It had been a long time since Nadya had set foot in Radiant Garden, almost three years now. The strangest part of all of this, however, was how little had changed. She would have thought that after everything that had happened, things would be different now that there was peace. Apparently, however, peace in the kingdom meant restoring everything to how it was before.
A part of her wondered if they would even recognize her. So much had changed in three years, hadn't it? She certainly looked the part of a newcomer, her wardrobe going through many changes since she left. Her hair was longer and her taste more plain, yet Nadya still had doubts that it would be enough. And what scared her even more was that she had no idea what reaction the townspeople would have if they did recognize her. It was easy to seem nonchalant and distant in other worlds, even with the other Fatum Ruina, but here, at home, she felt like one of Athina's experiments; helpless, exposed, on display for all to see.
Breath in. Breath out. She reminded herself, continuing on through the streets of the busy town. Today was market day. The colors and sound of bartering bought a small smile to her face. Camelot had days like these as well and she heard of other kingdoms doing the same, but none could truly compare to the spectacle that was Radiant Garden's town square on market day. Out of reminiscence, she bought an apple before continuing on. With Damian it was never known if the fruits at their headquarters were safe to eat, so it was nice to be able to take a bite without worry of falling prey to his curse. The castle itself was all in a hustle and bustle, with guards at every entrance and milling about most everywhere in between to keep the peace. But that was no matter, she knew another way.
Athina had the back door constructed two years before the death of her parents. It was a fairly modest door, especially in comparison to the rest of the architecture, but it was close to her labs and more convenient for any overnight "deliveries." It was by this door that Nadya and her companion came and went on all but a few occasions. And it just so happened that Nadya's study was precisely one story above the door, with a small servant's stair just feet away. It was there, that she intended to be her destination in this trip down memory lane.
The books themselves were not extremely important, just a few tomes and notebooks that she'd acquired over the years, but they were hers. Some of them had been gifts from her teachers or family and while she was estranged with them, the old pages still gave her comfort. It seemed like a silly thing, to look for comfort in dusty paper, especially for one of the members of the "famed" Fatum Ruina. But for Nadya, comfort was a luxury good, something that had to be bottled up and used sparingly lest she run out, regardless of the source.
Besides, Harlow needed a little education on the worlds of more technological inclination.
At least, that was how she justified the trip to him.
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"And where are you headed?"
Nadya hesitated ever so slightly at the question, Harlow coming up behind her from seemingly no where. She hated portals.
"To Radiant Garden. Why do you care?"
She poked him lightly in the chest before turning and continuing onward.
"Oh no reason...What are you going there for? None of the Souls are there.
He rubbed his chest ruefully and began walking, his long legs easily keeping pace.
Gods, he could be persistent.
"I'm getting some books. Did Damian put you up to this?"
Her eyes narrowed slightly, obviously displeased with the idea of Grimhilde's spawn monitoring her free time.
Harlow pretended to look hurt.
"Am I not allowed to care about a friend?"
"No, you are not. But if you wait like a good boy, I might let you read some of what I bring back."
Because that's what everyone wanted to be bribed with... books. Luckily, Harlow was not everyone and she saw a small spark in his eyes at the mention of new reading materials. To her dismay, he continued to act like a child up until the moment she disappeared. This type of behavior from him had almost become endearing...almost.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
"Hey, you there!
Nadya's memories were interrupted rather abruptly. She resisted the urge to scan the crowd for the owner of the familiar voice. It was a face she was in no rush to see. Just a few steps more and she would be safe in the throng of marketgoers and shops, the colors and noises giving her more than enough cover. But the mage was flustered, she soon missed a crack in the sidewalk at the center of the square - the one new thing in this damn place - and stumbled into a shopper with an unfortunate girth and even larger temper. Nadya started to apologize, but was cut off with an angry wave. Apparently the man was also sexist, his demeaning tone enough to set Nadya back on edge. She laughed at him, her face going oddly still as she returned his venom. She had never intended to make a scene, but now that it had started, the mage had no intentions of submitting.
The voice from before was all but forgotten until a man in blue robes came to break up the argument. She had been about to blast the man with magic, the air around her fist sizzling and popping with bright sparks. Nadya realized her mistake as the words left her mouth.
"Dammit, Gabron. I do NOT need your help!"
Anonymous. She was supposed to remain anonymous.
The anger drained from her face as a few men, at the request of her intercessor subdued the angry shopper. If her argument with the shopper of unfortunate size had not drawn a crowd, this outburst certainly did. No one yelled at Gabron.
As if one cue, the other man turned to face her. In all her years as his student, Nadya had never seen his face filled with so many conflicting emotions. Gabron was a man of peace and harmony, so to see the crack in his armor, Nadya was a little more than apprehensive.
"What were you thinking, pulling a stunt like that? You could have hurt innocent people. This is not the magic I taught you."
The control in his voice added to the sinking feeling in her gut. Gabron may not have announced her name to everyone, but it was clear by the way that he spoke to her that he knew who she was, even an idiot could tell. And, looking around, she could see the wheels turning in the heads of the crowd, all trying to match a name to the face before them. It was only a matter of time before --
"Hey, I remember you!"
-- s**t hit the fan.
"Not now, Julian. I will --"
"Yeah, you were with the princess and that false king of hers!"
And when it hit, it hit hard.
More shouts from parts of the crowd rang out, accompanied by a flood of whispers. She had helped desecrate their dead. She had kept prisoners alive while the experiments went on, too cruel to just let them die. She had a hand in the deaths of their beloved king and queen. She was a monster. She had escaped judgement. She deserved to be punished.
All the while, they inched closer, like wolves nearing the kill or poison dripping towards a heart. Nadya moved with them until her back touched cloth. She looked over her shoulder and into the man with whom she had been fighting just moments before. A grim sort of smirk graced his already uncouth features and, without a word, he began cracking his knuckles. She spun and backed towards Gabron once more, only to find the open space much less, well, open. Then more than words began to fly, rough hands moved to her biceps, trying to catch a hold. In a panic, she blasted them. A poorly controlled sparkaga ripped through the mob and she ran, too confused to watch as her magic knocked her teacher unconscious.
With every step, the cries pounded in her ears.
M o n s t e r.
She ran until she could run no further. And even then, her feet felt the urge to just keep going, to fly off the cliff and into the great maw. The shouts behind her continued and she wondered if this was how Athina felt, all those years ago. When she had needed Nadya the most, she had been betrayed, all over a petty resentment. But Athina had been a monster. Nadya had watched as she desecrated everything she touched in the name of her research. Her own parent's corpses become mere playthings within weeks of their deaths. Athina had deserved this.
So why was she any different? The townspeople certainly thought she deserved it. They may have physically returned Radiant Garden to it's peaceful state, but the wounds in their hearts remained and their hearts cried out for punishment. Punishment of her who had encouraged the slaughter, who had prolonged the suffering, who had an opportunity to stop the madness but refused. Her who moved on and felt no remorse. Her who's only indication of having a heart was the pounding in her ears.
The mob rounded the corner as she sank to her knees. They were right. She was a monster, an animal who deserved to be beaten, a heathen who's soul had been consumed all those years ago in that lab. She had been taught to do marvelous things, to heal and to help, yet on a daily basis, she woke up, danced with demons and then slept like a baby, ready to do it all again. Surely, only a monster was capable of that.
So when the blows came, both verbal and physical, she just took them wordlessly. As the abuse mounted, she found her face to be hot with tears, her mind's voice repeating their curses. Yes, she was a witch. Yes, she was a disgrace. Yes, she was a monster. Yes, she deserved to die.
And then, everything went black. At first, Nadya wondered if this was what it felt like to die, to fade into darkness. She'd seen the boot swinging towards her head, her mind half-heartedly registering the pain would soon experience, but in the black there was nothing. And then, like the crashing of a tidal wave, the stillness was broken. Symbols exploded from within the black and light soon returned to expose the new chaos that had fallen on the mob. A voice like fire presiding over it all in latin.
Just like the sweeping boot, her mind only vaguely registered when Harlow was suddenly by her side, kneeling to pick her up off the ground. Like lost child, she clung to him, allowing herself to rest in his arms. He made a portal before the mob could regroup from their minor injuries and major surprise. There was black again and then they were back home. Harlow tried to lay her down on her bed, but the poor girl's fingers were firmly wrapped around the cloth of his jacket. With a sigh, he himself sat down so that she was laying in his lap, her head resting on his chest.
Only then, did he notice the whispers slipping between her pale lips.
Not what I taught you.
Had there been anyone else in the room to notice, they would have seen Harlow's eyes widen in realization. He had been suspicious when her "book trip" took so long, but he had no idea just what had happened to reduce his fellow mage to such a state. Usually, they were a picture of perfect composure, mirroring their control over magic, so to see Nadya like this was...disconcerting to say the least.
He carefully put his hands on her shoulders and tried to pull her gaze upwards, to get her eyes to focus on his rather than the infinitely empty space of confusion they currently bore into. He shook her lightly, finally pushing her chin gently upwards with his hand.
"Hey, listen to me.
His voice was strong and commanding, as if she was the magic and he was calling her out of hiding. For the briefest of moments, nothing happened, but then the fog in her eyes began to clear.
"I don't know what happened back there, but I do know one thing. You are better than this. You are not crazy. You are not terrible. You are not a disgrace. You are not a monster."
He continued on for a good ten minutes, with Nadya's head resting on his chest, comfortable in the care of his arms. It was not clear exactly how much of his words actually got through to her, but the whispers eventually stopped and so did the shaking, one little bit at a time until only the tears remained.
"You are brilliant, strong, and talented in everything you set your mind to, and nothing can change that. Do you hear me? Nothing will every change that."
He lifted her chin once more, his eyes demanding some sort of answer.
And then they sat in silence, Nadya's head up against his jacket with his hand resting gently by her ear, the other wrapped around her waist. Eventually, the pink-haired mage lost consciousness, still leaning into on Harlow's chest. She didn't know how long she was out, or if he had been there the whole time, but when she awoke, he was still there, holding her.
F a l l o n SF_-
· Wed Jan 29, 2014 @ 02:39am · 0 Comments