is, blank stretches like this really don’t surprise me.
“Even so, there should have been travelers or something at the very least.”
There are two of them, and they’ve been on the road nearly all day. There’s probably two others heading off a different direction.
“Very funny; I just want to make sure we aren’t going to end up on the King’s doorstep.”
You mentioned earlier that he lived in the capital, correct?
“I think that’s where he’s got to be.”
And that capital is where exactly?
“It’s Rubika, one of the southern-most cities in the Central Kingdom.” My stomach squirmed even voicing the place now, seeing as it had been an incredibly close call that stopped my forced visit.
Then I wouldn’t worry so much. We’ve been heading north all day.
“How can you be so sure?” I asked, knowing the Pokemon had no compass, and little knowledge of what the tool was anyway.
I don’t need a spinning needle to tell me where the sun rises and sets.
“If you say so.” I muttered, rubbing the side of his face again.
It wasn’t even an hour since our conversation when the outline of rugged buildings cropped up on the horizon. Instinctively, I pulled gently to one side. Any sort of town had already been proved to be dangerous, and here in the Central Kingdom; the King’s own land the risk was only that much higher.
What do you think you’re doing BrightEyes?
“If you really think I’m up to repeating that entire ordeal, you must be out of your mind.”
When was the last time you’ve eaten?
“What does that have to do with anything?” I retorted, again suppressing the ache of a stomach that had been empty for too long, “It’s too dangerous.”
You didn’t answer my question. He stopped in his tracks to prove his point. Answer me and we’ll keep going.
“Fine. I think it was midday before we stopped at Lineau’s Inn. Now let’s get going. Hey! Where do you think you’re going?”
If you think I’m going to let you starve, you must be out of your mind.
“There are other places to get food.”
He ignored me, either that or just didn’t answer until we were well within the bounds of the city. It wasn’t walled as I knew most major cities to be; probably fewer Rangers for it. The village itself appeared to be very old, constructed of mostly wood and plaster, with only one tall stone building in the center. More than anything, it looked like a town that had been built to house people for a short amount of time. Most buildings looked like they had been repaired or rebuilt several times, and only the stone tower appeared to be untouched. Was it possible that this was one of the remaining Ranger Towers in the Central Kingdom? Something about it didn’t seem to fit. It wasn’t the same shape of the ruins I’d seen nearly a whole week ago. This tower was thinner, and in unmeasurably better condition. For one, it stood more than a single story off the ground, and for another, it was actually in one piece.
“Do you have any idea what that is?” I asked, finally climbing off Rodromus to find someone who’d sell food at this hour.
Not a clue. There isn’t anything like it back at the Academy; though I think you’re right in assuming it isn’t a Ranger Tower.
“Good to know.” I paused, and looked around.
There were stalls set up along the street, decorated with brightly colored banners, but each was empty; no wares anywhere in sight. No shopkeepers either. The only lights in the square, besides from the lanterns hung along the alleyways came from the windows. Buildings of all sizes and heights, grand and poor shone with the light their inhabitants provided. Which of them could be safe to enter? Which ones would send me back the way I’d come, or worse?
I had been about to leave the square to check another block, about to try to find an Inn or chef or something, when there came a light tugging from the side of my robe. I hadn’t been moving; what could there be to catch the cloth on.
“Excuse me,” the tiny voice came from somewhere below my waist, “Are you lost Miss?”
I bent down to face the little girl who’d been pulling on my skirt. It was a challenge not to stare. Though her features and hair were typical of the Central Kingdom, there was something else that was off. Her eyes, opened wide in the half-light of the village’s night-lamps were almost completely blotched out by milky white clouds. She hadn’t adjusted herself when I’d bent down to see her, and didn’t readjust her gaze even when I was level with her. Part of me wondered how she’d found me, whether she knew Rodromus was here as well, and why on this great land she was asking me if I needed help? Didn’t it seem more likely that she was the one who’d gotten lost?
I took her outstretched hand in mine, and responded to her question with one of my own, “Shouldn’t you be home by now little one? It’s very late; the streets might not be safe.”
Her face flushed a little, and though her eyes didn’t move in their sockets, she angled her face down towards the pavement. “You just seemed like you needed help.”
Listen to her BrightEyes. She lives here; she might be able to help.
He was right, there didn’t seem to be any threat here, at least not yet. “I did need help; I was just worried for you. I’m looking for somewhere I could get some food, and somewhere I could spend the night. Can you help me?”
Her face seemed to brighten as nodded, squeezing my hand and already starting to lead me off down the alley. She seemed to know this city better than anything else, confidently running from one alley to the next, rounding corners without clipping her shoulders on the buildings and jumping over the uneven stones in the path (all things I was having some trouble with while I half ran hunched over to keep up with her). We didn’t slow until we’d reached the great stone tower in the center of the village. Only then, it seemed like she’d prefer to be running, but didn’t want to trip (or make me trip) down a long stone staircase, leading far below the city.
Spoiler:Chapter 45 - A Monster of a Man
“Carlotta, child where have you been?”
The questioner appeared to be a man, maybe two years older than I was. Like the girl, his clothes appeared to be more than well used, if they had even been new when he’d gotten them. He seemed to have a strong resemblance to the girl; was he her father, brother, or some other relation?
“She needed help and –“
“I know, I just, what do you,” and he sighed, arms falling down to his sides, “go to bed okay? I’ll see you in the morning.”
She nodded and ran off down the open passageway, only stopping to turn down a smaller path I hadn’t even seen; still as sure-footed as I’d seen her a few minutes ago. He watched her until she was out of sight, and even then a little while longer. Eventually, he invited me to sit in a small vaulted stone circle around a small flickering fire. The weather hadn’t been too bad outside, but until now I hadn’t realized how cold I really was. Maybe it was just the night air, or how tired I’d gotten on the road, but sitting here, and being warm felt like a better stroke of luck than anything I’d experienced today. It was a few full minutes before he started talking again.
“What are you doing way out here?”
In truth, I really didn’t know how to respond. How exactly was I supposed to tell a man who’d just welcomed me into, well I suppose it was his home, that I was a “dangerous criminal” trying to get herself into the single most mysterious place in the entire region? It didn’t exactly seem like a good idea.
“I know the King’s after you,” he muttered, poking the embers with a long metal rod, watching the sparks fly into the air and darken on the stone around us.
In that second my blood seemed to freeze solid in my veins. Why was he acting so calm about this? Wasn’t he about to call for soldiers, claim the reward for my head and move on with his life? Wasn’t he afraid that I was going to bring down the tunnel and kill everyone inside? It didn’t add up.
“Don’t get me wrong,” he continued, obviously seeing me stiffen where I sat, “The last thing I want to do is turn you in. I trust my sister’s judgment with my life. Besides, we, well my sister and I, we don’t exactly get along well with the lawmakers here.”
“What happened?” I asked, glad for the excuse to dodge his question.
“It’s a bit of a long story.”
We aren’t exactly in a hurry.
I relayed his words to the man, and he laughed before continuing. “True enough, the wilds aren’t exactly safe this time of night. There was this girl who used to live a few doors down from me when Carlotta and I were a lot younger. I fancied her you know,” he said, an oddly wistful look in his eyes, “but I didn’t get much chance to see her once I had to take my sister and move down here. From what I’d heard, she hadn’t been picked as a candidate when the Rangers came through town, though the entire village had expected her to be shipped off to that school the moment she was old enough. She wasn’t a threat to anyone, poor girl wouldn’t hurt a flower, so much as a fly, but a few years later she was brought before the soldiers here.
“Someone had gotten it into their head that she was a Rogue; that they’d seen her doing impossible things, and the law has no mercy for such wonders. I’d never seen her do anything, but I knew her from growing up. I’d already condemned my father; if there was any way I could save her life, I’d definitely jump at the chance.” I wanted to stop and ask about what had happened to his father, but he kept going before I’d gotten the chance, “it’s part of the law at executions. They give the audience gathered there the chance to speak on behalf of the accused, so as to prevent innocent folks getting hung. So I went down to town that day, and told that court everything I’d known about her, any detail that could win them over and spare her life.”
“Did it work?”
“I wish it had. I ended up walking away with a sucker punch to the gut, being forced to her that sound when the rope was pulled tight and her neck snapped.” He stopped, again, seeing the nauseous look on my face. “Sorry, I suppose that’s probably not the best thing to talk about.”
“No, not really.” I said, steadying myself. “I only just avoided getting hung myself. I guess it’s still pretty fresh.”
Considering you broke out of that carriage early this morning, I’d say so.
“Oh hush you,” I whispered, scratching the side of his face, “Why did you two move down here? Wouldn’t a house suit you both better?”
“That,“ he said, curling his hands into fists in his lap, “goes back to my father,” the last word was practically dripping with venom. “The man was a drunkard and a cynic. I’ve no idea what possessed him to think fathering two children was a good idea. I think he was looking for sons to take responsibility off him. Didn’t exactly work, as you can probably tell. He had me first, but our Mum died giving birth to little Carlotta. She was supposed to be a strong young lad, and not only had she been born a woman, she’d taken his wife away from him forever.” He stopped for a moment, looking over his shoulder to make sure the little girl hadn’t snuck back out to listen. “Old bastard hated her, resented her for what she’d done to him. Wasn’t at all her fault, o’ course; birthing is tricky enough under the best circumstances, but he took it out on her nearly each chance he got.
“He terrorized her, struck her more than once in a drunken rage until those white clouds started blooming in her eyes. I think that probably frightened her more than anything else he’d done. I think it was then when I’d had enough. I remember taking her with me when I went to go find a soldier. You see,” he paused for a second, trying to find the right words, “I’d heard about them hanging Rogues down south in Rubika. I don’t want to offend you, but back then we all saw Rogues as monsters.” He paused again, as if looking for confirmation that he hadn’t overstepped some invisible line.
“You and half the Region. So you basically saw him as a monster and thought the guards could help?”
“That’s pretty much the gist of it. At that point, you should have seen the look on her face. Her biggest fear was gone. For a while she thought the soldiers were the coolest thing in the world, and kept joking that I should join them. I just, I dunno.” He stopped again, still poking at the fire, “he was a monster, but he was still my Da’. It didn’t sit right with me for a while. Got to see the other side of them a few years later though, so I suppose that all worked out for the best.
“We even got to stay in our family’s house while they sent off for some relative I’d never heard of to come watch us. We were both so young back then, I don’t think we were technically allowed to live alone, but the house did belong to our family.”
“What changed then,” I asked, “That still doesn’t exactly explain how you both ended up down here.”
“I took Carlotta to every healer and doctor I could find, to see if anyone could fix her eyes. Spent every coin my family had ever had to its name, and then some. She wasn’t exactly blind… it’s strange. She can’t really do basic things like colors or shapes, but she always knows where people are, and typically knows when they need help.” He stretched, yawning and setting the metal rod to the side, “She’s just an eight year old girl, and she’s still the best judge of character I know. If she thinks you’re good, then you’re good. If she thinks you need help, I might be able to do something about that. You should probably get some sleep first though, like I said earlier, I have no idea how far these tunnels go.”
“Are you two really still asleep?”
I hadn’t expected to be awakened by Aleinor so early in the morning, though I should have been more surprised to have been allowed to sleep through the night. It had been dark when the messenger had left last night, but the sun had started rising now, rays of light dancing along the walls. As was the rule in this house, I began to get myself up. It would not do to waste time and invite punishment. It was only then when I realized Lellian was still here with me. Her arm was locked over my waist where she had been holding me last night. It seemed like she hadn’t woken up, hadn’t even stirred at Alenoir’s entrance.
“Lellian!” Aleinor moved closer, shaking her shoulder.
“Huh, what! I swear I – oh, Ellie it’s only you. What’s so urgent?” She said, starting to rub her eyes.
“Valdovas has a visitor here that he wants her to see.”
“A visitor?” I asked, still groggy and disentangling myself from Lellian. “One of the other Lords?”
“None that I’ve ever met. Come on,” She said, dragging me up out of the tangle of limbs and blankets, “I’ll explain while we get you dressed.”
True to her word, she didn’t stop talking the entire time she spent preparing me for company. Apparently, shortly after one of the boys had carried me upstairs, an unexpected visitor had happened upon the manor. He had been a man, Aleinor had claimed of impeccable beauty from no clan she’d ever known; with pale skin and dark hair, much like the Ice Riders of the northernmost clan, but without the ferocious facial features they were known for. Above all she had said were his eyes; bright like the sun itself, if the sun had shown the color of Valdovas’ Garden. He had come, according to his story, on a journey from east to west across the land, but had not found a single Inn in the entire city with a vacant room. In exchange for a bed for the night, the man had offered his skills as a magician (someone who had not been able to graduate from the Ranger Academy, but still showed both interest and aptitude with a staff. They were entertainers, using special staffs, bother shorter and distinctly marked, that were capable of producing light, and nothing more.) Since I had single-handedly foiled Valdovas’ plans for the evening, he welcomed the mage into his hall, asking nothing more than a proper show in exchange for shelter for the night.
She continued raving about the wonders he had produced the entire time she was brushing out and plaiting my hair. Before long I had been dressed and cleaned, effectively fit for company. As soon as I was ready, she took my hand, and led me out of the washroom and down to the main hall. Below in the hall, it seemed all the men of the house were already waiting; Valdowas, Ranstad and Fushaw, though I still couldn’t tell the two of them apart, as well as a fourth man, unknown to me. I could only imagine that he was the magician who had come in the dead of night. He was, much like Aleinor had said, extraordinarily handsome, though from no clan I could identify. It seemed like he had somehow inherited the best features of each clan in turn in such a way not to make him look ‘mixed’. Rather, he looked all the better for it, seeming like he could belong anywhere he went instead of confined to any one plot of land. Again, like Aleinor had said, his skin was pale and clean, with no scar or scratch to ruin his complexion. His hair as well was as dark as she had said, coming down to just above his eyes while flaring up in the back. However, the most staggering feature of this mysterious man was his eyes, alight with a strange fire that never seemed to waiver. Eyes of emerald such as his had only been heard of in the oldest of folk tales, and it was their rarity more than their beauty that drew my gaze.
“Melody,” Valdovas was the first to address me, “I trust you are well.”
“Yes sir,” I answered rather timidly, taking my seat beside him for our morning meal.
“Once you’re finished, we will be heading out to the yard where magician here,” he said, gesturing to the fourth man at the table, “Has offered to perform one final show for us before continuing on his journey.”
It didn’t take me long to finish what food had been put before me. I hadn’t eaten much last night as it was, and it was clear everyone was eager for me to finish. Nearly the instant I had placed my utensils back on the table, I was unceremoniously pulled up out of my chair, and half led, half dragged down the hall and out the great front doors by Valdovas. We ended up reached the yard before the magician, so sat out in the early morning sun, dew soaking through our shoes and the hems of our clothing. He neglected to release me arm, rather held it tightly, fingers feeling more like vices, as if he expected me to take this opportunity to run and never look back. Though I had slipped past his plans last night, it had to be made literally, painfully obvious who was in charge. In truth, I had no intention of running, and would rather crawl back under my blankets than sit here under the bright morning sun.
The mage it seemed was in no rush to start his show, taking in every detail of the garden as he walked. By the time he stood before us, we had been joined by Ranstad, Fushaw, Aleinor and Lellian, seated on the ground on either side of Valdovas and me. I couldn’t stand to look at him standing there, smiling as if he could have put the world in his pocket while I was so forcibly reminded of my place here. Around me, everyone was transfixed by his actions, gestures, and the twinkling lights he sent flying through the air. In the end, I couldn’t help myself. It was a rare treat to get to see a magician’s show. Not many chose that path, and fewer were able to stick with it very long. Strict and over-enforced laws governed the practice so as to control the mages, and to ensure they didn’t cross the line into becoming Rogues.
Looking up, I caught his gaze; those rare green eyes lighting up in a way I could never imagined as he smiled, gesturing once more. It was then when everything else seemed to simply stop. The clouds hung still, suspended high above our heads. The others were still staring forward, transfixed and now not fidgeting or even blinking. The little brown Kukoaee that had been just been startled out of a nearby bush were frozen mid-flight. Time itself had stopped around me.
The magician, it seemed, had not frozen like the rest of the world. On the contrary, he was still smiling, and crossed the few yards that separated the two of us. Gently taking my hands, he slipped my arm out of Valdovas’ grip as if the man had no intention of holding me.
Still holding my hands, he spoke to me for the first time, “My name is Ferven, and you my dear, you are free.”
Wide-eyed, I couldn’t help but stare. What interest did this man have in me? Why come here, to this house to find me? I struggled to form the questions that raced through my mind, struggled to express the gratitude to this unknown man for coming to me when all else seemed lost.
“Do you find this a surprise?” He asked, and without waiting for an answer continued, “You who were born to this world with such a precious gift in your heart, and thrust into the worse luck than I could have ever imagined. Your destiny is so much greater than this Melody. Now come, your new life is waiting.”
He drew me upright, not forcefully, but with a strength I didn’t expect. Could this really be happening? He’d known my name, known more of me than I had ever thought to share, but it didn’t scare me. I didn’t have any room left for fear. I was filled with something I hadn’t felt in a very long time. Joy would have been an understatement. Never, not since that first week here had I ever imagined that I could leave here. It wasn’t my old life I was returning to, but nothing could be worse than this that I was leaving.
With once graceful motion, he called his companion, a great brown bird, Kukree, taller than either of us and with a wingspan that could have touched wall-to-wall inside the main hall. It was fitted with a saddle at the base of its neck, between its wings. He lifted me first, sitting me at the very front of the sculpted leather before climbing on behind me, with an arm on either side of me so as to prevent me from slipping off. With several powerful sweeps, we shot up off the ground. With the wind in my hair, I watched from above at that house that had caged me and tormented me for too many years faded away below me. Even without this Kukree beneath me, I could have floated on the wind, flown to the sun and back. I never had to go back there. Now I wouldn’t be bound by birth or the laws of a lord; I was for the first time, truly and completely free, and there was no greater joy in all the world.
Happy Holidays Everyone I'm now off to Puerto Rico
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