The initiation begins as Ted is dragged into a dark room for the sake of the ceremony, not knowing just what kind of fate awaits him yet. Meanwhile, Rubio makes his way to Gudora’s capital and deals with a few more ruffians along the way.
Chocolate brown eyes belonging to the dracoknight/tactician flickered open slowly, half hazy from exhaustion at first. Marco’s sweat-covered head felt like it was going to explode, frankly. The sun was near the horizon line at this point, coating the entire area with a red hue. This only served to further highlight the most vibrant red object in the area where the draco mage had awakened, one which made his heart belly-flop into the deepest recesses of his abdomen. The Trusted sat next to him, looking bright gold in the setting sun. Its chosen wielder was nowhere to be seen. Rubio remembered everything that happened upon seeing the beautiful golden staff sitting beside him.
Cautiously, the black haired knight reached out, gingerly resting a hand on the Staff of the Cruzen’s hilt. Ted had told him that the Trusted was a very fickle weapon, either electrocuting with Libra those unworthy of wielding it or bucking like an untamed mare. In its deactivated state, however, neither of these happened. The only reason Marco ended up pulling his hand away was because the staff was extremely hot to the touch, having sat out in the open sun for a long time and conducted heat the whole time.
A moment later, Rubio reached out again, bringing the weapon close to his body by dragging it close with his gloves. The sun had started to dip below the horizon now, and the black haired dracoknight became extremely sad when he remembered the whole reason why he had bothered to bring Ted to his world in the first place. He wanted the Lacertas to see what sunsets were like in Delyra. And yet, it was sundown now, but he was alone. All that remained of his beloved was his beautiful staff. The sweet, lithe man that it belonged to was nowhere to be found. The weapon was still very hot to the touch, but it gave Marco an immense sense of comfort just hugging the Trusted as he watched the sun go down. He held it close to his chest, desperately holding on as if he was giving Cruz himself a hug. Tears involuntarily ran down the dracoknight’s cheeks as he thought about how he had failed to protect the older Lizard warrior.
He really did ruin everything by being too weak... He was too afraid of dying to hurry forward before Sokara did to smite the Titan hydra dragon Garuga back then, and he was too weak to protect somebody he loved with his entire heart now. What good was he as a person if he couldn’t be relied upon for the most important things?
No, there was still time. It wasn’t too late.
After moping about during the entire time the sun vanished below the horizon, Marco figured that the least he could do for Ted would be to look for him. There was no sign of blood on the sand, after all. Besides, the black haired male was sure that Cruz was alive, between the vision the Texan Zodiac senator had prior to their ambush as well as utmost faith in the older man’s strength. Rubio looked down at the weapon he was cradling in his arms. Ted needed his staff back. Wherever he was, the older Lacertas were unarmed and likely waiting for his black haired hero to swoop in and rescue him.
Not wanting to drag the admittedly quite heavy staff throughout the entirety of Gudora, Rubio tried seeing what he could do to attach the Trusted to his back. The dracoknight hypothesized that it had to be some kind of magic that Ted used to keep the weapon attached to his outfit when it wasn’t being swung around, as the Lacertas didn’t wear a sheath over his vest and sweater. Of course, Marco didn’t have any idea what that magic could be, and thus he was forced to make a makeshift sheath out of some of the fabric on his person. It wasn’t the most secure hold, but it would at the very least keep the Trusted from falling off his back and forcing Rubio to lug it along behind him.
Maybe once he got to Gudora’s capital he could get some more fabric to keep it attached to his person better while simultaneously maintaining his typical dracoknight/tactician look.
Either way, Marco’s goal right now was to reach the capital. Perhaps there he would be able to find out something about where Ted might have disappeared to. A silent prayer was given to Solaris as he traversed through the night in hopes that nothing bad would happen to the Texan senator to the Trusted before he could be found and rescued.
Ted made sure to keep his paces steady enough so that he stayed between the two men who were leading him to the initiation ceremony. Seeing as the hood half covering his face was preventing him from seeing straight ahead, he only managed to keep up and follow them through the various twists and turns of whatever facility he was being kept prisoner within because his eyes tracked the men’s feet. Not only that, but his sight was fuzzy for some reason, but not enough so that he couldn’t make out the dark boots plodding across the floor. Just how much longer would it take before they would get to their destination?
The moment that the Lacerta wondered that, however, the three stopped walking. There was a tense moment of silence in the room now as the smell of burning candles accosted the senator’s nostrils. How many candles were actually lit in this room to make the smell so strong? He wanted to lift his head up in order to peek out from beneath the hood and take a better look around, but the silence was broken just then.
“Kneel, child.” One of the cloaked men standing next to Ted demanded, instantly sending a chill up his spine. Afraid that he’d have whatever painful magic that was used to force him to his feet earlier cast upon him again if he refused, the seer quickly complied, almost falling onto his shins.
An unintended result of this quick drop, however, was the fabric of the hood he was wearing falling back onto his shoulders. Ted gasped quietly as he realized that had happened, but he was too shocked by what he could now see before him to pull the hood back up over his face. Instead, he just stared at the plethora of candles burning in the distance as well as about a dozen pairs of red eyes belonging to kneeling figures glaring into his own. He was all but paralyzed by the fearsome gazes piercing into his soul. There was a thick, dark smog that covered up a lot of the room, but he could tell in spite of his rather fuzzy eyesight that past it , there was a mural dotting the walls over their heads. The room was completely devoid of any other kind of distinguishing feature past that.
Just then, a hand tightly grasped the top of the Lacerta’s head, painfully squeezing his skull. He wanted to yell out in pain, but the deep voice that followed scared him out of doing so.
“I told you to keep your hood up at all times unless told to put it down, child.” The voice rang in Ted’s ears for several seconds afterward. After he finished speaking, the older man’s voice timidly piped up.
“I-I’m sorry... It’s just I...” Once again the booming voice echoed, cutting Ted off before he could finish the sentence.
“Do not speak unless asked to do so.” That was enough to get the Texan staffsman to shut up immediately, squeaking quietly under his breath after hearing the angry demand. After that, the hand stopped squeezing Ted’s head and forced the dark colored hood back over the top half of his face. Yet again his neck was lurched forward from the act. If this kept up, the King of Cruzen was going to have a broken neck by the time he got out of here... At least, that was assuming he would get out of here.
No, this wasn’t the time to be pessimistic. There was still hope. Rubio had to be on his way here to put a stop to whatever these intimidating freaks had in mind for him. Just the thought that sometime in the near future, a young man with hair as pure as jet black, eyes like the sweetest melted chocolate, and a rich silver armor embroidered in green would come barging in and whisk the Lacertas away from this dreadful place. But until then, he had to deal with whatever it was these freaks wanted.
A hand gently rested atop Ted’s head at this time, not squeezing it unlike a moment prior. The owner of the voice spoke up just then, likely addressing the figures with red eyes that sat before him. “My fellow Gudorians.” He stated in a calm voice. “We have gathered here today to induct this child into our ranks as one of our brethren. He has shown romantic interest in one of our own, and thus he shall become a Garugi like us.” Just hearing what the man had calmly said tied more figurative knots in Ted’s stomach than any of the threats he had been given prior. Was it really true that the reason he was sitting before them right now was because he was in love with Marco?
And that name ‘Garugi’... That was the name of the cult that tried to revive the evil titan dragon that had nearly destroyed the land of Delyra! There was no way that Marco was one of them, especially considering that the dracoknight/tactitian had been the vessel for Garuga! He wanted no part of that fate!
You’re wrong! He wanted to shout out. Rubio’s not a Garugi! He’s the tactician of Delyra! He would never approve of this! And yet, something was holding him back, preventing him from screaming out the truth to these religious nuts. It wasn’t any kind of spell that the Garugi had put upon him, though. Fear of getting hurt by their magic wasn’t restricting him either. And yet, he couldn’t find the strength to say it. He continued to kneel there silently with a hand on his head, his wrists having gone completely numb by this point. Of course, what the Lacertas hadn’t realized yet was that there was another, more dire reason as to why his skin was starting to turn deathly pale...
Darkness had creeped over Gudora by the time Rubio got to the capital of the desert continent. It was very quiet at this time, but the draco tactician had reason to believe that there were all kinds of undesirable individuals lurking about, waiting to prey on an unsuspecting victim. Since he had begun his trek through the desert, the black haired male had found out that his tome and sword had been stolen after the attack back in the desert. Literally the only weapon on his person was the Trusted tied awkwardly to his back. For a genius dracoknight/tactician, he hadn’t exactly come up with a backup plan in case his weaponry were to be stolen from right out from underneath his nose.
Granted, Marco hadn’t thought that would be a problem to begin with, considering he and Ted were originally supposed to end up safely in the middle of Delyrus to meet with Sokara.
...Sokara! Whoops. The dracoknight had very nearly forgotten about the Exalt of Delyra in his harrowing trip through the desert. Not a very wise thing to do, considering the black haired male was one of Sokara’s most trusted confidants. The first thing he would do once he got settled at an inn for the night would be to write up a letter and call some kind of messenger bird to bring it to Delyra come morning. The Exalt needed to know that Rubio wasn’t going to be around until he found Cruz again, alive or dead.
Just then, there was a slight scratching noise that brought the dracoknight mage out of his thoughts. As expected, there were thieves and other undesirables running around. And apparently walking around the capital at night with a beautiful golden staff attached to your back was some kind of calling card for thieves to attack. Chuckling confidently, Marco started untying the weapon haphazardly attached to his robe.
“You know, if you wanted to sneak up on me, actually sneaking would be wise.” By the time he finished that sentence, the Trusted had fallen from its makeshift sheath into his right hand, allowing him to swing it freely in order to punctuate his gesticulation while the mage continued to taunt.
“I know you’re there. Let me guess, it’s my weapon you’re after, right? Think it’ll fetch a pretty penny or something because of how beautiful it is with its metallic golden pole and glowing blue lines? Unfortunately for you, I need this staff myself. A friend of mine is going to need it back.”
“In that case, we’ll deliver it to yer friend ourselves. Heheheh...” A burly looking man with an axe stepped out of the shadows, smiling darkly at Rubio. Several other figures stepped out into the moonlight, leering hungrily at their intended victim. The black haired male’s stomach lurched a little afterward, though it wasn’t in response to the fact that he was right about the thief trying to come after him. No, it was what he said about ‘delivering it to your friend ourselves’ that struck a chord. Did these vagabonds perhaps know where Ted was? Whereas Marco might have initially tried to just run away before, now he was curious to find out if that was really the case.
The problem of the matter was the fact that Rubio wasn’t the Heir to the Trusted. If the dracoknight flipped open the weapon to let its actual sharp blade pour out, he would end up getting electrocuted or perhaps worse. He had heard the stories from Ted about how Theandro had irreparably damaged his right arm by swinging around the staff against the Mechon Drachos despite the fact that he wasn’t its chosen wielder. Marco seriously didn’t want that to happen to him. After all, if Cruz found out, he’d probably feel anger and despair simultaneously. The last thing he wanted was to deal with was Ted refusing to look at him or unleashing an unstoppable deluge of tears from those gorgeous cerulean eyes of his ringed with Ether.
However, Marco needed to stop getting distracted. There were a bunch of rogues about to attack him. In fact, realizing that the intended victim was a bit distracted, the man who had spoken earlier leaped forward with his axe and tried to slice Rubio in the stomach. The dracoknight managed to snap out of his funk just in time to swing the Trusted upward and slam the thick metal frame into the guy’s hand. The rogue yelped in pain upon being hit, staggering back and shaking his hand out.
And that’s when an idea came to the genius dracoknight tactician. He hurried forward and swung the Trusted vertically downward, smacking the guy over the head while he was still jumping around due to the hand injury. He crumpled immediately, knocked out by the heavy weapon smacking against his skull. The other thieves were not happy with this, descending upon Rubio all at the same time in order to get revenge for their friend who had just been knocked out.
One man swung a large axe similarly to the first attacker, another swiped with a scimitar, and the third brandished a halberd. The axe user attacked first, trying to bring his weapon down on Marco’s head. However, the Trusted was swung forward, completely parrying the attack. While the man’s weapon was hooked onto the golden staff, the draco mage swung with all his strength, launching the guy through the air several feet back and into his lancer buddy, practically squashing the smaller guy with his large bulk. And that just left the swordsman. For a while, Rubio and his enemy smacked blades against one another, neither party backing down or making any mistakes that could be exploited. However, it didn’t take the black haired man very long to realize that his opponent’s tactic was to stall out and wait for his friends to pick themselves back up off the ground in order to assist. Perhaps not the lance user, but the axe wielder could certainly barrel in and make things difficult. Figuring that he needed to mix things up a little, Rubio started jogging away from the ruffian. He was the slowest runner out of all the Shepherds, but he still had enough speed to get a head start on an unsuspecting opponent. “...Hey!” The man shouted before starting to give chase.
“Get back here!” But that was exactly what the black haired male was hoping would happen.
Marco bounced clean over the half-lucid axe wielder’s head at that moment into the narrow passageway behind him. Realizing there was no way to just sidestep his bulky friend, the swordsman tried to do the same.
“...OOF! GET OFF ME!” was all Rubio heard in the next moment. It was enough to get him to laugh for couple seconds before hurrying back over to where the two buffoons were laying. They were barking at each other, accusing one another of letting their prize get away. It didn’t look like either of them had noticed Marco sneak back up behind them, as the swordsman was completely taken aback when the draco tactician jabbed the tip of the deactivated blade into his buddy’s stomach before using it like a vault pole to hop back over into the light of the moon. At the end of the jump, he deliberately swung his blade so it smacked into the other guy’s face, causing him to fall backward from the force, knocked out.
By this time, the first guy had reawakened from being knocked out, shaking out his head and finally getting his bearings again. Noticing this, Marco hurried over and grabbed the man by his hair and placed the Zodiac Wheel under his chin, staring down at the man in his grasp. “You said something about returning my friend’s staff.” He growled. “Tell me what you know about my friend - location, condition, anything. Tell me!”
“I-I really know nothing!” He pleaded, not wanting to get beheaded. Of course, he didn’t really know that Rubio could neither use the weapon in its active state nor that the Trusted to begin with couldn’t cut people. “I just wanted to make a jab at what you were saying... A taunt, really. I wouldn’t ’ave even known that staff ain’t yours if you didn’t say anything! I woulda taken the staff and sold it to the highest bidder... Please don’t hurt me...” As much as Rubio wished it wasn’t true, he had no reason to suspect the man of lying. The draco tactician had deliberately left out a gendered pronoun from his threat in hopes of catching the guy accidentally dropping the fact that he knew Ted was male without thinking. However, from the sound of the guy’s desperation, it didn’t seem like he really knew anything. Just as Rubio had initially suspected, these men were just street bandits, serving nobody but themselves. He would have been better off just running away instead of trying to battle with a weapon that wasn’t even his. Sighing loudly, Marco removed the Trusted from the man’s neck before once again slamming it over his head, knocking him out again for the second time that night.
That took care of those goons. There was just no outdoing the genius draco tactician of Delyra when it came to convoluted but surprisingly effective plans like that. Still holding the Trusted with one hand, Rubio strode calmly away from the scene after standing up, ambling down the main road towards Apex inn that still had its lights on. Boy, was he going to have quite the story for Sokara to send along with the information about the whole situation now. Settling down in a hotel room after paying the keeper for the night, Marco got straight to work writing a letter for the Exalt.
My most sincere apologies for not showing up at the assigned time when I told you Ted and I would arrive. I’m fairly certain that somebody found out about our trip today and sabotaged our method of arrival, as we ended up fairly close to the Gudorian border rather than in the middle of Delyrus. I have yet to figure out who did it, but it’s likely the saboteur is in Gudora. Not long after our botched arrival, Cruz and I were accosted by a group of brigands, likely hired by or serving for whomever it was that messed up our trip.
Unfortunately, their numbers got the best of us. Despite the fact that Ted had received a less than helpful vision about the attack prior to it happening, we just weren’t able to get past the sheer size of the group. We ended up losing the battle.
Afterward, my weapons were confiscated, as was Ted. The weapons I can replace with money I still have on my person, but I need to find Cruz before it’s too late for him. I fear for his life, knowing how ruthless the Gudorians can be even now after the end of the war. Perhaps even more so toward those of us allied with Delyra out of bitterness.
I am sorry to inform you that I will not be heading to Delyra until I’ve rescued Ted. I don’t know how long it will take for me to find him, but if you do not hear back from me within the next few days with a letter of my progress, perhaps you might want to look into the endeavor yourself.
My first night of looking for hints had turned up with nothing of value. I was accosted by another group of thugs who wanted to rob me. Seeing as I had been robbed earlier, I didn’t exactly have my sword Creventis nor the Arcane Flare tome, as aforementioned. The only thing I had to defend myself with was the Trusted staff, which the first group of thieves somehow didn’t think to take with them. I got to hand it to Ted, he’s got a pretty hefty, blunt weapon to defend himself with even without it being activated. I only stayed to fight under the pretense that the men knew something about Cruz’s whereabouts, but it was a red herring. Still felt good to knock them out though.
Tomorrow my search will continue in full force. I hope to find Ted quickly before something terrible happens to him. Here’s hoping that I’ll be able to write you a letter on my status in a few days, regardless whether or not I’ve found Cruz.
That would do the trick. Come morning, the white haired male would call for a carrier pigeon to take the letter out to Delyra. Hopefully the Exalt wouldn’t start gathering the Shepherds again to search the countryside or something before the letter would get to him. Rolling up the note into a cylinder, Rubio poured a little bit of hot wax from the candle he had been writing the letter under in order to seal it. Normally he’d use an identifying seal on the wax to make it clear to Sokara that the letter was from him, but he didn’t exactly have a seal on his person right now. With those preparations for morning out of the way, the draco tactician finally climbed into bed to sleep.