Beneath the Surly Gryphon, Direthorne, Ascal, Tharia, 1:03 AM
Taurelius had soon revealed that our location, a hidden labyrinth buried under the Surly Gryphon, was the base of operations for the Eternal Order.
The bartender, the stalker in Huskway and the male with the smug expression were all agents in the covert collective, watching in the shadows and anticipating my arrival in Direthorne. All in all, I was impressed by their teamwork and professionalism.
Alongside Taurelius, the Eternal Order was run by three other officers. The Council consisted of Goltick Stoneskin, a stout and ginger dwarf warrior, Sirashi Uldor, the slender male in charge of the Order's scouts, and Theren Relore, a hooded figure that stood taller than the rest and ran the underground hospital for Order members. The Eternal Order's division in Direthorne consisted mainly of Direthorne guards, or at least that's the cover they were given.
I'd been given a room in the Surly Gryphon and, after my meeting with Taurelius, I'd decided to carry Sara up and rest her on the provided bed. Her eyelids twitched from time to time as though she were having a bad dream. As much as I would've loved to have stayed by her side until she awoke, I had to move back to the Kingsland and retrieve the Doriaz device.
I was attaching my harness to my chest as I heard the sheets of my bed ruffle. I turned to see Sara sitting up with her hand resting on her forehead. She looked flustered and unbelievably confused and hadn't yet seen me on the other side of the room.
Somebody's a fighter.
"Hey, take it easy." I spoke quietly but Sara snapped her eyes toward me, shocked. "You're alright."
"Am I dreaming?" Sara's voice cracked and it was obvious that she was scared.
"Pretty shit dream if I'm the first thing you see." I smirked, trying to calm her.
"I wouldn't say that."
"Well... Good to know." I cleared my throat before perching myself on the edge of the bed, tightening my harness.
"Where are we? Wait, you left me-"
"We're in Direthorne. Somebody sedated you and brought you here after I left."
"Somebody sedated me?" Sara's eyes widened and her lips parted worriedly.
"Yes. They needed to get to me and used you as leverage. It's reasons like this that stopped me from bringing you."
"I-" Sara stuttered, her words were getting caught in her throat. "Then I should be with you."
"How the fuck does that work?"
"When I'm not with you, things go wrong. Twice I've ended up unconscious, but luckily for me you've been there when I've woken up."
I was once again at war with myself. How could I argue with her logic? Did I want to?
"How can I be sure that you'll do as I say?" I asked after a brief pause.
"You can't." she whispered, a smile painted across her rose lips, her eyes watching mine before darting down, soft cheeks blossoming a new shade of pink. My smile was irremovable.
"I need to know that if you come with me, you'll stay hidden if I need you to. I don't want you getting yourself hurt, but I also don't trust the tavern keepers to look after you." I sighed heavily as our eyes met once more. "You're safer with me."
"I am." she agreed, her smile reinforcing my decision. I stood and threw my coat on, the hood casting a shadow over my face.
"One more thing," I said through a clenched jaw, "and this is going to be an odd thing to comprehend, so prepare yourself. The king is a psychotic, genocidal maniac and you might be magic."
Sara giggled beneath her breath before reading my serious expression. She then raised an eyebrow, nervously. "Are you having a stroke?"
"Sadly, no. Come with me. I'll explain it all on the way." I gestured for her to followed me before I strolled away.
As we made our way to the lobby and through the cellar door behind the bar, I began to explain the situation. Sara absorbed the information and remained silent as we traversed the underground base, passing through multiple torch-lit caverns and corridors. I outlined the history of the Doriaz and what king Stoneheart was planning on doing with the device.
"... and then there's you. You're more important than the Order thought you were because you're a descendant of the Doriaz." I stated as I walked beside Sara, slowly.
"What does that mean?"
"It means that your ancestors are a mix of Doriaz and human. Your blood has the ability to control the arcane."
"I'm magic." Sara said, disbelieving her own words.
"Ridiculous. I know." I interrupted as we approached the door to the council room. I'd been asked to knock before entering but had never been one for rules. I grabbed the handle and twisted it harshly, only to find that it was locked in place. I smirked after taking a step back and sent a swift kick towards the door, forcing it open with a satisfying crunch, the wood splintering beneath my boot whilst Sara let forth a sharp gasp.
I entered and firstly noticed the walls, decorated with flags donning the Eternal Order's sigil, and small braziers in the four corners of the room. There were stands, almost like those found in a royal court, at the edges of the room and a large one at the far side opposite the door where the council members stood, surprised. Taurelius hurled a fist at the table in front of him, his chainmail bellowing and echoing off the cobblestone architecture.
"By the Gods, what is the meaning of this?" he roared, steel blue eyes watching me and Sara intensely.
"Ye think ye can barrel into the council room?" Goltick's voice was naturally deeper than Taurelius' and his dwarven accent was thick and warm.
"I'll do what I please, seen as I'm the one doing your dirty work." I stood in silence after my statement, none of the council members willing to retort.
"Calm..." Sara's voice was soft behind me. Her tone implied that I should reign it in.
"We're leaving now." I declared.
"She's staying with us." Taurelius gestured toward Sara, who shied away behind me.
"Sara's coming with me."
"What will you do to stop me?" I interrupted Taurelius and widened my stance, defiantly.
A silence filled the room once again and I smirked behind the shadow dawning over my face.
They need me.
"Come, Champions. I shall see you off." Theren's voice was much softer than the others'. He began to glide down the stairs of the stand, his white robes swaying with his movement, his own hood casting a similar shadow over his features.
I mocked a salute to the three officers remaining in the stand, purely for my own entertainment, and Sirashi,who'd remained silent during the meeting, wore a smile as he watched mine and Sara's departure behind Theren.
He led us back through the corridors in a soundless journey. No words were uttered and the most that me and Sara exchanged was the odd glance, charged with an unspoken desire. Upon our arrival at the Surly Gryphon's lobby he turned, his robes flowing out elegantly.
"This is where we part ways, Mr. Greystead. But first, a word of warning." Theren said almost as a whisper, his voice tantalisingly tranquil. He pulled his hood down, revealing long, white hair, and a handsome expression as though his features were sculpted almost too perfectly. His irises were an eggshell white and sparkled even in the dim light of the Surly Gryphon's lobby. Protruding from his hair were two pointed ears, twice the length of any humans, the trait of an elf, a race which supposedly lived in a land out of Tharia's sight and often thought of as a myth. Sara let out another gasp behind me and I, too, was stunned.
"You're-" I started.
"An elf," Theren continued, "yes. We are no legend, Tobias. I present myself to you as a warning. There are mysteries in this realm that your kin tell tales of to lull children to sleep, but do not believe in. Magic, elves, lycanthropes, demons, we are all real. Do not lose faith in Taurelius' task, for if you fail, Tharia as you know it will change forever."
I clenched my fists tightly until my knuckles turned white and nodded once. As awestruck as I was to see an elf, possibly the first to witness the sight in Tharia alongside Sara, I had a bounty to see to, and one that was far too important to ignore.
"There is a cart waiting outside." Theren spoke as he pulled his hood back over his head, concealing his true identity. "Make haste to King's Court and get some rest on the way. What you're about to encounter will not be easy, it will test every skill in your arsenal, but we have faith in you. The enemy will be strong, but you must be stronger. Good fortune, Tobias."
I bowed my head, unsure of how to bid farewell to a member of a race I'd thought to be fictional, before walking out of the Surly Gryphon with Sara following behind.
The cold air bit at my nose and pricked my skin as we strode toward the cart awaiting us outside the tavern. A muscular figure sat atop the vehicle in a thick hessian cloak. The inside of the cart was a mixture of velvet and silk drapes resting above the dark leather seat against the back wall.
Sara took her place against the window as I hung out of the door momentarily to tap on the roof. The driver glanced back in my direction. His eyebrows were bushy and crumpled and it wouldn't have surprised me if they were able to keep his entire forehead warm.
"Let's get this over with." I grunted as I darted into the carriage, feeling it jolt forward as we began to move. I slammed the door shut behind myself and took a seat next to Sara, noticing that the cart was remarkably warmer than Direthorne's breeze. She looked up at me and still seemed bewildered.
"Did we just meet an elf?" she asked quietly.
"Aye. Odd, isn't it? Just goes to show that it isn't all bullshit." I grinned playfully as I sat back, relaxing into the seat, my exhaustion beginning to wrap itself around me once again whilst I closed my eyes. I felt Sara lean back into the chair and let out a light sigh.
"It's too much."
"Do you think I could learn to control it?" Sara whispered.
"The arcane. If it's really true, and I'm a descendant, then what's stopping me from learning how to use it?"
"Sara, w-" I opened my eyes slowly to see her watching me. I raised an eyebrow curiously, my heart skipping slightly as we locked eyes, a recurring habit. "We'll see. For now, get some rest."
"I've been sedated for hours! You get some sleep. I'll keep guard." she said as her lips curled into a smirk.
I love that sense of humour.
"If you could look after yourself, you wouldn't be in this carriage." I replied, jokingly.
"And you'd be missing my company." she bit her lower lip softly and my breath was caught in my chest momentarily.
Is she flirting with me? I wondered, my thoughts running rampant.
"That I would be, Sara. The journey here certainly taught me that." I said, speaking from my heart instead of my brain. I could hear my head screaming for me to ease up. You shouldn't form attachments.
"I thought it was just me." her voice was smooth like the silk drapes covering the windows either side of us. We hadn't broken eye contact as of yet and I was more comfortable than I had been for hours.
"Apparently not." I said beneath my breath. Silence hugged the carriage as we stared at each for what seemed to be a lifetime, one I was perfectly content with living through. A sudden urge gripped my stomach and I leant forward, burying the voice in my head as my lips met Sara's.
I caught her eyes and the surprise that manifested them before they flittered closed. She tilted her head to one side and embraced the kiss that had started soft and grew passionate. My fingers became entangled behind her head, weaving through her red hair and her breathing increased. A swift hum escaped her throat before she rested her forehead against mine, breaking the kiss, and bit her bottom lip with a smirk.
"I was wondering when you'd do that." her voice was quivering and excitable.
"So was I. Didn't want it to end."
"Well I've got to keep you on your toes." I saw her smile blossom under the shadows cast from the outside of the carriage, slowly fading as we left the city behind.
"Tobias." I mumbled.
"What?" her voice portrayed confusion.
"My name," I stated, my voice low and husky, "it's Tobias."
Sara closed her eyes and her smile widened. Her fingertips traced my jawline tentatively, causing the trail left behind to feel warm. My fondness for this woman was a fire, burning brighter with every second spent in her company, the flames purging any doubt surrounding my affection for the redheaded captor of my mind.
I kissed her once more and the tense pull of longing grappled me. She looked up at me after I broke away and I watched her features caress another smile.
"You're something else, Sara. Not because of your ancestors or the doriaz, but just you. If anything happened to you while you were with me, I'd-"
"Nothing's going to happen." she said calmly, the quiver in her tone now steadied. "When I'm with you I'm safe, Tobias."
I watched her say my name and the way it rolled off her tongue left me grinning like a child. She herself found it odd.
"It feels weird to say it." she said, followed by a short, musical laugh.
"Not to me." I glanced out the window behind Sara to see the beginning of the descent down the plateau holding Direthorne above the surrounding valley. I wrapped my arm around my companion and gently rotated her so that her view was changed to the spanning landscape of Ascal.
"It's beautiful, don't you think?" she asked quietly, hey eyes wide and awed.
"Unbelievably." I replied, my gaze set on her all the while.
We travelled in silence for some time, with my back against the wall of the carriage behind me and Sara resting on my torso with my arms holding her close, watching the world outside scroll from left to right. I placed my head back against one of the silk drapes for no more than a minute before I felt my body falling down into the depths of sleep. Despite my desire to remain awake and savour my time with Sara, my consciousness faded from reality and a wave of darkness swept me away.
I dreamed of her and smiled.