“Jaden?” Drusilla asked, nudging him in his bed a little. He groaned and his eyes fluttered a little before opening, his face brightening as soon as they laid themselves upon her smiling form. “Your awake!”
“How long have I . . . been asleep?” He asked, sitting up a little.
“Two days.” She answered.
“WHAT!?” He coughed a little, his face shocked.
“Yes, roughly.” Drusilla smiled apologetically and gestured for him to get up, offering her hand. “We have found some new friends as well. I think you might like them.”
“I hope so.” He got to his feet, a little wobbly and somewhat disoriented. “Where are we going?”
“To find the Light.” She handed him his cloak and boots. “The one who wields White Magic.”
“Is he far from here? . . . Where are we anyway?”
“We are still in the City of Snow.” She rested her hands on her hips, her flowing skirt parting around her right leg as numerous pouches followed. She was wearing daggers, a short sword, throwing knives, and a new staff that was strung along her back.
“Where did that come from?” Jaden asked, eyeing the staff.
“Oh this?” She pulled it out, putting its butt on the floor and smiling. “This will help direct my fire magic.”
“You were not concerned about that before?” The assassin picked up his belt and put it on, along with his back harness for his twin Katanas.
“Well . . . I am just concerned about it now alright?” Drusilla put it back and than took his hand, not noticing him suck in his breath and turn a light shade of pink in the face. “Come, we have to go! Rentham is waiting!”
They sat at the front of the city, a large camp of noisy Witch Hunters lying in wait on one of the cliffs over looking the city. They would never get out alive, they would never even set a foot out of it without an arrow going through a liver, a heart.
They would be killed just as soon as they were free of the city.
“They are hunting you?” Ray asked, walking up beside Rentham. “Never would of guessed they would be that organized.”
“Oh, they are. They took away one of my first, and best followers.” He nodded. “Can you help?”
“I can.” Ray let her breath out slowly before stretching her fingers. ”Asfendeo, culrandras, felrofendilakith as o neendra!"
“Oh, here we go.” Abhay pushed Drusilla and Rey up into the group more, bringing the horses up behind. “Stay close, a force field can only protect you if your inside.”
“Force field?” Drusilla asked but was interrupted by the loud sound of the forming spell. The air around them was escaping rapidly, and a clear filmy structure started to surround them like a bubble.
“You may proceed.” Ray said, her hands extended before her.
The party left the door way, each taking cautious steps as they left the city, bundled together like a herd of cattle. Arrows flew out of the sky as soon as they were out, hitting the shield like hale on a roof.
“I could just set them on fire, if you really want me to.” Ray mumbled, Rentham turning towards her with wide eyes.
“NO!” He shouted, coming to a halt for a moment and staring at her strangely. He sucked in his breath and than mumbled something before going on, not saying another word about it.
“What is that about?” Abhay asked, leaning over to Rey.
“Talking to me?” He asked, turning his head, his velvet cowl stirring slightly.
“Yes. You are the other Rey right?”
“Yes . . . I am . . . the other Rey.” He rolled his eyes. “Rentham’s wife is among those men. In fact, she is the one leading them.”
“Than why not stab a bitch?”
Rey’s eyes opened widely for a moment, startled at the language. Yes, he had heard it before, and used it once, but not used to casually. He didn’t like using such words when better ones were available. “Um . . . because he loves her.”
“Yeah, well it is clear to me that she does not feel the same way. So why not take care of her? It would do you a world of good.”
“Rentham is a complicated man.” Rey turned back towards the front. “Now if you don’t mind I would like to be silent for a while, to think about things.”
“Your not thinking of making a move of Ray are you?”
“What are you talking about!?” The dark warlock turned and stared at him with wide, irritated eyes. “NO!”
“Alright, just asking.”
He made a slight grumbling sound and than pulled his velvet hood over his face, walking as far away from the man as he possibly could.
Blagdon was right, they were going to be a nuisance.
Abhay. Yes, I know that he is a good man, someone who has fought many battles and laughed in the face of danger, but still . . .
Why couldn’t he SHUT UP FOR AT LEAST FIVE MINUTES!?
“Rey?” Drusilla asked, bent over his shoulder and eyes flitting across quickly scrawled words on a faded page. “Are you alright?”
“Yes, fine!” He blew on the pages a little before slamming them shut, looking up at her as if he was about to explode.
She sighed and sat down beside him, straightening her skirts around the hard log. They had built camp in less than five minutes, for all were well rested, and had eaten a hearty breakfast before the left. It was good to be in good health, that’s for sure.
“Tell me.” She said, staring at him as he tried to hide his face. “Come on, get it out.”
“They will hear me, and they won’t like it.”
“Come on than.” Drusilla sighed again and took his hand, standing up and leading him away from the group. Jaden’s eyes were trailing them the entire way, his conversation with Rentham dying out into the wind as his mind got sidetracked.
He didn’t like that one bit.
“Alright, we are far enough away, tell me what is going on with you.” She smiled a little, letting her arms fall limply at her sides.
He threw his hands in the air, his velvet robes mixing with the night as he paced the clearing. “Don’t get me started on Rentham, that man is beginning to loose my respect! He can’t slay our enemy because it is his wife, who wants to kill him anyway! She has probably cheated on him with Tiranous, who has mysteriously disappeared as well, probably assassinated by her, and now he is telling us we need to go on an epic quest, yet another day, to find the last of the Trinity! WHY IN THE ABYSS ARE WE EVEN GOING ON THIS WHOLE ADVENTURE!? Why am I putting up with all of this when I could be safe, in my own home!?”
Drusilla stared at him for a moment, examining his every move. “Feeling better now?”
“Maybe a little.” He shook his head, making a frustrated sound before slowly turning back, his hands grasping her shoulders. “Drusilla, tell me why I am here, please. I-I have no purpose, and I am afraid that . . . that you all will soon realize this and leave me behind.”
She took a step back, tilting her head and continuing to stare. “Rey, let me ask you a question. How long have you been with us?”
“I . . . don’t really know. Maybe a year, ten months-”
“How many times have we stuck beside you when things got hot?”
“I don’t really know-”
“The WHOLE time.” She crossed her arms, staring in disapproval. “At what moment in time did we fail you? At what hour did we betray your trust?”
“That’s not what I meant really-”
“Yes it was. Stop it.” The Red Witch snapped, her brow furrowing in anger. “Stop thinking that we would just leave you behind like a couple of savage wolves! We are not a pack, we are a family, and we are going to damn well treat our siblings like it! We don’t judge based on usefulness, we judge based on how much you want magic to be excepted once again, and weather you are willing to fight for it! Are you willing to fight for it Rey!?”
“Yes . . .” He replied.
“Than shut up!” She threw her arms out than, an array of star-like magic spreading between them. “This is magic, this is my purpose. If I can do this, if I can create beauty out of thin air, I will do it, and I will be good at it. How about you Rey, what do you do? Do you create magic?”
“I do.” He was looking at the ground, his shoes burrowing into the dirt in frustration. “But what good is magic when every hand can wield it?”
“It depends on the kind of magic you use.” She let her arms drop and she walked towards him, turning his face to look into her eyes. “And I have seen it. I have seen it and it is not useless, it is . . . magical.”
They sat there for a second, staring at each other, not really even knowing why.
Rey was frozen, his arms stiff and lifeless. The person before him was changing into something else entirely, something that made him want to put it in a box to preserve its beauty for an eternity. Oh, but its beauty was its damage, its scars were its adornment. It was the battle wounds that made it what it was, the determination that created its life.
He never saw it until now, but Drusilla could very well be the person he was bound to know his entire life. She could take care of him even in the darkest of his days, and she would never tire of it.
“No.” She said, finally taking a step back. “No, I can not. You know that. Everyone knows that.”
“Why in the Abyss not?” He asked, squinting his eyes at her as they started to turn in fear.
“Because, if . . . if something were to happen, I would never recover. I am not strong enough for this, I never was.” The Red Witch turned with a flurry of her skirts and started to head back to camp. “Name of the gods, what is wrong with the men in our group!? First it was Jackson, now Rey, and lord knows weather Jaden cares or not . . .!”
“Name of the gods indeed . . .” Rey’s voice whispered to the wind as he watched her walk away. “Jackson was really onto something.”
The companions awoke at the sound of a loud cry, something screaming for assistance. Rentham and Jaden were the first two up, and eventually Abhay followed, all going to see what it was.
“The rest of you stay here, pack things, we will be back shortly.” Rentham said, his eyes flitting from one person to the next. “Blagdon, don’t go anywhere.”
“I wouldn’t of come if I was just going to desert you.” He shrugged, chewing on a rabbit bone from last nights dinner.
“Good. Rey, watch things. Keep them safe.” He nodded than turned around, following after Jaden who had already set out.
“So . . . anyone want to play cards?” Blagdon asked, holding up a full deck just between his long, nimble fingers. Rey and Drusilla both looked over at each other, smiling a little.
“Sure.” Rey said, smiling widely, showing his perfect white teeth. “But are you sure you want to play me?”
“What? Are you good at cheating or something?” The man sat down, shuffling the cards on a smooth piece of clay ground, which had been baked by the sun long ago.
“No, but I have had some practice in the past.” He shrugged, looking over at Drusilla again. “How about you?”
“Me and my father used to play Slay the Queen?” She replied, smiling a little. “Do you know that game?”
Rey and Blagdon shook their heads.
“Well I’ll teach you. It’s actually quite easy!” She crossed her legs and sat down with them, taking the cards. “We shuffle the cards first, so we can each draw one. The highest card gets to go first, and I’ll explain how to play after we do that . . .”
“Camp sight,” Jaden asked, his twin Katanas not making a single sound as he drew them out of his back harness. “Of Barbarians?”
“I dislike Barbarians.” Rentham hissed between his clamped teeth. “Very much so.”
“Why is that?”
“They attacked my fallen city once.” He gulped, his eyes shutting for a moment. “And they . . .”
“They what?” Jaden hunched closer, crouching on the small edge above the pit down below. It bustled with activity; savage people running here and there, carrying food, or a dead body, with fights breaking out in the streets regularly.
It was chaos.
“They . . .they raped Edowain before I could stop them.” He bit his lip, his head being sheltered inside his arms. “I am sorry, it is just-”
Jaden rested a hand on his back, staring at him with sympathy. “Its alright. I would feel more if I were you. Frankly, you are handling this whole situation very elegantly.”
“Thank you Jaden. I really needed that.” He smiled a bit, his ebony skin glinting in the dappled sunlight that shown brightly through the trees.
“Should we attack them?”
“They aren’t really good for anything,” Rentham crawled backwards, shying away from the pit of Barbarians. “We can wipe them out, or we can just leave them be and possibly run into them later.”
“Personally, I believe we should construct a plan and take care of them now. As you said, they are not good for anything anyway. They are not people that can be reasoned with, its not like they will leave us alone if they do run into us.”
“You know . . . some say that a people should not be generalized as chaotic or evil, or even bad in general. They think that everyone is an individual . . . do you believe this?”
“No, I do not.” Jaden crawled back as well, eventually getting to his feet to walk silently back to camp. Rentham did likewise, both stepping across the hard leaves with gentle care as not to make a sound. “A people is a people. They grow up together, they play together, they are taught together, and they live together. How they are raised is key to who they are. Yes they can make their own decisions, but usually it depends on what influences they are fed along the road.
“These people are a poison. Yes, there is some innocence here, but it is so small, that it is hopeless to let these savages roam free just because of that small few. The odds out way what must be preserved, with what needs to be extinguished. Spare the children, but kill the adults. That is my policy.”
“Would you wipe out a whole camp, just for the fact that they would interrupt our travel?” Rentham stopped him, staring at his eyes as they danced behind him, probably focusing on a blowing leaf. He never noticed how the assassins eyes never stared back into his own. They were always looking away, always guarded against him.
In some ways, he thought of Jaden as a son, but the idea was a ludicrous one at best. He just pushed it away, left it in the dust of time, where Edowain used to sit. Her throne was long gone, left behind his heavy footsteps that carried his heavy heart.
He carried many heavy hearts, and sometimes the load brought him down to the level of depression.
But he was a king, and he would do anything for a his people.
"Yes I would. I would kill them all, if it meant that our mission be stopped. Woman here are not innocent, and the men are vile and disgusting. The children are misguided and beaten, and there is no homes for where they can take refuge. I would wipe them out with a second thought. Some people just aren't meant for this world." Jaden paused for a moment. "But not for a second would I even think of this, if I could not save them. But I can't, and all they will end in is misery. Misery and death."
Rentham sat there for a moment before resting a gentle hand on the boys head. He looked so young, so world weary. "You are truly a good man." He whispered. "And if I was to ever have a son, I would of wished it to be you."
Jaden looked up than, their eyes finally locking. "Rentham I-"
The king turned away, heading back towards their camp. "Do not speak of this to anyone, not even Drusilla."
The assassin wiped his face of the tears and than quickly followed after, confused. "Alright, if you say so. Can I ask you something though?"
"What is it?" The ebony skinned man kept walking, not turning back to look at him.
"Why did you and Edowain never have a child?"
He froze, running a slender hand through his black hair a moment later. "Because she was baron." He shrugged. "Good thing to. No child is here to see how . . . how much of a mess its parents are."
"It's not your fault."
"That's what everyone keeps telling me but . . ." He sucked in his breath and than let it out slowly. "Somehow I believe you all are wrong."
A savage cry sounded to their left, both of their heads turning to investigate. Three Barbarian men were running straight for them, weapons ready and eyes focused. They took their battle stances and waited for them, knowing that these people were as clumsy as they were vicious. Most of them didn't know how to fight very well, for they were to busy pleasuring themselves, but the protectors of each camp did. These three did not resemble that profile though, they wore pouches on their belts, and one was even carrying a sprig of lavender in his left hand as he wielded a sword in his right.
"Foragers." Rentham growled. "Do we take them out or flee?"
"Either way they will be alerted of our presents." Jaden whispered back. "If we kill these three, the news won't travel as fast. We can get a plan in, and than maybe take them out before more scout out."
"Good plan." Rentham nodded, his mind focusing on what looked like the leader of the group as they slowed down, circling the two warriors as they made strange, animal-like sounds. Clicking, growling, hissing and snapping with their lips and tongue. They were truly like animals themselves, and a sprig of remorse flooded the two.
How many children were being taught this terrible way of life? Being told that it was right?
"I have the one in front." Rentham said quietly, him and the assassin standing back to back.
"The other two don't look as threatening, so I'll take them both." Jaden paused for one second. "Do you think they have their fingernails and teeth dipped in that one poison? . . . Colragdinon, I believe?"
"They could. Those bastards build up strange immunities."
"Who are you calling bastards!?" The leader of the group shouted, spitting on Rentham's shirt. He coughed a little loudly, but soon wiped his face and returned the look of pure and utter hatred. "Oh wait . . . I remember you."
"Yes, I know." Rentham sighed a little annoyingly. "Hello Bredwick."
"Rentham, Lord of Shadows." He bowed mockingly, his two friends laughing at his idiocy. "It was an honor to fuck your wife."
Rentham froze. He could feel his control slipping through his fingers, his anger climbing into the seat of control. He didn't want this to happen, and he knew that if it did, he would possibly hurt Jaden.
After all, Berserkers are not known to focus on only one enemy, but many. While in the blood lust, you have no idea who you are trying to kill and who is on your side.
It was true, Rentham was a very well controlled Berserker.
"I . . . will not-" He growled, his hands tightening around his long, razor sharp sword. "Loose control!"
"She was such a darling. Didn't really seem to mind either. Let me ask you a question." The man took a step nearer, cautiously, waiting for the sword to fly down at him so he could start the battle. Rentham sat still trying to keep a hold on himself as Jaden took a few steps back, ready to strike at any moment, or getting ready to run if Rentham lost his cool.
After all, a king is not a king for no reason.
"Did you ever have sex with her or were you guys just like . . . well, good friends?" He smiled a terrible, toothy grin. "She needed that, Rentham, she needed us than. It gave her some pleasure, let me tell you."
"Rentham, keep control." Jaden whispered, anger boiling up inside him as well.
"Control?" The king turned, his eyes blood red orbs and his teeth jagged and sharp like a sharks. "What is control?"
Jaden gasped in shock, and a single word echoed in his head, obviously sent from Rentham.
He took off, flying through the forest as the screams of the Barbarians started to echo out through the trees. They would no doubt be found now, with the alerting sounds of the dying men traveling swiftly to their camp. They wouldn't need a strategy to kill them . . .
They would need a survival plan for themselves.