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Exploring New Horizons [Sam, Ruki, Shrub, Fairess]
  • Robin found the gesture Vinx made toward her to be rather unusual, resisting the urge to squirm away out of reflex. Thankfully he had make it brief, but the feeling of his breath on her finger was not something she was familiar or comfortable with. She had seen lords doing it to ladies, maybe it was something of a gentlemanly factor going on here?

    Choosing not to dwell on it, she refocused her attention on what he was saying.

    "Leita mentioned something about all of us being in danger," she said cautiously.
  • Leita worried her lip as she watched Vinx interact with the newcomers. She watched him carefully, to pick up on any sign of him being displeased. While Leita was happy to have been successful, somehow she felt like there would be some misstep of her own somewhere.

    Vinx was as polite as ever. The new group was kind and patient for having been taken here under unusual circumstances.

    Robin started asking questions. Leita glanced toward Vinx had gestured they enter the diner. She thought they were going to sit down and talk to answer questions. Vinx was right that they were blocking the doorway.
  • Not one of them moved. Annoyance akin to the potency he’d felt when first dealing with Leita’s infuriating inability to move quickly erupted in his brain. He contained it, not a single muscle twitching as he stared back expectantly at his ‘guests.’ To be harsh would be to push them further away, to be gentle would be to let them disbelieve his urgency—in the space of a few seconds he had to somehow find a way to stifle their inhibitions and listen. His mind breezed through several phrases he could use, and he ultimately settled for the most direct.

    “Yes, you are all of you in danger, and yes, as I stated, I will tell you all I can if you will kindly seat yourselves so we can converse in a manner appropriate to the civil ladies and gentlemen that you are.” As if for an example, he gently pressed his hand to the small of Leita’s back, leading her as firmly, yet carefully as he could to the table where she could sit down. He then turned and looked to the others, deciding to give them more enticement to join him.

    “Shadow jumpers are attracted to creatures with potent life force—an attribute all but two of you exude. You can’t defend yourselves as you did against the vampire in the woods: these are not creatures you can cut, block, or harm by mundane means. If you have a shred of belief and the slightest inclination to accept my help then please, let me speak to you as more than your nearly enemy.”

    As if broken by a spell, the Altamirians moved forward, following Leita and Vinx to the table, pulling out chairs and sitting down, with the exception of Elrohir who remained seated in Nadie's lap.

    "How do you know about the vampire?" the dragon asked, leaning forward on the wooden table, his head resting on his hands which were acting as a platform. "Also, what makes our life force more potent than others in the area?"

    Perhaps Leita imagined it, because she was suspecting Vinx to be displeased, but there was something in the stillness of his composure that made her worry. She wondered if he was getting annoyed because they did not sit down as they were asked to before asking questions. He seemed to be rather ... impatient. Though she understood he had more urgency, since he knew the danger they faced best.

    She felt her nervousness grow, an anxious heat flooding her as he pressed his hand to the small of her back. She looked down as she obediently sat down at the table.

    Vinx, seemingly appeased with the majority of the group at his table, sat himself down in tandem with the Altamirans, his posture erect against his chair. He took no comfort or discomfort from the motion, but his eyes swiveled over his company, knowing that they should. Given their wounds and how far he'd had to track them, he was well aware of how tired they ought to be. At least one of them hadn't even had the chance to bathe.

    And then there was Leita, shrinking and heating up at the merest of touches. He was grateful only that she hadn't put up a fuss--coming off as a bully to a creature like her would not help his case. He imagined she'd be much more at ease once she was free of the shackle that was his presence, and surprisingly, he felt the merest bit of guilt. It wasn't his pleasure to use or command her, and some part of him wished she could take any kind of comfort from a person trying to protect her.

    Vinx's eyes met with Pyre's, then, unflinching, yet not unkind. "I am a demon hunter. When I entered the woods, I knew immediately that the remains of a potent vampire was nearby and followed where that sense took me. There I found where you fought, beheaded, and burned the creature. I have already been in pursuit of the shadow jumpers, so I was first inclined to believe that such a potent group could help me finish them.

    "Some time later, I came to realize that your prowess wasn't in mere combat--two of you have dragon blood, and still two more of you house magical energy. This extra vitality, as it were, is what makes you stand out from mundane humans. The shadow jumpers will fixate on you over the townsfolk here who have no such qualities. This puts you in great danger, but also opens up a rare opportunity."

    Robin had walked over and sat with the rest of the group, listening to Vinx's explanation. Something seemed to bother her a bit.

    "How exactly did you determine that two of us had dragon blood?" she asked him.

    Rather than looking to Robin, Vinx's eyes traveled back to the door where Cleopatra remained. He knew, more than anyone, that her presence at the inn was unwilling. If she thought she could bolt, however, and ruin what synergy he was managing to foster, the cold gaze he siphoned towards her told her his response would not be pleasant. He was done playing gentleman for those who would not obey for their own good.

    "Please, Miss Cleopatra, don't be a stranger. I've no more intention of hurting you any more than Miss Leita here." His gaze then went to Robin. "I knew something of your origins in the same way that I can sense vampires. The group you now vaguely know as demon hunters exercise magic of their own kind--it is for this reason I am safe from the shadow jumpers while you are not. While I will use what I have of such powers, I'm afraid it's not enough to overcome this obstacle alone."

    Cleo walked hesitantly towards the table, sitting down while remaining focused on the strange man. He'd found Mara's remains, that much was obvious...which meant that he knew how to find them again.

    Face set in a grimace, she stared him down. She wanted to ask what condition the ashes were in, what he'd done to them, but her captors would likely stop him from answering...and their suspicions would return about her motives.

    "So, what do you suggest then?" Renee asked, crossing her arms as she glared at him. "Clearly you have an answer, which is why you sought us out."

    "An apt observation, Lady Knight." The smallest bit of a smirk curled his lip. He folded his arms, sending a last, flickering gaze aimed towards Cleopatra as she sat and glared in his direction. "I have taken the liberty of establishing lodgings for all of you here--a token of grattitude, as it were, should you wish to cooperate. I've prepared a room fit for protecting each of you from the shadow jumpers: they cannot pass through light, so as long as you remain within that light, you will be safe.

    "I will not hide the nature of my intentions--while you will be safe, your concentrated life energies will be the perfect bait. The shadow jumpers will come for you. In the room I have prepared, and with your help, I can contain and destroy them. That is my plan and purpose."

    "Light ... like fire?" Nadie asked, slowly catching on to why they were needed as well.

    Leita worried her lip, only glancing up to gauge expressions every so often. She felt her ears pound when Robin inquired more about how Vinx was able to tell. Though, she didn't know why that would be so strange. Though Robin didn't seem to understand how Leita could feel it herself. Still, it worried her that Robin would start getting suspicious of Vinx.

    Her eyes came to rest on Cleo, who Vinx addressed. The poor woman was in a terrible state. She didn't know why she was willingly a vampire's companion ... but she wondered if that vampire was as terrible as they all assumed. Leita knew it was foolish. She had only met two exceptions to the rule of a vampire's nature. All the same, Leita worried her lip and her hands twisted in her lap. They had injuries ...

    "Bait...?" Robin felt her heart drop a little bit. "You know what you're doing, don't you?"

    Vinx's smirk widened, if a bit bitterly. "You had better hope that I do. If you are not safe from these creatures with a demon slayer to protect you, there is no other refuge for you. The more these things feed, the more of their own they create. Left unchecked, their population would be capable of taking hundreds of thousands of lives in a single night and without a single victim so much as uttering a scream."

    He glanced towards Nadie, then. "Fire is, at the moment, the only option. I've made use of candles and a fireplace to create an area of safety. It's impossible to say exactly when the shadow jumpers will strike, so there will likely be an extended time for all of you to maintain those light sources."

    Cleo looked like she was pondering something, her brow furrowed. "What about those of us who don't have...potent life energy? Would we need to stay in the protected area or would we be ignored by these things?"

    "Um ..." Leita began to speak, but then stopped when Cleo did.

    "Well, that shouldn't be a problem," the little drake said as he leaned back in the chair. "However, beyond Nadie and I, there should be more than enough fire power to keep things going."

    Elaine - who had been hovering around where Robin was, leaned against the table next to the half-dragon.

    "Yo, tell Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome if he needs someone to keep fire going, as long as there is a fireplace around, I can do that. My fire doesn't go out unless I lose power or will it."

    "Um ..." Leita tried again.

    "Is there a fireplace in the room?" Robin asked, channeling Elaine's request.

    Vinx settled a very dark smile on Cleopatra. "I'm betting on the shadow jumpers ignoring other creatures, yes, but it's not an assurance. No beast's reaction is predictable when cornered. There is a chance, should you stumble into shadow during the capture, that they will ignore you. There is also the chance that their need for life force will lead them to consume you, too. Besides that point, I imagine your friends here already want to keep you close."

    He then gave the other speakers apt attention in turn. "As for your question, Miss Robin, I do believe I already mentioned a fireplace. Should it be such a point of disbelief, you may accompany me to the room at any time to see that it is, in fact, there."

    "As for you..." Vinx looked to Pyre, not quite pleased by the creature's confidence, "While I appreciate your competence, I also advise all of you not to get carried away with your abilities. I do need the inn intact for the plan to work."

    Next, Vinx leaned over and set a pair of bronze keys on the table. Both of them had tags on them, one with the number five and the other with a six. "As it happens, there is still significant time before darkness falls. If I am not wrong in assuming your willingness to join me, feel free to take these. Rest, refresh yourselves as nessesary, and make whatever use you need of these rooms. I only require that you come to Room 8 sometime before or at sunset. Dinner will be served there at that time, and of course, I'll need you safely in place."

    Finally, finally Vinx fixed his attention on the timid Leita. "You all ought to know that Miss Leita here is an experienced healer, should you require such attention. I am sure she would be happy to help should you ask. Did you have something to say, Miss?"

    Leita flushed upon Vinx addressing her, and she glanced down. Her flush being that, the attention was most likely on her now. She was trying to say that she had her own light spells as well. But then, Vinx said not to get carried away with their own individual abilities, but it wasn't as if he was saying not to use them either.

    Her hands twisted together in her lap. "Um, it's--it's nothing. I--I can tell you about it later.

    Renee, whose attention was briefly captivated by Leita, turned to look at the two bronze keys on the table. Picking one up, she looked at with a slight grimace.

    "So, are we spreading out to act as bait, or are we going to be in one room?"

    "Also," Robin added, picking up the other, "what will happen when you're done?"

    Vinx's smirk softened just the slightest at Leita. "Noted, then, and appreciated. I'll be attending to Room 8 whenever you require my assistance."

    He almost actually smiled at Renee's face, then--his mood was obviously improving. "As I mentioned before--" Honestly, how many times would he be using the phrase? "--your capasity as bait is most potent when all of you are together. We'll all be making use of Room 8 come evening, but I wished to allow you what privacy and comfort I am capable of before that time."

    "As for what I intend should all go as planned? My work as a demon slayer requires me to move at will, and I will return to working as I usually do--alone. For your convenience, I have rented the rooms for tonight and next evening, should you choose to stay here after our work is done."

    "Well at least we don't have to worry about the whore," the dragon grumbled as he reached for the key in Renee's hand only for the knight to hold it out of his reach.

    Leita's gaze fell sadly, a slight cringe at the words the little drake used.

    "Will you stop using the word 'whore' every other sentence?" Robin asked him, irritated. Cleo's expression became worse at Pyre's words, the girl crossing her arms.

    "You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means."

    Vinx promptly stood up from the table, not one to stay for such bickerings. "Ladies, gentlemen, if you'll excuse me? As I men... I will be in Room 8 should you require me at any time. Remember, please, that you must be there by sunset." Before he left, however, he did bend closer to where Leita sat. "Please, don't be afraid to speak to me. There are some words I would have with you as well, when you are ready."

    Leita felt a slight shiver as Vinx bent closer to speak to her. She tried again to lift her gaze to his but failed. She did make it to his face though. "Y-yes, I understand."

    "Just because you don't charge doesn't make you less of one," the dragon snarked with a sneer as the younger girl groaned. Standing up, she gently took the key from Renee's hand.

    "Well I'm tired and Pyre is cranky. I think we'll retire for now until dinner," she announced before smiling at Leita. "If you want to talk more, you can come with us. If not, we can talk after all of this."

    "Why don't you come with me for a bit, Cleo?" Robin suggested. "You...need a bath, to put it politely."
  • "Just because you don't charge doesn't make you less of one."

    Leita’s eyes went to the table in front of her. Whore. Slut. These were words Leita knew from Hyrule usually only in association with Gerudo. These were the insults Hylians gave them. Their meanings were still much the same as they were in the other worlds she visited.

    No charge …

    Then what did that make her? Just because there was no consent didn’t mean others wouldn’t look at her the same way.

    Something dirty and without dignity.

    Leita pulled her lip into her mouth, her eyes staying downcast. She almost didn’t hear Nadie addressing her.

    “…” She looked up at her. “Oh … um …”

    She wanted to talk, but she didn’t want to be around Pyre if he would continue to say those things. She looked down, hesitating, and then making her decision.

    “I, um … I’ll go with Robin and Cleo first—Heal her wounds. Then I’ll come and check on the rest of you.”

    The fire mage nodded slightly before carrying off a sulking Pyre, who was complaining he was NOT cranky, and she should put him down this instant. Luckily for Cleo, and to a further extent, Leita, she ignored him.

    Leita stood up from the table, gathering her bag and staff, and then walked over to Robin and Cleo.

    The knight and the armor, and only to Robin's knowledge, the ghost got up as well to hang around. While Renee noticed Leita's upset when it came to the dragon's vulgarity, she agreed with him that she shouldn't be trusted - especially around Robin and Leita who she doubted would believe in her guilt even if she was stabbing them in the face.

    Meanwhile, Robin was keeping a trained eye on Leita, noticing that she was a little bit upset. She was upset herself, mainly due to the tiny dragon's foul language that seemed to have no filter whatsoever. Her gaze flitted to Cleo, checking on her and noticing her underlying misery.

    Cleo looked down slightly as she followed Robin towards their destination, still troubled by everything that had happened. She felt tired and filthy, and her throbbing wrists were a continual reminder of her captivity.

    "So," Renee said, addressing Leita trying to create some conversation. "You're a healer, right? What's the training like in your country?"

    Leita glanced up to Renee and then looked down. "Um ..."

    She didn't really know how to describe it. She didn't do training for her healing anymore. She had already mastered it.

    "Well, I've mastered healing," began Leita. "But when I was a novice, we often practiced healing on the students who were learning swordplay and the other martial arts. They often got scratches and small injuries ..."

    Leita had more practice at home though, and sometimes it was more than just bumps and scraps. She worried her lip and looked down.

    "So, how long was your training?" Renee prodded a bit more, trying to keep up the conversation. "In my home country, healers are required to learn all the humors and the human body before they are allowed to call themselves masters, which can take some years. Even after they learn everything they have to become journeymen before they are allowed to call themselves masters."

    Leita wasn't sure what humors were. It had to be a culture specific term. She often found herself running into things like that when she traveled between worlds. She looked up thoughtfully, counting the years before she had surpassed her teachers at the Fortress.

    "I was ten-years-old when my intensive training started, but my mother did show me the basics while I was growing up before that. I became a master when I was sixteen."

    Robin listened closely to Renee and Leita's conversation, wanting to know more about both of them as they walked down the corridor to the rooms Vinx has supposedly rented out to them.

    "Oh wow," Renee's eyebrows shot up, clearly impressed. "I was 10 when I started training to become a knight, but I wasn't knighted until I was 21. You must be really good."

    Leita flushed. Oh, right. That wasn't normal in Hyrule either. Everyone at the Fortress called her a prodigy. She liked magic, practicing it when she was young often ... helped her forget when she was sad.

    Her hands twisted nervously around her staff.

    "You should give me some pointers," Renee said, grinning at her, her interest in the younger girl clearly skyrocketing. "I know some basic first aid - mostly about the pressure points though."

    Leita tilted her head. Pressure points? Rontu had mentioned those once, but only in a combat context. "Um ... the healing I do isn't first aid ..."

    There was a distinction in Hyrule. First aid was what non-magical individuals did because they lacked the magical ability to use healing spells.

    "I use magic to heal."

    That seemed to catch Renee by surprise. In Altamire, magic couldn't exactly be used to heal - at least not in the traditional sense. Fire mages could cauterize wounds for example, and air mages could cushion falls. Most of what mages could do with their powers was mostly something which was better for the pitch of battle or first response - not long-term care.

    "Well ... I'm a water mage?" she suggested hopefully, not ready to give up just yet.

    "Oh!" Leita's eyes lit up with interest. "What kind of spells do you have?"

    The conversation was starting to turn in a direction that really interested Robin, and she tilted her head to listen better.

    "Spells?" Renee seem surprised by the question. That was an odd word she never quite heard before - at least not in that context. To her, spells meant a long period of time - sleeping spells, fainting spells, etc. "Well ... uh, I don't know about spells, but I have the ability to shape water however I please. I'm also able to freeze it into ice in different shapes."

    "Oh, so you don't use incantation?" asked Leita.

    "No," Renee answered.

    "I see," said Leita, looking ahead. She glanced around for their room number. "My friends, Kira and Kai, they can manipulate air and earth without incantation or magic gesture. I've never seen anything like it before them."

    "Everyone in my country is like me," Renee said. "I never saw someone chant something to use magic - doesn't that just leave you up for an opening for an attack?"

    Leita smiled softly. "Well, yes, it does. It also takes time to do the right gesture. That's the advantage the warrior class has over mages and magic users in my homeland. In battles, mages are often paired with a warrior to help protect them while they cast."

    "Huh," Renee said. "As you can see with me and Nadie, it's not that uncommon for the two classes to overlap - although that's usually the minority. People who are melee mages like Nadie and dual mages like me who get trained in hand-to-hand combat. Of course I was trained in hand-to-hand before people realized I could do magic. I never really thought it was odd before, being able to control water.”

    They came upon the room as the conversation reached its peak, and Robin unlocked the door, glancing behind herself at them.

    "I actually desire a bath as well," she said. "How about you two?"

    "I'm fine," Renee said hurriedly. She had no intention of having an awkward repeat with Robin, and there was no way she was going to make herself exposed to Cleo. Nope. She was fine.

    She glanced at her with a weirded out expression. She had a feeling that Renee didn't want a repeat of the river, but she had no intention of doing one conjoined bath, instead just wanting to keep an eye on Cleo.

    Staying quiet, her face stuck in a worn down expression, the girl walked through the door, avoiding eye contact with the others. She was glad that Renee wasn't going in...she found the woman intimidating and she was already feeling bad enough as it was.

    "Oh, um, thank you, but I'm fine," answered Leita. "However, I will come with to help heal your injuries ... Renee-san, do you have any injuries?"

    "No ... I'm alright," Renee said with a shrug, before knocking on Aevukepe. "This big guy protected me."

    "Cleo," Robin started, looking toward her, "maybe we should show Leita what happened to you..." her blood boiled a little at the thought of the shackles.

    The girl walked forwards, unwrapping the bandages around her wrists and exposing the congealed blood and the injuries in her wrists where the shackles had gone into her flesh, wincing a little as she removed them. The rest of her wrists were red and marked by the shackles, and it would be pretty obvious to anybody what must have happened.


    "You make it sound like she's the victim in this," Renee said, her eyes narrowing slightly, getting annoyed at Robin. She knew that Robin meant well, but it was still rather annoying that she seemed to conveniently forget until they stopped her, Cleo was going to do the same to someone else. "Let me you remind you in case you forgot - she had every intent on doing that someone else."

    Cleo's expression darkened as Renee talked, the red-haired girl frowning as she lowered her injured wrists. "Are you objecting to me being healed? Because if not, I'd like to get these scars fixed, thank you."

    "No one deserves to be shackled," she said stubbornly, turning away and starting to take her armor off.

    "Tell that to her," Renee growled. "You seem to think she's innocent. She's not. She was ready to kill and torture us until we killed that vampire bitch."

    "I KNOW," she shouted, though immediately fell quiet. She felt herself trembling as she let her chain mail fall to the floor, and she seemed to feel paralyzed.

    Everything was getting tense very quickly. Leita went over to Cleo shakily. The tension and anger in the voices sent her nerves on edge. Her head bow low and she felt her eyes sting. Even if they weren't the ones yelling at her, she never could handle conflict very well.

    Her green eyes stared down at Cleo's wrists. She had seen it before. Whenever a fresh wave of rescued slaves would arrive from outside the Fortress. She also got a lot of practice healing there too. She would see this on their ankles as well.

    She heard what Renee was saying. But all the same ... it did not mean they had to be cruel in return. That never made it better. Never. It didn't mean they wouldn't treat Cleo with caution, but there were some things that were too cruel for her.

    "Ateru," she whispered softly as a couple tears slid down her face. Cleo's wrists glowed a light green, and they healed without a trace of a scar.

    Renee didn't seem to notice, or care, what Leita was up to. Instead, she kept her ice cold eyes on Robin.

    "If you know, then why do you keep defending her?!" she asked frustrated. Robin was so like Natasha it hurt. Neither of them seemed to take the danger that was Cleo seriously. Just because she was human without powers didn't mean she couldn't be dangerous.

    "Because she's still a person..." Robin answered quietly, continuing to take her armor off. Her voice was rather shaky, and she cursed herself for letting her emotions get carried away. "Believe what you want, but no one - even if they intended to do it to someone else - deserves to be treated like that. Cruelty only leads to more cruelty."

    She finished taking everything off, left with a well-fitted tunic and some linen pants. She slipped her boots off, stretching her toes. She undid her hair from her braid, letting it fall down her back loosely.

    "I know, it seems childish... but the kind of damage that being shackled does... I don't want to inflict it on someone else, even if others feel like they deserved it."

    Leita turned to Robin, finished now with Cleo's healing. Her head still remained bowed, hair hiding her face mostly. Robin ...

    But Rontu ... he would have agreed with Renee. What would he have done? Leita shuddered. She knew. She knew there was a side to him she never really understood. His cold and calculating. He could kill so easily at times. But she wondered ... if she had asked, would he have spared her?

    Leita's eyes gazed over Robin, trying to find if there were injuries. She wanted to ask but with their argument ... it felt like there was no room for her to speak a word.

    Idiots. Both of them.

    "One of these days, that naive thinking of yours is going to get you killed," Renee growled. "You and Nadie both seem to think that you can change a monster. You can't. People like her-" she threw a dirty look to Cleo. "Play innocent and weak, but they will stab you the minute your back is turned because they don't give a fuck."

    She refused to look at her when she said that.

    Naïve thinking, is this what she really thinks? She knew that trying to get Renee to think the way she did was impossible, and would probably stay that way. Finally, Robin looked up, glancing over her shoulder with a couple of stray tears running down her cheeks and her face twisted in frustration.

    "I know you're concerned," she said softly, as well as a little bitterly. "Forgive me, if possible." She walked past them, aiming to get out of the room.

    "R-Robin-san ...!" Leita called after her, and she grabbed up her staff and bag quickly to follow.

    Renee didn't follow, she simply looked over to where Cleo was and glared.

    "Well? Get in the fucking tub."

    Elaine, on the other hand, did. Robin was the only who could see her after all.

    "R-Robin-san, w-wait, please!" Leita called after her.

    Robin paused long enough to turn around and look at Leita. Her anger dropped as she gazed at the younger woman, sighing.

    "What is it?"

    Leita stopped, eyes still red from her own tears. She glanced at Robin only to quickly look down. She spoke softly. "I ... I just wanted to check if you had a-any injuries ..."

    Her face softened a little bit, and she wandered a little closer.

    "I got slammed into a tree earlier," she said softly, "but other than that, I think I might be alright."

    "It's just your feelings which are hurt, hm?" Elaine said with an easy grin as if she found the whole thing amusing as she leaned against the wall. "Maybe you should ask for a kiss to make it better."

    Robin glanced at Elaine with a rather annoyed expression, but didn't say anything.

    "O-Oh?" Leita looked up earnestly at Robin. "L-let me check real quick then. M-my spell also helps me detect injuries ..."

    "I bet if you played it off innocently enough, she would do it," Elaine goaded her with a sing-song voice.

    "A-Alright," she said, shooting a nasty glare at Elaine, as if trying to tell her to shut up.

    Leita startled a bit, noticing Robin's glare. "... U-unless you're--you're ... um ... if you're s-still upset I ..."

    "N-No," she said, "I'm not upset... well.. that's not entirely true, is it?" Robin sighed. "No, I'm fine."

    Of course, all she got in return was just an impish smirk. Elaine knew as well as she did that there was literally nothing she could do to her.

    "Tell her you just need a kiss from a fair maiden to heal a broken heart."

    She ignored Elaine that time, not wanting to frighten Leita more than she already had.

    Leita looked back up at Robin, still uncertain. She worried her lip. "O-okay ..."

    She stepped up and took R-Robin's hand. She just needed contact. "E-excuse me ..."

    Her hand was rather soft and delicate, and Robin held it gently, gazing at her intently to see what she was going to do.

    "See, she's holding your hand," Elaine said, completely taking things out of context on purpose. "Maybe you can propose to her."

    She snuck another glare at Elaine, focusing on what was happening again afterward.

    Leita closed her eyes softly. "Ateru."

    There were no injuries that Leita could feel in her body. That was how the spell worked. Leita felt her patient's pain with them in her own body. Not always as intensely as the patient themselves. She had to be careful not to sync with them too much. It could distract her from the actual healing process. Robin was fine. But it was what stuck with Leita after healing Cleo. She could feel the pain in her wrists like it was her own.

    Leita opened her eyes and smiled softly up at Robin. "You're okay ..."

    She looked down at Robin's hand. "F-for what it's worth ... I feel the same way ..."

    Leita let go of her hand and turned to walk away.

    "...You do?" Robin asked, her breathing a little calmer.

    Leita turned to look back at Robin and smiled in soft, gentle sadness. She looked down thoughtfully. “I’ve … seen so many people hurt … and hurt each other … I just … If it’s unnecessary, I just can’t …”

    She didn’t know how to say what she was trying to say. She knew caution with Cleo was important. But if there was a way to stay safe without subjecting her to more harsh and cruel conditions, Leita thought they should do their best to not cause unnecessary suffering. Cleo and the vampire she was with … They were probably bad people. She understood that. But she saw no point in doing more harm to each other.

    Why did people seek to hurt each other so much?

    "So have I," Robin confessed. "Even my own father was subjected to it. Sometimes he has rather horrible nightmares about it, it's frightening whenever I come across it." She shuddered at the thought of the screaming. "He has horrible scars on his wrists and ankles from that ordeal..."

    Leita looked down, remembering Khaz after the war. Malon had said he was still screaming in his sleep at the ranch, where he went to recover. It took a while for him to talk again as well. She still couldn't believe he was allowed to go with them when they left Hyrule ... His blood phobia being what it was on top of that.

    She thought of Blaze's scars. The ones she ... was unable to heal. The wounds were tainted, so saving his life was all she could manage. She remembered how ragged Malon had looked when they first met her with Link, right after she had just escaped slavery at her own ranch.

    She looked up at Robin. "... I am so sorry for the both of you."

    "Makes me wonder why you just didn't tell Renee that," Elaine said. "Considering we just fought a war to save a bunch of slaves."

    Well it was more complicated than that, but that would require a whole long explanation on the politics of Altamire, and she didn't feel like dumbing it down just at the moment. Especially since she felt Robin wouldn't understand.

    Robin didn't bother answering her, not wanting to look silly in front of Leita.

    "Why don't you go check on Nadie? She needs someone to look at her burns."

    Her green eyes widened. Nadie had burns? “Very well, I will go do so now.”

    OoC: Skype IMRP. Thanks everyone.

    Leita MP notes:

    Healing: 6 MP

    “We must be greater than what we suffer.”
    [A Light in the Dark| Empire of Darkness |Under the Red Sea]

    The post was edited 5 times, last by Shrub ().

  • "You do know that my sister's burns are old wounds right?" Elaine asked as she followed Robin down the hall. While she didn't quite care the half-dragon had chased Leita away - especially since to go help her own sister - she found it rather interesting. Especially since she had a like-minded soul to talk to.

    "Well I'd rather not look like I belong in a straight jacket," she retorted, then looked up at Elaine. "Seriously?"

    "Yeah," Elaine said as she raised an eyebrow. "Did you see her use fire magic once?"

    "No," she told the ghost. "And I hope I don't anytime soon, if it causes harm to her."

    "I think she would prefer that as well, but alas, you know ... things happen," she said before another pause. "Where are you going anyway?"

    "I don't really know," she replied, "just...away from all the drama for now. I don't want to do anything I'll regret later."

    Elaine chuckled as she followed silently. Ah drama, it was such a pain when she was alive but now that she was dead, it was an endless source of entertainment for her.

    Robin walked silently for a while, before looking up at the ghost.

    "You mentioned a war earlier involving slaves...?"

    "Yes," Elaine said simply. "What about it?"

    "You brought it up when I told Leita about my father," she said.

    "Oh yes," Elaine said as she rubbed her chin, understanding where Robin was going about it. "I just found it odd you didn't mention this argument to the dog, considering."

    "Never thought it would be necessary," she told her, sighing a little bit. "It's not something I like talking about, anyway."

    Understandable, I suppose," Elaine said. "Everyone has things they hate talking about."

    She stopped near a window, glancing outside to make sure it wasn't sunset yet.

    "Should I go back to the room?"

    "That's up to you, isn't it?" Elaine said as she looked outside at the town below. She seemed she was always inside looking out. Prior she never really thought about it - she didn't enjoy being with people, but she wondered what it would have been like if she had. "What would you do if you went back? Fight some more? Apologize? Demand to know why she acted the way she did?"

    "Well I can't just leave it on that note," Robin argued, looking annoyed. "Besides...though I don't agree with the methods used, Cleo needs to be held responsible for her intentions." She clenched her fists.

    "But we don't need to use shackles of all things on her."

    "Huh," Elaine said, raising an eyebrow. The way Robin had been acting, she was sure the half-dragon had already forgiven and forgotten. "What was your plan then. To hold her accountable?"

    "I just want to see if Cleo still holds any shred of humanity," she simply told Elaine. "I hate wasting potential, even if it doesn't seem like someone has it. Not everything is black and white like Renee likes to believe." She looked at the ghost with almost an intense stare. "For example, to Cleo, we're horrible monsters for killing off Mara, who may have been likely the only thing that gave her purpose in life.

    "Or a thief who steals food for his starving family," she continued. "A killer father avenging his child's death by killing the child's killer... there's more gray than anyone would care to admit. Of course, they must be held accountable, and they're probably bad people. But there's always more than one perspective."

    Elaine chuckled at that. Robin was saying essentially what she advocated, but in a longer sense.

    "What is evil indeed," she said as she turned her attention back to Robin. "Then again what is good? What is humanity?"

    "To me," she replied, "humanity is the ability to say 'I fucked up' and try again."

    "Even if they don't mean it?" Elaine pressed. "It's easy to say something after all."

    "That's the tricky part, isn't it?" Robin countered, smirking and turning back toward the room. She decided that she was going to try to work things out, but braced herself for the Ice Knight's wrath.

    OOC: Thanks Ruki for the IMRP!
  • Cleo continued glaring, walking over to the tub of water before starting to undo the light knots of the corsetted area of her dress, silently cursing at whoever Mara had forced to make it for making it such a pain to get it off. As she started to slip out, she raised an eyebrow at Renee and smirked. Normally she wouldn't assume anything, but the woman was very obviously into other woman if what she'd managed to overhear was true.

    "Enjoying the show?" she said sarcastically, her voice dripping with a combination of mockery and bemusement.

    "Don't flatter yourself," Renee said staring right at her, her ice blue eyes narrowing. "You're not THAT pretty."

    Cleo raised an eyebrow before shrugging. "Well, not everyone can have good taste," she said as she looked at the tub. Quickly she realized that she was alone in the room with one of the two people in the entire group she was pretty sure would be okay with the idea of killing her...

    Stepping into the water as quickly as she could, her hands balled into fists, just in case.

    "Speaking of taste, why do you hang out with that dragon brat exactly?" she said carefully, trying to fill the silence with something.

    Renee shrugged, clearly not willing to give Cleo a straight answer. While she wasn't going to kill her - at least not without being able to have a good reason to - it seemed she didn't trust her enough to make small talk.

    "Why did you fuck a vampire?" she shot back at her.

    Cleo's expression fell slightly and she sighed. "...She was the first person to ever accept me for being myself," she said, the urge to lie or mess with the knight sapped. She was tired and lonely and just not in the mood for subterfuge.

    "Which is what?" Renee asked, her frown becoming more pronounced.

    The girl in the tub shrank slightly, more vulnerable then usual. "...A lot of things. I didn't believe in the God my town believed in, I wasn't attracted to the 'right people' you know what it's like to be told you'll be tortured and burned forever for loving the people you love?" Cleo breathed in deeply and continued, quietly. "All of that, she understood. She even understood my...anger issues."

    It was a polite way to put homicidal rage, compared to several others she could have used.

    Renee was quiet for a moment as she looked away. Altamire didn't believe in a God, but she could understand all too well what it was like to be ... different. The similarities between her and the girl made her shift uncomfortably.

    "Altamire doesn't believe in gods," she said finally. "We believe in balance. Our whole culture is based around it. Dark and light. Man and woman. Everything must in balance with one another."

    Cleo looked down at the bathwater, a frown on her face.

    "...That doesn't sound good at all. If it's all about balance, what about the balance between homosexuals and heterosexuals? Does that get considered, or is everything outside the norm 'unbalanced'? Because this sounds more like an excuse to get rid of what you don't like by claiming its bad then anything else."

    "Homosexuals are considered unbalanced," she said simply. "While bisexuals are considered balanced, they can only procreate with bisexuals of the opposite sex. Those who have the spirit of a different gender inside of them are accepted, however they can only procreate with those of the opposite sex. Essentially, when it comes to sex, only a penius and a vagina can enter together. Everything else is ... wrong."

    She sighed. She didn't even know why she was telling Cleo this.

    "Same thing with twins and bastards. It's a bit more nuanced than that, but you get the idea."

    "Still sounds like bullshit," she said, starting to rub the dirt and grime off of herself into the water. "People shouldn't be treated any different for any of those. Love who you love and don't bother yourself with what others do unless it effects you personally."

    Renee didn't answer that.

    Cleo stayed silent in the bathwater and then looked up. "...Okay, before I say this, realize that I don't like you. You took me prisoner and killed the woman I love. I don't really have any reason to say this, need to hear it."

    Breathing in, Cleo closed her eyes. "You're not weird or unbalanced, alright? Like, I get that your culture says that's what you are, but you aren't. There's nothing wrong with feeling the way you do, and the sooner you start embracing it as part of who you are and not letting anyone else make you feel bad about it the happier you'll be."

    Opening her eyes, the girl looked somewhat sadly at Renee. "Because nobody deserves to think of themselves like that, alright? Nobody. I wouldn't wish that sort of situation on even that dragon brat."

    Renee really didn't like the way she was talking, nor the way she was becoming more ... human. She made her feel uncomfortable the way Elaine made her feel uncomfortable when she died to protect Angelica. While she never had any trouble separating the two twins, everything she heard what Elaine did in her final moments acted in exact contradiction to the woman Renee grew up with.

    Things were in black or white. Always had been. She was a "good" guy, and the enemies of the country and the Brant family were the "bad" guys. As a result, they were killed, no questions asked.

    ... But that wasn't really true, was it?

    After all, Kevin had been known as the Executioner - that was his title. It was no secret he carried out the assassinations of those who got on the wrong side of the king. After Leonard died, he retired and simply ... disappeared until the remaining Brant children called him and Gabriel back into service.

    It reminded her of what Elaine whispered to her once, a long time ago.

    "What is good? What is evil? Can you answer me that, Ice Knight? After all, isn't killing evil ... yet if you had the chance wouldn't you kill Prince Cardell? What about the killing when we go to war? Don't you think that is hypocritical? If you can tell me, I'll abide by your wishes and see my sister.

    Renee never had an answer for her. It pissed her off since if she just was able to answer, Madeline would have met Elaine ... well who they believed to be Natasha at the time. She would have been so happy. To this day Renee took the fault upon herself for failing to deliver this happiness. It was her JOB damn it.

    The more she felt about it, the angrier she felt. Both at herself and at Cleo for making her feel this way. She was supposed to be the enemy. She was a threat. She warned Robin not just a few minutes ago to be careful of her sweet words, yet here she was getting sucked into them. She was a KNIGHT. She was supposed to be BETTER.

    "Don't speak as you know me," Renee growled after what was a clearly long time of introspection - around three minutes if anyone felt like keeping track. If Ramen was a thing in this world, they would have had plenty of time to make it. "I'm a knight and duty always comes first. What I am doesn't matter."

    Cleo looked somewhat disappointed, but she could expect much better. Even if she hadn't tried to kill the girl, she was from another culture and another time all together. Making her accept herself like that was a long shot, but at least Cleo'd tried.

    "Well, I'm about as clean as I'm going to be," she said, stepping out and looking around for the clothes she and Robin had purchased for her. "Just...try to at least consider what I said? I understand you don't trust or even like me, and I get that, but I wouldn't use something like this against somebody."

    Sighing as she started pulling the black tunic over her head. "I used to say stuff like that too. That I was a good Christain girl, a good daughter, and what I wanted and felt didn't matter as much as being what my parents or the preacher wanted me to be. And that's no way to live. If your ruler or kingdom are worth your loyalty, they'll accept you the way you are. Maybe you should ask?"

    Light knocking was suddenly heard on the door leading into the inn's room.

    Renee walked over to the door and opened it and arched her eyebrow when she saw Robin. She had no idea what she was doing back here. Did she honestly think she would kill Cleo?

    She had a rather guilty look on her face, but she looked up at Renee, meeting her gaze.

    "Uh, I um... I just..." She scratched her head and looked away. "I'm sorry for storming out like that... I wanted to... leave before I said anything I regretted."

    Renee stared at her stupidly, not quite sure what to make of all this sudden turn around. She hadn't expected Robin to come and apologize to her, especially since she was the one who made her cry in the first place.

    "Er ... sure," she said awkwardly, still caught off balance from the exchange with Cleo.

    Cleo continued to change into her new clothes behind Renee, already mostly dressed. She didn't want to interrupt the two knights conversation, and the fact Robin had returned had made Cleo a bit awkward. She was perfectly aware they'd gotten in the spat they had because of her. At least it seemed like they were fine now?

    Tying the belt around her waist, Cleo leaned against the wall. "Ready to leave when you are," she said. "Promise you'll at least think about what I said, Renee?"

    Robin glanced between the two of them, deciding not to pry. She looked back at Renee, smiling a little.

    "I guess we can talk it out later," she said, sounding a little sad.

    "She looks bothered by something," Elaine helpfully supplied. After all the ghost knew the knight since both were children, and Renee was never that hard to get a read on - her heart was on her shoulder.

    After all she had shifted her weight and scowled at Cleo's request, but for once she didn't insult her. That right there was very telling.

    Robin took that knowledge, putting it to use.

    "Are you alright?" she asked.

    "I'm fine," Renee lied.

    Robin looked at her skeptically. "No you're not."

    "Yes I am," Renee said stubbornly, crossing her arms across her chest. "What makes you think I'm not? Is it because I didn't kill her? I'm not going to kill an unarmed woman taking a bath."

    Cleo stood in the background and sighed, looking at the side of Renee's head. She wished the knight would talk to Robin about it, but she understood why she didn't. She'd been there before, and she likely was still thinking over what Cleo had said...the last thing she would have wanted if something like that had happened back when Mara had started helping her would have been somebody asking her questions about it.

    Robin decided to let it drop, going into the room and heading to her bag. She pulled out a couple of gems, holding them tight in her fists, before putting them back and glancing at Renee.

    "This is going to be a very long night," she said. "If something goes wrong, we're not going to have time to discuss this." She sat down, facing Renee. "Now, what's wrong? Please, be honest with me."

    "Look, nothing is WRONG," Renee said as she turned around, refusing to face Robin. What was she supposed to say anyway?

    'Oh the woman who I've called a monster made me realize that we are more similar than I am comfortable with?'

    Yeah, that wasn't going to happen. Not by a long mile.

    Robin suddenly smiled, just a little.

    "Liar," she teased, standing again.

    Cleo stood up from her spot on the wall, looking at Robin. She wasn't sure about what every issue Renee was dealing with right now was, although she had a feeling, but at the very least she could focus on one of them.

    "Robin, a quick question. What's the situation like around here if somebody's homosexual? Just want to know what I'm in for if I'm going to be stuck around here and all."

    Robin gave her a puzzled look.

    "No one really cares," she said. "I've heard about other places not accepting them, but that's not the case here. Though, now that I think about it, it's mostly for pleasure and not any actually family raising..." She scowled a little bit. "Why else would you need to know that?"

    Cleo shrugged. "No reason. So, nobody really cares? That's good."

    "Yeah, no one cares," she said, shrugging.

    Renee didn't say anything but she noted it was OK if you were fucking but not so much family raising. She had no intention of just getting in a relationship, and even if she did, it wouldn't be just for carnal needs. She wanted a family, the one she never had, and she wanted it in Altamire not in some foreign country.

    Robin turned her attention to her, crossing her arms.

    "Now, for the love of everything nice and pleasant in this world, can you tell me what the matter is? It's clearly bothering you, anyone with eyes can see that."

    Cleo looked expectantly at Renee, wondering if the knight was going to say anything. If she didn't, she was half tempted to say something about it herself. Even if Renee wouldn't listen to her, maybe she'd listen to Robin if she agreed with her.

    If there was one thing that Renee was, it was that she was stubborn. A scowl formed on her face as her body tightened up as if she was literally putting her feet in the ground.

    "I'm fine, now stop asking."

    Cleo groaned, leaning against the wall again. "She's all weird because I said her country sucks because they're not okay with homosexuals and I told she shouldn't care and accept it about herself," she said. "Christ, you're stubborn."

    Robin looked at both of them, surprised.

    "That's it?" she asked. She looked at Renee again, her face becoming unreadable. "I mean, on one hand, coming to accept yourself can be...difficult. I know that first hand. But it's better than living

    If looks could kill, Cleo would have died on the spot, risen from the dead and then killed again in the most gruesome way possible. Interestingly enough, it seemed that Renee also fixed her murderous glare on Robin, although the half-dragon didn't need go through the pain of a gruesome second death.

    "You both act like you know me but you don't," she growled, slamming a closed fist against the wall, making it rattle. "Stop talking out of your ass like you know shit. You're just two kids who think they got the answers to everything."

    "Denying it won't do you any good," Robin tossed back, though her tone remained calm. "Remember that I have someone else who has known you her whole life helping me out here, I know a little more than you may think."

    Renee's eyes narrowed as she tried to figure out who it could be, the gears turning in her head. She doubted it was Natasha - the girl proved to be more observant than she gave credit for but she doubted she would have said anything, which left ...

    "Elaine," she growled. "Knows me as well as she knew her older and younger sister."

    It was a low blow, and both the knight and ghost knew it.

    Cleo's expression fell as the conversation turned somewhat sour. She couldn't help but hear her own words from just a few weeks ago coming out of Renee's mouth, and as it continued she started to realize that it might not be possible to get Renee to accept herself at all. Hell, it had taken her killing her father and her mother and Mara's influence to get her to admit it and start moving forwards, and she could easily have just gotten worse from that point.

    But maybe...if she could figure out somebody who Renee did like, maybe that'd be enough? She wasn't sure who in the group would be the proper choice, if any, but then she'd need to convince them.

    Robin narrowed her gaze, but shrugged.

    "I see how it is, then," she said casually. "I mean we've only just met a couple of days ago, I didn't take you to be the trusting type, anyway."

    Elaine was surprised by the sting of the blow Renee threw her way. In the past she would have shaken it off with a shrug, but it seemed she had developed a bit of guilt.

    On the other hand, Renee's face was frozen in her typical scowl. She hated being corned and she hated how they thought they knew everything when they didn't. (cont)

    She decided she didn't want to deal with this anymore. She needed to get out, clear her head. If she went back to Natasha's room, she would want to know what was wrong and the damned dragon would tell her. Nobody could keep their noses to themselves. (cont)

    "That's why I'm alive," she said coldly as she made way for the door before pausing to look at Robin. "Also, next time you take advice from Elaine, you should know she's not whom she seems."

    With that, she left the room, her living armor following after her silently.

    Cleo stood there quietly, then looked at Robin. "...She just needs time to think it over," she said hopefully.

    Robin shrugged, not really looking bothered. "She will, eventually. Everyone who runs away from their problems does."

    "Nah, she's always been like this," Elaine said as she leaned against the wall. "Not that I blame her ... I mean she hates me too, but there are some things you really just can't understand until you live it," she said, wondering why she was sticking up for Renee. Probably because Natasha would. Plus them understanding Renee's situation would help them understand in time Natasha's, which was more important than Renee's butthurt.

    "Beside, how would you feel if people you didn't know who never lived in your country tried to tell your struggles were invalid and you needed to get over them?" she pointed out. "There are many things in this world that is grey."

    Robin scowled a little as Elaine talked, sighing a little. It was true that she saw more shades of grey than she was supposed to as a knight, but living in a black and white world was idealistic at best, and a huge emotional trap otherwise. She had been forced to realize that at a young age, and she was surprised that Renee thought that way despite being the way she was.

    Maybe it all has to do with the country they're all from, she thought. She had never been to Altamire herself, and realizing some of the pressure Renee had to deal with, it wasn't too far fetched to say that it would be difficult to get her to realize who she truly was, and that it wasn't entirely a bad thing to be herself.

    Cleo, unaware of the talking ghost in the room, sighed. "Well, we tried, at least?"

    Yawning slightly, she looked out the door. "So I guess we find the others and wait until nightfall then."

    "I'd rather we not," Robin said, looking a little irritable. "I'd rather stay away from the midget that tosses the word "whore" around like he knows what it really means."

    Cleo chuckled bitterly at that. "I'm still not entirely sure why that's the go-to insult for him. It seems like they're sort of a bit prudish wherever they come from. Really...conservative?"

    "In a way, I guess," She said, smirking a little and resting her back against the wall. "I really can't stand that word..."

    "It's a dumb insult, at the very least. Not all that accurate either, but I doubt that's the point of using it anyway, so there's that."

    "At the very worst, it's a bitter reminder," Robin concluded, gazing at Cleo. "Tell me, what was your life like before...all of this?"

    Cleo shrugged. "I lived with my parents in a small town in the middle of nowhere. We were the richest people in town, but that's not saying much, really. I went to school and church like everyone else, and sort of just...went through the motions."

    Closing her eyes, Cleo shuddered. "It was a lot like where Renee said she's from. The idea that anybody could even sort of be anything but heterosexual was a foreign notion and I was told that if I was gay I'd go to hell."

    "It's not a foreign notion so much as it's one people look down on you for being," Elaine corrected. "They are part of a group who is looked down as, well, less than human."

    Robin looked a little sad at that. She couldn't imagine living closed about who she loved, though she could imagine the feeling itself just fine.

    "It's different for me," she said. "Being a hybrid warrants...unwanted attention."

    "I'd like to say that wouldn't be the case where I'm from, but that probably wouldn't be true. I mean, we don't even have dragons where I'm from, so the idea of a dragon-human is sort of like a fantasy," Cleo said.

    She glanced at her, smirking a little.

    "In a way, I'm a bit of a fantasy as well," she said. "Most dragon species can only take one form. Those who can take multiple forms often have a strict set of rules. Who you can talk to, be in a relationship with. Even their magic can only be brought to their full potential if the clan leader permits it through a ritual. Anyone who deviates from their rules is ruled a pariah and exiled from the clan. That's what my mother was."

    Cleo put her arms around her legs and grimaced. "Frankly I'd prefer being a pariah to living somewhere that...constricting," she said.

    Robin nodded in agreement. "I don't blame her there."

    Cleo yawned slightly, leaning against the wall in silence for awhile before looking down.

    "...Thanks for giving me a chance. I know I don't deserve it after what I planned to do to you," she said quietly.

    "Don't mention it," she replied, smiling a little. "I know how it gets."

    The red-haired girl grew quiet then, sitting there in silence. She seemed tired, and as she leaned against the wall a single tear fell down her face, barely noticeable.

    "Are you okay?" Robin asked, noticing her silence.

    "...I miss her," Cleo said. She was a bundle of emotions, one part of her missing Mara and the other feeling guilty about what she and Mara had tried to do, and guilty for missing her in the first place. More tears fell and Cleo's lip started to shake. "She was...she was my only friend."

    Robin felt torn. She wanted to go over and tell her that it was okay, and that everything would be fine. Another part of her wanted to scold her for still thinking about Mara. One more side of her felt some mutual feelings - having someone understand you, whoever it was, was something invaluable.

    She only continued to gaze at her, saddened but unsure of what to say or do.

    OoC: Thanks to Mals and Aerilaya for the IMRP~
  • Leita found herself at Nadie's door. Her thoughts still heavy with what had just occurred with Robin and Renee. She hesitated at the door, worrying her bottom lip. Perhaps, since Cleo wasn't there, Pyre wouldn't ... She sighed softly, and then lifted a hand to knock and gave the door a gentle rap.

    Elrohir was the one to hear the rapping on the door. Looking over to Natasha, who had curled up on the bed for a nap, he slipped out of the chair, setting aside the book she normally was reading to answer it, book marking the page he was on. While he couldn't read as of yet, he did like looking at the photos.‏ Sometimes Natasha would read out loud to him when she couldn't sleep at night.

    Walking over to the door, he opened it up to see the Serwen girl looking down at him. Tilting his head slightly, he tried to figure out why she was here until he remembered that Natasha had invited her to talk about her brother. Glancing over to the sleeping princess, he frowned a bit before stepping outside, closing the door gently behind him.

    "Nadie's sleeping. If you want to ask about your brother, I'll answer your questions," he told her, crossing his arms. While their narratives were bound to be different, he was sure he could emulate her positive, upbeat attitude about the Serwen boy.

    Leita looked down to find Pyre. She worried her lip, but he spoke politely right now. She shook her head at his statement.

    "That's fine, I actually came to see if she had any injuries. I would like to heal them."

    "Oh," the dragon blinked in surprise, clearly not expecting that. Furrowing his brow, he thought about it for a moment.

    "OK," he decided finally, figuring that was a good reason to wake her up. Leita smiled briefly and then worried her lip as she waited to be invited in. Gesturing for her to follow him, he lead her over to the bed where the older girl was sleeping and after struggling to climb it, was shaking her shoulder.

    "Hey, wake up, Leita is here to see you."‏

    The fire mage woke rather quickly, rubbing sleep from her eye, Yawning, she glanced over to the window - it seemed they had time left. She smiled sleepily at Leita as she crossed her legs.

    "Sorry, I decided to take a little nap in the meantime. You wanted to talk about your brother, right?"

    Leita sat on the edge of the bed, setting her staff down.

    "We can do that later. Robin-san mentioned you have some injuries?" inquired Leita, her eyes already locking onto the bandages on her arms.

    "Ah," she looked down, picking subconsciously at the bandages. She didn't think that Leita would be able to do anything for them which already hasn't been done. Plus that would mean she would see her burn scars, and that meant odd looks."Don't worry about it. They've been taken care of."

    Leita worried her lip as she looked up at Nadie. Renee had seemed surprised about her ability to use magic to heal. They must come from a world where there was no magic for healing specifically.

    "I, um ... When Vinx-san said I was a healer ... I use magic to heal. It's nearly instantaneous and more effective than first aid."

    Just like Renee, that caught Natasha by surprise. She had never heard of such a concept. Then again she never thought dragons could be real before. She didn't think a lot of things could be real before she met Pyre.‏

    "Just heal her," it was Pyre who spoke, sitting next to the girl. "She's injured anyway. It would be good she doesn't catch that in-fec-tion thing Robin was talking about."

    Leita smiled softly and briefly. "Yes, it would be good that she doesn't."

    She held out a hand for Nadie to extend her arm to. However, Natasha seemed to struggle with herself, looking down at her hand then worriedly to Leita. Pyre groaned at her hesitance, already knowing why she was scared to take her hand.

    "Nothing has fluctuated," he told her bluntly, referring to the temperature of the room. Honestly, for the most part, it seemed stable which was good - all things considering. "She'll be fine. Plus, she can probably heal herself too."‏

    He looked at Leita meaningfully, telling her silently to agree with his statement.

    Leita was confused by the way Pyre talked. Why did it sound like they were concerned about her? She didn't quite understand Pyre's meaningful stare either.

    "Um, yes, I can heal myself."

    That seemed to the trick, and hesitantly Natasha put her hand in Leita's, her skin obviously warmer than normal even through the bandages which kept it hidden. Leita's interest perked at the warm touch. Was she already infected with a fever? Her brow furrowed with concentration and she worried her lip. She gently unwrapped hand and forearm. Her brows slowly raised in shock. These scars ... it reminded her of looking at Blaze's hands and arms.

    "It's my fire magic," Natasha felt the need to explain herself as she watched Leita's face twist in shock. This was the reason she hated other people seeing her scars. Their expression made her uncomfortable. "It's ... powerful, and well ..."

    She didn't know how to go on.

    Leita's expression was now solemn and pensive, taking in her words. Her brow furrowed then again with thought. For once, the Hylian girl was so taken in by her work, she did not look timid. Her hands traced over Nadie's scars as if they spoke to her.

    "... Your own magic harms you?"

    "Ah ... yeah," she said dumbly, not really sure how to explain the situation. It was complicated, even in Altamire and that was even with people knowing the back story. "It's complicated."

    Leita nodded, still in thought. "I understand ... my own fire spells could harm me if I'm not careful ... Ateru."

    Nadie's hand and forearm began to glow a light green. Any injury closed up, and any old ones that were not completely finished healing, did so. Some of the scars faded, but not completely. Leita's healing worked best on fresh injuries. Older scars could in time with ointments be healed.

    Her eyes closed, her brow tensed with a mix of emotions that those injuries bleed into her as she healed them, her consciousness touching them. She drew in a shaky breath.

    "Hey, are you OK?" Natasha asked worriedly as her own injuries closed up. She didn't like the way her breath shook, and she didn't want any ill to befall Leita because of her own out of control magic.

    Leita didn't respond until the glow around her arm faded and the healing was done. She opened her eyes, looking a little dazed. "Hm ...? Oh, I'm fine."

    "You don't look fine," Natasha insisted as she moved her hands up to her shoulders in case she fainted. "Maybe you should lie down."

    Leita shook her head, her eyes clearing steadily. "Oh, no, I'm just fine, I assure you. It's just a side-effect of the spell. I've done this many times before, Nadie-san."

    "Still," Natasha insisted, her lips pulling into a worried frown. Considering she was the type of person to waive off her own injuries and health as no big deal, she couldn't help but feel like Leita was the same way. She didn't know WHY she felt this way, but she did.

    Leita smiled softly and patted the hand she had just be holding. She perked. Odd, her hand was still just as feverishly warm as before. "Is this your natural body temperature?"

    Natasha blinked at the question. Especially how excited Leita seemed by it. That was not something she expected, especially for somebody to be so excited about.

    "Yes. My core is hotter than most."

    "Oh ..." Ren was just the same too. "Good, I was worried you already had a fever from infection ... I actually think you're naturally resistant to infection. Your body temperature being higher, it's harder for it to get infected."

    "It is?" she asked dumbly. She didn't really understand much about infections.

    Leita nodded. "When a person gets a fever when they're sick, it's because their body is trying to burn out the tiny life-forms that have infected them, causing them to be sick."

    "I see," Natasha lied, although her face clearly showed that she was still confused. She bit her lip thoughtfully. "Can you explain a bit more about them though? Robin said they were invisible things earlier, but it would be good for further explanation."

    Leita nodded. She liked teaching and explaining things. "Robin-san isn't wrong exactly. They only look invisible because they're so small. Our eyes are not capable of seeing them, they're that small. Our bodies are filled with them. There are good ones, that help our bodies function better and even break down the food we eat and absorb the nutrients. But there are bad ones, that when we get injuries or our bodies weaken, they infect us and hurt our body."

    "OK," she said slowly as she furrowed her brow. "So is the only way to kill the bad ones is by fire? What about the good ones? Wouldn't they be killed too?"

    Leita smiled softly. "It's not by fire exactly, but heat does help. Yes, sometimes good ones do die too. There are other ways, such as certain fungi that also kill them. This does cause the other good ones to die as well. It's important to eat things that help restore the good ones while the medicine works, like ... um, do you know what yogurt is?"

    "Oh, yes," she said. Sometimes Gabriel and her would eat the dish, if they managed to get their hands on it. While Gabriel made good money, he preferred to hunt for food and trade with others in the small town for goods. Most of the money he spent was on her education.

    'You'll be a great ruler one day,' he told her with that kindly smile on his face. It made her guilty thinking about it. She could only imagine how disappointed she made him. Not only did he sacrifice a great deal of time to raise her, but he raised her to be a princess. Taught her everything she should know for her to take the throne. Yet, in the end, she ran.

    "Yogurt carries a lot of the good ones," explained Leita.

    "Well ... what about if you can't afford it?" she asked. Being poor herself, and knowing while the economy was rather ... sound, yogurt was considered a luxury item since being able to keep it for the winter was harder than some other foods.

    Leita titled her head in confusion. People in Hyrule rarely couldn't afford these things. There were some poor individuals, but Leita often volunteered to go and provide medical care to them. There were a lot more after the war. Their supplies ... they never charged for them. Zelda often struggled with their economic situation after the war, requiring more trade and interaction with the outside kingdoms than ever before in their history. But she did what she had to to make sure her people were cared for. But during the early days, it was difficult. Leita's healing spell often boosted the immune system if it was weakened. Most of the time, this helped the body fight the infection without needing medicine or yogurt.

    "If one cannot get yogurt, you might have some digestive problems, such as diarrhea, but that's not life-threatening. It's uncomfortable. Once the infection is gone and you can stop taking the medicine, the good ones will come back. It just takes more time," said Leita.

    "So only yogurt can help then?" she asked worriedly.

    Leita shook her head. "There are other things that restore the good life-forms. I can't remember all of them, I usually just give them yogurt if they're taking medicine. But raspberry leaf tea also helps ... Soft cheese ... kefir ... pickles ... My healing spell does boost the body's defenses, so this sometimes is enough for the body to fight off the infection without taking medicine. Honey also strengths the good life-forms already present."

    Natasha nodded, committing them to memory. She wish she had some parchment and a quill to write down everything Leita was saying. This was important information she could somehow send to Jack and Angelica. Altamire always struggled with illness, and perhaps with this additional information they could become healthier. For the kingdom to become stronger. It needed it, that was for sure.

    "Is there anything else people can do?" she asked.

    "Without magic or potions?" Leita worried her bottom lip, pausing. "Like I said before, heat helps. So wrapping the sick person up in a lot of blankets and helping them to sweat out the bad life-forms can help. If it's an infection of a wound ... It's painful, but pouring grain alcohol on it helps clean it of bad life-forms. There are plants for poulticing, but I only know the ones native to my homeland."

    Alcohol was something Altamire had plenty of. It was commonly used to get people piss poor drunk so they didn't need to think about the terrible situation they were in - at least that's how dad explained it.

    "Listen Natasha," Gabriel said as he took another swing of mead, wiping the liquid away that dribbled from his mouth. "Listen child, sometimes ... sometimes the world is just so shitty, ya gotta forget. Ya need to have hope every once in a while, and da mead helps."

    Her father was always much more somber when he was drunk, not at all like the hard-working and loving man who she knew most of the time. She loved him all the same, but as she grew older she would leave the house whenever he got like that. Gabriel was her light ... she couldn't stand to see it tarnished.

    "Ah ..." she said as her shoulders slumped a bit as she wondered who she could ask who would even know. She liked animals, so ... "I wonder if she likes plants."

    Leita tilted her head, curious. "... Who?"

    "Oh," she didn't realize she was talking out loud. "My sister."

    Leita smiled ... and then realized she had been spending too much time with Nadie. She had intended on only checking in to heal her, but then this whole conversation just sprouted. "Oh ... I'm sorry, Nadie-san, I would love to stay and talk more, but I need to go see Vinx-san before the sun goes down."

    "Oh, no," she said hurriedly, shaking her hands out in front of her, having the decency to look embarrassed about keeping her here. "It's fine. I'm sorry for keeping you."

    "No ... I really enjoyed myself," said Leita, worrying her bottom lip afterward but also smiling. She grasped her staff and stood up. "We should talk more later."

    "Yeah," Natasha agreed with a smile. While she enjoyed the others company, they could be a bit too tiring at times. With Leita, it was easier and less contentious. Leita even felt better after the tense and difficult situation she had faced just minutes before she came to Nadie's room. Talking about infection and remedies helped take her mind from it. Leita gave a little bow at her waist and then opened the door and left.

    OoC: Thanks to Shrub for the IMRP

    :heart: Rinn “Arwyn” Nailo drawn by Liah :heart:
    Rakshael: if I know one thing about Ruki, it's that she'll prove you wrong just for the sake of saying she did it
    Characters | The Time Lost | The Rumors We Believe | Ruki's Reviews
  • Leita now found herself before the door of room 8. Hesitating as usual. She knew Vinx said she shouldn’t be afraid to talk to him, but she now worried over what it was he wanted to tell her. She wrung her staff in her hands as she worried her bottom lip. She tasted a slight hint of blood and stopped. She needed to stop chewing her lip so much. She realized she did it more when she was stressed. At least she had long ago stopped biting her fingernails so low that they bled.

    She sighed.

    She worried she did something wrong again, though Adrien told her to stop assuming the worst all the time. It could just as well be something good.

    She worried she would continue to be rude to Vinx with her timid behavior—though she knew he was aware of her fear of him. Leita knew she should assure him that it wasn’t because she thought he was a bad person. She actually thought he was a rather honorable man. It was just … instinct. She wished she could control it.

    She didn’t want him to think it was because she actually thought he was a monster. Because she didn’t at all.

    Leita swallowed. Now was the time for courage.

    She finally lifted her tiny fist and knocked upon his door.

    “We must be greater than what we suffer.”
    [A Light in the Dark| Empire of Darkness |Under the Red Sea]

    The post was edited 2 times, last by Shrub ().

  • Vinx had taken in the room anew and once again, found nothing to fix. He still kept a small fire at the hearth going—the searing presence of fire would help keep him awake. With mostly darkness around him, it was all too easy to fall into a lull like slumber. Even with his skin raising goosebumps and screaming for him to throw water on the flame, his thoughts were prone to wander. He kept them lucid by focusing on the conversations buzzing around the inn: the ignorant mortals had no idea how false their privacy was when they were so near to a vampire of his caliber.

    Sadly, what he heard was less than interesting. The women were prone to petty arguments and self-pity—nothing at all gave credit to mentalities that made them supposedly competent fighters. He found himself musing over just how foolish the vampire they’d run into had been. From what he’d gathered of the fight from examination of the gravesite, she hadn’t managed to shed a single drop of blood from her would-be victims. In fact, she’d stood and let the blows come to her while her thrall had been pinned down. He had credited the ‘hunters’ for acting quickly, as was necessary against the strength and speed of vampires, but perhaps he’d given them too much credit? The bumbling, sensitive, gum-flapping group couldn’t even agree on what ought to be done with a ‘prisoner.’

    Vinx sighed, reaching into his coat and holding the cloth with vampire remains in his palm. “I don’t suppose you could offer an explanation? I’ve no pity in the face of incompetence, less so for beasts whose appetites control them, but the depth of your ineptitude is such you’ve made me curious.”

    As he stared at the handkerchief, as if expecting an answer, he heard the timid footsteps of his lamb coming towards the door. Not long after, the scent of naked blood permeated his senses. He promptly shoved the remains back in his coat and went to his closet, turning his head towards the entrance of the room when a knock sounded.

    “Do come in, Leita. I’d hate for you to stand there all night and tear your mouth apart.”

    (Sig pic by Aoi Tori)
    ~Fairby Minions~

    The post was edited 1 time, last by Fairess ().

  • “Do come in, Leita. I’d hate for you to stand there all night and tear your mouth apart.”

    Vinx’s voice had answered her through the door. Leita flushed. How did he know she had chewed her lip? ... Then she remembered he was a vampire and could probably smell it. Adrien could too. It wasn’t even bleeding that much … All the same, her face was still touched with pink at being caught in her bad habit.

    Leita pulled in her bottom lip, not to chew it but just to hide it from view. She opened the door, stepped in, and closed it behind herself. Pink still showing on her cheeks and forehead. Her head tipped downward slightly in shame, her green eyes struggling to raise up due to her fresh embarrassment.

    This was not a good start for her courage.

    “We must be greater than what we suffer.”
    [A Light in the Dark| Empire of Darkness |Under the Red Sea]

    The post was edited 2 times, last by Shrub ().

  • “A pleasure to see you, as always.” Vinx leaned back out of the closet, a globe of black glass roughly the size of a fist in his hand. His voice held its usual apathy as he gazed aslant at Leita. “Would you care to come a little closer?”

    Oh no. His comment earlier about her lip had dissolved what courage she had mustered to knock on his door. Shyness and embarrassment was all she had left.

    None the less, Leita did as he suggested, and took a few more steps into the room. She clutched her staff, her eyes cast downward.

    Vinx sighed. He knew the girl had considerable strength, so what was with this timidity? He closed the distance between them with a few fluid steps, again making use of a single finger to steal up her chin and level her eyes up to his. "Enough of that. This isn't a lover's tryst--I have a very specific task for you."

    At this, Vinx lifted his other hand, holding up the dark globe where Leita's sheepish gaze would find it. "Do you recognize this?"

    His words renewed the pink in her face. Lover's tryst? She knew he was making fun of her shyness, and it worked. She could hardly take being forced to look at his eyes after being teased. She was about to shake free of his finger under her chin, but soon her eyes found the dark globe. She gazed at it, touching on memory.

    "Y-yes ..." Her flustered expression became more solemn, her blush fading. "It's ... the concentrated sunlight you used in your fight with Adrien."

    Vinx dropped his hold on her, though his eyes remained trained on her. "Very good. You're aware of what will happen when this is activated, then. Once the shadow jumpers are trapped, this is how I intend to destroy them. Naturally, I would prefer that someone else use this in place of me. Do you think you could handle such a task for me?"

    Leita' eyes glanced to his as he spoke of his plan, and then fixed back upon the little black vial. She nodded, eyes determined.

    "Excellent." Vinx promptly, but carefully offered up the glass piece. "This is activated by pulling out the metal pin at the top. I will tell you when it is time to use it, and do not hesitate when I tell you to. I will have plenty of time to get out of your way.

    "Naturally, I will inform the others of this at dinner. You, however, are the only one I can trust to use it. Do you understand?"

    Leita took the little bottle offered to her. Her eyes going up to his as he spoke, taking in his instructions. It was easier, surprisingly, to not be nervous. The more the moment of truth with the shadow jumpers loamed close, the more focused she felt. Perhaps the sense of danger they gave was greater than the danger in Vinx's aura.

    Still, she felt a flutter of anxiety tickle her gut when he spoke of her being the only one he could trust with this. She didn't want to let him down. She feared failure, as usual. She held the black globe carefully in her hands. She knew how much damage this tiny thing could do to him. She had seen it. She had healed him afterward.

    And yet, she understood that was the very reason she couldn't hesitate when faced with the moment he would call to her to use it. She smiled to herself as she gazed at the dark vial. Rontu had taught her that with his own life in her hands countless times.

    "I understand."

    At last, a sentence that didn't stammer. Vinx's lips pulled into a slight, satisfied smile. "Then you'll perform wonderfully. Now... what was it you wanted to tell me earlier?"

    Leita looked up from her hands at this question. She had almost forgotten. "Oh ... well, I just wanted to inform you, I have my own light spell ... However ..."

    She looked around at how he had set up the room and considered his plan. Her fairy lights weren't concentrated enough like a candle's flame to prevent unwanted shadows from crossing.

    "It doesn't matter now that I've seen this ..."

    Vinx snorted--about the closest he ever came to a laugh. He promptly covered the lower part of his face. "On the contrary, Miss Leita. I prefer knowing all the resources available to me at any given time. It seems like the others might have some fire magic as well, but I didn't want to overtax anyone. Candles can be lit and replaced with little fuss or drain to all of you.

    "That being said, I also meant what I said earlier--cornered beasts act unpredictably. It would not be unwise to have one of your light spells ready just in case."

    Leita turned her head back to Vinx upon hearing his snort. Her brow furrowing slightly, concerned she had done something to embarrass herself again. Luckily, his comment soon helped her to focus more on her magic than her worries.

    Leita nodded and then paused in thought. "In that case ... should I fail with the concentrated sunlight, I do have another spell that I believe should work on such creatures ..."

    She looked up into his eyes, her gaze serious. "However, it is probably even more dangerous to you than this vial."

    Vinx lofted a brow at that. "It's rare to see conjured, pure sunlight, but as a secondary plan, it would certainly be worth trying. Is there anything else I ought to know about?"

    Leita shook her head but not at his question. "I don't conjure pure sunlight, Vinx-san ... It is holy fire."

    He clicked his tongue. Holy fire would do a number on his body. "I'm not certain how effective holy spells and the like are on these creatures. They were summoned from a void not connecting to a demonic realm, but a fae one. As you might guess, fae creatures can be very, very difficult creatures to destroy. Worse yet, my information on them is lacking."

    Leita nodded thoughtfully. "I see ..."

    It was often a mistake to confuse creatures of darkness and void with creatures of evil. The two were not always one and the same.

    "I ... better not miss with the sunlight then."

    Vinx's slight smiled disappeared. "Yes, I'd hope not. The only other option would be for us to wait until dawn comes--I did arrange for that as well." He nodded over to the patch of ground in front of the window barred with curtains. "It's not the preferred method, but effective all the same."

    His expression softened again as he continued to gaze at her. "I do appreciate your help, Leita. I'm not sure what you told those people to follow you, but I can see you've gained quite a bit of trust from them since. It makes my purpose here much easier, and I owe that to you."

    Leita looked up at Vinx in surprise. Those were words she hadn't expected to hear. Leita pressed her lips together, as if to try to hide the pleased smile that began to bloom on her face. Her eyes turned downward as she tried to conceal this. Her heart lifted. It eased much of what had plagued her since joining up with Vinx. She did well ...

    "Th-thank you, I--I am glad to be of--of help."

    "Heh." It was nice that the grateful approach seemed to work for once--she looked relieved enough that she might not go flying out of the room. "You can save your thanks for once this ordeal is over, when you and the others are safe. In the meantime, you're free to stay here, or return to the company of the other ladies. It's also a good time to ask for anything you might need."

    Vinx gestured towards the numerous blankets spread on the floor, rather close to the fireplace. "That's where you and the others will be spending some portion of the evening together, so you may make yourself comfortable there or bring up anything that would help to that end."

    Leita looked to where he gestured and nodded. She paused, starting to worry her bottom lip but then remembering to stop. She should say it now ...

    "Vinx-san ... I want to ... apologize." She hands gripped her staff tighter. She kept her eyes down. "For my behavior ... toward you ... I--I promise it's not because I think badly of you--I actually ... I actually think you're a g-good and honorable man."

    Vinx rested a hand on his hip as he studied her, a bit amused. "Is that what's been bothering you? Think nothing of it, Miss Leita. You seem to be nervous by nature, but it's not something that would offend me. If anything, you should be grateful your instincts are as potent as they are--it's likely saved you more than once. I wouldn't have it any other way."

    Some more relief washed over her, her muscles relaxing from their worried and anxious state. So he did understand. Though, despite what he said, there were times her instincts failed her. But perhaps she was getting better at that too.

    She smiled with relief and nodded.

    "Well ... then, I think I'll stay here until the others are ready."

    Vinx nodded, for once unbothered by the extra company. "By all means, then, make yourself comfortable. Dinner should be coming in less than an hour. I don't fancy myself entertaining company, as I welcome quiet more than I do idle conversation, but I'll do what I can to keep you from panicing."

    Leita shook her head quickly. "N-no, it's fine. You needn't force yourself. I will find my own methods, and I do not mind the quiet either."

    "Well then, we are of the same mind." There weren't any chairs to offer or further curtesies to fufill, so Vinx moved to the fireplace and took his own place on the floor. His back was to the fireplace, leaning against the side where shadow nestled between the wall and stone. Though the warmth of the fire still irritated his skin, it was bearable, and he still needed the encouragement to stay awake.

    Leita took a seat on the floor nearby. The fire to the side of her, as she wanted good lighting. She set her staff down and took the strap of her bag from her shoulder. She drew a pad of parchment paper, her sketchbook, and some charcoal from it. Sitting with her legs bent up, her pad against her thighs, and the dark vial containing the concentrated sunlight in her lap, she looked down at it and began to sketch it in her pad. Drawing always relaxed her, and the object was of interest. Drawing it almost felt like a meditation on what she had to do with it later.
  • Renee was the first to arrive - well first after Leita. Throwing the door open without knocking, her pale eyes flickered from Leita to Vinx, but she didn't utter a word of greeting or acknowledgment even with the man standing up, no doubt to greet her. Conspicuously missing was the man who the woman had introduced as "Aevukepe," instead the light blue armor nestled snugly over her grey tunic. Her famous scowl frozen on her face, she walked straight toward the bed and threw herself on top, the poor furniture groaning in protest.

    Crossing her arms across her chest, her body language promised unpleasantness if anyone dared to talk to her, let alone breathe on her.

    It was moments later when a softer knock rapped on the door.

    If Renee's entrance and prompt sulking was icy, Vinx's presence was the Ninth Circle of Hell beneath her. His body was tense enough to snap--it was only the deepest vestiges of chilvary that kept him from sweeping the woman up and tossing her on the floor. He was not there to play babysitter, not there to remind her that she was a fully grown woman, and certainly not there to tell her she was abandoning all sense of duty to pout like a child. Some warrior indeed.

    Whatever lucid thoughts Vinx had a mind of directing towards her, however, were lost when a knock came at the door. He flexed his fingers, crossed the room, and opened the door, his eyes still fixed in frozen heat.

    Standing in the doorway was the two fire mages, the dragon boy and the girl whose flames hurt her. Her violet eyes met his dark ones, and instead of shying away from his intensive glare offered him an awkward smile. She had seen similar glares tossed her way before, or just in general. While the unease upon seeing them never quite went away, she had learned to not shy away.

    "I hope we aren't too early," she said apologetically.

    "Not at all." Vinx promptly stepped aside, opening his arm up towards the room. "Make yourselves comfortable, please. You should be safe within that circle of candles, on the blankets."

    He turned his head towards the bed, eyes narrowing. "All of you."

    Renee gave a glare but she stood up, walked over to where the blankets were and sat on the ground with a loud THUNK, made a gesture which clearly meant, "Happy now?" And knowing Renee, the gesture probably had an additional insult in it, such as "fucker" or "bastard" or "douchebag" or something much more clever. Unfortunately, she kept her mouth shut, so any creative insults were lost forever to history.

    Natasha's lips pulled into a small frown at that. She was more grumpy than normal - had something happened? Giving a soft hello to Leita who was drawing by the hearth, she went over to sit next to Renee on the floor, leaning her head on her shoulder as she closed her eyes, still tired. She could feel the knight tense up next to her, but she didn't push her away. She never did to be fair, and after a moment, Renee relaxed again after it became clear the princess wasn't going to pry.

    Elrohir on the other hand ignored the sulking knight and the irritable man and went straight toward Leita, curious about she was drawing. Completely disregarding that he was stepping into her light, or perhaps unaware of it on some level, he peered over her shoulder to look at a charcoal sketch of what seemed to be a black orb with metallic circles running perpendicular around it. Expecting something more ... wow worthy, he decided he could look better than the irritable Renee and pretend to be polite.

    "What is that?"

    ooc: Thanks to Fairby for Vinx's reactions

    :heart: Rinn “Arwyn” Nailo drawn by Liah :heart:
    Rakshael: if I know one thing about Ruki, it's that she'll prove you wrong just for the sake of saying she did it
    Characters | The Time Lost | The Rumors We Believe | Ruki's Reviews

    The post was edited 2 times, last by Ruki ().

  • Leita looked up when Vinx stood and Renee entered the room. To her disappointment, Renee seemed in no better a mood than when Leita had last seen her. She did notice that she was wearing Aevukepe's armor ... So where was Aevukepe? Her eyes peered over her sketch pad at Vinx. She felt like she was ... forgetting something. Or there was something she was overlooking. But she wasn't sure what it was.

    Leita looked up when Pyre asked what her drawing was.

    "Oh, this, actually ... Vinx-san will be mentioning it later during dinner," said Leita, as she uncurled herself and took the globe from her lap and held it up to Pyre to see. "It will be very important for how we will defeat the shadow jumpers."

    “We must be greater than what we suffer.”
    [A Light in the Dark| Empire of Darkness |Under the Red Sea]

    The post was edited 2 times, last by Shrub ().

  • Cleo was still out of it, leaning against the inn's wall, her expression distant.

    Mara's house on the edge of Cliffside seemed for all intents and purposes to be a small, cramped living space, the hallways barely wide enough for a single person to walk. The rooms were often just big often to fufill their purposes, and most would have avoided the house like the plague.

    That was, unless they were a vampire capable of hearing the thoughts of the last homeowner as she entered town.

    Down below the foundations of the small house, hidden away and unbenownst to the general populace, the previous owner had stumbled across a large cave inside the plateau Cliffside sat atop, the top of the space just below the home they'd purchased.

    The person who'd found the caves had used them as a storehouse for expensive liquor and smuggled goods, but after Mara had dealt with the man and purchased the home before others in the city could acquire it, she'd begun to convert the space into her own personal lair, hidden away from the populace of Cliffside.

    The opening to the cave was hidden in the bottom of a chest in the basement of the house, screwed to the floor to hold it in place. A false bottom swung up as a trapdoor, leading into the chilly darkness below. A ladder followed down a vertical tunnel about three or four feet down before the cavern opened up into the main chamber.

    The large cavern consisted largely of a variety of different torture devices, lovingly set up and arranged in a ring around a stone basin in the middle of the room. Channels and ramps and walls surrounded all the devices, and when blood was spilled on or around any of the devices they'd naturally flow down and fill the basin in the center.

    Cleo sat in one of the nearby couches, the piece of furniture not entirely cleared of some blood that had spilled when Mara had stolen it.

    "...Where did you get all of these things?" Cleo said quietly, looking at all the torture devices. "Did you make them?"

    Mara chuckled slightly, putting a hand on one of the devices, something that looked like it was some sort of restraining table, with chains and handcuffs and a table of sharp tools hanging on the side.

    "Oh, no. I steal these from the other people in the city," she said, motioning at them all. "I'm not the only person in this whole city with...interesting tastes."

    Pointing at the table before her, she grinned. "Like this one! This was the banker's, but now it's mine."

    Cleo blanched, looking at all the devices. Now that she knew what they were, the whole area made her profoundly creeped out.

    "...This many people were into...torture?" she said hesitantly. Mara smiled again, her sharp teeth glinting in the soft torchlight.

    "Not always for the same reason as me, but yes," she said. "If you could hear what I hear...everyone has some dirty secret like this. Some shame or violent urge or something."

    The vampire twirled in place and motioned to the other devices around her.

    "That's why I love this room. Humans are monsters, every one of just need to look hard enough."

    Cleo shuddered slightly. Mara had said something similar after she'd killed her father, and as the days since then had passed she had seen more and more proof of Mara's point. It seemed everyone had something about them that made Cleo justifying killing them easy, and Mara just encouraged it further.

    Drifting silently up to Cleo and hugging her from the side, Mara smiled, obviously hearing what was on her mind.

    "You wanna go out and try out some hunting? If you're going to be around you could learn how I work...maybe help out!"

    Cleo looked down awkwardly, somewhat uncertain.

    "You sure you want to-"

    Mara stopped her there and drifted off, pulling a blue dress that matched her black Clearwater dress in most aspects, holding it up.

    "Yes, yes I am."

    Cleo shook her head, the events of last night seeming distant already. Mara was gone, for now, and she had to survive. So much had changed...

    Her stomach growled then, and Cleo frowned. It was times like this she wished she was like Mara...she could track down Pyre and eat the little douchewhistle.

    "...You want to go meet the others now? I'm hungry," Cleo said to Robin.

    The post was edited 2 times, last by Sami Nornal ().

  • Robin had been spacing out herself, recalling unpleasant memories in an effort to try to figure out her situation with Renee.The other woman was definitely stubborn, but she had been expecting it from a knight like her. What she didn't expect was it to affect her overall actions from earlier.

    She knew Cleo couldn't be fully trusted. She wasn't so naive to believe that Cleo was completely innocent. Robin felt something odd about Cleo, but she also knew that things aren't what they always seem.

    She of all people knew that very well.

    Her thoughts were interrupted when Cleo spoke, and she jumped a little.

    "...You want to go meet the others now? I'm hungry," Cleo said to her. Robin looked at her and sighed, smiling a little despite herself.

    "Might as well," she agreed, a hand covering her own stomach as if it would ease the dull ache of hunger. She pushed away from the wall, stretching a little bit. "We should probably bring something to entertain ourselves with, the night will be a long one, and I doubt Vinx will let us leave the room until it is over."

    Cleo stood up carefully, her spine popping slightly as she went into a standing position. The idea of doing anything to entertain herself during this crisis wasn't something she'd considered, but if everything went right all they'd be doing was sitting in one location for a few hours and that was it.

    That and she wasn't sure what to bring to entertain herself with in the first place. Back in Knock's Folly before Mara had arrived she'd spent most of her time in her house or school, working on trying to get to college, and after Mara had arrived...

    Blushing beet red, she folded her arms. "Maybe we could get our hands on a book," she said hurriedly, shaking her thoughts from her mind. "It'd be something at least."

    Robin raised an eyebrow, but shrugged. She went over to a small shelf in a corner, noticing a couple of books tucked away and pulling them out. She scowled a little bit when she noticed that they were all books on the history of Colchester, but she figured it was better than nothing, picking out a couple and taking them to Cleo.

    "They don't have much here," she said, "and I don't think we have time to go find a library before sunset, so I guess it's either these, or we entertain ourselves somehow."

    Cleo nodded, grabbing both of the ones offered and still blushing slightly. "These'll do...history books aren't that bad, and if worst comes to worst we could always tell stories about ourselves or something like that."

    Cleo was already trying to plan out whatever she needed to do before they left the company of Vinx...the man knew where Mara had been buried, and had managed to track them down. If she could just find out where he'd been...

    Robin nodded herself. "Ready to go?"

    Cleo looked around, giving a curtesy glance around the room to see if there was anything they were missing. She was wearing the new clothes, they had the books...

    Looking at the crumbled dress on the ground, Cleo's expression became conflicted. The dress...was the last thing Mara had given her.

    Turning away, Cleo forced her expression to a smile, the brief moment of conflict effectively hidden.

    "...Yes, I'm ready."

    Robin herself didn't look so convinced with the smile, but she didn't want a repeat of what happened with Renee, and let it go. Robin nodded, going to her bag one last time and pulling out a gem, tucking it into a pocket sewn into her tunic.

    "Right," she said, "let's be off." She headed to the door, opening it and glancing back to see if Cleo was following.

    Cleo followed behind, leaving the dress inside the room and clutching the books to her chest. She was getting concerned as the hour approached about what might happen with these shadow creatures. A part of her wanted to wish the beasts would kill her captors and avenge Mara, but she couldnt' bring herself to.

    Robin and the others were decent people...well, except for Pyre. Renee reminded her of herself, somewhat, and Robin had given her a chance when the others wouldn't.

    Maybe...maybe she could bring Mara back and they'd run off. No revenge, no retribution, just...leave them be.

    Robin closed the door after she exited, starting to walk the short distance to room eight. She hesitantly held her fist near the door, gently knocking.
  • Whatever god Vinx owed the cooperation of the ladies to he was thankful towards. Renee’s temper was far from endearing, Nadie’s pampering near repulsive, but they were quiet and safe—that was all he could ask for. His cool gaze surveyed the position of the ladies on the floor, then Pyre’s, and all seemed to be in order. For not having seen any of them but Leita earlier, he’d compensated quite well in estimating height and shadows for his light sources to deal with.

    Vinx remained contemplative, arms neatly tucked behind his back, until familiar footsteps sounded from the hallway. His blue eyes swiveled towards the door, though he waited for the knock before he moved to it. When it came, he opened the door with casual grace, immediately stepping aside and sweeping his arm out to the group gathered on the blankets. “Ladies—welcome. Please, sit wherever you like on the blankets. Dinner will be arriving shortly.”

    To his satisfaction, Robin and Cleopatra both followed his directions, sitting themselves down by the fireplace. He noted that both had brought books and nearly cracked a smile. After all, it was rare to see literate folk in a ‘backwards’ area like Colchester, and literate women to boot. Here he had been worried about the group continuing to squabble all night, but between their reading, Renee’s and Nadie’s cuddling, and Leita’s drawing with Pyre watching, time could actually pass in a pleasant manner.

    Yes, my thanks to whatever god is watching over us. Vinx closed the door and took a place near the fireplace, leaning up against the wall. There were only a few minutes of quiet before he heard the clattering of many dishes along with the voices of the staff being told to head to ‘Room 8.’ He himself took little comfort in the smallest wisps of cooked meat and weak wine, but his gaze flickered over to Leita in particular. She hadn’t had anything since that morning, and had been looking a bit on the pale side. The question was, would she actually have a strong enough stomach this time around?

    “Ladies, little gentleman, if you would kindly arrange yourselves into an orderly circle? Dinner is coming posthaste.” Vinx gave them all a meaningful glance, but didn’t press the instruction further as he went to the door. Moments later, the knock came.

    “Dinner for Room 8!” In walked a young man wearing an apron, followed by a small line of ladies who looked—and smelled—like kitchen staff. They all bore gratuitously broad trays, each with a series of plates. Apparently all of them had been expecting tables on which to set dishes, but Vinx waved them easily over to the set-up of blankets.

    “Don’t be too put-out—I hear indoor picnics are quite popular during the cold seasons. Feel free to set the plates where you please, though we’ve made a fair bit of room in the center of our little circle.” Vinx was holding the door open, of course, directing the staff with a small smile. They exchanged glances, but did as he bid, setting dinner before the circle of guests.

    Vinx had paid for a fair bit of food and it showed. The first course set down was that of appetizers: a plate of warm hattes, hat shaped pastries stuffed with veal and pork and seasoned with flakes of dates, saffron, cloves, and ginger, a large bowl of benes yfryed, boiled beans with onions and garlic that were then salted and fried, and yet another plate of rysshews of fruyt, wine-soaked figs, raisins, apples, and pears that were ground up, made into balls, and fried, later to be spiced with sugar and anise.

    That was just the beginning. Roasted pig, still hot and smelling of saffron was served with wine-basted venison ribs for the main course. These were followed by smaller dishes of cherry pudding, each set in a separate dish per person and decorated with silky, pink blossoms. For drinks, there were both pitchers of water and a bottle of wine with a weak vintage (Vinx had requested it be so, as he didn’t want to deal with loud drunkards in his room). There was still more awkward shuffling as goblets and plates were placed, all freshly washed as Vinx had requested.

    In fact, he watched the whole affair with a quiet fascination, giving the occasional staff member a stern look when they were sloppy with a plate or happened to knock one of his candles over. They quickly righted themselves, of course, finally leaving behind a wooden tub where Vinx promised the dishes would be awaiting them in the morning. He thanked them each in his typically detached, yet cordial manner. Only once all of them were out did he invite his guests to eat. While they indulged themselves, he began lighting all the necessary candles one by one.

    (Sig pic by Aoi Tori)
    ~Fairby Minions~

    The post was edited 4 times, last by Fairess ().

  • "Ah," Natasha said as her mouth opened, her stomach rumbling as she just looked at the food. Wiping her mouth as some drool dripped out of her mouth, she almost wanted to cry from seeing so much delicious foods laid out for her. "I haven't seen something this ornate since I left Zean."

    "It's like home," Renee agreed, her voice cracking a bit, her sour mood forgotten as flashes of castle life filtered through her mind. It was a spread which could be found in the Brant castle, and moments of sitting next to Madeline when she was well enough to eat with the rest of the family. Those were happier times. Simpler times.

    "Come on Renee," a young girl with long brown hair and a pale composure said, smiling kindly at a little girl a couple years her senior as she stood dumbly looking at the table where the king, queen and two princesses sat. Renee had eaten in the great hall before of course, but never at the head table where the royals and the nobles sat. She would never dream of it, but the princess was asking her.

    "I'm ... not sure if dat would be acceptable, yer highness," she stammered, glancing about feeling very out of place although the wafts of food was sorely tempting. However, she knew better and the stern stare of the king also dissuaded her easily enough. "I'm jus' from da streets afta all. It wouldn' be good if I ate with you. I'm nobody."

    "Not after today you aren't." Renee turned to see the gruff man who she recognized as The Bear appear behind her. "With yer pa dead and you close to da princess, it's been decided with your fighting spirit you'd be Princess Madeline's personal bodyguard. So, it's only natural you'll be with her wherever she may be. After all, danger lurks everywhere."

    That had been the first time Renee had truly eaten well. It wasn't like she had eaten poorly before - well not since moving to the castle. But she realized what it meant to "eat like a king." It wasn't until seeing the spread before her did she realize how much she missed it.

    "Don't mind if I do!" Elrohir exclaimed, forgetting about Leita's drawing and going straight for the sizzling meat and dropping it into his mouth, chewing loudly before moaning in pleasure. "Oh man, that hits the spot!"

    :heart: Rinn “Arwyn” Nailo drawn by Liah :heart:
    Rakshael: if I know one thing about Ruki, it's that she'll prove you wrong just for the sake of saying she did it
    Characters | The Time Lost | The Rumors We Believe | Ruki's Reviews
  • Cleo looked at the assortment of foods, her stomach growling loudly at the sight. She hadn't really eaten all day, and even at Mara's house she hadn't really been eating all that much. They'd been planning on going out to buy more food so she could eat more, since Mara didnt' need to eat and didn't have much food around the house, but they'd never gotten around to it.

    Grabbing one of the hattes , Cleo began to eat it slowly. Despite her hunger, she didn't want to go throught any of the food too quickly.

    Robin looked at all of it, looking for the simplest thing she could find. She has always been a rather picky eater not liking a lot of the things that have been made for her as a child. Usually she ate what she was given more out of necessity, but now that she had the ability to choose, she didn't want to eat something she didn't like. She sighed, glancing around at everything.

    Vinx, in the meantime, did not appear to be paying much attention to his guests or the food. While the wafts of spices were appealing, they were far from appetizing. No, what made his mouth water was the image of their weak blood getting thicker, redder, and full of vitality. Their combined aroma was all too enticing, so he only focused more on the candles.

    Neither the fire mage or ice mage was going to turn down any food, especially getting used to having days where they would eat next to nothing. Quickly going for the heartier foods - after all that would provide them the most energy and stay in their stomach the longest - they began to eat with a frantic sort of grace. Nadie thanked Vinx while Renee just grunted - which was close enough for the knight as anybody was going to get.

    Frustrated, Robin grabbed the closest thing to her - one of the meat-filled pastries, and took a bite. To her relief and pleasant surprise, she liked it, and munched on it contently. She turned her attention over to Vinx, noticing he wasn't really focusing on them.

    What's up with that? she asked herself.

    Cleo grabbed another of the hattes, chewing it slowly as she noticed Robin was looking at their host. Looking over, she saw he was focusing a lot on the candles.

    ...Has he even eaten? Cleo thought to herself. She was one to talk, but it still seemed odd for him to buy this fine spread and not eat any of it.

    If only Mara were here, she thought to herself. She'd be able to figure out what was going on in his head in an instant.

    Robin glanced over at Cleo after a minute, smiling a little and returning to her food.

    "I've never been fond of...a lot of different foods," she told her. "Does anything else look good to you?"

    Cleo looked out at the plates of different foods, shrugging her shoulders. "It all looks pretty good to me, but that's what you get when your mom's cooking skills end at macaroni and your father refused to cook," she said, grabbing one of the venison ribs and nibbling on it. "I guess I'd recomend the...pork? Pretty sure that's pork."

    Robin poked at it a little with a fork, before deciding to give it a try. She slowly took a bite, not really liking the sauce but finding the overall taste bearable. She shrugged, continuing to eat it.

    With all the looks (and one actual declaration of gratitude) in his direction, it was only a matter of time before Vinx caught their looks. He said nothing, his wintry gaze turning towards their various eating habits with apathetic curiosity. No one was particularly graceful, though he found himself amused by the 'tolerable' expression oozing from Robin's features.

    "I did try for some variety. Perhaps you enjoy less taste of saffron? The venison relies largely on the flavor of red wine instead." Vinx blew his match out and stood once again, surveying the picnic with his full attention at last.

    "Don't worry too much about me," Robin replied, smirking a little. "I'm like this with most of what I eat, unfortunately. Thank you for the meal."

    "You must come from a wealthy area if you can afford to be picky with what you eat," the dragon noted dryly, never knowing the luxury of a full spread like this before.

    Leita had been among the first to thank Vinx for the food, but continued to generally be silent while everyone talked, and she chewed, trying different things curiously.

    Robin glared at Pyre.

    "On the contrary," she started, though her tone remained even and calm, "I haven't really had much say in what I could eat, and most things taste terrible to me in some way. It doesn't mean that I'll let a good meal go to waste, however."

    The dragon sneered, about to say something else until Nadie knocked him lightly on the head.

    "No fighting at dinner," she said sternly.

    Robin finished her bit of pork she had tried, sighing for a moment. She moved to lay on her stomach, not really having an appetite because of her mood. She glanced over at Renee, though returned her gaze ahead and closed her eyes.

    Cleo grabbed some more of the venison and breathed in, looking around at the assembled group. Most were her captors, of course. And the man...the strange man who still hadn't eaten anything. Maybe he wasn't hungry?

    Remaining strangely silent, the urge to ask about Mara's remains struck her again, but she was still surrounded by her captors, and for all she knew their host wouldn't approve of her questioning either.

    So she remained mostly silent, chewing on her food and thinking over what her options were. They seemed...few, but the host was the one major mystery in all of this.

    Looking at the man with a thoughtful look, Cleo began to try to riddle through what she knew of him. Was she missing something?

    Nadie was beginning to get full and her eating slowed, but she knew better than to stop here. When was the last time she would eat like this again? They were too poor, ironically, to buy food and were forced to hunt and scavenge. While they never went a day without eating, there were days she had only eaten a fistful of berries and some insects she managed to catch. When you are starving, you were willing to eat pretty much anything.

    Finally she noticed their host hadn't eaten anything and she lowered the roasted pig, her mouth dripping in grease, as her violet eyes bore into him.

    "Are you not going to feast with us?"

    Leita glanced at Vinx when Nadie asked this question. She looked back down at her food intently. She wondered what he would say no to get out of this one.

    Vinx glanced over to Nadie, the smallest of smiles on his face. "Worry not for me--I indulged myself earlier this evening. It's important for me to keep vigil the closer darkness comes. Look." He nodded over at the window, where the setting sun had turned the sky deep hues of blue and faded purple. They were mere minutes away from the true dark of night.

    Leita looked to the window and shuddered. She looked back to Vinx. "You said you would explain about this?"

    She held up the dark globe from earlier. "Would it not be best to do that before ... it's too late?"

    The girl's violet eyes flickered to the room as her lips pulled to a soft frown as she looked at the food in her hand. She was no longer really hungry - she always hated night - and with danger fast approaching, her guts twisted uncomfortably.

    A small sigh escaped from Vinx's lips. Were his impassioned and hungry guests already tuckered out? The hardness that overtook his gaze warned anyone looking not to waste what he'd paid good money for. Rather than chastise the already snooze-ready Robin, however, he capitalized on Leita's statement. It certainly was time for him to explain.

    Still standing apart from the others, and with one arm casually resting behind his back, he decided to address them properly. "Yes, Miss Leita, you're quite right. Everyone, if I may have your attention?" His gaze then went directly to Robin--it was obvious he was considering methods of his own to getting her back upright.

    Pyre, however, took care of that for him and scooted over and kicked Robin. It wasn't a hard kick - Nadie was watching after all - but he wasn't going to pass up the opportunity.

    Robin didn't really pay the kick much mind, sighing.

    "Go away, you midget," she said.

    "Wake up, halfling," Elrohir shot back, not wanting to be forced to wait until it was too late since this one was stupid and lazy. "Unless you want to die."

    "I'm not sleeping, moron," she told him, opening her eyes and giving him a mildly annoyed stare.

    Vinx cleared his throat, demanding their attention. "As I was about to say, Leita has in her possession a vial capable of giving off pure sunlight. Once I've managed to trap the shadow jumpers by using this room's lighting, she is going to activate it when I give her the word. Unless any of you are averse to direct sunlight, it won't harm you, though I would suggest closing your eyes... if you are, in fact, awake at the time."

    Robin glanced over at Vinx.

    "Is that enough to kill this thing?" she asked.

    There was some blank staring from the Altamarian group when Vinx talked about direct sunlight - like how the fuck it was in a bottle, but after a few minutes it was decided amongst them with a single word not being said it didn't really matter.

    "What about the candles?" Nadie added, gesturing toward them on the floor.

    He raised a brow at Robin. "You mean the shadow jumpers? Honestly, I can't promise that's the case. I know that light in any form gives them terrible pain and that they hide away from sunlight during the day, but I've never actually been able to expose one to such direct light. If the vial of sunlight fails, we'll have to wait until dawn, and if that somehow fails... well, there's not much more to be done but contain them. They won't harm you so long as there is some form of light between you and them."
  • He could tell his words didn’t leave a favorable impression. Perhaps he was being too honest with the group? As the sun dipped below the horizon and the shadows lengthened, the tension of the room became palpable, as if everyone was holding their breath. While he had to admit relief that the girls finally seemed to be taking the threat he’d mentioned seriously, something about the queasy and worried expressions set him on edge. He would see to their protection, even stake his life on it—they didn’t have to look like corralled sheep waiting for a pack of wolves to arrive.

    In an effort to keep up some sense of normalcy, Vinx gathered up the dishes for them, feeling there was nothing to be done about leftovers now that the appetite of the whole room was gone. He set them carefully in the wooden bin the staff had left behind and moved it to the corner of the room where it wouldn’t interfere with the trap. After that, he didn’t break into a nervous pace or even attempt to comfort the women. Instead, he went to the window and pulled the curtains back, revealing the last reddened rays of sun as they darkened into hues of blue and purple across the rooftops.

    Time passed with painful slowness from then on. The quiet of the room was thick as pudding, having only the occasional crackle of burning wood from the fireplace to interrupt it. Vinx had taken his post near the door, leaned casually up against the wall as if expecting the company of friends. He had a good view of the single window in the room and entertained himself by watching the play of moonlight against the shadows of the shop next door. For the most part, the rest of the inn had quieted down; the kitchen closed as the staff made ready for bed, locking doors, prepping last-minute touches for the next day, and settling what horses were left in their stable. It seemed the only person left at her post was the receptionist, who was to keep watch for any late customers.

    At least an hour went by. The world outside was all darkness, the once busy road filled with a lazy lethargy as the last merchants, travelers, and townsfolk began to make their way home. Some spoke of visiting a local pub to ease off the troubles of the day, others eager for home as wives and children promised a welcoming dinner. It was almost sad, really, how not one of them was aware of the danger awaiting the entire village. Death was creeping into the night, and like the blur on the fringe of his periphery vision, he could sense it stir.

    To those who could feel residual energy given off by mystical beings, the presence of the shadow jumpers was like a sickness. Even as they ghosted past those they did not intend to consume, there was a sudden concentrated darkness sharp enough to make spines shudder. Those unlucky enough to barely be brushed by would feel suddenly dizzy, a bit weak, as if the blood had temporarily passed out of them. Though the creatures were far enough away that tracking their movement was impossible, he could feel the erratic nature of their movements, making broad zig-zags as they slowly, yet suddenly made their approach.

    Even Vinx was prone to a grimace when the first shadow jumper leapt across him, settling into the room like a splash of frigid water. It pooled into the darkest corner of the room, completely silent. The thing had no distinct shape, no color. Defining its appearance was like describing the darkest part of a shadow. There were no apparent eyes, though if one peered long enough, she could make out the darkest points of the shadow jumper’s being. Its ‘eyes’ were darker than the deepest black, as if sucking out all light present around it. Those indistinct orbs were like voids, without purpose, focus, or intelligence as they stared back.

    The second one leaped across Vinx, huddling near its partner in crime. Their bodies shifted subtly with the flickering of the candles, waiting, watching.

    “Nice to see you again.” Vinx finally moved from his place at the wall, carefully removing another match from his pocket. With the use of a candle on the floor and a sconce on the wall, he ‘sealed’ the room shut with light. It was going to be a long process of lighting candles and luring the creatures into just the right spot, but he’d been waiting for such a moment a long time and was more than ready.
  • Unlike before, Leita ate as much as she could, but was also mindful as to not consume too much as to be too lethargic for the up-coming encounter. When she finished, she put her art supplies away and held only the little black orb Vinx had entrusted to her.

    She had wanted to ask Nadie about Rontu, Khaz, and Ren, but she felt that now was not the time. Not with sun-down so near. It was better to focus on the situation at hand.

    The tension built in the quiet of the room, so suffocating and filling Leita with anxiety, she was eventually forced to stand. She wanted to be ready to move at any moment. Vinx was relying on her.

    She felt them before they caught a glimpse of the first. Leita immediately felt queasy, her stomach now turning with nausea, and she now regretted eating anything at all. She was always rather sensitive to energies.

    She froze when the first black entity lurched into the room. She clutched the dark globe in her hands as she stared. Into its dark depths, into those lightless voids, the "eyes." Leita felt like she should have been more afraid. She was fearful, no doubt, but there was the strangest, lingering sense of familiarity in those dark shadow creatures that curbed this slightly.

    Khaz? There was a similarity in the emptiness, she had felt it once before, during the times of her life she most wished to forget. But their energy, it was similar to his when he used his magic that day. But the eyes of the shadow-jumper lacked the sharp and unforgiving focus and intelligence of the brother she had lost long ago. Because the brother she had now ... was not the same.

    She cleared her head of such thoughts as Vinx spoke to the two of them, like expected guests. He seemed confident. Leita remained posed, ready for him to give the word.