The Warmth of the Hearth

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“Where’s Claire?!” Carson screams at the top of his lungs, trying to break free from Noah’s hold. “I’ll kill you!”

Noah puts both of his arms down, the tremendous white glow still visible in his eyes. The wind does not leave Luke and Carson as Noah takes a seat on a makeshift chair, manifesting from his wind. “She is safe, Carson. She will continue to be safe, as long as you cooperate with our demands.”

“Fuck you.” Luke speaks, suspended in the air by the elusive claw. It tightens around him, like a vice squeezing his entire body. Luke gasps for air, gritting his teeth as the pain increases.

“You know better than to meddle with affairs you aren’t involved in, Laisren.” Noah glares at Luke as the young mage shouts in pain. “You are not the only Seer in this world. The Hearthfire may be yours, but you are still nothing more than trash, unfit to even look into my direction.” The wind around him trembles, causing dust to swirl all around them. “What do you say to dying a second time Laisren?” He squeezes his hands, now extended towards Luke.

“Stop!” Carson screams, tears now streaming down his cheeks. He couldn’t bear to lose Luke again, not when they just got him back. “I’ll do it! Just let him go!” Carson watches as Noah proceeds to clench his fist, the sound of cracks and pops filling the enclosed space as the grip gets tighter and tighter.

Noah turns to look at Carson, lying helplessly on the floor. “Good.” His hand relaxes as Luke plops down to the ground, unconscious. “Consider yourselves lucky, Carson. I don’t give second chances.” The wind responds to Noah’s wishes and lifts Carson up the ground, now loose enough for him to move. “Follow me.” The two of them disappear into the darkness, leaving the slumbering Luke on the cold floor.

“What is it that you want me to do?” Carson asks, glaring at the back of Noah’s head. Thoughts of Claire come into view as a rage surges from within him.

“To put a leash on Kein.” Noah answers, stopping abruptly in front of a wall, a dead end preventing further progress. He places his palm on its surface, a faint white glow emanating from his skin. It stirs, responding to his touch as a small pathway comes into view, a brightly lit tunnel, kempt and tidy despite its obvious age. “Through here.”

They arrive at a room, a round table placed at the middle. It was spacious, tattered banners of the high houses were plastered on its walls. Old supply crates were placed at the corners of the room, now filled with cloth instead of ammunition. Another bunker? Carson thought as he struggles to move his arms, still bound by Noah’s wind. A worn out book was placed on the table, its pages flipped as the breeze passes through.

Noah picks it up and places it in front of Carson, turning to the page that contained the spell they needed. “All my life, I have been clawing my way to the top. The house of Skye was never one to be recognized. Trampled upon, invisible to those who were sitting above. I yearned to crush them, show them that they were wrong for underestimating me. So I worked, beating each and every one of the upper houses, causing them to tremble at my feet. Then, came your father.” He pauses, turning to look at the banners that were swirling above them. “No matter how hard I tried, your father was always one step ahead of me, stronger than I was. I had an undying admiration for him, seeing as we came from similar circumstances, two men trying to climb their way out of a hole they never wanted to be in.”

Carson doesn’t take his eyes off of Noah, taking all of his words with a grain of salt. Kayden always warned them about Noah, how he got to where he was through deceit, trampling over others.

“Little did I know that Kayden was a fool, blinded by this pointless endeavor called ‘honor’, a price he would pay in the future. He could have done so much more, much more than the things I could only dream of.” Noah now turns to look at Carson, a smile now creeping up on his face. “I need your help Carson, to achieve the dream I always had. A powerful Ezicion, feared by all of the nations here on Aeorexus.”

“I don’t have much of a choice now, do I?” Carson responds, glaring at Noah. In his head, he was burning Noah where he stood as he screamed for mercy, only to have Carson prolong his suffering. “Once all of this is over, I take Claire with me. I want no part in this petty war of yours, and have no plans of joining.”

Petty? Fools. Like father, like son. “Very well, if that is your wish.” Noah nods, leading Carson to a small room at the back of the bunker, holding a small bed and some other necessities for Carson to use. “You may use the room for the time being, The plan will be discussed to you soon, so you stay put until then. I’ll deliver your food myself from time to time.” He looks at Carson, seemingly on high alert. “Relax, Claire is safe. Whether she remains that way is up to your actions from here on out. I suggest you stay in line.”

Carson watches as Noah vacates the bunker, going up a well hidden ladder that was tapered on the other side of the room. Noah disappears out of sight, leaving Carson alone in the room. He picks up the book, bearing the mark of his house on its worn out cover. “Father…”

He’s fading. Xylia panics as she flutters towards Luke’s direction, their tether growing faint as time passes by. The night sky looms above her as she flutters through the forest, arriving at a huge metallic bridge, lit up by numerous torches. The tether leads her underneath, taking her to a sewer line that seemed to be connected to the city. “Hang on Laisren.”

The pixie makes haste, following the faint light leading her to Luke as she zooms through the damp tunnels. She takes a turn and she senses him in the darkness, unconscious. “Laisren!” Xylia descends upon Luke, putting both of her hands on top of him. She focuses, scanning the entirety of his body. Broken.

A bright light surrounds Luke’s body, color now returning to his once pale skin. His breathing becomes steady, the tether now visible to Xylia once again. Idiot.

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