Lost in the Light Ch. 09byBelderiever©
"Oohh..." the old man gasped and struggled to crawl to her. "Ohhh.. my queen." He almost sobbed in joy. "We did it." He breathed, and dared to touch one. His trembling hands made contact and felt the slick, tingling membrane of her wing. Slowly he stroked them make sure they were real. Riyarra closed her eyes, and allowed this. She could feel his touch. With each stroke of her wing, her back twitched involuntarily.
"Ohh.. oh my," he wheezed. "I've.. never.. Oh my." He hadn't expected this revelation.
"And why should you, Cleric?" Riyarra asked, slightly annoyed. "You are not my husband." Prudence and decorum suddenly hit the old man like a stick to a head. He slammed his eyes shut and turned away from her.
"My a-p-pologies! Your grace! My queen! I beg your forgiveness!" he stammered, and scampered over the pool's edge to find her cloak. It was difficult for him to find with his eyes closed, but he dared not risk looking upon the forbidden.
Riyarra rose and strode after him gracefully with the poise of a ruler, her vibrant wings stretching in the open air. Twenyl found her cloak and unsurely rose to his feet. But before he could turn around, Riyarra embraced him form behind, wrapping her arms around his chest, and resting her head on his hunched shoulder. Twenyl stiffened when he felt her warm body pressed against his. It was not appropriate.
"I know no words to adequately express my gratitude, Cleric, Thank you." She said, and reached over his should to take the cloak from his hands. Twenyl's indignation abated with her words. She released him, stepped back, and touched his shoulder. "you may open your eyes now."
Twenyl did as he was bidden, and slowly turned to regard her. The multi-colored lights that danced over the walls and ceiling were gone as well as her wings. Only an Elven lady stood before him dressed in the green cloak of the Leaf Knights.
"May I know your name, Cleric?" She asked politely.
"Twenyl, my Queen." He replied still unsure of how to act.
"Twenyl," Riyarra began, "would you be so kind as to escort me from this place?" The old man nodded vigorously and guided her back out. Unlike their trip in, he had to check behind him constantly to make sure she was following as she made not a sound. He was delightfully surprised to find her keeping pace, and giving him a curious glance when he checked on her. When they reached the opening, Riyarra turned to him.
"I am sure you have questions," She started in all seriousness as she paused to allow the cool mountain air to wash over her. Riyarra even indulged herself a moment to fling her wet hair side to side to dry it some. "But before I answer them, I have a request." Twenyl could only nod humbly. "My brother cannot stay on the throne, his madness will destroy our people. I do not wish for war, but I will not turn away from it. I need a Royal Cleric, someone I can trust to help handle certain delicate matters of the royal lineage. Seeing as you have already seen me naked, it would make sense to appoint you..." Old Twenyl blushed in embarrassment.
"I would be honored," He gasped.
"Done," Riyarra snapped, smiled wryly, and started her trek down. "Ask your questions, Royal Cleric Twenyl."
The trip down was most enlightening for old Twenyl. He had traveled far and seen many things in his centuries of life, but it was always as a servant to the Crown and the army. He had never been to court, or much less seen the royal family before. His arrogance, and sure-selfness had been humbled by this new opportunity to learn of things that had existed right under his nose. He attempted to be delicate with his questions -- what had happened in Zecair, how she escaped, who Gayne was -- but if he had been indelicate, she didn't show it. This was certainly not the same girl that stumbled up the mountain.
"On one of my first nights there," She began the tale of her infection. "My captor forced a mixture down my throat that infected me. It made me burn for a man's love so fiercely it would have killed me. Luckily, my fellow prisoner relieved me." She spoke of this so frankly that Twenyl didn't know which was more shocking -- the story, or her candid manor. "His name was Liam, and he was a human. But in Zecair he was given the name Mule."
"A human? In Zecair?!" Twenyl found that part hard to believe. "That is very peculiar."
"Wait a bit," Riyarra smirked. "There is more..." she regaled the tale of their imprisonment, and how he had intended all along to be captured because she was his target. But more confusing was that he was the one responsible for alerting the Zecair patrols to her secret meeting with one of their other patrols. Apparently, he had been hired to make her "disappear" in Zecair, but had had second thoughts... or decided to redefine what disappear in Zecair meant.
"This is most peculiar, are you sure it wasn't a cloaking magic of some sort? Humans cannot survive in Zecair. And he seems to be weaving a web of intrigue unlike any I've noticed in humans." Twenyl protested.
"I cannot say for certain. I questioned it many times. But he never lost his illusion." was all she could offer. She continued her tale, and how she encountered the Yvarna, and the Zecairin patrol...
"And this last tale, is a secret not to be repeated." She said and gave the Cleric a serious look. Twenyl was at a loss to what secret could be so dire compared to the horrors she had already admitted to.
"I so swear," Twenyl responded. He was no stranger to keeping secrets, all that was required was a verbal oath, and certain magics could be used to guarantee the secret.
"I came a across a curious creature called a Furrel. He claimed to be an elder race. He was very powerful in magic, but also very... savage in nature. Have you ever heard of them?"
"I cannot say I have," Twenyl's brow furrowed, and he looked most vexed. "Here? In these woods? And to think I never sensed such a creature."
"I imagine that is part of their power." Riyarra consoled him as they rocky terrain melted away into grassy hills and brush. They found their way to the path through the woods they had taken previously. "They are very bestial. He said he had the Dreamseer gift -- he could visit a person's dreams. He helped me fight off the infection, but I do not know his true goals." She stated matter-of-factly. Their walk through the woods quieted after that. Riyarra seemed to drift off into thought. "I don't remember much after he took me in. The hunger was becoming too strong, and shortly after I was presented to you at your camp."
"That explains the strong animal smell." Twenyl wrinkled his nose up. Riyarra paused to look at him questionably. Twenyl caught himself and looked ashamed. "That was rude of me, my apologies, my queen."
"This is going to take some getting used to," she smiled affectionately at him as way of forgiveness.
"Very true," he sighed.
"I should visit his monastery, and tell them Liam is dead." She said.
"Monastery?" Twenyl froze in his tracks. "Did he tell you he came from a human Monastery? Here, in these woods?" The look on his face told her there was a piece to the puzzle the Leaf Knights had already discovered. "Oh my." The crunch of footfalls in the brush made both elves snapped their attention to it. A dark shadow boldly strode forth from the path in front of them. Magic had masked his presence, and the spell was fading now that he had chosen to reveal himself. Riyarra's jaw clenched shut, and her hands tightened into fists.
"Tell us old man," A Zecairin scout called out as he swished his longsword through the air. "We've heard so much already, please continue. Tell us about this Monastery." He was clad in charcoal colored leathers, and wore a grey cloth mask to hide his face. But there was no denying who he was. Riyarra took a step back and put a protective hand before Twenyl. The old man, shamed by her gesture, shouldered past her.
"No, you will not have her, fiend." He snarled. He raised his hands, and a gust of wind slammed into the Zecairin man sending him spiraling backwards. An arrow from noise in the brush struck Twenyl in the shoulder. The old man crumpled into Riyarra's waiting hands. "I am sorry..." he grumbled, and gritted past the pain. "I exhausted too much of my strength in the cave. I should have felt their presence." The archer appeared from the shadows where the original sound came. He too, had always been there, but couldn't be seen by way of his magic. Unlike the first his face was clear, and he looked down on them with a cold superior glare.
"Quiet you, or the next one I put in your neck." The archer warned. To add emphasis to his words, he grabbed the arrow shaft and ripped it out. Twenyl grunted but bore it well. Despite his age, he was no feeble old man. Being a Cleric to the Leaf Knights also meant he was no stranger to war and pain. The archer was robbed of his delight in the man's agony.
"We don't need him," His companion called out, almost joyous. "She's the one we want." He was dusting himself off as he returned. His mask had been blown off and revealed his comely appearance and congenial smile. "That was almost fun old man, I'd ask you to do it again, but I don't trust you to be that gentle next time." He chuckled, and picked up his sword. Riyarra eyed the steel warily. If she could get it away from him, they could fight their way free. But as it was, there was no way out of this situation. She had magic she could use, but they were skilled magic users as well. No doubt it wouldn't be an easy battle. And with Twenyl injured and weak, if she risked combat he wouldn't be able to help, or worse might become injured himself. No, they needed to plead their way out of this.
"We surrender!" She proclaimed. "Please spare him, and I will tell you everything you want to know."
"You'll tell us anyways," The archer replied, icily. Her tactic wasn't working, time for something new.
"You should have posted patrols!" She turned on Twenyl angrily. The old Cleric shrunk away, taken aback. "The camp is not far, you could have easily spared a few knights."
"We've heard that one before too," The swordsman muttered. "We're not someone's lost lackeys. Beg all you want. Try to cow us by saying your friends are near. It doesn't matter. You're... lives... are... ours. Besides we have friends of our own. Somewhere..." he looked around unsure of himself.
"I am property of the General Killer of Zecair," Riyarra stated boldly. It had worked before...
"Never heard of him, look this is getting tiresome," The swordsman sighed and nodded to the archer, who drew another arrow.
"Please," Riyarra said in sincerity and bowed low to the ground. "You are right, please forgive me. I will do anything you ask, just please spare him." She begged. "I have seen what Zecairins do to their captives. He is one of our Clerics, we need his wisdom to pass on to our children."
"Alright," The swordsman said and knelt before Twenyl. "I promise I won't kill him until I hear all he has to say about this Monastery. However, I'm sure he's trying to regain his strength as we speak. So if I have to put a knife or two into him to quiet him down a bit. It's his own fault." To make his threat certain he pulled a knife out from the back of his belt and showed it to Twenyl.
"And what of your friend?" She looked to the archer pleadingly.
"Sharp, aren't you?" The archer smirked and kept his aim on Twenyl's head.
"I make no promises," the swordsman shrugged and prodded Twenyl in the kneecap with his knife.
"There's a Monastery not far to the west from us where a religious order of humans live." Twenyl began calmly. "but it's a ruse. It is actually a training school for skilled soldiers. And they are very, very strong."
"That's it?" The swordsman asked.
"I am part of a patrol of leaf knights," Twenyl said. The two scouts shifted uncomfortably. They didn't like Leaf Knights. "There are twenty-three of us, myself included, and her grace included. We have been watching these humans to determine their secrets. What we've seen leads me to believe they could defeat our group, and have soldiers to spare for yours." The swordsman sniggered, but took Twenyl's words to heart and rubbed his chin in thought. It was clear this was starting to unsettle him. Twenyl continued. "A religious order apart from society is not odd, but to have such skilled warriors is. They're too far from their borders to be part of the human King's army. There is more about them that is odd. Two weeks ago, we spotted a Zecairin woman amongst them, training with them." Both scouts exchanged glances.
"Interesting," The swordsman said. He looked at his knife and then looked at the old man's body as if deciding were to stick it. "What would your Leaf Knights do, now that you know our people are there?" Twenyl's brow scrunched up in thought. "Tell me the truth. No fibbing now."
"Nothing good for us would come from an alliance between Humans and Zecairins," He answered.
"Perhaps not, but that did not answer my question." He took a firm grip on his knife.
"Destroy it!" Twenyl blurted out. The swordsman laughed, and ran a hand over his slicked back brown hair.
"I know leaf knights are a tough bunch, but by your own estimations, you'd die trying to take that Monastery. But then, perhaps you are that foolish." He smiled at Twenyl, but the serious look on the old elf's face told him he was being honest. And that drained the mirth from the Zecairin's face. He pointed the knife at Riyarra. Twenyl was about to protest, but his voice caught in his throat when the Zecairin put a calming hand on the old man's knee. "I heard you say one of them rescued you from Zecair."
"His name was Mule," Riyarra took her turn. "He killed The Unkillable, and took the name Killer before the High Patriarch." Both of these Zecairins did not like the sound of that. They looked long and hard at each other. The swordsman jovial nature was rapidly disappearing.
"How did you..." The swordsman started to blurt out, but stopped himself and rubbed his temples with one hand. Riyarra's intimate knowledge of their political structure lent credentials to her story, and he needed time to mentally process that.
"That's too crazy to be made up," The archer growled and lowered his bow. "What the hell is going on back there. They must have their heads up a rhonox's ass! Let's take these two and head Ba*...AHHH!!" An arrow skidded off the top of his head, cutting a deep gash across his scalp and spraying blood into the air. The archer crumpled to the ground clutching his head. The swordsman spun around to find a shaking Elthairin girl fumbling to nock another arrow. But when Riyarra leapt for his sword his attention refocused on her. Her reflexes were sharp, she had picked the right moment to try to disarm him, but his were just as sharp and he threw his fist into her face just in the nick of time. Instead of following through with his knife, he leapt backwards and disappeared into the shadows of the trees -- his magic cloaking spell hiding him from their sight.
"After him!" Riyarra commanded. But Lysia's legs crumpled out from under her and she sank to the ground shaking. She sat there holding herself, trying to still the tremors of fear that wracked her. Riyarra didn't give the girl another look and leapt up to give chase, but it was Twenyl's firm grip on her arm that stopped her. Just one stilled look from him told her to reconsider her actions, and she relented.
Riyarra picked up the archer's dropped weapon and relieved him of his quiver. He didn't protest and came free of it easily. She almost felt sorry for the man as he clutched the ruin of his head and tried to stop the bleeding. She helped Twenyl to his feet and together they walked to their trembling savior. A calming hand from Riyarra was all it took to still the girl's convulsions. Lysia met her gaze, but there was a torrent of emotions swelling up within her that suddenly burst free and she clung to her queen's leg and sobbed.
"I'm so sorry!" she pleaded. "I just couldn't..." she apologized. Riyarra gave Twenyl a knowing look, and the old man shook his head sadly.
"That shouldn't have been her responsibility," he sighed.
"No," Riyarra agreed, and stroked the girl's head affectionately. "It is all right Lysia, we're safe. He won't be back. He most likely has news to tell his Captain." She said with certainty." Eventually the shaken girl calmed, and she uneasily rose to her feet. Riyarra kept her hand on her shoulder and tried to meet Lysia's gaze, but the girl wasn't having it.
"Pick up your bow," Riyarra commanded in a gentle voice, and Lysia did so. Riyarra reached out to Twenyl's wounded shoulder. "Forgive me. I have not done this in a long time." The Cleric turned away humbled and ashamed that his queen was using her powers to heal his wound. It took some effort on her part to mend the flesh as it seemed she too was still recovering. "What are you doing here Lysia?"
"I came to find you," Lysia managed to say, finding her voice. "I was sent away," she admitted ashamed. Twenyl's brow furrowed.
"That's not right, unless..." and realization hit him. "Oh dear... that fool... We need to hurry. I am afraid my mate is being a pessimist again." He sighed. Riyarra gave one cursory glace over her shoulder at the prone Zecairin archer, but found his body had already disappeared.
"A truce!" She called out. Her voice boomed through the trees. "Leave us be, and we shall not hunt you!" Whether they heard her or not, they were never seen again.
"Fine!" came a disembodied reply. Riyarra couldn't help but smile, while Twenyl scowled in disbelief. This pair was unlike most Zecairins she had encountered, she was grateful they were not eager to turn their blades on their captives.
"They are just as worried about this Monastery as we are. We better beat them there." Riyarra concluded.
"This way then," Twenyl set off at a brisk run. Riyarra was surprised at how fast the old man was. Lysia saved her Queen the embarrassment of being left behind, by being the one bringing up the rear...
The camp was all but ready to move out when they heard a heavy panting echoing through the trees and growing louder. Each Leaf Knight exchanged a cold look with each other, but it was Iala that had the answer with a disgruntled scowl. She fixed Valel with a disapproving look and wouldn't relent, to which he only turned his face away coldly. She didn't notice Twenyl walk up on her casually.
"What is the meaning of this?" He demanded coolly. Iala uncrossed her arms and turned around to face him, knowing that voice well enough to be unafraid to face it. She stared down the angry Cleric. But when a cloaked woman appeared behind him, dragging a panting Lysia along on her shoulder, her steely gaze shattered and she stared dumbfounded. The entire camp of Leaf Knights seemed to staggered backwards in disbelief in unison. Riyarra kept the hood over her head and stared at the Captain from under its shadow. She gently helped Lysia collapse onto the ground from exhaustion, which she was all too happy to do, before returning her gaze to the Knight Captain.
Iala couldn't make sense of it. Purification never worked. It had to be a ruse.
Riyarra lifted her hood down, and met the gaze of each elf gathered one by one.
"You doubt your eyes," She said calmly. "I do not blame you. I should not be alive. But what I did not tell you when you brought me here we last we spoke, was that I was carrying the soul of my beloved inside me. I wanted to return him home, as is our custom for those slain on the battlefield. I used my power to pull his essence into me. Those of you highly trained in the magics of our order recognize that ability." She gave Iala a questioning stare, and the fierce woman's posture slowly relented. She digested the meaning of it all, and each moment she grew more distressed and glum. "He alone, helped me bear the pain of the purification and sacrificed himself for me. I never asked him to." She let her words sink in.