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Matsurika Akai's avatar

Tipsy Explorer

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                              THE SADNESS contained within tears. A language of visible misery rolling down the cheeks. The emptiness of hunger. The gaunt, frail essence of struggling bones. The pain of separation. Looking up at the night sky only to see that your favorite star no longer shimmers.

                              All of it has a name. All of it has a meaning. All of it has an end. Yet all of it is everlasting. Endlessly crashing like waves against humanity. There is no shelter. There is no relief. There is only hope. Hope she carries in her pocket. Wishes she spreads like seeds over a barren land. A faith that glistens in those all-seeing eyes. She takes it in stride. Holds it close to her chest. Leaves the seeds to grow. Cleanses the weak of their exhaustion. Points to the destined path…and carves the way to a new future.

                              The very path that has taken her to this place. The same path that led that boy to her. And will now force her to make a choice. To take a step. To alter the course. Action and consequence. Good and bad. Death or life. To steal or not to steal?

                              There was no question.

                              For already the anticipation trembled like a spider’s web. Cold and sharp she kept her eyes. Warm and inviting she kept her smile. Steps skipping with the spring of innocence. Shoes scuffed with the thrill of experience. Slender hands ready to work. Lined with skin pale, smooth, and deceiving. Though she looked like a privileged daughter who had escaped with daddy’s pocket change, she was thief. Clever and tricky. Swift and observant. Ready to rob you blind at any moment.

                              She reached the town with an eager pace. Her hunting grounds were desolate and grey. Clouds quickly shifted through the sky. Even without her powers she could see that rain would very soon drench Nemis. Perfect. The rain was ever so distracting. People scurried to get away. When before they would protest at even a light bump on the shoulder in the presence of rain they quickly dismissed it to be on their way. Eris tightened her cloaks sash around her waist as she approached.

                              Stone walls welcomed her as the iron gate stood before her like a solemn watchdog. Right away she was greeted by two guards. While their faces were weary it was clear they would see through her in a minute if she were to try to enter under false pretenses. There was little choice but to be honest. Then she'd get in and out as quickly as she could. If she was caught stealing the punishment would not be pleasant. This was not a place she could quickly disappear into. At least, not easily. And the mark of any good thief was to have an exit lined up before you've even entered.

                              “Name and purpose?” called one of the guards to her.

                              “Eris Xycra. I am a traveling fortune teller; my tent is set up not far from here in the woods. But, as you would imagine, there is little business to be had. I need clients. So I hoped to find them here.” She could tell by the way the two of them glanced at each other that they were more than a little skeptical. And, really, she could not blame them. There were so many claiming to know the art of divination. Frauds that only wished to toy with emotions in order to fill their coin purses. They were the reason why decent, true tellers were often rejected by whole cities. Fortunately, Eris was well aware of this and had since devised an easy way to prove her abilities.

                              “If that is the case, why are you dressed in common clothing?” chimed the other man, pointing at her plain cloak.

                              Eris gave him a smooth smile, “Good sir. If I were to dress myself in full regalia, would I not be putting myself in danger? I only need my talents to acquire patrons.”

                              The first man huffed. “Talents? You mean the gift of lying and deceit?” Then he held up his hand as if to reject her entry.

                              Just then she let a pulse of light escape her pupils. In the growing shadow of the clouds it shone enough to make the guards gawk and look to her with wonder. “I,” her patient voice rose to match her confident stature, “am no liar.” As the glow in her eyes dissipated she could see clearly that the men were giving her their full attention. “Now. Please let me through. I promise, I will not stay long.”

                              Hesitantly they exchanged looks once more, this time fear and bewilderment lining their faces. The first man said, “Alright….but no more than 3 hours. That should be plenty of time for you to gather…clients.” He eyed her carefully as she entered, watching as she turned and stepped into the shadows of a building.

                              It was time to get to work. The sound of echoing footsteps quickly reached her ears. A man. Tall, thin, likely middle aged. A heavy coat lined with fur. Wealthy. She got herself ready. Eris gripped the collar of her cloak, making sure to give a tiny shiver as the man passed by. The sudden rattle of a coin purse hitting the ground alerted him. He stopped and turned. Eris continued on her way.

                              “Excuse me, miss?” said the lanky fellow.

                              She faced him, eyes large an unassuming, “Oh...y-yes?” With a simple smile the man held out the pouch and said a polite, “I believe you have dropped this.” A girlish gasp escaped her lips and she quickly reached for the purse.

                              The man withdrew his hand ever so slightly, “Are you….from here?” A pouty frown fell upon her face. “No, sir. I am here visiting—” suddenly she bit her lip, looking away sheepishly.

                              His curiosity was perked, “Visiting…?”

                              It was in these moments that her ability to look much younger than she really was came in handy. “I’m afraid,” she put her fingertips to her bottom lip, “that I am not allowed to talk to strangers…”

                              Eris could practically feel the hot steam that came shooting out of his nostrils. “I see…well. I would not want to force you to break any rule.” The moment he handed the pouch back Eris lifted her eyes to meet his. She locked onto his stare for only a few seconds before looking away shyly. After that she scampered away, holding her purse tightly. The man watched her go, clearing his throat and adjusting his collar before moving on.

                              Eris rounded the corner, clutching the golden ring from his finger against her pouch.

                              The first drops of the storm fell heavily onto the earth. Eris raised her nose to the sky and smiled.

                              The pickings were slim. There were many in this town due to a festival, but few with enough to lose. She had been lucky enough to chance upon the wealthy man at the beginning. From there she managed to pinch a pair of ruby earrings off a lady who tripped in a puddle. And swiped a jeweled necklace from a man who liked wine a little too much. Easy. But there was no thrill in easy. No exhilaration in the swift victory. Sure, now she had more than enough for that boy to buy the medicine for his mother. But it quickly stopped being about that. Soon her eager fingers were picking into somewhat questionably unrighteous dealings.

                              Pockets filled with treasures belonging to the unworthy and guiltless alike, the gypsy rode on waves of delight. Already she had changed the course of destiny. A motherless future was avoided. Starvation eliminated from the path of the young boy who had come seeking her help. She had done the right thing. This, simply, was the reward. Not the treasures. No, those things she would most likely not keep. She would give them away to the needy. Keeping only what she thought too valuable to sell for her own personal collection. And that only comprised of a handful of pieces. Due to her constant traveling any more would be a burden. Things of that nature were commonly lost or stolen. It was best to keep greed at bay. Besides, her three hours were almost up and the rain pelted her to no end. It was time to call it a day.

                              So Eris walked back toward the exit. Toward her tent at the edge of town, busy fingers still swiping what they could hold onto.

                              A voice said, “Reports of a thief…” Suddenly she froze. Her eyes darted toward the passing guard. He was ordering the sentry next to him to keep a sharp look out. “The gate has begun random searches…”More bad news. Very bad news. There was a chance she could get through without being caught. Then again, they weren’t very good chances. She stood on the side of the street, biting her lip in thought.

                              A tug on the end of her coat jarred her from her thoughts. She glances down to see the bony hand of the very boy who only hours earlier had visited her. He seemed as surprised as she was.

                              “What….are you doing in the city?” shivered his dried lips. He was muddy and soaked to the bone. He would not last much longer like this.

                              “Gathering…,” she paused. Wait. This. This could be her chance. She knelt down quickly, taking the boy by the shoulders. “Listen. Is there a…secret way out if the city?” The child’s eyes widened. “Wh-What?”

                              Eris gave him a serious look. “They would not have let a little one like you get in and out of the city so easily. That means there must be another way. Please. I need to get back home quickly.”

                              Hearing the underlying tone in her voice, the boy quickly agreed to lead her to the secret path. Taking her hand he took her to an old abandoned building snuggled closely to the wall. There he squeezed into a small hole beneath the foundation. A few minutes later he opened the front door for her. “This place used to be used for smuggling.” Following some creaky stairs to a stuffy basement, he removed a plank from the floor. “They still don’t know about this tunnel.” She glanced at him curiously, “And how do you know about this tunnel?”

                              “Dad was a smuggler.” He said simply. He supplied her with a single candle and told her to go straight. There she’d find an exit just outside the wall. Who was saving who? With a warm smile she bent down, kissing the child’s forehead. His face was at once a bright shade of red. Eris giggled. “I’ll be sure to repay you someday.”

                              Hesitantly he took her hand before she headed into the tunnel. “You…already did….” They parted ways with a smile.The amazingly well dug tunnel exited out behind a great boulder. Carefully she made her way back to the road.

                              It was quite a ways back to her make-shift home. Even longer now that she had to cut through the woods to find the old oak she had seen in her vision. If she was not mistaken there was an entrance to the forest right in front of the gate. That option was out. The guards would no doubt see her and grow suspicious.

                              The city behind her, she glanced about. It was best to go around, passing by the cave’s entrance before taking a straight path into the woods. It would mean that she’d have to walk for quite some time. But that was no problem for her. Her legs had carried her through longer journeys. She’d be exhausted but it was well worth it. Pulling her hood lower to hide her face from the storm she headed to bury the treasure. She’d need to pop the jewels from their prongs before the boy could use them as a necklace or a pair of earrings was much more identifiable than an assortment of random gems. She had a few tools with her to help her with that. She thought for a few moments about the best method of extracting each of them safely. The gold could then be melted down or sold. Though she may need a goldsmith’s help for that. There was one in town. Perhaps she’d visit him before leaving. It would give her an excuse to see the boy again.

                              It was there, in the pouring rain amongst her contemplations, that she spotted a small group of three close to the cave’s entrance. They sat and stood there warily, their past travels written plainly in their clothes. Head low, pace easy, she approached them. Perhaps her fun wasn’t over just yet. Fatigued travelers were a enjoyable target. Oftentimes the weight of their journey dulled their senses as their primary focus quickly became food, shelter and rest. Even more so in the middle of a storm. She, being a traveler herself, knew this all too well.

                              Holding back the urge to smile, she quickly advanced. At first her target was a female. A soft, scholarly looking woman who’s frame and clothes held little wear. Her strangely excited eyes were not paying enough attention to her surroundings. Her mind was elsewhere. Eris, on the other hand, was perfectly within the moment. She felt every droplet. Saw every motion. She knew the steps to this dance and that woman, well she didn't even know there was music playing.

                              It was then that a curious sparkle caught her attention. A small vile, red as the rubies in her pocket, hung from the belt of one of the males of the group. He kept to the back, vision tired but alert. A challenge. She liked it.

                              He said something to his companions before moving closer to the road, though a sudden rush of wind blew his words away from Eris’s ears. The gypsy made her move. Making sure to seem as unnoticeable as anyone on the road she got close. A slight bump of the shoulder. A soft, “Excuse me.” And she was off. Her expert hands holding onto her new trinket with glee. A safe distance away she glanced down at the strange bottle. What was it filled with? A potion? She wondered how much it would sell for. She had seen similar things before, but nothing with quite the same sheen. She would have to analyze it more closely when she got back to the tent.

                              The woodland trail revealed itself to her. With a happy sigh she stepped onto it. It was then that the sound of ardent feet came from behind her. Feeling a strange tingle on her neck, she glanced back. It was that man. The owner of the vial. He was looking straight at her, advancing swiftly, his mouth a hard line. His tired eyes awake and flashing with anger. Suddenly panicked, she took off down the path.

                              One more glimpse behind got her blood rushing. The man was not letting up. In fact he was getting faster.

                              Eris broke into a sprint. No. She could not be caught. Not now.

                              This was her punishment. For her greed.

                              Her fate.


                              She had outrun fate before.
Temporarily Schizophrenic's avatar

Versatile Streaker

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AT LONG last, they had found their way out of that hellhole that Jhandel had the nerve to call a mine. Abel could not help but curse under his hyperventilating breathe the name of their guide. Since when did mines contain creatures as terrifying and mysterious as the one that they had just encountered? Although he, himself, had never journeyed through a mine prior to this moment, he had served food to miners before. And you know what? Never once did a man complain about being attacked by something so fierce. As they reached the mouth of the cave, they had encountered a small slope that formed what seemed like stairs that led to the outside. Xanthia had gone up first, then turned to help take the bags he carried up to the outside. She thanked him sheepishly for carrying her stuff the whole way, which he waved off as nothing. He hadn't minded, except for the part when it nearly weighed him down enough to cause him to fall. Xanthia then helped Becky up, while Abel stayed behind her with his hands first on her back, then her rear, then her thigh to make sure she didn't slip and fall. Finally, Abel made his climb. It was a short climb, but a less difficult than he had thought. With the rain running down the rock, he had expected it to be slippery. Thankfully, it was not.

Abel walked briefly out into the storm and turned his nose towards it. It was cold rain. Of course it was bloody cold. They were so far north that, even though spring was coming, he still wouldn't have been surprised if it turned to snow. Still, he welcomed the sensation as it washed from his face and neck the perspiration that had formed as they ran. He ran his fingers through the terrible mess that sat atop his head several times until it was soaked with rainwater. He slicked it back straight and pulled it back, slipping a band around it several times to hold it. He walked back under the cover of the cave and leaned his back against it's slightly curved wall near where Xanthia sat, grunting slightly. The rocks were jagged, which felt less than comfortable against his clothed back. A quick glance at his companion told him that Becky had managed to calm down quite a bit compared to when they had been in the mine. No doubt being out here made her feel safer, as it did for all of them.

"Well, that was exciting," Xanthia commented. Were it not against his moral code to hit a woman, he probably would have smacked her on the back of her head. Though she may have been speaking with sarcasm, the mere thought about what they had just encountered being considered exciting could almost be punishable. Abel shook his head at her as she began to speculate what sort of creature they had seen. Or rather, sort of seen. "What if it’s new? We should name it Becky-us Abel-lius…Xanthicus!”

Abel nearly toppled over in laughter, which his legs immediately began to protest his movement. He was surprised they were so sore. He ran every morning before he went to work back in Zenithis. Did running so quickly as they had really take that much of a toll on his legs? He lifted his head to Xanthia, who had turned to glare at him for his laughter. "I am sorry, Xanthia, I do not mean to be rude. But..." He stopped to chuckle for a moment. "But "Xanthicus" sounds like some sort of terrible disease. You know, one that our healers and medicines cannot rid you of." He laughed again and raised his hands up in surrender as her glare hardened. He was merely trying to lighten the mood.

A few minutes passed, and the group huddled up by Becky's torch for warmth. Jhandel had been gone far longer than any of them had hoped, and the rain seemed to have gotten colder as time progressed. Abel was beginning to grow impatient, though whether that had more to do with it being cold, or the fact that they were waiting on Jhandel of all people, was far from his mind. "I'm going to take a quick look around and see if I can spot Jhandel anywhere," he said to the group as he pulled his large hood over his head. He loosened his gauntlets and set them down onto his pack, figuring that he would not have any need of them. He knew how to fight without them just fine, and unless he encountered some aggressive wild animal that could gnaw his arm off, carrying them with him seemed somewhat pointless as it was. After tucking them away into his pack, he assured the group he would not be far or gone long and walked out into the storm. It did not take him long to find a road, and from there, he could barely make out the outline of a structure ahead of him. How did they not see this from the cave entrance? From where he stood on the road, he could see both the cave and... whatever it was he was looking at. Unsure of what it was, he decided that a closer look was needed. And that's when he saw her.

Ahead of him, heading in his general direction, was a figure in a brown cloak. He could barely make out the features of the individual enough to tell it was a woman, but nothing more than that. Although he was curious, the structure was his true interest. As they walked past one another, their shoulders bumped into one another. A quick exchange of "Excuse me" and "My apologies" was made before they went on their separate ways. He hadn't thought to glance back until he could clearly make out that the structure was a fort of some kind. He knew he had to return to the cave and gather his companions. They were supposed to wait for Jhandel's arrival, but the presence of a fort promised them more warmth and shelter from the store than the edge of a cave and a torch did. He turned and began to make his way back towards his party when his hand unconsciously slipped past his belt and he felt something amiss. His eyes turned downward to his side and he noticed that the vial Xanthia's father had given to him was missing. He quickly looked around along the ground for it, searching for where he may have dropped it. He knew that he had it when they reached the end of the mine, as he double checked once they climbed the stairs. But where could he have dropped it at? He traced his footsteps back along the path he had traveled when he saw the two pairs of scuffled tracks right where the cloaked woman had bumped into him.

Thief! His gut instincts shouted the answer his mind was searching for. That woman had pickpocketed him as she walked by. He lifted his head and searched around the area until he laid eyes on a cloaked figure making its way towards the woods. His fingers curled into fists as he made his way after her, at first in a jog to cover the distance between them, and then into a swift walk to keep himself mostly quiet as he approached. But the thief had heard his approach. She turned to look at him once before bolting down the woodland path. He quickened his pace into a jog, which only pushed her into a full sprint. He quickened himself as well into a run, closing the gap between them. The woods made the chase somewhat difficult, but not so much as to allow her the escape she sought. He had tripped twice on fallen branches, but caught back up to her without much delay. Throughout the run, he yelled after her, ordering her to stop and return what was his. But she hadn't so much as slowed her pace. No, that would have made things far too easy for him. And so, their chase went on. Distance closed, he lifted his hand and reached for her, his fingertips brushing against her arm.

"Caught you."
Cassandra Voorhees's avatar

Gracious General

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                                                        BY DAWN the skies had cleared enough for Jhandel to see the last twinkling of the night's stars. It was quiet within his room of the inn that he shared with his three companions, the heavy blinds with their fraying edges casting shadows across the beds. An unlit oil lantern sat at the centre of the one table on which the others had left their more delicate belongings. There were two chairs and a row of hooks along the wall for coats, but aside from that the room had only the bare minimum of furnishing.

                                                        Out of courtesy, Jhandel had taken up residence on the bench beneath the window where he slept with a hand on his sword and a pillow beneath his injured ankle. It would be some time before he could march again, though thankfully the walk into Foran from Nemis was easy so long as they stayed on the path. Horses were waiting for them at the crossroad of the north -- for Foran was named thus for the four roads that ran through the town -- and the knight relished the idea of not having to navigate Manetherilan on foot.

                                                        It was something to look forward to as the difficulties of their journey piled up against them. Jhandel had barely shaken the sleep from his eyes before he caught the motion of someone in the hallway. The silhouette of two feet stopped in front of their door, and for a brief moment he wondered what the odds were that his group had already been betrayed. His bare-feet sliding across the wooden floorboards, Jhandel waited for the other to make the first move.

                                                        A lock-pick he expected, though the tell-tale click never happened. Instead, a seemingly blank card of stiff white paper was hastily thrown through the crack beneath the door. He glanced briefly at the occupants of the room -- grateful that they had come out of the mines alive, though curious as to how they managed without prior knowledge of the area -- before picking up the card. Nothing marked its sender nor the recipient of the message, but upon opening it Jhandel was certain he knew the author's intent.

                                                        Scrawled across the paper in a script of haphazard letters were the words:
                                                        "You're on your own." The knot of dread wound itself tighter in his chest as he shuffled back towards the window. With a steadying breath, he cracked open the blinds just enough to glimpse at Nemis's central courtyard. There, patrolling in place of evergreen guards were pairs of uniformed soldiers in bloodsun crimson. Starlance? Jhandel thought.

                                                        But as the sun rose higher and the sky lost its calm blue shade, gold glittered at the breast of each soldier like individual rays of a morning star. There weren't many, only half a dozen or so out where Jhandel could count them, though seeing just one walking so openly amongst loyal subjects of the Rhakovans' rule was enough to chase away his remaining fatigue.

                                                        He could not be certain, and would not be certain until he could come closer to one of these soldiers, that these men were whom he thought they were. If memory served him, the only time he recalled that gold starburst on a sea of crimson was on his return trip from Corbalich. Maybe it was paranoia as his assumptions made less and less sense the more he fretted over them. Then again, more had happened within the last day than he had ever expected to handle so soon after beginning their journey. What was another improbable event when the inconceivable appeared beyond the horizon?

                                                        Missionaries of Erenil. As if he couldn't believe what his own mind had supplied him, Jhandel said aloud, "There are missionaries of Erenil in Tourmaline."

                                                        OOC: Time-skip post! Please direct all questions to the OOC thread. Let's get this ball rolling! >;]
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                                              THE IRRITATING rustle of the window’s blinds proved finally enough to rouse Xanthia from the dark abyss of sleep, though the annoying creaks of the floor boards had infiltrated her dreams much earlier on the groggy climb to consciousness. Someone was awake. She rolled and sighed, feeling the tug of her nightgown as her dark hair became strewn across her face, shielding her from the harsh rays of light that escaped through the curtains. After a rub of her eyes, Xanthia surveyed the surroundings and felt a sudden wave of disorientation when she realized it wasn’t her room.

                                              They were in a tavern somewhere…oh! It must be Nemis, she grasped. The details of last night were hazy so Xanthia struggled to overcome the sense surprise and excitement. The only thing she seemed to recall was the moment of awkwardness that came when they realized she’d have to change out of her wet clothes in a room with two guys. She had been soaked to the bone and didn’t even need to glance to know her hair had dried in some godforsaken mess.

                                              A lantern, the table, two chairs and two beds – there wasn’t much else. Jhandel sat near the window on a bench a peered through with mild concern. Man, she thought, the guy was more high-strung than the small end of the queen’s harp. What if she just threw a pillow at him to loosen him up? Like right now? Xanthia cracked a devious smile and began sneakily slipping the pillow from beneath her head.


                                              Xanthia gasped as she watched the shot arc towards the blinds. She’d be in so much trouble if she broke something. But thankfully it fell short and … LEGS! Oh no! Didn’t the poor man hurt himself there last night?! She immediately buried her face in the blanket and pretended not to notice. Pretended that she was still sleeping. But her giggling gave it away. Good thing it was just a pillow … especially because it was also flying right back at her.

                                              The projectile bounced off the small of her back and landed somewhere on the floor behind the bed. Double points if it also got Abel. Xanthia was too playful to notice Jhan’s expression, though if she had cared what he thought she probably wouldn’t have thrown it in the first place. What was the knight so fixated on outside the window anyway? It was Nemis, a fortress town. Not like they had to keep watch for criminals or something.

                                              Xanthia’s roll out of bed was paused only briefly for a stretch before she made her way towards the knight. An inexplicable feeling of joy heightened her step. It was so exciting being away from home. Jhandel held a torn piece of paper in his hand but the writing was concealed. She wondered what it was but at the moment it appeared to be of little concern to him compared to whatever was outside.

                                              ”What’cha looking at?”, Xanthia intruded. She yawned and in an attempt to cast out the rest of the grogginess, yanked apart the curtains, flooding the room with morning light.
Temporarily Schizophrenic's avatar

Versatile Streaker

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THAT INFERNAL woman had gotten away with the vial of Bloodwyne that Xanthia's father had given to him. Had he only noticed a few seconds sooner, or ran after her earlier than he had, maybe he would have caught up with her. But once she took to the woods, he followed her only as far as he dared before turning back. In the middle of the night, with the storm blocking out any moonlight that would have given him more visibility than two meters in front of his face, he dared not journey through the woods. His sense of direction was not necessarily that good, and he did not trust himself enough to believe he could venture forth and manage to return. Actually, if he had to be honest with himself, he knew for a fact that he would have gotten hopelessly lost. He made his way back to the road, cursing himself the whole way for letting her go. Thieves were amongst the lowest of the low in his mind, but his anger went far beyond that. Though he was still unsure as to its purpose, Abel could not shake the feeling that the Bloodwyne held some sort of grave importance to him, be it now or later. And now, he had lost it.

Upon making his way back towards the cave, he found the entrance empty. He could not speak for Becky, but Xanthia would not have gone without him, unless Jhandel or someone from the fort had come to collect them. With that in mind, he walked the short distance through the storm to the fort, where he was greeted by two guards dressed in a deep evergreen, and one in a crimson uniform that, if he recalled correctly, identified him as a member of the Starlance Patrol. This was his first time actually seeing one, at least in uniform.

"My name is Abel--"

"Brynhildr, yes? We've been told to expect you by Lord Koven, as you were not with the others." The member from Starlance had interrupted him mid-sentence, which nearly brought an irritated sigh from his lips. He did not appreciated being interrupted, but he let it go. "They are waiting for you at the tavern. Follow me." He followed the crimson-clad soldier to the tavern, where he was greeted briefly by an exhausted Xanthia. They were still dressed in their wet clothes, which brought Abel to the obvious conclusion that they had only arrived a few minutes before he had. He took his bag from Xanthia with an expression of gratitude and followed the group up to their appointed room. It was small, somewhat, with only two beds, two chairs at the table, and a bench that sat underneath the only window in the room. It was small, but it would do.

The group changed into drier clothes and almost immediately went to bed, exhausted from the day's events. Abel chose to lay on the floor near the bed Xanthia slept in. He had made a promise to ensure her safety, and though they were in a military fort, he left nothing to chance. It didn't take him long to find sleep, nor did it take him long to wish he hadn't. Throughout the whole night, he was plagued by dreams he did not understand. Those visions that came each time he touched the Bloodwyne vial came back to him. Masked men both fearful and powerful surrounding groups of catatonic men and women. And that woman. He could not see through the shadows that enveloped her face, but he felt as though he knew her. Or rather, that he should know her.

Just as quickly as sleep had taken him, the morning rays of sun brought him back to consciousness. Well, the light of day and the pillow that had somehow fallen onto his face. He heard Xanthia giggling and sat up after a moment, looking over to Jhandel and Xanthia over the edge of the bed. His hair was an unkempt mess and his eyes framed by dark circles that expressed visually the exhaustion that he still felt. He stood up and stretched with a yawn before lightly shaking Becky's shoulder to wake her into the now terribly brightened room. He had a feeling they would not be here in Nemis for very long.

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