Author Topic: Blade Hidden Deep  (Read 114 times)

Kaylin

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Blade Hidden Deep
« on: January 17, 2018, 09:45:53 PM »
Pain coursed up through her body like none ever felt. She had wounds before but wounds did not hurt like this. It felt like her insides were on fire and she coughed violently due to it. The cold hard ground was beneath her and the shrieking sounds of creatures she had never seen before above her. One eye managed open, working through the pain to see crimson splashing the snow. That was, without a doubt, her own blood. The movement of dark, leathery flesh, drew her attention to the creature she had seen before. It was past the creature that really caught her attention - spying as the tear in the veil began to mend, soon to disappear from sight.

?No,? she croaked out as the sickly green and black faded from the air, leaving her with the creatures that had knocked her through and to who knows where.

She would not die in this place, no matter where it was. She had a promise to keep - a vow she gave that she would not forsake. She pushed herself to her feet one of the ivory hilted blades were unsheathed, the sound of three more creatures landing behind her left two unspoken for. In any case, it was clear she was out numbered and with no bow in hand. Even still, she was not afraid.

One of the creatures dove for her back, its sleek black wings drawn in a way to aid in its quick movements. She was quickier, lowering her stance and upper body in near brow bow to the ground. She was upright just as the creature breezed by and she reached out to grab on of its wings. Yanking it back to her the blade made home in its back, piercing through to the other side while she rotated not only herself but the creature, attempting to bring the remaining three to sight.

It was then the other two made themselves known, leaping from above with one on each side to tackle her down. She landed hard atop the creature she had as hostage, pinned by one creature?s heavy claws while the other chattered and tore into the arm that held the dagger. She refused to release it even as she felt the creature?s razor claws raked down her arm enough to ribbon off flesh.

They were playing with her like cats with a caught mouse, picking her up and tossing her into the air for another to pounce down into the ground. She landed with a grunt but refused to release the dagger. Again. Again. She lost count how many times they tossed her into the air - seeing how high they could get her, before pouncing down on her. She lost consciousness on and off during their little game, brought back by the painful impact of cold ground.

Tossed into the air for the umpteenth time, the impact that caught her was not one of the creatures but of a warm body. She felt an arm under her as they hit ground, her body slumped in a cradles embrace that kept her upper body from the ground. One eye managed open to spy who, or what, it was that now had her and what she saw surprised her.

The man?s head was poised not to look down at her but the creatures that she could hear were angrily chattering. Threatening him, no doubt, for stealing their toy. Strains of long hair caught in the winter?s wind flicked about his face, leaving it hard to see his features but one thing was unmistakable. His eyes were like fresh cut sapphires and they were focused in a way she was familiar with. This man was a warrior down to his core.

"Are you still alive??

His question, or rather his voice, made it feel like a dream. Like a caption in some wish to be saved. Not that she was one of those type of women that needed saving. She was no damsel in distress - oh I broke a nail! Please some big strong man save me! She was, however, a woman that knew her limits and she was at them. To answer his question, where words failed, she inhaled deep and exhaled through the latter was quite painful.

?Wait a little longer.?

His words sounded like a request as she felt him move her, her back resting to a tree. It was shameful how she felt slumped there, helpless. ?Don?t,? she managed. There were too many of the creatures for him to take alone and she would not have another death on her hands, let alone a stranger.

?Rest now,?

Such quiet words left a heavy impression and despite her attempt, she could not fight the sensation of darkness clouding around her and pulling her into the depths. The last thing she saw before her eyes closed was the man standing and the creatures charging for him.

?No,? she muttered, a fallen word upon her lips as she slipped away.
[i:1ba0ec0be3]A pledge in blood is never to be broken
Unless the body has split the last of its blood[/i:1ba0ec0be3]

Gabriel Wolfe-Ravenlock

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Re: Blade Hidden Deep
« Reply #1 on: January 27, 2018, 02:25:55 PM »
He almost missed it.

"This is your duty, your quest from this moment hence: to survive, and one day bring our legacy through the ages until such time as you find others that are fit to carry on our tradition of service to those whom are in need of it.

His final command from the King, all those centuries ago. The only direct command the man had ever given him, in fact, though they had met on other occasions before it. On several memorable occasions they had hunted together, together with others of his retinue, men whose names were the stuff of legends. Of course, the storytellers had it all wrong. Many of the events and circumstances they reported were distortions of the truth or - more often - outright fabrications.

But some things, they told correctly. The King's shining city, for one. The Holy Isle, for another. The magic of it all. Oh, there had been magic! Around every corner and in the most unexpected places. Common enough that you couldn't help seeing it, not so common that it couldn't take you by surprise. In those days, he had taken pleasure in the journey between the Isle and the King's city, for it was through many leagues of wilderness and there were oft times many perils for the lone traveler. Life held challenges and adventures and marvels everywhere you looked. The struggle was real, as they said now, of course. But it was worthwhile.

It was one of the things he loved about Rhy'din, since he'd come here years ago. The city, surrounded by wilds on all sides, reminded him somewhat of the King's city from so long ago. It was similar, and yet so very different at the same time. The lands surrounding it were the same, and often he would wander them, recalling those days now lost in myth and time.

So lost was he in memories and thoughts of those days that he barely registered the tug at his senses that meant a rip in the fabric of reality had opened, and it wasn't until he heard the shrieking and gibbering of some unknown group of creatures in the near distance. More curious than concerned, he altered his path to see if he could get a look at what was going on.

When he came to the edge of the clearing, he thought he was, at first, seeing some strange pack of animals at play with their prey. It wasn't something he generally liked to watch, though he knew that, even in nature, it happened. He had very nearly turned his back on this grotesque little scene until, when one of the animals tossed the object of their focus into the air, and he'd seen that it was not animal, but human. A woman, bleeding from a number of wounds, as the five strange creatures toyed with her.

There was no pause to consider, no hesitation in his action. Action was called for, and it was what he had been made for. A shift of weight, three light steps, and he leapt into the air as she was falling back towards the quintet of beasts below, arms outstretched to catch her falling body in them, colliding with her hard in mid-air. His momentum carried them a fair distance from where she was going to fall amongst the creatures, twisting as gravity's grip drew them back to the earth's embrace to cushion her fall with his own body, coming to rest near a tree.

The gibbering of the predators reached his ears as his sapphire eyes looked the woman in his arms over. How long they had been at their play was hard to say, but it must have been some length of time, because she looked near her limit. He heard the creatures drawing nearer and knew he had little time, speaking to her softly.

"Are you still alive?"

He thought he detected the faint pulse of life from her, and there was a long moment when she didn't respond and he thought he had only felt the fading sparks remaining...until she drew a shallow, ragged and obviously painful breath. Relief flooded through him as he nodded, sighing softly.

"Wait a little longer."

He looked over his shoulder, seeing the dark, sleek forms prowling closer, their attention focused, their hissing exhortations a clear threat as they closed the distance. Carefully he moved, settling the woman against the tree, noticing the ivory-hilted dagger clutched tightly in her hand in a death grip. That, her attire, and the fact that she was still alive despite her injuries, told a story to his trained eyes. This woman was no careless damsel, some silly maid foolishly stumbling upon a pack of predators, but a woman familiar with blades and other weapons, skilled in their use, a warrior like himself. Curiosity made him wonder how she had come to be in this position, but there was no time to ponder it now.

He heard her murmur of protest as he shifted his weight to stand, felt her make a weak attempt to reach out to him, and put a hand on her shoulder to press her gently back.

"Rest now."

He didn't wait to see if she would obey. Indeed, she was in no condition not to. Pushing himself to his feet, he stood and turned, seeing that these creatures had spread out some, and were poised to attack.

As he watched them, time seemed to slow for a moment, as it always did at times like these. Every detail stood out in sharp relief to his senses - every mote of dust shifting through the beams of moonlight filtering through the leaves of the trees overhead, every ripple of muscle under the skin of the creatures in front of him, the scents of blood and adrenaline and damp forest earth intermingling in his nostrils, the chill of the night air on his skin. The thought occurred to him that he could wipe these animals out with a thought. With the power of the Heart of Avalon at his command, it would be simplicity itself.

Even as the thought occurred to him, however, he rejected it. Such measures were unnecessary, even if they simplified things. These were merely animals, cunning beasts, and the prospect of a physical contest held its own simple, primal appeal.

A thought was all it took to summon Angelis to his hand, a scintillating shaft of light flaring from his left hand to form itself into the long, sleek, shining blade. The burst of light made the creatures flinch for a moment, drawing them into a headlong rush. All five moved as one as he shifted the sword into a defensive position, letting them come, a faint smile on his lips.

This was what he loved, this sensation. On the cusp of combat was where he found he felt the most alive, the most focused and ready. But then, it had always been so, ever since the moment he had drawn his first breath.

As they closed and leapt for him, he went into motion, leaping up into an acrobatic, twisting flip over the middle of their charging formation, the long blade swinging in a swift, silvery arc as he passed over the creature in the middle and coming down on his feet as the predators missed their marks, facing the rear of them. The beast in the middle did not land on its feet as its companions did but instead crashed in boneless heap as its head parted company from the rest of its body, tumbling awkwardly along the ground a moment. Blood dripped from Angelis as he stood there, waiting for the remaining four creatures to turn back towards him.

They did, not even heeding the fate of their fallen comrade, just immediately resumed their assault. One of them gained his footing quicker than the others and came at him, gibbering and snarling as it came, leaping for his throat when it got close enough.

He stepped to the side as it leapt, his eyes not on it but another of the sleek beasts that had recovered and was unfolding what he could now see were leathery wings folded tight against their sides, poised for a flying leap to attack from above. With a quick whiplike motion he flung Angelis at it, snapping his wrist at just the right moment to send it whickering through the night air end over end. The sleek shining blade intercepted the creature just as it leapt upward, Angelis flying straight and true, the blade impacting on the edge directly on the centerline of the animal's skull with a sound like an axe being driven into sodden wood.

The Guardian did not see this, however, for as the blade left his hand he had turned his focus to the animal leaping for his throat. The step and throw had placed him just out of the reach of the animal's jaws as it flew past, but it swiped at him with a razor-clawed foot, which raked across his chest before he could get out of the way, parting the fabric of his shirt and the flesh under it. Silvery-violet fluid leaked from the cuts for a moment before they started to close as the Heart of Avalon glimmered at his throat, healing the wound.

The pain sharpened rather than distracted his senses. In a way, it was good to know that - powerful as he had become - he could still bleed, still feel pain.

As its momentum carried it past, he reached out and caught it with both hands by a hind leg, pivoting in the same direction as he did so. The sound of light running feet behind him told him that one of the others was closing in, and so he swung the animal in his grip around that direction, using his own strength and its momentum to turn its attack against it and the one now streaking in low for his legs. The resulting collision jarred his arms but he didn't let go as the charging beast went crashing to the side, holding on as he swung the creature around on its side into a nearby tree. There were the multiple wet snapping sounds from inside it as its back and ribs splintered under the force of the impact and it screamed out a blood-curdling shriek of agony as he let it fall to the ground to writhe in torment.

Turning, he regarded the remaining two creatures, one hanging back as the other was struggling dazedly to its feet, clearly winded by the blow it had received. A new awareness seemed to have come into the former's gaze as it snarled and chattered at him threateningly, as though this man before it might not be worth continuing this contest over the woman they had been toying with.

As it continued jabbering at him, he raised his left hand, twitching his fingers in a "come on" gesture. The gesture produced twin flarings of brilliant light as Angelis vanished from the skull of the animal he had thrown it at and reappeared in his hand.

Both beasts began to circle him warily as he settled into a defensive posture once again, moving to opposite sides of him, regarding him as he turned back and forth, waiting for them to make their move.

The creatures were graceful, lithe, dark shapes around him, now fallen silent, prowling their circle around him. There was almost no indication when the attack came - these were natural, graceful predators, clearly very cunning ones.

What they couldn't know was that they were dealing with a predator themselves, one with centuries of experience, and when they came he was ready for them.

They came from in front and behind, the one in front leaping upwards in a flying leap, the one behind coming for his knees. It was an effective tactic, one that would have worked, but that it was one he knew well. A quick step to the side and a swift twist, a hard swing in low, turning to follow through as the other descended, and with a hard, perfect upward thrust, it was over.

Almost over. There was a hard, rapid, whimpering panting sound from the one he had smashed into the tree, he noticed, and he walked over to it, looking down at the animal. There was an harrowing sort of beauty to it, he saw. It was no longer thrashing at all, but letting out pained whimpers as it lay there, panting hard. Its one visible eye rolled to look at him piteously as he regarded the beast, clearly mortally wounded and suffering. He saw its eye focus on him, and it let out a lowing sort of whimper, one foreleg scrabbling meekly at the earth.

The creature couldn?t have been plainer in its meaning if it had been given the power of speech. Moving to reverse his grip on the hilt of Angelis, he placed the sleek point of the sword just behind the creature?s foreleg, finding the soft channel between ribs, and shoved downward to pierce the beast?s heart, stilling it forever.

The sword came easily as he pulled it from its bloody sheath, giving it a vigorous shake so that the blood slipped from its surface, not a droplet left behind to  cling to the metal. With that he released his grip on the hilt, and with a brilliant scintillating flare of multicolored light the blade vanished.

Finally he turned, sapphire eyes searching out the treet and the figure slumped, sitting, just where he?d left her. The entire exchange had taken perhaps a few minutes, but judging by the state he?d found her in he was surprised when he reached her and found her still hanging on by a thread. Her hand had finally fallen limp, relinquishing its hold upon the ivory-hilted dagger, though only as far as her fingertips.

There was little time to consider such things, though, and he quickly reached out a hand to lay in the middle of her chest, the other coming up to touch the Heart of Avalon where it hung at his throat. The jet-black stone pulsed with sudden life, a shifting multicolored gleam of light shimmering from the faceted depths. The same glowing light ebbed out from under his hand on her chest at the same time, flowing out from this point of contact with a fluid suddenness, seeking out her wounds like a living thing.

As he directed the flow of energy from the Heart, he could feel her injuries. The creatures had certainly worked her over well, he thought, but there had to be more too it than that...unless they had been at work on her for a while longer before he came across them. More than just the shredded skin and muscles from the claws and teeth of the beats, more than just battering and bruising from being tossed around. He could sense massive internal injuries as well, and beneath it all, something else he couldn?t identify. As though she held within her some barely contained explosion of power.

Whatever it was, however, it was not something he could affect, that much was certain. He let the Heart of Avalon do its work, withdrawing his senses from this woman, watching as her wounds knitted closed, faster and faster, until not even a scar remained to tell the tale.

At long last, the shimmering light faded, and he settled back on his heels, looking her over. Though her body had healed and he could sense the pulse of life from her strongly now, healing so much at such a speed took its toll, and she would need rest. With a slight lean he reached down to her side and lifted the dagger from where it rested at her fingertips. As he did so she moaned softly, her eyelids fluttering as her hand twitched to close around the hilt that was no longer there.

?Jaxe??

Her voice was a low rasp, barely more than a whisper as she spoke the name. It wasn?t one he was familiar with. Then again, this woman was a stranger to him, as well. Not that such was a surprise - despite his being a part of the well-known Ravenlock family, he had few enough friends outside his very small circle.

?...promised...keep my word??

He frowned slightly as he listened, idly holding the knife in one hand as he waited for more, but none came. He took a moment to examine the blade he held, flipping it around to catch it by the hilt with an ease of long familiarity with such weapons. He had seen enough of them to know it was a remarkable piece, and the way she had held onto it suggested it was more than simply a weapon to her.

He took a moment to wipe it clean carefully, noting the sleek design of the blade and the carvings on the ivory hilts. Moving carefully, he repositioned her arm and slid the blade back into the empty sheath at her side, then moved to pull the cloak from over her head and shoulders, carefully shifting her weight as he did to avoid tearing it. He took a moment to settle her in a more comfortable position against the tree before covering her with her cloak, noting the hue-shifting quality of the cloth. It covered her completely from shoulders down to her feet, blending neatly against the mossy green-and-brown trunk and forest floor around her. Curious, he pulled the hood of it over her face, and as he suspected, the illusion was such that he nearly could not distinguish her sitting there, even as close as he was. He did not worry that other predators might happen upon her here - the presence of so much violent death had a way of driving the life from an area for a while - and as he stood and listened, he found that the forest was gratifyingly silent for the moment. Satisfied that the danger had passed for the time being, he set to work.
How can you hope to defeat me, when you are just a man, and I am forever?

Kaylin

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Re: Blade Hidden Deep
« Reply #2 on: January 27, 2018, 11:14:59 PM »
She woke with a start though her body didn?t leave the position she had been in for who knows how long. Her eyes tilted to the small campfire and she sat up, the hue-shifting cloak slithered from her shoulders to rest at her hip but it wasn?t her worry. Instead her hands went to her belt, finding both of the ivory hilts there. While relief flooded her, draining what little energy she felt she had, it left many questions still unanswered

As she looked around she found that her surroundings were not familiar ones. The earth had a different scent and spoke of a hard, cold winter coming.  She seemed to be tucked into a very secluded clearing with a burning flame, enough wood set to the side to keep the flames fed for at least a few more days still. The trees above made a tight canopy that kept a good deal of the cold and snow at bay where the fire did not. Nearby she found  a few pieces of fruit and a bowl of water, neither of her doing. Above all else, she was alone - no sight of her traveling companions or another living soul for that matter.

How much of it had been a dream? Her eyes lowered down to her body to find no wounds. Had she been forced through the veil and into another land, the rest made up by an exhausted mind? Had she simply gone into some sort of trance, defending herself before setting up camp and passing out? The fact that she could not remember bothered her. Sure her body was dying from the inside out but her mind? It should have been unaffected by her condition - unless blood loss could be used as an answer.

In the end she chalked it up to just that, a dream, and one that did not matter in the scheme of things. She needed her rest and find out where she was so she could get back to Sirhan and fulfill the promise she had made the weapon master, Jaxe.

Easing from her position she reached for the water only to pause when she heard a weakened cry on the wind. No, not weak but worried. Her eyes rose up to the branches far above, splashed with white. She knew this cry. ?Aiden??

No sooner had she spoke the name that a flash of silver caught the moonlight, speeding down from the woven branches and straight for her. It stopped short of making contact, wingspan stretched full as the feathery creature hovered in the air before her. It almost looked as if the creature was bowing to her and seemed to waste no time in taking perch when she offered out her arm.

Her travels with the group had spanned months, months that this silver-winged hawk spent most of its time out of sight or on errands. A dutiful creature that she was bound to more than that of ranger and animal companion. Having found it right after hatching, the hawk had taken to her like a fledgling to its mother which would explain why it was crawling up the length of her arm to nuzzle against her hair. The gesture drew a low breathed chuckle and she raised her hand to draw her fingertips along the bird?s feathery breast. ?I missed you too, Aiden.?

Well at least she wasn?t as alone as she thought but his presence didn?t help in the fact she was not only lost but without those she was suppose to travel with. Maybe she could get her bearings in the nearby town and find some path to catch up to her companions. Well, she had a plan but for now rest was still needed if she was going to move by first light. She only had a few months left, a year at best, to complete the task set before her.
[i:1ba0ec0be3]A pledge in blood is never to be broken
Unless the body has split the last of its blood[/i:1ba0ec0be3]

Kaylin

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Re: Blade Hidden Deep
« Reply #3 on: January 27, 2018, 11:35:58 PM »
Years later...

The Ranger had finished up her ordeals in the city - hides and meats sold, and made her way back to her campsite. It was the same campsite she ended up some time ago. Why not? It was a protected area and the trees kept the weather at bay to a degree. There was more added to it now past the spot with the fire was normally built. A tent, that was currently bound up in rope and hung with the provisions she had, a few this and thats that make life a smudge easier. There was no attempt to pull the supplies down when she broke past the treeline, but she did pause, listening to the night air.

It had been some time since he had gone walking in the wood. At one point in his long life, he had spent much of his time in forests. He was no wilderness survivalist or anything like that, of course. He simply enjoyed the beauty of it. This, he thought, was life at its most perfectly symbiotic. He loved nature for its ability to exist harmoniously. Not always peacefully, no, but in harmony nonetheless. So this night found him slipping among the trees, the cloak wrapped around him so black it drank in all the light that touched it, as if he were veiled in the shadows themselves. It must have been more substantial than that, though, for the sound it made brushing the leaves as he strolled along.

The silver-winged hawk hovered nearby, she could hear it shuffling through the frozen leaves. It was when the hawk went silent that she seemed a bit concerned. Her head tipped faintly as she reached up to grab at the bound rope but stopped. What was he up to? Unknown to her the hawk had caught sight of movement in the forest and went to investigate. The winged creature plopped down on a branch but would take flight to another every few paces the man made. It would make itself known by a noted chirp or two. Greeting? More like warning.

He paid little attention until he heard the chirps from a nearby tree, and came to a halt, his head turning to seek out the avian. Sapphire eyes fixed upon a silver winged hawk, and a faint smile found his lips as it let out another cirp, its eyes clearly fixed upon him, its body poised in challenge. He bowed his head towards the creature and spoke, his voice low and musical. "Pray forgive me, friend hawk. I do not mean to intrude upon your territory, and mean you and yours no harm."

The hawk relaxed but its head turned when there was a whistle that pierced the night air. It hopped about before looking back to Gabriel. Finally it turned and began to skip along the branch. "Aiden! Come!" The two words echoed, wooing the bird off of the branch and into flight. By the time it found the clearing, she was already moving wood to the earth made firepit. Nudging around the snow and old burnt wood, the ranger stacked the wood so it would burn properly. The hawk landed on her shoulder, nudging at her hood in attempt to get to her hair. It was shooed with gloved fingers before she resumed her task. She needed the fire up before it got too late and too cold.

He was about to set off once the hawk seemed appeased, until he heard the whistle, then the sound of the voice and the hawk took wing in its direction. He frowned slightly, his brow furrowing. There was something about it that sounded vaguely familiar. Noting the path the hawk flew, he followed it, curious more than concerned, making no effort to hide his approach. Better they hear him coming than to approach by stealth and risk the ire of whoever this was. It took him little time to find the camp and the owner of that voice, crouched over a fire pit, arranging wood for a fire, her back to him, concealed by her cloak. He halted at the edge of the clearing, just short of entering the encampment, watching a moment before he cleared his throat softly to make her aware of his presence, if she weren't already.

She was not paying attention which was likely not one of her finest moments. The clearing of the throat gained her attention swiftly and her body swept into motion. The hue-shifting cloak billowed about as she whipped around, the twin ivory hilted daggers in hand and held in a way that suggested she was ready to guard. "Who goes?" Her movements were as graceful as it was deadly but she made no attempt to attack. Spying the figure at the edge of the area she slowly relaxed. Who would announce themselves if they were ready to attack. "If you are looking for town it is north of here."

He hesitated a moment as she turned and spoke. It wasn't her face, still partly obscured by the hood, or even her voice, that got his attention. It was the knives. The ivory hilted daggers were known to him. A curl the shade of burnished copper peeked from under the hood, he saw now. He hadn't seen this meeting coming. He stepped forward, his low, musical voice carrying in the crisp cold air. "Greetings, my lady. You may call me Gabriel. And I am aware of where town is." The last sentence definitely held a hint of amusement in it as he spoke.

He made himself known by stepping forward so she would do the courteous thing by sheathing the blades. It was a swift motion of wrists that sheathed them easily and her hands flicked forward to draw the cloak over their hilts before her hands lowered. "Greetings, Gabriel. If you know where the town is ..why are you here?" The question was eased from her lips even as she raised one hand to stop the hawk who was still preening at her hood. It finally managed the hood back until it tumbled down to her shoulders and the wealth of auburn flooded free. It seemed the bird simply wanted to nuzzle into her hair which caused her lips to thin. You would think the bird attempting to nest. She made no attempt to pull the hood and pretty much gave up on trying to stop the bird. It did eventually settle and coo into her ear. Affectionate little bugger.

He shrugged as she fussed with the bird, reaching up to push his own hood back, smoothing long strands of hair out of his features in the same gesture. The sapphire eyes found the hawk at her shoulder and a faint smile formed on his lips for a moment as he watched them. He'd never seen a hawk act thusly before. "Because town is not where I wish to be for the moment." It was as good an answer as any, really.

"I see." What else was she supposed to say to that? Her fingers grazed affectionately along the feathers before she turned her dark gaze back to him. Slowly her brows knitted before raising up. He looked familiar but she couldn't place where or when. "I am Kaylin and this is Aiden." Her eyes swept away from him while her mind worked at trying to place a name to the face. It was those eyes. Was he someone she had met briefly in the inn? A shake of her head was given and she turned attention to her task. It didn't take much longer to get the fire started. "What brings you out this far?"

He bowed to both of them with that same faint smile. "Well met, Kaylin, Aiden." He watched her. It seemed she didn't recognize him. Which, he admitted to himself, was hardly surprising. She was very nearly dead when he'd seen her last, and she hadn't regained consciousness by the time he left her, save for a few mumbled words. He stayed out of the way while she lit her fire. "My feet, and an urge to wander aimlessly." In answer to her question. "I did not expect to encounter anyone else."

It was the same little clearing she had been left in when she first arrived, not that she knew it was his doing. There was something about him, however, that was nagging at the Ranger's senses. "There aren't many that travel this far out." The fire was ablaze and she took a moment to swipe her gloved palms against her thighs before turning her attention to him. "I...apologize, Gabriel. Have we met before? In passing of the city, mayhaps?"

Ah, so she had recognized him, but didn't know where from. Again, hardly surprising, given the circumstances he'd found her in. Looking around, he surveyed the clearing. He'd come from a different direction this time, and somehow ended up in the same place. He shook his head as he looked to the fire, moving closer to it. The cold didn't really affect him much, but the heat was pleasant. "No. We did not meet in the city." He hesitated before he spoke again. "We met right here, in fact." He gestured around at the clearing. "Though you were admittedly in far worse shape then."

She needed to set up the tent but made no attempt at this time. Instead she was keeping a rather hawkish eye on him. Her shoulders laxed when he spoke, a look of surprise crossing her face. "So that wasn't a dream." He wasn't a dream. She did not gawk but the ranger was pretty close to it! "I owe you my thanks, and my life. How..How did you tend my wounds? How long was I out?" Since her wounds were healed, it must have taken some time, no?

He smiled and shook his head again. "No. Not a dream. Though I am surprised you would think it such...most might have named it a nightmare." There was that hint of amusement in his tone again. "You were "out" for perhaps a night, unless you slept longer than I intended. I have a gift for healing, you see." He reached up and touched what appeared to be the clasp of his cloak, a chunk of black stone wrapped in silver wire. "And you owe me nothing. 'Tis my duty to render assistance to those in need of it."

He teased her and if it had been any other situation she may of scowled. She gestured, offering a place at the fireside to rest himself. "A nightmare. That is a good way of describing the situation even before I was spat out of the veil. He was able to heal her. That surprised her a little more than anything. "In truth when I woke I thought that I had somehow defeated the Scull on my own and passed out in this area. But I do remembering you. Vaguely. It is your eyes." It was good to have a name to her 'dream savior.' "Well if I can ever repay in kind please let me know. I am one to keep my debts and vows." A hand rose up, fingertips resting against her chest as she bowed her head to him.

"I know." The faint smile appeared on his lips again a moment, then was gone again. "You spoke some of a vow as I was healing you, though you did not say what it was, or to whom. You were unconscious." He moved to sit near the fire, the cloak settling around him, black as night even in the light of the flames. The sapphire eyes focused on her, a speculative gleam in them as he did. "I shall consider it."

"There was a man I traveled with. Him and his companions hired me to aid them on their journey." Sweeping the warden's cloak to the side she would sit down a few feet from him. Far enough to keep an eye on him or at least face him while she spoke. "He was a man I grew to admire during our travels. He met his end in battle but left a request to me. The request of a dead man is what I vowed to see finished but it seems fate decided that I would detoured to these lands before seeing it done." So much talking caused her to clear her throat which turned into a cough she was quick to raise a hand and hide.

He didn't move from where he sat, merely watched her. This was an interesting one, he thought, and he knew a fair few things about her that might surprise her. Having to heal her injuries had given him a bit of insight. He nodded as she spoke. "That is understandable." His hand came up to absently touch the amulet acting as the clasp to his cloak. "I too have an oath to fulfill to a dead man. One whom I greatly admired."

They spoke for a few hours until the hour grew too late and it seemed his eyelids were growing heavy. She did not shoo him off nor did she attempt to set up the simple tent. Instead she leaned back against the fallen piece of tree and settled, the cloak drawn close to her present. He would share her camp for the remainder of the night and she had no problem with that. After all, if he wanted her dead he could of easily of left her to die those many years ago.
[i:1ba0ec0be3]A pledge in blood is never to be broken
Unless the body has split the last of its blood[/i:1ba0ec0be3]

Kaylin

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Re: Blade Hidden Deep
« Reply #4 on: February 19, 2018, 04:55:29 PM »
A month later...

Winter was easing up and she was glad for it though the weather seemed it could not make up its mind. One day warm, the next cold enough to scare any game into hiding. At least this day had been warm enough that she was able to get some hunting in, the show of cleaned hides bound by twine held over shoulder as she made her way through the marketplace for a sale. Hides and furs meant supplies and she had ran low two weeks ago.

If he were asked to name a favorite place in the city, it would likely have been the Marketplace. In many ways, it reminded him of numerous markets in the age that he had originated in, but perhaps most of all, it reminded him of the King's Market just outside the walls of the castle proper. Even the gleaming curves of Batten Tower was not completely out of place as a backdrop. He strolled through the square, ancient memories drifting through his mind even as his attention remained in the here and now. The cloak he usually wore was today not in evidence, clad simply in black boots and pants, wearing a jacket of grey leather lined in silvery wolf's fur, left open to show a black shirt beneath, as well as the black stone amulet hung from the thick silver chain at his throat. Sapphire blues caught a hint of familiar motion and color - a sweep of furs, a flash of burnished copper - and he paused a moment, considering, before he moved in that direction.

Atop the furs, pretty as you please (and adding his weight to the bunch), was that silver-winged hawk that seemed ever guarding eye. Oh he was riding high on the hog, so to speak, as she moved as if unhindered by the weight itself. As odd as it was, the warden's cloak was not worn this day and her normal garbs could be seen and hardly a fashion statement. Leather that had been cured and well taken care of, fashioned into a vest that barely made it past mid-rib and a matching pair of side-laced pants. Matching bracers and boots to this set and suitable for a person who practically lived off the lands. The hawk saw Gabriel first and gave a call that caused the woman pause but briefly so. The furrier was right there, after all! Once she stopped at the stall, the bundle was given a hard jerk to send the hawk to find another perch while she dealt with selling the lot with the merchant.

He caught sight of the hawk at the same time that those eyes focused in on him, the call reaching his ears easily even over the din of the market, He saw Kaylin hesitate, then move towards the merchant she was hoping to deal with - a furrier, he presumed - dislodging Aiden as she reached him. The bird took wing at once and arrowed towards him just over the heads of the crowd, causing several to duck and a few people nearby to back up as the hawk reached him and braked with its wings beating fiercely to halt its forward momentum just as the Guardian put out an arm in offering of a perch. The hawk didn't hesitate but simply latched on to his forearm, gripping tight as he fluttered his wings for balance a moment, then folded them as he settled, turning its gaze to meet his sapphire blues and letting out a loud chirp. He chuckled softly as he rand a hand along the hawk's crest and down along its back. "Greetings, friend Aiden. It is good to see you, as well."

Another hesitation came from the Ranger but this time it came with a staring at the merchant as he worked the assess the hides. Turning her head she glanced over her shoulder, for a moment her blue-green holding a silver sheen that came and went quickly. "Hmm." Turning back to the merchant she took the pouch of coins he offered without so much as haggling or recounting the coins - either she had trust in the merchant or she simply did not care. The coins was tucked into a hip satchel as she coiled the twin and turned fully to face Gabriel and her traitor of a companion. Only when the twine was latched to her hip did she start to move in their direction. Stopping a few feet away she gave a wordless greeting by dipping her chin.

He stroked the bird's feathers absently a moment as Kaylin waited on the merchant, looking amused when the bird started looking him over from head to toe with what seemed to be a hopeful air. "If you are looking for food, I am afraid I do not have any." The bird chirped at him again, sounding reproachful. "My apologies." As Kaylin headed their way, his gaze was not on her, but the merchant, who looked a little puzzled for a moment, then seemed to shrug and go about the task of sorting through his purchase. He doubted the furrier had fleeced her - the man's face was familiar to him, if not his person, and had been here for some time. Such men did not stay in business by cheating their suppliers. He turned his gaze on the Ranger as she approached, finally, offering her a bow of his head in return for her own curtailed greeting. "Greetings, m'lady. I seem to have been found by something of yours."

"Someone of mine," the Ranger corrected with ease though it seemed her companion was making no attempts to free the man of his burden. In fact Aiden seemed to take it upon himself to crawl up Gabriel's arm and onto a shoulder when the Ranger seemed to be getting closer. Was he placing space between them? Surely not. "I apologize if Aiden is being a pest. He tends to latch onto those he favors." Granted, she had not seen the bird do so in quite some time. Not even Jaxe had the bird's favor but also was not around a lot during those travels. The thoughts, as brief as they were, caused her hands to raise up and fingertips settle on the ivory end of the daggers. "It has been some time. You are well?" Her eyes tilted away to look over the decor left over from the recent holiday. "Spending this holiday with your loved one no doubt, aye?"

He let the hawk make its way to his shoulder easily, the sensation once again stirring ancient memories of things long ago. A past most still thought of as myth, he reflected with some amusement. He had lived in those times. And times before them. "I knew Valentinus. Or at least, I met him a few times. I'm not certain if he would be outraged by the holiday now celebrated in his name, or if he would find it hilarious." He looked around thoughtfully. "Perhaps both." He returned his attention to the Ranger again, lowering his arm as the hawk settled at his shoulder and began to preen himself. "As for your other question...no." His tone was not unkind, but it didn't invite further inquiry, either.

"Valentinus. So the holiday is named after someone." She knew very little of it and the subject seemed easily dropped even without the tone offered her way. Instead her eyes drifted skyward, judging the colors of the sky as nightfall was quickly approaching. If one was observant enough they would find that as the night came, her eyes changed colors. From a blue-green to a rich chocolate brown which was quickly taking hold. As it seemed he avoided her other question, she didn't burden him with a repeat. Instead she took a step back and glanced across the way, taking notes of the stalls she needed to visit before returning to the muck that was her campsite. "What is it you are out here doing?"

He shrugged, the movement graceful enough that Aiden barely seemed ruffled as he moved. "I like it here. It reminds me of places I knew, long ago and far from here." His sapphire gaze wandered around again to the myriad stalls within eyeshot, marking where he had seen her gaze focus, noting the wide array of exotic and strange wares for sale among some of the other stalls. "Though of course there are significant differences." He turned once again back to her. "How have you been feeling?"

"It is similar and yet different from markets I have seen in m'own past. Vague familiars here and there." She slipped into her own thoughts for a moment or two without apologizing for it. "But this is here and now." She was, in her way, agreeing with him. At his question she tilted her eyes his way. She didn't know how to answer, "As fine as I can be in my position. The coming and going of snow has made the land around my campsite slush which has made for not so comfortable sleeping arrangements." It was a good thing he never stopped by and expected to sleep on the ground again otherwise he would of been sleeping in mud. Lifting one of her hands she settled it against the flat of her torso. Was he asking about..her condition? Did he know of it? Her brows furrowed slowly as she looked to him.

He nodded to her own assessment, meshing neatly as it did with his. "This is the here and now," he murmured after her, in a tone of agreement. He listened as she spoke of her campsite, starting to move casually in the direction of one of the stalls she had singled out looking around before. "You could always hang a hammock. That would keep you off the ground, at the very least." He caught her gesture towards her abdomen, just as he had seen the way her hands moved towards her knives earlier. The significance of both was not lost on him, even if he didn't know the context. One a motion of reverence, the other almost...protective? Or defensive? He couldn't tell for sure. He remembered sensing something buried inside her, something he wasn't certain her body was able to contain completely. There was something he was missing, here, but he didn't push it. She seemed rather tense already. "I'm guessing you're here to get supplies?"

When he started to move her gaze followed him but her feet didn't. Not at first. Eventually her steps fell in time with his own and she made her way to the stall that was mostly curing goods and supplies. "Aye. I ran out a few weeks ago but with the winter cold hunt has been slow and thus," money was slow. Needed money for supplies. She took her time going over the wares and picking out a few things needed. They were moved to the side but she quickly drew her hand back and up to her lips as a violent cough left her. Her fingers curled, pressing to her lips and the side of her cheeks and after a moment she lowered her hand. Speckle of blood that coated her palm was quickly swiped against the leather of her pants. That one had hurt her chest to where the cold air burned. "I have been sleeping in the trees rather than the ground but it is hard to keep a fire burning in such conditions."

He nodded as she spoke, agreeing silently. He knew, of course. Being a Guardian didn't pay much, really. It was enough to keep him alive, however. Not that he really needed much, anyway. He might've said more but for the coughing fit. Even if he hadn't seen the spray of blood on her fingers, he caught the scent. It was one he was more than familiar with. He almost raised a hand to her back as she bent slightly with the force of it, but had an idea that would be unwelcome. He had little choice but to let it pass for now. Based on her look earlier, he wasn't sure intruding into that would be welcome at this juncture. "A hammock would be an ideal solution. Closer to the ground. Probably more comfortable than the branches."

She didn't immediately go back to browsing, instead seemed to close her eyes and just take a moment for herself with no clue to what the man was pondering. "Comfort isn't truly a concern. I've slept on the hard ground or branches most my life." Her eyes opened, now fully brown in color, and looked over to him. "I will take it under consideration even if just for your comfort in case you decide to take a nap again." Was that a tease? It may very well of been but no smile accompanied it. Instead she paid for what wares she had been pondering over and turned to him while shoving the package down into her satchel. "If you do not mind me asking - we had talked before about our oaths to others. How long ago was your oath made?"

He sounded amused as he replied to her in his low, musical voice. "I can see to my own hammock, I think." It wasn't as if he'd not had plenty of experience. He paused at her second question. It was one he hadn't been asked in quite some time - so long ago that he couldn't remember precisely the last time he'd heard the question, or if indeed he ever had. "It has been long enough that I don't usually reckon the passing of time in years. And it would depend on which oath. The one I spoke of to you was perhaps fifteen hundred years past." The number was staggering, when it was said like that. There was a reason he didn't typically ponder that question to himself.

To a most that number would of been quite staggering indeed. To her, it only caused her eyes to drift to the sides of his head in inquiry to his race. While he had a few qualities of one, he was no elvenkin. A careful breath was taken then exhaled slowly, the burn still aching her chest and throat. "Immortal?" The question spilled from her without restraint though she almost felt like she didn't need to be. He would answer if he wished, the same as she would if any more questions came to be asked. While she didn't show it she did find a bit of amusement in the fact he was speaking of getting his own hammock. For now she left that be.

There was amusement in his smirk to that single word, and perhaps a touch of a certain rueful sadness. "I am uncertain if "immortal" is the right term. I think I prefer the phrase 'highly death resistant.'" There was a hint of a chuckle in his tone as he said that. "I suppose, for all intents and purposes, 'immortal' will do." He reached up to touch the amulet at his neck. "In part thanks to this."

Her dark gaze followed his hand as he reached to touch the amulet. She had seen him do so nearly every single time they bumped into each other - well save the first time as she was unconscious so that doesn't count. She figured it a trinket of sorts but one he holds close. While she attempted to examine it, there was no attempt to get closer. Admiring from afar his seemingly treasured possession. "And what is it?" A touch of curiosity found the Ranger's raspy voice.

"This is the Heart of Avalon." The stone gleamed, brilliant prismatic light shimmering from the black depths. He felt weight shift at his shoulder and sensed rather than saw Aiden leaning to look closer at the amulet. "And it is a very long story." He chuckled as he took his touch from the stone and the light faded from it, leaving the stone jet black once more.

"Avalon." That name sounded familiar but she wasn't quite sure why. Either way, it was quickly dismissed as she listened to him, despite the lack of information he provided. Gabriel best be careful, however. Aiden had a thing for shiny things and he way the amulet, even for that moment, was brilliant in color it was enough to get the bird's attention. And to a degree the Ranger's. Mostly because she was curious to what would cause he stone to shine so. "One no to be shared, I presume." Since night had taken hold she decided to save the rest of her shopping for the morrow and the nip of the night made her regret leaving the hue-shifting cloak back at the camp.

He turned his gaze towards her, the piercing blue sapphires measuring her for a moment before he shook his head. "Quite the contrary. The stories are shared all the time, though this little stone is never among them." He turned his gaze towards Aiden a moment, looking amused at the bird's attention towards the stone, before looking back to Kaylin again. "The Isle of Avalon was a place of power, residing as it did in a magical nexus of its own. This stone was taken from the depths of the Holy  Isle, and separated into five pieces, fashioned into amulets granted to the Guardians of Avalon." There was a clear tone of reverence in his musical voice as he spoke of the place. "Being the last of them, I...well, I saw no reason for it to remain in five pieces any longer."

For a moment she may of looked startled by a small measure. It was almost as the same place that Sebastian had told her about. She stowed this for later musings. "You are the last of your people then?" And what power did he have to turn five stones, which sounded much to her ears like ancient relics, into one? It only added a depth to the man known to her as Gabriel.

His manner turned thoughtful, the measuring look appearing on his features once again as he looked at her. "That...is an interesting question. I am the last of the Guardians of old, yes. But that does not necessarily make me the last there ever will be."

A brow arched up as she tucked her arms close, huddling to protect against the elements as she tried to puzzle out his meaning. "If I may inquire. What exactly do you mean of old?" This question had a meaning behind it but one she was not ready to explain yet.

Those sapphire eyes took on a distant sort of quality, as did the musical tones of his voice. "There were five of us. The other four died a very long time ago. Nearly fifteen hundred years ago, in fact." He was sure the timing would not be lost on her. "Fine men they were. Brave knights all, though by no means any of us what you might call...virtuous." He let out a soft chuckle, shaking his head. "We were, all of us, broken, in some way."

There was a touch of mild disappointment but that was for her and her alone. "Being broken, in some way or another, does not mean you do not hold qualities of virtue." The Ranger raised her hand, coaxing the hawk to herself. The creature didn't seem to waste any time in leaping from Gabriel's shoulder and to her hand. "Does that mean you and yours did not withhold the knight's code?"

He barely felt the hawk go from his shoulder to her hand, had nearly forgotten its presence there, in fact. "We were servants of the realm. Of course we held to the knight's code. Our mandate was simple...to protect the Holy Isle and its interests. And its interests were, simply, everything. We went where we were asked and helped those in need however we could."

Something he said brought a very rare thing to the Ranger. A light smile swept her lips, shadowed by the night. It had been so long since she smiled that it felt odd to her muscles. "If I might inquire, Gabriel, what would you have done if you found what you were asked to do to be questionable?"

A faint smile twitched the ends of his lips upwards a fraction as he eyed her, the sapphire blues now sharper in their gaze. "I suppose that would depend on how you define 'questionable,' m'lady. In all honesty, if I had been asked by the ladies of the Isle, I would have obeyed without question. I owed them much, and trusted their judgement. They had proven worthy of such."

That statement almost had her laughing if only because the way he worded it... It did not sound right or likely in the light he was speaking it to. "And if one of those women requested you to kill in their name, with no reason but their own desire of it to be done?"

He frowned, sensing her amusement and genuinely puzzled by it, but shaking his head to her question. "No, I suppose that I couldn't do." Then he shrugged. "And anyway, they would not have asked such things of us. They were capable of carrying out such acts themselves."

"While that may be true, it does not mean that you would not be tested to show your loyalty." She saw the frown and bowed her head. "Forgive me, I didn't mean to insult you in any way." His Avalon reminded her a touch of Eriador and there was a fondness in the memory but also a heavy sadness.

He shook his head, waving her apology away at the same time. "You caused no offense, m'lady. I am familiar with such tests, but the priestesses needed no such deceptions to discover our loyalty. They had ways of seeing..." He trailed off, shaking his head again as if to clear it. "They were powerful women, to be sure."

"There was once a kingdom I served under for many years as a simple blacksmith. I earned the rank as Knight and eventually First Knight to his lord and ladyship. Their kingdom ran on the Knight's Code. It is," she considered the words she was looking for, "nostalgic to hear of such from another, even if from another realm and time."

He smiled at that as they walked, nodding. "Indeed it is. Once there were more here that followed such a code and came from similar places, but...it has been some time since I have exchanged tales with a fellow knight." He arched an eyebrow at her as he tilted his head to look sidelong at her. "You know, it is a long walk back to your camp. Perhaps I could accompany you and we could regale each other with tales of our exploits that aren't completely exaggerated?"

A fellow knight. It has been many years since she had been referred to as such. She had dwelled in the wilds so long as a Ranger and a mercenary that she nearly forgot she had once donned such a title. A title that had brought much more to her life than she had ever expected and to a degree may even of been running from. With a gesture of one hand she started to walk the path back to camp, the other hand preoccupied with the hawk who was still latched on.
[i:1ba0ec0be3]A pledge in blood is never to be broken
Unless the body has split the last of its blood[/i:1ba0ec0be3]