The ship appeared through the wintry mists of Sandur, the sun shining on its passengers. After months of travel, land was finally visible again, a land so different from what they had left. Snow covered the region, seeming almost pristine and wonderfully grand, the sun shining so it was warm on her face, though not warm enough to melt the snow.
Meara shivered and wrapped her cloak more firmly around herself, trying to ward off the chills that came when they entered the snowy region. The previous week had seen her lapse to her cold and coughs, and she did not want it to get any worse.
"Want to go inside? It might warm you up." Onyx called as he walked towards her.
She gave him a weak smile. "It's colder in there..."
"Is it?" Onyx said, scratching his head. "I guess it is..". He stopped once he was beside her. He studied her face. "Is something bothering you?"
Meara blinked a little, trying to ward off the chills that threatened to overpower her slight form. "Just the cold... I hope I will adjust soon..."
"You'll be fine. Just don't think about it too much," Onyx advised.
She nodded, then the captain shouted out some orders, as the crew warned them to brace themselves when the ship would stop. Onyx held her steady as the ship seemed to sway beneath her feet, coming to a stop. Crew members then began to throw ropes over the sides of the ship to secure it to the dock.
They alighted from the ship, the air mercifully still as their belongings were brought out, Yurane among them. Meara shyly looked at Onyx, saying, "It's rude to let you walk all the way... especially since I don't know where it is yet... only the name..."
Onyx let out a chuckle. "The let's stretch Yurane's legs and go to the place you needed to see,"
She nodded, turning to the headmaster for permission. Elyzaar seemed to know her unvoiced question and nodded. "Go on, and return safely."
Meara returned the nod gratefully, letting Onyx mount Yurane first, then took his hand as he helped her to the saddle. He adjusted the cloak on her shoulders more firmly around her, and then they were off.
It did not take long for them to find out where the graves were, called the Hill of Lione. Onyx thanked the man that gave them the directions, pulling on Yurane's reins.
Her eyes caught a flower stall, and she place her hand on Onyx's wrist. "Wait..."
He turned around to face her, at the same time giving the reins a tighter grip to signal Yurane to pause.
"What is it?"
"We forgot the flowers..."
The solemn and quiet atmosphere was gone. Onyx was trying to hold back a chuckle but he couldn't help it. He laughed softly and directed Yurane to go back to the flower stall they just passed by.
Meara smiled at his chuckle, even as she reached into her coin bag to pay two silver coins to the flower lady. She was soon handed two beautiful bouquets of white lilies, and after thanking the woman profusely, Onyx helped her up the saddle again.
They reached the Hill of Lione, the wind picking up speed and becoming chilled. She shivered uncontrollably under her cloak, unsteadily dismounting Yurane.
"Let's go.." Onyx encouraged her.
Meara nodded, trying to keep herself steady against the bitingly cold winds. Onyx released her hand as she began her approach. The two graves of her parents stood amongst the other snow-covered ones, the names carved onto the stone reading large and clear to her eyes. A lump came into her throat, sobs threatened to burst out along with her coughs. She struggled to put one foot ahead of the other, her slender feet sinking in the snow.
Her skirts became cold and wet, and her cloak flew wildly behind her. The winds whipped her hair against her face, stinging the cold-bitten cheeks. Her tears began to flow, freezing solid on her skin, painfully cold. But she didn't pay attention, she was far too busy trying to get to the grave markers.
"You are the pretty little lady, aren't you, Meara?"
"This is a doll for you, my sweet child."
I'm coming for you...
The sobs that were caught in her throat burst in a strangled cry, and she began running as best she could through the snow, the flowers in her arms. She didn't feel the cold anymore, didn't hear the cries coming from her mouth. Meara stepped into a deep pile of snow and tripped, still she continued to press ahead, practically crawling.
She finally reached the markers, laying the flowers on the snow before falling face first, sobbing out all her long pent-up emotions at her loss. She continued to cry, not realizing Onyx had stepped closer to her and the markers, gathering her in his arms. She suddenly felt the cold, and trembled violently as she felt the warmth of his embrace. Meara continued to cry into his shirt, one small hand gripping the fabric tightly before she felt him dislodge her hand from the fabric, only to cover her fingers with his own.
When her sobs ceased, her head rose from his shirt, nodding at him reassuringly as he brushed at her tears with his fingers. She faced the grave markers again, thinking, pondering, before she reached up to release the strands of her hair from the confines of her mother's white ribbon. She tied it around both bouquets, whispering as she did so.
"You wanted to wear this for Papa, right...? Here's your ribbon back..."
When she finished, Onyx helped her up, again wrapping the cloak around her. As he led her back to Yurane, she swallowed, gazed at the grave markers again, and whispered, "Farewell..."
Then they mounted Yurane, and they were gone.
Darkness was starting to envelop the pink and purple skies of sunset in Sollus.
The sea looked calm and peaceful – perfect for the long journey ahead.
The sails of the huge and overpowering vessel, Sidonie, were already prepared for flight – ready for the strongest winds and practically anticipating the guide the vessel to Sandur. The crew had been that thorough for a safe journey.
From the docks, the shouts of the crew could be heard, demanding for instructions, details from the higher-ranked members, regarding their first long and major voyage in a very long time – this time, concerning vital members of Sollus, the students and the teachers of Avenes Falkswain School of Sealing Magic.
Some citizens of Sollus had gathered at the docks, curious to see what would happen there. This event, after all, would alter the lives of many of them.
The young, meanwhile, occupied themselves with eyeing the seagulls gracing the darkening. Some of them, the boys especially, got as close as they could to Sidonie, pestering the crew with questions about the ship.
The perfect setting for parting.
With his hands clasped behind his back, his dark cloak swirling about him, the headmaster observed all these, his colleagues beside him.
"Everyone has finished their dinner, Headmaster." Goldia Junebear informed him.
Elyzaar nodded. "Has someone already told them to gather here?"
Beside him, Ceisyia nodded. "Yes, the last time I saw them, they were already on their way here." She looked around and saw that most of the students were already there.
Elyzaar turned to Arnoee Weckiz and Kalil Feningham, who had just arrived. "Please go to the ship and make sure that things are in order." The headmaster took a deep breath. "We cannot afford to dawdle any longer once we are aboard."
In response, the two professors nodded and hurried to board the ship.
The remaining professors turned when they heard voices and footsteps behind them.
The students had arrived, carrying their luggages, and had gathered in a small group, ready to say their farewells.
Standing by his luggages, Croise sighed. There was no sign of Larinya. He already expected that the short farewell he and his cousin had in his room when she came for him earlier was all he could get for a farewell. He would miss her...That cousin of his...
He turned and he smiled when he saw Kierlan and Celestyn. He already knew they were not going and although it saddened him, he is also relieved that at least, the two would be together. They loved each other. They would be alright.
"We would just like to say goodbye." Celestyn told him. "Thank you for everything, Croise." She smiled. "I wish you a good life in Sandur."
Croise shook the hand Kierlan offered him. "I know both of you will be fine here because you are together." He grinned at both of them and because he feared for Celestyn, he looked at her with concerned eyes. "Take care of yourself, Celestyn..."
"She will. I'll make sure of that." Kierlan assured him kindly.
They all looked up when they saw Luciine and Milsheen approaching.
"Kierlan...Celestyn...We heard that you are not going with us to Sandur." It was Milsheen who said this with a sad smile.
Celestyn nodded. "No, we won't." She smiled at Milsheen. "I am glad to have known you, Milsheen. You are very good to work with in the play. I admire you as a director and a playwright. I hope we can work together again soon." She told him sincerely.
Milsheen smiled. "Same here. I promise to offer you a position in my next play...And I promise, it won't be as an actress." He said with a wink.
All of them chuckled. Then Milsheen turned to Kierlan and held out a hand. "Goodbye Kierlan. It's been a pleasure knowing you."
Kierlan shook Milsheen's hand. "It's been a pleasure knowing you too."
Beside Milsheen, Kierlan saw Luciine smiling at him a bit shyly and immediately he knew the cause. "You did what you have to do, Luciine. Let me tell you something. First, there are no hard feelings on my part. Second, that's quite powerful magic you have there." He said good-naturedly.
At that, Luciine laughed then sobered. "Thanks Kierlan. I'm glad you took what I did well enough." She looked at Celestyn and Kierlan as she continued: "It will be different without you two. We might not be close and I regret that. But I do admire you both. Perhaps someday, when we see each other again, we will get closer." She said with a hopeful smile.
Celestyn nodded with a smile. "I trust we will."
It was then that Foine arrived, effortlessly carrying her luggages. She was not as sentimental as the others in her farewells and she grinned at Kierlan and Celestyn. "It might be a while before we see each other again so I want to let you know...That I want you to kick the ass of the bad guys while we are not around."
Celestyn chuckled. "For you, we'll try our best." She said dryly. "Take care of yourself, Foine."
Kierlan laughed. "I'm sure you'll do some ass-kicking yourself in Sandur, Foine."
Standing close to Onyx, Meara looked at Celestyn and Kierlan sadly. She would miss them, these two friends who had done so much for her.
Celestyn looked at the young woman who had been one of her first friends and once again, she felt that lump in her throat. She felt so hesitant to approach Meara now, afraid that she would break down if she did...
Kierlan felt her sadness and with a gentle smile, held her hand tightly and led her towards Meara. "Take care of yourself, Meara. We will see each other again soon." He told her with a grin. He looked at Onyx and held out a hand. "I trust you will take care of Meara, Dremischee. It was nice knowing you."
Onyx took the hand Kierlan offered and although the two men were not close, Onyx found himself retorting good-naturedly: "As much as you will take care of Lady Hearthwell, your highness. It was nice knowing you too."
Meara smiled back at Kierlan. "I will." Her voice shook as she added. "Thanks so much...for everything you've~"
She was interrupted as Kierlan playfully ruffled her hair. "Shut up, Meara." He said mildly, his eyes glinting laughingly. "There was nothing to it. I couldn't have helped you if you did not help yourself."
Meara smiled back shakily and it took considerable strength to face Celestyn.
For a while, they just stood there together. Then Celestyn took a hesitant step forward and before they knew it, the two women were hugging. "Fates...I'll miss you, Meara." Celestyn held back the tears as she held Meara at arm's length. "Take care of yourself, alright?"
Tears falling down from her face, Meara nodded. "We'll write, alright?" She pleaded. "Let me know what is going on with you, please?"
Celestyn nodded. "I promise I will write." She replied gently. She turned to the man Meara loved. "Take care, both of you." She murmured.
Onyx nodded. He and Celestyn might not have been close but he himself had known how much she had done for Meara – and for him. "You too."
From a distance, watching them, Arderith Calligraphy and Marguerite Kallesburg looked at each other sadly. "This is hard for them." Arderith sighed.
Marguerite nodded. "Yes. But they would be better off in Sandur...After everything that has happened here...Fates, the murder of those three innocent women..." She murmured, with much distress in her voice.
Omedus reached the two remaining women just in time to hear the last remark. "The Headmaster has asked me to lead the students into the ship. It is time to leave."
Arderith nodded, holding back tears. She pointed towards the group of young people. Such a mixture of emotions – sadness, confusion, fear...They all looked so unbearably young that moment, making a hole in Arderith's soft heart.
Omedus saw that and patted her shoulder. "They would adjust, Arderith." He assured her, then he walked towards the small group gathered near the ship.
"It's time to go." Omedus announced to the group.
Everyone nodded. After hugging Celestyn one last time, Meara walked away with Onyx, afraid that if she looked back, she would cry even more
There was another round of "goodbye"s, shaking of hands, until finally, everyone turned towards the ship to board.
There was a sturdy, wooden plank propped up so that they could ascend to the ship. Elyzaar Carmichean, Ceisyia Dalintri, Goldia Junebear, Kalil Feningham and Arnoee Weckiz stood there, waiting for the students led by Omedus to alight.
On the other side, Arderith Calligraphy and Marguerite Kallesburg stood, feeling a mixture of sadness and hope for their students who were about to start new lives on a faraway land.
A horn sounded out signaling departure, interrupting the silence of the early night.
As Sidonie gracefully moved through the sea's peaceful currents, Elyzaar stood at the deck, watching Sollus that was getting smaller and smaller until it was nothing more than a speck in the horizon.
It was time for new beginnings for all of them.
Away from Sollus – the town that had once been, their home but will soon be a distant memory for some....
For the others however, it would always be a home that would welcome them back with open arms...
Ivarus could see her.
She sat there, not so far from him, her ebony hair lightly teased by the early evening’s breeze.
Those striking and elegant features…So much like the woman in his dreams…
Ivarus could see how her slender hand gripped the hand of the dark-haired man holding her close, whose back was to him. Though she did not say anything, Ivarus knew she was fighting an inner battle.
And somehow, he could swear that the pain he felt was hers as well.
How could she make him feel so much?
Even as he wondered, he could feel an overwhelming sense of pride within him as he beheld how she struggled to be strong, despite the pain…
An inner struggle…Yet, he could feel it.
How could this be?
He had come here to ask her for answers.
As Ivarus walked away, he realized that he had left with more questions than he had when he came here.
How was it that he could not bear to trouble her mind any further? How could he care so much for a stranger?
The sun began to set on Sollus, touching the walls and rooftops of the town with rays of gold, casting shadows on the ground as the sky changed its hue from blue to red. Stalls began to be taken down for the day, weary shoulders stiff from work. Zack observed all that as he left for patrol.
The ship that was bound for Sandur would leave soon, after they had their evening meal. Zack wanted to make sure everything was secure.
He needed the exercise, so decided to walk, bolting the door of his home firmly. Zack could feel the tension around town, as if most of them knew that trouble would come to their doorsteps soon. He didn't blame them. With the leaving of the students of the sealing school went the peace and security of the town's financial resources.
And he wondered how long regarding the security of the town's peace.
Not long, he felt, as he walked towards the direction of the docks, nearing Kierlan's home.
Worrying will do nothing but taint the hope of tomorrow. With that thought in mind, Ariadne determinedly turned away from the view of the sad atmosphere at Sollus Docks. "I'm taking a walk, grandfather! I won't be long!" She called out.
With that, she practically flew down the stairs and threw open the door to Kierlan's house.
I need to breathe.
"You noticed it, didn't you?" Zack's quiet voice came to her from behind.
"What in fate's name~" Ariadne yelped, turning to see Zack's calm and handsome face.
"Sorry," he said sheepishly, although the serious expression did not leave his face. "I was going to the docks, and passing by when I saw you come out."
There was a faint blush in her smooth cheeks as she smiled. "I'm sorry. I've just been so skittish nowadays." She looked down at the ground, uncertain of what to say. What was that he said to her again? It took her a moment to gather her thoughts. She always seemed to be scatterbrained every time the man's around, she thought annoyed at herself.
Zack looked at her for a moment, the sun's rays bringing out the color of his eyes, making it appear like gold. "The tense atmosphere of the town. You noticed it."
Since when had the man become this perceptive when it came to her thoughts? Was she that obvious? At that thought, Ariadne sighed, and began to absent-mindedly brush some imaginary dust off the sleeve of her day dress. "Yes, I noticed it. Then I realized that worrying will do me no good."
He nodded as he adjusted the weapon hanging from his belt. "Which is why I'm going to the docks to make sure they leave safely, and hopefully run into Kierlan and Celestyn."
Ariadne nodded. "I see." She murmured. How could she tell him that she would like to walk with him without sounding so desparate? "Um...So I guess, I will see you around then." Fates. Now she sounded so dismissive. She felt the urge to stamp her foot.
"Well, if you were going out anyway, why not join me for a while? It might help clear whatever is in your mind or anything," he responded, extending a hand towards her and smiling a bit. "I would be honored to escort a lovely lady to where she might wish to go."
Her heart fluttered. "I would love that. Thank you." She was careful not to look straight into his eyes as she walked beside him, because he might see all her love for him there in her eyes.
Zack began walking again, quietly observing every movement in the town, tense as if waiting to pounce. Somehow he had the feeling that he should be careful about this departure of the ship. Did the magic the flowed in his veins also granted him the enhanced senses of an animal, including the sense of observation and danger?
He didn't know, but he would just see.
Ariadne had then noticed that her companion had grown unusually quiet.
"Zack?" When he didn't answer her, she followed his gaze and saw that it was directed at the ships getting ready to leave. "Is something amiss?" Her amethyst eyes clouded with worry.
He turned to her, blinking. "Just feel like something's not right..." he murmured, being honest with her. "I could be wrong, but I think the magic I have has heightened my senses somewhat. It's like I can sense danger."
"It's new, your magic. I do not sense any danger. At least, not at this moment. But soon. You can let your mind rest for tonight." She told him quietly.
At that, his shoulders relaxed, and his grip on his sword loosened. He smiled at her again, "All right, I trust your judgement, and visions."
Ariadne nearly sighed with relief when his worry lessened. "Good." She looked around uneasily, uncomfortable at the tensed and sad atmosphere she had left home to avoid. "So um...since you are patrolling, I would like to take a walk through town for a while." Her dimples flashed as she smiled. "I think it is about time that I see the Artists' Lounge I've been hearing so much about. Um...I'll see you around." And before she could fall all over herself in front of him, she started to turn away.
He was not so willing to let her go alone. "I'll have to pass by there anyway, so please let me go along."
Her brow furrowed. "Are you certain?" Her eyes were unsure as they looked into his. "I could go alone, Zack. You might be needed here..." Fates, she wanted his company.
"As certain as the coyote that attacked me," Zack grinned. "I need some refreshment as well anyway, so this is a good time."
Ariadne tried not to sound too happy as she replied: "That is good then."
He grinned at her again, letting his hand fall from his weapon. The doors of the lounge appeared as they continued to walk, talking in low voices. He wasn't used to a quiet Sollus, and told her so.
Ariadne looked at him with wide, curious eyes. "Truly? What was it like before?"
Zack's voice grew wistful. "Master Poutrusseau used to have a stall right here, and it boasted of the freshest seafood in all of Sollus. I used to eat here with my father every chance we get. It was chaotic! The noise could reach the other end of Sollus and you'd think that it was coming from there. Then he moved away because his son became one of the chief cooks in the courts of the mayor of Chraine."
The moment he finished speaking, he was surprised to see a cardboard plate with steaming fried fish in front of his very eyes. "Like this?" Ariadne said with a sly grin.
"How did you-" Zack couldn't continue as the smell wafted over him, bringing back all those memories from long ago.
In response, Ariadne winked at him conspirationally. "Go ahead, take it. I did not poison it or anything."
"Ariadne, you know you weren't supposed to," he tried to chide her, but took it in his hands anyway.
Ariadne rolled her eyes. "Don't be such a spoilsport! Rules! It would be such a bore if they would always be followed!" She laughed. Excitedly, she watched, pleased at the unconcealed joy in his eyes. How easy it was to make him happy. If only it could be just as easy to make him love her. She thought wistfully.
He laughed along with her and took a bite of the fish. "I don't know how you did it, but this is exactly the same as the one prepared before!" Zack finished it quickly. "Thank you."
Her smile widened. "It was the least I could do." ...to make you smile. Ariadne thought.
Another smile, and his hand reached out to brush a lock of hair back from her face. "Maybe I should tell you more of my memories next time."
Ariadne froze and a soft, shaky smile illuminated her face. "My magic might not be enough to bring back all of them." She joked.
"That's too bad," Zack said, nearing the entrance of the lounge. "We might need more of these type of memories when the real danger comes."
Zack was barely finished speaking when the door was thrown open and they saw a tall, lean man leaving the establishment with long, determined strides.
Ariadne's eyes widened with recognition. Unable to help herself, she ran forward and nearly threw herself in his path. "Lord Ivarus!" She called out and yelped when she tripped and ended up sprawled in front of him.
Zack winced at the sound of her body hitting the ground and helped her up. "Are you all right?"
Ariadne felt like kicking herself as she beheld the impassive Ivarus standing in front of them. She could not tell what the man was thinking. How could she, with those veiled eyes? She didn't know if he was annoyed with her or amused. "I'm sorry. I did not know what came over me. I just recognized you and I r-realized that...well...You saved my life before and I~" She wrung her hands, unsure of what to say next.
He merely looked at her with that hooded gaze of his. "Yes?"
"Um...I would just like to say thank you for saving my life before. I am sorry it took me so long to do so." Ariadne mumbled, willing herself to look at Ivarus.
Zack watched with quiet wariness, seeing that he was more tense than usual. "What brings you here to the Artists' Lounge, Ivarus?"
Ivarus met Zack's wary gaze with one of his own. "The atmosphere suits my mood." He answered curtly. He found himself glancing at the petite redhead beside Farnham and was vaguely amused to see her blushing. Despite her embarrassment, he found himself impressed that she was holding her own quite well.
Sensing his gaze, Ariadne shifted uncomfortably. He must think I'm a clumsy twit. She thought miserably. This was so mortifying.
"You are welcome."
Her gaze snapped to his, startled. "Pardon me?" She asked blankly.
His lips nearly curved into an amused grin. "...for saving your life?"
"Oh...that." Ariadne smiled sheepishly.
"I'd have to thank you myself," Zack said grudgingly, watching him even more now that Ariadne was flushed. "Now if you will excuse us."
Ivarus nodded at Zack in reply.
Ariadne curtsied to him and started to leave with Zack when she felt Ivarus lightly took hold of her arm.
She turned and looked at him questioningly.
"Ariadne?" Zack asked as he felt her stop, turning to see Ivarus' hand on her arm. "What the hell are you doing?"
Ivarus' dark blue eyes held a glint of amusement as he looked at Zack. "Calm yourself, Farnham. I merely want to ask Lady Xantherion where I can find Lady Celestyn Hearthwell." At that, he turned expectantly to Ariadne.
She bit her lip, uncertain of what to say. She could sense goodness in the man...along with a great deal of pain. "You could find her at the~"
"How did you know of Ariadne's surname?" Zack interrupted coldly. "And why would you want to know of Celestyn's whereabouts?"
"Zack..." Ariadne said quietly, feeling Zack's muscles go rigid beneath her hand.
"Perhaps I make it a point to remember the name of the woman I once met...under unusual circumstances." Ivarus replied calmly. "Now, may I ask where I could find Lady Hearthwell, Lady Xantherion?"
"Why do you want to know?" Zack asked again, more firmly this time.
Not knowing she was doing so, Ariadne looked at Ivarus with pleading eyes. She felt she had to tell him where Celestyn was. But how could she, with Zack glaring at him so furiously?
Ivarus saw the pleading in her eyes and almost immediately, his gaze softened. "I am afraid that the matter I wish to discuss with her is none of your concern, Lieutenant Farnham."
"Anything that regards my cousin is my concern, Ivarus," Zack said, calmly this time in response to the touch of Ariadne's hand.
"And I am her~" Ivarus suddenly stiffened. What had he been about to say? What was he to Celestyn Hearthwell? Damn it...He nearly had the answer in his grasp. "I have to go." And with that, he turned and left.
"She's at the docks!" Ariadne could not resist calling after him. So much pain...He had endured so much pain...
"Ariadne?" Zack asked as Ivarus walked away, acknowledging her call with a nod. "Why did you tell him?"
Her eyes were sad as they looked into his. "I feel he needs to know." She whispered.
Zack looked at her for a long moment, then sighed. "All right, I trust you with that, Ariadne. I'm sorry, but Kierlan asked me to keep an eye on Ivarus."
Ariadne just nodded, but her sad gaze remained on the parting Ivarus. I hope the pain in your heart will ease soon...
He inhaled the cool air of the autumn afternoon. It was approaching sunset.
She had always been fond of the sunset. He remembered that about her…
Among other things.
Soon, he would have to talk to her and be reminded…
His smile widened. Yes, that would indeed be ideal. He would talk to her soon.
It was such a shame he could not take pleasure in feeling the wind against his skin in the balcony at the moment. It was getting too tiresome to be confined within the mansion’s dull and dark walls.
Valley of Aoibhell…
How fitting it is for his temporary dwelling to possess that name. Soon, he would have to make sure that she and the others would realize how fitting the name is…
“Master, would you like to go out for a little while today?”
He did not turn when he heard Arawn speak cautiously behind him. He had felt his follower’s presence the moment he entered the room.
“What use is it for you to ask when we both are aware that I cannot do so?” He replied calmly.
Behind the towering armchair, Arawn frowned curiously. His Master seemed to be in an agreeable mood…What had happened?
“A good day, isn’t it, Arawn?” He smiled knowingly. He knew what his follower was thinking. He knew everything.
Arawn nodded cautiously.
“I cannot see you if you nod.”
At the calm yet sharp reprimand, Arawn jumped. It was warm in the room but he could feel chills within him. He had always felt chilled in that room. “Yes Master. I a-agree…It is q-quite a g-good day for a…a…sail…perhaps?” Arawn hastily blabbered.
His Master chuckled. “Only for a mere sail? For a day as fair as this, a journey would be more suitable. Hmm…Perhaps towards somewhere far off east, wouldn’t you say?” He continued leisurely.
“Yes, yes…Definitely Master.” Arawn agreed immediately.
Silence. Cold silence.
Arawn fidgeted, wanting nothing more than to leave the room.
“They are leaving, you know.”
Arawn nearly jumped when he heard the whisper. “W-who?”
“The students of the sealing school. They are leaving for Sandur. I could feel it.” He laughed softly. “And one of them will leave, breaking her barrier of protection. I can feel her presence more now. Her powers…Yes, her powers…” Soon, her powers would all be his…
Arawn came to stand in front of his Master and knelt, taking his Master’s hands fervently in his. “You are so great, Master! You are sure to defeat her! Soon, your plans will be fulfilled!”
At that, the man Arawn was nearly worshipping laughed. “Yes, Arawn. It is only a matter of time. The barrier is starting to break.” He rasped, his slate-gray eyes darkening to black.
You cannot hide from me forever, child…
Celestyn stifled a cry at the sudden, sharp pain in her head.
Kierlan turned instantly, feeling Celestyn’s cold hands grip his arm. “Aine?” Worriedly, he looked at her suddenly pale face. “Celestyn, what is it?”
She gripped her head, trying to will the pain to go away. “My head…It hurts…” She winced again. “Fates…Kierlan…” The pain will not go away. She could feel it…The sharp and painful intrusion…
As her knees started to give way, Kierlan swung her up in his arms and carried her over to a large crate and sat her there, his arm around her.
He knew that he could not let her see how worried he was. Her face was so pale and she was shaking. The torment he was seeing in her face shook him to the core. But he could not let her see how worried he was. Instead, he just sat there grimly and held her while she struggled with the pain.
His relief could not be greater when her breathing turned normal once again.
Her face, he noticed with fear, still remained pale. Her hands were still shaking.
And her gray-blue eyes had much fear when she looked up to meet his eyes.
“My barrier of protection…Kierlan…” She had expected this – expected it the moment she gave part of the amulet to Meara.
He saw the answer in his eyes. Instantly, his grip on her shoulders tightened.
“It is crumbling.” Celestyn whispered.
Inside the Artists’ Lounge, the visitors nearby the table at the corner turned at the loud thud.
“That’s one of my best mugs, man! Be thankful it did not break!” They heard Kalil Feningham yell.
The person he was yelling at, however, appeared not to care.
Ivarus merely nodded at him curtly, picking up the mug calmly from the floor.
His emotions, however, were anything but calm.
What is this? Why do I suddenly feel that trouble is coming? He thought, trying to force his forgotten memories into the surface…
But all he could remember was a black-haired woman with vulnerable gray-blue eyes.
As she watched the students and teachers prepare for the journey, Ariadne suddenly shivered.
She pulled the shawl tighter around her but it had no effect. She felt so cold…so cold all over…
The seamen were preparing to go home with their catch. The crew was pulling up the sails, preparing the ships to leave and carry the students and teachers to that safe town in the east, Sandur…
Fates…Why is it that I feel that as they leave, they will be taking all the peace of the town with them? Will there be no peace left for us?
Meara watched as the breeze stirred the water beneath the boat, revealing the schools of fish that swam beneath the azure liquid. The movement of the water rocked the boat slightly and strands of her hair blew across her face.
She reached up to brush them back, making sure they did not block her view of Sollus, and the school. The now-familiar streets she would often walk when she would buy groceries were filled with people. Chattering people, tall people, small people. All kinds of vendors and food and grain. Meara sighed.
She fingered the letter that was pinned to her cloak, the letter Chayise Vearne had entrusted her to give to Onyx. At the time of her own choosing...
But when was the right time?
She sighed again and pulled the cloak tighter around herself. The air was beginning to get cold, and the last thing she wanted was getting sick.
The action made her notice that golden locket that was laced around her wrist, the pendant shining brilliantly in the setting sun. Eternity...
Michael had expected to be with Adara forever...
And so did she...
Meara turned the locket so that the pendant rested on her palm, feeling that same touch on her mind as the one she felt that day she entered Lubomir. She closed her fingers around it, mentally promising to end all this.
And hopefully, leave Michael at peace.
With a grunt, Croise threw all his heavy clothes into his baggage. He took time to rest and wipe his sweat. The day was bright and he felt better. Even if Foine's news was surprising, she had definitely felt better after saying it. He stood straight, taking a native Eastern wear and started folding it. Omedus couldn't help him pack, he was busy with his own.
The door knocked.
"It's open!" Croise called, his cheery voice foreign to him. But his smile had somehow faded when the tall woman came in. "C, cousin..."
Larinya forced an attempt to smile but it looked like a smirk instead, ".....Hello."
Croise wore a wide lip smile. "Come in, Larinya." He decided to take a break from his packing and approached the tea service.
"I won't stay long, I don't know when you'll leave so I thought I'd say goodbye or something," Larinya only took three steps in the room, "So...Good luck"
Croise stopped from his movements, once more. His smile faltered. He had never thought this day would come. He thought they'd be able to be sealed together and return to the East together.
He thought wrong.
"It feels strange..." Croise forced a small smile. "I don't know how it will be...not seeing you in classes and in the hallways as I usually did..." He didn't know what to say. But he knew that his cousin knew that he was definitely saddened. He turned to her with that small smile, still. "I'm not sure when we'll meet, again. So...I want to thank you now." He approached her and wrapped his arms around her. "Thank you for everything, Cousin. Maybe you're asking what you did for me. I, I guess I don't know it, myself...but I know you did something for me. And for that, I'm thanking you..."
Hoof beats thundered through the trees as a golden-colored stallion raced through, trampling on the blades of grass as it ran. The little girl on its back squealed with delight, hanging on to the older girl as she pulled on the reins.
"Whoa there, Yurane. Good boy," Meara ordered as the horse slowed to a trot before stopping near a tree. "This horse likes running, a lot," she added as her hand reached over to pet the horse's neck.
Emie jumped down as soon as the horse went to a complete stop. "I love riding your horse, Miss Florentine!" she squealed.
Meara grinned at her. "Glad to know that. Now if your brother would get himself a horse, you probably would be able to ride as much as you like."
Emie rushed over to Onyx who was watching them. She tugged on his sleeve. "Can we? Can we?"
Onyx bit his lip as he looked amusingly at the girl who was apparently oozing with excitement and innocence.
"Uh...we'll see," he replied.
"Weee!" the girl exclaimed. She ran back to the horse and offered out her hand which the horse sniffed.
"You might as well have said yes," Meara giggled as Yurane sniffed around Emie's shirt. "And better warn her about a horse's appetite."
"Hey! The horse eats little girls! Better move out of its way!" Onyx called out.
"No it doesn't!" Emie called back. She bounced around the horse which made it more and more confused.
Meara reined in her horse to calm it. "I wouldn't do that, Emie. Horses get spooked easily, and Yurane is no exception."
Emie finally calmed down. The horse made one last sniff at her and it settled down to rest.
Onyx whispered to Meara, "Good thing your horse has a big amount of patience,"
"With all the children wanting to touch him back when I was a child? It's no surprise," Meara answered as she dismounted. "Now let's see your riding skills."
Onyx blinked. "M...my riding skills? But I've never ridden a horse before..." he said, trying to escape from it.
"Why do I get the feeling that it's not true?" Meara smiled in mischief as she shoved the reins in his hands.
"Not true?" Onyx echoed, the reins falling on his sides as he didn't made an attempt to catch them.
She raised an eyebrow at him. "Never ridden a horse eh? Come on, I don't believe that."
Onyx looked at one girl to another. Meara was looking at him mischiveously while the younger girl was looking at him with an expectant glitter. He sighed.
"Fine, fine," he said, picking up the reins.
"Yay!" Emie squealed again.
Onyx gripped the reins and tried to associate himself with the horse in hopes that Yurane would remember him enough not to throw him. It has been a long time since he rode a horse that he almost thought that he forgot how to.
The horse grunted softly at the added weight. Onyx positioned himself properly and gave a little wave at the two women.
Meara waved back and whispered to Emie, "All right, he's on the horse."
"Yup! I can't wait to see him out there!" Emie replied gleefully, waving at her half-brother.
Onyx gave the horse a gentle kick and the horse obliged. In a few minutes, the horse galloped gracefully around the vast grassland with Onyx handling it effortlessly.
"And he claims he can't ride," the raven-haired girl smirked.
"My half-brother seems to be a good liar!" Emie declared. And the two women laughed softly.
Onyx calmed down the horse when it neared the tree where it rested a while ago. He mounted and let go of the reins.
"You were so cool out there!" Emie excitedly said.
The other girl nodded. "I would have to agree."
"Thanks," Onyx mumbled.
The rest of the afternoon was spent in fun and chatters, the long-separated siblings talking about their lives since they last saw each other. Each of them wished that the day would never end.
Sadly, it eventually did.
Roummes sighed. "I don't know. The trauma is still on me..." His cold emotion was definitely the opposite of that of the busy town they were walking on.
"Sigma..." Raille knew exactly what her brother was thinking. "...but definitely, that is because we travelled in such a dangerous region, right?"
Raille bit her lip. "I'm sorry." She looked away after the soft apology.
Roummes sighed. "I don't know." He approached a wall and leaned against it. "I'm experiencing something ununderstandable...there's always this guilt in me. I'm older than he is, I should have been there to protect him."
"There's no use thinking about it, Rou." Elle approached her brother. "Things are said and done. We have to move on."
Rou turned sadly to his sister. "I've always trusted your judgement whenever my mind's clouded. What do you think should we do?"
Raille sighed. "Half of me wants to take her along with us. Half of me...doesn't know what to do." Silence had reigned, then she heard a smirk.
Roummes stood straight with a tight lip smile. "Let's have something to eat! Maybe we'd get things over there."
Raille nodded with a smile and jogged along with her brother.
"Two orders of the house special, please!" Raille chimed as she came over to the counter and sat herself. Roummes had something else to do. Cartography business. She saw the door open and waved at her brother. "Rou! Here!"
As soon as Roummes, stepped inside, he was halted and he felt his body freeze. The feeling was different, he felt excited suddenly. The different brainwaves of the people inside the bar, they were all...so...different. Almost everyone of them was a magic user.
Maybe only five were non-magic users.
*Damn it...* Roummes panted, hearing his heart beat. Everything looked blurry, all that mattered were the brainwaves. *W, what's happening to me...?* He wanted to focus on a person. See what his or her magic is and use his magic on him.
But they were all coming to him. One by one, he sensed their magic spells. Only one voice reigned over them all. The voice of someone who had the capability to make her intentions happen.
*NO!* Scared by the thought of hurting his own sister, Roummes stormed out of the place.
"Rou?!" Raille hopped off her chair and rushed behind Roummes.
Roummes leaned heavily on the wall, front first and used it as a support as he panted, face beading with sweat. *W, what was that...? Why is everyone a magic user? Why did--*
Roummes panicked and turned around to see his worried sister.
"Rou..." Raille started. "...are you okay?"
Roummes noticed something with her voice. As if she was about to cry. *The ability to make her intentions happen and completely take over the victim.*
"Elle!" Roummes pulled her close and embraced his sister tightly. "Elle...!"
Raille was confused. But she wrapped her arms around her brother. "Rou...please don't cry...please don't cry..."
"I have devoted myself here ever since the school was established. I am willing to go even further however it seems that fate does not wish this so," Marguerite had sighed, her eyes on her clasped hands.
Arderith placed a hand on the older woman's shoulder, "Headmaster, as I had said, I have a family and a pledge to maintain the library. As much as I'd be honored to impart the sealing cause my life, this cannot be possible."
"Headmaster, be strong for us. Be strong for the students and most of all, for the sealing cause."
Elyzaar, his head up to the skies populated by swerving seagulls, looked back to the awaiting commander that had come with them, "Oh, yes...We will leave by late afternoon to early evening. Perhaps after my students have taken their dinners. All our rations had been loaded, beds and blankets, books, among other necessities. I think my students needed time for their goodbyes."
The red-haired pale commander did not seem to care, but he only bowed his uplifted head, "As you wish."
Elyzaar descended the plank from the ship to the impatiently waiting Ceisyia, "How are the students?"
"Being good boys and girls," Ceisyia's ascending temper had faded, "They are taking their time to say their goodbyes."
Ceisyia sighed, unable to believe things had gone this far. As she did, she noticed a couple approaching them.
Kierlan Casthamor and Celestyn Hearthwell.
Ceisyia's eyes narrowed, noticing Kierlan's injuries.
What on earth had happened to him?
"Good afternoon, Headmaster." Kierlan greeted.
Celestyn stood beside him, waiting for the headmaster to acknowledge them. She was not too happy about letting Kierlan go with her to say goodbye but he had been adamant. She looked at him worriedly and hoped that he would be alright.
"Ah, Celestyn, Kierlan," Elyzaar stood aside as two ship crewmembers hoisted a chest to the plank. He regarded the young prince, "How are your injuries?"
Kierlan managed a grin. "I am recovering quite well, Headmaster, thank you."
Celestyn just regarded the headmaster with solemn dark eyes, not knowing how to begin.
"I will go see what the other teachers are up to." Ceisyia said, giving them privacy.
"Do you wish to talk to me about something?" Elyzaar held his hands together, looking down to Celestyn.
"I just wish to thank you, Headmaster. For everything." Celestyn replied. A half-smile. "I wish you a good life in Sandur." Yes, sometimes words are just not enough.
Kierlan held out his uninjured hand. "Likewise, sir."
Then it only had occurred to him, that that day is the last time he'll ever see those two students of his. Especially Kierlan who was a good companion in many ways. He took the hand and shook it, "You had been brilliant students. I wish you will be able to serve your purpose. And what a vital purpose it would be. Knowing your remarkable talents. Do take care of each other."
Kierlan gripped the headmaster's hand. "You can count on that, Sir. You have taught us well enough."
"Goodbye for now, Sir. And good luck." Celestyn added. "I don't hesitate to say that with you around, the students will be better equipped in facing the trials ahead."
"And I hope we will see each other again" Elyzaar placed his hands over his back, projecting a smile to break the emotions goodbyes are in born with, "And by then hopefully, we would have settled and adjusted...I believe we'll be in good hands. You should be too."
"We will, Sir." Kierlan said grinning.
In good hands...That brought a smile to Celestyn's face. Yes, she was definitely in good hands.
As Celestyn said goodbye to the professors she had had in school, Kierlan did the same with his past professors.
"Without you, I only have one well-behaved student in my class." Goldia said as she regarded the prim and lovely young woman, who had been one of her best students. "It's just as well that Miss Danaeross is also sealed. Take care of yourself, Miss Hearthwell."
"Yes, madame." Celestyn replied politely.
Marguerite looked over Celestyn's shoulder and saw Kierlan approaching them. "You have a fine woman with you, Mister Casthamor. Treat her well."
Kierlan grinned. "I am aware of that. Rest assured, madame, I will. Take care of yourself."
"Have you said goodbye to everyone?" Celestyn asked him.
He chuckled. "All except for one. Ready to face one of our nightmares?" He joked.
Celestyn could not help but laugh. "By all means." She paused thoughtfully. "I did learn a lot from Madame Dalintri."
Kierlan glanced at her wryly. "You mean, about herself?"
Celestyn was still chuckling when she and Kierlan looked up surprised to see Ceisyia Dalintri in front of them.
"Mister Casthamor...Miss Hearthwell..." Ceisyia greeted her head held high.
Kierlan bowed slightly as Celestyn curtsied. "We meet again, Madame Dalintri." Kierlan said dryly.
Ceisyia regarded him haughtily, though she looked like she was trying hard not to smile. "Your Highness, I had high hopes for you. Unfortunately, you did not respond to your inner calling and chose to go off chasing after criminals." At Kierlan's grin, she softened her tone: "Despite your antics, I must say you are one of the people who made my teaching life unforgettable in Sollus. Good luck...in that career of yours..." She said with a sniff. "Perhaps it is better this way, since you will be ruling Allonshire soon. I still think it would be wonderful for Allonshire to have an actor for a Prince..."
"Why, thank you for the words of praise, madame. I wish you luck. May you train the best actors and actresses ever seen on stage." Kierlan drawled.
"I believe I will, Mister Casthamor." Ceisyia informed him confidently before turning to the black-haired woman beside him.
Despite herself, she was not able but smile at Celestyn regretfully. "You have much talent in you, young woman. You would have made an exceptional actress."
"Thank you, Madame Dalintri, but I think I'm destined for a different path." Celestyn replied solemnly.
Ceisyia sighed dramatically. "So it seems. Unlike Mister Casthamor," She gave Kierlan a reprimanding look before turning back to Celestyn. "It is not yet too late for you to change course. If you do, you know where to find me. Good luck, Miss Hearthwell.
As they finished their goodbye's, Kierlan turned when he saw Celestyn wipe at the corners of her eyes.
"Aine?" He asked puzzled.
Celestyn smiled shakily. "Ever since I got here, I seem to be crying forever." She said with a wry smile. "I shall miss them. Everyone." She said quietly.
Kierlan nodded. "I know." He let out a breath. "So will I."
"Emie! Are you alright?!" Dawen exclaimed.
"Yes...Just a little shaken up.." she replied, smiling sheepishly. She was still leaning on Meara with Onyx behind them.
"Here, sit down." Dawen said, hurriedly pulling up the nearest chair.
"I think this job of yours has attracted a few... unsavory customers," Meara commented dryly.
Emie wiped her face with her handkerchief. "I'll be fine..really..." she said. "I don't want to worry you guys. However I do request..."
Dawen nodded. "Anything,"
"Um, it's a little personal. But I need to talk to him privately..if it's alright.." she said referring to Onyx.
"To me? Well, I guess it's okay. I'll be right back." he told to Meara and Dawen.
She nodded and gave Emie a look of concern. "All right then."
"What is it?" Onyx asked.
"That punch you did to the man....it seemed mighty familiar.." Emie began. "If I wouldn't be much of a bother to you, would it be fine if you come along with me to my home?"
"Your home..?" Onyx echoed.
Emie nodded. "I would like you to meet someone. Someone who might be able to help me out and see if my hunch is correct.."
Onyx mutely agreed. "I hope it's okay if I bring Meara along..?"
Emie nodded vigorously. "It's not a problem at all!"
Onyx nodded. "Then I'll go get her,"
"Let me see if I understand," Meara said, puzzled. "We're going to Emily's house because she has some hunch about you?" At his nod, she blinked a few times, then agreed. "All right then."
"Thanks a lot..she seems a weird girl but let's try to understand it.." he said. She nodded.
Onyx went back with Meara. "Okay, let's go,"
"Emie! What happened to you?!"
"Geez, I still look that dirty?"
"Of course you are! And look at your knee! You must have skinned it somewhere!" Chayise exclaimed.
"Well, I'll clean it later. I want you to meet someone,"
Meara found herself being pulled in as she shyly curtsied to the older woman. "Umm... good day, madame."
"This is Meara Florentine. You remember? From the newspaper?"
"Oh yes. It's nice to meet you Lady Florentine. I am Chayise, Emie's aunt. She's always talking about how she wanted to meet you," she said chuckling.
"W-Well, I don't think what I've done is that significant..." the petite girl answered.
Emie smiled then she paused. "And this..."
Onyx stepped inside the house. Chayise gasped.
Onyx attempted to step back when the older woman placed her hands on his face. She looked at him so closely that he felt like she's trying to see his insides.
"Uh..." he mumbled.
"My lady...?" Meara murmured, wondering what was happening. "You know... Onyx...?"
Chayise took Onyx's hands. "Come, I must show you something,"
Onyx reluctantly let the woman drag him completely inside. He sat down beside Meara, completely confused of what's going on.
Chayise hurriedly went up to the stairs while Emie placed two glasses of mild wine on the table. The two thanked her. Chayise went down and presented a very old but preserved painting of a lone boy wandering in front of an enormous house. The two peeked at it.
"Oh my!" Meara cried, running her fingers over the portrait. "He looks like... "
"Is that...?" Onyx stuttered.
"This boy is named Celvhon. He is the son of the husband of my older sister. He impregnated the housemaid. He is an illegitimate child."
"That is so sad..." Meara said, still gazing at it.
"The boy had a very tragic childhood. At such a young age, his mother cruelly revealed to him that he was a product of an indecent affair and therefore an unwanted child. Add to this is her constant torturing at him. Physically and mentally. The boy's mind was filled with confused revelations. And in the end, he was thrown out of the house at the age of nine."
She caressed the little painting carefully. "This picture was made by me. I happened to be there on the day that Celvhon spent his last day at the house,"
She continued. "I cherished the picture upon discovering that the boy was now a wanderer. I vowed that I would find him no matter what and somehow try to restore what was deserving for him."
"In the period that my sister's husband was having an affair, it turned out that she had become unfaithful herself. She and her lover had a baby girl. She is Emie."
Meara let out a gasp of shock, already her mind having a suspicion as to who this woman is.
"The lover fled away upon knowing that he had a child. A coward perhaps. He didn't want to take responsibility for it. And so my sister was actually left with two children. One from her and one from her husband. By this time, my sister was in shambles. She became destitute. And felt utmost misery."
"The next time I met up with her, she was happily married to a man which used to be a customer of hers. At the time being, she worked as a prostitute. That is how she met her new husband. He showered her with gifts and love. She was finally at peace once again. However, the luxury she was given turned her into a greedy and cold-hearted person."
"I found Emie a few years ago. She was a mere child. And a very cunning thief at that." at that, Emie giggled.
Chayise looked straightly at the young man. "Through Emie's story, I was able to piece together the things that happened while I was gone. Emie was also thrown out of the house and well, she became like her half-brother,"
"The poor dear..." Meara gave Emie a look of sympathy. "What happened to Celvhon?"
"Celvhon is still not found. I told Emie everything I knew. And with me, she also set out to find her lost brother. She wishes to be reunited with him and eventually be a happy family with me,"
"In an attempt to melt my sister's heart, I tried to give her this painting. But like I said, she has definitely changed. And therefore, she refused to keep this."
She turned over the image. Onyx's eyes widened.
To my sister Ruby,
May you find happiness always. I give you this painting in hopes that he will lead the way to the softening of your heart. Please guide him when you find him. I will always be here to help you.
"R-Ruby..." Meara's eyes flew to Onyx. "You... you are Celvhon..."
Emie nodded. "Aunt Chayise is Ruby's...my mother's younger sister. Her other son..."
"is you," she said, facing Onyx.
Onyx was too stunned to speak. Finally he blurted out, "But Ruby is not my mother..why does she keep on bugging me still?"
Chayise shook her head. "My sister has perceived that you might be a threat when she inherits her husband's riches. He is, after all, the leading business man in the wine company,"
"You might've met him...his name is Alevor Henfinn,"
"It was all about money.... nothing but her greed..." Meara whispered, not knowing whether to be angry at the woman or to pity her. "She hurts Onyx all for the money..." Her head came up and she looked at Chayise. "But Lord Henfinn... seemed so nice..."
Onyx confusingly continued. "I...I knew Mr. Henfinn. He once invited me at his house. I knew he's the husband of Ruby. But I couldn't understand why he's so nice to me.."
Chayise smiled. "Lord Henfinn's heart is true. Because he is the bestfriend of your father,"
Onyx's mouth went open.
Chayise smiled some more. "As soon as I found out that Celvhon was not living in the house anymore, I informed him about it. Mr. Henfinn treasures your father a lot. He promises to help in the search, also hoping that you be given the happiness that you should've deserved a long time ago. His meeting with Ruby...well, that was an accidental one. He plans to put her in her place when the right time comes. And give his whole business to you. You are the sole inheritor of his wine company. Emie, is also a part of this. She will also receive her own share. Everything will be solved."
Onyx kept quiet most of the time but inside he felt troubled and confused. He couldn't believe that the people connected to him are living so near to him. Then he remembered.
"Our school is being moved to Sandur," he said suddenly. "I'll be going with them,"
Chayise nodded. "I know. I've heard some things about it. It is truly a fortune that I have already met you before you go farther away from us. Oh and before I forget, there is one more thing. Emie, please show it to him."
The young girl nodded. She stood up straight. "This is the girl you and Miss Florentine always see at the pub."
Onyx and Meara nodded.
Emie closed her eyes and was surrounded by a blinding light. The light started to fade but Onyx could definitely see the change.
"No way!" he exclaimed.
A small, cute and definitely younger girl faced them. "And this is the girl that you bumped with during one day in town." she said mischiveously.
"You... you have the power to change your age..." Meara breathed, eyes wide.
Chayise interrupted, "Emie's ability is still unknown and is labelled as a rare one. And since she's still very much young, she doesn't have to enroll to a sealing school for the time being. When the time is right, then I'll send her to you. Until then, I'm happy to take care of her."
Emie gleefully spread out her arms and beckoned Onyx to come. "Big brother! You're supposed to give me a hug!"
"A hug! Come on!" Emie prodded.
"Um...maybe next time.." he mumbled awkwardly, he started towards the door. Meara followed him. Emie followed them outside to play around in the backyard.
Meara turned to the younger girl and gave her a hug. "I'm glad to know you've found your brother, and madame, I admire your resilience," she smiled and got up to leave. "Thank you for your hospitality and kindness."
"Miss Florentine, please wait.." Chayise called out.
The dark-haired girl stopped in mid-step and faced Chayise again.
"I'd like you to give Celvhon this letter. It's from Alevor. Give it when the time is right. It's up to you," she said. "I have a very good feeling that you've been a significant person that changed the dear boy's life. I hope you will continue to support him. Please take care of him." she finished, smiling radiantly.
"A-All right, I will, I promise."
The petite healer closed the door behind her. She tucked the letter on her pocket and started to go where Onyx was. She wanted to call out his name but she was mesmerized by the whole sight.
Onyx held out his arms and Emie, in the verge of crying, went inside and the two fell into a tight embrace.
Dawen nodded at Emie. "You're free for the day, Emily. Enjoy the town for a while."
"Okay! Thanks, Dawen! You're a peach!" she said bolting out of the pub's door.
"A....a peach?" Dawen confusingly spouted out loud.
Meara went ahead of Onyx. "So where do you want to go first?" she asked, smiling.
Onyx thought for a while. "Hmm..maybe to the pier. I have a nice memory of that. And you too." he replied.
Meara nodded, then frowned a little. "That is until she showed up..."
"Well, sceneries don't go nicely usually..." he commented. "But no matter, it's still a good one, don't you think?" he asked heading towards the wooden platform.
"Well... yes, it is," she gave him a smile as she sat down and slipped her shoes from her feet, placing them in the water.
"Hmm..where should I go today?" Emie wondered out loud. She swung her little pouch bag in time of her walking. She was tempted to grab a bite when she felt a tap on her shoulder.
"Hey, pretty lady. Are you waiting for someone?"
Emie's eyes widened. "Um...no. I'm actually alone," the minute she said that, she clamped her hand on her mouth. She knew she made a mistake.
"Sometimes, I have this urge to go here. I don't know why. But it makes me feel at peace. Do you have that place of your own too?"
"I did, back in Dallsborough," Meara giggled to herself. "Believe it or not, I would climb to the rooftop of my house, so that I could watch everything and no one would see me."
"The rooftop? That must be some sight." he said, grinning.
"Let go of me!" she yelled, trying to yank her arm away from the man's grip.
"Come on......don't you want to have fun?"
Emie's face crumpled. "At least I know that I won't have fun with you!" she said forcing to weaken the man's power. Suddenly the man dragged her to a silent place.
"People are getting suspicious, lady. We have a dark and quiet place here to talk," he drawled.
"Talk," she whispered fearfully.
"When we get to Sandur, what's the first thing you want to do?" Onyx asked.
"I don't know..." she murmured, thinking about the possibilities. "I heard it's a snow-covered region, and there's always a lot of things to do with snow."
"Like..perhaps, snowmans?" he joked.
"Why not?" she grinned. "Snow angels, snow forts..."
"Ah...and snowball fights." he finished, smiling.
No words came out of Emie's mouth. She was too shocked and afraid. Much more when the man lifted out a knife from his hands and bending it slightly to make sure that she could see it.
I have to get out of here..but how? She glanced at the exit of the place and searched for the nearest and most possible palce to escape. Boats...the pier..and people! I can ask them to help me! He'll surely be outnumbered!
He grinned to her. "You seemed to have given up, little lady,"
Now the problem is how do I divert the attention of this man...
"You better not be thinking of throwing one in my direction," she warned.
"Hmm...now you've given me an idea," he teased.
"W...well..." Emie started.
"What is it?" the pervert asked.
"I..if you don't mind...I have to freshen up..I've been working for the whole morning. Surely you wouldn't want a sweaty and dirty-looking woman, wouldn't you?"
The man thought for a while. Emie's eyes blinked furiously. Come on...bite it..bite it..
"Fine," he said.
Yes! "Thank you very much. Now where was my brush...oh here it is.."
"A rather big brush eh? You pick strange items, lady?" he mocked.
"Oh yes...very strange..but at least they're useful." she said, while brushing her hair.
"Oh? Like when?"
"Like NOW!" she whipped the brush from her hair and in an instant she hit it straight towards the man's knee. The man howled in pain. To be sure, Emie gave a hard kick on the man's stomach. He doubled over and helplessly sat down to regain his strength.
"Come back here, you wretch!" he yelled.
"In your dreams, you sick guy!" she yelled, running out as fast as she could.
Onyx turned around. "Someone's making a scene..."
"Please! Please! Help me! A man is after me!"
Meara gasped as she pulled her feet from the water, recognizing the girl. "Emily!"
"The girl from the pub." Onyx recognized. He turned abrubtly and found a man with a knife that's heading directly to their direction. Onyx stepped forward.
"What do you want?" he asked.
"Get out of my way! That's my woman!"
"Your woman? Don't you think she's a little too young for you?"
"Why do you care? Get away now! If you don't want to get hurt!" he yelled. In an one hit, the man lost his consciousness as Onyx gave a hard punch in the same spot that Emie kicked him.
"T...thank you very much..." Emie whispered.
"Emily!" Meara ran over as soon as her shoes were on. "Are you all right?"
"M..Miss Florentine? Miss Florentine!!!" she exclaimed embracing her tightly. "I was so scared..so scared...he had a knife, you see. And no one was around.." the words flowed continuously.
Meara held the frightened girl. "It's all right, it's all right now. Onyx took care of it for you."
Onyx faced the two women. "Let's go somewhere. Before this freak wakes up. And maybe you can tell us the details in case he makes another commotion."
"Y..yes..of course," Emie said, looking closely at the young man who became more familiar to her now.
Zack nodded as he and his cousin's close friend stood at the steps of the school, grinning at her non-stop chattering about Celestyn's likes and dislikes. He watched as Meara gestured with her hands, every now and then wrinkling her brow to see if she missed anything.
"She loves to be around books, and writing," she was saying. "Celestyn can't really cook well, only enough for it to be edible, but-"
"Not quite tasty, I noticed," he smirked.
"Stop laughing at your cousin!" Meara reprimanded before resuming to her thinking. "Oh! And she also has this way of becoming cold and calm when you annoy her, but hits back quite well when it comes to words."
"Tell me about it..."
"Celestyn can be generous to a fault, even to the point of sacrificing her relationship with other people just to protect them. I had to constantly remind her that I was going to stand by her through thick or thin. So make sure she doesn't do that again, ok?"
"Hey! I'm family, so even if she pushes me away, I'm still connected to her!"
"Good!" Meara emphasized with a nod of her head, before putting her finger to her lips again. "Was there anything I missed...?"
A tap from the shoulder made her turn around and found herself facing a very amused young man.
"You've been quite talkative these days, haven't you?" Onyx asked, smiling.
Zack raised an eyebrow. "So this is the famous Onyx Dremischee I've been hearing about," he grinned, extending his hand. "Zachary Farnham, cousin of Celestyn. It's good to meet you. I've heard about your... skills at making this young one here all a-flutter."
Meara felt her cheeks heat as she cried, "Zack!"
Onyx returned the handshake. "I guess there's no need to introduce myself. I doubt the 'famous' part though. And yes, I seem to have acquired the skill you're talking about," he said playing along with the other man's joke.
She stood there between the men, coloring a little bit more.
"Well, I'm glad my cousin thinks she's leaving her friend in good hands. And I couldn't agree more," Zack replied as he ruffled Meara's hair again. "Don't you have anywhere else to go?"
Sticking her tongue out at him, Meara pushed back the wayward strands. "I will eventually if you don't stop treating me like a child."
"Oh she is a child. She treats me like a sob-pillow most of the time. Very cute, I tell you," Onyx teased along.
A scowl litted over her pretty face, but grinned afterwards as a feeling of endearment washed over her. Meara turned back to Zack. "One more thing you have to know about Celestyn."
"What?" Zack reeled back as the girl who was nearly half his size pointed a finger to his nose. Charming and fiery, he thought to himself, grinning.
Meara gave him a warning look with her eyes, while grinning in amusement. "She's a matchmaker. So if you want to get somewhere with Ariadne..."
"H-Hey! What does this have to do with me?!"
"Nothing!" Meara straightened, her smile almost angelic.
"You're as bad as my cousin..."
Onyx chuckled at Meara's statement. "Well, you know what they say, 'birds of the same feather'..." he wasn't able to continue because Meara went pouting at him. He laughed.
"But I didn't know. That you seem to have a good lady too, Farnham." he remarked.
Meara scowled again. "No wonder Kierlan calls you the 'lord of the dense'."
Onyx felt very amused and relaxed with the whole conversation. It's not everyday that I get to have this.. he thought, while watching Meara 'interrogate' the clueless Zack.
"So, are you going somewhere today?" he asked out loud.
Meara turned to Onyx and shook her head. "I've just had lunch at Kierlan's home, and I have finished packing."
"I better get back to the Casthamor place before Kierlan has my hide for making his 'little sister' talk too much," Zack snickered. "I'll leave her in your capable hands, Dremischee."
Onyx raised an eyebrow. "Oh...you might be scolded. Casthamor tends to go suspicious of everything.." he said, emphasizing the last part. The two men laughed as if sharing a private joke.
"Come, little sister, let's yonder off. I'd like to have your company for the afternoon," he invited extending a hand.
"We'll see you soon," Zack called as she left with him.
"Take good care of Celestyn!"
"You can count on it!"
"And stop being dense! Don't want to make Ariadne wait too long!" Meara couldn't resist adding. She laughed as his sputtering response indicated his surprise and to avoid another retort, she prodded Onyx to go a little faster as she began to run.
Onyx ran along with her. "What was that all about? Is he having some problem with the woman you're talking about?"
Meara giggled as they both came to a stop. "N-No, he's just a little slow in making headway with her when it's so obvious that they like each other."
Onyx's eyes widened. "Why do I feel like I've heard that situation from around here before...?" he teased.
"W-Well!" she felt all the blood rush to her face again, but with the way he was looking at her, she couldn't tear her gaze from him.
Onyx chuckled. "Farnham is right. I do have that skill he's talking about!"
The young man gave a small laugh once again. "Come on..let's stroll around the town. For the last time," he added.
Larinya, who was actually observing Meara although she looked asleep on her bed (and unwakable), raised an eyebrow on the petite girl, "Where are you going?"
Meara looked up from packing her things and answered. "I'm going to go see Celestyn and Kierlan. Hopefully they're both all right."
"Celestyn?" Larinya, sat up from her bed and then wanted to choke herself for unadvertedly saying that, "......Is it going to be a private personal one?"
The smaller girl shook her head as she secured one of her bags. "I don't believe so. I haven't told them that I'm going to see them. Why, would you like to come along?"
The image that projected in Larinya's mind, of Meara happily telling Kierlan that she had come to visit them too...
"Just something I kept on forgetting to tell Celestyn. I might not be able to tell her." Regardless of Larinya is sealed or not.
Meara nodded, smiling softly as she rose to her feet. "Very well, then," she opened the door and let Larinya through first. "So, you have been sealed... I'm happy for you."
"Tha...nks," Larinya stood up, sentimentally looking back at her bed which she would not see for long maybe, "How do you feel about...the whole move?" She waited for Meara to leave so the gigantic girl could close it. Larinya thought Meara looked like a doll up close.
"A little nervous. It's a big change," she answered as soon as they began walking. "But then, so many things have been changing recently..."
"Well that much is true," Larinya's thumbs inserted themselves behind her thick belt, "It sounded like you're going far away...and be alienated the more. I fear for the time that the government will forget about you. Knowing you have most of the people in the school with you though, well, I hope things will work out. But you would have less of the discrimination. That is sure."
Meara nodded, hearing her own thoughts being echoed. "I'm no stranger to discrimination nor threats, so the reduction of that is a welcome change. As for being forgotten... I really don't mind that... as long as we are not left to deal with things on our own..."
"It sounds to me that they're still hostile to magic users. That what only 'ol Falkswain did was to make a gap. But thanks to his call of peace, he provided an antidote for the sanity of the world. The assemblage badly needs representation from magic users," Larinya mused.
"I would agree, but don't you think many of the leaders would also have grudges against magic users? Even if we were to be represented, I don't think they would heed the cries."
"Yeah but there's someone to argue their point. They're not just going to curse on a blank wall. Something will eventually be done." Larinya realized she was talking about politics then, "Maybe if I really have nothing to do or if I miss fighting too much, I'll try to intervene in the assemblage or something."
Meara smiled at her companion as Kierlan's home came into view. "If you do, I'm sure you'll do a fine job." They soon approached the now-familiar house that was modest for a man of Kierlan's stature, yet expressed elegance. The small Casthamor seal slowly came into view, and before long Meara was knocking on the door.
Larinya paused from her tracks, thus lagging behind, "....Is he constructing his own castle here?"
After a while, the door was opened by Ariadne, who gave a ready smile to Meara then looked at Larinya with a mixture of friendliness and curiosity.
Larinya was terrified. There were more people inside?
The petite girl returned the smile. "Good day, Ariadne. I certainly hope Kierlan and Celestyn are up to visitors. This is Larinya Danaeross, a classmate of ours who was sealed last night."
Ariadne smiled at Larinya brightly as she let them in. "Hello Lady Danaeross. Excuse me for one moment. I'll have to tell Celestyn." And with that she rushed up the stairs, leaving Meara and Larinya in the cozy and elegant receiving room.
Meara leaned on one of the chairs, taking in the elegance of the room as another familiar face came in. "Lord Farnham," she greeted, smiling, then sobering. "Has something happened?"
"I'll let Celestyn tell you herself, Lady Florentine," he answered, then nodding at Larinya. "Good day, Lady Danaeross."
Why is it that I see this man all the time? Larinya started being suspicious of the man. What if he was a spy or any of that make?
"I have something to tell Celestyn. I really did not predict that this would be a Headquarters of some sort."
Zack grinned at the suspicious look in Larinya's face, and bowed. "You really have no need to say that. I have been a longtime friend of Kierlan since boyhood, and thought I should stay here after his... test last night."
Larinya's eyes enlarged, "He also had a test?"
Meara rose in her shock. "How is he?"
Zack tried to calm both women. "He's fine. I'm not exactly happy with how the test went, but he's fine."
"Why in all horse remains is everyone taking a test??" Larinya was unable to hide her emotions in that one.
"Because he's sealed, my lady," he answered, motioning for them to sit. "Kierlan still has a lot to do in Sollus and he can't afford to leave here as of now. The announcement of the assemblage has greatly inconvenienced him," he looked at Meara, "especially you and those still in the school."
Celestyn came down that moment, along with Ariadne.
"Meara!" She smiled, looking pleased and surprised seeing her friend there. "How did you know I was here?"
Celestyn turned and she looked even more surprised to see the woman standing beside Meara. "Hello Larinya." She said politely.
"I had a hunch," Meara grinned. "How is Kierlan?"
"He could be better." Celestyn answered wryly. "But he's doing better now." Then with the help of Zack, they told Meara and Larinya what had taken place that night.
...Isn't it too odd that Kierlan and Celestyn are sealed at the same time? Larinya crossed her arms, finding herself in a plan of some sort while Celestyn related.
And definitely too odd that Celestyn should see me here...
And definitely TOO ODD that I should be here.
Meara's eyes had widened, knowing that it took Kierlan a lot of his strength just to keep up their plan of making everyone think they were sealed. "I can't believe the Headmaster agreed to that!"
"I second that," Zack muttered, still slightly miffed.
"It is over and done with, cousin." Celestyn pacified him. Since Kierlan was still resting upstairs, she gestured for the others to take their seats. "We have much to tell you."
"It's very good news, Meara!" Ariadne said excitedly.
"C-Cousins?!" the small girl managed to say across her surprise. "You're cousins???"
Zack laughed. "We sure are. My mother turns out to be Celestyn's aunt."
Larinya snapped, "And what's next?"
Celestyn smiled inwardly at that. "We shall have to see what then."
She looked at the clock and stood up. "Please excuse me while I go check on Kierlan."
With the graceful rustling of skirts, she walked away to leave them in Zack and Ariadne's presence for a while.
Not wanting to stay there a minute long, Larinya walked after Celestyn, "Wait, sorry if I have to be sudden. This won't be a while."
Celestyn paused and looked at Larinya. "Yes?"
"I met this man, in the artists lounge," Larinya started, "He's very interested in looking for you. Adamantly interested."
Celestyn looked surprised. "Interested in looking for me?"
"His name is Ivarus. I thought you two looked alike," Larinya shrugged, "He's good in fighting. He wanted me to help him meet you, but...I'd rather you decide for yourself. I shouldn't get involved in situations like this. You might see him in the artists' lounge. I have a feeling he won't leave Sollus unless he meets you. That's all I know. And now I think I have to go."
"Very well. I'll see you, Larinya." Celestyn said politely, though she still looked a bit confused.
Ariadne's eyes had widened at Ivarus' name. The man who had saved her... What could he want with Celestyn?
Ivarus? Zack frowned as he heard the name. Exchanging looks with Ariadne, he shrugged.
"Do take care," Meara called as Larinya left, following Celestyn into Kierlan's room where she hardly restrained a cry of shock at his injuries. "What have you gotten yourself into?!"
Kierlan grinned at Meara. "Hello Meara. It's nice to see you too."
She frowned. "Do tell me how you can jest in that condition!" she scolded him.
Zack guffawed at the scene. "Kierlan, I think you just got yourself a 'little sister'."
Kierlan chuckled. "It seems I have." Then he sobered. "It's unfortunate you would have to leave us soon. But it would be best for you. You'll be more at peace when you find your parents."
Celestyn just stood there, surprised at the wave of sadness that hit her. She did not even know the right words to say to someone who had become so dear to her in a short span of time. She managed a smile for Meara, who looked to be in the verge of tears.
Ariadne watched the unfolding scene, feeling like an intruder. Seeing this, Zack placed a hand on her shoulder and gave a squeeze, hoping to make her feel better.
Meara swallowed the prickly feeling in her throat and managed a watery smile. "I will be fine, I just wish... it's for the best that y-you stay... I just..." her words were soon swallowed up in her sobbing.
Ariadne felt own tears at the corners of her eyes seeing Meara. All of them...They are good friends...They are very lucky people.
"Now that we are sealed, there will be better means of communication, Meara." Kierlan told her with a wink, though he himself felt a sense of loss. "Thank you. For everything you've done for us."
"I agree with Kierlan." Celestyn said with a soft smile. "You've done so much for us, Meara."
"Y-You've done more for me than you'll both ever know..." she hastily wiped at her eyes, embarassed at her display of emotions. "You will write to me, both of you...?"
Celestyn and Kierlan looked at each other with sly smiles. "More than that, probably."
Ariadne spoke then, trying to brighten up the situation. "They mean...Don't be surprised if one of them appears at your bedside without warning."
Zack burst into laughter. "Just don't scare the living daylights out of the poor girl. The last thing she wants is a shock."
Meara gave him a mock-glare. "Still treating me like a child?"
His large hand ruffled her hair. "You're my friend's 'little sister', so yes."
"We'll always be there when you need us, Meara." Kierlan assured her with a smile. "I doubt we need to. You have many people who would be watching out for you there. One in particular."
"Someone tall, dark, handsome...and a decided partiality for a black-haired and green-eyed healer who has a tendency to blush..." Celestyn couldn't resist adding, though there were tears threatening to fall.
"Since I still don't know who he is, I might just appear at your bedside one day to make you tell me all about him." Ariadne joked.
"I should find out myself one of these days who this person is," Zack smirked.
"You guys..." Meara reached over to give Celestyn and Ariadne hugs. "I'm really going to miss you all..."
Celestyn hugged her back. "Likewise."
Ariadne smiled. "Me too."
"What about me?" Kierlan spoke from the bed.
"And me?" Zack joked.
"Come here, 'big brothers'!" Meara giggled as she tried to put her arms around both larger men. "Thank you, thank you for everything..."
Kierlan hugged her back with his good arm. "I should be the one thanking you. We'll be there when you need us, we promise."
"And you're never one to go back on your word. I know you will," Meara answered, releasing both him and Zack. "If you need a place to get away from Raegan, my home in Dallsborough will be there. It's not much but..."
"Ahh, knowing his highness here, he'd make sure someone would fix it all up as soon as this is is all over," Zack snickered at Kierlan's scowl.
Meara looked at Zack with questions in her eyes. What did he mean?
Kierlan smiled mysteriously. "You'll see."
"Meara, would you like to help me prepare for lunch? I think we should spend the whole day together." Celestyn said with a smile.
"Zack and I will stay here to watch Kierlan, Celestyn." Ariadne assured her, understanding the best friends' need for a private farewell.
"All right," Meara took another look at Kierlan's bandages. "I am sorely tempted to use my powers on you."
"I am fine." Kierlan assured her. He turned to Celestyn with a wink. "I had a good nurse."
Celestyn laughed. "Orders anyone?"
"Anything Meara would prepare." Ariadne answered with a grin.
Kierlan laughed. "Yes. Anything Meara would prepare." He chuckled when Celestyn made a face at him.
"I wouldn't know how good a cook she is, so just bring me anything," Zack pretended to be indifferent, which gave him a soft punch from Ariadne. "Kidding," he grinned.
Meara found herself rolling her eyes as she followed her friend into the kitchen.
Once they arrived there, Celestyn faced her friend. "This is a false errand." She admitted with a soft, somewhat sheepish smile. "Wait, I mean I do intend to prepare lunch for them..." She took a deep breath, not knowing how to begin.
There were times that words are not enough...
"So... what is this about other than lunch?" Meara asked.
In response, Celestyn merely unclasped her firestone necklace.
"W-What are you doing?" Meara asked in hushed tones. "You're not sealed, they only think you are! Your father-"
Ignoring that, Celestyn put the necklace carefully on a table and extended her hand towards it.
A blue ball of flame began to form on her palm.
"C-Celestyn?" she gazed at the blue flame before her, wondering just what was happening. "What is this?"
"This is why it is called firestone, Meara. Only fire can truly do something to it. Nothing else could break it apart." Celestyn said quietly.
Like a bolt of lightning, a blue spark struck the stone, splitting it gracefully into two.
"You've..." Meara's green eyes were wide. "You've split it..."
Celestyn chuckled. "Yes." She wore her necklace and took the half of the firestone in her slender hand. Wordlessly, she handed it to Meara.
The smaller girl's eyes filled with tears again as she reached over to take the stone in her hands. "Celestyn, thank you... I'll treasure it..."
But what did it mean?
"It would protect you." Celestyn said simply, seeing the question in her eyes. "Just wear it for all times. I can't be there with you all the time, but at least, I will feel less anxious knowing you have half of my firestone with you."
"But... that would mean-" Meara reeled back. "Half of your protection from your father! Celestyn, you-"
"That's what friends do, don't they? Sacrifice?" Celestyn smiled, though not denying what Meara just said. "I did not know what friendship was all about at first but I am sure now. You taught me."
Meara gripped the stone tightly. "Celestyn, take care of yourself or I will never forgive myself for accepting this..."
"I will." Celestyn felt that coldness once again. She somehow had the feeling it would be a long, long time before she could see Meara again. "Take care of yourself, Meara." She hugged her friend again. "Froduit nelan, muirel." Blessed be, sister.
"Froduit nelan, muirel," Meara returned the embrace. "Thank you for everything..."
Is it morning already?
Onyx turned gingerly at the other side. Sunlight slowly poured outside and the window reflected its shine in the room. The entire place glared brightly. The dark-haired man placed a hand on his eyes in an attempt to shade his sight.
He sat up slowly and scanned the room for Croise. "He must've gone out already..? Did he even come here last night?" he asked out loud.
He quickly changed his clothes and stared at the bag handle peeking from the closet. Soon he would have to move again.
Just when I was getting used to it...
A knock brought him back to reality.
Meara peeked inside slowly, smiling a little when she saw that he was awake. "I think it's time for breakfast," she murmured.
Onyx smiled back. "Okay, I'll be out in a while. Just let me fix my bed,"
Meara nodded as she closed the door, taking a few steps to the middle of the hallway. She was going to miss this place, where so many events had changed her life. She saw the doorway leading to the garden, remembering the time when Sigma nearly lost control of his magic, insisting that she refrain from touching him.
Then there was the news that Larinya, Celestyn and Kierlan were sealed. She knew better about Celestyn and Kierlan, but her roommate...
A thought just came to her that filled her with sadness. If Celestyn and Kierlan are thought to be sealed, does this mean they won't be going to Sandur?
Meara felt like she was losing another friend, but it was for the best. Celestyn would be safer in Sollus than in Sandur.
Onyx opened the door and glanced at Meara who was lost in her thoughts. He raised a hand in front of her face. She blinked.
"What are you thinking about?" he asked.
Meara let out a small breath as she leaned against the wall, fingering the ribbon in her hair. "All these changes, it's all happening so quickly... I don't think Celestyn and Kierlan, now that they are sealed, are going to Sandur with us..."
"I know...it's happening quickly that it's too confusing already. I don't even know who's speaking the truth and which are simply lies. I don't know who to trust. I don't know where to go. Especially now." he started to walk across the hallway, with Meara following him close behind.
"What makes you think that Casthamor and the others won't be joining us anymore? I mean, even even if they're already sealed, would they have places to return to? I have a feeling that the fat guy won't be letting them off that easily.."
"I don't know if they have anywhere else to go, but I wouldn't blame Kierlan for keeping an eye on the Captain..." Meara stopped short as her green eyes saw the very person she was talking about.
And he was fuming.
"I hope I'm not interrupting anything," he mocked. "If you think I've forgotten about you, Florentine woman, then you're going on the wrong path. You're not yet free."
"Free from what, Captain?" Meara said as calmly as she could. Her hands shook as she felt the evil presence in this man, and resisted the urge to reach over and hold on to Onyx's sleeve.
I'm not a child anymore...
But I'm scared...
"Oh....I see. The old trick, eh? Playing innocent, are we? It suits you, little woman. It suits you well." Siraak commented, smirking at her.
Onyx edged toward the captain. "Look, we're in a hurry now, so if you don't mind, save your bully plans later,"
Siraak was taken aback. "Another bitter tongue. Why does everyone dislike me? I do notice, however, you're quiet like the prince. I like that. And oh...how will I forget. Both are defending their beloved. How nice..." he remarked stressing the last part. He paused.
"...How sickening," he finished.
Onyx ignored the stout captain and took Meara's hand. He gently pulled her along and ignored Siraak when they went past him.
"If I were you, Florentine, I would run away. Far, far from here. Because that's all you can do. And wherever you will go, I will hunt you down. Simply because you were there. It's not your fault, though. You were just there. So you're involved here as well,"
Meara couldn't stop her shaking then and gripped Onyx's hand tightly. "All because I was there... all because I was her friend... you really are a heartless, pompous one..."
"No,little lady. I'm merely a man who is doing his job. But I admit, I'm enjoying this particular one." he called out.
"Let's go," Onyx said abruptly, completely dragging himself and Meara away from the captain.
Meara let out a soft sound of surprise when Onyx drew her into his arms to stop her shaking. She squeezed her eyes shut, fighting against the tears of rage and fright. "Celestyn... He's going to try to hurt her... I just know it... Onyx... I'm scared... he frightens me..."
"I know, I know.." he whispered, trying to comfort her. "We're not going to run away. If you're involved, then I'll involve myself too. We're going to fight him if that's what it takes." He loosened his hold on her, smiling.
"Let's go. After breakfast, we'll pack our things and go to Sandur. We'll have a fresh start. And hopefully get rid of the things that bother us here,"
Meara nodded as she used the back of her hand to wipe at her eyes. The realization came to her that the moment she steps into Sandur...
Onyx will be the only one she has...
It made her reluctant to move away from him, thoughts of Ruby making bile rise to her throat again.
Walking side by side, Onyx thought of things. Once I move from here, I won't be near Ruby anymore. She might follow me. But until then...
She will be the only one I have..
Kierlan gritted his teeth at the pain in his ribs and his wounds as Zack helped him down from Mischa.
He frowned when he saw Celestyn advanced to help him and he looked at Zack. "Take most of my weight." He muttered.
Celestyn felt like kicking him. Though she was able to resist that, she wasn't able to stop herself from glaring at him and determinedly helped Zack assist Kierlan in approaching his home.
Zack smirked as he let Kierlan lean on him. "You should know Celestyn better than I would, Kierlan. Even when you tell her not to help, she will," he gave Celestyn a knowing smile and winked.
The door opened before anyone knocked on it and Josiah and Ariadne's worried faces were revealed. "Kierlan!" Ariadne cried.
"Let us go inside and do something about those." Josiah said grimly.
Somehow, Celestyn knew that Josiah had already predicted what had happened. She could not find herself getting angry at him. Their eyes met and they shared a smile. She could not explain why but it seemed to lift her spirits.
Zack helped Kierlan to a seat as Josiah began to tend to his injuries, his hazel eyes meeting Ariadne's worried ones. "He's fine, there's no need to worry, Ariadne, Celestyn," he said with a smile. "He just got himself into a scuffle with an illusion."
Ariadne's eyes widened. "An illusion?" Her distressed eyes moved over Kierlan's bloodied body. "But why are his wounds still there?"
"Hush Ariadne. We have to do something about Kierlan's condition now. Zack, help me bring Kierlan to his room." Josiah smiled at Celestyn. "Come along, child."
Celestyn nodded. Child. It gave her a warm feeling, hearing that. She felt...cared for. Despite Kierlan's protests, she helped him make his way to his room.
"It's not as bad as it looks." He told her, with one of his grins.
"Yeah. Right, your majesty," Zack shot back as Kierlan was led to his room. "Next time you make us all worry like that, I'll personally give you a good whipping."
Finally, they were able to get Kierlan in his bed. "We have to get off his clothes." Josiah said quietly as he saw Kierlan's bloodied clothing.
Celestyn was not able to hear that well and she just stood there, biting her lip, wondering what she could do. All her medicines were with Lothiara..She could hardly go back to school now...
"I suggest you turn around," Zack's amused voice came to her. "Don't think he'd appreciate being stared at while he's bare."
Celestyn's stunned gaze flew to her cousin, then to Kierlan who was laughing. Instantly, she turned around, knowing that for one of the few times in her life, there was a slight flush in her cheeks.
He laughed along with Kierlan as Josiah dressed his wounds and helped him into clean clothing. "Better let her know if it's safe to look."
"Zack, hope to fates this doesn't happen to you for I'll be ready to tell Ariadne the same." Celestyn said sweetly.
Kierlan laughed. "Aine, stop. It hurts for me to laugh." But he was grinning.
Zack pretended to be struck by lightning. "Your words sting greatly, cousin," he grinned.
Kierlan sat up and that movement cost him. "Cousins?" He looked at Zack and Celestyn.
Josiah chuckled, unsurprised. "It appears, the three of you have a great deal to talk about. I'll go see what's keeping my granddaughter."
"Are you decent now?" Celestyn asked with a grin.
"Yes, he is. Now, shall we tell him of our discovery, Celestyn?"
Celestyn nodded. "I give you the honor then." She sat down by Kierlan's bedside. "But I think we should wait for Ariadne to~"
At that moment the door was thrown open and Ariadne burst in, almost knocking Zack down in her haste.
"Hey, hey! Settle down!" he said as he steadied the red-haired woman. "The Prince is fine, and I suggest you sit down. Celestyn and I have some news and I want you to hear it."
"Since when has she ever settled down?" Josiah spoke with an affectionate grin. "By all means, share your news, Zachary."
Ariadne's amethyst eyes sparkled as she looked at Zack's wide grin.
He took a deep breath and began. "As you all know, I've been searching for my mother for years, knowing nothing about her. My father had never breathed a single word about the woman who gave me life, insisting that she was dead. Not a clue, nothing but this ring," he looked at it and smiled. "Clues started to come in the moment I met Celestyn. The ring was made up of black firestone, which is rarely found even in the Sacred Keep. Kierlan and I then thought of the possibility that my mother was a hearth-woman.
"What my father did not know was that my mother had somehow given me a link to her, by inscribing on this ring, around the falcon, the very words that she often spoke to Celestyn." Zack gave his cousin a fond smile. "Ariadne, everyone, I know who my mother is."
"She is Kalare. My aunt." Celestyn smiled at the delighted look in Ariadne's face and the sight of Josiah's pleased smile. She looked at Kierlan. "Zack and I are cousins."
Kierlan grinned at both of them. "Things do have a way of sorting themselves out." He drew Celestyn to him and kissed her forehead. "I am happy for you, Aine. I don't think lord of the dense here deserves someone as special as you for a cousin but he does have his moments." He said with a wink.
In her frenzied delight, Ariadne rushed to Celestyn and impulsively hugged her. "I am so happy for you!" She smiled sheepishly when Kierlan groaned when she bumped against his shoulder before hopping over to Zack. Then she stopped.
"Um..." She did not know what to do. Shake his hand? What?
Zack had been scowling at Kierlan for the "lord of the dense" comment, but turned to grin at Ariadne as he held out his arms. "You're not going to congratulate me?"
Ariadne didn't hesitate. She gave him a great, big hug. "I'm really happy for you, Zack."
Celestyn, Kierlan and Josiah shared a knowing smile.
Zack gave Ariadne an affectionate squeeze before catching the look on their faces. "What?"
"You tell us." Kierlan drawled. He winced as he felt the throbbing pain on his shoulder. Reluctantly, he withrew his arm from Celestyn.
Since there was a prickly feeling at the corner of her eye, Celestyn welcome the distraction and turned to Kierlan with a frown. "What if I keep leaning on you now? You knew all the while you were going to be tested but you still left without a word to me! I feared for you, Kierlan! You can never imagine how I felt when I saw you there~"
Kierlan sat up, as if he had just realized something. He looked at Zack. "Didn't I tell you not to let her leave the school grounds?"
Zack sighed. "Stubborn one, that she is. The moment that falcon alerted us, I told her to stay, but she ran after me despite it." He gave his cousin a pointed glance. "I will have to watch you more."
"You can leave that to me." Kierlan said with a grin. He looked at Ariadne meaningfully. "You have enough in your hands."
Josiah chuckled softly. "Now I see you are indeed recovering, Kierlan. Now if you young people would excuse me, I would like to rest."
Even as Josiah left, Ariadne's cheeks were still pink.
Taking pity on her, Kierlan resisted the urge to chuckle. He saw the hurt and fear in Celestyn's eyes and he looked at Zack, telling him with his eyes to give them privacy for a while.
"Come on, Ariadne. I think our Prince needs his rest," Zack took her by the elbow. "Don't tire him, Cousin."
"As long as you don't tire Ariadne, cousin." Celestyn retorted instantly.
"She's not the one who had a magical bolt to his shoulder."
"And Kierlan's not with a dense one! I say we are even!" Celestyn fired back.
Zack frowned at that and was about to respond when Ariadne's laughter made his attention turn to the woman by his side.
"You will not win that argument, Zack. Let us go before you have to concede defeat." Ariadne said brightly, closing the door softly behind them as they left. "It's amazing. You've only known each other as kin for one night but it seems you have been cousins forever." She said wistfully.
"In a sense, we have been," he answered, smiling ruefully. "I have to admit it was quite a shock, although now... there's the question why my father left her."
"We will find out in good time. Celestyn will answer your questions soon enough." Ariadne assured him quietly.
Inside the room, Kierlan took Celestyn's slender hand in his. "Aine..."
Though hurt, Celestyn made herself meet his dark gaze. "Kierlan...You knew what was going to happen to you earlier, yet you said nothing to me. Didn't you feel that I had the right to know?"
Kierlan's intense eyes bored into hers. "I understand, Aine, but though I recognize your right, I want to tell you that even if i were to turn back time, I would still not tell you."
Before she could pull away, he held her fast. He had to explain to her now. He could already feel the pain and the weariness sinking in. But he would be damned before he would let her build another wall between them when he had just torn down the barriers.
"Celestyn, don't you understand? I love you. I don't want to go through the test having you suffer more than I do, just by seeing me in pain." He took hold of both her arms and he smiled. "I know you. If you had known, you would have stayed with me. I vowed to protect you, Celestyn. And I don't intend to break that vow."
Her fist clenched at her sides and she was surprised to realize she was shivering. "It's just..." The damn tears were threatening to flow again.
Seeing them, Kierlan drew her against him. "Aine...Stop..." He pleaded. She did not and as a tear fell down, he changed tactic. "Think about the sheets. You don't want to drench them with your tears, do you? I might end up with more than a battered body in the morning. Ever heard that sleeping in wet sheets can cause a cold?" He teased.
For a long while, she just looked at him stunned then she smiled and shook her head. "No. I wouldn't want that."
He grinned. "I knew you wouldn't."
Celestyn smiled. "Just rest, please?"
"As you wish, soon-to-be Princess of Allonshire." He drawled
Moments later, he was fast asleep.
Celestyn leaned forward to smooth back black strands of hair from his forehead and sat back to watch him sleep.
She smiled softly. She could have lost him that night. It had been an illusion...But the fear for him was still there...
She felt that if she were to leave his side for one moment, she would wake up and realize that he had...
Celestyn shook her head, not willing to think about what could have happened.
Princess of Allonshire...How strange that those words alone eased her fears. Celestyn gazed at Kierlan's sleeping handsome face.
And there it was again. The feeling of fear and happiness at the same time.
So this was love.
"Maybe...I thought it all went in so fast..."
"We all do." Omedus responded, drinking his tea. "We never expected this to happen."
Croise sighed and sank into a lower curl. "I'm worried...about Foine."
Omedus sighed with a small smile and held Croise's chin lifting it. "You know she would be fine, Croise. She's in perfect hands, surrounded by people who support her." He moved closer to the boy. "Now let me see your hand."
Croise nodded and faced his bruised palm upward.
Omedus studied it. "This should be gone soon." He held Croise's hand and felt it was cold. Then he turned it over to see hints of blue on his nails. "Croise..."
Croise laughed a short one. "I've probably been too worried, these days..."
"Surely, you are." Omedus turned to Croise, finally noticing the red blushes on his cheeks. It was surely not due to his emotions, but his health. "Have you been sleeping and eating properly?"
"Eating, yes. Sleeping..." Croise trailed off, bowing his head.
Omedus sighed. "Get some sleep. I'll take you to your room." He stood up and helped Croise up, as well, supporting him towards the door, up until the entrance of the school. There, they had met someone who told them Croise was being called to the headmaster's office.
"I'll be fine, Omedus." Croise smiled a small one. "Thank you very much..."
Worriedly, Omedus watched the boy walk with the stranger.
*Mrs. Calligraphy said this was the room.* Croise slowed down in front of a room by the dead end. He sighed and looked up, getting drowsy and tired. He was sure he was coming down to an illness and had better sleep soon. But he hadn't fixed his things, yet.
And there was Foine to visit.
Croise heard a soft noise from behind and turned to see Foine's parents and brother with Arderith. He gave a tired smile and nodded to all of them. "Good evening..."
Arderith gave a pleasant smile. "I'm sorry to have made you wait, Croise."
Croise shook his head. "It's okay. I just came..." He stepped aside and watched Arderith with the keys. She inserted it into the keyhole and twisted it open, making way into the dim room. Croise gulped at the scenery he imagined.
But he thought wrong when he entered.
He saw that the room was neat and fixed besides the bed. On it was Foine, arms wrapped around her legs and watching the night sky. She saw movement and turned to see who was coming. "Mrs. Calligraphy..."
"Good evening, Foine." Arderith worm her warm smile, once more, walking towards the girl. "Your family is here to visit you." She turned to them and saw that they were all coming inside. "And so is Croise..."
Foine wore a small smile. "Mama...Papa...Dawen...Croise...!"
Arderith decided to continue. "How are you feeling now, Foine?" She whispered.
Foine bowed her head and nodded. "A bit down, still..."
Arderith sighed and brushed away Foine's locks from her face. "I know how it feels...did you recieve any attacks?"
Foine nodded. "But the extra sealing device was helpful." It was an accessory hanging on her belt, now, that added to her device's strength. It was from Omedus' shop.
"That's good." Arderith smiled wider and showed it to Foine. "Smile, Foine. It doesn't end her."
Foine stretched her lips and nodded. "Thanks..." She whispered. When Arderith stood to leave she saw her family approaching and waited for them to reach her.
Croise was slightly relieved to see Foine smiling, again. He watched Arderith come closer and whispered. "How is she?"
Arderith nodded. "Much better. She smiles and talks, now. It means she's moving on..."
Croise didn't very well understand it. But he only smiled and nodded. Then he looked at Foine and her family. He was not used to having her smile so small.
Then again, this was better than having her silent for the whole day.
Foine saw Croise and invited him closer.
Croise gave a smile and nodded, then approached them. "Foine...I'm so happy to see you, again...!"
"I'm sorry I got you all so worried..." Foine said. "...I think it's about time you guys know what happened to me..."
Celestyn walked quietly alongside Kierlan in the school garden leading to the stables. She had told him she wanted to see him off but deep inside, she wanted to have a few moments alone with him. She was grateful to Zack who had immediately sensed her thoughts that he excused himself to give her and Kierlan some moments alone.
She needed to - in the light of all that had happened that night.
Even with her fingers held between his strong and warm grasp, Celestyn still felt so cold. Even worse, she could not shake off the feeling of trepidation.
The moment they arrived at the stables, evidently sensing her uneasiness, Kierlan looked at her. "All will be well, Aine." He grinned. "Now I see why you captivated Lady Dalintri so much. Your acting skills are exceptional, my lady." He told her in a mock impressed tone.
She did not laugh at his jest. "Must you go home tonight? Why don't you just stay at the dorm?" She asked him, worry clouding her gray-blue eyes.
Kierlan sobered. He cupped her face between his hands and kissed her forehead. "Someone has to stay at home with Master Josiah and Ariadne. They have to be protected at all times."
Celestyn nodded, knowing he was right. "I know...It's just that..." She sighed. "I can't help but..." She clenched her fists at her sides, seized by a sudden emotion.
"I will be alright." Kierlan told her, though he felt otherwise. He saw Zack approaching from the corner of his eye. "Celestyn, nothing will happen to me. Next time you see me, I will still be in one piece. I promise." He held her close. "Now rest. You have gone through quite an ordeal. I will see you tomorrow."
Celestyn nodded. She started to turn away then she stopped and looked at him. "Kierlan...Be careful, alright?"
Kierlan felt his gut twist at the worry in her eyes but still, he answered: "Nothing will happen to me. Now go." Just as she was about to leave, he was not able to stop himself from holding her arm and giving her a quick, soft kiss on the lips. "I love you."
She smiled weakly. "I love you too." Then with visible reluctance, she turned and walked slowly away to give him and Zack some privacy.
Zack approached Kierlan as the raven-haired woman left, whistling softly. "We had quite a night."
Kierlan turned to his friend, his eyes serious. "Stay with her tonight, Zack. Do not let her out of your sight. Give her any excuse but whether she would like it or not, don't leave her." He saw Zack's swollen jaw and seized on that as an excuse. "Distract her. You can even tell her your jaw needs medical attention. But whatever happens, don't let her venture out of school grounds." He instructed, under his breath.
"Understood, Kierlan," he answered, nodding. "With Siraak running around like that I'd make sure she's safe. Is there a place for me to spend the night?"
"Stay in Room Thor. I am rooming with Frizlan Blythe." Kierlan hoisted himself up on Mischa. "Take care of her, Zack." He said once more before galloping off.
He nodded as Kierlan rode off, turning to bring his things into said room. After making sure things were in order, he left to find Celestyn.
He had a hunch he'd find her somewhere quiet. So he headed towards the garden, and found her there.
"I hope you don't mind knowing you've been assigned a bodyguard," Zack said to break the silence.
Celestyn was sitting on the bench when Zack found her. She looked up surprised. She must be really lost in thought not to notice his arrival. It took a while before she could find her voice. "A bodyguard?"
He smirked. "Kierlan made me promise to make sure you don't leave the school grounds. I swear, I've never seen him this protective since his mother injured herself with a needle."
Celestyn smiled weakly. Zack was trying to cheer her up. She knew that. "I do not really need someone to watch over me..." She started, used to being independent for most of her life.
"No, you don't," Zack answered. "I can see you're capable of taking care of yourself. Kierlan just cares about you a lot to make sure that I'm around to keep you safe, especially if he can't do it himself at the moment."
She nodded, worry for Kierlan still in her mind. She would not able to get some sleep that night until she was certain he was alright. Fates, why did she have the feeling something was going to happen to him? Why did she just not insist for him to stay?
"Kierlan will be fine, Celestyn. I've known him since boyhood, and he's always been a strong one," Zack continued, leaning against a tree. He could see the worry and tension on her face, and somehow felt compelled to try and get her mind off Kierlan for a while. The feeling of kinship rose in him again, surprising him.
"You know..." he started awkwardly, "The hearth-women have always peaked my curiousity, their ways, their customs, their wisdom. I've wondered what it would be like being with them, especially now that since there are more clues that my mother might be one of them."
Celestyn saw his intent and decided it would indeed be best to stop worrying for a while. "Yes, people are often curious about us. We do not mingle with the outside world that much, as you can see." She glanced at the ring in his hand. "I believe your mother is connected with us. Black firestone is a very rare material, even in Sacred Keep."
"I see..." he gazed at the said item, turning it in his hand. "It's strange how there are so many clues that connect me to them, especially since I've only recently discovered that I have magic."
Celestyn's stunned gaze jerked to his. "You have magic?"
"Only found out when I was travelling from Allonshire to Sollus," Zack nodded. "Shape-shifting. Apparently I can change to any form of beast as I choose." He looked at her. "My father didn't have magic, so that leaves my mother. Know anyone among the hearth-women with a similar ability?"
For a long while, Celestyn looked at Zack, a suspicion beginning to form in her mind. "Shape-shifting..." She remembered someone...someone very dear to her...but she shook her head. It can be her...Not wanting to give Zack false hope just yet, Celestyn asked: "Before I answer that question, may I ask if you can transform at will then? And how do you transform?"
"Twice I transformed because my life, or someone else's, was in danger. I've been meeting with Josiah to be able to control this power, which has been happening steadily. So I guess, it's transformation at will."
She nodded. "I see. There are many ways of transformation. Only few shapeshifters can transfer at will. The weaker ones, would have to be able to touch the form they desire in order for them to adapt the shape. That is strong and dangerous magic you have, Zack. I think you must know that it is remarkable of you to be able to keep it in check."
He looked sheepish as he remembered. "I know what you mean by dangerous. I nearly killed three men while protecting Ariadne from them. She was quite shocked, to say the least." A hand came to the back of his head.
"You and Ariadne were attacked?" Celestyn asked surprised. "When did this happen?"
"Not too long ago. Damn bandits," Zack muttered, scowling. "Makes my job harder than it already is."
Celestyn just sighed, knowing it was no use to worry about that now. She glanced at him and once again, she felt that leap of recognition...kinship. To distract herself, she stood up. "Let me get something for that jaw. If you don't do anything about that now, it will inconvenience you greatly starting tomorrow."
She came back moments later with a bottle of what seemed to be transparent oil that smelled faintly of jasmine and a gauze. Gently, she began to apply it. "I was not able to thank you for what you did earlier."
Zack let out a chuckle. "It's nothing. Dealing with that idiot Siraak every day is more painful than that punch he gave me." He punctuated that by rolling his eyes. "I'd love to do what Kierlan said and tear him, as quoted, from limb to limb."
She smiled weakly at that. "You have my gratitude, Zack. I would like to return the favor someday. Perhaps I can start now by helping you find out about your mother."
Zack nodded in thanks. "It really is true... Froisne heoini klore deqoia..."
"Everything comes full circle. Anything you do to others comes back to you." Even as she translated the Allonian words in her mind, Celestyn froze. There was only one person she knew who had the habit of saying those very words Zack just spoke.
An image came to her mind. A tall, willowy woman who had blonde hair and brown eyes that could be firm and gentle at the same time...
her mother's cousin...
"Fates..." Celestyn whispered as she looked at Zack.
Zack's mother was Kalare.
"What is it?" he looked at her surprised face, wondering what was it that he said that caused her shock.
"This is an evening full of surprises." Celestyn smiled wryly. "Perhaps this will be the most pleasant of all for you." Now she knew why she felt that they were kin...
She and Zack were cousins after all.
"It seems like it, from the pleased look on your face," he answered. "Now if you would be kind enough to let me out of the dark..."
She laughed. "Forgive me, I am just quite shocked by the revelation." She took a deep breath and looked straight into his confused eyes. "Perhaps it is right that I should be the one to break this to you. Froisne heoini klore deqoia...I only know one person besides you who speak those words constantly, Zack. She is someone...very dear to me." A fond, wistful smile. "I miss her greatly. She is Kalare. My mother's cousin, one of the leaders of our clan." She took his hand, the moonlight emphasizing the figure of a falcon in his ring.
After a long while, Celestyn told him quietly. "She is your mother, Zack."
She is your mother...
"Then... you are..." Zack's eyes widened at the knowledge. "That explains it... you are kin, you are my cousin..."
She chuckled softly. "It appears so." She smiled. "Yes, that explains it indeed."
Zack laughed, shaking his head. "I wonder how Kierlan will react to this," he smirked.
The Sollus residents had all turned in early.
As he rode on Mischa, Kierlan saw that only few people were still in the streets. The city was dark and almost empty.
And he wondered how Celestyn was.
Kierlan knew he had to stop worrying. She was in Zack's hands.
Kierlan smiled dryly. And Celestyn could take care of herself too. He was well aware of that.
As for himself...
He was expecting them any moment now.
As if on cue, Kierlan saw several dark figures come out of the shadows.
There were ten of them. Each of them began to form a circle around him.
Lightning struck that moment and rain began to fall from the skies. Kierlan saw the largest figure's face illuminated.
Automatically, Kierlan's fingers went to the handle of his dagger. With dark, calm eyes, he regarded his opponents' faces, gauging their strengths and their weaknesses.
He had known. Had always known. Since the Headmaster said that his test would have to conducted at a later date...
He jumped down from his horse and took his dagger from his hilt and faced his attackers.
"Care to start now?" He asked casually.
Nicolo let out a cruel laugh. "I have been waiting for this forever." He rasped.
"Has she been sad... since... Father left her?" Zack asked Celestyn, still disbelieving that he now knew who his mother was.
"Yes. But she hid her sadness well." Celestyn felt a wave of sadness hit her, as she remembered her Aunt's story. "She is a very strong-willed woman, your mother." She sensed Zack's desire to know more about his mother and sadly, she was the best person to enlighten him now. Even Lothiara would insist that as his cousin, Celestyn must be the one to tell him.
She wished she could prevent the pain he would feel as soon as he finds out what had truly happened between his mother and father.
"I would have expected that," Zack answered, leaning back as he laughed. "I never thought so many things would happen the moment Kierlan asked me to take care of some matters for him back in Allon-" A loud cry alerted him and he straightened. "What was that?"
Celestyn stood up then, seeing a falcon flying high above them, its cry alerting them...warning them...
"Oh no..." She whispered, her face pale.
"Celestyn!" Zack called as he followed the falcon. "Stay with someone in the school, don't leave the grounds!"
Rain began to fall on them but Celestyn did not care. She did not listen to Zack as she ran towards the stables.
Oh please...let him be alright...Celestyn cried in her mind, her heart thundering.
Damn it, Kierlan! What the hell did you get yourself into this time?!
Zack continued to follow the falcon, removing his sword from its scabbard as darkness began to close in behind him.
A puppet let out a loud yell as Kierlan struck it down with his blade, making it explode into dust.
Despite his pain and weariness, Kierlan did not even pause to rest. There were only three puppets left...
Two puppets came at Kierlan at once and swiftly, he ran his dagger through one, pulling it back just in time to slit the throat of another.
He felt a moment's relief seeing the two explode into dust.
His victory was short-lived.
Nicolo extended his hand and black light was torn from it, throwing Kierlan against an alley wall.
Kierlan gritted his teeth as a sharp pain exploded at his side.
He glanced down and was surprised to see his clothing drenched with the blood flowing from the wound on his side.
"I have been dreaming of this day..." Nicolo said as he advanced, a triumphant gleam in his eyes. "Who would have thought, that His Royal Highness, Prince Kierlan of Allonshire, would be at my mercy?"
Nicolo let out a loud laugh. "Wet...Bloodied...Powerless...The Prince in all his glory..."
Kierlan got to his feet, facing him. "This is a test." He said quietly the rain poured heavily on him. He held back a wince at what the slightest effort brought him. "I already killed you before." He added calmly.
With that, Kierlan leapt and plunged his dagger into the last puppet.
At Kierlan's words, Nicolo merely laughed and extended his hand again, releasing black light, throwing Kierlan once again on the ground.
"Do I look dead to you, Your Highness?" Nicolo taunted.
Kierlan clutched at his left shoulder and felt his blood oozing from his fingertips. His body felt numb by the pain. Though he had years of practice in controlling his magic, he knew that he had to defeat this illusion now. If he were to weaken any more than this, it was highly possible that his magic would come out automatically.
That he could not allow to happen.
He had to stay in Sollus.
The future of the others depended on it.
An image of Celestyn came into his mind.
He had to protect her.
Kierlan struggled as he tried to muster all of the physical strength he had left.
His arm hang loosely on his side as he got to his feet, thinking of the best way to attack.
"So your magic was the only thing you had, Prince Kierlan?" Nicolo snickered. "Now without it, you are lost...weak...Look at you...You could not even touch me."
Though weak, Kierlan tried to remember Nicolo's point of weakness.
That night of the play...How did he, Meara and Celestyn manage to kill the man?
Celestyn used fire...
Meara used the partisan...
Kierlan knew the answer did not lie there. He had stabbed at Nicolo many times a while ago but the man was not wounded at all.
He focused on what else they had done to kill Nicolo that night.
A light seemed to go on inside him.
He had controlled Nicolo's mind...
That was where the opening lie...
As he finalized his line of attack, Kierlan knew he had to keep Nicolo talking.
Nicolo was still looking at him mockingly and was now putting on an exaggerated thoughtful expression. "Ah...but you dealt with my puppets well. You dispensed of them with ease, didn't you? It is I, who is the problem...How will you survive this, Your Highness, without your magic?" Nicolo let out with mock distress.
Then he smiled menacingly. "Or perhaps your magic is still there inside you? Perhaps any moment now, you will not be able to control yourself and it will be set free?"
Kierlan just stood there, looking at him.
Nicolo's grin widened. "Trying to control my mind?" He bowed mockingly. "Do as you wish...You have my permission to try~"
"What the~" He looked up surprised as a falcon let out a sharp cry above them.
Kierlan seized on that moment and his dagger in hand, he bounded towards Nicolo and plunged his dagger on the center of Nicolo's forehead, slicing it diagonally.
As Nicolo let out a loud yell and as a blinding white light enfulged in, burning him, Kierlan removed his dagger and dropped to the ground.
When he opened his eyes, he was surprised to see that though the area was still dark, it did not look as if it had rained at all.
No sign of dust could be seen anywhere.
No indication of the battle that had just happened could be spotted.
He heard hoofbeats and amidst his weakness, Kierlan focused on the figure running to him.
"Kierlan!" Zack called out as he came into view, surprised at seeing Celestyn there. "Didn't I tell you to stay in the school?!"
At the sight of Kierlan's bloodied and battered form, Celestyn swallowed back a cry.
"Kierlan!" She sobbed, as she sank the ground by his side
She could have wept with relief as she felt his arm around her. "I am fine, Aine." He assured her weakly, trying to grin. "I promise I am alright."
She nodded, though the fear for him was still there.
She could have lost him.
Zack walked over to help his friend, binding his wounds as best as he could before assisting him to mount Mischa. "You still attract trouble, Kierlan. I'm surprised I've survived this long with you," he grinned.
"I share your sentiments."
When he turned, Kierlan was not surprised to see the Mayor standing there. "You handled the test remarkably, Prince Kierlan." Avenes added, his face pale at everything he had seen.
Beside the mayor, Dirbelow stood, watching quietly, though Kierlan knew him long enough to recognize relief in his face.
Siraak looked livid, but he did not say anything more. Angrily, he stalked off.
Kierlan turned to Elyzaar, who was standing there with a wide-eyed Luciine Korvelus beside him.
Celestyn took one look at Luciine and she came to the same conclusion as Kierlan. Everything that had happened was an illusion conjured by Luciine.
It had been a test.
"I see you are sealed, Kierlan." Elyzaar said, his face as pale as the Mayor's.
Kierlan nodded. "It appears so." He replied wryly.
"With all due respect, Headmaster," Zack said through gritted teeth in barely contained rage, "did this test have to be that dangerous for Kierlan? He nearly got himself killed!" His hazel eyes bored into Siraak's retreating back. "It was his idea, wasn't it?!"
"Tomorrow will be soon enough for explanations." Elyzaar answered. He was looking at Kierlan as he said the next words: "I apologize that this is the only way we know to prove you are indeed sealed."
Kierlan nodded. "I understand, Headmaster."
"Very well. Good night, Kierlan. Lieutenant Farnham." There was a faint smile in Elyzaar's face as he looked at Celestyn. "You have my permission to stay at Kierlan's house for tonight, if you wish, Miss Hearthwell."
Her answer was immediate. "I would, sir. Thank you."
"Good night, all of you." Avenes told them. "I expect to see you better soon, Prince Kierlan."
Kierlan nodded. "Yes, Mayor. Good night."
Dirbelow nodded at all of them. "I don't want to see you at work tomorrow, Kierlan. Get better." A glance at Celestyn and he added. "You are in good hands."
"I couldn't agree more." Kierlan replied with a grin.
As soon as they were out of earshot, Zack gave a nearby tree a powerful punch. "Damn that insufferable, arrogant bastard!"
"It is over, Zack. I am alright." Kierlan winced at the pain in his shoulder.
"It is too late to blame anyone now." Celestyn said quietly. "Let us all just go home."
Zack nodded in agreement as he took Mischa by the reins and led the horse to Kierlan's house. "Fine, he's safe from my wrath, for now."
Kierlan nodded. Then he realized what Celestyn had just said. Home. He looked at her and she nodded at him with a soft smile on her pale face. "Yes, Kierlan, let us go home."
Zack quickly fell into step with Kierlan and Celestyn, smirking at the warning glare Siraak gave him. Once again he caught the captain with that insinuating gaze on the woman, and again he had given the man an icy glare.
The man was going to have his hide later on, but Zack decided that seeing him unnerved will be worth it.
At Kierlan's questioning glance, the auburn-haired man's grin widened even more. "I'm going to be in trouble for sure."
Kierlan was too intent in going about his plans for later that he was not able to respond to Zack's laughing comment. He and Celestyn would have to be thorough. He knew he could count on Elyzaar's support but he also had Dirbelow, Avenes and Siraak's watchful eyes to reckon with.
Hearing Zack's comment, Celestyn said quietly: "Thank you for watching out for me, Lord Farnham, but I do not think it is wise to anger Captain Siraak now." An indrawn breath. "I sense evil in that man. You should be careful."
"I am a very careful man, Lady Hearthwell, and please, call me Zack. I promised Kierlan that I would help him protect you, and if that includes Captain Siraak, then so be it," he answered, keeping a close eye on said officer. "Although I have to say, the captain is not acting like himself, especially with the edict on magic users now in place."
Celestyn's lips curved into a smile. "Very well...Zack. Please call me Celestyn as well." She sobered. "Thank you for your kind offer. It is much appreciated."
He nodded at her before turning to Kierlan. "If Siraak does anything during the meeting, you have anything in mind other than using me as a padded shield?"
Kierlan turned back to Zack and Celestyn. "Alright, we have to alter the original plans. We not only have Siraak to deal with, but Sir Kazinach and Mayor Falkswain as well." He paused, considering Larinya, who he was guessing, wanted to be tested to prove she was sealed. "This is what we'll do."
"I apologize for the inconvenience this move has caused you and your students, Headmaster," Mayor Falkswain said regretfully. "I wish I could have done more to-"
"You did all you could, Mayor," Elyzaar answered, nodding his head. "It was inevitable after all, with so many things happening to our town. Sandur might be a better and safer place for them."
The mayor nodded, the stricken look still on his face.
"I agree with Elyzaar. Lately, we have our share of disturbing incidents." Dirbelow said, referring to the brutal murder of three young women.
Seated on the chair by Elyzaar's desk, Larinya resisted the urge to just tell the headmaster to test her and get it over with. She had no plans of going to Sandur. More so, she had no plans to stay in this room and listen to all that usual talk. She glanced at the smirking captain near her and she wanted to groan. She did not like him at all.
Seeming to sense Larinya's discomfort, Elyzaar's dark eyes turned in her direction and he opened his mouth to speak, only to be interrupted by a knock in the door.
"Need we say who your visitors are, headmaster?" Siraak drawled.
Elyzaar gave the captain a measured glance, which sent him fidgeting, before calling out, "Come in."
The door opened to reveal two of his students, and the man that came with the captain. Siraak frowned distastefully at Zack.
"I did not ask you to join us, Farnham," he said through gritted teeth.
Zack looked back with the same measured and controlled look. "No, but Kierlan did."
Siraak looked at the Prince who was just looking at him with inscrutable dark eyes. "Ah...to what do we owe the pleasure of His Royal Highness' visit?"
Avenes was too distressed to reprimand the captain for his rudeness to someone of higher rank.
Kierlan merely looked right through the captain and greeted everyone else. After Celestyn curtsied and did the same, Kierlan looked at Elyzaar pointedly and said: "Headmaster, Lady Hearthwell and I wish to be tested to prove we are sealed."
Elyzaar looked at both of them for a long time before saying: "I see. You have chosen a good time to be sealed, both of you." He looked at Larinya. "Three of you. I will test you shortly."
Larinya's surprised gaze jerked to Kierlan and Celestyn, her eyes wide. They are sealed as well?
Dirbelow just sat there, his eyes watchful.
Celestyn made herself meet everyone's eyes squarely, gathering all the strength she could muster. Fates...She could feel her hands trembling.
Ignoring the others, Kierlan's hand reached out for hers and he squeezed her fingers assuringly.
"Three more to be sealed? Headmaster..." Avenes looked at the Headmaster in surprise, while the captain's eyes narrowed.
The large man smirked. "This I must see, unless his royal highness is lying."
"I'd make sure you keep your mouth shut if I were you, Captain," Zack shot back icily.
Siraak returned the glare. "I am your superior, Farnham, I suggest you don't cross me."
"My rank may be below that of yours, but my allegiance is to my Prince and his kingdom, so do not cross me," the brown-haired man retorted.
"Enough!" Elyzaar said with authority. "We shall begin the sealing test."
Siraak slammed his hand on the handle of his seat. "This is useless banality! That woman is not sealed! And she will never be sealed!"
"Captain!" Zack yelled in warning.
"I'll prove it to you!"
Avenes got to his feet, opening his mouth to say something to stop the captain, but he wasn't given the chance to as Siraak advanced towards Celestyn.
Instantly, Kierlan placed himself in front of Celestyn, his steely eyes on Siraak. "Touch her, Captain, and you will answer to me." He warned, his voice deadly quiet.
Dirbelow's low, firm voice sounded out then. "Please be reminded of the other occupants of this room, Siraak, and behave accordingly."
In her shock, it took some while before Celestyn could recover enough to look at Siraak. She did not like what she saw in his eyes. Up close, she could see the evil in him even more. She resisted the urge to shiver. She felt so cold inside.
"All that power in her, all that power!" Siraak continued to shout, ignoring Dirbelow. "I've seen it, she's a menace to society! This woman's powers are too strong to be sealed! Come on, show them! Tell them!"
"That is enough, Captain!" Zack gripped the large man by the wrists. "Stay away from Celes- OOMPH!" He staggered back when Siraak's knuckles connected with his jaw.
Avenes looked distressed. "Siraak! What do you think you're doing!?"
Larinya's eyes enlarged. As much as she wanted to restrain the captain with the weight of 5 fully grown hogs, it will deem impossible, even ridiculous. Instead she stepped up to Celestyn's defense, ready to crush some eyes or noses if forced to.
But the more commanding presence, Elyzaar Carmichean had stood in between and this Headmaster, enraged in form, his wrinkles more prominent and his eyebrows meeting each other with eyes that seem to obliterate at stare is enough to make Siraak cower down for the moment.
"This is the last time you'll exert your power against me or my students Siraak!"
Challenged by Elyzaar's taunt only made Siraak edge forward, "I know their plan!" He jabbed a malicious finger on Kierlan and Celestyn, " Why, oh Headmaster, do you let yourself be wrung in their little claws? It is only a matter of impressing you how well they hide their own sorceries! If you allow your intelligence to be carried away Carmichean, I strongly would not!"
"I am sorely tempted to exert the power my rank brought me on you, for what you did, Captain." Kierlan bit out as he helped Zack to his feet. "And I am even more tempted to tear you from limb...to...limb!" He added, between gritted teeth.
Surprised at his subordinate's rare show of temper, Dirbelow managed to hold off the feeling of shock long enough to walk over to Siraak, ready to physically restrain him. "That is enough, Siraak."
Siraak swung around, his eyes wild and accusing, directed at everyone in the room. "It is the law for us to protect people from Demon Spawns!" He spat out, glaring particularly at Kierlan and Celestyn. "Setting these two demon spawns loose will be the death of all of us! You are fools not to believe me!" He growled.
Everyone turned to see Avenes standing there. And they knew then how much power the mayor held. He stood there, straight and tall, his eyes cold and compelling. Power seemed to radiate from his being and silence fell upon the room. "I am considering dismissing you, Siraak, if you don't stop that senseless ranting." Though the mayor was quiet, one could see how serious he was on his words.
Celestyn looked Zack's swollen jaw and instantly, she felt a surge of anger not only for the callous captain but for herself. Why the hell was she standing there letting them speak for her when she had a voice of her own? "I agree with the mayor. Nothing could be achieved by this. By all means, Headmaster, test us now." She looked coldy at Siraak. "I don't hesitate to say how eager I am to prove you wrong, Captain." She said disdainfully.
Beside her, Kierlan could not resist from chuckling softly.
A spirited and brave one, that she is, Zack thought, grinning as best as his jaw would let him. "I suggest that you do what the mayor says, captain, if you know what's good for you."
Siraak gave Zack another cold glare. "You are still my subordinate, Farnham. Once we return to headquarters-"
"Give me a whipping, I don't care. You insist that our duty is to protect people from demon spawns, but it is also our duty to protect them from the abuses hurled at them. Wouldn't you agree, Lord Dirbelow?"
The mute of Sollus looked suspiciously close to laughter himself. "Indeed, Siraak." He turned to Elyzaar. "Now let us get this over with, Headmaster." The head of security spoke as if they were merely having a pleasant conversation over tea.
And Larinya HOPED it was the conclusive straw. She was beginning to be very irritated of adults acting like children. Suddenly the students emerged to be the more mature proper people. She unintentionally faced Zack, the man she saw first in the artists' lounge, but looked away then. Her eyes then fell on Siraak. Can we get this pigpen Siraak out of this place? I don't see why he HAS to be here...Lousy scene stealers...
Elyzaar turned to Larinya, "May we start with you Larinya?"
Larinya's breath was caught in her throat, "Ye...Yes." She took a clumsy glance at the captain who didn't think her too important but he scowled anyhow.
"...Sealings are not supposed to be conducted in this manner," Elyzaar said it particularly to Dirbelow, Celestyn, Kierlan and regretfully, Siraak, "However it may be appropriate in this time where the world distrusts us. Perhaps we need to reveal even the more, how these should work..."
Larinya bit her lip. She wished the Headmaster did not have to say those. Think about the shame she'll bring if she finds out that she is not sealed.
"Larinya Danaeross' magic is converting them to their direct opposites," Elyzaar continued in his briefing, "This is her second test. She submitted her hands to an open fire. The result of which should be freezing them and indeed they were." He turned to his student, "Would you mind a similar test?"
Larinya uncomfortably shifted her eyes away from the Headmaster but she nodded, "Well it's the most obvious one..."
Elyzaar nodded. He asked Zack to locate Croise D'vinaeoss and summon him to the office.
No one spoke then. Only the sound of breathing could be heard. Kierlan, Celestyn and Larinya stood there, prepared for whatever was in store for them.
A moment later, knocks sounded from outside the door and a voice called. "Headmaster?"
"Croise, come in," Elyzaar invited with a wave, noticing as the boy and Larinya's eyes had locked at entrance, "Croise D'vinaeoss is able to summon the wind and water elements and able to join them to create ice. We will need the latter magic for Larinya. Croise will have to freeze Larinya's hands. I will then need a volunteer who will wear a pair of my gloves in the cabinet and let Croise freeze them. " Elyzaar pointed to his desk, "If Larinya is not yet sealed, her hands will ultimately engulf into flame. However if she is able to maintain it, as long as that volunteer could...Well, let us see for now."
"I'll be that volunteer," Avenes gave Larinya an encouraging smile. The memory of the proud student, laying on a treetop and declaring she will once conquer fire was still fresh from both the mayor and the prospect-soon-to-be-sealed student's minds, " And I'd rather have my hands frozen. It will be the more dire test."
Croise choked. "W, what?! U, use my magic?? Headmaster--"
"Croise, I'd like you to use your magic on Avenes and Larinya first. Then we shall move to Celestyn and Siraak," Elyzaar instructed, "Note that I am allowing this use solely for testing needs."
Croise found that there was absolutely no room left for him to argue. He sighed, giving up and turned to face his cousin and the mayor. He didn't know how to start, but he held out his hands, ready for the test. "I, if you may..."
Larinya, unconsciously, gave Croise a reassuring smile and her hands as the mayor also extended his. Avenes spoke, "Just because I am a mayor doesn't mean you have to go mild on me." He grinned as if it was all a game, "Give me the similar treatment."
Siraak was disgusted of the childish play going about, he stared at Croise, hoping the boy will get the message.
Croise felt hot eyes on him but he decided to ignore it, anyways. He was beginning to feel nervous, the wind blowing unnoticeably stronger and colder. He focused on his hands. Usually, he would create ice from the mixture of cold wind around the target with moist forming in. But he remembered the incident with the leaf. How by one touch, it immediately froze. He wondered if, and expected it would work the same with the hands he now held.
The expectation wasn't wrong.
The wind blew stronger as Croise mustered more energy to cover the hands with crystallized water. They were beginning to pale, as was Croise's hands. The finger nails showed a hint of blue. Frost came and soon, the ice was thickening, equally on both hands, Croise hoped.
His mouth breathed out fog, he was still nervous with what he is doing, and what is happening. He was slightly bothered as to how he could have made ice so easily. Like that on the leaf.
Zack watched as the participants' hands were covered with the biting blue frost, eyes keen and observant to the process. He had never been a witness to sealing, this process he was watching now gave him an insight into the experiences of magic users who give themselves to be sealed. He was amazed, and his mind began to work.
"If I may note..." Elyzaar addressed Dirbelow and Siraak, "This is ice magic. Not just ice from the Lost Region for example. The fact that a magic, opposite to Larinya's affinity, is used on her should already present a conversion if Larinya's magic is still active. Larinya's magic should pick this interference and do what needs to be done."
Larinya stared at her hands, already white, near blue. She did not want to think or breathe.
"This may be the same for Miss Hearthwell," Elyzaar placed a hand over Croise, "Just tell us if you are ready for them."
Celestyn met Kierlan's eyes and he nodded at her. She saw Zack give her an encouraging smile and she took a deep breath, preparing herself.
She need not be alarmed now. After all Josiah did to help her and Kierlan...Things could not go wrong. She looked into Kierlan's eyes. If she wanted to be with him, nothing must go wrong.
Croise swallowed and nodded. "I, I am." He let go of the hands and took some time to clasp them both to feel whatever else heat was left as he approached for the next people. He rested for awhile, heart beating faster and head throbbing slightly. He cleared his throat and held out his pale hands. "Please..."
Celestyn walked forward and smiled at Croise weakly, hoping to assure him. "I am ready. Thank you for everything, Croise."
"Start now, boy!" Siraak commanded, glaring at Croise threateningly.
"I do not like your tone, Captain. Croise has done nothing for you to~" Celestyn was unable to resist snapping as she held out her hands, but she stopped when she saw Kierlan look at her and nodded for her to stop.
Celestyn paused, knowing Kierlan was right. It was hardly advisable to lose her temper now.
"Just shut that damn mouth, Captain. The sooner you do, the sooner you can get over this ridiculous notion of protecting mankind from demon spawns like us." Kierlan drawled casually.
Zack hid a grin behind his hand which held a cold bag of ice to where the captain had struck him, keeping a close eye not only on Celestyn and Kierlan, but the other occupants of the room as well.
Especially Siraak. The man would have to be carefully observed.
Croise gasped in surprise with Siraak's words. Immediately, he closed his eyes shut and held the hands, bringing out his magic once more. He made sure the ice came swiftly. But it had made him reach his limit. Not ready for such to happen, Croise immediately lost hold of the hands when they were thick enough and bent lowly, covering his mouth as he coughed. He coughed as if he was losing air. But before anyone could approach him, immediately he stood up and smiled at everyone, his face pale and sweating. "I, I'm all right. I'm just...a bit restless, lately..." His heart beat went faster and his head throbbed more. He held his warm forehead and turned to Elyzaar. "H, Headmaster...I think I wish to rest..."
Elyzaar nodded. "Thank you for coming, Croise."
Croise nodded. He tried as much as possible to walk straightly to the door, Dirbelow opening it for him. He received an offer of assistance from the man, but he refused with a tired smile, and went on his way to his room as Dirbelow closed the door.
Siraak gritted his teeth, feeling the cold bite painfully on his hands. He looked at the demon spawn beside him. Witch! This will be the end of you.
Celestyn knew what Siraak was thinking but she made her face look expressionless, despite her growing anger. She used her acting skills to pretend that she was trying to endure the cold when all the while, she felt nothing at all.
She looked at the ice enveloping her slender hands. Nothing at all...
From the corner, Kierlan looked at her and he knew, from the dim confident light in her eyes that everything was going well. He stopped himself from sighing with relief.
Their plan was working.
But somehow, as he looked at Elyzaar's face, Kierlan knew that his part would not be as easy.
Larinya shut her eyes, trying to be numb of the stinging cold. If she is actually sealed, she should not be thinking or concentrating much, but the risks are even higher now. Instead of thinking about her hands' dropping temperature, she thought of all those years she had to spend in Sollus. All those years of freedom yearned and time wasted.
"I-I feel I could not last another revolution of the clock!" Avenes stuttered. At his impulse, he walked fast to the oil lamp, exposing the ice there until Dirbelow stepped up and used his weapon to destroy the ice.
The biting cold...The determining fact... It was that time when, her 'buried' magic might not take it anymore and simply explode but she told herself of the cold. Relived her life through the cold. It was all about conditioning the mind, she was told. Of not letting go.
And then she had entirely forgotten how to summon her magic.
Larinya stifled a cry.
Zack was ready with his hilt. At Larinya's wince, he readily, strongly but with control, struck the ice until it broke into half. Larinya gladly cracked the rest of the part, watching her bluish hands tremble and all she felt was that they were freezing. Not that it needs to be released.
Zack led the woman to the fireplace to warm her hands, and turned to face the remaining two.
Beside where Larinya had been standing, Siraak's face and lips were fast turning blue. Still, he withstood it. That witch will get what she deserves...
Celestyn just stood there, putting a pained expression in her face. This was what she had done for years...pretend...
How she tires of it now.
She just wants to break free.
She knew that the cold was getting more bitter for even she was starting to feel the pain.
Kierlan saw Celestyn's face pale and he saw the real shadow of a pain in her eyes. Stop it now, Celestyn. Don't push it...He told her with his mind, hoping she would get his message in spite of her pain.
Celestyn gave a sharp cry only a split second after Siraak let out a loud yell.
"That's it." Ignoring Siraak who was on the floor, twisting in agony, Kierlan let Dirbelow take care of the pompous captain and went to Celestyn, using his dagger to strike the ice and break it.
Kierlan took her cold hands in his, led her to the fireplace to warm herself, and still standing beside her, turned to Elyzaar. "Headmaster?"
Elyzaar had to ask himself for permission to breathe and thus deem it all over. The pleased smiles and nods of Avenes, Dirbelow's face expressionless but untainted by negativity and the most determining fact, Siraak's denial.
"We are all witness here to Larinya and Celestyn's test," Elyzaar finally spoke, "And...I leave it up to you to object to what is clearly ....a success."
Elyzaar's once hidden suspicions on Celestyn had revealed themselves again. How could she be sealed this fast? If Celestyn is sealed does it mean she cannot possibly read his thoughts? He struck Celestyn a glance, then finally shifted to Larinya.
"Is it will power alone? I do not think so. Mayor Falkswain and Captain Siraak are proofs of that," Especially you Siraak....
"Without a doubt," Avenes did the rest of the talking. "I have seen these students, knew what they were capable of...And I believe they added to the roster of successfully sealed students...The last of Avenes Falkswain School, here in Sollus."
It was over. Finally, it was over. Celestyn sighed with relief. She knew the Headmaster doubted her but she showed no sign.
Siraak's face was purple with rage as he looked menacingly at Celestyn, who watched him with cold gray-blue eyes. "I'll be watching you, you little wi~"
"Spare us your 'flattery', Captain." Kierlan's voice lashed out with exaggerated politeness.
"We will have Kierlan's test at a later time," Elyzaar interrupted before anything could be started again, "His magic apparently is different and clearly not obvious unlike these two women. Such test, to be credible, must take time."
The Headmaster almost swirled to Siraak, "And if you wish you can be there to witness..."
Different eh? Siraak wiped his hands by a cloth offered to him, "That I would not miss then. Not the Prince's sealing test for the world." Siraak bit out.
"As you wish, Headmaster." Kierlan said. He met Celestyn's worried eyes and he nodded at her assuringly.
Zack gave his friend a look of concern. He might want me to be present... I must make sure I'll be there.
At a later date...What on earth will they do to him...Celestyn thought, unable to shake off the feeling of fear for him.
Amidst the silence in the room, Celestyn heard Kierlan's voice in her mind. Don't worry about me, Aine. I will be fine.
"We have had quite a night. Let us all get some rest." Avenes' firm voice finally broke the silence.
The others could not agree more.
"I am most gladdened and privileged to sit and spend this evening before you my students and my faculty," Elyzaar addressed with brief nods to some selected few of those mentioned, "We are also honored with the presence of our mayor, who has been a gracious benefactor of this school since its conception and believed in cohabitation."
Ceisyia, only one of the few others who expressed surprise in Elyzaar's tone, raised an eyebrow. What was Elyzaar simply up to? Ceisyia attempted to shake some words from the Headmaster but to no avail.
"Before I proceed, I feel it appropriate to take a moment of silence for a student and a classmate, Sigma Drucalan, who, I'm afraid, will no longer able to join us," Elyzaar paused, collecting his thoughts and composure, "It is confirmed to us by Kierlan Casthamor that he has fallen to his untimely demise, after seeking the revenge of his family in the Lost Region. May we all hope for the repose of our friend."
Milsheen was the first to react at this news. He had been hearing bad rumors about it but he chose not to believe it. "I never thought that it would go this far..." he whispered.
Croise only stayed silent. There was nothing else to be said, nothing was new. He glanced at an empty chair and wondered how Foine was to react about this.
She is still locked in her room...Croise wondered how she was.
Meara closed her eyes against the wave of sadness overtaking her, one hand going to her mouth. You will be missed, Sigma... thank you for being my first friend...
Zack quietly leaned back against the pillars of the room, sympathizing with the students for their loss. He was there for another reason, having listened to Siraak's proud and sickening declaration at headquarters, he wanted to see how this affected the other side.
In between Meara and Kierlan, Celestyn just sat, her hands on her lap. She felt those damn tears gathering once again at the corners of her eyes and she blinked. Sigma wouldn't want me to cry...
Kierlan felt Celestyn tremble beside him and he laid a strong hand on top of hers, squeezing her fingers assuringly.
Celestyn's cold hand held tightly to his, but she looked straight ahead, knowing that she would break down again if she saw all that understanding and love in his eyes.
She could not break down now.
Elyzaar breathed out a sigh, "You are all witness to many changes and trials this school has undergone. If there will be such thing as a 'dark period', this would be ours. Trouble has shaken the school one after another and apparently, things are not the same anymore." He glanced upon the Mayor who returned a look of sympathy.
"The assemblage in Lorreigh tackled the heart of this issue. About the dangers of our school's presence along with non-magic users. I will not even try to elaborate on them," Elyzaar looked towards Meara and Celestyn, knowing them as witnesses of the Unsealing, "We have seen them unfold one by one."
Larinya was still along with the other students, disturbed and anxious about the news that was about to be said. Even though she is more likely sealed, she has a feeling she will still be affected.
Zack inwardly cursed Siraak for his blindness, seeing magic users as anything but human. He could see this group of young people have seen and gone through much, and now they were being asked to make another adjustment.
It just was not fair.
Kierlan met Zack's darkened eyes and shared his friend's sentiments to a certain degree. Kierlan looked at Celestyn and he knew she was trying to be strong.
If only he could prepare her for what lie ahead...
Meanwhile, Croise bit his lip. He wondered if his instances of control loss were one of them...if Foine's were also. How they knew was a question he'd rather unanswered.
"My students and faculty," It was easier to let it out as Elyzaar had a whole trip to think of his lines, "Avenes Falkswain School will be removed from Sollus, along with the other sealing schools from their respective locations."
Onyx's eyes widened. He tried to imagine the whole idea and deemed it as a ridiculous one. What will happen to the magic users then? What's the whole point of making us independent from our ability if there's no one around to teach us how?.
Croise choked and leaned forward, unintentionally causing his hands to heat the edge of the table. "What?!"
To... where? Meara asked herself. Will we be safe from... all these people...?
Celestyn stiffened and she jerked her head, meeting Kierlan's steady gaze.
He did not look surprised at all.
Kierlan saw all the questions in Celestyn's gray-blue eyes. He just nodded and held her hand.
Celestyn contented herself with that vague response for the meantime and returned her gaze to the headmaster. Move? To a place far away? Am I going to do this again? Run from my father?
Kierlan knew the direction of her thoughts and somehow, he felt she was tired of running. But she was considering the thought...
And so was he...If she would be safer in that place...
"All schools will be moved to a single location, far, from what the assemblage believes, from civilization. We already have a place sponsored by the Sandur Kingdom, in the East, and I'm afraid to say that the order of the move is to be complied as soon as I dismiss you this night. You might have noticed that I, with the mayor and captain Siraak arrived with some of the Peacekeeping Army troops. They are to assist us in our journey to the new school. And if I'm not mistaken the new school is being constructed as I speak."
Celestyn felt her heart leap, her hand clutching at Kierlan's. It was final...They were going to move...
This was it. A chance to run. Celestyn waited for her mind to start working - to start deciding to go to Sandur. But she couldn't...
"All of the unsealed magic users must be forced to adhere to this new edict," Mayor Falkswain joined in aid of Elyzaar, "The assemblage has also decided a death penalty placed among demon spawns. It is definitely unlawful and we have done our best. However we are entirely overpowered..."
"But..." Goldia, pale, could not wait for the question and answer part, "What about us?"
Elyzaar smiled assuringly, "You are to do as you wish. You are given a choice of staying or perhaps, coming with us for which I will be personally grateful. But the choice is entirely yours, there is no force in this."
"If it's any consolation, the King of Sandur has personally asked for your Headmaster's assistance in establishing this Central School. I am confident that Elyzaar will still minister you..." Avenes paused, suddenly apprehensive of what he had said. It was meddling of Elyzaar's affair.
"Yes," Elyzaar regarded with a nod, "You need not question me for my decision. I will go with my students."
Ceisyia smirked, "You might as well have decided for us all." Most of the faculty voice their approval, except for the grumpy Kalil and hesitant Goldia and Arderith, who has a family in Sollus.
"S-Sandur?" Meara asked incredulously, her surprised green eyes meeting Onyx's. This means... this means...
Onyx sighed. I guess there's no other choice here, is there? He caught Meara looking at him and returned it with a questioning look.
Sandur... the kingdom where magic is not completely frowned upon... Zack thought, nodding. It might be best for them, to be around more understanding people, far away from the dangers posed to them in Sollus.
*The Kingdom of Sandur...in the East...!* Croise's eyes were wide of surprise. He felt strange having to know a place so familiarly. *The East...I'm going back home...!*
Kierlan just nodded. Of course...Sandur...
He looked at Celestyn, trying to read her thoughts. How would she feel if he told her she could not go?
Sandur...That's far...That will give me another chance to escape him...Celestyn shook her head and for one of the few times in her life, she was not sure of what to do. Instinctively, she turned to Kierlan.
But she knew one thing. She was tired of running.
"Trust me." Kierlan told her quietly.
Seeing the determination in his dark eyes, Celestyn nodded and continued to listen to what else the headmaster has to say.
Kierlan's dark gaze traveled until it fell on Siraak and found that the captain's eyes were trained on Celestyn and he was grinning widely...
Feeling a surge of anger at the captain's insolent gaze, Kierlan looked at him steadily and directly until Captain Siraak's eyes wandered to him.
Kierlan Casthamor...The Prince of Allonshire...Siraak grinned. Interesting...
The Prince's gaze was icy....
And Siraak knew then that this young man had power...And that he could wield it ruthlessly if he wanted to...
Uncomfortably, Siraak broke away and was horrified to see that his hands had gone cold.
Zack smirked at the captain's discomfiture, giving Kierlan a wink before warning the captain with an icy gaze of his own.
Why he felt protective of Celestyn he wasn't quite sure, but he made a promise to Kierlan and he will keep it.
Seeing his subordinate's rebellion, Siraak's eyes narrowed and he made a mental note to remind Farnham of his place later on.
He forstalled a servant and said: "Tell the headmaster that I would like to meet with him and Lady Hearthwell later in his office."
The servant nodded and set off to give Elyzaar the message.
Larinya shivered in her uniform, quite an oddity since she always had been complaining at the inherent humidity of the dress. She was startled when her hand clumsily brushed her hair to her back, feeling it cold by her neck.
Meanwhile, Elyzaar could not help but smile for his faculty's loyalty. He returned his attention to his students, who must have, after all, the central focus, "This will not mean a bad fortune for you. This after all is in a place, far from interruptions, ideal for sealing. You will be surrounded by people similar to you and the assemblage has promised supervision."
"Supervision my foot," Zack muttered under his breath as the students began murmuring among themselves. Knowing Siraak he'll lead them to the cliffs to drop.
Luciine, who was behind Meara, looked frightful of the whole idea. Leaving Sollus would mean leaving her family and their business. It would be hard for them to visit her because of their old age and she doesn't think that she can travel from Sandur to Sollus alone from time to time.
*But what about Foine?* Croise wanted to ask. But he decided to wait until Elyzaar opens the floor for questions.
Meara looked at Celestyn and Kierlan, wondering why she had the feeling that things are about to change again.
"I'm not doubting the headmaster or anything but, that beefy-looking guy seem like the person who we shouldn't trust in supervising us." Onyx remarked, pointing at Siraak. He overheard Kierlan, who was nearby where he was.
Kierlan's dark gaze was on Siraak, who was now smirking at him. "He has already sent Elyzaar a message."
Celestyn only nodded. "To see me." Her voice sounded dull to her ears.
"I will not let him force you to come, I give you my word." Kierlan whispered fiercely.
She did not question the fact he already knew her decision before she even said it. She knew the captain's gaze was on her for the entire evening and loathed him then.
She had always known evil when she saw one. And Captain Siraak was exactly that. Evil.
"I appreciate your cooperation. The students are to gather their things to prepare for the move. Same with the faculty who will plan to go with us. Can I trust Ceisyia the responsibility to organize?" Elyzaar turned to the primly dressed woman.
"Of course," Ceisyia bowed her head, "...But I think I need to talk to the theatre director first. Then I'll be at the boarding house."
"Very well. You are all dismissed." Elyzaar was about to stand up to leave when a servant interrupted him, relaying a message from the Captain of the Avenes Falkswain Army. Just when the Headmaster was avoiding him. What does he want with him and his student this time?
Her stomach churned as she stand up, glancing at Croise, Larinya walked to approach the Headmaster with all the strength she can muster. The servant who spoke to the Headmaster walked by her just in time for her to stop Elyzaar from leaving again.
"Larinya?" Not everytime does the Headmaster get to be approached by this student.
"I mean to inquire about my sealing...I think I'm ready..." Larinya's heart was thumping wild though.
Elyzaar stood and studied the young woman for a moment, "Follow me to my office."
As everyone left the room, Kierlan saw Elyzaar, Siraak, the mayor and Dirbelow walk together discussing something with Larinya following closely behind.
Croise immediately looked for Arderith. Upon seeing her turning to leave the room, he pushed himself backward. "Mrs. Calligraphy!"
Arderith turned to the boy and smiled, seeing him jog. "Yes, Croise?"
"Mrs. Calligraphy," Croise slowed down and finally pulled to a stop. "I, it's about Foine..."
Arderith gave a sad smile.
"Mrs. Calligraphy, is she ready to leave the room?"
Arderith sighed and faced Croise fully. "Things will be a bit harder for her, maybe. I can't come with you, I have a family here."
Croise lost his breath. As of now, Arderith was the only one Foine trusted. Without her, how would Foine be...?
"I'll try..." Croise said. "I'll try to take your place."
Arderith smiled and nodded. Then she left.
Croise sighed and looked at the window. The rain had stopped, he felt calmer and at rest.
Croise blinked and turned around to see a black-haired man smiling.
Croise smiled and nodded. "Just wondering about Foine."
"I haven't heard about her for quite sometime." Omedus said. "Come have tea in my place."
Croise nodded and decided to follow Omedus out of the room.
Celestyn rose and as Kierlan pulled the chair back for her, he said quietly: "It's time, Aine, let's go."
A few feet from them, Zack waited for them to reach him, ready to do anything he could to help.
Celestyn just nodded shakily at Kierlan as he led her out of the assembly room and smiled at Meara who managed a weak, assuring smile for her.
What will happen now...Celestyn thought.
back 20 entries
The Sealing Order: A Commandment enforced around the world regarding the submission of magic users to the enclosing of their abilities. Disobedience or the unability to be sealed will mean a life sentence for them in the Lost Region. However, a massacre had ravaged the frozen forsaken lands, leaving only three alive. This while the most respected sealing academe, the Avenes Falkswain School had been repeatedly threatened. It was inevitable for mankind to start losing trust on this institution and on the Order for that matter after magic still persists to affect their lives and had proved to be inextinguishable.
At this point in time, fear hung itself over the world. The fear that sealing could not be the solution for the peace man desires. And that annihilation might start all over again...
Further Information can be found here.
Avenes Falkswain School activities and other information about it can be monitored here
Northern towns in Chaos
More on the World Affairs
Sealing Schools to be moved to the East.
As a new order is released regarding the death penalty for Demon Spawns. For local news, the bodies of three missing women from the Sollus-Lorreigh Trade Anniversary Feast are found.
More in this in The Sollus Gazette
Newest posts are always on top. Feel free to add this to your Friends Page. To see the past posts, please consult the archive Or if you prefer to check them by months: April - May - June - July - August - September - October and yes I owe you all an update. (updated 11/08/03)