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Magic vs. Might (Fates.Gamble & Touch Of Temperament)

Touch Of Temperament

Super-Earth
Joined
Dec 29, 2012
“Ohm bhur bhuvag svah, Tat savitur varenyam,
Bhargo devasya dhimahi, Dhiyo yo nah prachodayat.”


The low tones of her chant were accompanied by the rhythm of the pestle grinding the dried herbs into the mortar. Each word guiding her magic, entwining it with the natural properties of little red leaves. No’a was sitting cross-legged on a bearskin that was on the floor. Her little mountain hut filled with magic, the scent of sparleaf and the music of her chant and the mortar and pestle. She sucked in a breath, sampling the scent on her tongue. The hint of cinnamon was just right and the curcumin was giving the powder its trademark yellow colour. It was almost done.

It was dark inside the mountain hut. Only the flickering of candles lighting her work. It was one thing for the village to accept her as their healer, letting her hide among them. It was another for them to see her magic at work. After a lifetime of hiding, it had become second nature to No’a. Just as she whispered the last words into her mixture, words of intent and a wish, the peaceful atmosphere was disturbed.

“NO’AAAAA!”

The sound of a small fist pounding her door accompanied the highpitched voice was one she would recognized anywhere. It belonged to her little champion in this town. He was the only one who pronounced her name right, with the little hitch in breath separating the o from the a. There was an urgency in his voice she didn’t hear often. Something was up. Placing her mixture on the table, she blew out the candles quickly. The magic in the air quickly dissipating while she hurried to the door. It opened to show a young boy, no more than eight years old. He was out of breath, no doubt after sprinting to her hut.

“What’s wrong Jivin?”

He had the typical colouring of this area, warm caramel skintones with dark hair and eyes. It was part of the reason she’d come to this village. She wouldn’t stand out too much here. But underneath his appearance he was far from typical, a budding light of magic shining bright. That was the reason she’d stayed. Jivin’s eyes were huge and he stumbled over his words, trying to get them out as fast as he could.

“You have to come! He’s very hurt! He needs you!”

Grabbing the satchel from the hook by the door, No’a stepped out. Her hand found his tiny shoulder, squeezing it reassuringly for a moment. Her young student was too young to control his emotions, more information wouldn’t be coming right now.

“Calm down Jivin, I’m coming. Show me the way.”

Her hut was at the edge of this little settlement, tucked up against the woods. Jivin led her to the other edge of the village, where the main road entered it. A small crowd had gathered there, surrounding a rider. When they saw her approach, the crowd parted. They were glad to have her here, but also apprehensive. She’d always made a careful effort to blend in. She dressed like them, in the furs and dark forest tones they wore. She’d forgone any elements that she would have worn before. There were no feathers, gemstone beads or carved bone woven into her hair. She wore talismans of the earth’s treasures, made of wood, stone, fur or bone, but they were all hidden underneath her clothes. Her mark was behind her ear, hidden by her long dark hair. Her skin was bronze, not that different from the other villagers. The only thing that really gave her away were her eyes. They were a bright amber.

The rider was still seated on his horse, but only just. His clothes were torn, there was blood everywhere. There was a bad cut on his head. He seemed to be barely conscious, but whatever energy he had left, he put into clinging to the horse. As she got closer, No’a saw a lot more. None of it was good. This rider was not any ordinary rider. He was one of the magic hunters. Whatever was left of his uniform, clearly identified him as such. And he was indeed badly hurt. Her hands hovered over his wounded form as she froze. Her pulse raced. A whole range of emotions thundered through her. A fierce, hot, fury at the pain these men had caused not just to her, a dark satisfaction at having one of them at her mercy now and frustration as well as fear. Whether she’d been his target or not, she now couldn’t stay here anymore. For a long ruthless moment she hesitated right there. She could let him die. No one would be surprised if she could not save him. It would buy her time.

“No’a?”

A small hand tugged at her skirts and No’a shook herself from her inner conflict. Jivin’s dark, hopeful eyes met hers. Like her, he could see the spark of life in this man. They could save him. It wouldn’t be easy, but Jivin knew there was a chance. If she did nothing, he would know she let him die. He was so innocent. His life had so far been untainted by the ugliness of this world. That was about to change. She let out a long shuddering breath. After all she’d taught him about magic, about healing, about life. If she let this man die, it would wreck him.

No’a clenched her jaw, wrenching control of her emotions and steeling her resolve. Her hands floated down to his body as she whispered a healing chant under her breath. Her magic already reaching out. Her head turned to Jivin. “Alright, Let us take him to my house.” The boy grabbed hold of the horse’s reigns, leading him to her little hut. In the crowd she saw Jivin’s mother, her expression wary. No’a lifted her chin, meeting her gaze with a hard look, daring the other woman to say something. Jivin’s mother had no magic and she was scared, justifiably so. But she had to know by now No’a wouldn’t put Jivin at risk.

Once they reached her hut two of the town’s men lifted her patient inside, leaving him on the bed as per her instructions. She ordered Jivin to light the candles as she shut the door on the rest of the town outside. Kneeling by the man’s side, she touched her fingers to his face inspecting the cut on his brow. All her life she’d been running and hiding from these men, now one of them was in her house, in her care.

“Rest now. You are in good hands.” She heard Jivin tell him as the boy placed everything she might need on the bedside table. Powders, salves, potions and poultices. Clean rags, water and a knife. It was something she should have said. Instead she got to work. The warrior posed no danger to her in his current state. She had made her decision. She would deal with the fallout later. No’a picked up the knife and started cutting his clothes off his torso to assess the damage.
 

Fates.Gamble

Revendeur de Destin
Joined
Oct 11, 2012
Location
Somewhere out there...
Ebony hooves pounded the ground, kicking up a cloud of dust as the blue roan raced across the trail with reckless abandon. Farah’s muscles surged beneath her rider, who bent low over her neck, steering her clear of the rockier terrain. He urged the mare onward, encouraging her to ride harder and faster than she ever had; despite the fact that every bump in the saddle wracked his body with pain. But there was no time to focus on a little thing like pain. The man kept his head on a swivel, constantly checking between the road ahead and the one left in his wake. Even now, the plume of acrid, black smoke was wafting into the air, dissipating into what might easily be mistaken for a gray cloud.

Part of him wanted to believe there was no need for this heedless flight; no one could possibly have survived that explosive force. Yet, Arawn of the Arcane Wardens was ever a cautious man. And more than that, he was desperately in need of help. With one hand on the reins, his other was pressed tightly against his side where the occultist’s spell had blown through his hauberk and gambeson alike. He knew the wound was grievous, but he didn’t have time to check just how bad things were. Even if there were no survivors, evidence of their battle could draw the attention of any other demons lurking out there. And in these wilds there were countless places to hide. That very fact is what brought him out here in the first place.

While the Wardens had ventured to this forsaken place seeking at least one mage, they never expected to encounter a contingent of them. Those cursed with magic seldom amassed in such numbers, for that was like to draw the attention of their sworn enemies all the sooner. But these sorcerers were unlike anything he’d ever witnessed. Thanks to the great purge of any and all things relating to the arcane arts, most spell weavers were lucky if they knew enough magic to harm a Warden, let alone kill one. But, able to destroy with the brush of a thought and the flick of a wrist, these mages had reduced their party of three down to one in nigh an instant. It was only through fierce determination and a bit of dumb luck that Arawn was spared the fate of his brothers, and without medical attention that could easily change.

Only once Arawn put a comfortable distance between him and his assailants did he finally rein Farah in to investigate his wounds. The first thing he did was remove the helmet from his head. Like the hauberk, the devils had pretty much ruined the once fine piece of craftsmanship. A narrowly missed spell sliced right through the metal, gouging a deep cut across his brow instead of killing him. He let the heavy piece of equipment fall to the dirt with a thud and winced at the sting of the nasty wound. With a great deal of effort, his hauberk came off next. Every motion was agony as he relieved himself of the armor and let that drop as well. There was no need to remove the gambeson, as its newly acquired, smoldering hole exposed the damage that had been done. Arawn grimaced when he saw how bad it was. Pieces of shrapnel from the coat of mail was embedded in his flesh, some deeper than others. Blood trickled from the entry points, yet the greater part of the wound was no longer bleeding. It was not much to be grateful for, as this was only due to cauterization from the energy of the magic which struck him. The burn appeared every bit as gruesome as an open wound.

Seeing such damage might have left most people mortified, but Arawn bit back the pain and focused on what needed to be done. Luckily his sword and shield, the most important tools of his trade, had survived the attack.Though, not wishing to bear their weight in his condition, he removed his round, ivory white shield and untied the sheathed blade from his sword belt. After that he lashed them to Farah's saddle, making sure the hilt of his weapon was readily available and within reaching distance at all times. That settled, Arawn pulled himself back up on the horse, sounding his misery over the effort it took to do so. As soon as he was mounted he cajoled Farah onward, leaving the tarnished gifts from his order abandoned in the road.

While riding for the nearest village he knew of in these parts, Arawn reflected on the ones who ambushed them. Their identities were obscured with wooden, sable masks and dark robes, though he doubted he would have known them by face. Any magician skilled enough to evade the Wardens and land himself on a wanted poster was likely to change his appearance with magic; Arawn had seen it before. The heathens used no shortage of treachery to avoid their righteous slaughter. Though he didn’t know who these terrible new enemies were, he was certain the other Wardens had to be alerted to the threat. Mages that powerful gathering in those numbers could mean nothing good. Yet, alone and lost out in this vast desolation, he wouldn’t be getting the news back home anytime soon. Odds were, he wouldn’t even make it out of these mountains alive.

There was no telling how much time had passed beneath that punishing sun before the inky shape of huts finally appeared on the horizon. The journey, and even the attack was rendered all one big blur in his mind. By the time he arrived, Arawn was feeling feverish from his wounds and woozy from blood loss. Even his vision was faded and blurred, making it hard to focus on anything as he rode into the tribal community. He was conscious of people gathering around him, but at this point he was virtually incoherent. The Warden tried to summon a request for aid but the words fell dead in his throat, leaving the sound to escape as nothing but a mumble. It took all he had to keep from falling out of the saddle, and even that wouldn’t last much longer. Farah was making it more difficult by stamping around nervously, feeling uneasy with all the unfamiliar people crowding in near her injured rider.

Arawn remained wholly unaware of what was happening even as No’a surveyed his wounds and spotted the crest of his order. A fiery white sun adorned the front of his coat in stark contrast against the black wool of the gambeson. It symbolized a luminous fury to cut through the darkness, or so they would have their Wardens believe. Even all the way out in this far away place it would give him away as one of them. Being a Warden in this world meant one of two things: People would either go out of their way to help you, or to kill you. While No’a decided which she wanted to do, Arawn was on the verge of collapse. Battered as he was, he couldn’t even sense the magic No’a cast, let alone prevent it from defiling his body. It slowly took root, mending what could have proved fatal had he gone much longer without it.

Bobbing limply along as they guided the horse, some of his awareness started to return. He was still far too hazy to think clearly, and much too weak to resist the men who carried him down from his mare and into No’a’s hut. As he was placed upon the bed and given a chance for his body to rest, her magic could more readily do its job. It allowed him to focus on No’a as she knelt down and traced her fingers near his wound. His head lolled to face her, thick, black hair damp and glued to his scalp His skin was pale from the toll his wounds were taking, yet sun-kissed from his many days exposed to the elements. Bright, hazel eyes looked at her almost pleadingly. He could feel it… that telltale tingle in his spine; that whisper only he could hear. A warning which told him mages were nearby. Though, in his febrile state, he could not distinguish that it was coming from the two souls before him. His mind immediately jumped to those who attacked them instead.

“Please,” he moaned out to her in a hoarse voice, “You… you have to tell them. Have to… let them know…” His words were gibberish, and barely comprehensible.

When Jivin spoke, the Warden's attention snapped to the young boy at once. Though, already teetering on the edge of consciousness, he finally tipped over soon after. Eyes fluttered closed and Arawn was swallowed into a void of obscurity. With the fallen warden asleep, No’a was able to do her work, removing his garments and exposing his bare torso without protest. Beneath his attire she would find a strong, chiseled body honed by years of rigorous training. Discounting his latest injuries, the hard, muscled flesh boasted numerous other mementos. Scars of various sizes painted a story across his skin, revealing that this was far from the first time he’d been rendered to such a state. This man was clearly forged in combat.

Yet, even more telling than the evidence of his rigorous trials, was the tattoo on his chest. Etched directly above his heart, he bore a smaller version of the blazing sun on his coat of arms. This symbol, however, had an all-seeing eye wrought directly in its core. Though the ink bore no colors but black, the detail was astonishing. One could be forgiven for feeling as though they were being watched by a living entity; one that could peer right through your very soul. The marking remained ever watchful of No’a as she patched him up. To most it would have seemed placid and inconsequential. Being so skilled in her craft however, there was a good chance No’a could feel the true nature of it swirling within.
 
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Touch Of Temperament

Super-Earth
Joined
Dec 29, 2012
The knife cut easily through the fabric of his uniform. She always made sure it was sharp, in case of emergency. Now as his chest was revealed to her, she finally realized the extent of the damage done to him. She couldn’t imagine the pain he might have had, riding through the woods in this state. It was astonishing to think he’d been conscious just a few moments ago, murmuring the feverish words of the wounded. Dangerous killers they might be, but the Wardens certainly knew how to build their soldiers. Even wrecked like it was now, his body was a testament to his strength and resilience. It just emphasized the danger she had brought to her home, the risk she was taking. She was playing with fire. And the sight of him ignited another worry at the back of her mind.

There were few things in this world that could do damage like this, especially considering the quality of armour he must have been wearing. Magic was the first option that came to mind. There were spells in a battle mage’s repertoire that could wreak havoc on a body exactly like this, but she hadn’t seen anything like it in a long time. There had been no other magic users in the area, when she first came here. Apparently that had changed. Suddenly she wasn’t sure whether she hoped the mage had survived this encounter or not.

Jivin looked at their patient’s bare torso and gasped loudly, unable to keep the horror from his face. “Jivin.” She chided him sharply. The first thing any healer learned was to stay calm and keep their expression in check. If a patient saw their healer panicking, they would panic themselves. Their patient might have been unconscious right then, but still Jivin needed to hold on to that calm state of mind. This was the first time he had ever seen a patient this badly wounded. “Sorry No’a.” He took a deep breath, sending her a fearful look. “Is he going to die?”

“Death is a part of life. You know this.” She raised an eyebrow at her young student, then eased his mind. “But I don’t think it is his time just yet.”

No’a bit down a smile as relief spread across the little boy’s face. He was an open book, showing everything that was on his mind. She told him to focus on the cut on the warrior’s head. He knew what to do. Clean it, treat it with one her healing salves and wrap it, singing his healing chant the whole time. His magic enforcing the magic of the salve, speeding the body’s regeneration. Jivin was a true white mage. One day he would be able to heal wounds like this without needing any of nature’s help. But she hoped he would remember her teachings. Healing was a part of nature and it was all the stronger when magic and nature worked together.

While her apprentice did that, she focused on the rest. It must have hurt terribly when he got hit, but treating this wound would hurt just as much. She could only be glad he was already unconscious, otherwise she would have had to put him to sleep. Some of the bits of mail had stuck to the burnt skin. There were others embedded into his flesh at various depths. There was an odd pattern to the wound. His tattoo was within the range of the blast area, but it was untouched. The ink in the skin unmarred. As she paid closer attention to the tattoo, she realized why. It was a good thing she had perfected her stoic healers face years ago. This wasn’t a tattoo. It was a spell fused to his skin. Anger flared back up within her. What was a Warden doing, enhancing their body with magic? What had they done to the mage they had forced to do this?

It wasn’t her type of magic, but the eye at the centre gave her the uneasy sense they were being watched. It probably had to do with the purpose of the spell. First things fits though, after they had healed him, she would see to finding out what this spell did exactly. Now that she was aware of the spell on his chest, she also noticed something else. It was harder for her magic to reach him than it should have been. She knew the strength of her power very well and she should’ve seen greater effect by now. It was a good thing she had Jivin’s help. Feeding a bigger stream of her magic into her patient’s body and joining Jivin’s chant, she focused on her work. Removing every little bit of shrapnel, cleaning out the wounds, letting her magic heal him from the inside first.

When she looked up, she noticed Jivin swaying on his feet. Poor thing. He had given so much. They’d been working for hours. Already the man in the bed was out of danger, his body regenerating. “Go home Jivin.” He was about to protest, but she just narrowed her eyes to enforce her point. “Come back in the morning and you can do more. You need to rest. You have done enough for today.” Before he went, there was one more thing she needed to teach him tonight.

“Jivin, look at this.” She showed him the scrap of the soldier’s uniform that held the Arcane Warden’s crest. “This is the mark of the Arcane Wardens. The next time you see anyone wearing this, you run and you hide.” She shook her head when he tried to interrupt her. Her hand pressing on his shoulder as she tried to convey the seriousness of her point. “You run far and you hide. These are dangerous men, trained killers and they don’t like magic users like you and me.” Jivin’s dark eyes darted between the man on the bed and her face, unsure how to react to this information. “But he..” He started. She nodded curtly, holding on to her anger. Every magical child had this talk with a parent or caregiver, but she’d hoped to have more time. Still it was important he knew this. For all she knew, there would be other Wardens coming to the settlement. It was no longer safe. “He won’t hurt you. We saved him. But that won’t mean anything to any of the others. You understand?” Her voice sounded a lot more certain on that than she actually felt, but she wasn’t planning on letting this man hurt her apprentice. The boy nodded solemnly. “You did well today. Go home now and get some sleep. Your mom will be worried about you.” His face lit up at the praise. She squeezed his shoulder encouragingly, then watched him leave.

No’a returned to the man in the bed. He was out of the woods. But she had plenty still to do. She smoothed her healing salve over his skin. It was a recipe from her family that she had perfected even further. There would be no scars when she used this. Her hands, small but rough and callused, were still gentle. She was too proud of her craft to not do it well. No matter who her patient was. Her eye fell on the tattoo again. The magic in it seemed obvious now.

“You hypocrite.” She told him, not expecting an answer. “Using magic to kill magic. You don’t even stick to your own beliefs.” Her hand came to rest on top on his tattoo and she let her magic carefully test it. Her eyes closing as she focused on other senses. It was a complex spell, with multiple components, not just anyone could have made this mark. It explained the resistance to magic she’d felt, as well as the sensation of being watched. She wasn’t certain she was picking up all the nuances in the fabric of the spell. With a bit more of her magic she tested his tattoo a little further, unveiling more of the spell. That uncomfortable sensation of being watching seemed to grow. No’a sucked in a heavy breath, releasing the magic at once and moving her hand off the tattoo. Whatever or whoever was watching, she didn’t want them to find her.
 

Fates.Gamble

Revendeur de Destin
Joined
Oct 11, 2012
Location
Somewhere out there...
Despite the placid expression on Arawn’s face, the maladies wrought against him took their toll. Delusion took grip of his mind, tormenting him with frenetic dreams even as No’a and her steadfast apprentice tended to him. Recollections of the ambush haunted him first. He recalled the moment with perfectly clarity. He could smell the earthly aroma of pine; feel every movement in the saddle as Farah clopped alongside the other horses, stalking beneath the ancient trees and towering cliffs that surrounded them on either side. Most of all he remembered the deathly stillness that permeated the atmosphere, and the prickle of his skin that warned him what was coming. Every man had sword and shield in hand.

Yet there was no time to react before the first spell was cast, issuing a flash of light that blinded them all. Next came the screams, and it was hard to say which sounded less human, the warden or his horse, as both were engulfed in a burst of ravenous flames. There was no time to process the loss of his brother as the enemies poured out into view. He never saw the spell that killed the second warden, only a glimpse of his steed bolting in panic as his broken body crumpled to the ground. Arawn was already wheeling Farah around, preparing to flee when a bolt of pure energy exploded passed the side of his head. He felt a portion of the helmet give way, sucked in a breath as he felt the metal slice through his skin. It was a lucky miss, but enough to knock him from his horse, leaving him winded as he collided with the earth.

Fighting away the dizziness, he scrambled to his feet, pulling his shield up on instinct. It was a good thing he did. The mage’s volley of magic smashed against his defenses, defied by the counteractive properties forged into the metal. But then came the sound of crackling energy, the sight of a purple flare, and an explosion of pain as his hauberk was blasted apart.He wasn’t sure where he found the strength to pull himself back up after that. Everything was muddled and fragmented as he rose to meet his enemies. Another spell was primed, this one backed by the power of several chanting voices. Arawn stood his ground, steeling himself for what was to come. Already in shock from his injuries, Arawn couldn’t recall how it happened exactly. The magic struck his shield only to rebound, springing back at those who’d cast it. Screams were lost in their throats are the devils were consumed an explosion of their own making; evaporated nigh instantaneously.

In this version of events Arawn never dragged himself up and onto Farah. He never made the mad dash to the village, to the healer that would save him. In his dreams he remained on the ground, staring into a darkening sky as numerous, faceless shadows descended all around him. He didn’t have to open his eyes to know who they were. The ghosts of his past haunted him almost every night, his countless victims finding what peace they could in terrorizing him. There was no telling how many there were… He’d kept count until 36, but after that Arawn learned it was better not to think about it. He knew that it was his duty; that it was a necessary evil. Magic had brought the world to its knees before, without the Wardens it would surely happen again.

Yet that didn’t satisfy the shades. Arawn could feel their loathing and hatred, their misery and sorrow. He could also feel their contentment as they watched the Warden lie on his back, bleeding out and struggling to breathe. “Please…” he called out to them, begging for his life much like many had pleaded with him for theirs. He was answered in kind, with not a soul stepping forward. Instead, he heard the hush of their disembodied voices echoing in his head, urging him on towards the void.

Let go…
You deserve this…
It’s only right after the things you’ve done...


Arawn didn’t want to believe them, but he found himself lost in their ominous harmony, concluding that yes, this had to be exactly what he deserved. He closed his eyes, ready to submit to the kiss of death. But one shape among the crowd was not so keen to allow the Warden his rest. The only one with a face, she burned in his mind, keeping him awake and tethered to the pain that wracked his body. Putting her hand the marking of his heart, she wormed her magic inside of him. At first he thought she was poisoning him, making sure he felt every bit of pain that was possible before he died. But then he realized the magic was healing him, restoring his vitality and pulling him from the brink.

Not yet, her voice broke into his head, silencing all the others as if the loss of his death was not enough to gratify her, Not until you pay for what you’ve done to us.
~

Arawn’s eyes slowly cracked open, finding himself in the dusky light of No’a’s hut with no recollection of how he’d gotten there. He tried to sit up but his body immediately rebelled, agony seeping through every muscle. His head was pounding and his throat was dry, his tongue like sand paper. On top of it all, his senses vibrated with the threat of looming danger; of nearby mages. First things first, he had to figure out where he was. Arawn looked around best he could, taking in all the little intricacies of the mountain hut. The pungent smell of herbs was strong enough to block out all other thought until his gaze shifted and he found himself staring into a pair of vibrant, amber eyes as No’a kept vigil over her patient.

Arawn froze as he stared at the woman, at once arriving to the conclusion that the warning was coming from her. Every muscle ran stiff as he realized he was at the mercy of a magic user, and his worries only increased as another thought jumped to mind. Ignoring the pain, Arawn forced himself to sit up as much as possible. Callused hands traversed his body, feeling out for his wound only to find smooth, unmarred flesh where the horror should have been. At once, he recoiled on the woman, hazel eyes narrowing with a flash of fury as he appraised her. “You did this?” he hissed out at her, any gratitude he may have had for being saved completely gone. “You tainted me with your wretched craft?” He might have forced himself up all the way up out of bed had he been strong enough. As it was, even the thought of it exhausted him. Worse yet, he was stripped of all armor and weapons. Making a false move here could cost him the life he’d only just been blessed to keep.

Arawn’s anger was lost amid a coughing fit. Every convulsion left him aching, and his voice even more hoarse than before. “Why?” he demanded to know. He saw the contempt in her eyes and realized she knew the truth about him. “You know what I am, don’t you?” he said, fighting the urge to lay back down and relax though his body desperately craved it, “What I’m sworn to do? Why then, would you choose to save me?” Already an infinite number of ideas was racing through his mind. Perhaps she’d placed some vicious curse upon him in the process. Something that would addle his mind and cause him even more suffering in the end. Any blessing of magic was destined to be a false boon.
 

Touch Of Temperament

Super-Earth
Joined
Dec 29, 2012
No’a spent most of the night, sitting cross-legged on the bearskin on the floor of her hut, keeping watch on her patient on the bed. Her right hand rested on his chest as she found skin contact made it easier for her magic to reach him. She’d been singing the healing chant for hours. It was a perfect calm and she welcomed the near meditative state it brought her. That made it easier to ignore the impulse to flee. Every instinct in her body was telling to run, leave this place, find a new hiding spot. It itched underneath her skin. She hadn’t survived in this world for this long by sticking around to see what might happen. Not many shamans actually lived to complete their master tests these days, or any magic user for that matter. Since she’d completed said Masters test she’d been travelling along. As it was easier for one person to blend in. She never stayed in one place for long and always disappeared at the slightest hint of trouble.

This time was different. She couldn’t leave Jivin unprotected. Now, resigned to seeing this through, she analysed her deeply ingrained flight response. If she didn’t know any better, she would say it was almost as if her spirit guides were reaching through the veil to touch her. She could practically hear her mentor’s voice admonishing her foolishness. Or her mother imploring her to save herself. It wasn’t real of course. Spirit couldn’t reach through the veil. She could reach out to them by communing with them. But she’d been a coward. Afraid of which new faces she might see there this time, she hadn’t done it for a long time. Besides she didn’t need to commune with the spirit world to know danger was coming.

It was near dusk when the Warden woke from his healing slumber. A little earlier than she had expected, more proof of the strength and tenacity of his body. Immediately the atmosphere around them changed, tension filling the small space. She knew the exact moment he realised what she was. He went from wary confusion to a hyper alert state. Like a predator sighting their prey, every muscle tensing to spring into action at the right moment. And she knew with absolute certainty that if he hadn’t been still recovering from his injury, she would have died right at that moment. Fear sparked to life in her gut. Her pulse raced in response to the danger she was in.

He looked like an Arcane Warden through and through right then, full of righteous fury and prejudice. The fact she had saved him from near certain death hadn’t even dented the hatred he nurtured against magic. His amazement at his healed body brought her some grim satisfaction. Yes she had done that. She had done some of her best work this night, not that he would appreciate it. Anger and indignation flared in response to him. She was tired, feeling the strain of a long night of hard work and she let her temper get the best of her. No’a surged forward, on to her knees, making their faces come level to each other.

“My wretched craft? My wretched craft saved you from certain death.” Her voice sounded like a mountain cat’s furious growl. “You weren’t too worried about magical taint when you had this done, were you?” She pointed accusingly at his tattoo.

Her anger waned when he started coughing, her healer’s instinct overriding her temper. She wrenched back control over her emotions, her hands shaking with the effort. He was still a patient, even if he was a Warden. A healer never let their patient goad them. Gripping both his shoulders, she pushed him back down on the bed. His body was still recovering. It had spent all of its energy to heal like this. He needed to rest and to refuel, restore his energy. For now she still had the upper hand over him. “Calm down!” She snapped at him. “You need to rest. If you won’t listen to me, then listen to your body. Yes I know what you are.” She blew out a breath in frustration. Her eyes met his, her gaze hard. “I thought about it. I thought about letting you die. It would have been easy. You were close to death when you came here.” There was no apology in her voice. Who knows how many magical lives she might have saved. It might have justified letting him go.

“Someone reminded me that all life is sacred. I am a healer. When I see the spark of life I need to try and save it.” The last words were spoken softly, perhaps more to remind herself than to him. It took a very conscious effort not to think of those she’d lost, killed by people like him. Instead she tried to focus on her own truth, the ideals she’d been teaching Jivin. She’d surprised herself with her honesty towards him. There was no obligation to answer his questions truthfully. But she did it anyway. Lies wouldn’t save her if he decided to destroy her later. “Otherwise I would be no better than you.” Her bright amber eyes dared him to challenge her on this.

From the bedside table she took a cup of water, offering it to him. She knew he had to be parched, but he would have to accept it from her. “Now drink.” She thrust the cup at him brusquely. “It’s only water. If you can keep it down, I have soup for you too.” At the stove a pot was simmering, giving off a warm, spicy aroma.

She’d had plenty of time to think the last few hours. Time to contemplate the predicament she had put herself in. Possible scenario’s on how this would end. Searching for ways the outcome did not amount to her and Jivin’s death. She asked the question she wasn’t sure she wanted to know the answer to. But she had to know to determine her next step. “What happened to you? Where are the others?” He couldn’t have been alone. From what she knew of the Wardens, they usually rode in small groups.
 

Fates.Gamble

Revendeur de Destin
Joined
Oct 11, 2012
Location
Somewhere out there...
Arawn had the inclination to flinch, treating No’a as though she bore some terrible, fatal disease when she drove her face in close to his. He fought the urge, however, refusing to show her any weakness. Especially a fear of the very thing he was sworn to destroy. Instead his wild eyes drank in her amber gaze, challenging her with her very expression. There was a sting of truth in her words. Though his memories were fuzzy, he could still recall the sight of the ghastly wounds that brought him here. Given the perfectly restored flesh and the fever dreams that haunted him, it was a little hard not to think he’d imagined it all. But the lingering pain was real enough.

“At what cost?” he growled back at her. Yet before that conversation could erupt in full, she dared accused him of dabbling in her arts. He looked at her, bewildered for a moment, before following her gesture to the marking on his chest. Arawn sneered, a scoff breaking free of his raw throat. “Silence your tongue, Witch,” he told her, “Your words are poison and you know nothing of which you speak. Just as there is evil in this world, there is that which defies it. So it is with our brand, the mysteries of the Arcane Wardens are beyond your grasp. Nor are they meant for eyes such as yours.”

It was only then he realized how exposed he was. His eyes jumped around the hut, searching for his clothes. He quickly spotted them set aside across the room, in obvious ruins. He was quick to blame this on her as well, noting how finally they’d be cut down the middle. He casually seemed to forget all about the damage the other mages had done to it. One spell caster was as good as another in his profession. They were all guilty from the start. Any fussing he might have done was stayed by his coughing, and even more so by the way she strode forward and shoved him back down. Arawn seethed, glaring violently at her despite his vulnerable state. Despite his better nature, he listened as she snapped at him. He had to give the woman some credit, she appeared to have no lacking of courage. If she was afraid of him she did not show it, and her commanding voice that even had him abiding by the order, and relaxing albeit it only slightly. Though, it was more out of exhaustion than anything else.

“No better than me…” he croaked out a laugh when she was done. He finally broke his gaze with her, laying his head back with a raspy breath. “Maybe you are better than me.” Arawn conceded. “Maybe you’re a good person, living a quiet life out here in the middle of no where. Maybe you’ve spent your days using your magic to save as many lives as I’ve taken. To someone like you… I don’t blame you for seeing me as a merciless butcher. But the sad fact you and your ilk refuse to face, is that you could stack up the bodies left in the wake of the Wardens times a thousand, and it still wouldn’t come close to the number of those who have suffered at the hands of the power you represent. Compared to that, the misery wrought by the Wardens is but a small drop in a sea of cruelty.”

His speech left him winded, rendering him a victim to another hacking fit. Now that he was fully awake and alert he could swear he could feel the magic continuing to slither through his veins. It itched terribly where his wounds had once been, though he wasn’t certain if it wasn’t just his paranoia playing tricks on him. He still wasn’t entirely sure if he believed this woman hadn’t cursed him some how. Though, even as he considered it a seed a doubt had formed over the idea. The Wardens were raised to be perceptive, to see beyond the deceptive of mages and ensure they could complete their duties no matter the obstacle; not matter the trickery. And Arawn had been especially intuitive, excelling in this particular aspect. His gut told him No’a was at least somewhat sincere in her reasoning. If for no other reason than it was pure madness that a mage should choose to help a Warden.

That didn’t mean he was going to let his guard down around her. Arawn eyed the cup suspiciously, a number of ideas reaching him as to what she might have dosed it with. Eventually he had to conclude she would not have spent the energy saving him only to kill him with some toxin. The effort must have been taxing, leaving her tired in his own right. And besides, if she really wanted him to suffer the wound in his side was more than painful enough to grant him a horrible death. That logic and a tongue that felt like sandpaper won out in the end. He accepted the cup and drained it as fast as his injuries would allow him. The cool water worked wonders to soothe him, though ire still remained for the woman who tended to him.

He made no acknowledgement of the soup, nor so much as looked at her as she left his side and crossed the run. His mind was running wild with a million thoughts, not the least of which how he was supposed to get out of this mess. Would she be so kind and considerate once his strength returned? Surely she wasn’t naive enough to keep a Warden in her care without some means of detaining him should he turn on her. There was a fine difference between having a good heart and being a blood imbecile. When next he spoke, he couldn’t help but wonder if interrogation would be her end game here. She would learn nothing if that were the case.

Arawn rolled his head to appraise her once more. The memories of his fallen companions flashed through his mind as they were brought up, though her question presented an opportunity to gain some leverage. “Searching for me even now, I’d imagine,” he lied about the other Wardens. His face was placid, leaving no room to doubt his words. “So if I were you I’d think very carefully about what you plan to do next. As for what happened to me…” His expression darkened as he stared at her, “You saw the wounds. You know what happened. You heathens happened. How many of you are gathering out here in these mountains?” Arawn demanded to know, having a few questions of his own. Though, he soon waved a hand, brushing it off. “No matter. Whether its in your tens or hundreds, there’s a fair number fewer of you now,. The Wardens will uproot the rest soon enough. Once they learn of this uprising, there will be no where to hide from their fury and steel.”

Groaning, Arawn had to settle down once more. He threw his head back, willing away the agony that choked his every muscle. At least before she healed him he’d been too delirious to notice the pain. It took him several deep breaths, chest heaving, before he was finally able to relax in the bed again. “It would have been better for everyone involved if you’d let me die,” he managed to say, refusing to look at her. Didn’t she realize what taking a Warden into her home meant? Did she truly believe that one good, decent act would free him of his solemn vows? “It must be someone very important to you…” he said of the person who’d convinced her to save him. He finally turned back to her, a knowing look in his eye. “To persuade you to risk your life like this.”
 
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Touch Of Temperament

Super-Earth
Joined
Dec 29, 2012
No’a thrust her hands into her hair in sheer frustration. This man was infuriating, spouting his doctrine at her. As if that would mean something to her. If anything it simultaneously frightened and aggravated her. It was just so inherently wrong. Instinctively she strode to the other wall, putting as much as distance between them as she could. His speech had her boiling inside. Her fury bubbled over and with a little scream the words came out before she could stop them.

“Arrgh! How can you be so wilfully ignorant? Surely, you must see the flaws in your logic. Did you check with your every victim whether they were part of Tariq’s regime? Whether they had any connection to his dark and ruthless magic? Magic isn’t evil. Magic is power, just that. And this is true for any source of power, its effect is in the hands of those of wield it. Does wielding a sword make you responsible for another swordsman’s evils?” She’d raised her voice to him. Even though she knew she was ranting. Even though she knew there was no reasoning with this man. Now that she’d started, she would finish what she had to say. “You can continue to eradicate us, but your campaign of genocide will never succeed. Magic is an innate part of this land. It will always be there. Even now children are born with magic running through their veins, no matter whether their parents had any magical ability. It is part of..”

Now she cut herself off abruptly. She’d said too much. Turning to the wall, she braced her hands against it. Where once she’d found this small space comforting and a shelter, she know felt confined within the four walls. She longed to be outside. Fresh air in her lungs, her feet connecting with the earth. For a few moments she breathed deeply, regaining some of her composure and then she focused her attention to the soup. Only turning to him again when he answered her questions.

The colour drained from her face as he mentioned the other Wardens searching for him. She shouldn’t be here. She should’ve fled with Jivin as soon as the Warden rode into town. Disappear together. His mother would’ve understood eventually. The danger was even greater than she had feared. Not only were the other Wardens nearby. He seemed to think there were mages gathering in this area. Not just one or two. Tens, hundreds, he’d said. Her head spun. It couldn’t be. She’d been here slightly over a year. There hadn’t been any other magic users before. She’d checked before she settled here, in various ways. Besides mages didn’t gather anymore. There was no such thing as safety in numbers anymore. But then.. He’d borne wounds made by a battle mage. There were only so many possible explanations for that. None of them good. Suddenly she wished she had kept in touch with her spirit guides. They might have warned her.

It was like she had stepped onto quicksand. The ground beneath her suddenly unsteady and every move she made to escape, just sucked her in deeper. She’d been up for a full day and night and she felt so weary. It was pure adrenaline she was going on. Fear and fury whirled inside her and she had clamped on to the anger. It was a far more useful emotion for the situation she was in right now. Her hands itched to reach for the knife, but she was loath to show him how much he’d rattled her.

Finally he seemed to settle down and then he said something that seemed an echo from her own thoughts. Maybe not better, but it would have definitely been easier if she had let him die. But she couldn’t believe he would think so too. She regarded him warily from across the room, crossing her arms in front of her chest, waiting for the other shoe to drop. And then quietly, so easily he found the kink in her armour. It was No’a’s turn to look away, feeling far too exposed. She hated that he’d seen through her like that. At the same she realised another mistake she’d made, involving Jivin in this. It would place him right in this Warden’s line of fire. She’d have to keep Jivin out of the hut. Her chin lifted stubbornly and she retaliated by redirection. "What would you risk your life for then? Your cause?” One eyebrow arched in challenge. “Killing innocent people. Is that really worth it?”

As soon as she’d said it, there was a knock on the door. In his eagerness Jivin didn’t even bother to wait for her invitation, opening the door and coming in before she could say anything. The person she was risking her life for. “G’morning No’a.” He chirped politely, nodding at her. No’a choked on whatever she’d been about to say, just barely mustering up a smile for the boy. Inside she felt like screaming. The Warden would know. It was part of the spell on his chest, she was certain of it. Just as he had taken one look at her and known she was magic, he would know about Jivin too. But she was too late. Her student’s attention was completely focused on the bed, where their patient lay. “You’re awake!” He exclaimed in surprise as he approached the bed. His head turned to No’a. “He’s awake.” She inclined her head in response, falling back into her role as mentor. “His body and spirit are strong. He’ll recover quickly.” Jivin was going to burn with curiosity, he would want to chat with the man in the bed. She sent the Warden a hard, icy glare, a silent warning not to hurt the boy. A healer she may be, but she still had some tricks up her sleeve. Whilst still trying to act like nothing out of the ordinary was going on, she went about distracting Jivin. She quizzed him. “Now, when your patient wakes up after healing. What do you do?”

Jivin came to a halt by the bed. “He needs water, food and rest. Hello mister. My name is Jivin. I helped No’a heal you. She’s teaching me.” He introduced himself bubbly, then frowning a little bit as he looked at Arawn before asking. “How bad is the pain?” His little hand reached out to the warrior’s forehead, to check his temperature. He did everything exactly the way she’d taught him. And yet her heart ached, because he had just given both their names to their mortal enemy. The boy didn’t need to be asked anything, he refilled the cup with water, setting it within reach of the patient. Jivin glanced at the Warden’s chest, clearly relieved to see the wound healed. “Wow it’s all gone, huh. You were hurt bad, but No’a is very good. I did this part.” He said proudly and drew a line on his own forehead, mimicking where Arawn’s headwound had been. “Jivin, the Ward.. the man is still really tired. Let him rest.” No’a watched them like a hawk, ready to send Jivin away at the slightest hint of trouble. Stirring the soup, she breathed in the comforting aroma rising up. She was hungry herself and poured two bowls. “Here, come and give him some soup.”
 

Fates.Gamble

Revendeur de Destin
Joined
Oct 11, 2012
Location
Somewhere out there...
Arawn remained calm, even as No’a leased her frustration upon him. He drank in her every word, watching her all the while. He allowed her rant in full, hearing everything she had to say. It was the least he could do when considering she saved his life while he was expected to take hers. But unfortunately for No’a, this was nothing he hadn’t heard before. It was the same fallacies anyone used when they protested the Wardens. Plenty of people shared her views now days; most of them hypocrites. No one spoke out against the Wardens when they first came to rise. They begged in their masses, pleading for an end to sadistic oppression and cheering once they delivered it.

“You think I haven’t heard this argument before?” he challenged, keeping his eyes on her, “You must note the faults in your own logic. One sword cannot snuff out a thousand lives in in but a single stroke. One blade can not cut through the very bones of the world and reshape it the way its wielder desires. It takes an army of swords to do these things, and anyone can learn to wield one besides. This is not so when it comes to your magic.” The word was like a bad taste on his tongue, dripping with prejudice. His eyes hardened on her, his conviction stronger than ever. He wanted desperately for her to understand his reasoning. She, who had saved his life, who had as good as put her head beneath his sword, had to understand. ”All the swords in the world couldn’t save us from one mad sorcerer. Tariq had his followers. But it wasn’t his followers who we bowed to. It wasn’t his disciples who brought us to our knees, and destroyed nigh every semblance of good in this world. Compared to this ‘power’ you revere, what is one sword? Even we Wardens travel in groups.”

He knew she wouldn’t be that easy to persuade. In her mind he was the enemy. To her, the bloody wake of the Wardens probably didn’t look a whole lot different than Tariq’s. Yet, her thoughts on that didn’t interest him half as much as the way she cut herself off mid speech. Arawn was every bit as keen of mind as he was strong of body. His perceptiveness is what made him a brilliant swordsman and even better at sleuthing out mages.

A child… He realized at once, and exhaled a disappointed sigh.

Children always made it harder… No matter what he believed. He appraised her in a new light after that, hoping somewhere deep down that he called it wrong. He knew that he hadn’t. She’d proven herself capable and strong, even fearless in her decision to save his life. But at her slip-up a lot of that strength seemed to waver; to give way to fear. He knew a mother’s reaction when he saw one. But Arawn did not press it. Not yet, not while he was still gaining his strength. For all intents and purposes they were sitting at a diplomatic table, negotiating their way out of the impending, bloody, conflict. She asked what he would risk his life for, and in a way it was the perfect inquiry to strike with. No, Arawn had no children or anyone really he was close enough to to call a loved one. Being a Warden simply didn’t afford that opportunity.

Glaring daggers at her, he opened his mouth to speak, only for the knock at the door to interrupt them both. Once again the Warden stiffened, poised like a lion ready to pounce. His eyes locked to the door, then to the face of the one who breezed through it. It was like a punch to the gut as the young boy entered, chipper as could be. He hadn’t seen him yet, for which the Warden was thankful. There was no hiding his expression when he realized this boy was magic, just like No’a. Everything came together in his mind, driving his assumption home and revealing the child she cared for all at once. His attention hopped back to the curious woman with bronze skin and amber eyes as he happened to learn her name. Jivin spotted him not an instant later though, though his eyes remained on the woman, meeting her icy gaze with one of his own.

He looked back to Jivin as he boy approached the bed, sitting perfectly still as he now found himself with two mages instead of one. His luck appeared to be running rather poorly of late, though as he caught on to Jivin’s inquisitive and energetic nature, he realized the boy could be a blessing in disguise. No’a may have been teaching him magic, but it appeared she forgot to teach him a great many other things. Such as common sense in a world that wanted you dead. It made him an open book he could get any answer from he needed, if he played things right.

“I’ve had worse,” he told him of his pain, unsure if it was truth or a lie. No’a’s magic had him feeling better by the minute. If he weren’t so dead-set against her practice he might have been impressed by it. He accepted another cup of water, betraying no ill intent to the boy in his actions. He merely sipped quietly, watching the young mage marvel over his healed flesh. “Yes, she is, isn’t she?” He played coy as No’a’s abilities were praised. Once more his interest switched to her, wondering how she’d perfected this art. Mages rarely pulled their talents out of thin air. Few were prodigies to that level. So that begged the question… if she was teaching Jivin, who taught her?

His attention was stolen back as the boy declared his own handiwork, tracing a finger where the gash on his brow once existed. He was somewhat relieved when No’a summoned him away, though he didn’t let it show. Instead, while the diligent trainee hurried to gather the soup, Arawn used the moment of distraction to sort out his thoughts and plan what to do next. Nothing concrete came to him before Jivin returned, bowl in hand, but Arawn had a good idea of how to proceed. His little helper moved to spoon feed him at first, but Arawn raised a hand to stop him. “I think I’m well enough to eat,” he assured, showing the speed of his recovery even as he shifted himself up to a sitting position. Albeit with a grimace and a groan. He accepted the soup after that, casually stirring his spoon in the broth as though to turn up any potentially nefarious ingredients.

“Jivin, was it?” he asked before risking a bite.

“Yes, sir.”

“Names are powerful things. You should take better care when offering them to a stranger.” Someone had to teach the boy a practicality of survival if No’a wouldn’t. “And also, you have my thanks.” He took another bite of soup, finding it better than expected. It was also exactly what his body needed. The warm broth was soothing on his raw throat and filled his belly with a delightful fire. “If you don’t mind my asking, I see my tattered clothes over there, but where are the rest of my things?” The question was more for No’a. He figured she wouldn’t have the opportunity to lie while Jivin was around. That would give away the game.

It was Jivin himself who answered instead. “We left everything where it was on your horse. She’s tied up right outside. That’s some sword you’ve got! Are you some kind of warrior, Mister?”

“It’s Arawn,” he said, giving the boy a ghost of a smile. Though, his smile was more for the fact he now knew his equipment was untouched and where to find it. “You gave me your name, it is only right you should have mine. And… you could say that. Though, I mustn’t be a very good one if I can be wounded like this.” That had the boy eager to know what happened to him, but Arawn knew better than to speak of that. “It is a long tale and I am yet weary. Weary and cold… These mountains have a much cooler climate than I am used to. Would you be willing to assist me once more? I’ve a bag hanging on my saddle with a modest change of clothes. Be a good lad and fetch it for me? And mind that sword. It’s no toy.”

Before No’a could intervene, Jivin was already hot on the task, hurrying out the hut to oblige him. Arawn watched him leave, making sure he was gone before wheeling his attention back on the woman. “Some fool you are, ‘No’a’.” His pronunciation of her of her name lacked the accuracy of Jivin, just like everyone else. “It’s one thing to risk your life. But that boy’s? You haven’t even told him of the Wardens, have you?” He grumbled, trying not to lose his temper and alert the boy outside to the manner of their conversation. “Just so you know… I am fully aware there are innocents lost in this. That boy out there is clearly a testament to that. No one is born evil; I doubt even Tariq was a monster in his youth. But this power… this magic… it entices the darkness sleeping in us all. How long before the brutal savagery of this world breaks that boy, or someone like him? How long before he is hurt to the point of wanting to hurt back? How long before I, or some other Warden kills you right in front of him and he reacts to the pain of that moment? Then again, maybe it’ll be the other way around. Maybe he’ll be the one to die and you the one to break. You asked me if killing innocent people is worth it… If it prevents another Tariq from ever rising in this world, then the answer is yes.”
 
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Touch Of Temperament

Super-Earth
Joined
Dec 29, 2012
It was hard listening to the picture he painted of magic. It exposed how little he knew of the way magic worked, but he was right about some of the consequences the misuse of magic could have and the terror that Tariq had been. That still excuse the way he and his brethren persecuted anyone with a hint of magic. She didn’t revere power. It wasn’t power she craved. But she loved practicing her craft, it came so natural to her. Using magic was as much as a part of her as breathing. She couldn’t make him understand that. There was no reasoning with him. Jivin’s presence forced the two of them to reign in the tempers. The atmosphere easing to something a little less incendiary.

No’a brought her cup to her lips, drinking the broth whilst never taking her eyes off Arawn and Jivin. Her insides twisted as she watched them interact, almost rebelling against the warm soup. It did nothing to comfort her right now, but at the very least she needed to refuel. Arawn’s coy smile hit its target. They were like duellers, testing the waters, trying to find each other’s pressure points, trying to gain the upper hand in this game they were playing. He chided Jivin for giving away his name and the boy looked suitably chastised. Of course she’d told the boy to be careful with his name, but he’d never felt what the danger was, why it was important. What was interesting that the Warden reciprocated, giving his name in return. No’a’s head tilted to the side as she considered him, coming to new conclusions about the dangerous man in the bed.

Jivin went outside to gather Arawn’s things. No’a kept her eyes on her student as he practically skipped to the big, dark horse. At first she ignored the Warden’s jabs, holding back a flinch as they hit their target, ringing with truth. She had made many mistakes. She had no answer to them. “He likes your mare.” She said instead, without looking at him. “They don’t see a lot of horses like that around here, fast, fearless and powerful. He’s healing her right now. It’ll be a while before he comes in, but she’ll be well cared for.”

“When I came here, he had no idea he had magic. The outside world hardly reaches this small community. Surviving this harsh land is all that these people worry about. Talk of Tariq and mages or even Wardens is something that happens faraway.” She hadn’t been able to resist sharing her craft with this happy, innocent child. Nurturing that dangerous little feeling, hope for a better world. And maybe she’d been the one to bring cruel reality to this town. Maybe if she’d never come here, he’d been safe. She couldn’t go there, that way lay madness. She’d made her choices and now she had to live, or die, with them.

“He’s a true white mage. Do you know how rare that is? With the right training and education he could heal entire cities. His heart is full of love. All he knows is that he sees something that’s hurt and he wants to do what he can to fix it.” No’a turned back to the man with the hazel eyes, finally addressing what he’d said. “You and I, Arawn. In a sense we are the same.” A wry smile twisted her expression. She could guess how much he would like that. “We are irreparably damaged by the broken world we grew up in. Our teachers were pain, fear and violence. Can you blame me for wanting something different for him?” Her heart had already been broken by the time she was Jivin’s age. To her Jivin was like the first blooming snowdrop. A thriving promise of spring to come, even if the snow hadn’t melted yet. A promise of a future, albeit a practically impossible one. But it wasn’t like she would tell Arawn this. It was a foolish notion.

“Nobody wants another Tariq to rise.” She told him fiercely. The thought of that was terrifying for anyone, magic user or not. He had forged this broken world. “I told you magic is a part of this land. Children like Jivin will continue to be born. Your order is the one brutalizing them right now. You are creating a new disenchanted generation. Nature requires balance. You are not restoring it.” She looked outside again, seeing Jivin retrieving the pack on the horse. He’d be back inside soon.

It was her turn to look at Arawn knowingly, as she glanced at him over her shoulder. “Say what you will Warden. I don’t believe your conscience rests as easy as you’d like me to believe. You owe that little boy your life.” She left out the consequences of that truth. It was a debt he would have to repay.

By then Jivin returned to the hut with the Warden’s pack. No’a leaned back against the wall, lifting her chin. She wasn’t completely convinced it was only clothes in the pack. Jivin beamed at her. “I helped the horse too.” She nodded. “I saw. Good job, but you need to be more careful. You’re still tired after yesterday. I’m sending you home soon. You need to rest too.” The boy pouted at her, but knew better than to argue with her. Instead he approached the bed to give Arawn his things. Likely hoping she’d forget about sending him home.

The Warden was moving much easier already. It wouldn’t be long before he’d be up and about. They wouldn’t be patient and healer anymore. Whatever shaky, uneasy truce that existed right now would evaporate into thin air. She had a plan, but was not nearly certain it would work. There was little time left though. Still she couldn’t resist pushing some of the Warden’s buttons, having seen his disgust at her care. “Will you need help Arawn?”
 

Fates.Gamble

Revendeur de Destin
Joined
Oct 11, 2012
Location
Somewhere out there...
Arawn continued to watch No’a as she looked away, clearly dodging his points and changing the subject. Yes Farah was a fine mount indeed. Even in his homelands one would be hard pressed to find such a noble mare. He nodded to her, showing her some level of gratitude for the care the roan received, but he wasn’t here to speak of horses. No’a knew that well enough, painting her picture of Jivin soon after. The Warden listened quietly, averting his own gaze while the healer spoke fondly of her young apprentice. What he’d seen of the boy fit her profile so far. Jivin seemed kindhearted and eager to help. There was no malice in his eyes; nothing to say he’d become the monster Tariq was. And yet, he was magic all the same. Knowing more about her or the boy didn’t change what he was supposed to do. Nor did it make it any easier. White magic, black magic… they were two sides of the same coin as far as Arawn was concerned. One could easily flip into the other in his mind.

Even so, Arawn found himself without reply for a time. Even as she made the comparison between them, he sneered but said nothing. Instead, he stared into his soup, a once ravenous appetite marred by the weight of their conversation. In a way she wasn’t wrong. This brutal world had crafted each of them into what they were. How readily she seemed to skirt around the fact that Tariq and more importantly, his magic were to blame for it. Again she claimed they would never succeed in their goal; never eliminate magic as a whole. He didn’t want to believe that children were being born with this sickness regardless if it ran in their family or not. But he heard a sting of truth in No’a’s impassioned words. Jivin was likely her proof.

“Your words say one thing,” he finally spoke up, “Yet the success of the Wardens says another. Perhaps we shall never fully snuff out the fire that is magic. Yet we have rendered an inferno into but a smoldering flame scarcely clinging to life. Even if it cannot be stopped, we will cull it. We’ll never allow it to grow into the madness that was Tariq again.”

Granted, Arawn didn’t know as much about magic as No’a surely did. Her statements left him unsettled even as he defied them. Worse yet, she struck out at his morality. He took on a stony look at the comment, glancing away from her. It was difficult to tell exactly what kind of nerve it struck, but the change in expression was enough to tell she hit one all the same. There was nothing he could do to counter the last of her words. He did owe that boy his life, and No’a along with him. That was why it would have been better if she’d never intervened.

“I am not a heartless man,” he started to say in a flat voice, “I take no pleasure in what I do; succumb to no revel in my hunt.” There were several Wardens who did, but Arawn acted only out of necessity. “Nor do I blame you for what you are. I do only as I must. As I believe is right.” But at the moment, he wasn’t absolutely certain of what that was. “Tell me… What would you do in my position? I stand upon the precipice of two unfavorable decisions. Either I carry out my duty and find myself consumed with guilt; or I break my sacred vows, likely taking your place beneath the headsman’s ax should the Arbiters ever learn of the betrayal. How was my life worth saving if I’m just to throw it away?” He shook his head, frustrated and wishing he’d have never met her in the first place. Saving him was almost a cruelty at this point.“So… what shall it be? Your lives for mine, or mine for yours?”

Arawn’s eyes bore into her, practically begging her for the answer. But there was no answer, at least not before Jivin arrived. The young boy’s appearance stoked the conversation just like before, leaving the adults to retreat from the topic rather than poison his innocence. Arawn found it hard to look at him this time. After what they’d discussed, thinking about what he was required to do put a sour taste in his mouth. Thoughts of his feverish reveries kept springing back to mind. He saw the face of the girl placing her hand on his chest, surrounded by the other, featureless shades around her. She couldn’t have been much younger the Jivin. Unlike him he’d never learned her name. He only knew her as number 36, the one he decided to stop counting after.

Following his own advice, he shoved the memories out of mind and accepting the pack from Jivin with a wary smile and a nod of thanks. No'a's instincts weren’t entirely wrong about the bag. Along with the clothes it held a few other essentials. A case of flint stones, a small canteen, and buried beneath the garments, a kukri knife resting in its sheathe. It wasn’t anything he used for fighting; more for cutting wood or skinning game. But the idea came to him now, consciously aware that the blade could make short work of either of them if necessary. For now he had not intentions of using it, the change of clothes having been his primary motive for the bag. In truth he did not feel comfortable beneath No’a’s gaze. Not after her accusation of the brand on his chest.

The woman seemed intent to goad him still, but Arawn fought the urge to retort at her offer for help. Jivin was a fine mediator in that regard, holding back any venom that might be on his tongue. “You’ve done more than enough already,” he said, keeping his voice level though No’a would know the true meaning behind the words, “Just a bit of privacy if you don’t mind.” He knew he couldn’t expect her to abandon her own home, nor did he think she would trust him alone even if she were willing. So he waited until her back was turned, granting him his modesty. It may have been a little silly, granted they’d already tended to him while he was unconscious, but he didn’t want the mages to know him any more intimately than they already did.

With no lack of effort he managed to pull himself up from the bed and rise on wobbly legs. Gravity tugged at him, alluring him with the promise of rest if only he just fell back into the bed. He fought the temptation and rummaged through his bag. Lethargically, he pulled on the short, russet, tunic and dark trousers. His muscles did not thank him for testing the flexibility, but already much of the ache was gone. I brought a cold tingle to his spine when he thought about how magic was responsible for that fact. It still felt strange knowing that his wounds were perfectly healed with no evidence they’d ever been there. In a small way he mourned for the loss. Every scar earned was a testament to his prowess; to a challenge he managed to overcome despite all odds. Now, the smooth, mended flesh was a only a reminder of his failure.

Arawn let them know he was decent before collapsing back into a sitting position on the bed with a weary sigh. “Well, thanks to the two of you I believe I should have the strength to ride again soon enough.” He glanced at No’a as he said it, relaying to her that there wasn’t much time left before he’d have to make his decision. “I’m not really sure how I can repay you. I don’t really have much to offer…” Save a knife in the back, he thought. He hadn’t officially arrived to that course of action yet, and considering things were driving towards a conclusion that worried him. He’d always been decisive; always knew what he had to do. The fact that she saved his life shouldn’t have mattered. He knew his duty. So why was he so conflicted about it now?
 
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Touch Of Temperament

Super-Earth
Joined
Dec 29, 2012
Her eyes searched his face intently, in the hope to see some kind of indication that he wouldn't cut them down the moment he could make it to his sword. The emotionless expression sliding on as she mentioned the debt owed made her realise that at least some of her words had affected him in some way. The balance between them shifting just minutely, but she felt it. Maybe there was a chance. Her mind was racing, trying to determine the best course of action for her plan. Then he posed his dilemma to her. No'a was stunned, it was one thing to speculate that he might not be so ready to kill them. It was another to have it confirmed. He'd offered her a real glance into his perspective.

There was an intense moment as he stared her down, his eyes demanding an answer. No'a shifted on her feet, a frown creasing her brow as she processed this. Of all the things they'd said to each other, this was the one that made her understand him a little better and made her most uncomfortable. There were two things she realised at that point. One. His world was so clear cut, black and white. Either kill them, even though that plan of action apparently didn't seem right to him anymore, or forsake the truth and the brotherhood that were his life. Two. She didn't want him to give up his life in return for theirs. It was crazy to think that she wanted to protect a Warden. But Jivin had reminded her that to her all life was sacred. She didn't want to be his executioner. Especially after risking everything to save him. It seemed utterly wrong that the outcome of this kind-hearted action was death for either of them. Was it really coming down to him or them? It didn’t have to. She didn't have to conform to his rules. She didn't believe in just black and white. There were endless possibilities if he didn't take in consideration just his actions, even in this twisted world of theirs. Her chin dipped as she decided on her plan.

Jivin's return prevented her from actually responding to what he'd said. The Warden's terse response to her taunt had a smirk tugging on her lips. It was easier when they were arguing, rather than trying to confront this complicated mess of a situation. Reluctantly she turned around to grant him the privacy he had asked for. She would have done it for any other patient. Still the skin between her shoulder blades itched. Giving him her back chafed at her, she didn't trust him. Even after that last revelation on how conflicted he was about it, she couldn't actually be sure he wouldn't do what he was trained to do. Her fingers gripped the shelf in front of her tightly, just to keep herself from fidgeting as she listened to him shuffle behind her. Hopefully he was only changing into his clothes.

He let them know he was decent and as she pivoted to face him, she finally exhaled. Still alive.. For now. There was no need to repay either her or Jivin. Just let us go.. But she didn't miss the message he had for her. They were running out of time. For a moment she almost wished she hadn't done such a good job at healing him. Just a little more time. She heard Jivin give the appropriate response. They never asked for anything. Mostly grateful patients tended to give her something she needed. Food or other kind of supplies. But her attention was diverted elsewhere. Without any conscious thought, her body was ever so slightly angling towards the door. To him it might have seemed like she was listening for something, but it was another sense that distracted her. Something had set off her ward.

She had warded her house against a number of things, to let her know if someone boding her ill will was trying to gain entry or ward off angry spirits. Around the town she had placed a simple ward right after she had arrived here. It didn't do anything and nobody would ever realise it was there. But it would alert her to the arrival of another magic user. In a small settlement like this they didn't need several of them hiding. It would only bring the Wardens down on them. Nothing had triggered this particular ward the entire time she'd lived here. Until now.. Now there were several magic users headed into this little village. Dread crept up her spine. The situation she was in was messy enough as it is. She didn't need other magic users to add to this already volatile mix.

The Warden’s story came to mind. He'd been attacked by several battlemages and seemed to be under the impression there were many more hiding in this region. Had he been followed? The newcomers were not coming from the road. No, they were coming from the woods instead, near to her house. If they were tracking him, that might explain that. No'a's eyes flicked between him and the door. She wanted to know who had entered the towns boundary, but she didn't want to leave Jivin alone with Arawn. No'a turned to the window and started when she saw several shapes emerging from the treeline. They were cloaked and wearing masks to obscure their face. "Arawn.." She said softly. Her voice steady even as tension radiated from her body. "Will you come have a look? Do you know these people?"

There was no doubt now they were approaching her hut. Fear raked its icy fingers over her skin. No'a didn't want them inside. There were at least four of them. "Jivin, I need you to hide. Now." There was no response as he seemed to understand how serious she was and scrambled into a corner of the hut. She definitely didn't want them to see Jivin. Maybe she was overreacting, or jumping to conclusions. They might not be here for the Warden. And they might not intend any of them harm. But men wearing masks didn't signal anything good to her. Her wariness and intuition had kept her alive so far. Unfortunately there was no running and hiding this time. Her amber eyes found the Warden again. “Wait here.” She told Arawn as she picked up her satchel, slinging it over one shoulder. On her way to the door, she picked up her knife and slid it into the satchel as well. Apparently she’d picked her lesser evil.

Then she stepped outside, closing the door behind her as she faced the other mages. “Hold it right there.” She told them, drawing up her posture and lifting her chin. “Take off the masks and tell me who you are and why you are here.” Her hands were raised, palms out fingers open. A classic offensive mage posture. Not that she could do anything with it, but they didn’t know that. It was a warning. And a bluff. But it was worth a shot.
 
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Fates.Gamble

Revendeur de Destin
Joined
Oct 11, 2012
Location
Somewhere out there...
Arawn was hesitant, merely nodding at Jivin’s denial of any payment owed. Given the apparent nature of No’a’s magic, the Warden was fairly confident he was already strong enough to end this. It would take one fell stroke with the kukri, and he most certainly would not miss in these tight quarters. The only gamble was making it to her faster than she could cast a spell. Once No’a was down, Jivin would be helpless. He wouldn’t even make it to the door before Arawn had hold of him. For a long moment he considered this course of action, weighing the pros and cons and getting closer to following through with every thought; if for no other reason than to silence the indecision running through his mind.

His hand was already resting near the bag that hid the knife when he spotted No’a’s odd demeanor. He peered at her suspiciously for a moment, though even as he wondered over what distracted her, Arawn’s own warning system was tripped. A cold tingle ran down his spine as he the approaching mages. They’re here… he realized at once. Either some few had survived that terrible rebound, or his other fears had come true; there really were other mages hiding out in these wilds, drawn by the aftermath of the furious battle. Arawn was already pushing to his feet by the time No’a ventured to the window to investigate. He forced his sore limbs into action when she called him over, coming to her side to spy out of the window.

Arawn glared at the masked faces as the strode from the treeline, clearly coming for No’a’s hut. If she hadn’t been so genuinely surprised by their appearance he would have taken this for a trap and killed her there and then. Instead, he decided to take a chance on her. “More of the heathens who attacked us,” he said, quickly stepping away from the window before they spotted him. His heart raced as he considered the implications of this. Even now he fought to keep his legs from buckling under the weight of his fatigue. How was he supposed to fend off four mages at once? Possibly even six, should No’a and Jivin decide their sentiments lied with these people?

As it stood, it seemed No’a did not. Arawn watched her with surprise as she gave the sharp order to Jivin. Hazel eyes drank in her stern expression as she bade him to wait. “What are you planning?” he demanded to know, though he was left with no answer as she armed herself with a small blade and left him alone with the boy. That was wholly unexpected of her. Arawn eyed Jivin in his hiding spot, picturing how easy it would be to carry out his duty with no one there to see. Yet a different thought tugged at him more… No’a was willing to trust a Warden over her own kind? How could she be willing to leave him alone with the one person she sought to protect above all else? Maybe trusting him with a boy was a decision of necessity; or perhaps she put more faith in his sense of guilt than she should have.

As soon as they were alone Arawn stepped over to his saddlebag. Without a second thought he rifled through the contents and took his kukri in hand, relieving it of the sheath. He passed another quick glance to the corner where Jivin stood, and raised a finger to his lips, signaling for him to remain absolutely quiet. Arawn was silent as a shadow as he crept across the hut and pressed himself against the door, the better to eavesdrop on their conversation. Whatever choice he was going to make about these two would have to wait. For now, these masked mages were the far greater threat. He needed to know everything he could about them before taking any rash kind of action. No’a sounded as confident as ever, boldly making her demands despite being outnumbered by those strong enough to bring a Warden low. He had to respect her spirit if nothing else.

All four of the mages halted as ordered. They stared at her in silence, watching her offensive posture with the placid faces carved into their masks. They appeared wholly unfazed by the threat, none of them raising their hands to respond in kind. After a moment, one of them stepped forward and spoke. “Only those chosen may know our faces,” he responded calmly, his voice deep yet slightly muffled abaft the wood obscuring his face. “But you may yet have that chance.” His head dipped a little, his attention turning back to her exposed palms. “There’s no need for that,” he went on to say. “We are all friends here, are we not? And we know the true nature of your abilities besides. I know that you’re a healer, and a spectacular one at that. In fact, that is part of the reason we are here. But I fear there is a more pressing matter we must discuss first.”

Again his attention seemed to leave her face, his head turning to take in the sight of the roan mare hitched beside her hut. More importantly, he noticed the shield tethered to her saddle. Ivory white and masterfully crafted, he’d seen its like before. But it was the small outline of a sun adorning the middle that was the most telling of all. The frown he wore was concealed by the expressionless face that hid his identity. “Tell us, sister,” he continued, turning back to her, “How did you come to possess the horse of an injured Warden? I trust you haven’t wasted your talents on this murderer? It would be most unfortunate to learn he is alive and well in that hut of yours. Such a mistake would need be rectified if we’re to continue this amicably.”

Arawn stepped away from the door, uncertain of how to proceed once they realized he was there. The kukri was gripped tightly in his hand, and under any other circumstances he wouldn’t have hesitated to blow out of the door and engage them all. As things stood however, he was uncertain if he was strong enough to win this fight. Even now his body longed for rest, the ache and fatigue battering him with every moment he remained standing. Beyond that, he was more than a little interested in whatever other business they’d come to discuss with No’a. If there was a chance she could lie and persuade them otherwise, slim as it was, he decided it was worth waiting. Perhaps at the very least he could learn more about who these people were and what they wanted with her. And so, despite his better nature, he put his trust in her for now, waiting as ordered while giving No'a one chance to defuse this situation before he attempted to take control of it.
 
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Touch Of Temperament

Super-Earth
Joined
Dec 29, 2012
Her heart thundered in her chest as she faced the masked mages. She’d stepped out on impulse. Intuitively she knew she didn’t want them in the house. So she had stepped out to head them off. Perhaps on the hope that she could avoid any violence in this confrontation. Now that she was there, she had trouble rationalising her decision. In the back of her mind she heard old reprimands from her mentor. Don't get involved No'a. Get out. She hoped she hadn’t made another mistake in leaving Jivin behind with the Warden. She could have been all wrong in her estimate of Arawn. But he set off far fewer alarms than the men in front of her did.

It was unnerving looking at the wooden masks, with their impassive expressions. These mages gave nothing away. There was very little she could read in their body language or his voice. If she had to guess, she’d say they weren’t much older than she was, but she could completely wrong.

Her eyes narrowed as the mage told her he knew about her. If they knew of her, than the Wardens might well have been looking for her too. Her quiet, secret existence completely blown to pieces, someone had told on her. It was bound to happen, and she already knew she couldn’t stay here anymore anyway. Still she felt a pang of hurt, disappointment, maybe even betrayal. And guilt, for it seemed she was the one who had brought violence to this little settlement.

This twisted ball of emotion morphed into something hot and prickly, when he called her ‘sister’. Something about him claiming some sort of kinship with her rubbed her the wrong way and she felt her hackles rise. Especially when he had the audacity to think had any say in who she would and would not help. With a little flutter of her fingers she lowered her hand, fighting the defensive impulse to cross her arms in front of her. In stead she let her arms rest by her side, her shoulders rolled back, head held high. As with the Warden, she was loath to show them any hint of fear.

Her mind raced. She wasn’t about to hand over Arawn. Like he’d pointed out early, she didn’t heal him just for him to be killed directly after. He was still her patient and she wasn’t going to betray that right now. The urge the look behind her at the little hut was so strong, but that would be giving everything away. She had to focus on the men in front of her. “So you were the ones to injure the Warden?” She replied. The wooden masks gave nothing away. Her voice was not as smooth as she hoped, some of her irritation was showing. “Yes he came here, but you are too late. His chest had been blown wide open by a spell. Not everyone can be saved by magic, I’m not quite that spectacular.” Not a lie, but all truths spun in a way to deceive them.

The one she was starting to think was the lead mage inclined his head, and she had no way of telling whether he believed her. He raised a hand in a gesture towards her little hut as he stepped forward. “If that’s the case.. Shall we continue this conversation inside then?” No’a moved instantly to block his way. They were at an arm’s length from each other now. “No.” The word clear, concise and resolute. She’d been too fast and now all four of them were looking at the hut. “You come here. Disrupt my peaceful life, refuse to show me your face or your true intentions. You have done nothing to earn my trust. I won’t invite you into my home.” Her anger simmered in her voice and she had to work to reign in her temper. With a deep breath she redirected the conversation. “You’ve said you’ve come here for me. Then tell me why.” In a very deliberate manner she let her eyes travel over all four of them. “None of you seem to have need of a healer.”

One of the other mages, behind the one that had been doing the talking, muttered. “Oh we have need of one, just not here.” He was silenced by a sharp look from the one next to him. No’a’s gaze darted between all of them. “So it’s true.. You are gathering. Why would you do that?” The lead mage seemed to lean forward, ready to spring into action but not doing anything yet. Maybe weighing his options and his words as much as she had been. “We are done letting the Wardens pick us off one by one. We are reclaiming our place in the world.” His words were full of righteous anger, much alike Arawn’s, just on the opposite side of this conflict.

Perhaps he saw in her expression that she didn’t burn with the fires of rebellion and changed tactics. “Are you a Master Healer?” His head tilted as if searching her face, where her mark would have been if she hadn’t had to hide her magic. “You are wasted here. Wouldn’t you want to put all that talent and power to use, to good use? Live a free life, among your own kind, without fear of discovery?” No’a angled her body sideways, staring him down. With a shake of her head she told him. “Gathering will only bring the Wardens down on you sooner. That is simply suicide. I’ll stick to my way. It’s served me well so far.” That refusal seemed to be the last drop as he burst into action, grabbing her arm and pulling her in. “We will change your mind.” No’a’s hand slid into her satchel. With her free hand she hit the mask sideways, dislodging it just enough. The other hand slid out of the satchel again, apparently empty handed. But she blew over her fingers into his face, a light powdery substance hitting his partly exposed face. The hand on her arm tightened and jerked at her as his entire body tensed up and he fought the effect of the sleeping powder. It didn’t take long for the tension to melt away, his body crumbling to the ground.
 

Fates.Gamble

Revendeur de Destin
Joined
Oct 11, 2012
Location
Somewhere out there...
Arawn remained perfectly still and waited to see how No’a would handle this. His fingers were wrapped so tightly around the hilt of the blade that his knuckles were turning bone white. He could already feel the adrenaline building; the anticipation of a fight to come vibrating all through his muscles. He half expected No’a to give him up. After all, what better way to protect Jivin and herself than handing over the man who threatened them? Yet, it seemed No’a had other plans. Arawn found himself a little stunned by her lie. Why would she protect him? ‘All life is sacred,’ he recalled her saying. Perhaps she truly did stick to this mantra, though the woman seemed to have no qualms about risking her own life.

The Warden figured that wouldn’t dissuade them, but No’a remained steadfast, denying them entry. Even from beyond the door, Arawn could hear the anger and strength in her voice. She clearly wasn’t afraid to fight these men if she had to, and she knew how to direct the conversation besides. It was a different voice that answered her questions, and Arawn strained his ears to make sure he’d heard it right. He knew that he had when he heard No’a speak again, arriving to the same conclusion. Ask them where… He silently pleaded, hoping they would be foolish enough to reveal the location of this hive of devils. Instead of where she asked why, a query which Arawn had to admit he was equally curious of. The reply wasn’t far off from what he expected, but to have it confirmed set his blood to boiling.

So they’re recruiting, Arawn realized, listening as this masked demon painted his picture of a ‘free life.’ Of course, No’a had the right of it. The more of them in one place the more likely the Wardens would come crashing down on them. Indeed, the worst had already happened. Once Arawn got word of this back to his superiors, his brethren would sweep through these mountains and wipe out every last one of them. Any thought of overthrowing his order was pure lunacy. They may have managed to get the jump on his group, but things would be different when they had an army of Wardens to contend with. But there was scarcely any time to think of the future once he heard the commotion from outside. Judging by the man’s harsh threat and the thud of a body, all thoughts of diplomacy appeared to be off the table.

Arawn steeled himself, then burst through the door without hesitation. The other three mages were startled by No’a’s response, but that was nothing compared to the reaction they had upon seeing the Warden alive and well. Arawn didn’t need to see their faces to note their unease. At his sudden appearance, each of them faltered, taking a step back and shooting their hands up just the way No’a had. The one on the left seemed the most perturbed by his arrival. Where the other two were mostly surprised by the turn events, he could taste the fear in this one. Arawn’s attention left the mages just long enough to spot the one crumpled on the ground. No’a was growing more impressive by the minute; he would have to be cautious of any other tricks she might have up her sleeve.

The frantic voice of one of the mages drew his attention back to the situation at hand. “That’s him,” the mage on the left declared, “The one who killed the others.” Arawn realized this one must have been part of the ambush. His jaw set, hazel eyes burning furiously as he recalled the gruesome deaths of his comrades. Yet before he could so much as speak, a silent alarm went off in his mind. His eyes jumped to one of the other mages as he felt them priming a spell. His mouth moved silently, hidden beneath the mask, but Arawn could already sense the magic building. In a flash, the Warden sprang into action, launching the kukri straight for his target. The blade struck the mask directly over the left eye, cleaving right through the wood and embedding itself in bone. Arawn felt the magic cut off like a marionette that lost its strings as its wielder fell silent to the ground.

The strength it took left Arawn winded, his arm throbbing in complaint. But he paid attention to none of that. No sooner than he hurled the weapon away did he make a mad spring for Farah, seeking a new one. He wasted no time grasping the hilt of his broadsword, tearing it out of its sheath resting on her flank. Arawn spun back around to face his foes, both hands clutched around the long hilt wrapped with silver wire. A fair sapphire in the shape of a tear drop adorned the pommel, while the blade itself was the ghostly color of moonlight. Before the Warden could so much as step forward, however, one of the mages attacked.

Arawn found himself struck with an invisible force, as if some great brute had just shoved him. It caused him to stumble, his back colliding into Farah. Arawn as left winded while the mare recoiled at the impact, rearing up and going wild. Luckily she was hitched or it might have been enough to set her running off. The Warden was quick to bounce back, getting clear of the frantic horse before he found himself on the wrong end of her brutal hooves. He gave no quarter, immediately charging for the remaining two enemies. The mage who shoved him back was already priming another spell, his hands shaking with a nervous anticipation as he appeared to be struggling. The fearful one on the left wasn’t faring much better, fidgeting as they appeared to have trouble coming up with any magic at all. As such, Arawn went for the bigger threat.

Arawn was nearly upon him when the mage made a quick amendment to his incantation. A thin, flickering, wall of light appeared before his opponent; an attempt to shield himself from what was the come. The magic was fragile and waning; the product of a clearly inexperienced combatant. The Warden didn’t even hesitate as he raised his blade and cut right through the defenses with a diagonal slash. The magic shattered like glass beneath his steel, dissipating as his blade found its marked, rending the masked man from from collarbone to hip. A spray of scarlet laced his blade, he heavy sent of iron stinging his nose as his opponent dropped as dead weight. Arawn’s arms were left shaking, having used all his strength just to hold onto the sword after the jarring impact.

Seeing the last of her companions felled, the final masked one lost their nerve. Any attempt at retaliation was lost as they clambered away from the Warden, turned tail, and fled back into the tree line. Arawn watched them run with all haste, contemplating whether he should give chase. It would have been an easy enough thing to catch up on Farah, but reluctantly he thought better of it. Taking out two of them in his current state left him exhausted. Already his breathing was labored; his muscles aching. The weight of his sword in hand was usually a welcome comfort, but now he fought not to drop it. If the demon chose to abandon their cowardice and put up an honest fight it could easily prove fatal. And besides, perhaps if he gave them a decent head start he could track them all the way back to their hiding place.

He turned away from the fleeing mage, letting them disappear into the woods as he looked back to the three bodies sprawled before him. So much for their ‘sacred’ lives, he thought to himself, before looking back at No’a with bloody sword in hand. He contemplated her for a moment, looking as though he might stride over and add her corpse to the growing list. More lives in exchange for his… silently, he wondered just how many he would go on to kill now that No’a saved his life. Did she even think to factor that in when she decided to heal him? How many would pay the price for her services? At least if she were to be counted among them, it seemed now would not be the time as Arawn turned away and strode towards his first victim.

By now the commotion had drawn a fair amount of the villagers to the scene. Arawn heard the muttering of civilians as they witnessed the aftermath of the fight, but the Warden paid them no heed as he placed a foot on the dead man’s sternum and leaned down to pulled his kukri free. The blade was embedded so deep that the mask came with it, revealing the gruesome wound hidden beneath. Arawn was used to horror by now, showing not so much as a grimace as he inspected what was left of the man’s face. As expected, he did not recognize him. He was a young man, with medium length brown hair and lifeless eyes of the same color. Yanking the mask free of his knife, Arawn investigated it as well, before tossing the accessory aside and moving on to the next victim.

Arawn did not recognize this one either; another young man cut down in the prime of life. There was nothing telling about either one of them, so he moved on to the one No’a brought down. The crowd continued to mutter as it grew, some clearly displeased by the way the apparent killer looked to be looting corpses. Once again, Arawn ignored them. He couldn’t expect people so far from civilization to understand the purpose and duties of a Warden. Some might have known of him, but as No’a said, talk of Wardens and Mages was scarce in this part of the world. He paid no mind to anything No’a might have to say about the situation either. That was, until he knelt down beside her conquest and saw that the man was still breathing.

“You left him alive,” Arawn grumbled with a frown. It shouldn’t have surprised him; the healer seemed intent to save any dangerous stranger she could. His grip tightened on his weapon as he slowly pulled off the man’s mask, revealing a grizzled face lost in sweet repose. The man appeared to be several years senior to the others; old enough to have been coming into manhood at the end of Tariq’s regime. The bristle on his face already had some gray in it. Sighing, Arawn brought the kukri to the man’s throat, planning to finish what No’a could not bring herself to. Though, just before he cut the man’s throat, he stopped. Another thought came to mind. “How long will this last?” He asked her instead. It was a dangerous prospect, but he knew it would be far more useful to question this one first. Once Arawn knew everything there was to know about this mysterious faction, he would be free to carry out his duty. But the onlookers weren’t going to make this easy; nor did he assume No’a would take kindly to a violent interrogation in her home. Once again, her mercy found a way to complicate things.
 
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Touch Of Temperament

Super-Earth
Joined
Dec 29, 2012
The lead mage succumbed to the sleeping powder, sagging to the ground and No’a could feel the angry shock of the other three mages spiking through the atmosphere. They’d not expected her to fight back and certainly not expected her to get the jump on their frontman. Now that she had, she had no idea how to proceed. She hadn’t exactly thought ahead, acting mostly on impulse to defend herself, but it turned out she didn’t need to. While readying a shielding spell to defend herself from any spells that were bound to come at her, the door behind her slammed open. Arawn burst through, holding a blade she hadn’t known he’d had. So there had been something other than clothes in that pack of his. A shiver went through her, that blade had certainly been meant for her and Jivin.

The other mages faltered in fear as they were confronted with the Warden. She heard the pain and fear in the voice of the one that spoke. The one that had been part of the skirmish that had injured Arawn. It was a sobering reminder that there were two sides to any battle. They focused on the bigger threat, the Warden, forgetting about her in that moment. It all happened so fast and yet time seemed to slow. No’a stood there, the unconscious mage still at her feet, a witness to the fight. Unsure of what to do, unable to stop it now. Without hesitation Arawn went for the one mage that had started a spell. It had to be part of the tattoo he wore. There was no way he could have known.

Her eyes followed him in astonishment and the moment where he found a new weapon and effectively gave the other mages an opening to attack caught her unawares as well. The spell knocked her off her feet, sending her crashing to the ground without any chance to catch her fall. Her shoulder bore the brunt of the blow and she felt something scratch the side of her face. With a groan she pushed herself back up, her shoulder throbbing. She looked up in time to see Arawn cut through the failing shield. The poor mage let out a last gutwrenching howl, laced with pain, fear and outrage. An icy hand tightened around her heart. This one had been barely trained, had no business engaging in magical combat. They hadn’t stood a chance.

It was a relief to see the last mage flee. It was over. Her shoulders slumped and it send a jolt of pain down her back. No’a flinched and looked up at Arawn. Finding him looking at her as if she was next, she stilled instantly. It was like she was faced with a large predator, only to have him pass her by. It was a reminder who she’d been dealing with. Their strange little truce when he’d been incapacitated now truly broken. He’d kill her next, apparently just not yet.

No’a also inspected the bodies of the fallen, but for different purposes. It appeared both mages had died at their time, neither of their spirits lingering. She thrust her fingers into the dirt, dedicating their sacrifice to the earth. Even though she wasn’t staying here, she didn’t want the violence to taint this place. After that she pushed to her feet, a new idea forming in her head. Adrenaline still coursed through her veins. She moved around him warily, keeping him in her sights. Her hand dipped into her satchel before she joined Arawn by the unconscious mage. It was not anyone she had ever known she noticed. That was hardly surprising though, she had made a point of not knowing anyone for a long time. She should have stuck to it. Then she would not have been in this situation.

“Of course, my speciality isn’t killing things.” She bit the words out, once again fighting the urge to fold her arms in front of her chest. Apprehension flared when Arawn moved his blade towards the sleeping mage. Before, the Warden had killed mostly in his own defence, but she couldn’t let him kill the mage when he was unable to defend himself. “No don’t!” She let out a sigh of relief when he stopped. There was a moment of hesitation before she answered him. “A few hours, maybe 4 or 5, depending on the strength of his body, mind and magic.” He was still turned to the mage and No’a could guess what direction his plan was going in. She had other plans though.

“Arawn..” She said softly, to draw his attention to her. “Wait.” She waited for the moment he turned to her, leaning in automatically to hear her soft words. Her hand unfurled before his face and she blew the powder forward just as he inhaled.

Instantly she could see in his face the realisation of what she’d done, anger, betrayal, and perhaps just confirmation that she was just as wicked as all the others. “You conniving witch.” His hands closed arounds her arms, gripping her tight as he fought the effects of the powder. With all her strength she pushed back on his arms, trying to restrain him from hurting her. Her bruised shoulder ached in protest. She’d guessed that it would take longer for the magic to take effect on him because of that tattoo, she just had to hold on long enough. “Arawn, you will not believe me, but this way protects both your conscience as your sacred vows as well as my life.” Her voice was soft, barely more than a whisper. The words only intended for him, the tone insistent. Her gaze hadn’t left his face. “When you wake, I will be long gone.” She promised him, just as he slipped from consciousness.






Yet when his eyes opened, she was still there. She was sitting beside him on the ground, waiting for him to wake. Fingers were pushed into the earth, for comfort more than anything else. True to her expectations he regained consciousness much earlier than anyone else she’d ever treated. He’d only been down for two hours. In that short time frame a lot had happened though.

Jivin had emerged from his hiding spot early, unable to wait alone without knowing what was going on. He’d been on time to see No’a take down Arawn. Unable to comprehend what was going on with the gruesome scene of battle around them, he’d panicked. She’d tried to calm him down, but to no avail. Instead he’d ran to his mother. No’a had focused on the aftermath and managed to persuade a few villagers to take care of the bodies of the dead mages. Small puddles of drying blood left in their wake. The unconscious one was still in the exact same spot as where he had fallen. They had time still before that one woke up. In the meantime it hadn’t taken long at all for the elders of the settlement to formally inform her in no uncertain terms that she wasn’t welcome anymore. She’d be surprised if they didn’t burn the ‘witch’s hut’ after she was gone. After that she kept moving, doing whatever she had to. She knew that after she stopped, she wouldn’t be able to get back up so quickly. After packing the most essential things, she settled down outside, waiting.

Her posture was different to what he’d seen from her so far. Her knees were pulled up, one arm resting on top on her knees. Her other hand resting on the ground. Shoulders were slumped forward, and she was staring into the woods. She still had the cut on the side of her face, dried blood crusting over her cheekbone. She was tired, exhausted. The adrenaline had gone and the long day and night healing him were catching up to her. A half-finished bowl of soup sat in front of her. It had grown cold. “I was going to leave. Me and the boy, just disappear to another far flung corner of our land. I’ve done it so many times, I thought it would be easy.” She told him before he could say anything. “But I realised I couldn’t take Jivin with me. He will not be safe with me. I won’t just be fleeing the Wardens, I don’t think this group of mages will let me be either.” Nor did she think the boy wanted to come with her anymore. “He can’t just stay here as it is now either. Both factions have found this town. You know what he is. If the rumours spread about me, they will also spread about him. So I came up with a new plan to protect him, but I need your help.”

Her face turned to him. “I want make a bargain with you.” Her amber eyes remained sharp and focused on him.
 

Fates.Gamble

Revendeur de Destin
Joined
Oct 11, 2012
Location
Somewhere out there...
The Warden cursed himself the moment the tingling powder erupted in his face, stinging him with a bout of lethargy almost instantly. He’d made a foolish mistake letting his guard down around her, and the contempt he held was clearly burned into his gaze. His grip on her arm was like iron, yet his fingers were already trembling as he fought the effects of her trickery. Arawn knew then that there was no choice; such treachery had to be repaid with blood. Yet the hold on his weapon faltered as its weight seemed to grow ten fold. After the exhausting, near fatal events of late he was all too susceptible to the sleeping powder.

His glare intensified, if at all possible, as she spoke and fought to hold him at bay. Luckily for her his actions were growing more sluggish by the moment, preventing him from ending her miserable life then and there like he wanted to. Instead, he dropped his weapons, staggering a step forward while the healer tried justifying what she’d done. Arawn sneered, wanting to respond only to find the words lost in his throat. It felt like his mouth was full of mud. But, stout as ever, he continued fighting the lull of sleep, even though it was a losing battle. Her promise was like a distorted whisper in his mind, the last thing he held on top before he could no longer keep his eyes open. The Warden was swallowed into the bowels of repose even before he fell, leaving him to drop like dead weight to the ground.

There were no grim memories or phantoms to haunt his slumber this time; there was only the pitch black obscurity, heavily blanketing his mind. Yet even that was laced with a touch of unease; his senses reeling beneath the awareness that this was an unnatural repose; that he was at the mercy of a dangerous enemy. That realization carried on even unto the opening of his eyes. Arawn peered into a radiant, blue sky, his vision blear. A recollection of events came rushing back to him, leaving his head to roll to the side as he felt the presence of nearby magic. He found No’a first, his scornful expression returning before he looked past her to find the unconscious mage right where she’d left him. The other bodies, however, were long gone; only dusty pools of blood left in their wake.

No’a’s voice returned his attention to her, and Arawn noticed the difference in her bearing. She looked a woman defeated with the way she sat, appearing as exhausted as he felt, with her knees hugged to her chest and a bloody cut upon her cheek. He may have felt a touch of guilt if she hadn’t taken such devious action against him. As things were now, he felt only a hot anger towards the woman. Even so, he calmly listened to what she had to say just like before. He was admittedly curious as to why she hadn’t kept her promise. No’a being out of his life was the one benefit he had to her act of betrayal, yet he hadn’t even been awarded that much.

Bright eyes narrowed at the woman as she made mention of a plan; specifically one that required his help. How brazen this witch, to request such a thing of him in any sort of capacity. Any help he was likely to offer a mage would be be of a sort they would soon come to regret. At her final proclamation, Arawn scoffed, and finally stirred, fending off the urge to yawn as he gathered himself back up to his feet. In a way, her sleeping powder had been exactly what he needed. The two hours of dead rest had him feeling much more himself. There was still a lingering weariness and a dull ache of his muscles, but he didn’t feel like he would fall over after a little bit of effort anymore.

Bargain,” he snarled in mockery of the word. “Why should I ever enter a deal with you? What cause should I have to trust you when you have turned on me once already?” His eyes flicked to the sleeping mage nearby, every bone in his body telling him to ignore her and put an end to them both. If he managed to wake things could turn ugly. Though, he had to admit this potential bargain piqued his curiosity. It was a foolhardy thing to even consider her words, he knew. Yet no matter how furious her treachery left him, he could not ignore her other actions. As if saving his life wasn’t enough, she’d also refused to hand him over to his enemies as well as left him unharmed in his forced slumber.

It didn’t mean he should blindly trust her. He had no intentions of letting this woman get the jump on him again. It left him almost wary as he strode over to where his sword had fallen. He couldn’t help but wonder if she’d placed some curse or enchantment on the blade; after all, he would never have left a potential foe with his weapon. In the end he reached down and risked taking up the hilt. He straightened back up with sword in hand, steel gleaming in the sunlight as he turned back to face her. His fingers itched as he fought the will to bring it crashing down upon her neck.

“What kind of a bargain?” Arawn demanded to know, sounding deadly and impatient over their whole mess of a situation.
 

Touch Of Temperament

Super-Earth
Joined
Dec 29, 2012
Arawn’s anger and hostility had been expected. The sleeping powder had been a good idea when she was supposed to leave. Now it only served to make things so much harder. The skin of the back of her neck pricked with the danger of having him stand over her. Her spine stiffened. She couldn’t let him kill her. Jivin needed protection. And she wasn’t ready to give up yet either. Reluctantly she pulled her fingers from the earth, and pushed herself to her feet too. Her shoulder complained in the effort and wincing she whispered a soft healing chant to herself. Letting her magic knit into her body. All she really needed was rest, but instead she had to keep going. There wouldn’t be any rest until she left this little settlement, that had been home.

She stood opposite Arawn, seeing the progress in his healing. He was almost completely recovered after his forced rest. Forcing her shoulders down, she held her head high. Neither of them comfortable with giving the other their back, they were almost circling each other. Just keeping him in her sights, she sucked in a deep breath. Right now is when she needed to hold on to her composure. One wrong move and he’d come for her. He snarled at her and she let out a slow exhale. One of her eyebrows rose in response to his words. While she had tricked him, all she’d done so far had been to avoid anyone getting hurt, including him. Of course he wouldn’t see it that way.

“Be honest Warden. I’ve had several opportunities to hurt or betray you and instead I made sure you are standing in front of me, completely rejuvenated after your injuries.” She shot back, though reigning in her temper as he retrieved his sword.

Fear shot down her spine, would he try to kill her now? Thoughts whirled through her head, as she tried to consider her options. If he did decide to kill her now, what would she do? Yet he stayed his hand. No’a remembered to breathe and she took the opportunity to try and convince him of her next foolhardy scheme.

“You are a protector Arawn, aren’t you? You joined the Wardens to protect others from magic and the next Tariq.” Her hands opened and moved as she talked, trying to help get her point across. The next bit made her nervous. It could be dangerous to tell him this, but she was taking the risk to protect Jivin. “What if I told you I could separate Jivin from his magic, making him just another normal kid. Would he fall under your protection?” No’a paused, letting silence fill the moment as she inhaled again. This was only the beginning, she wanted to gauge his reaction.

“You’re not killing Jivin. I don’t think you want to. But even if you did. He saved your life. In return you won’t take his.” Her amber eyes met his hazel ones on this bold statement. She could be wrong on this assumption, but she didn’t think she was. Arawn was definitely on the verge of killing her, but she thought he was more likely to protect Jivin than kill him. That was exactly what she needed. No’a could only hope she was right about him.

“I want you to protect Jivin from the Wardens and then I will protect him from the witches.” She concluded. There was no holding in her sigh. She’d purposefully used the fact that they saved his life to cancel out killing Jivin. Subsequently she needed offer something in return for his active protection of Jivin. The idea of being indebted to Arawn grated on her. It was probably the way he felt about the debt she was holding over him right now. “I will bind his magic and with your help I think he won’t even set off the spell on your chest anymore. And then you won’t even have to feel guilty about not killing a child.” A little wry smile curved over her lips. “But still I want you make sure no Warden will hurt him” Something else occurred to her and she added. “Or find out what I’ve done to protect him.”

“In return..” Now, this is what it came down to. “I will owe you a favour.” No’a glanced away. She didn’t want to think what he might ask of her. There were several things she could offer him. After the conversations they’d had, she suspected there might be a different path for him. A vision quest could help with that. But he wasn’t ready to accept any of the like. She was asking a lot from him, he would ask for a lot in return. She couldn’t even consider the fact he might not even be interested in this bargain. Her eyes found him again, tension rising in her, waiting for his reaction.
 

Fates.Gamble

Revendeur de Destin
Joined
Oct 11, 2012
Location
Somewhere out there...
Arawn watched No’a with careful consideration as she stood. He knew it was unlikely for the woman to attack him, but he tightened the grip on his sword all the same. After her last act of treachery he wasn’t about to fall for another one of this mage’s tricks. His wariness only grew as she struck up a chant, conjuring a flow of magic that made the Warden’s skin crawl. Arawn could sense the nature of the magic right away. He knew it was intended for her wounds and of no immediate threat to him, but he couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable in the presence of such a thing. Still, he fought to urge to lash out and put an end to it. There was comfort at least, in the way No’a seemed equally discomfited in his proximity. After the way he took down those battle mages, in a weakened state no less, she would be a fool not to be.

The Warden’s eyes darkened at her reasoning. It was true enough she had not harmed him; quite the opposite in fact. But No’a had still managed to undermine him, keeping his enemy from harm before bringing Arawn low with the same manner of duplicity. A smarter man probably would have cut her down the moment her lips moved to invoke that spell of healing, but the idea of her proposal was intriguing enough to stay his blade. An unreadable expression broke through the disdain written on his face when she suggested his reason for joining the Wardens. Oh how little she understood… But he let her presumptions pass without comment. His past was none of her concern, and it held little bearing on how this would ultimately play out.

He was not quite as good at hiding his reaction when she revealed a solution for Jivin and his magic. Arawn’s eyes widened some, his surprise clearly evident. Yet it lasted only a brief moment before it was washed away by a look of skepticism. He clenched his jaw, eyes narrowing at her as he considered the words and tried to determine if they held any truth. If No’a was spinning him falsehoods, she was an adept liar; he could see no dishonesty written on her face. As such, his first instinct was to throw anything he could in front of this; trying to invalidate it.

“It’s not possible,” he declared, though his voice held a level of uncertainty. If it were possible to separate a person from their magic, surely the Wardens would have discovered it long ago. Removing this power from the world was, after all, their ultimate goal. It could not be as simple as No’a was suggesting, could it? “Even if it was,” he said, looking her in the eye, “It wouldn’t change what he is.” If she could truly strip the boy of his magic, who was to say she couldn’t just give it back eventually?

Yet, No’a seemed to disregard his doubts, boldly declaring that he would not harm the boy he sought to protect. “You presume much,” he growled out. “You think he would be the first child I had to take?” Arawn could not stop his voice from wavering, betraying the emotion he felt over the blood that often stained his hands. Did he want to kill Jivin? Of course not; but his feelings on the issue were of little consequence to the rest of the Wardens. But the more she spoke, the louder his conscience became. If what she was saying was true; if there really was a way to bind Jivin’s magic and thus render him no different than other children, how could he deny the chance?

Though, a deathly serious look swept his face when she spoke of defying the Wardens; and it grew yet more vicious after her repeated accusation. Here she was asking for his help yet continuing to spew her nonsense. Arawn refused to dignify it with a response; arguing about that now would not serve either of them, after all. His distaste over the details of this bargain, however, could not have been more clear. The idea of helping her pull off any kind of magic was a distressing enough thought, but hiding the truth of it all from the other Wardens made him the most uncomfortable. He averted his gaze, still finding himself considering the proposal despite the risks.

No’a’s promise of something in exchange drew his attention back to the woman, only for her amber eyes to flee in return. “A favor…” Arawn repeated in a low voice. Any favor from a heretic was bound to be a curse. But even more than that, what favor could she possibly grant him to equal her request? “What you’re asking of me goes beyond favors,” he told her. “You expect me to compromise everything I believe in on some fanciful promise? And just how exactly do you plan to protect him from these witches, anyway?” Yet, as quickly as he began to rant to her, he found himself falling silent. The tendril of a thought snaked its way across his mind. If No’a were truly capable of separating a person from their magic, such a thing could prove immensely useful to the Wardens and their cause. It was unlikely No’a would ever offer her help in that regard, but, perhaps if she remained true on her word of a favor…

The breath of a sigh escaped Arawn as he considered these things. At the very least, he could test the waters and see if this girl’s words were true. “If you are truly capable of what you claim,” he began slowly, chewing over every word, “Then I cannot deny the boy a chance to live.” Hazel eyes swept back to the unconscious man on the ground. “But if you stand in my way of this one again…” Even if she had the means of binding the masked one, he was not about to let a potential threat go running back to its hive. His conscience may have spoken against killing the boy, but it was every bit as loud against letting this other man live. And with time running short before his enemy would rouse, they wouldn’t have much longer to debate this delicate truce. “Think of it as a life for a life,” he suggested. Even letting Jivin live was far more than she could expect of any other Warden; there was no way he could allow all three of them to go free.
 

Touch Of Temperament

Super-Earth
Joined
Dec 29, 2012
No’a’s eyes never left him, keeping him in her sights continuously. Not simply because he was still gripping his sword in that way that told her he was still undecided on whether he would use it on her. But also because she wanted to see if her words had any effect on him. She needed to determine her next step very carefully. Right now she was unveiling magical secrets to him that were potentially very dangerous to ‘her’ people, as he would put it. And she hadn’t forgotten about the spell tattooed on his chest. The wardens had access to a mage, one that was both knowledgeable and powerful enough to create such spells as Arawn was wearing.

He didn’t quite believe her that she could bind Jivin’s magic, but the idea intrigued him. That much was clear. He was still undecided. Undecided whether he would kill her, undecided whether he would kill the boy. He could still be swayed either way. Even if he would kill Jivin, it would be with a heavy heart. But there was a chance still. All she had to do was sway him in the right direction. Not exactly her strongest quality, she’d lived alone for most of her adult life. Adrenaline coarsed through her veins, this was what it was coming down to. Once again he was trapped between what he believed to be true and what he felt to be right. No’a was so afraid his beliefs might win out. Afraid she was asking too much, but then he seemed to also be considering the aftermath of this bargain. How would she protect the boy from the mages? That sounded like he might be considering this deal after all.

No’a stilled, hardly daring to breathe. Any wrong remark from her might just have the unwanted effect. Then he slowly measured out their bargain and she released the breath she’d been holding in a sigh of relief. He’d let Jivin live. The relief was short-lived though as he knew how to bargain as well. Her eyes cast down as she battled her own conscience for the second time in as many days. The first time she had to decide whether to save a life. Now she had to decide whether to surrender a life. She held no allegiance to this mage. He had been about to force her from her home to join a cause she wasn’t interested in. The mage might have been dead already had she not interfered. There was a difference though, between a man being slain in combat, when he was able to fight back and delivering a man to his execution. She was the one who had created this situation, with all of her best intentions to keep both sides from harm. In the end, she was responsible.

She was very glad Jivin wouldn’t hear of this conversation. In the end she already knew what she would do, although she wasn’t proud of it. She steeled her spine, meeting Arawn’s eyes again stubbornly as she offered him her hand. “Then we have a bargain. The mage is yours.” She ground out, her words tasting like dirt in her mouth. She couldn’t afford risking this bargain and Jivin’s life. There was some lesson in this. Her moral high ground, her healer’s principles, everything she’d been teaching Jivin. She was giving it up readily to save this one boy’s life. That was what it boiled down to and it said something about her. She’d had never had to make a hard decision like this before. She had always withdrawn, fled, hidden, survived before anything could get to this. Perhaps she was as ruthless as the Warden. No’a didn’t know how much of her inner turmoil had shown. She felt horribly exposed. She didn’t know what to say. There was little more to say.

She should get ready to perform the spell. Get all of this over with and finally leave this little town behind. No’a looked at the mage on the ground. His eyelids were moving. It wouldn’t be long now. She’d been just in time. “Get ready Warden.” She told Arawn coolly. “He’ll be awake soon and you can start your interrogation.” Sure enough, the mage groaned softly, stirring slowly awake. He wasn’t as smart about it as Arawn had been. Instead of lying still and first inspecting his situation to determine a plan of action, this drowsy mage was struggling to comprehend what had happened and where he was, acting out of instinct rather than reason. He rubbed his eyes and struggled to sit up. Unsuccesfully as the powder hadn’t quite left his system, but he was regaining control of his limbs quickly. Scanning his surroundings he saw No’a and Arawn. Understanding dawned on his face as he undoubtedly remembered what happened before he’d fallen asleep. Fury flared in his eyes.

“Traitor.” His words were slurred, but pronounced clearly enough in his anger. “You’re helping the Warden over your own.” No’a stiffened, flinching a little as the words hit home. She didn’t need him to understand though. Deliberately she stepped aside to show she would hold up her end of the bargain. She wouldn’t interfere, but she wouldn’t leave either. This was going to be hard, but she wanted to know what kind of information the Warden might get out of this guy. She had to know what the mages knew, about her and Jivin. Her arms crossed in front of her chest. Better to get this over with.
 

Fates.Gamble

Revendeur de Destin
Joined
Oct 11, 2012
Location
Somewhere out there...
His terms appeared to hit No’a hard. It was to be expected; just as she was asking him to compromise his beliefs, so too was he telling the healer to abandon hers. She may have wanted to preserve the precious spark of life no matter whose, but when it came to Wardens and mages she simply couldn’t have it both ways. Arawn watched as she weighed the implications of handing the man over. He remained wholly uncertain of what she would decide, but a refusal would likely cost her life. If she deigned to protect the man threatening his order, he would take it as a clear sign that he couldn’t possibly trust her. But it seemed he would not be denied. He had to admit he was a little surprised when No’a steeled herself, meeting his gaze and extending her hand in agreement; surprised enough he remained suspicious of the gesture at first.

No’a seemed sincere enough, despite that stubborn look in her eye. He wasn’t quite willing to put his sword away, but he kept it pointed down non-threateningly as he strode forward and grasped her hand with a strong, telling grip. The distaste in her words was evident enough that he no longer doubted her. One firm handshake and a curt nod from the Warden, and their accord was officially struck. Arawn’s respect grew for No’a in that moment. The fact she was willing to set aside her beliefs for someone spoke volumes of her character. He might have even felt guilty over what had to be done; it was an ugly business no doubt. Such feelings were easily cast aside, though, when he recalled the things this man had said to her, and the way his colleagues had attacked him.

Her conflicted feelings clearly remained even as she agreed to this, but there was no backing out of things now. The mage was already stirring, the effects of the sleeping powder fading away by the second. Arawn needed no words of warning, the man’s defenses would be paltry at best after rousing from such a deep, unexpected slumber. “Clever one, aren’t you?” he commented to the healer as she accurately guessed his intentions of questioning the man before putting him to the sword. He diverted his attention back to the target as he tried to sit up; a surprisingly difficult task thanks to his disorientation. Knowing he would pose no threat in this state, Arawn merely stood and watched, waiting until his enemy caught noticed him. Once he saw the understanding cross the mage’s face, he couldn’t help but smirk. All that boasting over ‘reclaiming their place in the world’ and here he was, at the mercy of a Warden; turned over by one of his own kind, no less.

His eyes shifted to No’a when the cultist called her out on it. He watched her expression, briefly uncertain if his insults would sway her. The effect this one statement had on her was enough to make him uncomfortable, but she proved herself true to her word, swallowing her pride and stepping away to offer the man in full. The mage stared daggers at her, all fury and no fear. He opened his mouth to say more over the situation, but Arawn didn’t give him the chance. Ambling forward he swung with his sword hand, bashing the man in the side of the head with fist and hilt alike. The mage choked and sputtered over his words as he was driven back to the ground.

“The only thing I want to hear out of your mouth are the answers to my questions,” he spat out as the mage struggled to regain his senses. The Warden did not afford him this opportunity either. Swooping down he took the man by the scruff of his collar and lurched him back to his feet. The man stumbled, fighting to keep u[right and free himself from the Warden at the same time. Arawn easily overpowered him, lurching the man forward and slamming him up against the side of No’a’s hut. “And you’re going to tell me everything I want to know,” he growled out. He kept his blade to the side, his free hand pinning his target by the throat as he peered furiously into his defiant eyes.

“Am I?” he replied, his voice hoarse against the Warden’s squeezing grip. Arawn flinched at the man suddenly spit in his face, hitting him with bloody spittle.

Enraged, Arawn struck him again, this time fracturing his nose with the force of the blow. “You are,” the Warden told him, menace lacing his voice. He brought his sword up now, pressing the blade into his chest. The deathly sharp tip rested just over his heart, threatening to bite its way in with the slightest bit of pressure. “Unless you’d rather die here and now.”

The mage struggled to keep his composure. He struggled to breath both between the Warden’s death grip and his broken nose. Yet to Arawn’s surprise, he began laughing; blood streaming down his face and all. The sound of his mirth died off rather quickly, but a wide, manic smile remained. A mad look was in his eye, catching Arawn off guard. “I happily die for the cause,” he announced. Without warning he lashed out, grabbing hold of the Warden’s right arm and lurching it forward. Arawn sucked in a breath of surprise as his blade sank into the man’s chest, driven forward of his own volition. He wrenched his arm back in surprise, pulling his sword away as his enemy’s mirth faded to a blank expression. Without Arawn there to hold him up the mage dropped to his knees then lifelessly to his back.

Stunned, Arawn staggered a step away from the body. He’d killed countless mages over the course of his life, and every single one of them had fought tooth and nail to survive. Never had he seen one so disciplined; so willing to die for their beliefs that they would drive a sword into their own heart. If this was an indication of the lengths these mages would go to, than these masked heathens might be an even greater threat than he realized. A powerful mage with little regard for his own safety could prove a devastating adversary. Hopefully the majority of these witches were more likely to flee as the last one did. Perhaps their fear would spread once the sole survivor told of how one Warden defeated them in mere moments.

For now, Arawn was more concerned about the loss of potential information. He sighed with disappointment as he surveyed the man, confirming that he was in fact dead. Shifting back to full height, he casually wiped the blood from his blade using the dead man’s clothing and moved on. He didn’t so much as glance at No’a as he strode past her, seething over his own failures. He should have never granted the man a chance to pull that off. A couple more broken bones and lost fingers and he may very well have broken that defiant spirit and been one step closer to understanding his enemies. There was no use lamenting over it now, though. Making his way to Farah, he sheathed his blade before untying the scabbard from her saddle and returning the sword belt to its proper place around his waist. After that he retrieved a small cloth and wiped his face clean.

“Let us bind the boy’s magic and be done with this,” he announced gruffly, his back still turned to her. All he could do now was move on and put this whole mess behind him. “And don’t think I’ve forgotten about that favor either,” he continued, covering his basis.The mage had been a necessity of good faith, but she would still be paying his help. What he would ask of her he could not say just yet. First he needed to witness this supposed stripping of Jivin’s powers. If her claims proved true, he would then decide how to proceed. “You said you would need my help to hide him…” He glanced down at his tattoo, remembering her vile statements from before. He still couldn’t allow himself to believe this was the work of magic, that was unfeasible, yet she managed to plant a seed of doubt. After all, sleeping powder aside, No’a had proven nothing but honest with him so far.

“So what do we need to do?” he inquired, finally granting her his appraisal.
 

Touch Of Temperament

Super-Earth
Joined
Dec 29, 2012
The deal was done. The Warden didn’t waste any time in getting to work on his captive. No’a was startled by the sudden violence as he knocked the mage around. Gritting her teeth, she forced herself to watch. The villagers had left them alone, most likely not wanting anything to do with the fall-out of their battle. This was the first time she had to see Arawn for the Warden he was. During the fight she could have justified his actions as self-defence, which it was. Now he was very clearly the aggressor, the other mage had no chance right now. This might have been her, had she not come to an agreement with the Warden. The realisation was jarring. In any case the mage didn’t seem to put up a fight, he didn’t reach for his magic and physically he would never win any direct skirmish with the Warden.

She barely had time to question why he wouldn’t try a spell when he started talking and she finally understood. In fact his reaction made her fear the mage more than the Warden.

The mage was a fanatic, radically adhering to his cause. No’a shivered as she heard his deranged laugh. It was disturbing to hear him so unhinged. He’d seemed rational and in control earlier, charming perhaps. She might have believed him then, if she hadn’t known better. Looking back on his earlier threat to force her to join them, it seemed even more alarming now that she saw him like this. Cackling in laughter as blood flowed down his broken face. No sign of pain or fear or even anger or hatred. None of the reactions she might have expected. No’a wasn’t afraid of blood or pain, but his odd reaction scared her. Her mentor would have chewed her out for that, even as she admitted it to herself. There were ways to heal even such madness. It wouldn’t be anything the mage would want. In fact he appeared almost eager to die as a martyr for his revolution. Hungry enough for this cause to take Arawn by surprise as he pushed himself onto the warden’s sword.

Looking down, she realised her hands were shaking and she balled them to fists to keep it under control. No’a definitely didn’t want any part in their revolution. But she knew there would be many disenfranchised mages lured in by the promise of a better life, even if it was a lie. The Wardens had themselves to thank for that. It was almost a relief to have the mage put an end to his madness, even if he deprived them of the information they wanted to know. She worried about how they’d found her. Would they come looking in this town again? All the more reason to hide Jivin from them.

Arawn strode past as she stepped forward to kneel by the body, closing the mage’s eyes and dedicating his death to the earth. It was a relief to see his spirit didn’t linger. She hadn’t wanted to deal with this particular one. Wiping the blood from her fingers on his tunic, she rose to her feet again. Only yesterday she’d been making salves and teaching Jivin chants, in some semblance of normal life. It seemed a lifetime ago as she looked at this scene. The body on the ground, its blood pooling in the dirt and smeared against the walls of her hut. So much had happened in a single day. Behind her she heard Arawn’s voice. Judging by his tone, he was none too happy about what had just happened either.

A wry smile twisted over her lips. “I haven’t forgotten either Arawn.” She told him as he reminded him that she owed him a favour still. Her voice was low. First for his part of the bargain. No’a came to a halt behind him. Her arms crossed in front of her chest as she waited for him to face her. “Yes, I will need your help for the spell. Before I get started I would like another look at the spe..” Quickly she corrected herself, using his words would hopefully make him more susceptible to cooperating. “The tattoo on your chest.” She figured he wouldn’t like that, but she wanted to know more. No’a had a plan to hide Jivin from the Wardens as well, but she needed to know more to determine if it would work. He wouldn’t know the specifics of the spell, but he could tell her about its effects. “When you see a person, you know whether they have magic, don’t you? How you do know? Is it something you feel, something you see? Does it work the same way for your brethren?”

Raising her hand, she gestured for him to join her, walking back into her house. She remembered something else from her first perusal of his tattoo. That uneasy feeling of being watched. How did that work? Were there Wardens on their way here even now? She hadn’t thought as much from Arawn’s behaviour, but she did not know him at all. “How closely do they monitor you? Are they coming here?”

Once inside the hut, she started looking around the cabinets, gathering different ingredients. She had never performed this spell before. It was only ever taught to her as a last resort. Still she knew it by heart. It was so clear in her head. The spell her parents had always refused to do to her and her brother. Every mage she had ever known had always refused this option. But she had no other way to protect Jivin. Once it was safe, she would undo it. By the fireplace she kneeled down. Sitting on her heels, she started to build the fire. They would need it for the spell. She would also need to get Jivin at some point. How to explain all this to him. She couldn’t think about it. She just had to take this one step at a time. “Are there any other advantages the tattoo gives you?”

Flames sparked to life on the wood. She watched them crackle orange and yellow, felt their comforting warmth glowing out. Closing her eyes for a moment, she drew a breath and turned to Arawn again. “Let me tell you what we will do. First I will do the first part of binding spell. Jivin will not be able to access his magic after that. I need you to tell me whether you can still sense him. Your answer at that moment will determine what I will ask of you after that. ” She had weighed the pro’s and con’s of him witnessing the spell, but she needed to him to confirm whether Jivin would still trigger the spell on his chest. Now she pondered whether she should be up front with him on what she would likely ask. Her amber eyes studied his face. Better to get this over with now. He had asked what they needed to do. "You should know, this spell.. It requires blood to do a binding. Only a few drops, of mine and of yours."
 

Fates.Gamble

Revendeur de Destin
Joined
Oct 11, 2012
Location
Somewhere out there...
Arawn was still reeling over what just happened, his mind running with the possibilities even as they moved on to the next order of business. Judging by her expression, No’a appeared just as perturbed by the fanatic’s reaction, which gave him a small measure of comfort. She may have been a mage, but at least she appeared to be far more rational than the ones they’d just dealt with. The woman was unlike any other mage he’d met thus far, and likely the only one in this world bold enough to save the man who’d come for her head. But that didn’t mean he felt any better about what she intended to do next. Even though he agreed to it, this plan left a bad taste in his mouth. Allowing her to cast a spell made him uncomfortable enough, but actually helping her to do it was a far more harrowing prospect.

His feelings on the matter only soured further once she stopped herself from slandering his mark again. Honestly, he wasn’t sure if he appreciated the attempt at respecting him or if it made him even more wary. No’a clearly believed what she said about the tattoo, and no matter how many times he denied the claim, she would always know more about magic than he ever could. The seed of doubt continued to grow, twisting him up inside. Maybe that was the real reason he decided to go along with this… Perhaps he could find some measure of truth at the end. But No’a was not making it easy on him with her barrage of questions. The information she wanted could prove devastating to his order in the wrong hands. No matter the bargain they might have struck, Arawn was still a Warden through and through.

“I do,” he confessed, knowing he couldn’t hide the whole truth from her. It took him some few moments to respond to the rest, however; he had to choose his words carefully here. “Neither. It’s difficult to describe, but if I had to choose I would say it’s more like a feeling than anything else… but that is still a poor analogy. It is like a sixth sense all its own, brought to life in the presence of magic. It warns me of the danger… but it also calls to me, drawing me towards the source like magnetism. And as far as I am aware, all Wardens possess it.”

Arawn reluctantly followed as she gestured for him, every step he took leading him closer to breaking his sworn vows. He tried not to think about it, but that was beyond difficult, especially with everything No’a wanted to know. He wasn’t nearly as forthcoming with the next question. “That is irrelevant. Do you see them here now? Prove you can bind Jivin’s magic and neither of us will ever speak of this again. You have my word that the other Wardens will never know the boy exists, let alone what we’ve done here.” There was a slight hesitation before he confessed to the other half of he query. “No one is coming. Three of us were sent to investigate rumors a skilled mage was hiding in these woods; a target I now suspect was you, considering our masked friends knew about you as well. However, what I told you earlier was a bluff. I was the only one to survive their ambush.”

The Warden lingered just past the threshold once they were back inside her hut. He watched her gathering her supplies, preparing for her spell while Arawn continued to battle his anxieties over it. He told No’a the other Wardens would never learn of this, but he couldn’t stop tormenting himself over the ‘What If.’ Even he didn’t know everything there was to know about the men presiding over him. If No’a was correct about the nature of the brand on his chest, he likely was aware of far less than he originally assumed. His eyes never left her as she took what she needed, and knelt before the fireplace. She looked a hauntingly beautiful and powerful figure, framed in the glowing, orange light of the fire. “I know only that it is a mark of protection,” Arawn answered her, “Said to shield us from unfriendly spells, if not negate them all together.”

He fell quiet as she laid out the plan, her amber eyes seeming every bit as wild and bright as the flames reflected in them. The possibility of needing further action after the binding obviously didn’t sit too well. The longer this went on the worse of an idea it seemed to be. Such thoughts were reinforced when she paused, searching his face as though she were afraid of how he might react. He understood why once the request finally came. His expression grew hard, and he stared her down for a long, uncomfortable moment. He had to wonder if this wasn’t all some elaborate ploy. He knew what kind of spell she might really be planning to cast? Perhaps it was some way to get him under her power; a way to rob him of his senses or destroy him beyond reckoning. Driven by those ideas, It seemed like he would deny her and back out of this deal at first, but with a deep breath followed by a heavy sigh, Arawn reluctantly gave in.

“Fine,” he said, voice flat as stone, “You kept your word and did not interfere with my work, and so I shall keep mine as well. But know this now, witch: If you attempt to harm, deceive, or undermine me in any way, then all of the magic in this world will not be able to save you from my blade.” That decided, he lingered not a moment longer. He quickly pulled his tunic off, revealing his bare chest and once again finding himself uneasy over the completely mended flesh where there should have been gruesome injury. He put that aside for now, turning his attention back to No’a as he threw the garment aside. “You wanted another look at my brand...” he recalled, striding forward and kneeling down to join her by the fire. He looked deep into her eyes, as though searching for the treachery he half expected was hidden within. If it was truly there, he could not detect it, and so he consented. “Get on with it, then,” he told her, “And then you can bleed first.”
 

Touch Of Temperament

Super-Earth
Joined
Dec 29, 2012
No’a stared into the flames as she mulled over everything Arawn had told her. It surprised her he had been this open with her so far. Once he’d started talking, she realised that apparently some part of her hadn’t expected him to. He’d been so tight-lipped and defensive about the Wardens. Still he wasn’t happy about telling her this much, the expression on his face was testament to that. Whoever had made this spell had been very talented. It wasn’t No’a’s particular brand of magic, but even she could tell as much. It was devastating at the same time. There was no hiding from the Wardens. There was only running from them. She didn’t dare ask him what his range was. It held no relevance to the spell in any case. And now was not the time to worry about after all this. One step at a time.

In any case she was relieved to learn there weren’t any Wardens heading this way. Even if the binding successfully hid Jivin from their sixth sense, she didn’t want to risk anyone ratting him out. The way rumours of her existence were widespread enough for both the Wardens and the rebels to know about her. She hoped the original binding spell would be enough to hide Jivin. The Warden’s tattoo.. Both literally and magically speaking it was a piece of art. There were so many aspects to this spell and it seemed to be successful in each of them. Though perhaps not exactly as intended. The tattoo had seemed to shield him from the brunt of the magical blast. No’a remembered how the tattoo had sat unmarred on his mangled chest. She also remembered the difficulties she’d had in making sure her magic reached him. So the shielding part of the spell, shielded them not only from unfriendly spells but any magic. To some measure of course.

The tension rose between them after she’d told him what exactly she needed from him. Anxiously she waited for his response. He wouldn’t back out of the deal now, would he? Then he sighed and assented. Silently she thanked the spirits. Relief with a hint of amusement spread through her as he threatened her, one of the corners of her mouth quirking up just a little. This was the Warden she knew. She knew he would absolutely follow up on his threat, but she wasn’t planning on double crossing him in any way. That would negate what she was trying to do for the little boy.

He did surprise her when he removed his tunic, allowing her another close look at the tattoo. Where he felt unease over the mended flesh, she indulged in a moment of pride. A genuine smile curving over her lips. His body had healed beautifully, back to full strength. He really was an impressive specimen of a man. There was no sign at all of the horrific damage he’d rode into town with or the magic she’d used to heal him. She met his eyes for that long moment as he kneeled in front of her, before he told her to get on with it.
Hesitantly she reached for the spell on his chest. Once again that uneasy feeling of being watched crept over her. It reminded her that she’d felt it the first time too. It could be just her being paranoid, but she suspected there was another aspect to this tattoo. One he either hadn’t wanted to tell her about, or perhaps he simply did not know. She didn’t dare test it with her magic. It would likely spook him, and most likely she wouldn’t learn anything new about it. She didn’t know enough about spells like these. If she was really honest with herself, she was also afraid of whoever was watching.

It was quiet in the hut except for the little crackle of the fire. She pulled up her sleeve all the way, revealing the bronze skin of her arm. Next she got out the silver knife, pressing the blade to the inside of her upper arm. She was going to bind the magic of another mage. This sort of spell didn’t just demand a sacrifice. It always left a mark. She didn’t want it anywhere that would be hard to hide. Gritting her teeth against the bite of the blade, she watched as blood started to well up from the cut. She set the knife down beside her and took a bowl from the floor. The blood dripped into the bowl. No’a squeezed the cut and counted until she was sure she’d have enough. Then she set the bowl on the floor beside her, picking up a second one and leaving it in her lap.

Her eyes flicked up to his as she took his hand, turning it to his open palm. With the knife she made a shallow cut on his hand. Folding his fingers in, she squeezed his fist, watching the blood drip into bowl. While she put this second bowl beside her, she murmured a little healing chant to close up his cut. His would not scar like hers would. From behind her she heard a little knock and a soft voice demurely calling out her name. Jivin. He was here right on time. “Just wait a moment.” She called back.

“You can get dressed again.” She told Arawn, her voice soft and low. Before she rose to her feet, she arranged all the needed ingredients and the two bowls with their blood.

Then she opened the door for her little apprentice. So much had changed. She could see it in his huge dark eyes. What had happened today had scared him. Reality rudely breaking into his peaceful little life. Closing the door behind them, she lead him to the bed. “Jivin.” She said as she gestured for him to sit and squatted down to meet his level. “A lot has happened today. I have to leave, it’s not safe for people with magic. But I am going to hide your magic, so they can’t find you. That means you won’t be able to find your magic either.” No’a raised a hand to keep the boy from interrupting her. “It will be better this way. I promise, once it is safe to have magic again, I will come back and undo this spell. Until then I need you to promise me you will keep your magic a secret. No one can know. Promise me Jivin.” Breathlessly Jivin nodded and answered her in a whisper. “I promise.”

Slowly he lay down on the bed. “Will it hurt?” Emotion welled up inside her, threatening to spill over in her eyes, but she held it in and forced a smile. “You won’t feel a thing. In fact, you will sleep right through it.” No, it wouldn’t hurt, but she didn’t know how he would deal with the loss of his magic. She couldn’t imagine living without her magic. It would be akin to losing a limb, or worse as it was such an integral part of who she was. Her entire existence was shaped by the fact that she had magic. But Jivin had barely grasped his magic, perhaps that would make things easier. “Sleep now Jivin. We will do everything we can to protect you.“ Her words warmed by the affection she felt for the boy. Blowing the sleeping power in his face, she watched his eyelids close. Once he could not see her, she mouthed silently, I am so sorry.

Over the fire she finished the mixture for the binding, adding her blood to the other ingredients. As it heated she started to weave the spell.

“Asato ma sad gamaya,
Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya,
Mrityor ma amritam gamaya.”


Magic build between her and Jivin, Once the mixture was ready, she took it off the fire. Dipping her finger into the dark liquid, she traced a set of runes on the boy’s chest. This was the tricky part. Her magic had to overwhelm his for the spell to work. Since he was only a child and she was a fully trained shaman, she wasn’t too worried. But if she tried this spell on an adult she’d have to be very careful not overextend herself. The magic in the space built to a crescendo, No’a could feel a bead of sweat rolling down her spine. To her it seemed like the runes on Jivin’s chest were glowing, until the magic wrapped around the boy and died down. It was done. She’d expended a lot of magic in a short time span, fatigue swept through her body. She knew it had worked, but now she had to know if the binding would also cancel out the detection aspect of the Warden’s tattoo. By the moon she hoped it would. Breathing heavily, she looked at Arawn. “Can you still feel him?”
 

Fates.Gamble

Revendeur de Destin
Joined
Oct 11, 2012
Location
Somewhere out there...
Arawn swallowed down his anxieties as No’a reached out and inspected the brand upon his chest. He couldn’t imagine the sort of heresy he would be accused of were one of his brothers walked in to find them like this. His mark practically hissed and seethed beneath her gaze, screaming out its warnings all the while. It was an uncomfortable thing, laying the source of his protection bare for an enemy to see, but Arawn weathered it all the same. In truth, the peculiarity of it all was more distracting than his sense of unease. Despite his skepticism Arawn trusted No’a somehow, though he’d be damned if he could say why. Perhaps it was just the idiosyncrasy of it all. In his experience, most mages would do anything it took to save their lives. Instead, No’a had practically offered hers to save his…

Whatever his reasons, they were all brushed aside as No’a diverted her attention and drew her silver blade. The warden’s eyes jumped to the knife, watching as she lifted the blade to the crook of her arm. It was a peculiar choice for what was supposed to be a small injury. His attention never left her as she took the bowl into her lap and presented her offering. He took in a sharp breath once her work was done and it was his turn to commit to this potential atrocity. He briefly met her gaze before the sharp edge was set against his palm. The Warden did not so much as wince as the tender flesh was sliced open, providing her with the precious life fluid this spell required her. Arawn watched every drop of crimson proffered, silently hoping he was making the right choice.

Arawn felt his skin crawl once No’a called upon her magic and directed it at him. Every nerve screamed out, teasing his instincts to draw his sword and treat her as he would any other spell weaver. Fortunately, the urge fell quiet as relief spread through his palm and his wound vanished with nary a trace. However despicable the power, he had to admit it was a particularly useful skill. He wondered over the neglect of her own wound, though. He knew she was capable of healing herself as easily as she was others; he’d sensed as much when she did so earlier. Curious as he was, he did not bring it up. The less involved he was in all of this the better; not that it was like to matter at this point. If a word of any of this got out it would be the end of anything and everything that mattered to him. That fear became relevant again when there was a knock at the door.

The Warden might have been relieved to hear that it was Jivin if he wasn’t so plainly aware of what came next. With a curt nod, he adhered to No’a and pulled his tunic back on. He felt a wrench in the pit of his stomach as the door was opened to permit the boy. Arawn had to wonder how Jivin would take thew news of what they were to do. He silently watched from abaft No’a as she explained, continuing to hold his tongue even as she made a promise of undoing this binding when it was safe. He had plenty of thoughts on that, but now was not the moment to bring it up. He’d bled for her already, there was no derailing things now.

All things considered, Jivin seemed to accept this new reality promptly enough. That didn’t mean he wasn’t nervous. Arawn could practically feel the knot of anticipation as Jivin lay back and expressed his concern. Having never been ingrained with this power himself, it was difficult to imagine what the boy might truly be feeling. No doubt such powers were a crucial part of his identity; perhaps not so different from the skills and abilities he’d learned over his tenure with the Wardens. To that end he hoped the process would not change Jivin beyond repair. After all, was the boy’s life truly worth saving if this ritual somehow destroyed everything he was? In the end it wasn’t for him to decide. The child was No’a’s charge, and if she truly believed this was the best way who was he to doubt it? But that didn’t make him feel any more comfortable once Jivin was unconscious and No’a began her work in earnest.

Arawn suffered a chill down his spine when No’a began to chant over the ingredients. Her words felt like poison to his ears, her language foreign and twisted to him. Worse yet was the building magic. His sixth sense was going haywire, roaring so loudly in his mind that it nearly drowned out the words of her spell all together. Arawn grit his teeth as he watched, trying to focus amid all the distraction. His eyes never left the pair of them, his attention to detail drinking in every move No’a made, even if he did not understand it all. He also tried to focus on Jivin, listening for the unique sound of his magic against the raging torrent of No’a’s. He could sense the boy, but just barely. And, after a time, he realized the hum of his energy was waning. Even before No’a’s spell had reached its peak, any and all trace of the boy’s abilities had vanished.

Even though this had been expected, Arawn still found himself surprised by the results. Never before had he stood in the presence of a known mage and been unable to feel them. It was a little disconcerting. How else might they be able to hide from us? He wondered. He was so caught up in the implications that No’a’s question was left hanging on the air until he came back to his senses. “…No.” He admitted, curiosity bringing him to step forward. Still disbelieving, it reached out and touched Jivin on the shoulder, as though physical contact might render him detectable after all. But No’a had cast her spell masterfully. To Arawn, Jivin appeared no different than any other child.

Stepping away, he turned his back on the both of them and retreated to his thoughts, trying to take this all in. This concept was so foreign he didn’t want to believe it would work at first. Now that it had, the reality of what he just took part in was settling in. Aiding mages and helping them hide... Arawn chose not to linger on it. There was still details to work out now that their efforts were successful. “You gave him an empty promise,” he couldn’t help but bring up as he turned his attention back to No’a. “Magic will never be safe to use as long as the Wardens hold sway over these lands. And they’re not going anywhere. You know it, I know it…” But there were more important matters to discuss, and so he did not drag out the point.

“We’ve bound his magic,” he went on to say, “That takes care of the Warden problem for now at least. But how exactly do you plan to protect him from these fanatics? They knew about you and your abilities, so I have to assume they know about Jivin as well. The one who got away is sure to tell the others what happened here. If they come, won’t they realize what you’ve done to him? Based on the few we’ve met, I get the feeling they aren’t going to sit idly by and lose interest in your apprentice simply because you’ve taken away his magic. Not after you’ve sided with a Warden over your own.”
 

Touch Of Temperament

Super-Earth
Joined
Dec 29, 2012
No'a felt as tense as a overstrung bow. Her skin seemed too tight for her body. There was not enough air in her lungs. Every muscle ached from the strain of this spell. Arawn was taking so long in answering her question, she didn’t know what to make of it. She had already turned to desperate measures, if it hadn’t worked.. She couldn’t be sure if she was reading his expression right, but then he finally said “No”. He stepped forward to touch Jivin, and No’a thrust her hands into her hair as she remembered to breathe. The little boy was safe, for now. But, at what cost. She could only hope she made the right choice. Emotion welled up inside her and she was exhausted, she couldn’t keep it from her face. Relief that at least she had hid him successfully. Guilt that she had separated him from his magic. Worry at what the effect of this decision might be. Had she broken him, ruined his life? What other choice had she had? At least he would live. The Wardens wouldn’t find him.

In a strange way she was glad when Arawn started berating her for an empty promise. It pulled her from her own emotional maelstrom, gave her something to else to focus on. Their bickering was starting to become something familiar. Sucking in a shaky breath, she rolled her eyes. “That’s the way it is now, for you and me. For Jivin, I’m hoping for something better in the future.” He wouldn’t let her really get fired up into the argument, because he asked her what she was going to do about the rebel mages.

At least he was thinking ahead with her. He seemed genuinely invested in protecting Jivin. No’a managed the barest hint of a smile. Maybe he took their bargain as seriously as it was. Maybe she couldn’t have found a better protector for her young apprentice. The shaman studied the Warden for a moment, before her eyes settled on the sleeping form of the boy on the bed. “I don’t know if they know about Jivin. Nothing they said indicated they were here for anyone other than me. And nobody actually saw Jivin. They only saw me and you. But yes, we should prepare for the possibility that they knew I had an apprentice.” No’a brushed a strand of hair from the boy’s face. There was something else she realised as she considered Arawn’s question.

“I guess this means the tattoo doesn’t differentiate in power levels for you guys. You should tell whomever made it, there’s some room left for improvement.” She smirked a little at her own wry comment before she started to explain. “Not every mage holds the same amount of power. Those mages you fought today were barely trained. They were easy pickings. No offense, but they could barely hold a shielding spell. They might have some degree of raw magical power. They might have gotten lucky in blasting you apart, but they lack skill and knowledge. This binding spell is highly specific and very obscure. Only Masters of their arts were allowed access to knowledge like this. Thanks to you Wardens, there are hardly any Masters left. And with every generation more knowledge will be lost. It is highly unlikely that these fanatics will know of the spell’s existence.”

“Even if they do. They don’t know what my apprentice looked like. The village will rally around him, he is one of their own. The boy has no magic for the mages to detect. For all intents and purposes he is now an normal boy.” No’a gave an edge to word as if using it gave her a foul taste. “They shouldn’t know there is anything magical about him. Even if they know about this spell, which I seriously doubt, it is attached to me. My magic bound him, and only my magic can release him. If they come here, all they will learn is that they want me. I have the knowledge, the power they seek.”

She was talking too much again. At this realisation No’a abruptly stopped herself, blaming it on fatigue. She had to keep a level head. Even though she had struck a bargain with the Warden, she had not missed his disgust every time she used magic. It was a precarious balance between the two of them, built on the thinnest of trust. She trusted he would keep up their bargain. That didn’t mean she should share all her magical secrets with him.

Of course, she was aware of the holes in the plan. Turning away from him, she fussed over the mixture she’d concocted. Only now she remembered to release the built up magic. Now that the spell was done all that was left in the bowl was smoking ashes. “I was planning on drawing their attention to me. Let them hunt me, I’ve gotten very good at running and hiding.” No’a moved around the hut clearing away all the things. Mentally she was already making a list of what she was taking and what had to be left behind, and most likely destroyed. She didn’t want any fanatical mages get their hands on it.

Slowly, she turned back to Arawn. “Of course, this also depends on you.” Time to address this head on. So far he had held up his end of the bargain, she should do the same. No’a didn’t like leaving things unsettled. “On what you might ask of me in return.”
 
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