An Unbidden Cry
It was mid morning when Sage woke. Despite the warmth of the sun on his face he felt cold and weak. He couldn't remember where he was for a moment, or why it was so hard to move. Sitting up painfully, he looked around. What he saw almost made him sick to his stomach. He turned his head away from Kayura's body.
The whole night came back to him in vivid clarity. Right up until he cornered Lady Kayura. There it got a little hazy, but he could remember feeling helpless as he'd watched first hand what he'd done to her.
Fresh horror engulfed him as the memory of her last moments rang clear through the haze, and he did become sick. How could he have allowed it to happen? How could he do such a thing to another living being, even an evil and vicious warlord? And she hadn't even been the worst of them. He had to get away, he had to find somewhere to hide while he sorted everything out. He couldn't stay here, under her still pleading, dead eyes.
He stood to leave, but instantly became dizzy and his head swam, forcing him back to the ground, breathing hard. He discerned a loss of blood, and the sudden movement made several of his wounds bleed afresh. He hated to use anything remotely related to his armor right now, but he had to use its unique gift of healing to repair himself. He wouldn't get far otherwise. Drawing even a little of the power he held made him shudder and churned his stomach, but Sage healed the worst of his wounds, and regained enough strength to stand, but it left him weary.
The ground he stood on was pock-marked from the Warlord's attack, and much of the flora had been destroyed, but Sage knew he had left his own scars not far away. Still no birds chirped, sharpening the point of devastation to acute poignancy.
He wanted just to leave, but the armor Lady Kayura wore lay in a box at the ground below her white robed body. Lay on a bloodstained ground, where her feet should have been. Sage tried to focus only on the box as he approached it, but he couldn't close his eye to the whole picture, or the unnaturally rusty-red, damp ground his target sat so callously on. He was glad he let his hair grow over one eye, but that didn't lessen the truth.
He picked the box up with one hand, and rising back up, accidentally looked at her face. Her dull, blue eyes seemed to lock onto his exposed silver-violet one. The tears had dried but it was plain to see where they had trailed down her face when it had still been warm and alive. Her skin had of course paled, and was beginning to take on the sallow gray tone of true death. His mind reminded him in cruel detail how she'd looked as she begged him for her life, and he heard again her plea. Sage, spare me, she had asked, terrorized but with a glimmer of hope. He turned away and walked slowly back to his car. He knew he should bury her, but he couldn't bring himself to touch her.
Sage got back on the road and began to drive. He didn't know where he was going. At the moment, he didn't know much at all. Beside him sat two small boxes, and his eyes were far, far away.
He was still numb when he reached the caves at dusk. This was where Ryo had found him after they had all been dispersed, back towards when the five of them met up for the first time. This was where his armor was from, and despite that, Sage could feel a certain peace. He blinked when he realized where he was. He didn't remember getting here, but he could understand why. He also realized he was parched, and drank some water.
Feeling slightly refreshed, he took the bed roll out of the back of the sports car and laid it out in front of the cave by the small stream. The running water made him think of Cye which was comforting, but the first stars brought someone other than Rowen to mind. He was too exhausted to stay awake long, and he soon succumbed to a deep, troubled sleep.
Dais and Kale quietly waited for Kayura's return, both pretending to not cast worried looks at the other. Talpa kept his silence as well, though the increasing intensity of the blue fires betrayed his rising impatience.
It was concerning, being the only two present. One confirmed dead and each passing moment bearing more doubt for the other. Had this ever happened before? Kale wondered. The answer was no. They were the original warlords. He, Dais, and Sekhmet had all had the privilege of first serving Talpa as his elite generals. Then had joined Anubis, and most recently, Kayura. None had been slain.
Until that brash rogue had dared to smite the Warlord of Venom. Kale hated him. It did not matter if the corruption was slowly needling into the human's will, he would not allow the boy to continue in this bold impudence.
Dais considered how this affected the master scheme. Surely the Warrior of Light had gone further than they had hoped for. Perhaps it really would happen, as that traitor Anubis had suggested. It was surprising, he thought, that it was Sage who was crossing their feeble lines, and not one of the others. His personal bet had been on the one called Cye, the bearer of Torrent. He smiled to himself. If this one, one of stoutest fortitude, was quickest to stoop, it may be soon the others would follow.
He frowned. Of course, it had become Talpa's wish to have him eliminated. Foolishness to risk it all. What was one, where five were to be gained? And room for one more besides? The long term contingency would still be viable, but it was a poor waste of a good specimen.
On the other hand, strange as it was, he saw it may be best to quickly fulfill Talpa's orders. The Ronin had killed Sekhmet, and Kayura was overdue. If his might did in truth surpass their own, and he persisted in his determined path, it would be advisable to assure their own existence. He was not as quick as the others to be blind to the possibility of having grown too complacent and sure of their own strength. He was not as quick to dismiss the potential of their own danger.
Footsteps echoed out of the perpetual gloom and another spy construct came up to Talpa, bearing something wrapped in cloth. Without a word, and kneeling respectfully at Talpa's head, he unwrapped the package, baring Kayura's severed legs to view.
The Warlords uncrossed their arms in surprise. They had not been expecting dismemberment. For another long moment, Talpa said nothing, but the fires continued to grow, until suddenly they broke their confines with a consumate roar, engulfing and destroying the spy and his package. As the fire exploded, Talpa roared with it. “Halo!”
Dais and Kale raised their arms to shield their faces from the heat, stepping backwards instinctively.
“You two!” Talpa said, no less furious. “Destroy him! I don't care what it takes, I want that Ronin Warrior dead! Do you hear me? Dead!”
“Yes, Master Talpa,” They said in unison. Dais walked out of the room.
“It will be done,” Kale's eyes promised as much as his words. Then he too left Talpa's wrathful presence.
Dais was waiting for him outside of the room. “We must plan carefully,” he said, falling into step beside Kale. “Apparently the young warrior is actually quite dangerous.”
“He must have unlocked the secret.” Kale said darkly. Then grimly pleased. “He must be beginning to understand. If this is an example of what he's capable of, he must be disgusted with himself. I hope it is every bit of the anguish he caused Kayura. And Sekhmet.” His smile promised vengeance.
Rowen padded quietly through the still house. He paused on his way through the living room to admire the work they'd done on the the previously broken wall. It had been fun, the four of them working together to build a new one. They had cut down a tree and made it into logs, then used their strengths to plaster the chinks between. Cye and Kento had made the mud and applied it, and Ryo had dried it in place. Rowen had directed, making sure everything was as straight and in order as possible, using eyes that had become well adjusted to making such judgments.
A smile, and he slipped outside, climbing easily to the roof with young, strong muscles. Tonight he was restless. Usually, it was only the stars sparkling teasingly that stole his sleep, but tonight Sage was on his mind, and an odd weight on his conscience. It was still true, a part of him was relieved by the thought he would not have to bear responsibility for putting the Warlords down. But the thought of his friend, his brother, facing them alone, however strong he was, was not right. It was too heavy a burden for Sage to bear alone. It was terrifyingly possible he would be destroyed, meeting a merciless fate at cruel hands.
Then again, he had chosen to do it himself. He had made the decision to fight the battle alone, to spare the others. It was a situation of his own creation.
Rowen sighed and ran a hand through his hair. The whole thing was just so confusing. They were supposed to be strongest together, and he could see why. None of them had known each other beforehand, so it could be thought random that they were the ones selected. Deceitful appearances.
Each of them went far towards a larger whole, as if they were part of a larger being. There was strong, valiant Kento, who would obviously be the heart. He himself would represent the mind, and Sage would be the soul. Cye was the innocence that kept them together, and prevented them from plunging into abyssal depths of darkness. Ryo, since their purpose was an offensive unit, was the striking arm. It was anything but coincidence. Though even with that, they seemed to have accomplished little beyond their own survival.
His brow furrowed, and he reached a hand for the stars. The five of them usually had great difficulty in forcing a single Warlord in retreat. Could Sage really do it? Could one succeed where five could not? Had it all been simple hesitation on their parts? And if he did, what would he be like when he returned?
He tracked a shooting star with his midnight blue eyes, absently longing to tread its course. It felt so wrong to leave Sage out there, alone. But how could he change it? He couldn't very well explain leaving, especially not when Sage already had. The others would become too suspicious, and would try to follow. Rowen didn't want Cye to have to be further involved, either, and Ryo was beginning to worry him. He'd been acting very aggressive lately. What would he, or any of them do if they found out what Sage was up to? Kento would go charging right off to help, that was for sure. Cye would not hesitate to back him up, and Ryo would be too glad to fight. They wouldn't stay if he told them, and they would follow if he didn't.
“What am I supposed to do?” He asked aloud, of no one, frustration gilding the question.
“What do you mean?” A voice asked next to him.
Rowen jumped to standing, surprised by the voice, though he knew it well. “Cye!” When did he get here? “What are you doing here?”
Cye rolled to a sitting position. He too had been staring at the stars. “I couldn't sleep, so I thought I'd join you.” His soft accent blended with the serenity of the night, calming. “You were pretty lost in thought. I didn't mean to startle you.”
Rowen sat back down next to him. He couldn't face him at the moment, he was too distracted, and Cye was perceptive.
“That's okay,” he said, trying to sound normal. He didn't know what else to say. The silence stretched.
“What did you mean?” Cye finally asked, snapping that silence.
“Not much,” Rowen lied. “It's these stars, ya know?”
“Mm,” Cye murmured vaguely.
“What about you?” Rowen asked. “Why couldn't you sleep?”
“Nothing much,” Cye glanced at him, and Rowen knew the young Brit didn't believe him. Cye turned back to the night sky. “Something just feels wrong. I can't put my finger on it, but it's making me uneasy.”
“I think everyone's feeling it. We're probably just not used to Sage being gone. But I'm sure he'll be back soon.”
“Could be, but I don't think so. We've been separated before, but it's never felt like this. I hope he is.”
It was well after midnight. Both young men's minds were busy, though one was largely occupied with wondering what the other was thinking. Time passed in a waiting quiet.
Until an echo washed through the night, breaking upon the cliffs of the Ronin's consciousness, then fading back to stillness. Rowen's breath caught with its potency. The panic, the agony, were his for a brief moment. He had to find Sage, he had to help him! He leapt to his feet, but Cye caught his arm in a surprisingly strong grip. He forced Rowen to look at him.
“What is the truth?” He demanded.
Kento and Ryo could be heard below, concern and confusion expressed loudly in their sleep muddled questions.
Rowen found he could not escape Cye's unwavering gaze. Sage...