Luck of the Draw

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Separation

As the two exited the spire, they could see the group of people running towards them, getting closer much faster than they anticipated. They decided that the best course of action was either waking up or defending their friends. These people did not look friendly, judging by their threatening movement style, and were likely unimpressed with their inept bumbling about the spire of seemingly religious importance.

They first tried to shuffle Rowen out from under Devyn, which proved surprisingly easy. Now separated, Paris worked on trying to wake up Rowen while Aeth judged whether it was a good idea to wake up Devyn. They both looked really hurt, but Rowen's injuries appeared tolerable. Devyn's, however... But they were sure it was an emergency, so they had to move them quickly.

The group was getting closer. They were still shrouded by the darkness of Nthish dusk and the sunlight from behind left their faces obscured. What was certain, however, was that these people had large builds and an adept offensive strategy. They all appeared to be carrying weapons, some more aggressively than others, and many of them appeared to be focused on using them. Paris and Aether really needed to think of a plan and fast, but they were stuck in a similar situation as before; Devyn came up with the survival plans, not them.

Aeth resorted to plan B; creating defences. They were exhausted, but they were more terrified for their life and their friends. They began to create spiked barriers in a small circumference around them to prevent the attackers from approaching. It wasn't much, but it would have to do. Paris, in contrast, prepared herself to fight another person. This would be the first time, and hopefully the last, but Paris wasn't sure if she would be able to. All she knew is that if she did end up having to take a life, it would undoubtedly be the last time. Ever.

The group drew closer. At this point, Aeth and Paris could make out exactly how many of them there were. And there were a lot. It turns out that there was actually a mix of bloodalters that made up the group; Aeth could make out pointed horns and claws, while Paris could see fistfuls of earth and water. They only had one goal in common and that was to pursue and eliminate the ones who sat in front of the spire. Aeth was already feeling signs of fatigue holding up the barriers for too long, so they let go slightly and resolved to put them back up once the attackers drew closer.

They were within shouting distance now. Aeth put the barriers back up again and began to brace. Paris also braced, but less so. They'd already decided to put themselves in danger for their friends, but it wasn't like there was a better course of action. Neither Rowen nor Devyn were waking up, so they couldn't assist. All they could do was wait for what happened next. As the attackers drew yet closer, Paris could only think about the hope in the people's eyes when they heard that they would escape to Nth. What a twisted turn of events.

"Stop!"

Someone from the crowd called out, and the group immediately ceased their pursuit. They were very close by this point, able to touch the barriers Aeth had installed with their weapons.

"Drop the barriers!"

Aeth wasn't intending to do what they asked, but their strength (or lack thereof) got the better of them. The barriers shattered in a shimmering pile and evaporated back into Aeth's hands.

"Are you okay?"

The next sentence surprised both Aether and Paris. They weren't expecting a message of sincerity and care from the group, but that was what they would end up receiving. It was only then that they tuned into what the others of the group were saying. They all looked so worried, saying things like "They look so young..." and "What happened to them?" and "I heard that they...". It was all so unexpected and... sincere. Paris acted immediately.

"Please don't hurt us!" Paris blurted out.

"We're not going to! We thought you had been followed by them. We were just concerned, is all!"

It was then when the speaker of the group pushed their way through the crowd, an older gentleman wearing an olive green shawl and many beads.

"No, no, we weren't followed." Aeth spoke up. "We just... had to fight them off."

The gentleman examined the two's unconscious friends, but he wasn't looking for injuries. He was looking for markings.

"...You aren't Nthish." A confused and surprised chatter arose from the crowd.

"Wh- No. We aren't. We've never been here before." Paris forced herself to say. She wasn't comfortable saying it due to the reaction it may draw from the crowd.

"How did you-? You should've-" The gentleman sighed. "Come now. Your friends need help."

A section of the crowd drew forward. Haloed and clad in robes, they looked... heavenly. Especially to Paris and Aether, who had been in the throes of punishment and altercation for an unknown length of time. It would turn out that these people are healers, brought along in case of something like the scene put before them. They were sent courtesy of the Holy City, which wasn't described by any other name for whatever reason. It didn't matter, though. They were just happy to be alive.

"Your friends will be asleep for a while longer. We'll have to send for transport for them." He then turned to two different sets of people; one he had travelled with and were clothed similarly, another who were dressed in a way better fitted for sea travel. Their clothes were oddly familiar, but neither Paris nor Aether could tell what it was.

The two parties went in opposite directions. "Where are they going? Why are they not going the same way?" Aeth asked.

The gentleman turned with a sigh. "They need to rest in the cities they bleed for." A strangely cryptic message, but the gentleman hesitated before continuing. "I assume you all are close friends, yes? You would not have protected them as such if you were not."

"Yes, we are. ...Why?" Paris was growing concerned.

"Well... Here in Nth, we find it best to... separate people, based on their bloodalter. That way they can live lives most finely tuned to what they're especially adept at, and also to avoid... conflict and disagreement." The gentleman finished his words with another sigh.

"...Oh... So we have to go to different cities now...?" Aeth asked.

"I'm afraid so. It's what's best for Nth, with bloodalters being so different."

"But-"

"I'm sorry." He said somberly. "There is nothing we can do. It is the only law that stretches across the entire continent."

The parties had returned surprisingly quickly, both with a carriage of sorts. Devyn was placed on a silk sheet and carried away by two citizens, while Rowen was bundled in protective fabrics and carried by another. The crowd was beginning to withdraw to their respective cities now.

"It is time for you both to go. You," The gentleman gestured to Aeth, "Must go north. You must go to the South-East. You can follow the silk stretcher your friend is on for most of the way."

There was no ifs or buts about it. Paris and Aeth had to obey by Nth's rules now. There was nothing they could do now but... say goodbye. Oh, it's so sad! I'm crying just as I write this! ...No, I'm not actually, but STILL.

Paris and Aeth turned to each other. They embraced and shared a couple 'good luck' messages. Then, Aether turned away and walked behind a couple from the crowd to the Northern City. Paris, in turn, walked to the South-East behind a slightly larger crowd.

This would be the last time they'd see each other for a very long time.

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