Islanders- Enter the WarMage
This is a fanfic I wrote originally for a message board, because I felt like it. It has a bit to do with Final Fantasy 4 (Well, a lot) and takes place in the future on a completely bizarre tangent. But hey, it was fun writing it. The stars of this little work are my creation, while the supporting characters are the ones you know and love, from Final Fantasy 4. I hope you enjoy this work, and I am currently starting on a sequel that will cross Final Fantasy 4 and 6 over.
This work consists of 10 Chapters, and my comments are listed at the top, in parentheses, under the title of each Chapter. You may find I use ideas from other fanfics in this. I assure you, if I borrowed (Read: plagiarized) from you, don't be angry. It just means I liked the little idea and decided to fit it in my little imaginary universes, years in the making. I should probably thank you as it means I've loved your work and thought an idea you presented in it would fit well.
Anyway, I could go on several pages telling you how this work came about, but the one thing I'm most proud of is the flexibility of my creation. Anything can go anywhere, and I just write, so If I ever come up with another fanfic starring the "Islanders", as I call them, it may not be a sequel, but a work exploring another tangent: "What if this happened, instead of that?". One of the most interesting things also is that the way it's set up originally allows for some serious crossovers, for anything at any time. But you'll figure WHY soon enough. If you've already read some crossovers, it shouldn't surprise you, it's not a totally new idea.
Now I think I'll shut up and let you read. I hope you enjoy. Oh yea, and all stated characters are copyrights of
their respective creators. I don't mean any harm, and if you decide I've infringed on something, give me front row seats
in the courtroom so I can see your ass laughed out of court. *grins* Really, I mean no harm. Just read and enjoy.
A young man stood upon a balcony, looking down at the earth far below.
He had been afraid of heights once, but where he worked required him to face this fear: the Queen's Citadel, after all, being on an island floating upwards of three or four miles up. Why it was up there, and why it hadn't been detected by the radars of his own world he never asked, leaving it at the theory that it was some sort of magic performed by the Queen and her Lords and Ladies. He didn't like to ask questions much, preferring to just deal with the problems.
Not to say he COULDN'T, but he was always filled with a sense of urgency. Something had to be saved... this world or that world, a friend's life, perhaps... or some magical artifact of some sort of import.
Sometimes he felt like a Power Ranger.
He gazed up at the sky, letting the sun bathe his face. It wasn't exactly a handsome face, not ugly either, but described to some as merely cute. To some he looked silly, even somewhat feminine. It never made a difference to him, he learned to stop caring for the opinions of others unless they were of import. At least those he knew who had important opinions would not subject him to their thoughts of him... all of them anyway, outside of the occasional tease and playfully snide remark.
God Cecil could be such a self-righteous asshole at times! He smiled, having respect for the Paladin, as ageless as the rest of the Lords and Ladies... or their Watchers for that matter, kept that way by some magic the King had learned and used on himself and his group. But the King was long gone. Only the Queen remained. He remembered some long story Rydia had gone into about the King being temperamental to the extreme... and nearly slaughtering his friends in a Herculean-style rage before leaving in shame. When asked who the King was, however, everyone gave him a blank look. Surprisingly enough, no one knew.
Rosa had explained it to him that apparently the King wanted some time to rest... and not be found. Everyone could tell you what he was like... what his deeds were, but his identity? What he looked like? Wiped from everyone's mind by the King himself. Afterwards, it was believed, the King wiped his own, leaving for a mundane life everyone SHOULD know about but didn't.
Bringing himself back to his original train of thought, he wondered when Cecil was going to arrive. He was getting annoyed, and having a WarMage of his calibre annoyed was a potentially dangerous thing. Not that he was boasting, it was fact and everyone knew it.
"Why did he want to see me here anyway?" He grumbled to himself, looking back down at the ground. He was getting fidgety. He'd rather be at home than standing around watching the wind blow. He didn't like to be the errand boy of the Lords and Ladies sometimes, but that was his lot.
Warrior, Diplomat, Assassin, and Healer: He had played each of those roles at one time or another at the Queen's behest, when the jack-of-all-trades multi-talent was more effective then the specialized skills of the others. His kind had learned many fighting styles, not to the degree of mastery afforded by the others, true... no WarMage ever learned to be a better spell-caster than those who spent all their time with arcane tomes, but were deadly effective nonetheless.
He had been trailing off on his own thoughts when a voice was heard behind him. Never fails...
"Hey, I was wondering if you were going to come." A joke of course. He tried to be as punctual as possible... the same sense of urgency.
"Cecil, I always have to be on time for one of your rants." He rolled his eyes, turning to meet the Paladin with the skeptical "I'm listening, but I'm not" look on his face whenever he heard a Paladin rave about the methods of the WarMages... and usually their sense of honor. The Paladins were just, kind, noble and honorable. The WarMages had just down: They didn't kill without provocation or reason. Kind too: They preferred to heal more than hurt. Noble was up to the individual, but honor was a sticky point. What did honor mean when there were lives to protect? One should honor one's allies and friends as long as they remained loyal and good, they reasoned, but honor otherwise was a truckload of bull on the battlefield.
"I didn't come here to talk about what you do... I'll wait until you do something," Cecil chuckled, prompting a similar chuckle from the WarMage. "Although you could do something about looking all dour and brooding all the time. Why don't you get laid or something?"
The WarMage blinked... and blinked again. That was the LAST thing he'd expect a Paladin to say, PERIOD. "What?" he asked stupidly.
"You heard what I said, Robert. Find some female company. Someone to cuddle you at night," Cecil grinned, "Would you like me to?"
"Get away from me you sicko... besides what would Rosa say?"
Another grin... Oh well, it beats him bitching about why it's not nice to possess someone to kill their friends... "Seriously, Robert. All that aside, I wouldn't anyway."
"I was hoping that Cecil."
"Shut up. I need to ask you a favor."
"Non-sexual, I'm praying?"
"I'm hoping so too. You know David? My Watcher Lord?"
"I should. He works for me."
"He works for Rydia. He serves under you, remember? AND he is under my command as well." Robert laughed a bit at that, in a non-mocking way. The Watchers DID work under the Queen's name after all, and in the name of their Lords. He merely led them, kept them alive and coordinated long enough to prevent whatever earth- shaking catastrophe was about to happen, before Rydia and her group actually had to deal with it. First line of defense, he thought to himself. Under him, there were the Watcher Lords, then the Watchers of various worlds. The Watchers where the first line, the Watcher Lords being the second line. If all else failed, everything had gone to hell in a hand basket, and the Lords and Ladies were meant for that...
"So what about him, anyway?"
"You haven't heard? His wife's expecting."
"Ahh I'll congratulate him later. So what does this have to do with anything, outside of the fact that I'll end up short one Watcher?"
"That's about it really. Just make sure once he returns to duty, make sure he trains himself a bit more, to catch up after playing and showing off his kid to everybody within eight miles and three different worlds. Oh... and Aurora wishes to meet with you."
"Right. I'll deal with that now." Robert bowed, and Cecil followed suit, walking back into the Palace to do whatever errand or whim he had to deal with.
Aurora... He thought about her for a bit. Princess Aurora, he corrected himself, although calling her that would probably get your ass kicked somewhere into the Limbo between worlds. He smiled softly, thinking of his Mentor, the only surviving child of the King and Queen, who he had exceeded in strength some time ago... although her experience made her more than a match for him, and her knowledge of his inner self.
He sighed and took one last look at the landscape below him... that of an ocean now, the island having moved since he and Cecil talked. He then went inside the Palace, searching for his Mentor.
The Palace was beautiful from the outside, from lush gardens around the perimeter to stately marble architecture. It was even more beautiful inside, an elegant beauty for that visitors admired and residents took pride in. It was functional as well as wondrous, able to take the siege of any army of the "supervillian-of-the-day", as Rydia so snidely remarked, that managed to get onto the island. Cid had designed this place well.
But the WarMage wasn't there to admire the beauty. He was there to deal with his friend, whatever she wanted at this time. Where would she be? He thought to himself, deciding to check the living quarters first. After several twists and turns, he arrived at the private rooms of the various residents of the Palace, permanent or just rooms for those who would need to stay for an appreciable length of time. He was among the latter, having no real reason to stay unless he was needed for something, or just wanted some time away from his mundane life, a place where not to be disturbed. He looked at each door, inscribed with the name of it's intended occupant, the doors more elaborate the higher said occupant was ranked among them, and their personal desires.
From this, one would assume that Aurora's quarters would be one of the most elaborate. But as Kain said, "Titles are mere honorifics," it wouldn't matter. Besides, like many other WarMages, Aurora prized functionality over elaboration, so he walked up one of the simplest looking doors, with "Aurora" inscribed upon it and knocked on it. "'It opens, get over it.' indeed," Robert muttered, with a tiny smile, remembering Aurora's retort to the carpenter's protest.
"You may enter!" a feminine voice from within sounded, and he obligingly opened the door, shutting it behind him. He looked over Aurora somewhat, playfully making a show of ogling her. She was quite attractive really, with waist-length blond hair, and wonderful curves. Nothing exceptional about her height, she stood a bit shorter than he. "And why are you here?"
"Cecil told me you wanted to see me, m'lady." He also made a big show of bowing toward royalty, keeping his eyes noticeably glued to her more... stunning aspects. She smiled at that. "Well I didn't ask him to bring you here so you could ogle me." She made her own show of blushing and being modest.
"Why else would I come?" He looked confused, another mask of playfulness that made her laugh, as he sat down on a chair, across from her own seat upon her bedspread.
"I don't know. Maybe to give me something to do." The look in her eyes reflected his, giving him some small relief. I guess she just needed company, he thought to himself. If it was important, she would have a more businesslike look and manner to her. Like him, she wasted no time getting to the point.
"And what unladylike thing would you have me do to unbore you? I thought Cecil wouldn't ask me to do anything sexual."
"Pervert. Nothing like that!" She chuckled, "Although it does seem tempting." She rolled her eyes and smiled. He chuckled, grateful inwardly, somewhat for the fact that she had no business to take care of. She could be frightening to him when she had business, or was angry, and he had quashed almost all fear from his soul during his apprenticeship to her.
He shuddered visibly, drawing a look of concern from Aurora, but kept into the memories of his training. WarMages were not cruel unless necessity required it, but they were not taught with kindness. Aurora was not a forgiving Mentor, punishing his mistakes painfully and frequently. Not that the training ITSELF was a walk in the park: He remembered one bit about staying in freezing weather for hours on end with the clothes he wore and a simple fire-spell to keep himself warm. It wouldn't be so bad if he was able to find shelter, but being chained to a rock sort of hindered that considerably. The point was to be able to break the chain so he could leave by some means.
Not that he was angry, he understood somewhat the need. A WarMage must be able to withstand extremes, after all. And besides, at the time, earning Aurora's praise seemed like a blessing from God Himself. There was truth to the fact that one was never a WarMage until they learned to burn all hate and fear from their soul: Some WarMages needed only to hear their Mentor's name to end up in a frothing rage, or quivering fear. Robert did neither, independent and losing all hatred and fear. His relationship with his Mentor went quite well really. She was really quite nice once you got past the fact that she was a deadly, ruthless, vicious and cunning warrior.
"Yeah," He smiled softly, "Just memories of my apprenticeship."
She winced. He WOULD have to think of that now, she thought to herself. She sighed inwardly, his training being just as hard on her as it was him, almost. Hearing herself silently scream in protest of the various things she had to do to teach him what it was to be a WarMage... She always rationalized it to herself, "It was for his own good. He willingly let himself into this," with surprising futility as she recoiled from things she had performed that under other circumstances, would be called torture.
A WarMage was never needlessly cruel, and almost NEVER tortured.
Truly, she thought to herself, the Mentor is trained along with the Apprentice, learning how to witness cruelties beyond imagine and push them out of her mind when needed for business, and recoiling and feeling anger otherwise. It was a question of balance really. When she met with her own Mentor, long dead now (bless his soul), to speak about what she felt during that time, he only smiled and nodded understandingly.
An uncomfortable silence followed, as both recalled memories both wished would remain buried, but would forever resurface.
"Anyway..." Robert was the first to speak.
"Oh, what? Oh..." She smiled, grateful to be interrupted from her less-than-joyful reverie...
"Ending the flirting and all, why did you need me?"
"Oh, just someone to talk to while I have lunch."
"While WE have lunch. Alright, fine. I'll buy. I'm hungry anyway."
She laughed again. "Thank you, my gallant friend, we will talk pointlessly over lunch." She offered him her hand, to pull her from her seat upon her bed.
He took the offered hand helping her up and hugging her to him gently. "Think nothing of it, it would be my pleasure. What fine restaurant were you thinking of?"
"Oh I don't know. I'll decide when we get there." Another laugh, from both, relieved to have been shaken from earlier memories and business, to get on with the more pleasurable business of enjoying the company of a dear friend.
As they leave her room, Robert chuckles to himself, letting the last of the fading memories go. Such
That's the only thing she saw around her. Fire.
More precisely, a lake of fire. So this is hell, I'm dead and I'm in hell, paying for every sin I have committed in my parents name, Aurora thought grimly as she looked around, trying to regain her senses.
No, no... not hell. She saw walls. She dropped the pain of the scorching heat, the sound of her sizzling flesh and scent of burning hair long enough to take stock of her surroundings.
A ten by ten by ten cube to be precise, with magical flames burning on the bottom, licking upwards to the bottom of her chest. The metal of the walls were strong enough to withstand the flames as she hung nude by her arms in the middle of the room by great chains that seemed to resist every effort of hers to break free.
Probably Mithril... the only metal strong enough to take this heat... Why is this room so familiar? A flash of pain upon her back was felt, forcing her to lose her grip on her will, causing the pain of the flames to sear through her body. She could almost feel single cells in her body melting, thrashing as each died, bringing her a bit closer to oblivion.
She screamed out in pain... she had never felt pain like this before. Never in her life, even having suffered through the worst battles and trials, has she EVER felt this sort of pain. It seemed to have a stranglehold on her soul, forcing her to cry out in pain, agony, and terror.
Wait... this... this is the room where... The thought that blazed through her mind rent her with a pain that none of the flames could ever match.
This is the room where I... I... oh God... She remembered it well. It was one of the trials she put Robert through, to build his resistance against fire and his agility and will. The chains could be broken if one figured out the trick to them, and could concentrate long enough to finish the task. She had hung him there and started the flames, healing him as necessary, to keep him alive, but not to keep the shock of the pain away as he writhed in the his personal hell, desperate to escape.
And I held that whip and... oh my god... how can he even THINK of me after I did this to him? Another memory: She stood over the pit, a whip in hand, lashing at him every minute he stayed in the chains. She forced the revulsion inside of herself down, cracking the whip with a face of a WarMage in battle, that of a dead, terrifying gaze, as she pleaded with herself not to continue. As her very soul begged her to release him and plead his forgiveness. And yet, she hadn't.
It took him all of five minutes to escape. It was a record, If I remember. Another lash, sending another scream through her soul. She desperately looked backward for her captor... he... or maybe she? Or perhaps just it looked at her. It's face and body hid behind a cowl and cloak, all she saw were the eyes.
The eyes were terrifying in itself. They were cool, calm, collected... the gaze another WarMage would have... the gaze everyone else would describe as dead. Except... there were small glimmers of anger in those eyes, and something else.
She froze in terror, as realization hit her, blocking out the pain and shock. Even a third lash could not shake her as she stares in horror into the eyes of the insane WarMage.
It was one of the greatest risks of the WarMages, one of the reasons they were not as trusted as say, a Healer, Summoner, Dragoon or even a Dark Knight: More WarMages turned insane than any other class, the shock of the death they dealt with everyday, the trials upon their souls which they accepted as part and parcel of every day to ending conflict in the myriad worlds they inhabited... wearing upon them until none remained but madness.
The WarMages killed their insane comrades with great pity and sadness, hoping that they would find peace in the afterlife.
Many other WarMages became Rogues: Former Islanders who chose to step away from the Queen's guidance and rule. She had followed that path once, more to seek privacy after an exceptional trial had taken place upon her. But more WarMages lost to their inner darkness and turns completely away, forsaking good for evil, and fighting their former comrades with a dark strength that anybody would fear.
A fourth lash brought her to reality. She looked desperately up at her captor, looking in their eyes for some sort of compassion she knew would not be there. But those eyes were familiar. So dreadfully familiar...
"Who... Who are you? Why are you doing this to me?" She shrieked again as the whip cracked again, leaving a welt across her face. She fell into desperate sobs, her eyes pleading up at her warden.
"Why Aurora! Don't you recognize me? Don't you remember the pain you caused me in this very room? Don't you remember the agony you caused as you tortured me?"
"Oh god..... please... not you... not anyone but you!" But no, her fears were confirmed: As the cowl was pulled away, she recognized the dark, thick shoulder-length hair, the cute, almost feminine face, the broad shoulders and stocky stature. Oh my god... Robert! I've driven him insane... what have I done... Please GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE???
Almost as if reading her mind... "Oh yes... you drove me to this. You drove me to this, saying you were teaching me what it would be like to be you. No... no... you lied to me. You did this because of your own sadistic desires."
"No... oh god... I didn't. I wanted you to be strong. I hated every moment I did this to you! I screamed every time I put you through this, but you couldn't hear me..."
"HA!" Another lash, again right across her face , prompting her to scream again, more from the agony of knowing that she drove this into him. "I'm sure. Admit it to yourself. I hate being lied to, and I know you do too... this was only because of your sick, twisted wishes... You showed no mercy because you never had any to begin with!"
She sobbed at this revelation, realizing the fact that she had always denied: She enjoyed causing pain... the very reason she became a WarMage. She said she was following in her father's footsteps. The truth was a shock, and she hated it... she loved the suffering that she caused.
"Now, Princess, you only scream because you know how it feels to suffer in return... I'll see you suffer a thousand times at my hand, than I suffered at yours."
A fifth lash, seeming to cut through her very body, whipped across her skin. She started to scream again, and she never stopped.....
She opened her eyes to find herself screaming in the faces of three indistinct but humanoid forms. It was dark, yet... she wasn't burning... She desperately patted her hands down her body and felt silk between her hands and her chest. No burns.
But why... why? Why am I not burned? Her eyes began to adjust as one of the forms leaned down and took hold of her, the soft silken skin of the person holding her tight as it could to whisper into her ear.
"Oh my baby...are you alright? I heard you screaming... You just had a nightmare..."
A second voice. "Yeah, you heard her screaming. So did everyone else. Why do you think half the Palace is sitting outside, looking worried, annoyed, or sleep-deprived?"
"Edge, try: shut up. She doesn't look that good."
"I know. I'm worried too. But can't she have her nightmares when I'm not asleep?"
A third voice: "Pipe down... Is she alright Rydia?"
As soon as her eyes adjusted fully, she heard a click and the room flashed with blinding light. She screamed, startled by the light.
Rydia flinched at the scream. "Ack! Rosa, did you HAVE to turn on the light?"
The third voice only replied, "Sorry about that Rydia. I didn't know that she would scream in your ear."
Rydia sighed. "It's alright..." She looked down at her daughter... the only child of seven that had ever survived... most of them had been killed by some enemy of her and the King's, holes in her heart that could never heal. Every night she prayed that Aurora would never make a seventh hole... She could never survive that. I pray each day and night that I never lose her... why did she choose to such a dangerous class? she wondered to herself. It seemed like destiny, but it didn't mean she had to like it. Because of this, she was prone to treat her daughter as if she were a delicate illusion, one that she could not afford to let fade away.
"Mother?" Aurora nodded shakily. "I'm alright... just another nightmare."
"Just another?" Edge replied wearily, "She woke up the entire damn Palace." Aurora had to laugh at that. The ninja was trying his hardest to make jokes... most of them falling flat because of his sleeplessness and worry. He would admit it just as easily as the others: He would never let harm befall the only living child Rydia had and leave whatever harmed her live longer. No one in the Palace would.
"I'm sorry Edge."
"It's alright. Just keep your nightmares quieter." He laughed and made Rydia let go of her so he could hug her in return, a comforting gesture. Under his facade, he did care, just as much as the others.
"Alright... Thanks Edge." She extricated herself from his grasp and laughed wearily. "At least no one else slept as well as I did."
"You made pretty sure of that," Rosa said with a smile, hugging her in turn, "You had everyone worried. We though you were dying!"
"It's pretty hard to kill me, you know."
"We know, but Rydia worries, and so do the rest of us."
Aurora had nothing to say to about that, so Rosa continued...
"Would you like to tell me about your nightmare?"
That's Rosa for you, always the confidante... She thought to herself with a chuckle. Rosa took her role as a Healer very seriously, learning the mundane arts of medicine along with the magical. And yet... she took herself not only as a mender of bodies, but of minds and souls. She was always one to turn to when one needed a broken bone to heal... or a broken heart. She was well loved and respected on the Island for her compassion and genuine caring.
"Sure Rosa... Mom, could you leave, and chase everyone to bed?"
Rydia nodded and kissed her daughter on the cheek, then motioned for everyone else to leave. Rosa would remain, but everyone else would be in bed.
"Oh, and Mother? Please... don't treat me like a baby."
Rydia was almost outside when she turned and smiled. "Oh alright... but you know I worry."
"I know..." Both were aware that the Queen wouldn't stop, and both of them were happy with that... Sometimes... both women thought to themselves, smiling softly.
It was silent for a few minutes while they waited for the crowd to leave and return to bed.
It was Rosa who was the first to speak, laying her hand upon Aurora's.
"Care to talk?"
"That's why you're here, aren't you?"
"Of course!" Rosa smiled and then listened to Aurora as she recited her dream.
Once she was done, Aurora sighed... "I have this dream often... it's why I've never taken another apprentice. I know I'm not like that... but it always seems to me like the accusations he makes are all true..."
Rosa nodded, gazing over Aurora. She seems so helpless... so scared. But even WarMages feel fear and pain, if not for their lives... "I know Aurora, I know." She shook her head, "I would have made sure Rydia would have barred you of the path you have taken if you were..."
Aurora nodded, believing her words. Some of the tricks Rosa had picked up as an Islander were amazing psychic abilities. All Healers had psychic abilities or learned them soon after. Much of it was in empathy, but their minds were strong in protection, and as a weapon.
They had to. WarMages were known to go into blind rages if provoked enough, and usually only the Healers... the ironically pacifistic Healers... had the one advantage that could truly cripple a WarMage: WarMages had a weakness to psychic attacks, even if they possessed defenses themselves. Only a Healer could incapacitate a WarMage sufficiently to let the rage subside, and only Islanders would know that secret if Rydia, Robert, and Aurora would have their way: They killed anyone who knew that secret, the WarMages not wanting their weakness to become common knowledge... and Rydia would die than let her daughter fall to such attack.
"Well, all I can say Aurora, is what you already know... I figure you feel intense shame and regret about what you did. I don't really approve of your methods for training, but I suppose it is necessary..."
"Doesn't mean you or any of the others like it."
"Not particularly. but you want to know what Cecil said?"
"He said while he can't approve of your methods, he is grateful that you dirty yourselves, so his hands remain clean."
"That sounds strangely selfish of him."
"True, but it is a very common belief with us. If you didn't do it, someone would have to. But none of us want to. You father understood that when he created the WarMages... He accepted the pain and sorrow so none of us would have to... He accepted the love of war, because he loved peace and never wanted us to have to accept a love of war. And you and Robert, along with every other WarMage accept it in turn so we have no need to."
"I... I see..."
"What I think you are feeling now is the shame that follows you. The shame that would follow Rydia, Cecil, Edward, I, and everyone else if you didn't. Every WarMage makes that sacrifice..."
Rosa had tears forming in her eyes as she spoke...
"And yet... none of us wish to see it happen to you..."
"I know Rosa... I know... but it just seemed right. That I was needed like this."
"You're right. You are needed like this. It doesn't make Rydia's pain and worry any less, though, nor anyone else's."
Aurora nods gently and hugged Rosa tightly. "Thanks Rosa... I needed that." She started to cry softly into her shoulder as Rosa just hugged her back, "I know Aurora... that's why I'm here."
Rosa let her cry for a few minutes before letting her go, "You should get back to sleep. You need your rest." Aurora only smiled as Rosa left, turning out the light so she could fall back asleep, and dream again.
And she dreamt...
She was in the Great Hall, a meeting place of all the Islanders when matters of import were to be discussed. Each Lord and Lady were in attendance, sitting in a chair along the table, Queen Rydia sitting on a grand throne at the head.
Aurora had been summoned by the Queen, her mother, to accept a dire mission: Robert had finally surpassed Aurora in power, coming amazingly close to the King himself. But that was not the matter.
The matter was that he had disappeared... completely. And was missing for several days now.
"Aurora, do you understand the task I have laid upon you?"
"Yes, my Queen. I am to find the WarMage Robert and return him to the Palace, safely."
"You know him the best, my daughter, having trained and led him through his Apprenticeship. If anyone is best knowledgeable of his whereabouts, it would be you."
"Thank you Rydia. I understand."
Aurora arose from her kneeling position and walked towards the grand doors of the Great Hall when Rydia spoke again.
"Rosa has told me that she last felt his presence near the world Rogles has been imprisoned in."
Rogles... that name tightened a few sphincters. He was the second-in-command of their greatest enemy ever: Zeromus. Zeromus had apparently never learned how to STAY dead and had been a royal pain in the ass for many years. He had been imprisoned several times in another, desolate world, only to break free. But recently Zeromus had been strangely quiet.
There were rumors around the Palace: Had Zeromus finally ended his fight and accepted his punishment? Nevertheless, Rydia had kept up the magic barring Zeromus from passing through the Limbo that separated the worlds they guarded, never to see another world and taint it with his evil.
Perhaps now, Rogles was their strongest enemy. A threat, true, and a serious one. Not as serious as Zeromus ever was, however. Nothing they knew of could match Zeromus.
"I see, my Queen."
Rydia had a very troubled look in her eyes. She cared for Robert too. Mainly because he reminded her of her lost King.
"You do understand the fact that you may never be able to bring him back alive, even if he is, do you?"
There were the words Aurora dreaded. None of them could say it up front. All of them liked Robert, even though he was a WarMage, but they all feared that he had turned Rogue.
"I understand. If I discover that he has fallen into insanity, or has turned Rogue, I am to wash the stain of it from the WarMage's, and your honor, Rydia. And I will return alive, with his sword, the BlueSteel, as proof. It is my duty, as his Mentor."
She choked on her words, wishing she hadn't said them. Like those words would magically change him from her ally to her true enemy. Everyone looked stricken as she spoke, as if they refused to believe the possibility.
Robert never seemed to like her much, however. He was still a young WarMage, even though he had a meteoric rise within the group, and within the Palace itself. It was natural really, with the treatment Apprentices received from their Mentors being harsher than anyone could dream.
And yet he was popular and well-liked among the WarMages, and most everyone else too. He showed he could perform all of his duties. He seemed to be a warrior on par with Cecil and Kain, and a Healer rivaled only by Rosa.
"As much as it pains us to say it, my dear daughter, that may be true."
"It pains me as well."
"I know. Now, Aurora, you are dismissed to perform your duty as a WarMage and Robert's Mentor."
She left the door, the joy of the rush of impending danger beginning, along with the nagging worry that the final enemy she may come across is her only Apprentice...
And that she may not survive.
It was dark.
No, that's putting it mildly. It was a tangible void, seeming to suck not only light away, but the life of everything it touched. Aurora paid no heed: This was the kind of darkness she kept in her soul to serve her, released only when she wished it so. She was mildly comforted by this darkness... but yet alarmed... this was no ordinary darkness... it seemed unnatural... unholy.
Being comfortable in darkness, and being able to see are two different things however. She kept a mild light-spell centered above her head so she could see... She could see well for all of about ninety feet.
Entering Rogles's prison proved an easy task, as Rydia had opened a small hole for Aurora, and closed it behind her, opening it only on a signal Aurora would give, a spell Rosa would sense even through the barrier. She had found herself where Rosa had lost contact, in front of a dark manor, the only thing standing in the wasteland that was this world. That surprised her: Rydia and the others had made sure the world was barren, so that Rogles would have nothing to use to escape... not even a rusty spoon.
She had entered the manor to find this darkness. Using the light spell, she had searched the manor, her mind and psychic abilities searching for a presence... some sort of presence... hopefully it would be Robert's... She hoped it would not be the creator this foul dwelling.
She had reached the highest point when she finally noticed. A weak, but familiar presence, below her. FAR below her, in the depths of the manor. And several others.
She carefully made her way to the basement. And yet the presences were still below her. Searching, she found a secret stairwell, leading into the depths of the earth. After what seemed like an eternity, she climbed down to the bottom to find a stout wooden door. She opened it carefully...
And then they attacked. She did not recognize the monsters, but she did recognize the beaten and scarred form hanging in a corner... ROBERT!
Her relief from the fact that he was not a Rogue was quickly lost as she made a sick realization: They were torturing him! She hadn't had time to think about that too much, as his tormentors turned to her and attacked, gleefully trying to overbear her, to have another victim to torment as she desperately carved her way through the monsters.
It was a bloody battle. She had taken many wounds, and they never seemed to stop coming! Every time she cleaved one in twain, three more seemed to appear as she made another sick realization: the room was FLOODED with these unholy abominations. Cecil would be a wonderful help right about now! Aurora thought grimly to herself, as she fought back with sword and magic, carefully controlling her magics to keep them from harming her captive Apprentice. Summoning Magic, Black Magic, and White Magic saw heavy use as she trained every spell, every Esper, ANYTHING she could against the tidal wave that threatened to overwhelm her. And still they kept coming.
It was an hour later when she could finally rest... hundreds of horrors lay dead at her feet, and she was so tired...
FIGHT IT AURORA! She knew that if she fell asleep, she would die of her wounds. She looked around for more of the little terrors... satisfied that none remained, she gathered several healing potions from her pouch and drank them all, in quick succession.
Warmth spread throughout her body as the potions sealed her wounds, but she knew she must act quickly. Drinking too many of the potions in quick succession would make her... high... like many drugs would, and the high they brought may incapacitate her.
She only had enough power to take her and her apprentice back to the Palace, and she needed to act now before reinforcements arrived. She felt a dark presence watching her, appraising her as she moved toward Robert.
She knew what Rogles presence would feel like, but this was not Rogles... it seemed like an infinite well of darkness, despair and evil, one that she shrank from as she willed herself to approach her friend. Whatever resided in this world would be here soon, and she didn't have time. She did NOT want to meet whatever did this to him, or whatever created the monsters whose blood sloshed around in her boots and the floor.
As she approached, the worst pain, the most heart-rending fear she would ever feel was caused by Robert. He simply looked at her uncomprehending, whimpering.
"Please... no... no more... leave me be... just let me die..."
She stopped in her tracks. Soon the pain became rage. A flaming rage that would never cease until the creator of this unholy hell lay dead at her feet.
Robert, she was certain now, had suffered greatly. So greatly that even a mighty WarMage could crack under such torments. IF THERE IS A HELL I'LL SEE YOU IN IT SOON!!!! she raged as she undid his bonds, Robert not even fighting her, just giving in to her arms as she cast the beacon spell.
As she stepped through the portal, she could hear unholy, terrifying laughter within her mind...
"It will take him a long time to recover, Rydia. He may be asleep for several weeks..."
Rosa sighed. She herself was shocked and angry to see Robert in such a state. Angry enough to give up her pacifistic tendencies and take whatever did this on single-handed.
The Healers were pacifists, and remained so whenever they could. But they could fight, although they hated it. They much preferred to let the WarMages fight, seeing them as darker and more aggressive counterparts to themselves. Like the Healers, they healed, but were better prepared to kill.
As one Healer had noted: "If you think of death and pain as a disease, the Healers are a cure. The WarMages are a preventative."
So the Healers and WarMages had a surprisingly close partnership. It was said that if you ever found a Healer, you would certainly find a WarMage close by, and vice versa. And it was true.
But Rydia was worried. After Aurora had returned Robert to them, there was great relief that he had not turned Rogue, but great worry that he may die.
At least he would not die. But it would take weeks, maybe months of physical and psychological therapy before he recovered. But after she recovered herself, Aurora had run off, returning to Rogles's world, vowing to destroy the evil that had laid her Apprentice so low.
Thus it was a joyous announcement as Aurora had returned with her report.
Robert had an enemy, one that would hunt him with a vengeance. A demonic creature to be specific, which he sealed off during his Ordeal, his becoming as a WarMage, and before his apprenticeship. The creature, known as Devanel, who had caused trouble for the Islanders before, the demon a Rogue WarMage that Robert was meant to replace and hunt down had summoned as a way to gain power...But Devanel had escaped the bonds Robert had created for it and promptly sent Rogles flying into another world as soon as he arrived in his world... It then made it's presence known to Robert and had captured him in his attempt to seal away the demon again.
As far as Rydia knew also, Rogles had vanished... no one has heard for him since his "eviction"...
The Rogue was long dead, slain by Robert, but the demon was not. The demon was sealed away again, by Aurora.
This is what she managed to tell before collapsing in her mother's arms and brought to the healing quarters for treatment.
Now, Aurora had awakened and laid her head in her hands, tormenting herself, blaming herself for what had transpired. Why did I do this to him... Force him to suffer so to become a WarMage... only to suffer greater torments.. . She cried as she sat there, falling into grief and despair...
Rosa came to console her, to try to tell her it wasn't her fault, but she barely noticed... each and every Islander in turn came, trying to make her feel better...
She turned them all away. She couldn't shake the nagging voice that told her that if she had not come into his life, he would not have suffered the way he did.
Even the voice she desperately longed to hear, the words that she needed all this time, failed to free her from her tears.
Robert had finally awoke after spending four weeks in a coma. Aurora was there, unsurprisingly, to give the news to the rest of the Island. Yet everyone kept their distance, letting her speak with him.
"You didn't have to do this Aurora..."
He coughed weakly... He's so weak... Rosa will have to take him through such a long therapy..... and a painful one... WHY DID I DO THIS TO HIM?!?!?" she thought to herself, searching for the right words to say.
"I... I had to... you were my Apprentice. It... it... w-w-...was my d-duty..."
Duty? DUTY?!?!?! Was it my duty to take another living creature and send him through unspeakable things? WAS IT MY DUTY TO MAKE HIM SUFFER LIKE THIS???
"You know Aurora... Can I say something?"
"Of course... but save your strength... don't talk to much."
He nodded, continuing... "At first I hated you for what you did to me... Yes it was for a good cause... but God... You put me through sheer hell!" He chuckled softly... "Even Marines don't go through that at the worst... I had thought you were some sadistic bitch out to hurt me... I was angry at everyone else, for letting you do it."
Aurora nodded sadly, "I know... it's a common thing among us, to hate our Mentors for how we train. But it was necessity... Too common I'm afraid."
"I see that..." He sighs, closing his eyes. "I don't hate you anymore..... I get the feeling that you may not believe me, but I don't. It was not pleasant, and I did not expect it to be... but when I was in the manor... I realized it was to prepare me for the worst... that there are so much worse out there."
That got a sad nod from her.
"That's why we fight... that's why we suffer... no one else must suffer like I did. Nobody... and I will die before allowing anyone..."
He sighed, gazing into her eyes...
"I forgive you Aurora..."
He drifted back off to sleep, a dreamless sleep... It would take him months before he could recover enough to fight again, and almost a year before he could return to his full potential, but with every step he made, everyone rejoiced...
Finally, he stood tall, in front of Rydia. Aurora was proud of her Apprentice: He had turned out to be everything her mother had hoped, even though her heart remained torn by the sufferings of this young man...
"Robert, after all this time, I had never imagined that you would achieve the honor I bestow upon you. But you have shown yourself to be the apex of what a WarMage can be, and continue to rise even above that."
Rydia smiled radiantly, as proud of her warrior as her daughter was, but she felt none of the pain her daughter felt...
"I am proud to have known you and called you friend. I am honored that you have joined the ranks of the WarMages in my service..."
Robert smiled calmly, wondering where this would lead...
"And finally I am proud to bestow this title upon you... Kneel, WarMage Robert..."
He did so, bowing his head in acceptance of whatever Rydia would bestow..... an attendant held out a cloak, one that hid the body... it was colored in bands of black and white...
"This is the cloak the King wore... Black for the darkness within, that teaches you cunning and ruthlessness in battle, the love of War. White for the Light within, that holds the Darkness at bay and teaches a love of Peace, and to heal and hold compassion."
He accepted the cloak, looking up at Rydia as she finished...
"I am proud to give you the title I am to bestow, a title owned only by my love, the King himself... Arise Robert, Master WarMage."
He smiled radiantly as he stood, looking to Rydia and closing his eyes...
"And I am proud to receive the title bestowed, my Queen, and I will execute it's responsibilities and your will to the best of my ability..."
Rydia smiled, expecting him to be finished, but he was not...
"And Rydia, I am honored to serve under you, and will serve the wishes you see fit."
Rydia is surprised by that, but chuckled, going into a more flirtatious mood.
"And what wishes would they be?"
"Well, I will meet you in your bed chambers soon and discover that."
That little comment brought the entire Palace to it's knees in laughter, with a few catcalls of "Go Robert!" and "Rydia's gonna get some!"
"Well as tempting as your offer may be, I still await my King's arrival... so I must decline."
A collective "Awwwwww!" is heard in the main hall.
"Oh damn it all," was his own comment, before falling to his own laughter.
After a few moments, everyone had recovered enough to congratulate Robert on his achievement... however, this was stopped as Rydia raised her hand.
"There is one more to honor this day...," She smiled to Aurora, thinking to herself, My god she has grown... "Aurora, stand in front of me..."
The speech was repeated to Aurora, with her acceptance of her new title, Mistress WarMage.....
"My daughter... my darling daughter... you have taken the course you have chosen in hopes of following your father, the King's footsteps... I can only be filled with pride when I say you have done so, after all these years....."
"Thank you, my Queen... my Mother... And I am proud to receive the title bestowed, my Queen, and I will execute it's responsibilities and your will to the best of my ability..."
Rydia then smiled as the Princess stood, "Aurora?"
"Don't you dare try to flirt with me..."
"I won't mother, trust me. That would just seem wrong. Besides, I think Robert is enough of a flirt for both of us..."
The laughter started again, as the celebration of the promotion of the two WarMages began...
As the laughter faded, she seemed to hear four words, whispered by Robert... almost into her ear: "I forgive you Aurora..."
She awoke in the middle of the night, listening to a song played on a flute, outside her window. She walked to the window in her nightgown, looking out...
Apparently Robert couldn't sleep. He was playing a flute with skill, a skill taught to him by the Bard, Edward... The notes faded as he began to sing, the music still playing, ethereal now...
"Have... you ever wondered...
She said only one thing before drifting off into her first restful slumber in a long time...
"Thank you Robert... thank you for forgiving... me..."
A young woman laid in her bed, muttering under her breath. She was tired, and didn't want to get out of bed.
It had been a habit she picked up from her husband. Her husband loved to sleep late, and she had gotten into it. But right now, it was early, and she didn't get any sleep since she heard her daughter screaming from some nightmare.
Her normally shimmering sea-green hair was dull and lifeless when she got up, reflecting how she felt. Rydia was not happy, and would probably show it, if it wasn't for the fact that she felt like a zombie.
So she walked, zombie-like, to shower, dress, and go have breakfast with at least twenty other sleep-deprived people.
It was dawn out, and he knew it. He was tired, but hungry, so getting out of bed was his only option.
Well it would be, if he wasn't whimpering in pleasure. Apparently some woman, who wanted to remain anonymous, was feeling frisky, and made him the victim of her advances. So as his mysterious assailant licked his neck, lips, and behind his ears enthusiastically, he pretended to be asleep until the time where he would grab her and kiss her for her troubles.
Robert was tired, and half-awake, so in the state of half-awareness he was in, he really never actually noticed a problem until he did so. He reached up and brought the woman's lips to his, as his arms wrapped around her fur.
He opened his eyes to see his lips attached to those of a dog. A German Shepherd puppy to be exact.
"WHAT THE FUCK?!?!?! GET OFF OF ME, DAMN DOG!!!!"
He threw the dog off of his bed and scowled, contemplating tearing it's head off. But then it's owner would cry to Rydia, and he's never hear the end of it for killing a poor, defenseless puppy... or that episode of near-bestiality.
Better to stay quiet. God I hate dogs... he sighed inwardly as he got up, wiping the doggie-drool from his face.
Speaking of the owner of said dog, there was a young man, about 15 or so... maybe 16, with light brown hair, about neck-length, sitting in front of the television in his room and playing his PlayStation.
"Palom, you have all of five seconds to take your goddamn dog and your sorry ass out of my room before I rip both said ass and dog into several pieces."
No response. Palom was busy playing his game..... he didn't bother looking at the game, listening from the music to realize that it was one of his favorites. He reached out lazily and grabbed a handful of Palom's hair, getting a yelp for his troubles and then a struggle and a thrown punch when he yanked him up to a standing position.
"WHAT THE HELL! WHY DID YOU DO THAT? I was going to save it!"
"You. Have. Two. Seconds. Before. I. Kill. Your. Dog. And. Beat. Your. Ass."
"Alright, Alright. I'll go.", Robert let him go as Palom bent down to shut the machine off. "I see the air-raid siren kept you up last night too."
"I slept well actually... " Robert looked confused for a moment. "Air-raid siren? I didn't know Rydia and Cid had one installed."
"Neither did they."
"Aurora had another nightmare?"
"Ask Rydia." Palom then turned and left, his dog following him, grumbling, "Bitch... treating a Lord like that, I should kick your sorry f*cking ass..."
Robert silently counted down. 5...4...3...2...1...Now.
On "Now", there was a WHAP as Palom got whacked on the head. Probably by his twin sister. That theory was confirmed when he heard a female voice, sounding incredibly exasperated. "PALOM! How many times have I told you not to SAY things like that!"
"Jeez sis! Are you stalking me or something?"
"I'm going to have to if you don't clean out your mouth!"
Robert had to laugh. Palom was rude, aggravating, and obnoxious. Porom was nice, polite, and obnoxious. At least they had one thing in common.
But there were things to do. After shutting off the television, he went to shower, taking some time to wash his face thoroughly, probably scrubbing a layer of his skin off. He then spent extra time brushing his teeth before getting dressed. He wanted to make sure NO ONE knew that he almost got seduced by Lassie.
Aurora walked down the stairs to the Grand Hall, where breakfast would be served about now. But there was something wrong.
Everyone was down there, but the place seemed devoid of life. Her mother, her friends, hell... everyone save Cecil and Rosa (Who sat there looking embarrassed) sat there staring down at their food, eating mechanically. Robert was coming down behind her, and as the two looked around at the depressing scene.
Robert was the first to speak up. "What's going on here? You all look like you're ready to die."
Kain looked up at him, looking sleep-deprived and annoyed... and a bit jealous. "We might as well. YOU two look like you slept well. What were YOU doing?"
"Sleeping. Hey, I wanted to ask a question."
"Before I kicked him out of my room. Palom said something about an air-raid siren going off. What's going on?"
Edge was too tired, apparently, to make a crack about why Palom was in his room. For that Robert was grateful. But at the mention of "siren", Cecil shrank into his seat and Rosa just groaned and fell face-first into her food.
"Oh nothing much. We were just debating on why it's a good idea to wire Rosa's mouth shut at night." Robert and Aurora looked at each other, confused, then looked to Cecil, Rosa, and everyone else before comprehending and speaking at the same time.
"That was a BIT more than I wanted to hear."
"It was a bit more than we wanted to hear too."
Rosa sighed, her voice muffled by her scrambled eggs. "You're just jealous."
The shouts were in unison, nearly throwing Robert on his ass. "DAMN RIGHT WE ARE!"
Robert and Aurora just looked at each other and shrugged, and went to their seats for breakfast.
Between Aurora's nightmares and Rosa and Cecil's more... vigorous... nighttime activities, it's a wonder how we got any sleep, Kain thought to himself as he walked out of the Palace interior, towel in hand and clad in only a pair of shorts, making his way to the pool.
It was nice out, the island being parked over somewhere in the Pacific, somewhere near Hawaii. It fact, it was so nice, it necessitated skimpy clothing and/or a visit to the pool. It was about noon now, a few hours after the rather embarrassing breakfast. Most everyone decided to go back to bed, but there were a few who thought the pool would be more refreshing.
He looked over the sparse occupants of the pool area. Aurora was there, along with Cecil. He would have thought that Rosa would be there, but after questioning Cecil, he found out that Rosa herself was actually pretty tired and passed out in their room after breakfast. "Is it any wonder why?" Kain chuckled, bringing a laugh from Cecil.
He looked for other occupants and groaned inwardly. There went his chance to ogle lasciviously at ladies in skimpy bathing suits, as he looked over the blond-haired woman who happened to be diving into the pool. It was a long story on how she had become his wife... and after her story was told, no one had protested really when the King had gone to the Deathlands himself to fetch her best friend along with a few other people.
Speaking of Valvalis's best friend, Rubicant sat in one of the pool chairs, making catcalls to her as he watched her dive. Kain wandered over to the ex-Fiend of Fire and smacked him on the top of his head. "Try to remember, she's mine."
Rubicant looked up and grinned at Kain, the expression on Kain's face showing only amusement. Kain sat next to him and muttered, in mock annoyance, "I was hoping that she wouldn't come."
"Oh really? Another chance lost at mentally undressing Aurora or any of the other Ladies??"
The two made small talk over beers as they watched everyone in the pool splash around, going into a game on who could keep Cecil pinned underwater the longest. Two more of his friends had shown up, a male and female.
The female promptly jumped into the pool after throwing her towel onto a pool chair and won the game.
Accusations that Cecil let Rosa win were shouted by the two. To that Cecil only replied, "It was that or the couch for me." Edge had started shouting that Rosa should let him sleep on the couch anyway for letting two fine ladies wrestle with him in the first place. Rosa had agreed, to Cecil's despair, then turned and told him to make room on the couch for her.
It was your normal day on the Island, everyone just trying to have fun before serious matters would come up.
Valvalis mused to herself as she pulled herself out of the pool, to steal Kain's beer and sit between her husband and friend. She had seen many courts before, and a lot of them were nests of political intrigue. Rydia's "court" was much different.
First it wasn't political. Rydia was known as the Queen merely because she was the most powerful of them all, the equal to the King, and only "subordinate", if you call it that, to the mysterious being known as Phoenix, who had brought the King to their world from this one, to start the entire thing. Besides, they respected her and she led well.
"Office politics" were out too. You really had no time to screw someone over for favor when you had to look to your potential "screw-ee" to save your life, sooner or later. A lot of the early times in their new lives was spent dealing with threats to life on some world as they knew it, building a rare camaderie in such groups.
Her mind had wandered to the first "Ordeal" as those tests were called. An Ordeal was the testing of a potential recruit's worth, through combat, skill, and wit. Often it involved Rydia acting like she was some mysterious Queen out to take over the world, or destroy it. A couple Islanders put somewhere convenient to help guide them along their Ordeal, their true identities hidden at first, and the fake "kidnapping" or "disappearance" of someone close to the recruit or important to that world (who were often slated for recruitment themselves) made the Ordeal seem real.
The entire idea was to come up with a threat that the "hero" or "heroine" had to fight genuinely. It was Cecil's idea really, because then they could observe how they fought when "real" trouble came up. Too many recruits were lost when they went with their original policy of approaching the recruit and making an offer. Some times they would fight as hard as they could, almost suicidally, more to impress than anything... and then proved almost worthless when threats popped up for real.
It worked pretty well, although the King swore afterwards that Cecil should lay off his video games. So the offer and truth were really never given until very late in the Ordeal, where whoever was conducting it would give them an option to continue on and become an Islander if they survived, or leave as is with what they learned and never have Rydia bother them again.
Some didn't, some did. But it was always noted that they made damn good actors/actresses.
Her mind went back on track to what she remembered of that first Ordeal. The King had approached her and Rydia with an offer: He was interested in testing Cecil and his friends worth in a test of sorts. He would test them, and a few others, to join so they could play their parts. They had agreed and proved well in their test.
The "others" had proved to be a surprising lot. Mostly because of the fact that they should have been dead in the first place. With Phoenix's help, he had retrieved Rubicant along with a sage and a young red-haired woman. She had seen Tellah die herself, having been only in the next room, and as far as she knew, Anna should have be dead too.
No one really argued though. The King had then given them alternate forms, making it look like he kidnapped Rydia and Valvalis, driving Rydia insane (so everyone thought at first) before she acted quite sane to serve the King against her "former" friends. All of them were given an alternate form, made to show that he had turned them all into monsters in a bid to take the world for himself.
The Ordeal went as planned, except for one hitch.
Zeromus was that hitch. Somehow he managed to return. Somehow he managed to subdue the soul and mind of the King, possessing his body in an attempt to take his vengeance. It would be the first of many appearances, when they managed to free the King from the mad Lunarian and get the hell out of the alternate and surreal world that the King had set up for himself for a "final battle" of sorts. They sealed Zeromus in the world, blocking his exit.
Until the next time he would appear, after Phoenix had conducted a "crowning" Ordeal for Rydia and the King, setting them up to be the most powerful and lead the group. They were the most powerful for a reason: It was up to them to keep Zeromus and any others like him stashed in their prisons.
She was shook from her reverie by Rubicant. Kain had left for the pool, jumping off of the diving board and making graceful dives from about eighty feet above said board.
"What are you thinking about?"
"Oh nothing much. Just this and that."
"Ahh. You looked like you zoned out for a moment. Well, if you haven't noticed, Kain seems to have a hungry eye on Alison."
Rubicant laughed, as she looked over at Kain. Kain was playing around with Rydia's Watcher Lady, a pretty Asian deal who had mastered the art of Summoning well. They were ogling each other and making rather lewd comments about each other's bodies and what they would do to them.
Valvalis laid back, looking up at the sky, "That's nice." She chuckled to herself. Kain could be a pretty bad flirt when he felt like it, but she wasn't worried. Kain had always proved himself loyal to her, treating her well and almost reverently. The two were still madly in love, after all the time they spent together, but it never stopped either of them from joking with friends. You have to, or you'd never survive here, she thought to herself as she got up, draping her towel around her waist and pulling a protesting Kain from the pool. Alison made noise about Valvalis being too jealous. Valvalis then told her to say that with a straight face.
Anyway, she had an appointment to keep with Kain. Recently she was feeling ill and they wanted to see Rosa to see if anything was up. Rosa had already left, leaving Cecil alone, probably remembering she needed to be in the healing quarters for the appointment.
Valvalis was hoping she was sick for a good reason.
Alison made her way through the castle, a certain destination in her mind: the Gardens. It would be a nice, peaceful place, perfect for her daily Communion.
All Summoners, to keep their powers, had to spend a half-hour in Communion each day, contemplating the world, the lives within, whether they were animal, plant, or monstrous. Some of that time was spent communicating with friendly creatures that inevitably came in an Dr. Doolittle-esque manner. It was a mixture of meditation and communicating with the world around you.
Most Summoners enjoyed the peace, and occasionally rather simple (or complex, if one of the more intelligent Espers or creatures decided to make a visit) conversation. It wasn't some chore to be done, but a way to get away from normal life and be at peace within nature. It seemed almost Druidic to her. It wasn't rare for her to spend an hour or more in Communion. It was peaceful, and she enjoyed that.
She passed by the healing quarters, where she could hear shouts of "I'm WHAT?!?!?" and "She's WHAT?!?!?!" and then crying and laughing as Rosa repeated her announcement to the happily crying woman.
A lot of happiness for them, and a bit for me, soon. Alison thought to herself as she went to the next door, which opened to the Gardens...
She had been having troubled thoughts lately, and this is what the Caller ordered.
Rydia had just left from her Communion herself, having had a lengthy conversation with her adopted father, Leviathan, about various subjects, mainly about what it would be like to live in the sea. She stood up from the rock she was sitting on, looking up at the sun, searching for the Island.
She was unobserved, and so was Leviathan, fortunately, on the rock just off a deserted beach on an island... Oahu, wasn't it? No matter.
She decided on a change of clothes and whispered a few words to herself. Her normally greenish tunic, with long open sleeves and thigh-high boots slowly faded away, as a bright Day-Glo pink bathing suit faded onto her with a pair of sandals. The pouch, normally carried by her and her friends became a purse, hanging off her shoulder. With that, she dove into the water, paddling toward land.
Once she got onto the beach, she decided to do a little shopping. She was hungry, and a snack would tide her over until the three hours before supper. With that she walked onto a path, making her way to the nearest town, about an ten-minute walk.
Before she stepped into view of others, she realized a small problem: Women didn't normally walk around with sea-green hair. Ten more arcane words, recited in her mind, changed that into a rather light brunette. She didn't plan on standing out for any reason as she started to search around for a market, not much more noticeable than any tourist on the boardwalk.
Thirty minutes and ten dollars later, she had found herself back at the beach enjoying the ham and cheese sandwiches she laid out for herself, watching the waves crash against the shore as the sun set over the ocean.
Wow..... the way the sun paints the water... She smiled to herself, it never really ceased to amaze her how beautiful sunsets could be... none of all the years she had lived ever diluted this joy.
She started to reflect on her life, thinking about all that happened. Quite a few years at that, the spell she worked out with her love still quite effective. She was immortal still, providing no one had any ideas about fixing that in some violent form or another. As ageless at the stars, She mused to herself, And will forever be.
She heard footsteps on the sand as she finished eating, looking up. It was dark now, and her eyes weren't really as good in the dark as others were. So she relied on her ears to find whatever was approaching.
Hmmmmm..... What's going on here. "Who are you?" she called out, waiting for the answer.
She stood up, hearing none, and was about to turn around when someone grabbed her by the waist. Before she could cry out, she felt the cold steel of a knife held against her throat.
"You think about moving, bitch, and yer a dead bitch," growled a voice by her ear. She could feel heavy breathing on her cheek, followed by a stench of alcohol. She tried to move her head to see her assailant, and felt the blade dig into her neck, a small droplet of blood falling onto her bikini.
Not wishing to try to aggravate the attacker... yet anyway, she stopped moving. "What are you going to do?" she said, trying her best to act fearful, trying to keep the sneer from her lips. She didn't need this. Just let him be confident... let him think he has the power...
With that, she was thrown roughly to the ground, turning on her back so she could see the man.
He looked young, with a cruel sneer on his face, one that said he was in power here, and she was nothing. Nothing indeed. Let's find out how "nothing" I am... Rydia thought, acting scared, but annoyed at this sort of treatment. This wasn't the way you treated a Queen. Not that he knew that she was anyway, but this wasn't a way to treat Rydia, period.
He lunged down, pressing the blade against her neck again. "You're mine, you got that... OOOOFFFF!!!"
Outside of her friends, no one really knew about the fact that her left arm, while seemingly real, looking real, feeling real (Maybe tasting real too, Edge had said to Rydia after she got it, and unsurprisingly, offered to check... and promptly got his shoulder broken by what SHOULD have been a playful tap), it was only an elaborate and well- fitting elbow-length glove. What the glove hid was the brainchild of Cid and Rosa, after she had lost her arm in battle... and found the wound cursed not to heal by any means.
So while she waited for the curse to end, so Rosa could apply her magics to regain her arm, Cid had designed, with Rosa's help, a prosthesis for her, and the skin-like glove she used to hide it.
The advantage was that her arm had an easy strength to it. A mild grip could crush a pipe... a lesson she learned when she tried to eat with her left hand and found the fork compacted into an unrecognizable lump. It wasn't easy trying to control that strength, but she learned how to eventually... Especially after Kain nearly went off on her when she shook his hand and crushed every bone in it. She also found that she could modify it, with some devices that Cid had created, to make it more useful in certain situations.
Right now the situation was someone was attacking her, with intent to rob or rape (probably rape, Rydia assumed) and had decided to punch him in the gut as he leapt upon her, for all the troubles he went to.
Because of that left arm, getting hit by Rydia's left is only slightly better than being hit by a sledgehammer... A 65 pound sledgehammer.
The punch literally sent him flying off from on top of her, stunning him long enough for her to get to her feet. She looked over her assailant coolly, as he got shakily to his feet, looking about to retch.
"Care to try for two, sugar?" she cooed, smirking. As a response, her attacker must have decided to go another round, because he began to approach her, knife in hand. "You're a fucking dead bitch now, cunt." He followed his words with a clumsy lunge, meant to bury the blade into her midsection.
Really now, he knows nothing about knife-fighting, she sighed to herself, sidestepping easily away. She learned how to knife-fight over time, when spells failed to stop an onrushing opponent, and they were too close for her whip. Like all of her warriors, she kept a knife hidden somewhere on her person, the blade itself tailored for her fighting style. But she really didn't need it now. She knew she had a moment to act before he recovered from his lunge, so she made the best of it and drew back her left fist again.
The result was a rather comical effect of the imprint of her fist on his forehead as the force of the blow sent the man flying backward, collapsing in a heap about eight feet away. She walked over to him and looked at him calmly, kicking at the body gently to make sure of his state. She sighed softly, starting to get depressed over another dead body laid at her feet.
She shook herself out of it, to look around for witnesses. Fortunately, there were none, so she didn't have to explain how she managed to cave in his skull with a punch. She now only had to find a way to explain WHY his skull got caved in. She began to drag the body over to a nearby set of rocks and laid the body face down, fitting the dent in his skull with a rock and making sure a rock was under his midsection, to explain any internal injuries with her first hit. The alcohol would explain why he tripped and fell, striking his head on something and getting rock shoved into his gut, she thought to herself. It wasn't the first time she's ever killed anything, but it wasn't any easier than the first time. She hoped it would be a good enough explanation... it would certainly throw the police off track. Disbelief would work with her as well, no one, she was sure, could leave an inch deep dent of four fingers in bone.
She decided the best thing to do now would be to vanish and make sure no one found her with a dead body and a bloody fist. She locked her mind on a memory, the memory of her Great Hall, and mumbled for about ten seconds before becoming a ball of greenish-blue light, shooting off toward her Great Hall.
"Yippee-kai-yay mutha fuckas!"
Edge was at the computer in his room, wasting some time before dinner after his training session.
He rather enjoyed wasting his time playing Quake II over the Palace's computer network.
And right now he was shouting because he just fragged Kain with a barrage of rockets. He enjoyed this game, otherwise he really had no care for the computer. Right now, he led in sheer kills. Led rather obscenely, in fact, so obscenely that the others: Kain, Robert, Alison, and Palom decided to give up.
He got up from the computer, shutting it down and heading out for a stroll, wondering what to do now. He then checked the clock and grinned slightly. Nothing beats a steak after a good hour of frags, he thought to himself as he headed down to the Great Hall for dinner. He went to the Kitchen, right next to the Hall, to give his dinner order (T-bone steak, medium rare), and headed toward his place at the table to wait for everyone. One by one, each of his friends came, going to the kitchen for their respective desires and then waiting at the table for their meal. Kain and Valvalis were among the first, beaming for some reason.
"Why are you so happy Kain? I just wasted you in Quake."
Normally that little event would depress Kain. He was really quite good at it, about as good as Edge, but luck really wasn't on his side during that little match.
"Probably because he and Valvalis have an announcement to make over dinner." Rosa, this time, taking her seat three chairs down to the left of Edge. Kain and Valvalis sat across from her, side by side.
"Oh really? What's the news?"
Valvalis only gave him the strangest smile, "You'll have to wait until everyone else gets here."
Edge waited for as long as he could. Being himself, that was all of about ten seconds, and he continued to try to wheedle the secret from the three until everyone arrived.
Everyone made small talk, about anything and everything while they waited for their dinners. Once dinner was served, Kain stood and motioned for silence.
"Everyone, Valvalis would like to tell you all something."
Valvalis muttered something about Kain not being able to tell himself, then smiled and stood, looking around at everyone. "Well, I talked to Rosa a little few hours ago and I found out I'm... well..."
"Out with it woman!" Edge barked, with a laugh.
"Don't rush me! I'm... well... I'm going to have a child."
Rydia blinked. Not that the announcement hurt her, she was quite happy. It was hard not to feel jealous, however. She loved children, and she wanted more. She wouldn't dare have any other children but the King's however. "Wonderful!" Rydia stood and smiled, as everyone started to smile and cheer. "Then I would like to propose a toast!" She raised her glass. "A toast to Valvalis and Kain, and the little bundle of joy they will be bringing to us soon! I pray your child grows up healthy and strong!"
"A toast!" everyone agreed.
Edge than stood, as if he would make a toast of his own. As everyone looked at him expectantly, he only said one thing:
"So Valvalis, who's the father?"
Everyone groaned, and Edge had to dive for cover, lest he be pelted with fruit and bread from everyone. Once they were done, he got back up and joined the rest for dinner.
Rosa sat out on the balcony of her and Cecil's chambers, humming to herself. She liked being out here at night, right before she and Cecil retired for the night, just watching the stars and being an audience to the event happening on the balconies of the other rooms.
Edward enjoyed singing before he went to bed, and would often put on a strange sort of concert, joined by Anna, Robert, and a few others. They made an ethereal choir each night, singing in coordination some song they came up with. Tonight, it was a song Robert composed, a rather beautiful love melody, played on Robert's preferred instrument, an electronic keyboard. Edward played a lute, while Rubicant played his guitar. Almost everyone was out to listen, it was like a ritual that helped everyone sleep at night.
Provided they have no interruptions, Rosa thought to herself, quickly blushing at the scene that was played out that morning at the breakfast table. She reminded herself to be quieter next time, but what could she say? She enjoyed that night rather immensely. It was enough to make the normally quiet, reserved and dignified Healer to make sure everyone knew, rather unintentionally, how good Cecil was to her.
In any case, the group that played had begun to end their song, signaling everyone to rest. Soon, only Rosa remained, lost in her thoughts, stargazing until a hand shook her shoulder.
"Love, shall we head to bed?" It was Cecil, of course, and she closed her eyes in a little whimper as he kissed her cheek, right above her jaw, then turned her head with a finger to follow upon her lips.
"Remember? You have to sleep on the couch tonight?" Rosa said, with a chuckle as she opened her eyes, after their lips parted.
"But you promised to be on the couch with me, m'love. Why even bother?"
"Good point," She smiled gently as she gazed over her husband's face. He was quite a handsome man. The beauty of his face, outmatched by the beauty of his heart... She kept smiling as she stood, accepting Cecil's hand and using it to get up. They started to head back in and close the balcony doors when they heard a collective shout.
"KEEP IT QUIET THIS TIME!"
They both started laughing, making rather uncharacteristic gestures with the middle fingers of their free hands, and kept laughing after they shut the doors and readied themselves for bed.
It's a wonderful world out there, with wonderful people, and I cannot wait to see what the next day brings...
Rosa mused to herself, with a chuckle, as she laid under the bedspread and surrendered to her love's embrace.
He walked through the corridors of the Palace, alone, in the middle of the night, heading to his quarters from the kitchen. It was the night after Valvalis's announcement, and he reminded himself that he would have to get the soon-to-be mother a nice gift for her baby...
That or birth control pills, thinking about the aggravations of parenthood... from what he heard. Nah... Edge or Elliot would probably give them that, he thought with a silent chuckle. That would be natural, an off- handed joke gift before the real gift-giving.
It was one in the morning, so he kept as quiet as possible, wanting to avoid the scene played out the earlier morning. He was hungry, and wanted a snack. He didn't want its price to be stares at the breakfast table that, if estimated extremely conservatively, would kill him some forty times over.
Robert had always been a night person, enjoying the darkness and the privacy afforded by it. It saved him from having to kill his siblings (unless they woke him up by being too noisy), as he was always up when they were not.
Before, he would be up all night and sleep the morning away, until about afternoon. Now, he just had a long nap until he awoke for breakfast, plus catnaps here and there. He got his eight hours somehow, after all.
His nights were usually spent with a snack, and a stint on his video game consoles or computer. Perhaps he chose to sing sometimes, to help him sleep, and help anyone else who shared the same habits as he for some odd reason. Today's snack was a half of a pizza pie, smothered in cheese, sausage, pepperoni, and mushrooms. It would have been a whole pie, but he had noticed that he had started to eat less and less frequently. He didn't know why, but it kept weight off of him, he figured. He probably wouldn't even finish the half, ending up saving the rest for tomorrow night, after a session with the nuker.
He entered his chambers, and fifteen minutes later, after letting three of the pizza slices fill him up quite nicely, he decided to go out on the balcony for a little music. Picking up his flute and heading toward his perch on the balcony railing, placing the flute to his lips and playing random notes before a melody came to him that he liked. After a few minutes with experimenting with the song, he started to improvise and let his magic do it's work.
He loved this magic as much as he loved music. After he chose a song, he would let it go and play the song in his mind, the notes becoming ethereal, playing the song for everyone while leaving him to sing, talk or fight. Since there was nobody to talk to, or fight with, he opted for the first idea, beginning to sing.
As his song and voice started wandering, improvising and letting the song take him where it wanted, he let his mind wander. If anyone had told him he would be doing something like that some years back, he would have looked at them like they were insane. A Watcher Lady named Alison changed that however... It was such a long time since he had been that frightened, reluctant warrior during his Ordeal...
"I've wondered where you've been...
A young Asian woman, new to his school had approached him, in need of help getting around. He helped her, and they became friends rather quickly. Eventually they became very close, with Robert starting to harbor feelings for this beautiful young lady, whom everyone seemed to desire.
"I don't know...
So, naturally, it was quite distressing when she suddenly vanished. Her "parents", who happened to be Anna and Edge in disguise (to which Edward had commented "That just seemed WRONG!") made a large show of being worried and searching endlessly for the woman they knew was safely stashed somewhere, hiding.
"I really wish you'd...
It came as a huge surprise to Robert then, when two weeks later, Alison had called him saying she was in extreme danger, and she felt he'd help her best. Apparently there was a sorceress named Rydia who had decided that Alison's life essence would be perfect for a spell she wanted to cast, to lend power to the spell for some insidious purpose. Alison had escaped and needed his help.
"I know why you fear!
He would have laughed and told her to get her ass home and sell her Nintendo, but for one thing: She was calling him via an orb that materialized on his nightstand to allow Alison a two-way, live connection with visual (The thing had a holographic camera and emitter) to him before disappearing. So Robert had set out to rescue his friend and deal with the foul sorceress.
"I wish you weren't so scared!
After several months of desperate fighting, he realized what Rydia really wanted: She wanted HIM. Specifically, she needed him to replace a WarMage that had gone Rogue. He did well, so Rydia made the offer, which he accepted. If he succeeded, he would be trained and learn power. If not, he was dead.
"Now you see...
But, of course, these things really never have a way of ending tidily. The Rogue WarMage lusted after power, and decided the best way to get is was to summon a powerful demonic entity known as Devanel, and offer Alison as a sacrifice: Her soul was to be consumed for nourishment, and her body would become Devanel's.
"I've entertained this wish...
Fortunately, that's not what had happened. Robert set out to rescue Alison, truly this time, and had little trouble entering the Rogue's lair. He managed to slay him, in a fierce battle, before he completed the summoning and freed Alison's soul to be devoured... Alison was safe, her soul was intact.
"Now you know...
Unfortunately, it still did not end there. Even in it's weakened state, Devanel managed to subdue Alison's soul and take possession of her body. It had sculpted it into a derivative of it's true form, and engaged Robert in one of the most horrifying battles he had ever known, a showdown with Alison and Robert's souls at risk.
"Will you come to me...
But he did have one advantage. One of the tomes the Rogue stole from Rydia had a spell that the King had learned, a truly devastating spell: Soul Crystal. It would extract the soul from a living creature and encase it within a magical, nearly indestructible crystal. The body would be almost lifeless, without a soul to inhabit it, just a shell.
"You need not fear anymore!
Robert had managed to weaken Devanel enough so he could use the spell on him, extracting one of the souls from the body and forcing it to its original form, that of Alison. Holding the softly glowing bluish crystal in one hand, he realized that he had a fifty-fifty chance of being correct, that either the demon was in the Crystal or in Alison's body. Going by instinct, he kept the Crystal and threw Alison's body into a portal leading to the Devanel's prison.
"Now you know what I want!
Fortunately, he was correct, literally holding Alison's spirit in his hands as he brought her back to Rydia. It was rather good that Cid, Rosa, and Tellah had discovered a way to magically and technologically clone a person and age them to a certain point. So Rosa kept updated samples of each Islander's DNA on hand for such a contingency. So the Crystal was shattered and the shards infused into the new body, melting into it and implanting Alison's memories, power and personality... indeed, everything that she kept in her soul.
She was naturally quite grateful for that.
Alison and Robert soon after became lovers, becoming the talk of the Palace, and remaining so for a while before they made the shocking announcement that they were splitting up. It was on a good note, true, and they remained close, but it was a shock. But the more depressing thing to Robert right now was that he was desperately missing the little things that love brought.
"I will never ever...
It must have been four or five years ago, we split up... God I miss that. WarMage or not, Robert was an incurable romantic to the core... a romantic who had no one to romance for what seemed like an eternity to him. WarMages may have seemed not to feel emotion to those who witnessed them in battle, but they felt it as much and as painfully as any other. For Robert, the pangs of love he desired so much felt all the worse, eating away at him. Oh what I would give to have a kiss so sweet as to melt my heart as sugar in the rain... and to gaze into her starlit eyes...
Never mind that he had no idea who "she" was, or even who "she" would be. He wanted to love and be loved in return, a desire as ancient as life itself. But... in his mundane life, none of the women he ever met seemed interested, preferring to stay "friends" as he wept bitterly in the back of his mind... or worse, sent off to a friend of theirs who "might" be interested... but wasn't. No one on the Island seemed interested either... that, or they were taken or pursuing love interests of their own.
He decided to cut that chain of thought before it depressed him too much. He got depressed too easily... and he really had no wish to break down in tears at the first word anyone said. Besides, Rosa would notice, her empathic abilities picking up on his sorrow and self-pity like a beacon, and certainly she would want to talk to him. He really didn't feel a wish to talk to her right now... perhaps once he got suicidal... again.
Thinking of the song and the rather strong depression he had been in a few minutes ago, he wondered to himself, Oh man... I'm gonna hear from Rosa anyway... if she hadn't noticed by now, she's either dead or busy with Cecil. Straining his ears to listen, he sighed in relief as what was emanating softly from her chambers seemed to be alluding to the latter.
Saves me a psychoanalysis session today, I suppose, He chuckled, the promptly yelped and nearly fell off the railing when someone spoke behind him.
"Wonderful song, as usual... Bravo!"
Well, "nearly" wasn't the word to use. So after leaving a WarMage-shaped imprint on the walkway three stories below his balcony, two strong healing potions, and five minutes of rather colorful cursing JUST quiet enough not to wake everyone up, he trudged back to his room to extract about a minute's worth of apologies from Aurora as he returned to his seat.
"So what brings you here that's so important enough to make me leave a dent in six-inch concrete, Aurora?"
She blushed at that, smiling gently. Robert had noticed a change in her of late, since a couple of days ago. She seemed brighter, more energetic... happier?
"I told you I was sorry. I couldn't sleep."
"Not another nightmare?" He sighed, remembering the episode a two nights ago when he heard Aurora screaming bloody murder, awakening everyone in the Palace. He had gotten up and rushed to his room, nearly breaking down her door with the BlueSteel-turned-huge war hammer, and almost rushed in to demolish whatever was hurting her, and probably half the room in the process. He was stopped only by Rydia, who held him back by the shoulder and told him to wait outside.
He rubbed his shoulder, wincing. Rydia had been half-awake, and hadn't controlled her prosthesis too well, causing HIM to scream bloody murder in pain and surprise as she nearly crushed his shoulder, pulling him back and telling him sternly to wait outside and calm his ass down. She would deal with it. Later she came out and told everyone to go to bed, leaving Rosa with Aurora.
Robert was worried enough to sneak out and eavesdrop on them, getting the gist of it through the door. She had another nightmare and it terrified her. He had listened, but didn't get it all. After a bit he was surprised when the door opened, to find Rosa looking at him, seemingly annoyed. He told her why he was there, and after listening to his story she only gave him the weirdest look and told him gently that he should go to bed, that she would be alright.
"No, I've been sleeping pretty well actually. I came hoping you'd play that one song for me... that one about flying, I think? It helped me sleep."
He nodded softly. "Alright... I'm always willing to entertain a request from a lovely lady," He smiled and took her hand in his, kissing the back of it lightly, causing her to blush more fiercely. "I was just wondering, what kind of incentive you would promise me later to make it worth my while."
She laughed, grinning wickedly. "Nothing like that, I'm sure. I will promise not to send you hurtling to the bottom of the Gardens again."
"Oh damn it all." He laughed gently, pulling her into his arms for a tight hug, laying her head on his shoulder and whispering into her ear. "Fair enough. I'll play you your lullaby darling. You go lay that poor body down and get some sleep, ok? And have some sweet dreams for me..."
After a long moment, she disentangled herself from his grasp, looking at him strangely, but smiling gently. "I will, don't worry."
She turned to leave, before Robert spoke again.
"Oh Aurora, I've wanted to ask you... what's going on? You seem happy."
She turned around, smiling still. "Oh not much... I've finally started to believe you."
"Really? What did you think I was lying about?"
"Remember when you told me you forgave me about everything I did to you?"
He looked confused a moment, then nodded in understanding, "But that was years ago... but I wasn't lying...", He pulled her into another tight hug, one he would not let her go of, "I'm hurt. You know I'm a man of my word."
"I know...", she hugged him tightly in return, not letting her go herself, starting to cry softly into his shoulder. "It's not so much that... I never believed you forgave me because I never did so to myself... Just a couple of days ago I started to."
"Oh baby..." Robert sighed inwardly, kissing her cheek. "I understand darling... I really do..." She nodded, her tears staining his shirt... "I've just finally started to heal..."
"I know... I know..." He reluctantly let go of her, wondering a bit about his reluctance... and starting to feel a bit depressed again. "Hon, go to bed. I'll play the song just for you, so your rest will be filled of sweet dreams and happiness..."
She nodded again, her tears clearing up as she smiled up at him, holding him for a moment longer before letting him go with a peck on his lips. "I will Robert... don't worry about me, I'm a big girl now." She turned and left, as Robert started to play his song, soon to sing. As she collapsed in the bed, she smiled softly, letting his words carry her gently into sleep.
Robert had left his perch on the railing, starting to feel pleasantly tired. It was time for him to sleep himself.
He had played the song twice, to make sure it would enter Aurora's dreams and fill then with the happiness he felt she deserved. With that, he had entered his room, stripping and heading to the bathroom, cleaning up and humming to himself softly. He felt strange... a familiar feeling, but he couldn't place it. He kind of liked the way he felt, but decided to sleep instead of elaborating. He headed to the bed, staying in the nude, preferring to sleep that way unless he had company.
And company he had, as he discovered as he laid down to sleep to find someone next to him. Somebody has been sleeping in my bed, he growled to himself as he got up, pulling off the comforter to find a feminine form stretched out on the bed. He stared, surprised. ...And there she is now... continuing the thought, Poor thing... must have been so tired. She looks like an angel like that... A breathtakingly beautiful angel... He grabbed a free pillow from the bed, placing it on the floor at the foot of the bed, staying silent as he dressed and tucked Aurora back in. He then, on impulse, stayed by her side, confused, that strange feeling growing a bit more, and his depression growing in turn.
I really should get to bed, he thought to himself as he turned to his spot at the foot of the bed, but not before surprising himself by kissing Aurora's angelic cheek.
Angel of Mercy, Angel of Death... he chuckled to himself, still confused as he laid down. Those were terms he referred to himself often, along with other WarMages. Indeed, he had two battle forms like that: an Angel of Mercy, strong and suited for healing the wounded in war. Then there was Angel of Death, a battle form designed to be death incarnate, wielding a wicked scythe as the form enhanced his offensive magics.
Fortunately, it was nice enough not to need a blanket, not too warm, and not too cold, but just right. The only thing he hoped was that he wouldn't wake up in pain from sleeping on the carpet, as soft as it was.
With no music but the lullabies played to himself in his head, he fell into a deep, restful sleep.
She opened her eyes to see a startling scene. She was in a place she never recalled visiting... and she wondered why she hadn't. It was breathtakingly beautiful.
She looked down at herself, and was surprised to see herself wearing a flowing dress, a stunning rainbow of colors ranging from white to a deep scarlet. A corsage was pinned on her shoulder as she wore glittering slippers and gloves that any woman would kill to have for just one night...
Looking around, she was surprised to see the Palace. It now looks like... almost from a fairy tale, she thought to herself in wonder, recalling the beautiful castles she had heard about whenever Tellah had been by her bed, telling old fairy stories, and weaving new ones as her imagination took her to those places. Tellah always made it so personal... she smiled to herself, lost in happy memory... in those stories, she was always the one rescued by the dashing prince... she was the blushing bride... she was the heroine.
Taking stock of her surroundings, she was surprised by where she was located. She had thought Rydia would never let the Palace land anywhere, and yet... and yet, gauging from the horizon, she was indeed on terra firma. Beautiful mountains, stately and proud, dotted the west horizon, while to the south, a forest stood, looking almost as if it was enchanted. To the north was the palace itself, and behind that, a plain as far as the eye could see, covered in wondrous patches of flowers, such as the one she stood in. To her east laid a shimmering sea, almost looking as if someone had covered the ground with a shining blue-green scrim and made it ripple in lustrous patterns... the sea inviting one and all to enter and enjoy it's warm embrace... The sun was high in the sky, but low enough to show the time as late afternoon. It seemed to be late spring, judging from the flowers and the warm, gentle wind that swept across the grass. tossing her gown about gently and teasing her hair, hanging down to the middle of her back, shorter because of the hairdo she wore, simple, yet stunningly elegant. She looked up again to see the sun dye the sparse clouds in the sky an array of magical colors... the last thing that completed this paradise were the butterflies of various sorts, all flying on painted gossamer wings.
She stood there, taking in the wonderful scene laid out before her, refusing to move, lest it spoil the illusion she hoped was real. But she was shaken from her reverie by a rythemic sound, soothing her soul as she turned to meet the sound.
"Clop, clop... clop, clop... clop, clop..."
The sound was coming from a horse and rider, approaching from the forest. She stood there, knowing... just somehow knowing... that she was here to wait for the rider, surprised and yet taking comfort in that. She was expectant, but she didn't know why. And she didn't care.
As they came closer, she could start to make out details: The horse was a fantastic creature, seemingly carved from solid, bleached ivory... a white so bright it hurt the eyes, but the longer you looked at it, the more it soothed them. A fine creature for a fine rider, she thought to herself, although she did not know who this mysterious person was. The horse stood tall and proud, almost magical... she would not have been surprised to see a horn projecting from it's forehead, but there were none.
As they closed in on her, she started to recognize details of the rider: he... she was certain the rider was male, looking majestic on the horse, his shirt and trousers pure white, with nary a stain or discoloration on them. Behind him fluttered a beautiful violet cloak, one that would reach down to his ankles, with a hood that hid his features... but she could be very sure, that under the cloak and his mask, the rider would be a very fine specimen of his gender, as a golden sword swayed by his side, obviously ceremonial, and adding to his stature.
Ahh yes, the mask. It was the most mysterious part of him yet. As purely white as the rest of his clothes, it covered all of his face save his eyes, mouth, chin and a bit of skin outward from those features. If it was black, it would be terrifying in battle, but yet, the way he wore it, the way it gleamed in the sun made him seem even more handsome and mystical.
Gloved hands, white and fully covering his hands and fingers held the reins of the horse as they slowed down when they neared her, stopping a few feet away so that the rider could dismount, walking slowly toward her as she gazed into his eyes... The eyes were full of warmth, admiration, and something that made her heart twirl, bringing her close to swooning... love.
"I am so happy that you have waited here for me m'lady..."
She wanted to ask him where she was. She wanted to ask him who he was. But she found herself speaking out of her own will, words that burst from her chest to her mouth... and she didn't care. She didn't care who he was, or where she was. She was only concerned with the mysterious man that brought her into his arms, wrapping them around her waist as she fell into them, curling her own arms around his shoulders.
"I couldn't dream of standing you up, my darling... not when I have waited for this moment every waking moment of my life... and had my fantasies fulfilled every moment I laid in my bed asleep, wishing you had joined me and so agonizingly cold without you..."
No, she was more concerned about being with this man... This man who she cared about so deeply, the man who she wanted so badly to be her dashing prince, to sweep her off of her feet and take her to his castle for endless days and nights of romance and love. The man where she would follow anywhere and give up anything to be with...
The man only smiled warmly and gazed into her eyes, sending pleasant shivers down her spine and soul. "Oh my dear Aurora... please then, allow me to bring every one of the fantasies you have held into your heart to reality..."
He leaned into to kiss her, her heart bursting with joy as their lips finally met as she closed her eyes slowly. She leaned into the kiss, pulling him ever tighter to her, wanting to stay in those strong, comforting arms forever as his hands played upon her back, caressing her with skill and sending shivers through her again as they touched places on her back that filled her with ecstasy.
She moaned inwardly as the kiss swept her away, full of promise, passion and love... the kiss itself seemed to be a promise that the rider would never leave her side, refusing gently to let her spend a night alone again... alone and tearful, wishing for the presence of the man who cared so much, caressing her, whispering to her... loving her endlessly.
She whimpered as he broke the kiss, his arms remaining around her hips... He whispered into her ear, "Care to dance, my love?" she opened her eyes slowly to gaze into his and give her consent when...
The beautiful day had disappeared. The horse and plains had vanished, replaced by an elegant ballroom and blissfully dancing men and women. All of the faces she recognized,... Lords and Ladies, Watchers, some of her old friends. Her mother stood off in a corner alone, yet happy as she gazed at her daughter and her partner, clutched in a passionate embrace as they spun around in a waltz on the floor. The wind was replaced by music, enchanting, yet simple, that threatened to hypnotize her with thoughts of love and joy... The scent of the flowers became a mix of colognes and perfumes, some natural, some not, but all mixing and mingling to form a scent that could only be described as from heaven itself.
She caught sight of her mother, dancing with a man she recognized as the human form of Bahamut. Apparently the true King of the Monsters felt that this was important enough to make a personal appearance... for which Rydia seemed grateful, leaning her head on the taller man's chest (Rydia herself not being of an exactly... imposing... stature, standing only four inches above five feet) and smiling quietly as they parted to head for a corner to speak privately.
Aurora looked up, to see the sun gone. Sunlight was streaming through the windows through the west, the chandelier positioned to make the most use of dusk's waning light, the lights inside of it mixing with the sunlight and crystals to create little fireflies on the walls and faces of the people here... each and every face was lit up with bliss...
Suddenly she felt everyone's attention on her. Looking around again, everyone stopped dancing to see the couple continue on without them. She would have felt nervous with all the attention, but she felt so safe in the arms and cloak of her lover... she only smiled radiantly as she turned to him, gazing up into his sparkling eyes.
The mask remained, she had no idea who he was... the only idea that remained in her mind was the fact that she loved him... and he loved her in return. She leaned up for another kiss, the rider returning it in kind, another kiss that threatened to overwhelm her as she heard applause coming from everyone in the ball room, slowly fading away...
They pulled apart to reveal a cloudless, starlit sky. They both sat on a balcony, holding each other's hands as they gazed into each others eyes for what seemed like a happy eternity. It was Aurora who first spoke.
"This night... every moment has been so magical for me. Just to be with you was more than I could ever dream."
"So has it been for I, my love. I could never have realized that this night would have been so wonderful to me." Her love smiled gently, the smile filling her soul with bliss, and yet... a growing despair.
"You are worried, my love... why?"
"I have been thinking..."
"My love... my sweet, darling lover... please... Promise me that you will never leave my side! That you will forever hold me in your loving embrace. Promise me that you will bring sun to my days and joy to my nights for all of eternity! Promise me..."
"I only promise on one condition..."
"One... condition?" Her heart filled with dread, yet she felt as if... as if it need not be.
"Promise me in return, my love, that you will forever hold love inside of your heart for me... that when I am away, you will wait faithfully for my return... and that when I am with you, you will never falter in your love for me, as I never will..."
"That I promise freely... and will hold myself to it lest I feel the pain of our parting. I could never dream of a day now, in which I do not know that within my soul, that your spirit will stand by mine, in life, and in death..."
There was silence for a moment before the man spoke.
"I love you Aurora... I have always loved you, and always will. I could not stand another night without you in my arms, and wish it never happen to us, that we shall part!"
"Then, my love... prove your love to me..." He leaned in to kiss her, a more passionate kiss than the ones before, hinting at things to come as she felt desire growing within her heart... a rapidly spreading flame that would eat her alive if not cooled... and ironically fanned by the man whose lips were upon hers.
But it was an irony she wanted as their lips parted yet again, as they both stood and left the balcony to a tastefully appointed bed chamber, candles softly burning, flickering light over the bed they approached. There was a scent of lilacs and jasmine in there air, joined with another... expectation.
She sat on the foot of the bed as her love approached, kissing her again as his hands roamed her body, heating her quickly with the passion and joy of the encounter. Her breath became heavy as they inched up the bed, so close, so intimate. Before the final consummation she smiled blissfully at her love.
"Please, my darling... let me take your mask so I may see the face of the man who loves me..."
He only smiled and placed her hands on the sides of his gleaming faceplate... it seemed to shine more brightly as she removed it, filling her vision with a gentle, bright light...
Aurora opened her eyes, taking in the dawn sunlight, taking stock of her surroundings...
The dream seemed so sweet, so beautiful. Why did I have to wake up? Why couldn't it have been real? Her heart still swelled with the joy of the dream, but she never got to see the man's face... Who was that man... was he... anyone I know?
Her joy turned into dread as she realized where she was... she was in ROBERT'S room! What was I doing? I remember... I remember asking him to sing a lullaby for me... and nothing after that... but what happened? He'll kill me if he finds me here!
She knew Robert was notoriously territorial about his room, prizing his privacy above almost all else. He HATED to have his bedroom invaded by others, even by close friends. She did happen to be alone in his bed, which alleviated some of her worries.
But not much. Anything could have happened! What was I doing? And where is he? She looked at herself. She was tucked into the bed sheets... she pulled them off, wondering... and a moment later, all of her fears were dispelled, replaced by blessed relief. Robert had apparently found her, and had not wished to disturb her, so he had made a place for himself on the floor with only his bedclothes and a pillow.
She smiled serenely, taking in the sight of the young man resting on his side on the floor. He looks kinda cute when he's a sleep... Nah... cuter! She giggled to herself and removed the comforter and gently covered Robert in it, tucking him in as he did to her. Then she went to leave, but not before kissing him on his forehead, to which he reacted with a small stir and a sigh.
"Rest well, my friend. And thank you... for everything."
She went to her room to change and shower. She had much to do today, including breakfast and a visit to Rubicant and Edward. Perhaps they could help her in a crafting of a mask and cloak, respectively. She got the feeling she knew who this man was, even though she didn't recognize him.
And she desperately wanted to find out who he was.
He sat in the workshop, chisel in hand, carving the first details of a small statuette from a block of marble. He had carved it into a rough form, of a man and woman with a long, slender dragon laying at their feet, looking up at the bundle held in their arms. When he was finished, it would be a likeness of Kain and Valvalis, holding a child wrapped in cloth while the dragon looked up in wonder.
Rubicant was an accomplished sculptor, enjoying the work he made into stone and clay. This would be his gift to the soon-to-be parents, one that they would certainly love. His sculptures could be found almost everywhere in the Palace, unless he decided to sell one under an assumed name on Earth. It was a hobby of his, and one he excelled at.
Each of the Islanders had some other skills besides fighting and such. It was something to do during quiet periods, and made them quite self-sufficient. It's kind of strange, after all, to go to a tailor and have a robe made out meant for special occasions on the Island. Especially when the clothes looked like out of a fantasy novel.
Or game... Rubicant thought to himself. It was quite a shock to him that in this world, his life... well, not his exactly... was all but a game people played to amuse themselves for a time. It was the same shock shared by everyone else at first, but in a way, he could understand. Different worlds after all. Or dimensions as some called them. It didn't matter to him.
He looked over the nascent sculpture, chiseling tiny pieces away, forming the larger details first, before going onto more complicated work. Yes, this would be a fine piece, to immortalize this joyous moment.
He felt a bit jealous. He still held feelings for Valvalis, but he had understood her, and love. So with his dying breath, he threw Valvalis free from the Giant of Bab-il, where she could go to Kain, providing he survived. He had few doubts that Cecil would beat him and the Fiends, then go on to destroy Zemus. He was proven right, if only the problem that Zemus would not remain dead.
For his deed, and the fact that outside of serving an evil alien bent on destroying an entire race, he was a generally nice person... His sense of honor, and his personality was instrumental when he found himself awake and fine at the feet of a young man, Valvalis, Rydia, beside an old man and a young red-haired woman. Apparently the young man, who would turn out to be the King, had decided he deserved a second chance at life.
He had taken it also, as a second chance at Valvalis, but quickly stopped when he realized she was married to Kain. So the newly dubbed Flame Elementalist went on to chase women, to try to forget about his feelings for Valvalis. He was still close to her and he appreciated that. But yet... he was still sorrowful that he could not have her himself.
But not now. His mind was on another woman now, even if he felt a twinge of jealousy. Maria was a beautiful Spanish woman, Rosa's Watcher Lady and a skilled Healer and hopeful sculptress. There's hope for me yet, he thought to himself as this goddess approached him wanting to learn his art. And right now, she was watching him work, with an admiring eye. I hope it's not the stone that she's admiring, he thought hopefully. He couldn't tell, though.
The door opened, and Aurora entered, looking very excited. "Hey Rubicant, I have a job for you!" Her entrance seemed to startle Maria out of whatever she was thinking of, as her and Rubicant looked up at Aurora.
"Sure, after I finish this."
"Rubicant, that can be finished later. I need this NOW."
Rubicant stuttered. "Aurora, this is a gift for Val..."
Aurora stopped him. "Rubicant, this shouldn't take long. I need a mask made."
"Yeah. Ceramic, Pure White..." She gave him the details quickly. Rubicant couldn't understand, so Maria got a notepad and pen and jotted down the details. But there weren't many of them.
"Well Aurora, that's pretty vague... I can get it done quickly, but... is there anyone this is for?"
"It's going to be a surprise, and I don't want him to know."
"Him? Now, does Aurora have a crush?"
Aurora blushed at that, giggling, almost like a schoolgirl. "Maybe."
"I'd say she does," Maria piped up, still scribbling on the notepad. Aurora's face reddened even more deeply, then frowned. "I couldn't give you that much and you're still writing?"
"I'm pretty good at making out details from pictures."
"Yeah. The ones in your mind."
"Aurora looked confused for a moment, then smiled as she remembered, "Oh yeah, psychic. Thanks Rubicant, Maria... I need this as soon as possible."
"Alright Aurora, see you later!" Rubicant smiled as Aurora left, putting aside the statuette to get some clay for a mask. She forgot about the Healers being psychic! That's kind of hard... to... do... he thought to himself as his eyes widened. Maria was looking back up at him, having finished writing, smiling in the funniest way. And I forgot too!
He blushed, his normally reddened face turning a deeper scarlet, realizing that his thoughts were practically being broadcast out to Maria, along with his emotions.
She got up, smiling and kissed him on the lips gently. "Sure. I'd love to go to dinner with you tonight. I got what I wanted out of this anyway... You don't have to be nervous about it!" She smiled a bit more and left herself, blowing a kiss to Rubicant.
It was only then that he realized that he was thinking about asking her out for a date.
Sometimes it's good to have a psychic as a hopeful girlfriend, he thought to himself as he started work on the mask. He was very happy now, and all thoughts about Valvalis were pushed from his mind now, daydreaming about the dinner he'd have with Maria tonight as he read from the note, so he could shape the mask just right.
Edward was next. Aurora wanted a cloak to go along with the mask, but gave him sparse details about how he should tailor it... Until Maria came after she left, to fill in details. The bard looked at the notepad thoughtfully, wondering who it would be for. He had learned how to tailor, himself, and did much of the clothes for everyone on the island.
So he sighed and looked up. He too had been working on a gift for the baby, a set of baby clothing for Kain and Valvalis to doll up their unborn child in. But Aurora had insisted that the cloak be done as soon as possible, so he had started work on that, and had a rough shape cut out of a bolt of violet cloth. The embroidery will take me a week at least..., he sighed to himself, wishing Maria had stayed around to at least keep a strong Haste spell on him. But it was too late, he'd work as quickly as possible. At least the birth was supposed to be a few months away.
But right now, he put away the cloak, after staring at it, thinking for five minutes. He had a date of his own to keep, one with Anna. He'd promised her a private lunch together, and he would keep it.
So he left, heading over to his room to change. Anna would be waiting inside, so he wouldn't miss her. Apparently she found this little place in San Diego that made the most divine Chinese, so she wanted him to come along. She could be rather... insistent... when she wanted to be, and while he wasn't the timid man he was years ago, he did not want her angry.
He entered his chambers, to be greeted by the sound of a shower running. Anna must be getting ready, he thought to himself as he laid his street clothes out and entered the bathroom.
Anna was singing in the shower, just notes really, no words... more like humming a rather sweet melody before she fell silent. "Edward, is that you?" she called out.
"Would anyone else walk in on you in the shower?" Edward replied, disrobing and joining her.
"I don't know. Edge did that a couple of times when we were acting as Alison's parents once..." That brought a laugh from Edward, as he shook his head.
They two had a little fun in the shower (not that kind of fun, perverts!), cleaning up rather clumsily as the shower was really only made for one person. They both emerged, joking with each other as they dried off and dressed, making playfully snide comments about each other's choice in clothes.
"You ready to go love?" Edward inquired when they finished dressing, dressed in a t-shirt and pair of jeans now, along with tennis shoes.
"Whenever you are!" Anna nodded, having donned knee-length shorts and a halter top, tennis shoes also, wearing a purse.
With that, Anna suggested a location they could teleport to without trouble. After they both intoned the spell, Anna burst into a flock of stars leaving the window for a back alley not too far away from the restaurant where they would not be seen reforming. Edward followed, crumbling into sand that followed the pinpoints of light.
Robert stood alone on a ledge, a rapidly decomposing body laying behind him. The body was that of a Zombie, released from the unholy magics animating and preserving it, thus killing it and bringing it's body closer to it's true age. It would crumble to dust before long.
He had the misfortune of encountering it... no, it had the misfortune of encountering him during his meditation. He was at his favorite meditating place, a rather peaceful spot on Mt. Ordeals, if one did not mind the occasional Zombie attack.
Meditating was a very important ritual for WarMages, most WarMages preferring to meditate for at least a half-hour every other day, when at peace. The time spent contemplating peace and war, light and darkness, good and evil, chaos and order, or perhaps just thinking about something was very important to them, as it helped calm their more violent tendencies.
WarMages generally had a temper problem, and no one knew what would set them off. But whoever provoked them enough would not live very long without a Healer nearby... and probably a few other people too. There was an advantage to NOT meditating though, the longer they went without, the better they could resist attacks on their minds. But then they would start to feel edgy, easily annoyed, perhaps with a hair-trigger temper. Since that didn't matter during war... not too much, losing one's temper in the middle of battle leads to mistakes that can be fatal... it did matter during times of peace. A WarMage who lost their temper frequently or flagrantly tended to get notice from their superiors... a notice that they did not want.
And certainly, Robert or Aurora would not hesitate to kill a WarMage that proved too much trouble for their worth. So most WarMages preferred not to incur their wrath and chose to meditate. It was not wise to anger someone who took pride in causing lifetimes worth of pain in the second before they killed you. WarMages may not be cruel unnecessarily, or may not like drawing out someone's death, but it still wasn't good to mess with people who had spell that were rumored to kill people from sheer pain before the actual spell could kill... especially if the spell was meant to kill within seconds.
In any case, Robert stood there a moment, grumbling before he sat down again, gazing off into space with his own thoughts, meditating on what it meant to be a WarMage and why he existed as he had been, for some time now. He could keep track of time rather well, unless he was distracted. Then he had no track of time whatsoever, a fact that inconvenienced him several times before. Right now was one of the times he was distracted, unsure of how much time had passed.
Deciding he was there long enough, he got up, feeling pretty calm and refreshed. He was hungry, so he decided to get some fruit over in Mysidia. Intoning the teleportation spell, he split into five faded, translucent forms of himself that spread out, continuing to fade until about ten yards out, when he vanished completely.
In the market of the Town of Mages, five translucent forms appeared before combining to form Robert. Teleportation was an art among the Islanders, and all of them had a unique way of disappearing... so to speak. Some were quite simple, like Aurora just popping out with a thunderclap of displaced air (or silently, if she wished) or Edge's puff of smoke. Some were quite complex, like Edward's sand trick, a homage to the desert kingdom of Damcyan. No matter what, they found some way to teleport that best fit their personality.
Robert headed to a market stall, flipping the vendor a few Gil and buying for himself a couple of oranges and some sliced pineapple. He then found a place outside of town where he could be alone with his thoughts.
Right now, he thought about Aurora. She had left before he awoke, which probably saved them both an awkward encounter that would have probably happened if he was up when she awoke in his bed. She looked so peaceful asleep though, that he couldn't bear to disturb her. It was probably good that he had learned how to sleep comfortably on hard floors, that would have really made her wonder.
He thought back to that funny feeling he had that night as he went to sleep. Normally he would have been incredibly angry at someone invading his room when he was trying to sleep. That was evidenced by when Palom went to his room to play Chrono Trigger. The little shit could have asked to borrow it after I awoke, he thought, grumbling.
But Aurora looked so peaceful, so beautiful like that... he almost wished that he could keep her like that for eternity. But Rydia and Aurora would have been upset if he tried any sort of permanent sleeping or temporal stasis spells on her, so he put it out of his mind.
But she was just so beautiful!!!
That thought blazed through his mind, burning itself into his brain. She was just so beautiful... It echoed in his thoughts for a little before leaving him confused, with that warm feeling again.
Rosa only smiled strangely whenever he mentioned Aurora, and she had made note of asking him what they were doing together last night and why she wasn't in her chambers. She didn't look pleased with his answers, but she kept up that damnable smile all the time. The only thing now, was he was starting to notice that some of the others had started to smile at him the same way, including Rydia, who just seemed to beam. She had made a big show of making sure the two had sat together during breakfast, completely confusing the two... If only he knew what was going through Rydia's mind at the time when he asked why it as so important.
A young voice shook him from his thoughts. A young apprentice mage of about ten or eleven, of the Black arts judging from the cover of the book he carried: "Applied Theories of Magickal Coldness", had spoken up. "Master Robert, the Elder has heard that you have come to Mysidia, and he wishes to speak with you."
"Alright. Lead the way."
The child led him to the Elder's office. The town was like one big campus, where the arts of magic were taught almost exclusively. If one wanted science, one went to Baron. Here in Mysidia you learned about magic.
He talked with the Elder for a while, who mainly wanted to know how his star pupils, or who was once his star pupils anyway, Palom and Porom were doing. After that they conversed on the new magical theories Rydia and Tellah had discovered since they last spoke, and the discoveries that were made in Mysidia. After that, they just talked about how everyone was doing, the state of the Island and the various kingdoms in this world.
It was night when he finally left, and realized it was time for dinner. He had a dinner date today, and he wasn't bound to be late lest he find himself the object of a princess's anger.
"Thanks for the wonderful dinner, Robert."
"It was my pleasure."
"I guess this time I get to foot the bill, right?"
They alternated between each other paying when they went out. It was what they agreed to, since they went out together often. Not exactly dating, but they liked having time to talk to each other without problems. They knew each other well, having suffered through much of the same trials.
"That was an interesting dream by the way."
"Yeah. I figure it may be someone I know, so I had Rubicant make a mask and Edward fashion the cloak."
"And the point of this is?"
"I think my dream's trying to tell me something... you know, pointing out who the perfect man would be for me. And I think it may be someone I know..."
"Or it could be just a dream."
"Now Robert, let me be an optimist. If the mask fits well with the cloak on a man, I know who I will go after, if he's not taken."
"That does make a strange kind of sense, when you think about it, but I'm not one to put much stock into dreams, you know?"
Aurora smiled, a spoonful of vanilla ice cream inside of her mouth. She savored the taste a bit before swallowing. Robert was watching her with interest, some sort of thoughts going on behind those eyes. She briefly wondered what they were, but he wouldn't have appreciated an intrusion into his thoughts too much. "I know. But you're a pessimist."
"Pessimist my ass! I'm a realist."
"You were a realist seven years ago, and being a realist involved not believing in magic or other worlds."
"No, that's a skeptic, and I did believe in both."
They argued a little like that, laughing, before getting up, Aurora paying the check, and Robert leaving a nice tip. The "Am not!" and "Are too!" continued for a while until they couldn't hold in the laughter about arguing like children anymore and collapsed in a park, rolling on the grass laughing like mad.
Once they calmed down and wiped the tears from their eyes, after a good five minutes, they laid there, just talking and pointing out the various constellations in the night sky.
"Still, it is an interesting dream. Very romantic. Kind of depressingly so."
"Oh, don't tell me you're going to get depressed again."
"No. But then, I'm not the silly girl basing her entire love life on a mask and cloak that are for a man she's probably never met that may not even exist because of a dream," He laughed and poked her nose, "You read too many romance novels!" He laughed again and poked her belly.
"Oh, silly girl am I?" She squirmed at the poke, "I'll get you for that." She made good on her word by proving to herself the fact that Robert was incredibly ticklish, and nearly made him pass out from lack of air, he was laughing so hard.
Once he calmed down, returning the favor by showing Aurora was equally as ticklish... then she countered, and he countered again... for a good half hour, they left the subject of her dream, gossiping about the other Islanders for a while before getting up.
"You going to sing me another lullaby tonight?"
"Sure! Why so many requests?"
"Because I love hearing you sing. How about that one song you sang last night..."
"No, the one before you made the imprint that Cid bitched about for three hours straight."
"Ahhhh... my newest creation. Alright, I'll sing you to sleep. Just stay in your bed this time, ok?"
"Oh alright. But... your bed was so comfy and you looked so cute sleeping on the floor!"
"Yeah well my back, neck, and shoulders didn't feel cute when I woke up."
She pouted, giving him a playful shove. "Alright you meanie. I sleep in my cold, uncomfortable bed, with no one to sleep at the foot like a dog." She laughed at that, while Robert gave a pained expression. "What's wrong?"
"Don't mention dogs and beds to me in the same sentence."
He told her. She could not stop laughing until late into the night, where she slept peacefully after having Robert sing her lullaby, drifting off into peaceful sleep.
One thought troubled Robert however, besides the fact of Aurora thinking that having him sleepily trying to french-kiss a dog was hilarious...
He really didn't mind if she slept in his bed again, and stayed awake a bit at night thinking about why his
insistence of her staying in her own bed seemed half-hearted...
Robert crouched as the jet of flame screamed over his head. He felt the cloak on his back catch fire, so he rolled to the side, over his back, and leapt to the attack. His attacker kept the flame going, and it followed him wherever he went. He couldn't move faster than his opponent's hand, so he had to out think him.
He rolled again, forward and to the other side, letting the jet pass above him as he did so before the jet dipped to try and catch him. He wasn't thinking now, really, but going on pure instinct... the same instinct that kept him alive during his very dangerous years. It worked well and he trusted it.
But Rubicant was good with fire, and he knew how to use it. The jet stopped erupting from his hand, changing his spell from Flamethrower to a spell he was experimenting with: Flaming Wind. Robert took the moment's pause to press the attack, but Rubicant just jumped aside, stepping quickly behind him and catching Robert in a bear hug as he incanted the twelve syllables of the spell.
The force of the spell blew them both apart, sending Rubicant into a wall with few injuries from the fire itself. Otherwise he had a few bruises from being tossed around and sprained arms... He winced in pain as he found he could not move his right arm. Probably dislocated... , he thought to himself, wincing as he popped his arm back into place, and reached into his pouch for a minor healing potion.
Robert didn't fare too well from the spell, himself. The fire was gone already, but it took him three seconds to come down. Flaming Wind was a mixed flame/wind elemental spell, one that Valvalis and Rubicant had designed, as a dual spell. But he had learned how to control the winds a bit, and thus was able to do a weaker version alone, where the major damage was from the fire.
The spell had centered a tornado on Robert, as Rubicant set the tornado itself aflame with a magical fire. The entire effect was the a disorienting spell that tossed one about as they suffered an extremely-powerful fire spell.
If Valvalis and Rubicant were working together at that time, Robert would probably not have moved again. Rubicant was alone though, and so his spell was as mentioned, weaker. Robert got up from ground after his fall, shaking but putting the pain out of his mind. "Good one Rubicant. I'll be sure to remember about that next time I got close."
Obviously it would not be wise to get up close for one of those lunatic bear hugs, he figured, so he willed his sword, the BlueSteel, to become a longbow. Rubicant raised an eyebrow before groaning as Robert pulled an arrow out of his pouch.
The BlueSteel could fire projectiles of it's own, if one held a bit of magical power remaining within oneself. However, the missiles would be nonmagical, and he needed magical. So he drew an ice arrow from his pouch, nocked it, and let it fly. He repeated, following Rubicant as he ran from the deadly arrows, firing off about an arrow every three seconds.
Finally Rubicant screamed in pain as one of the arrows hit it's mark, embedding itself into his side. The magical ice hurt quite a lot, reacting against the fire he held within himself. It melted quickly, seeping into his skin as he moaned in pain, trying to keep his head straight before Robert had a chance to remove it.
Robert chuckled as he willed the BlueSteel to return to it's original form of a long sword, leaping in for the kill. But before he could bring his sword down, Rubicant willed the pain away from him long enough to deliver a bone-shattering backhand, straight to the chest.
Robert flew into the wall, stunned, trying to get his breath back as Rubicant walked calmly up to him, drawing a flaming broadsword and holding it to his opponent's neck.
"You need to work a bit more Robert. If I wanted to kill you now, you would be dead."
Robert nodded weakly, his breath coming back to him in short, painful gasps. "Where the fuck did you learn to backhand someone like that???" He closed his eyes, leaving his battle mentality.
It was that mentality that protected him from the pain, fear and regret of fighting. By willfully bringing himself to an instinctual level, with a bit of his intellect being watered in when needed, could ignore pain and fear, protect his soul from the shocks it got regularly, and was able to fight much more efficiently and effectively.
But that mentality was gone, and he was feeling the pain very acutely. "Damnit Rubicant! You punctured my lung again!" His voice sounded pained and very annoyed, "Think ya split my liver too."
Rubicant nodded and held out a healing potion, forcing it down Robert's throat, before taking another for himself, to deal with the minor arrow wound... most of it's damage and pain came from the ice itself. "Sorry about that man. Drink this... it'll keep you alive long enough for Rosa to tend to you."
Robert nodded and tried not to black out as warmth spread throughout his body, mending the worst of his wounds and righting most of his body. Rubicant had gotten up and went to an intercom device, punching a few buttons before announcing, "Rosa, report to Training Cell D at once!"
Rosa arrived a few minutes later, speaking with Rubicant about what happened during their little spar. She had called a couple of the orderlies from the Healing Quarters with a stretcher to pick Robert up as she looked over his injuries.
"Rubicant, be more careful next time! I think you just split His liver! You better come too, for a checkup. I want to make sure you're alright."
Rubicant just followed, chuckling, "I'll be more careful next time."
Rosa sighed inwardly to herself as she treated her newest patient. Rubicant had turned out to be fine, but Robert wasn't so good. He didn't have anything requiring surgery this time, but it would keep him from fighting for a day or two at least. At least he wasn't killed, she thought gratefully.
Not that she couldn't deal with that too: The most powerful Healers learned how to control the Element of Life to an extent where they could actually raise the dead. But resurrections were messy deals, taking time to complete and a lot of work. Not only that, but they didn't always work, along with being one hell of a drain on her power. She couldn't count how many times she had to resurrect one of the Watchers or Lord and Ladies. Once she had to work on Rydia herself. Things became easier after discovering there was actually a period of time after dying before "true death" set in. It was at that point resurrection became necessary. A minor form of the spell could be used before that, which would revive someone who just died. Fortunately, there was a window of a day or two to act, and Revive was an easier spell to work, along with not being as risky. The only problem remained it that the patient would quickly die again if their wounds were not tended to.
But she needed neither, and she had Robert moved carefully to his chambers to recuperate, with the demand that he not leave his room for at least two days, and he not leave his bed for the rest of the day.
It would put a crimp in his plans, certainly, since the spar was shortly after breakfast. But he didn't argue, she knew what she was doing, after all. So he was in his bed now, doing his best to carry out Rosa's orders. She reminded herself that she'd have to find someone to deliver his next few meals to him, then left, grateful now that she had no more patients to deal with, wanting the peace right now to rest after the healing magics she had to use to mend his wounds. A refreshing swim would be nice about now, she thought to herself as she entered her chambers, getting a towel and changing into a modest one-piece bathing suit.
Rosa dived under the water, from the surface, reaching down to hit the bottom of the deep end with her fingers. Then she returned to the surface, gasping for air.
She was alone in the pool, for now. Soon Aurora, Cecil, Edge and Rydia would come and join her. It took a bit of doing, but she managed to get all of them to agree to come. It wasn't that they didn't like each other, because they certainly did, they apparently didn't feel like joining her for a swim.
So the aforementioned were changing and would soon arrive. Rosa did not like being alone in the pool, and she needed to talk to Aurora anyway.
Rydia came first, wearing the a swimsuit that was skimpier that Rosa believed possible, that could remain covering everything that needed to. Rosa blinked, than chuckled as Rydia dropped her towel. She's toeing the line, that's for sure. Rosa thought to herself as Rydia stepped into the water and paddled over to her friend.
A fact about Rydia was that she was a bit of a tease... if you wanted to understate. She had actually been the easiest to convince, up until Rosa said, rather adamantly that she was to wear a bathing suit. Rydia had taken the offer as a chance to skinny-dip, since it was one of her favorite late-night activities. She never skinny-dipped outside of the Palace's Pool, but she skinny-dipped often. Rosa really didn't need Rydia naked in the pool with Cecil and Edge... ESPECIALLY Edge. Cecil may love Rosa, too, but he wouldn't miss the chance of the guilty pleasure of ogling Rydia's features.
Rydia had gotten somewhat harder to convince after Rosa asked her she not to go nude, but she eventually persuaded her.
Cecil and Edge followed a few minutes later, joking with each other before making a show of staring at Rydia in shock and drooling like idiots as she preened in front of them. Rosa laughed and pulled Rydia underwater while Rydia invited them in her best mock-seductive tone, bringing the two men, and Aurora who joined a moment before, to fits of laughter before they jumped in, while Rydia was sputtering and getting her hair from her eyes, laughing herself.
Rydia thought it was funny, but she was angry for a few seconds... almost angry enough to slap the living shit out of the impudent Healer. For a moment she was scared she might swallow water... Rydia had a deathly fear of drowning, gained as a child as she was thrown from the ship that Cecil had borrowed from Fabul to get to Baron. She was pretty close to drowning when Leviathan rescued her, and had been scared of drowning ever since.
That fear abated a little after Leviathan, concerned for her, thought her how to swim, and swim extremely well. She was on par with Olympic class swimmers, but that fear always remained. Rosa knew this, and pulled her aside, apologizing.
"Sorry about that Rydia. It was that or have the boys scrape their chins on the concrete."
"It's ok, Rosa... just warn me before you do that, so I can get some air first."
"It wouldn't have been as much fun then."
"For a Healer you're awfully sadistic."
Rosa only laughed, "I'm not a sadist, dear. Just didn't want them to lose their eyes."
Rydia laughed in return, preening a bit. "Boys will be Boys."
The two women returned to the groups, splashing Cecil and Edge, and getting splashed back before all three women engaged in underwater wrestling with the men, trying to hold them underwater for a bit. After a while, the women lost, too busy laughing at the comments and teases Rydia and Edge could not absolutely RESIST making.
A few minutes later Rosa got out of the pool, calling out for Aurora. She needed to talk to her.
Rosa and Aurora left, Edge turned to Rydia. "What was that all about?"
"I don't know. Probably has something to do with that little crush Maria told us about."
"Really, who does she have a crush on?" Cecil asked.
"No idea, I think. Even she doesn't know. Apparently she went to Rubicant and Edward because of a dream she had."
"Ummmmm... Why so?"
"She had some dream the night before. Apparently she thinks that the man in her dream, her crush, is someone she knows and had Rubicant and Edward make a mask and cloak. She wants to have some of the men here try them on, and if they fit one of them, well..."
"I still say it's a loony idea."
They had a newcomer to the pool, paddling over to them. Unlike Rydia, this one was a clumsy swimmer. Robert could swim enough to stay afloat, and that was all. But he was learning.
"She told you?"
"Oh yeah," Robert grinned. "She tells me everything. I rather made a few jokes about it last night."
"Well she tells me everything too, Robert. Did you have fun with Lassie?"
Robert groaned and sighed as Rydia burst out laughing, leaving the rest of the occupants confused.
"Don't you dare tell them Rydia, or I will strangle you!" He sighed softly. "I have to have a word with Aurora later."
"Come on! she's my daughter. I like to check up on her too. Besides, you just missed her."
"Oh really?" He looked surprised at that.
"Yeah. Rosa called her over. Wanted to talk to her about something, so they left. If you wait, they'll be back."
"Ummm... Aurora and Rosa? Both?"
"Yup. It was Rosa who set up this little pool party."
"I see. Well, I'd hate to leave you all, but I have to go. Rydia, I'll see you later, be well Cecil and Edge." He quickly got out of the pool, but couldn't escape quickly enough to leave before a very angry pair of women showed up and started screaming that he shouldn't be out of bed. Rosa reentered the pool as Robert gave a pained look to Rydia as Aurora literally dragged him off by his ear, telling him that she was going to lock the door.
Aurora returned ten minutes later. "So help me, if I see him out of that room anytime within the next three days, I'm going to work him over worse than Rubicant did."
Rydia, Cecil and Edge looked confused as Rosa asked, "Did you lock the door?"
"From the outside, with about seven keys." Aurora held up the keys for all to see before throwing them to her towel.
"That should be enough."
"What's going on NOW?" Edge asked.
Rosa told them what had happened.
Rosa grinned to herself, looking at herself in the mirror. The mirror was full length, and while she wasn't a conceited woman, she felt she deserved the self-praise. "Damn, I'm good!", she muttered to herself, eliciting a surprised gasp from the other occupants in her chambers. Rosa didn't normally say such things.
"You have to admit I helped a bit!"
Rubicant and Valvalis chuckled, watching Rosa. Cecil lounged on the bed while Kain and Rydia sat on chairs, looking confused at Rosa.
"Care to tell me exactly what is going on?", Rydia asked, looking puzzled at Rubicant and Valvalis, who just claimed to have helped with Rosa on something... but what?
"Oh not much. Just our good, kind, open and trusting Rosa as come up with a plan of such deviousness as to shame the worst of our enemies," Valvalis grinned.
Cecil raised an eyebrow. "Oh really now?"
"Yup... everything's going to plan. You let Edward in on it yet Rubicant?"
"Certainly. I couldn't help but tell him! I believe he loves Rosa's little trick..."
Kain looked Rosa straight in the eye. "What trick?"
Rosa told him.
"And I thought Devanel was evil!"
Rosa laughed and walked up to Kain, daintily kissing him on the cheek. "But it's an evil you all like!"
No one had an argument to that.
Robert grumbled as he put down the controller to the PlayStation. True to his word, he had stayed in his bed, like Aurora and Rosa had ordered. The description of what she would do to him if he left that bed sufficed to make sure he stayed.
While he trusted what Rosa had said, she knew what she was doing after all, she was a trained doctor as well as a healer, he felt fine enough. It probably was a precaution, I guess, Robert told himself, although he wasn't sure if he believed it. Rosa might have used one of the easier spells... healing the damage but not recovering the body.
That would mean he'd have to rest a bit so he could recover. But didn't the pain remain after those spells? No matter. I'm stuck here, and that's it I guess. He sighed and laid down, closing his eyes for a nap.
He heard the doors unlocking, and his head picked up, wondering who it would be. "Hello? Who's there?" he called out, sounding annoyed.
"Just the waitress." Another annoyed voice, feminine, announcing Aurora's arrival with the sound of squeaking wheels.
"Waitress? What do you mean?" Then he looked at the two trays Aurora had on top of a cart. "What's that for?"
"Your dinner, silly boy!" Aurora laughed, placing a tray on his bed. It was one of those deals best suited for eating in bed. He took it gratefully, sitting against the headboard and placing the tray over his legs, so his legs laid between the legs of the tray. "Hon, you know I don't eat quite that much anymore! By the way, why are you doing this?" He raised an eyebrow, "Don't we have servants for those things?"
"For your information, the other tray is MY food." Robert raised an eyebrow as she said that... then both eyebrows shot off his head when she sat down next to him, laying back, mimicking him so she could eat. "And Rosa asked me to keep an eye on you while you rest."
"I want a second opinion."
"Well here it is, little man: You're staying here for the next few days, and it's my job to make sure you do."
"Handcuffs and restraints, if need be."
"Mention a whip and paddle anywhere and you'll have a dent to join mine outside."
"Keep it up and I will. Rydia can supply her whip, and Kain the paddle."
"Kain has a paddle?"
"Valvalis seems to like it."
Robert made a face, then pushed away the food. "That was a bit more than I needed to hear." He looked at the food, decided he was still quite hungry, and started eating. Aurora had started eating too, giggling.
"They have a sex life too, you know."
"Do I need to know about it when I'm eating?"
"True." Aurora fell silent for a moment before Robert asked, "Why the hell does your mother have a whip anyway?" Aurora had to burst out laughing at that. "Robert, that's her WEAPON."
"Oh yeah... hold it! You'd use a freaking flaming bullwhip on me?"
"Sure. Might be fun!"
Robert just stared at her, then at his food, then back at her. "You're weird." Aurora laughed, shaking her head. "Not like you're a poster child for normality either!"
Robert had to laugh himself. "Given. But are you going to babysit me for the next three days?"
"Yup. Got a cot?"
"Ummmmmmmmm... I don't think so."
Aurora bit her lip, thinking to herself, before shrugging. "Ok, I'll sleep on the floor. You looked soooooooo cute sleeping there, I'm sure to look better!"
Robert blushed... hard. "Oh really now?"
"Thanks, but I couldn't deny a princess a bed. I'll sleep on the floor."
"Not in your condition, you won't! Besides, if you don't have a cot, I'll get one myself." With that, she got up. "I'll be right back cutie." Robert laughed as she left for her room.
Oh wonderful. I'm going to have Aurora in my room for the next three nights... he sighed to himself, biting his lip. HE was hoping the cot ruse would dissuade her, but it obviously didn't, so he got up himself to pull a cot from his closet. Each room had one, for some obscure reason. He set it up next to the bed, feeling it by pressing his hand down on it. It actually wouldn't be too bad. It's pretty comfortable, for something that should be military-issue, he thought to himself. He was serious about making her sleep in the bed. The cot wouldn't be too bad, kind of like a stretcher.
Aurora returned, carrying a cot in her arms, before staring at the one Robert had set up by his bed. "Hey! You lied to me!" she shouted, laughing, "What, you needed some privacy?"
"Nah... just felt kinda uncomfortable."
"Oh I see." She looked hurt at that, and seemed to be thinking about something. "Aurora, I'm not mad at you or anything... it's just that I've never had a woman sleeping in my room before."
"Didn't the night before count?"
"Well, yeah, but you know..." He paused, trying to think of something to say. "You know how I am about my privacy."
"So I won't look if anything's showing."
"Oh all right." He sighed and chuckled, "A fine lady like you deserves more than a cot. You're sleeping on the bed."
"I thought you were worried about privacy!"
He grinned. "Yeah I am. The cot won't be too bad, and I can get an extra blanket or two from the linen closet."
She smirked, shaking her head. "No, I'll get them, you don't leave the bed, period." She grinned playfully and continued, "But if you insist on me taking the bed..." She folded up the cots, making her friend blush profusely as she laid back in to finish eating, "It'll be my first time sleeping with anybody. You're a good friend, and I trust you... are you going to deny me that?"
Robert turned redder instantly. "But, Robert... your hands go anywhere they shouldn't and I'll break your fingers."
That brought a laugh from him, taking him out of him embarrassment quickly.
Aurora laid in the bed, pretending to be asleep. She was serious when she said he wasn't going to move from the bed, and had dragged him back in when he pulled out the cot. He felt very uncomfortable, sharing his bed, but he had to stick by his offer of letting her sleep in his bed.
He behaved, as they talked before they decided to sleep, keeping the playful groping down to a minimum. They both had fun, just talking and joking with each other. Now he was asleep after she got him to sing her a lullaby again, as she lay awake, thinking to herself, wondering, Why the hell did I do this?
Not to say she was comfortable sleeping with him too. She was nervous actually. She had meant it as a joke originally, and was surprised as she actually took up on it, almost unwillingly.
But hell, it was more comfortable the a cot or the floor, so she couldn't argue too much. Hell, it was even better that her own bed. Robert must spare no expense to sleep well, she laughed to herself, watching him sleep peacefully. He was still quite cute when he was asleep. She sighed and looked back up at the ceiling.
During all that, Robert was pretending to be asleep, not having been able to sleep anyway. He too, thought she was joking when she said she'd sleep with him, but apparently not. Why did she want to anyway. It wasn't like it would matter! He bit his lip. Does she want anything? What is she up to?
He didn't mind her sleeping over, but this was ridiculous. He didn't know what to think, and had been nervous the entire time, afraid that his playfulness might be taken seriously. He almost just bailed right there, demanding Rosa to get her head straight, he didn't need her to be sleeping in his room.
But too much would happen. Aurora would probably be insulted, and he'd get the inevitable joke about if it was fun sleeping with her, or to have fun with her while he could, while getting yelled at by Rosa. Rosa could be one hell of a psycho bitch when she wants to be.
So he tried to keep his distance, wondering, Why is this happening? What if she thinks I want her or something... I don't want to scare her off... What if she wants something? God... she's just a friend. A close friend, but... I don't want to scare her off or lose her!... many thoughts were going through his head.
Aurora looked at him, to make sure he was asleep, and sighed. Neither of them knew it, but they were thinking along the same lines...
Why am I doing this? I didn't have to, but I did? But why? What if... What if something happens?
With this thought echoing in their minds, they fell asleep.
It was three in the morning when the door was opened, and four figures, wearing cloaks with hoods that obscured their faces, and clothing designed to make them hard to see in darkness. They quickly shut the door behind them, silently, whispering to each other.
"What were those two doing?"
"I don't know. Maybe we don't need to do this."
"Yeah we do. I love compulsion... Twist their mind subtly, and you can get someone to do whatever you want... with them being weak to my mind, it's a lot easier to hide..."
"It makes our job easier then."
"Just get to work."
"Alright hon, we will."
The figures, two males and two females went to their work as gently as possible, not trying to wake either of them.
Then they left, and snuck away, pulling down their hoods. The first one to do so was Cecil. "That should send a message to them," he chuckled.
Edge nodded as Anna pulled off her cloak. "I wish I could see their reaction once they wake up. Let's hope they don't move. Rosa, you are wicked. What did you compel them to do anyway?"
Rosa only smiled smugly, leaving for her chambers with Cecil as Edge and Anna left for theirs. "Just something that they both thought was a joke gone too far... and making sure their pride wouldn't let them back out."
Robert groaned, wincing as he tried to move his arm. It hurt a bit, like something was weighing it down. He tried to pull it back, muttering as the movement stirred Aurora from her rest.
They both opened their eyes at the same time, greeting each other with stunned expressions. From very close up.
Oh my god... what just happened here??? What happened last night???
By now, the news of Rosa's little pet plot had spread, namely over the breakfast table, of which Aurora and Robert were not present.
"Quiet down everyone! She'll be coming soon."
Everyone tried to put on as straight a face as possible as Aurora descended slowly into the Great Hall, looking nervous. Rosa decided to break the ice, saving her from her embarrassment.
"Come down to get Robert's breakfast?"
Aurora bit her lip a bit and looked around, causing a stifled giggle to erupt from someone's lips, too low for her to hear. "Actually, no... He wanted wasn't hungry, so I came down here to eat."
DAMN!!! , Rosa thought to herself. It seemed like much of the tension in the room, that began upon Aurora's arrival, was slowly seeping from the room. "Aurora, he will get hungry later and you know he shouldn't leave his room. I asked you..."
Rosa suddenly fell back in her chair as Aurora shrieked, "CAN'T YOU SEND ONE OF THE SERVANTS UP THERE?!?!?!"
Rosa blinked, biting her tongue. What HAPPENED in there??? she thought to herself as she got up, righting her chair and sitting in it. She decided that a first-hand account was appropriate and reached out for Aurora's mind as quietly and as subtly as possible, the same way she used a mental compulsion to make sure she would not let Robert leave the bed, and to make sure she would not also.
THIS ISN'T WHAT I HAD IN MIND! Rosa screamed at herself as she drew away with the answers she sought. They're too scared... Too scared of each other, too scared of themselves, too scared to let anything change, even for the better. She groaned inwardly as she realized Aurora's intention of keeping a very good distance from Robert, while she sorted things out. She figured Robert would have the same idea.
"Sorry Aurora... I thought you would help him best through his recovery. If you don't want to, I won't make you. But please, I want him to recover as quickly as possible, and I've done all I can." Good old guilt... a perfect weapon. Rosa's dilemma now was to convince Aurora to recant on her resolve.
No such luck however. "No Rosa... we just need time to... think. Something happened tonight that neither of us really wanted... nor can we remember. Just what happened last night...?" Aurora sat down and started to eat mechanically, as if she wasn't all there.
I know someone who isn't all there. Three people in fact. and I'm one of them! "Excuse me everyone, but I need to go for a moment."
Rosa calmly got up, smiling gently, and left, leaving her breakfast unfinished. When Rydia went to look for her a half-hour later, she found her in the Healing Quarters, one of Rosa's Apprentices healing her hands after she punched a few holes in solid granite, with her bare hands... and she was still angry.
Rydia didn't have to mention to Rosa that the breakfast was a very disappointing, deflated affair.
Robert sat in his bed, stomach down, facing the television as he zoned out, playing a game of some sort half- heartedly. He sighed as his stomach growled. He was hungry, but could not leave still without earning Rosa's wrath.
Watching a tall, lithe Healer, whose frame gave no indication of any real strength, shove her fists angrily through the Garden's walls repeatedly until they were bloody, with every bone in each hand broken REALLY put into him the desire not to piss her off. Aurora must have told her she wasn't coming up to my room anymore, he thought to himself, shuddering at Rosa's display of anger.
So much the better I suppose. They had found each other in a tangle an hour before... arms wrapped around each other, lips meeting as if they fell asleep during something very... passionate. The display had startled both of them, scaring the living crap out of both of them as they stared into each other's eyes in complete shock.
It had taken a good minute to recover enough to pull away from each other to realize another shock. So once they got done staring at each other's nakedness, they blushed and somehow managed to dress. Neither of them remembered what happened last night after they got to bed, and were not sure what exactly had happened.
We must have been half-asleep... I don't know... why did I have to try that... what did I do? he groaned to himself. And now I've lost her... chased Aurora off... He whimpered a bit, wondering if whatever they did was worth pretty much losing his closest friend.
And yet... He put the controller down, thinking. I'm scared... but I just... I never really wanted to let go. I haven't felt this way in a while... not since.. . He bit his lip, clutching his forehead as realization dawned in his eyes. Alison... I'm... oh god I am..... I'm falling...
He laid there, unmoving and in complete shock, as he realized that any chance now with Aurora was lost. If only I hadn't done whatever I did...
Realization downed in his eyes again. He started to remember soft voices. Something woke him up barely. It felt like he was being moved, and at the time he thought something went wrong with his recovery: he had heard Rosa's voice. Oh holy shit..... I am going to tear that bitch fucking APART!!!
He stormed out of his room, opening the door with such force that it broke apart with a loud slam, as it hit a wall, barely missing a passing Summoner.
Rydia stared at him as the door crumbled to splinters not a foot away from her. She thought she should get him back in his room, but NOBODY wanted to deal with a WarMage when they were angry... and especially the most powerful WarMage alive.
She settled for following him, wondering who angered him, and hoping she could stop him before he killed someone.
Aurora sighed as she told Rosa what had happened after they awoke. They were in the Healing Quarters now, talking. Rosa had summoned her there, with the intention of trying to get Aurora back to nurse Robert.
Aurora was determined not to let it work. She was afraid of what would happen tonight if she stayed with him... she didn't want things to change.
"Rosa, he's my friend. I like it like that. We tease and flirt sometimes, but nothing like that. I don't want that."
Are you sure about that? Are you REALLY sure about that? a voice rang in her head. She looked over Rosa, who was frowning and looking upset. Aurora was surprised about that thought coming to her. She had been reluctant to let him go. It just reminded her of that dream, and that troubled her.
"Well, Aurora, I don't know what to say. You two may have been dreaming..."
"People don't undress in their sleep."
"True. Maybe it was a prank of some sort." Rosa needed a way to dig herself out of this hole, and NOW, while keeping Aurora on the path she wanted. "From what I picked up on your mind..."
"You were reading my mind?"
Shit! "Well yeah. This is troubling you darling, and I can safely say that you two didn't do anything. Your dream however... was interesting. I didn't know you liked fairy tales so much."
"I see. I must have had that dream again."
"Yeah, didn't I tell you about it? The one with the masked man?"
"Oh... well, perhaps Robert dreamed much of the same thing, perhaps. With the prank that was pulled apparently... You might have..."
"Oh... sounds like something Edge would do..." That little prick is going to die today! "But... Would we have...?"
"Sex? Oh unlikely. Like I said, judging from your mind, nothing had happened, and you would have probably noticed if you two started something when you were asleep. I've never heard of a case of well... sleep sex." Rosa blushed a bit, and chuckled.
Aurora had to laugh, then grinned, trying to get out of her embarrassment. "You mentioned that he may have been dreaming along the same lines... I didn't know Robert was capable of love."
If only you knew about him, Aurora... and about yourself. "Well, yeah, he's still human, after all."
"I know, but you've seen him. He's determined to be lonely as long as he lives. After Alison... Well I've seen him at work. It's almost like he tries to doom any relationships he could have." Thank god! Aurora blinked at that thought, mentally slapping herself. That wasn't a good thing to think, period. She stuttered, and continued, "It's almost like he wants to be depressed and sickeningly lovelorn."
Rosa nodded. "Yeah, I've gotten that from him. I think he's so afraid of being hurt that he runs away... and rationalizes it like the poor girl isn't interested. This has probably shaken him pretty badly." She saw her chance right there... Go for it Rosa! "Even if you don't want to deal with nursing him, you really should talk to him about this... at least reassure him. I know he loves you..."
"As a friend, Aurora! And as his closest friend, I think it would be best if you two talked this one out. He doesn't really need you avoiding him forever because of this. And you don't need it too."
"That's true... alright. But what if he doesn't believe me?"
"Tell him you remember last night now, with my help. And it was wonderful, but let's not to do it again... you're not ready for that yet."
"Oh yeah, stroke his ego. He doesn't need that!" They both laughed for a bit, with Aurora starting to feel better.
At least until the door slammed on its hinges and Robert stormed in, obviously pissed. "Robert? What's wrong? Shouldn't you be in bed?"
Robert just waved Aurora aside. "Aurora, Could you go please? I need to talk to Rosa." Aurora turned to Rosa and noticed fear in her eyes. Something was up, and she should be nearby. "No, if you need to talk to her, you can have me around. I was talking to her when you stormed in!" She didn't mean to sound so harsh, but it was too late.
Robert, listening to Aurora get angry, felt as if someone shoved a spear through his gut. His voice strained form a mixture of anger and pain. "Aurora. Leave. Now. That. Is. An. Order." She reeled back in shock, growling a warning. "If you do anything to her, I'll deal with you myself."
She turned on her heels and walked out of the room, closing the door. Rosa groaned inwardly, knowing what he was angry about... dangerously angry. She readied a psychic blow, one to incapacitate him, like she did so many times before. It came on instinct actually, but she was scared it might not work...
Meanwhile, outside the Healing Quarters, Aurora was trying to catch her breath, trying to let go of the anger that the darker parts of her soul wanted to hold onto, when Rydia ran up to her. "Aurora, where's Robert???" The tone of voice Rydia had as she spoke surprised Aurora, shaking her out of her rage. "With Rosa? Why?"
Rydia paled very quickly after that, and hit the nearest intercom. "Berserker, location Healing Quarters! All available warriors must assist!"
Oh god no... Aurora blinked, stunned as the announcement made it's way all over the Palace, bringing everyone out of whatever they were doing and sending them to action. A "Berserker" was the Islander term for a raging WarMage... one so angry that they needed to be subdued as quickly as possible, lest they destroy everything around them. And I left Rosa with him! OH GOD! "Rydia? What's going on?"
Rydia bit her lip, not willing to enter until she had others. She could subdue Robert, but not without a lot of trouble. She was very powerful, and while Robert may have not been a match for any of the Lords and Ladies, he could give them serious trouble... and if luck was on his side when he felt homicidal...
"Well, it was a little idea Rosa had... I think it went all wrong..."
"What did? I don't need you stalling, Mom! We need to get in there before he kills her!"
Rydia blinked back tears and whispered, "Rosa felt something off of him, although he refused to recognize it... He was, shall we say, affectionate toward a woman, and Rosa decided to force him into admitting it. The woman felt the same way toward him, but was too denying it, so she decided to play matchmaker..."
"GET TO THE POINT!"
"The entire debacle last night was her doing! Edge as an additional joke, stripped you two, but Rosa planned the entire thing! Don't you understand???" Rydia looked ready to cry about then, while Aurora started to get angry herself.
"Does she have any idea what she did? That she almost made me lose my best friend???"
"Painfully so. She was so pissed about what happened... she broke holes in foot-thick granite. Busted her hands up pretty bad... Aurora, don't get angry too. I'm going to need you now!" Others started to arrive, weapons drawn and armor hurriedly donned.
Aurora shook herself out of her anger as everyone took positions. No one wanted either Robert or Rosa hurt, but if it come down to the wire, Robert would be hurting. Rosa could deal with him once he was calmed again. Cecil had started to open the door cautiously...
But it had started to open itself. Namely as a flaxen blonde-haired woman flew past, screaming, to be silenced as soon as her head hit the opposite wall, collapsing in a heap where she hit. She wasn't moving.
"No! Rosa!..." Everyone stared in shock as Cecil ran to Rosa's limp form, touching her nose, but not moving her. "She's breathing, but very weak... She needs help!" Maria ran to her Lady's aid, positioning her with the skill of a paramedic as she began to heal Rosa's wounds, which were several... an injured neck, from the impact, with bruises as he held Rosa by said neck, along with other bruises from where he had struck her. Apparently any psychic attacks Rosa had used were too weak... or he was too angry to have them affect him much...
"Step away from her Maria, she's MINE!" Robert stood in the doorway, a dark look in his eyes. He was enraged completely. Maria had started to say "No" when Cecil leapt to his feet, growling, angry himself. "YOU BASTARD! DON'T YOU EVER LAY A HAND ON ROSA AGAIN!" The paladin rushed Robert, bringing his Crystal Sword after his side. Robert wasn't wearing any armor, nor did he carry a weapon.
It didn't matter. Robert leapt back from the slash, stepping forward once the sword passed him to kick Cecil hard in the abdomen. Cecil gasped, surprised by the blow and bending down instinctively. At that, Robert grabbed him by the neck and executed a rather painful pile driver, knocking him out cold. Robert meant business, and now the battle was joined.
And it was not good. Robert was slowly making his way through the ten people arrayed against him, his rage guiding him, not caring about anything but Rosa's death. That rage fueled him as he took blows that would kill normal men. He sidestepped as Kain jumped, intending to land on him and drive his spear through his body. Robert didn't waste time once Kain landed, grabbing him by the throat and throwing him at Edge. Edge darted aside, but was hit by Kain's spear in his arm as Kain collapsed upon hitting the wall. It was getting bad, and No one wanted to do anything that would kill him...
That's not a wise move. They must have forgotten about that because they're so desperate... you either kill a WarMage or get killed. Aurora thought to herself as he stepped away from the others... ten people some injured worse than others, all unable to fight. Maria looked up at him in fear as he reached down to throw her away, then closed her eyes in concentration.
The only visible wound from the attack was that his nose started bleeding. Robert closed his eyes, screaming in pain and rage as he tried to fight off the psychic assault, his mind starting to succumb... but he wasn't that easily deterred. Drawing back his fist, he lashed out at with a blow Maria didn't see... and the psychic attack ended as she fell unconscious.
Aurora drew her sword, pushing him away from Rosa and growling. "I warned you Robert, what I would do if you hurt her. And now eleven others lay at your feet? Are they dead? I don't know. But you will be." By now, Aurora had fallen into her battle mentality, pushing aside all emotion as she guarded Rosa. Robert would be weakened from the fighting, and Aurora expected this to be done quickly and painlessly. Even then, her own words tore at her... she never wanted to say those words... not to Robert anyway.
Reflecting back, she would have laughed. That was a mistake. Robert attacked as she spoke, moving aside when Aurora lunged at him, expecting a charge. Aurora then counterattacked, a slash the drew a bloody line across his torso, one of many others. Not a deep wound, but it bled profusely. Robert did not care.
As he fell back from the blade and pain, she lunged again, bringing her sword across in an arc that would open his stomach and most likely kill him. But she wasn't lucky this time. He jumped the sword, forward and before she had the time to recover, grabbed her hand and yanked the blade free, wrapping her fingers around her throat.
She knew what would happen as she struggled against him... He would throw her, incapacitating her so he could go after Rosa. She couldn't let that happen... and she couldn't let him live with that shame once he got to his senses... Surprisingly, she started to cry as her hand reached into her belt.
"Please forgive me... I... I didn't want to do this..." She lashed out as he started to throw her, drawing her knife from her belt and jamming it into his chest. He became weak after that, more dropping her on her ass as he stared in horror at the knife that had impaled his heart.
"Aurora... why... why did you do this?..."
She couldn't answer as she cried, falling on her knees as her friend fell silent and dropped. Others began to arrive, and the Healers started their grim work.
Aurora sat by the bed, looking up at Rosa. Her wounds weren't actually that bad. Outside of a few bruises, she had only suffered a concussion. None of the combatants had serious wounds... this time.
With one exception. And that exception laid lifelessly as Rosa appraised the wounds, mending them as needed. "I'm sorry Aurora... this is not what I wanted to happen... it should have all been different."
"I know you meant only the best Rosa. I should have seen it myself... I should have stayed..."
"It's too late for 'I should have' and 'I shouldn't have', Aurora... what's done is done... you did what you had to do, and I thank you for that."
"I know, but it doesn't make it hurt any less..."
Rosa's injuries did make her lose hold of her power, and the other Healers on the Island were too exhausted from the effort of healing the wounded. Thus, Robert would have to wait two days. The only question on everyone's mind now was "Is it too late?"
Rosa sighed. "I'm going to try to Revive him hon. You should leave. And pray for the best."
Aurora nodded and got up to leave, calling back between sobs, "Please... don't let him go..."
"I will do my best Aurora," was the reply as she closed the door.
The next few minutes were tense in the waiting room. Almost all of the Watcher Lords, and Lords and Ladies sat there, looking worried... even Cecil. None of them wanted him to be truly dead, but that would have to wait and see.
A few minutes turned into a half-hour, as everyone stared to worry... Alison was crying, Kain staring at nothing in particular. But everyone was doing something to show their worry. "A Revival should take this long," Cecil muttered, hugging Rydia as she laid her head into his shoulder, her shoulders shaking with suppressed sobs.
Finally, Rosa emerged, carrying a slip of paper, tears streaming down her cheeks. "I'm sorry... I don't know, but nothing's worked..." Everyone stared at Rosa in shock as she continued, "I'm so sorry... this was all my fault..."
Finally, she looked up at Aurora. "I can perform the resurrection, but... every one is unique, and everybody needs different reagents to perform the spell... Robert's are quite unusual, and I don't have everything. Aurora, I must rest to perform the spell... so while I rest..." She pressed the slip into her hand and sighed. "I need you to find these things... All of them are quite rare, and I don't know where to find them... and I cannot afford to leave, nor the rest of us..."
Aurora nodded, tears streaming down her own cheeks as she bit her lip. "I will do anything..... just... don't let him go Rosa... I don't know what I'd do..."
Rosa only nodded. "It may not work even then... I can't make promises, but I can only hope his spirit remains strong... the longer you take, the less chance he has to have his life returned. Go Aurora... and hurry..."
Aurora nodded and left, to prepare to leave. She didn't know what she would encounter, and she planned to
return as soon as possible...
So this is Justice.
I suppose it figures. All I see is blackness. Darkness. Nothing evil about it, but nothing good. Impassive darkness, not caring I'm here or not, not caring if I'm alone or not. My darkness. The darkness of Death.
And I'm alone. I cannot hear anyone, I cannot see anyone. I cannot feel their warmth nearby, sense their breath as the go on though life.
But my life is over. It should not surprise me.
Of course I would not be brought back. Of course Rosa would be thrown into shock when I threw her away, wanting her skull to cave in and burst upon impact. That's providing she's alive. I don't know if Maria managed to stabilize her while I fought my friends in a blind rage. It doesn't matter. If she's not dead, she would be in Mystic Shock, losing control of her power so much that it would drain away from her body all too quickly. She would have to recover her health and her power to even think of bringing me back. She would never be able to recover that quickly.
How many friends of mine did I kill in that blind rage? Have the Healers brought them all back? I don't know. It doesn't matter to me anymore, except the shame and regret I feel.
And yet, the thought runs though my mind: What if they didn't want me back? I wouldn't blame them... I was probably beginning to be a liability. But Rydia... would she make that decision? Could she look into her daughter's eyes and see the pain of her choice ripping her apart?
But would she? When Aurora plunged the knife into my heart, I regained my senses... I saw the pain in her eyes, reflected from her heart. I should have known. Thinking now, it was so obvious... almost like fate. I loved her, and she loved me in return... but we denied it. But I saw the pain, the force of the tears that would come. She forgave herself for doing what she had to do, the make me what I am now. But she would never forgive herself for this.
The knife never killed me. You'd be surprised what I could take, with a combination of eldritch stamina and sheer will. No... it was what I saw in her eyes... the love I needed so dearly, the pain of what I had brought her to do. The moment I saw her eyes, I gave up on life. I let the knife take me. I couldn't live with what I had done to her... her mother... Cecil... Rosa... and everyone else.
My life, my story is over perhaps. But I do not know. Maybe Rosa will bring me back... I don't know. I do know, from past experience, that often the ingredients for the spell are hard to find and unique... even harder when the intended was more powerful. I was extremely powerful. It was safe to say I was an equal to any of the Lords. Perhaps more powerful, but with less experience...
I have no body, otherwise I would hang my head in shame... no eyes to cry from... no bottom to stop the tears as they fell, to have something for my despair to water. Nobody to look at me, lift my face and tell me that they understand, and that they care... Nothing to ease my sorrow. No mouth to beg forgiveness from the Void I am in... not that it would care. Nothing hurts me more than the fact that here... nothing cares about me...
It seems strange. I am blind, and yet... not blind now. I cannot see, and yet I can sense things. But it is useless. There is nothing around. I sense nothing. And I suppose, that is the price of what I have done.
The price of the killing I have done, the lives I took, and the heart I broke... the heart of the one I loved most... The price is to be alone for all eternity, never to hear a voice, never to feel another touch, never to see anyone's face again. I cannot even feel wind upon my skin. I have none. I am alone, with nothing to console me. I am alone with my sadness.
This is my Justice, the price for my sins. And it fits so well... I hate it, but there is nothing I can do about it now.
But yet... What is that? I'm beginning to see. I can see... I could laugh at the thought, if I have a voice to laugh with. A light, becoming brighter and brighter... until...
I am not alone anymore. I feel someone's presence. A familiar presence, one I can see and feel, but not touch or speak to... She cannot see me, but... I can see her now... she is making preparations...... at what I can only feel joy. Thank you Aurora... thank you Rosa... Thank you for forgiving what I have done.
I can only pray you will succeed, Aurora... my love. And I will be with you every step of the way...
Aurora looked over the list thoughtfully as she gathered what she needed. Her armor and sword would be called to her when she needed it most, donning it instantly in case of battle. In her pouch went various potions and salves, along with some foodstuffs and various currencies of the worlds she would visit. But the most important thing she wanted was a crystal pendant... A gift from her friend on her last birthday.
No... not friend, she thought to herself, her eyes brimming with tears, My love... She looked out the window as she bit her lip. The memory of the knife being stabbed into his heart would forever haunt her, whether he was returned to her or not. She loved him, even if she did not know it, and he loved her in return... but she couldn't handle the change, so unsure what would happen that she ignored it... Not until Rydia told her what Rosa planned... she couldn't deny her own heart after that... after she took his life.
Rosa's plan was simple: Get them together. Rubicant had offered to spar with him, and Valvalis hung out nearby, unseen as the winds she knew so well. Valvalis knew spells that could get someone to feel something... pain, relief, whatever she desired, however she desired. So Valvalis had given him the pains of a punctured lung and split liver, forcing him to go to Rosa so she could detain him in his room.
Aurora was then to help "nurse" him back to health, staying in his room during that time. Rosa then arranged them while asleep to make it look like they had done something, hoping they would begin to recognize the love in their hearts.
Robert did, but the plot didn't have the effect desired... he thought Rosa had split them apart, and in his rage, tried to kill her for that. To protect Rosa, Aurora killed him... to protect him from the shame of killing her.
But would he know now? Would he know that no one but him had died that fateful morning? Aurora wondered, thoughtfully, trying to keep her tears at bay so she could concentrate on the task ahead.
I only wish I knew... She thought to herself as she draped the pendant around her neck. "Robert... please... if you're up there or something, watch over me... I'm doing this for you... for the man I love... for our love. I swear not to return until I have what I need to bring you back to me!", she called out, chanting the words to the portal spell.
A portal opened in front of her, leading to the first world she would visit. There were ten reagents on that list, and she would do everything she could to get them...
She had no idea of the little pinprick of light that followed her, hiding in the sunlight, entering the crystal of the pendant...
He would be with her. He would watch over her. He would make sure of that.
It was a week after Aurora's initial departure. She did return, but only when she had one of the components of the spell. She had eight of the components so far. Nine now, once she cut the heart from the monster that laid at her feet. The Behemoth had been a tough opponent, but she ultimately prevailed, with many wounds. She took a potion and drank it, fingering her pendant as she took the beast's heart and sealed it in a large back, hiding it in her pouch.
I wonder how these things manage to hold so much, she thought to herself as she felt the warmth of the potion run through her body, sealing the wounds of the battle. A Behemoth was slow and knew no magic, but it could take some serious punishment along with inflicting it. It was slow, but whenever it was attacked, it countered... and if it was hit by a spell, it seemed to quicken long enough to hit back. She nearly died because of that.
But she had won, gaining the ninth component of the spell. She was one step closer to success, and soon she would be reunited with Robert. She cast the portal spell, leading back to her room in the Palace, and stepped through.
Reality seemed to swirl and change as she traveled easily through the void between worlds, Limbo. She navigated quickly, unknowingly, her mind leading her to the world she desired. It took but a few moments, but when reality righted itself, she was safe in her quarters.
She felt him with her somehow, she was sure of that, looking at her pendant. She didn't know what the pendant was made from, but it seemed to softly glow whenever she looked at it, since she left for her quest. But she felt his love near her. He did not leave her, and was watching over her, protecting her. She felt good because of that. Nothing can make a person feel better than that.
"One more step, my love... Just one more step, and we'll be together again," she sang softly to no one in particular. She would deliver the Behemoth Heart to Rosa. This was the toughest of the ten reagents so far, one still needing to be found, and the other eight very easy to find, bought or taken from short, relatively easy battles.
Rosa would be in the Healing Quarters, waiting for her most likely at this time. So that's where Aurora went, hoping the heart wouldn't spoil by the time she got there. Organic spell components, especially from monster parts, had the rather annoying tendency to spoil unless certain precautions were kept. Rosa could keep them, Aurora couldn't. And while she would fight another Behemoth gladly, if it was to save Robert's life, it didn't mean she was eager to fight another one.
Rosa was indeed, fortunately, in the Healing Quarters, reading a tome of healing magic, committing the spell of Resurrection to memory, and studying on the effects of it. She needed to brush up, since the spell was thankfully not cast very often, as there was usually no need.
Rosa looked up at Aurora. "Oh you're back again!" Aurora laughed and gave the bag to Rosa, who promptly placed it in the freezer. "You look tired Rosa... go get some sleep. I'll have the last reagent back soon."
"Ahhh, the Crystal Heart?" Aurora nodded. "Oh... That's probably the worst one to find. Z gave me a message... he might know where one is."
'Z'... a nickname really, for an enemy turned reluctant ally. A patron of Robert's and naturally, would want to see him well. His name was Zemus, and when she first knew about him, he was this evil, mad Lunarian with a serious power lust. He had caused many headaches for Rydia and the King, and had also killed many Islanders... including her siblings.
But things... change. Zemus was now a more ambivalent creature, not caring so much about power anymore. It was some time after Robert was recruited... Zemus had broke free again, to do of all surprising things: pay his respects to Rydia and denounce his former actions. Rosa verified his sincerity, since there was really nothing alive that was powerful enough psychically to hide anything from her. Everyone was so stunned that no one had made a move... until Rydia gave her benediction and pardoned him. The Islanders would not hunt and imprison Zemus anymore.
Zemus was free, but it didn't matter. With Rydia's help, he took his prison world into a world he liked more, and spent his time studying tomes or contemplating things. There was no life besides him in his world, and he enjoyed his solitude to work on other interests. Occasionally Rydia, or Robert would venture in to ask about something he may know about, but generally they left him alone, with the exception of Robert. He tended to visit about once a week, for some reason. And Zemus enjoyed the occasional company.
"Ummm alright." She bit her lip, nervous. She had a right to be nervous, Zemus had killed some of her brothers and sisters. Not all of them, but it was bad enough. Zemus still creeped her out anyway. "I'll go see him."
Rosa nodded as Aurora opened the portal. "Don't be scared of him Aurora. I know you fear what he was, but it is not what he is anymore. Worry about now..."
Those were the last words she heard as she stepped into the portal, to exit in what seemed to be a giant library.
Books of all kinds were here: old, new, from magical theories to historical accounts were here, from the myriad worlds that she and her friends had traveled. Zemus was an intellectual at heart, and could not be denied knowledge. This library itself was almost the entire world. The world may not have been large in comparison to others, but Zemus did not need much else. And this library was bigger than any building she had been in... even the Palace. You could have entire worlds borrow books from this place and still have enough for a small planet! she wondered in awe as she looked around for Zemus.
Zemus was apparently quite eager to see her, because she started to sense a presence. The presence left as quickly as it came, after appraising her and leaving her "directions" via a magical line, traced out from her feet. She followed the glowing string, and within minutes was in front of the very imposing figure that was Zemus.
"Ahhh... Princess Aurora. Greetings and well met. I have been waiting for you." Aurora sighed, her annoyance showing at the title. "Z, please don't call me Princess. It scares me."
Zemus laughed a bit after that. The laugh wasn't frightening, but very friendly. "Ahh, I am sorry. I forget occasionally. Anyway, I believe I have information you are seeking?"
"Perhaps. About what?"
"The Crystal Heart I believe."
"I understand. So you have heard?"
"Queen Rydia, your mother, gave me the news herself, and Lady Rosa was here recently to ask if I had information on any of the reagents she sought. I too, felt the pain of Lord Watcher Robert's loss, and I miss our weekly games of chess, besides. So I wish to impart on you this information."
"For what price?" Zemus had to laugh again, it was well known that Zemus usually charged for his services, wanting to find some artifact or tome he couldn't find himself.
"Very little, in this case, Mistress WarMage Aurora. I just want you to deliver this tome to the Elder in Mysidia. He has been showing interest in this work, and I wish the book of mine that he carries now returned to me. As I said, I feel the pain of Robert's death also, and I wish him returned as soon as possible. Besides, the trial you are about to face is difficult in the extreme."
"So tell me about it?" She nodded and took the tome, slipping it into her pouch, pulling it open widely enough to accept the bulky book.
"Well, the Crystal Heart is a naturally forming crystal formation of such rarity that only perhaps... one or two exist at any one given time. Maybe three if the Fates are feeling exceptionally generous. It's power isn't all that notable, outside of being an amplifier for healing magics, but one always exists. If there are no more of this artifact, it will regrow naturally in some world." Zemus paused to catch his breath.
"I see. Go on Master Zemus."
Zemus nodded and continued, "I believe at this time, only one exists. And I have found it." Zemus frowned. "In the prison of one who would seek his permanent demise."
"That would be?"
"Devanel." Aurora shuddered, groaning inwardly. She did not need to face the demon again, the first time had been terrifying and painful enough. How did he manage to take him, all by himself, anyway? Aurora thought to herself, muttering, "Oh naturally. If would HAVE to be there."
"The Fates have a cruel sense of humor, Mistress WarMage Aurora. It is indeed there, where it has grown and formed since Rosa used it to return the Queen to us, after our last battle."
"Can't I wait until another one grows?"
"No, Mistress Watcher, you cannot. A Crystal Heart will not form until it's predecessor has been used and thus destroyed. Sadly, there is only one....."
"Then I will retrieve it. I will stop at nothing to have it and have Robert returned to me!"
Zemus chuckled. "You are as stubborn as your mother, that is true. But Aurora... Queen Rydia loves Robert, as a friend and a future son-in-law. But she could never handle your passing, because of my actions." Zemus hung his head and sighed. "If you are outmatched, you must not let yourself die, as that would destroy your mother. If you must, abandon the Heart and seek assistance. Do not let yourself perish in Devanel's prison."
"I will not Master Zemus. And be well."
"I shall. I wish you luck in the trials ahead, for you shall need it."
"Thank you." Were the last words she said before she opened the portal as left. Zemus sighed, knowing the task would be excruciating... Aurora hated facing Devanel for many reasons... and it wasn't like Zemus could blame her.
Aurora exited the portal into the Healing Quarters, sharing the information she gained from Zemus with Rosa, then headed to her mother's Quarters to request a hole be made into Devanel's prison to retrieve the Crystal Heart. Rydia agreed, reluctantly, telling her much the same thing as Zemus told her... not to get killed, and to summon her if she desperately needed it.
The plan was akin to what she did when meeting Devanel the first time, when he had tortured her love nearly to death: Rydia gave her a beacon, one that would send off a signal Rosa could easily sense, even with the barrier that kept Devanel sealed inside. By activating it, Rydia could open a hold large enough to fit Aurora through, and then a portal so she could escape.
There was a second button on the beacon, which Rosa would sense too. That was the signal to send Rydia over, if Aurora was in dire need. Before Rydia could open the portal, Aurora stopped her, saying she needed to do something first.
So a stop at Mysidia, and a stop at Zemus's library later, she was ready to go. Rydia opened the portal and wished her well, Rosa nearby so she could quickly give news of the beacon to Rydia. With one last warning ringing in her ears from Zemus, Aurora entered the portal, for the most exacting trial she would face...
"He may not know of it's existence yet. But he will know of it, and of your intentions once you arrive, most
likely. He will attempt to tempt you with it, or bar your way completely. Please be careful, Mistress WarMage Aurora,
and may the Fates be forever favorable of you."
Aurora steeled herself as reality warped, becoming a bright blur as she sped through Limbo to a very distant world, kept that way as an additional barrier to separate the one sealed within from the rest of the worlds. It took a minute or so to cross, traveling at the speed of thought (to get an idea of how quick thought is, it takes approximately two seconds for a thought to cross from one end of our galaxy to another), a fact that would discourage those who would attempt to reach this world. That minute seemed like an eternity to her... it certainly left her with a lot of time to think about what could happen.
So many thoughts went through her head during that time, as she wondered if she could defeat Devanel, how strong he was since the last fought, and hoping the spell would work, for all her effort. She had only fought Devanel once before, when he captured and tortured Robert, even though he had made many appearances. It had always been Robert to face the demon, never Aurora, David, Cecil, or even Rydia. Robert knew well the horrors the creature could bring, and never wanted to subject any of his friends to it...
Just how did he do it... I've only met Devanel once and I'm completely terrified of entering his prison!!! she wondered to herself... It was a love stronger than fear that sent the woman hurtling to Devanel's world, and it would be that love, she was sure, that would see her through.
If it's anything to you Aurora, I was terrified myself...
Aurora would have blinked if she had eyes to blink with right now... surely she was imagining... but who cared? She smiled inwardly as she heard her love's thoughts in her head. It may have been the product of a delusional mind, starting to snap from the stress of the past week, or it may truly be Robert's spirit, watching over her... No matter. She took comfort in it anyway.
You mean you can feel fear?
Better believe it woman... You wanted me here, so I'm here. I wish I could fight with you though...
You make excellent moral support, Robert.
Well, I see I'm useful for something after all! A cheerful chuckle radiated through her being... Robert was obviously amused, joking before serious matters came up, before his face would blank and die, going to his work with grim efficiency. By the way, thank you Aurora...
For doing this... for going for the Crystal Heart... for being willing to face the demon...
She was silent for a moment as he paused.
And... for loving me...
If she could cry, she would have burst right then. I'm so sorry, for what I did to you, my love...
A thought of confusion ran through her head, as if Robert didn't understand... but only for a moment. It always took you a second to catch onto things, didn't it?
Some things never change!
Are you complaining?
Didn't think so. Anyway... A small sigh, then a feeling of happiness, tainted with a bit of sorrow. It doesn't matter, what's done is done. I shouldn't have gone off like that. In a way, I suppose, it was harsh justice...
There is no justice kind enough that takes you away from me! The force of her thought radiated throughout her, surprising the other voice and causing it to pause, chuckling. I mean it! Nothing... NOTHING, my love, will take you away from me again!
If I could be that lucky.
Now Robert, let me be an optimist here.
Am I arguing? Oh Aurora... I know you mean it, and I want it to be true...
It WILL be true.
And as you wish, it shall be... Aurora... I love you... with all of my heart and soul...
And I love you too, Robert...
Well... I would love you with my heart and soul, if for the fact that I don't HAVE a heart right now!
She laughed, shaking her head in her mind. You will soon, darling. And then you can.
And nothing will ever separate us again... Beware Aurora! We approach Devanel's prison... I will be with you my love... and be careful. I want to rejoin you, not have you join me!
I will, my love, for you. She felt her mind and spirit squeeze through the hole created in the barrier, and soon reality took form...
Aurora stood in the middle of a wasteland. There was no life as far as she could see, which did not surprise her. It was normal to make the world as barren is humanly possible (which is very barren considering the humans that were doing it) so that there was nothing the occupant could use to escape. Usually though, beings of great power found a way, Zemus/Zeromus being an excellent example. Rydia wasn't perfect, after all.
Again, however, Aurora was in for a surprise: There was a building off in the distance. Straining her eyes to see, she recognized it, and immediately wished she hadn't... it was a building that haunted her nightmares and thoughts every night, wearing away at her resolve as she desperately tried to rebuild it: Devanel's manor. The manor she found her apprentice in... the manor where her love was nearly tortured to death.
She readied herself, drawing her weapon and approaching cautiously. She then stopped. No, forget about the manor... I need to find the Crystal Heart.
She began to chant the spell, a location and tracking spell WarMages used to follow something... usually a target. But as she began to chant, she felt a dark presence around her, appraising her... a presence of evil, darkness and despair... one that threatened to swallow her, and everything else whole. A calm presence however, even though it seemed to burn with hatred.
Why do you seek the Crystal Heart? I can be kind enough to tell you where it is... with me. Hmmmm... aren't you Princess Aurora? The woman who taught my tormentor and arch-foe? Yes... Yesssss... I remember you. We met once... And you've come to fight? Oh no need to... We don't have to fight. I'll give you the Crystal Heart.
"WHAT? You're going to GIVE it to me?"
Oh certainly... but... you see, I want something in return.
"And what is THAT?"
The pendant you hold. Just a simple request... surely you can fulfill it.
"What's so important about the pendant?"
We'll... talk... about that later. Until then, if you want the Heart, come to my manor... oh, and do be careful of my pets. They haven't had much to play with in such a long time, since your damnable Apprentice and Queen sealed me away here. So it's rather hard to control them long enough to let you pass... I'm sure, as one of the most powerful WarMages alive, you can handle it.
Cruel laughter echoed over the plain as she gazed at the manor, her face hardening. She was missing something... but what? She held the pendant in her fist for a moment, thinking, Is this pendant worth my love's life? Yes... surely... but why does Devanel want it? She hoped Robert had an answer, but none were forthcoming. Devanel may be suppressing his spirit within me now... she thought to herself, I'm on my own, even though I am watched over...
A low, almost silent growl chose to grace her ears at that moment, from behind her and to her right. She whipped around, readying her sword, gazing at the wolf-like creatures that stood before her, ready to attack. There were about three of them, colored a sickening shade of gray, long yellowed teeth begging to be stained with blood. Her blood.
Not if she could help it. She positioned herself in a defensive stance as the three wolves, for lack of a better term, surrounded her, eyes shining with hatred and hunger, and an intelligence matching a human's at least. Like my pets? Perytons make such good watchdogs, you see. And hatred is a powerful motivator... Especially human hatred. Devanel chuckled, in the darkest recesses of her mind. They WERE human once... but they gave themselves over to me in their hate... and now they feed it with blood. Quite entertaining to watch really.
The first peryton threw itself at her throat, gnashing it's teeth in an unholy hunger. It didn't take that much effort to duck low, letting it sail over her head and thrust her sword up at it, resulting in a satisfying yelp as the demon-wolf found itself impaled on her sword, struggling to get free as it slid down the blade, further cutting and tearing it's body up. She brought the blade down, forcing the creature off and throwing it at the second peryton, knocking it back and off its feet as the two collided. Aurora then turned and kicked at the third, who decided to take advantage of her crouch and distraction, lunging at her back. She felt bones crack under her foot, and she smiled grimly as the snout of the peryton snapped and bent. Meanwhile the other two were getting to their feet, the wound on the first not slowing it down a whit. Oh, by the way. I forgot to mention, like you, my dear Aurora, and your ilk... or how you ACT anyway, they feel no fear or pain. But they don't act, Aurora.
She took that little sliver of information to mind as she stood up, turning to the side and backing up so she faced all three. The uninjured one took the lead as the first and third stood back and to the side just a bit of their leader, leaping in unison at her. She shook her head as she readied herself, waiting for the last moment to swing her sword, to the right, knocking the fist and third perytons off their trajectory, and nicely bisecting the lead peryton... the two pieces fell to the round, unmoving, as the first peryton plowed into her because of her swing, knocking her down and biting at her arm.
She felt the teeth pierce her armor and into her arm, radiating sharp pain throughout. She ignored it as the third came after her. She used the first as a shield, causing it to yelp in surprise as it's cohort tore at it by accident, forcing it to let go as it's entrails and blood, colored black, spilled over her. She fought the instinct to retch as she got up, stabbing into the peryton's open mouth, smiling with satisfaction as it went into her foe's throat, the light dimming in it's eyes as it perished on her blade. She kicked it off and faced the third, which as growling at her, to press the attack.
It leapt, for the last time, as Aurora wasted no time in slaying it, sidestepping and bringing her sword in a vicious chop, cutting it in two at the midsection. It landed, dead as she looked around the barren wasteland for other opponents before downing a healing potion, letting it work it's power on her left forearm, marching grimly toward the manor.
Not bad... not bad at all. Very quick and very fun to watch.
"Oh be quiet, demon!"
Very well. The laughter started again, fading away soon enough, of which Aurora was thankful. She had a few more encounters with perytons as she approached the manor, but she dealt with them quickly, even the largest packs, of which there were ten of the foul beasts. Soon, she was at the door to the manor, opening the door warily and entering.
Don't worry about any of my pets here... except if you go anywhere you shouldn't. Devanel chuckled again as she steeled herself. The location spell had confirmed the Crystal Heart's location, within the manor. She had to get it, she knew, and she'd be willing to trade her pendant... but she wasn't sure... and if she knew what was in the pendant, why Devanel wanted it, she never would...
She wandered through the manor, looking around her, preparing for the inevitable attack. There were several as she searched the house, by various sorts of monsters... some perytons, some of the creatures that she had fought in Robert's torture chamber, and some headless creatures that had their mouth in their stomach, filled with rows of sharp, dagger-like teeth. Now she was heading into the basement. She had a feeling of where Devanel would wait... the place she feared most.
It didn't take long for her to find the switch that opened the secret passage in the basement... that was etched in her memory, never to leave her. She sighed as the door opened, allowing her ingress to the stairwell that seemed to descend for an eternity, into the depths of the earth... and the depths of hell.
She heard nothing during that time, in the ten minutes it took her to climb down. Not Robert, not Devanel, nothing. Her light spell showed nothing interesting, like the last time she was here, and only served to force away the unholy darkness of this place, giving her small comfort as she wished Robert was here for her right now... the silence and monotony was eating at her. Let's just get this over with... she grumbled to herself.
And still the stairwell spiraled... I should be at the bottom by now! What's going on? She quelled the panic that threatened to well up within her, and looked back up at the stairwell... or what should have been a stairwell. About a foot behind her was solid wall... she blinked, jumping back in surprise, "What's going on here!" She suddenly windmilled her arms, losing her balance on the stairs and trying not to fall.
She failed miserably, falling back and starting to roll down the steps, feeling the edges of the stone beat at her as she somersaulted, curling her head inward so not to break her neck. That would be bad about now... it was about five minutes more, but seeming like an eternity of trying to right herself before the stairs ended and she slid across the floor on her back, groaning, trying to assess her injuries.
I'm not too bad now, I think... she thought to herself as she winced, from reopened wounds. She shook her head to rid herself of the crick in her neck and reached inside of her pouch for the most powerful healing potion she had. Drinking it, she felt the intense warmth of the potion coursing through her body, mending her wounds and massaging her pain away... she gritted her teeth, closing her eyes to resist the next wave. Soon she felt lightheaded, almost out of it. She felt giddy, and had to giggle to herself as the high took her. She tried to stand, but fell again, giggling. "Oopsie... I meant to do that!" She laid there, not looking too far from drunk, she didn't care about the darkness now, or much else, just the pleasant feeling, the warmth in her body, and the dizzily lightheadedness of the high.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING AURORA?!?!?! GET UP THIS INSTANT! YOU HAVE A JOB TO DO!
So what? Another silly little giggle.
Her mind shot back, waking her from her stupor: Oh I see. You care more about being high than having the man you love back with you. YOU DIDN'T COME HERE TO GET STONED YOU FOOLISH BITCH! YOU CAME HERE FOR THE DAMN HEART!!!!
Oh... oh yeah... sorry...
She stood up, cursing herself for her weakness, dispelling the giddy feeling in her mind as she began to focus. She faced a door now, and she knew, deep within her soul that Devanel awaited beyond it. She made a few preparations, as a thought came to her, then steeled herself for this as she entered, looking through the doorway warily.
The demon must not have chosen to want to scare the shit out of me this time, she thought to herself as she looked over the form within. The form was that of a human, skin pale white, with eyes darker than night. The demon looked over her thoughtfully as she approached... the form it took was tall and willowy, normal seeming in almost every other respect, outside of the skin, eyes, and hair, which was literally blood-red, hanging down to it's shoulders. It even wore a business suit, to further the strange, evil appearance.
"So you've come."
"You have what I want demon."
"I do, and so have you." It held out one of it's hands, opening it to reveal a small crystal, about the size a very large marble, in the rough shape of a heart. Not a stylized heart like you see in cartoons, but a human heart. It glowed, and the glow pulsed regularly, as if with a heartbeat. "Take a look at it if you will. You will find it to be real... and the only price you need pay is that pendant on your neck..."
Aurora glanced at the Heart, chanting softly an identification spell. It was indeed the Crystal Heart, the spell giving her the information Zemus had given to her when she asked him how the Crystal Heart would Identify. Yes... it was the treasure she sought. She then looked to the crystal around her neck, still glowing a soft blue, but brightening and fading rapidly, flashing, as if angry at the mere thought of being handed over to Devanel.
"Why do you want it?"
"Oh not much. Just a little artifact of my interest. What does it matter anyway? Just for that crystal, you'll have your lover back."
"Why would you be interested in his return?"
"Oh, be sure, I am not. I'd rather bring him back here for a little... playtime before I finish his pathetic existence and let his power become mine."
"Thus the crystal is more important to you."
"Perhaps. But your love is infinitely more important to you than the crystal is to me."
She thought a bit as her hand grasped the crystal, tugging it from her neck and sighing. "Unfortunately, I cannot argue with a good point. Give me the Crystal Heart."
The crystal hung by a chain on her finger for a moment as Devanel snatched the pendant, tossing the Crystal Heart to her. "Have fun with your love, and tell him I said hello." The demon sneered and grinned as Aurora turned on her heels and left, slipping the heart into her pouch. Devanel could hear her running, faster and faster, up the stairs... and he waited until she was out of the manor for what he was going to do.
"Oh, my good friend, a woman in love can be such a gullible thing. It's a shame that her love will never return to her..."
The crystal glowed in protest, shaking in his grip, but there was no escape. "Oh don't worry, the Crystal Heart is true. But without a soul... there will be no life. Thank you Robert, for gracing my presence and having such a fool for your love. Now... I will have your power, without your aggravating presence. So pardon me if I must bid you adieu... for a moment."
Devanel smiled, a dark, evil smile as he slid the crystal into his mouth, and swallowed it whole, anticipating the soul within and the new power the consumed WarMage would grant him...
But something was wrong.
Aurora could hear a roar in anger as she sped away from the manor, running as fast as her legs would allow, hoping to get to the hole in the barrier and create a portal before Devanel found her. To say it would be before he discovered her ruse would be a bit too late.
You know, you could have told me that you were in the goddamn crystal BEFORE we entered the manor!
I said I was sorry Aurora! The damn demon was suppressing me. I was lucky to tell you before you entered Devanel's chambers! It doesn't matter woman, just RUN LIKE HELL!
But it was kind of creative of you, giving me an empty Soul Crystal for my birthday... that's kind of selfish of you, I'm hurt!
Hey, it turned out to be useful, didn't it? It just felt right to give you one. Kind of like a premonition. I'll get you something nicer for your next birthday... NOW STOP ARGUING AND RUN!
Yes master! So she ran, her real pendant safely tucked in her armor, having been stashed in her pouch for the meeting with Devanel. From the angry roar, she figured he found out the Soul Crystal had nothing in it but the soul of a peryton that she slew. She didn't know why she cast the spell, or how at the time, now she knew. Robert was adding his power to hers... and it was amazing that Devanel didn't notice.
He gets full of himself at times. The little prick is pretty conceited, and once he gets to praising himself, he notices very little. He must have been chuckling about the brilliant con he was going to pull...
Only to get conned himself. You could have waited another minute!
I said I was sorry... OH SHIT HERE HE COMES!
Indeed Devanel was coming, and he was angry. A dark mist burst from the manor, screaming toward her... It's too fast! I won't be able to get away in time! She felt the grim presence from the crystal and bit her lip, knowing what would be said next: Then we fight Aurora. My power and yours, I will help.
Alright. I'm wondering why you didn't help, nor speak to me earlier.
Ok, ok, I'm not used to being dead, nor trying to help from within a Soul Crystal! Just stop arguing. It took me a while to figure out how to do it! Now love, shall we put the demon in it's place?
We shall! Let's go.
Aurora turned to face the demon, which quickly caught up to her now, forming itself from the mist into it's true form, or a version of it... it still possessed Alison's stolen body, Aurora recalled. Not that Alison has a use for it... she has her new one, she chuckled to herself as she spoke. "Oh Hello Devanel, I see you're happy with our trade. By the way, Robert said hi." She smirked defiantly at the enraged demon, chuckling. "And you say I'm the fool? You're an even worse fool than I am."
"And you're even worse for trying to cheat me, WarMage. You have two choices, surrender and I'll have your souls consumed quickly, or fight and make it long, nice and unpleasant, to say the least. At least you will be together, within me."
"Ummm. No. Nada. Never. Come and play with the big girls little demon. You might not have fun." She held the infuriating smirk on her face, drawing her sword and looking up at the demon. Looking up would be a good way to put it, as the demon was at least three times as tall as she was. Its skin was a deep red, huge muscles adorning the titanic frame of the beast. Rams horns spiraled from the top of its head, and wicked, razor-sharp claws adorned the fingers of four hands, each hand attacked to an arm projecting from it's sides... two arms where the should be in a humanoid figure, and two more below them. Its face was terrifying visage, full of long, dagger-sharp teeth that measured at least eight inches each... it's "nose" was more like a hole in the middle, like the hold where the nose would be in a skull... it had a singular eye, red-rimmed and a deep black. Aurora willed the fear from her mind, aided by Robert's spirit, as the two faced down their foe, to fight for their escape and their souls.
Hitting his feet will be useless Aurora, you'll have to fly or jump to hit him. If I remember correctly, his weakest point is the mouth in his stomach and head. You may not reach is head, and expect him to defend his abdomen... lets go! She heard chanting within her mind, and repeated the chanting out loud... soon she started to levitate. I'll guide your flight hon. Just press the attack... if any of my spells will be useful, just repeat the words after me. I will let you use them.
She nodded, and let Robert take her to the air, forward, diving to avoid a claw slash that would have sliced her apart. She righted herself, tumbling from the force of the near miss, slashing her weapon at Devanel's hip. Devanel leapt back, the ground quaking upon impact, and lashed out with a fist. Aurora was struck by the impact of the punch, flying back about twenty feet before righting herself again, flying upward and coming down in a dive bomb, holding her sword in front of her, avoiding the next slash from two of Devanel's arms to plunge the sword into it's chest.
It screamed in pain as she pulled away, taking her sword with her and darting quickly out of it's reach. "Nice job Devanel. Wanna try for a second one?"
"Impertinent fool... I WILL TEAR YOUR SOUL APART!!!" The demon started chanting, a ball of fire glowing in its claws before releasing the ball of unholy flame at Aurora.
The fireball was fast, but Aurora was faster, quickly darting out of the way as the demon began chanting again, the same spell... but the words were different, the ball would be larger and more powerful. Hellfire. It's a pretty strong spell and he has good aim with it if I recall. It hurts more than it damages though, but don't get hit regardless... you might not be able to dispel the pain.
She understood, moving quickly to avoid the larger Hellfire... Devanel was indeed a good shot though, and the ball caught her free arm as she attempted to dodge. It did hurt. A LOT. She screamed in pain as she shook her arm to douse the flames, trying to back out of reach of Devanel's next attack.
She didn't move fast enough. She was caught in a fast downward swat, the swat sending her careening into ground, rather painfully. She made a quick check to make sure nothing was broken, then rolling quickly and taking back to the air before Devanel could follow through with a stomp, meant to crush the life out of her...
She groaned a bit in pain, quelling it as quickly as possible as she launched her own spell at the demon: Emerald Bolt. A large jewel appeared between her hands, pointed at Devanel, and firing a lightning bolt from it, the bolt catching Devanel in the stomach's mouth, causing it to double over in pain as the second stage of the spell began, with the emerald shattering and launching hundreds of dagger-sized shards at it, all as sharp as tiny razors. The shards embedded themselves in Devanel's body, prompting another scream in rage, and a third in agony as each of the shards exploded into nothingness.
But Devanel still lived. He got back up snarling and chanting. CRAP! I forgot! Be careful! He can copy any spell used on him moments before.
So he can use my spell from now on?!?!?
No, just this once. You hurt him pretty badly, so I shouldn't be surprised...
First came the lightning bolt. Aurora got away from that easily, but Devanel pointed the gem at her when it shattered, firing it's pieces at her... she managed to get away, but not without having several shards fired into her body. Oh god no..... Finally the shards exploded, sending bits of armor and flesh outward as she groaned... it was beginning to be too much, and even Robert felt the pain, as she fell to the ground...
Devanel laughed cruelly, standing above her... he knew she was weak now... she never developed defenses to her own spells, not expecting anyone else to use them... she was wrong... and it cost her her life... and Robert's...
I'm sorry my love... Thank you... for being here... she began to cry within herself, knowing what would be next, as Devanel approached, letting her savor the pain from the spell before he devoured the two.
Aurora... use the beacon!
Huh? What? She was out of it now, in physical and mental pain now...
Oh man..... let me borrow this for a second.
The beacon was in the form of a small trigger on her belt, and she saw her hand, from far away, reach for it, shaking. Ugh..... this is a bitch... mental possession is SOOOO much easier than spiritual. She felt her hand on the device now, it's touch sending pain though her, forcing her to scream... everything started to fade away slowly...
My love... I'm going to die... I'm sorry... I... failed... you...
She barely felt her hand come down on the button as she fell into the abyss, hearing the last few words from Robert. NO YOU ARE NOT! Aurora! Hold on! For the love of God... for us..... hold on.....
Rosa had been trying to sleep.
That was, until alarm bells went off in her head, sending her flying and screeching like a startled cat. Well there goes any thought of being asleep! She looked up from her impromptu resting place on the floor, as stood, getting worried.
"What happened, Rosa?" Rydia asked, as Rosa brushed herself off, prompting stares from everyone.
Rosa looked worried, but pretty calm, as she was waiting for this. She extended her arm and smiled to her gloves. They were a gift from the King, and her weapon. She was an excellent archer, along with being a Healer, and she looked forward to doing what she was going to do, ever since Aurora brought Robert in from his captors, so long ago...
"Aurora's in trouble...", Rosa sighed, looking at Rydia who nodded thoughtfully, biting her lip. A bow extended from the wrist of Rosa's glove as each of the five present tightened their grip on their weapons.
Rydia gazed at the whip she held before she spoke, getting up. "Edge... Rosa... Cecil... Um... Kain. Prepare for fast travel. Don't start vomiting on your way out. We don't have much time. Edward, you're in charge. Don't let this place go to hell. Valvalis, you help him." Edward and Valvalis nodded as they stepped back, letting Rydia have room for the portal.
Everyone nodded as Rydia opened the portal to Devanel's prison. It was set to "Fast travel", cutting the transit time to about a quarter, if one minded the extra sickness and rest time from the spell. Each of the five entered the portal prepared for this and their first meeting with the demon...
They only prayed Aurora would hold on long enough for them to get there...
That's the first thing she heard when she awoke.
For a moment, she thought she had another nightmare, but no... it wasn't her. It was an inhuman scream, of pain. She looked up to see... Rosa?
What... What happened?
The cavalry has arrived Aurora... that's what happened. Thank god they got here so quickly.
I'm so... tired.
Doesn't surprise me... the Emerald Bolt got you pretty bad, but Rosa's here. Mind if I borrow you for a little bit?
No... just... let me rest...
Aurora watched everything as if on a television, distant and unfeeling of what was going on... She could have been dead... but she was alive. Why am I alive?
"You alright Aurora?" Rosa's voice. She felt her eyes adjust and her head turn, not of her own will. Robert... what's going on?
I'm in control hon, don't worry. I'll get us out of this alive. Devanel almost had us... this close to it's mouth... She shuddered involuntarily. Thank God Cecil made him drop us!
Yeah... Ok... you're in control... go kick that prick's ass for me, ok?
I will Aurora.
"Aurora, you alright?"
"Rosa?" She felt herself speak, but it was not her words... her mouth moved and formed words she didn't say. "Rosa? Don't ask questions, but am I able to fight again?"
"Good. Get to the others, they'll need your help. Don't ask questions, Aurora and I will explain everything later. We'll be ready to fight in a moment."
"This is Robert... now DON'T ASK QUESTIONS, JUST GO!"
"Aye captain!" Rosa looked at her... him... whatever... weirdly. "You're telling us EVERYTHING, understand?"
"Definitely." Robert, in Aurora's body, made her stand, and they got a bead on what made Devanel scream: the King of Monsters had joined the battle at Rydia's command, and was rearing back to loose another gout of flame at the demon. As it did, Edge, Kain, and Cecil dove out of the way, Kain jumping higher than any normal man could, well above Devanel's head, coming down with his spear point down, driving it into its chest before leaping back down to join the others after the dragon's flamed shot over Devanel's body.
Cecil drew back his sword, jumping himself, after Devanel's stomach, his Crystal Sword glowing with a bright, holy light. Unerringly, the light guided Cecil's sword into the stomach of the beast, causing it to stagger back as the holy power of Cecil's spell drained into its body, prompting another scream of pain.
Now Devanel was ready. Kain prepared for another jump, getting into the air and coming down, but as he came down, he was unable to avoid the backhand that sent him flying into Edge, causing them both to skid away a fair distance. Both warriors were unperturbed, quickly getting up as Edge sent one of his katanas after the beast's head. The katana sailed through the air as Devanel moved one of his hands to block it, letting the weapon impale his hand. It was a small annoyance, a distraction long enough to let Rosa draw back her bow and let the arrow nocked in it fly... the arrow flew straight and true, splitting apart to become several more arrows, an enchanted weapon of Rosa's own design, that embedded themselves in the back of the demon's head. Devanel whipped around, his arms knocking Cecil into the air as he turned, chanting and letting loose another Hellfire at Rosa. Rosa somersaulted backwards, sending another arrow flying, missing Devanel wildly as she was sent spinning back by the force of the impact, the fireball barely missing her.
Robert, in Aurora's body, cleared his/her head and sighed. He'd have to get used to this... but now wasn't the time to experiment. He looked up at the demon, watching his friends fight, desperately. My god this thing's become stronger... he thought to himself, his surprise turning to horror as Devanel reached down quickly, stacking one of his friends from the ground. Upon seeing who the demon grabbed, he started chanting... quickly.
"So, you're the famous Queen," Devanel chuckled, smirking, letting the efforts of her cohorts go. "Such power from a small woman... I suppose good things do come in small packages." Rydia struggled, trying to get away, using every trick she knew of to escape... at least the tricks she could use when she was busy, trying not to have the life squeezed out of her.
One trick did save her life, however, and it wasn't Rydia's. Robert continued chanting, focusing his power, and Aurora's into a single strike. Aurora's body started to glow as the energy built within her body, waiting to be released at Robert's command. He put her left hand forward, aiming at Devanel's stomach...
If anyone expected him to say "Kamehameha!", he would have laughed. (In fact, jokes about this always came whenever he attempted this.) But that wasn't what was going on. It was called Breaker Beam, Robert's most powerful single-spell attack... even considerably more powerful with two people's energy focused into it...
Devanel only heard the shout "BREAKER BEAM" before he realized he was about to be hurt... badly. Searing hot white light erupted from Aurora's hands, firing in a single beam at Devanel's stomach... Devanel screamed in agony as the beam hit, dropping Rydia on her ass rather unceremoniously as the beam drilled through his stomach... THROUGH it. The beam erupted from Devanel's back, leaving a hole where the mouth was. Once it stopped, the creature doubled over in pain, becoming weak. Two final spells would finish this fight, and they was not long in coming.
As they began to regroup, Robert turned to them. "Get out of here NOW!" Cecil shook his head. "No Aurora..." Rosa corrected him, "Robert". That led to a bit of confusion as Robert growled, "All of you, out, close the portal. I'll hit the beacon when I'm ready to go. I'm going to finish this."
Rydia opened the portal, confused. "How?"
"A new spell I've been playing with," was the only reply as the five ran for the portal. Rydia turned back long enough just to say "Be careful!" Robert nodded and turned around the stunned demon. "Devanel, you've caused too many problems already... Thus, I must end it."
The demon didn't have much of a chance to react to his first spell... about a minute of chanting brought out Eternal Light, a gigantic orb of pure light, which Robert quickly wrapped a shield around it, so the light would not dissipate into the world...
Another minute of chanting brought about the second spell that he would need. An orb, the size matching that of Eternal Light was created, only this time, the inverse of the first... Void of Darkness. Only Robert knew where this would lead as he established mental control over the orbs.
Finally came the eight words to the shield spell. He felt the shield wrap around him, specialized to protect him from what he was going to do. And he was planning to do the equivalent of setting off a thermonuclear bomb...
Devanel wasn't going to stand by and let that happen however. In desperation, the demon reach down and snatched Robert from the ground, with the intention to feed... but it was too late. As the hand neared it's owner's mouth, Robert ordered the orbs to combine where Devanel stood exactly... making him ground zero for the explosion of power that would come...
The orbs combined at Devanel's feet, the shields surrounding them shattering and letting the light and dark energies combine, reacting violently... suddenly the combined energy exploded, sending energy throughout the very beings of the combatants... Robert estimated the worst would last about fifteen seconds... each second an eternity...
Both Robert and Aurora screamed in agony... the shield would protect from the worst of the spell, called Duality, but it would not completely help. They would live certainly though... if in pain for a little while...
Each second did indeed last for an eternity..... Devanel dropped him, but he hardly noticed as the energy coursed through Aurora's body. Robert gritted her teeth, trying to put away the pain, but Aurora's cries of agony wouldn't let him go... he hated doing this to her, but he had no choice...
Aurora heard the counting, holding onto that and Robert's mental voice, trying desperately not to let the pain drive her insane... it was too much, too quickly... she just wanted it to stop... Please... PLEASE... just stop it Robert...
I... I can't..... 14... 15...
At fifteen, the explosion started to die down... the pain ending as the searing light faded. Robert got up weakly, feeling the burns all over Aurora's body. Rosa can take care of it... at least we are alive... He looked over Devanel, who was laying prone, moaning in pain... the spell did it's work... one final thing to do, and it would be over. For now.
Robert chanted a bit, letting a crystal form in Aurora's hands... once the crystal was complete, he threw it onto Devanel and watched with some satisfaction as Devanel's body came apart, the demon and it's stolen body being taken into the Soul Crystal as Robert hit the button on the beacon, to summon Rosa.
They stayed long enough only to make sure that Devanel remained sealed within the Crystal, then turned to the portal behind them that was just opened... He stepped through, hoping that he nor Aurora will ever have to return...
Rosa wanted to handle healing Aurora's body first, before attempting the Resurrection. The Duality spell worked her poor body pretty badly, even with the shield-spell used. Thus Aurora was busy screaming at Robert, who had left her body to return to the crystal.
Did you HAVE to do that?
You're alive. Are you complaining about that?
Once Rosa was finished with the healing however, what Aurora wanted was apparent. "Are we going to deal with Robert now?"
"Yeah... I know you want to see him again Aurora..."
"No, I want him out of my head. He's threatening to do some 'experimentation' with my body."
Rosa blinked, and had to laugh. "At least you're not missing him....."
"Actually I am... How long will he need to rest after the resurrection?"
"About a week. And NO, he will NOT be out his bed during that time. He will need his rest."
Oh stop your whining... I'll keep you in bed.
Oh really now!
"Not likely you two. Nothing strenuous for him either."
"But that's not strenuous!"
Tell that to her after Cecil works her over.
"Damn right Robert. You heard me, once this is done, you go straight to bed... no complaints?"
I suppose. Let's get this done...
Rosa nodded, hearing Robert's mental voice in Aurora's head. "Aurora, I need you to wait out here hon... I will be a while"
Aurora nodded, smiling and turning to the door before Rosa stopped her. "Hon, I'm going to need the pendant."
"Oh... I forgot..." Aurora smiled gently as she held the pendant in her fist and hold out the pendant for Rosa to take.
You just wanted me to stay in your head!
Maybe... What's wrong with that?
A small chuckle rippled through her mind, and she smiled. If you want me to stay, Aurora.....
No... better to have you out. I like my body and I want to keep it all to myself.
Kah..... I hope you'll be more... agreeable... soon.
Rosa had to laugh, hearing the two, as Robert's voice faded from Aurora's mind as she left the pendant in Rosa's palm. Now as Aurora left, Rosa could begin her work...
Robert sighed as he looked over the balcony, looking up at the stars. It was a little over a week after the earlier fiasco, and he was thinking to himself. Rosa, this time chose NOT to send Aurora up to help nurse him, preferring to do it herself ("Aurora would do more harm than good," Rosa had said to Robert when he complained, with just a hint of a smirk and a wink.), so he hadn't seen her in a while.
That to him, was torture. Even with their playful arguing, he missed her. Rosa just had to do this, didn't she?, he thought to himself, shaking his head. Still, no matter. Rosa had deemed him well after his check-up, so he could leave his bed now. Edward was coming out with his lute, Rubicant with his guitar. It was time.
Edward led the song, as Robert played his flute along. Anna was singing a rather haunting melody about a love lost. Just what I needed to hear, Robert sighed as he turned, continuing to play. The first day of his return, in his normal body had been a busy one. They practically went nuts on his room, to his amusement. Flowers were all over his room, carefully preserved so they would not die. After a lot of hugs and shaken hands, Rosa had managed to clear out the flooded room... they were happy to have him back, and that made him happy. He was wanted here... loved by his friends, and he was happy for that. But there was one love he wanted so badly right now...
The song was over, and there was applause from the other balconies as the others showed their appreciation for the musician's efforts. But someone was missing, as Robert scanned the rooms... Aurora was not on her balcony, and it worried him. Where is she? I didn't think she'd miss this... He looked around again, and sighed... no she was not there, and it saddened him as he sat on the railing of the balcony.
He would have fallen off the balcony again if it weren't for two hands restraining him by the shoulders as he jumped and yelped. "Will you stop doing that to me?"
"Why not? You look so cute when you're startled!"
Robert laughed and turned around, getting up. "So you were here after all?" Aurora smiled as she wrapped her arms around his neck, laying her head on his chest. "I couldn't miss it for the world, love."
"I know you couldn't... I just wondered..." He smiled himself, curling his arms around her waist, letting his fingers run through her hair.
"Yeah... I didn't want you to miss it..." He smiled, gazing into her eyes and chuckling softly, "but I guess I was wrong, thank God..."
"You'd have to be..." Aurora smiled back, matching his gaze. She wanted so much to be with him while he was recovering, but what Rosa said was law, especially if Rydia happened to agree. So for the past week, she went to bed, feeling lonely each night. She didn't have his lullabies to put her to sleep, she didn't have him around to joke with, she didn't have him around period. And she hated it.
But now... it felt as if she could fly. Well she COULD, but that's another story. She just felt so safe where she was now, like nothing could hurt her. And she was sure nothing could. And she was happy. "It's been a hard week... not hearing your voice... not seeing you... not feeling your touch... I was afraid I'd go mad."
"So did I, my love... I missed you so terribly. Promise me something?"
"What is that?"
He smiled and lifted her face to his, letting their lips meet in a gentle, tender kiss, holding onto her and the kiss, unwilling to let either go... but, all good things must come to an end, even reluctantly... even if there is the promise of more good things over the horizon. "Please, don't ever leave me Aurora?"
"Only if you promise never to leave me, in turn..." She looked so beautiful to him, just gazing at each other, beaming radiantly. "That I promise, my love... I promise never to leave you... I don't ever want to be apart from you." He sighed happily as they kissed again, closing his eyes and falling into the sweetness of it all.
Again they parted, rather reluctantly, just cuddling each other under the stars, silent for some time. The only sounds they heard were their own breathing and heartbeats as the stood, gazing at each other, trying to fix the memory of this into their minds before it faded away. Aurora broke the silence, with a chuckle.
"I'd hate to spoil the moment, but I wanted to tell you... the mask and cloak are finished."
Robert just looked at her, teasing her lips with his before pulling back. "Do you need them?"
"Not at all. I just wanted to tell you..."
"That's good... I will want them... for a special occasion, perhaps?"
"And what is that occasion?"
He whispered into her ear, telling her what he planned to use them for. She gasped, then smiled, brightening even more. "Really, Robert?"
"Oh yes... I'm very serious... I just want to make that occasion very special... like a dream. It only happens once, you know... Well it SHOULD."
"I have no plans on needing a second, my love. I wouldn't want to..."
"That's good..." He chuckled to himself, laying his head on her shoulder and kissing her cheek. "What do you think the others would think?"
"I think you'd be the envy of the Palace! I might not let you wear them, or you'll have every woman here jealous..."
"Do you care?"
"No, let them be jealous, I have what I want."
"Oh you do now?" Robert laughed quietly, silencing her before she could make a retort, with a third kiss. It took a minute to be free of each other again... it seemed like a wonderful eternity, and yet ended too soon...
Silence reigned for a little while after that, outside of softly whispered endearments and promises of love... after a few moments, Aurora made a small, whispered proposal to him. And upon hearing it, Robert could only smile, as they left the balcony to deal with Aurora's proposal...
Robert and Aurora yawned as they came down the stairs. They were tired, not having had much sleep from the past night. But it was time for breakfast, and they were hungry. They could sleep a bit more later.
So they walked into the Grand Hall, hand-in-hand, to be greeted by the glares of several tired and grumpy looking Islanders. Rosa, looking the worst of them all, just glared at them, and started to speak. Rydia followed afterwards.
"Did you two have fun last night? And everyone complains that I was bad!"
"Besides, no one should have to hear that from their DAUGHTER!"
Robert and Aurora just stared back, surprised, then turned to each other, adopting very smug grins. "Rosa, stop complaining! You're the one who started all of this!"
Rosa had nothing to say, except to fall flat on her face into her breakfast, groaning, "I've created a monster!" The others rolled their eyes, laughing a bit. The two lovers were right, but it didn't help the others much.
So, laughing, and not at all embarrassed, they joined their friends for breakfast.